Antique quilts from Kalona

I managed to fill the last couple of weeks with a big ol’ project that put blogging, sewing, knitting, etc. on hold. However, one of my regular assignments was due at the same time as the big one and required that I go to the annual Kalona Quilt Show, so not only did I get a break, but I got to look at quilts.

Norwegian Girl 1930-40s. We thought some of them looked a bit demonic

Delectable Mountain

My friend Holly and I went out one evening after a meeting and because I was shooting photos for a magazine story, Brenda Herrington, one of the organizers of the show, the owner of the Kalona Antique Company, and a long-time friend, let me go up top and shoot some photos of the whole thing. Compared to many sales, the Kalona show has a “rustic” feel, as quilts are strung in somewhat haphazard rows from clotheslines tightly strung above the gymnasium floor. As they sell, they’re taken down and another quilt takes its place, so attending more than once means you’ll see something new each time. Every single quilt, old and new, is hand-quilted.

Amazing hand quilting. This quilt was purchased for Kalona’s Quilt Museum

While all the quilts are lovely, the old quilts truly are my favorite. They ranged in price from several thousand dollars for Amish crib quilts (people are willing to pay so much because they can use them as art on a wall, as opposed to bigger quilts) to a couple of quilts for less than $200.

Holly’s quilt and her kitty, Primo

As happened last year, I managed to buy a quilt, even without Marilyn Woodin there to encourage me. Holly got the best one, a postage stamp Irish chain done in sweet feedsack tones that are punched up with a red border and keystones. She sent me this picture of her kitty, Primo, enjoying it the very next morning.

My starry quilt—1930s-40s feed sacks

Mine is quite different from the graphic, dark-toned one I got last year. But it’s orangey shades go well with the walls in the room where I write. I’m planning to use it in the summertime and the other in winter. (Last year’s was stitched in the 1880s, this year’s in the 1930s-40s.)

Iowa-made Log Cabin 1880-1910

 Last year Marilyn told me that the quilt I bought was the perfect one to start my antique quilt collection. I told her I didn’t intend to start such a collection, but I may have been wrong. Brenda assured me that it’s not a collection until there are three. So I’m safe, unless I decide that bed also needs quilts for both fall and spring.

Love the border on this Dresden Plate

Alebrijes from Oaxaca

Martin Melchor & Melinda Ortega wrap toucan carving

I learned so much on my trip to Oaxaca, and was given so much to think about. Specifically, I was faced with the realities of trying to make a real living when your sole occupation is crafts, and what happens when those crafts become difficult to sell.

Epafanio Fuentes carving with machete

My (new) friend Mike, an anthropologist who has done extensive research (indeed, written a book) about alebrijes took me to meet Saúl Arágon and his family and translated my interviews for me. It’s a complex issue and you can read a bit about it in today’s Etsy post. Suffice it to say, I came home with many, many alebrijes.

Saúl Aragón talking about some of his family’s carvings

More photos of Oaxaca can be found a couple of posts back.

Anna & Alma painting at the Aragón home

A Real Headache

The daughter of some friends recently underwent surgery for a brain tumor. She’s a college student, 20 years old, and it was a frightening event for all concerned—hell, it was every parent’s worst nightmare.

Despite this, her parents were paragons of calm—the mom told me that she felt that she needed to hold it together so that her daughter wouldn’t be even more frightened before the surgery, but that she sobbed after leaving her daughter en route to the surgical suite.

Fortunately, things seem to be going well. The tumor was benign, and though she had to be re-hospitalized for a few days, she’s home and the stitches are out.

While friends brought the family meals, and while I knew that was highly useful, I decided on a (totally impractical, particularly for a 20-year-old young woman) sock monkey. This time, I followed the directions while making the monkey. E’s school colors are red and black, so I made a hat from a crimson baseball sock and embroidered a black “E” across the front. Then I made a pair of crossed band-aids from wool and french knots and stitched them on the head, where they can be hidden under the hat. (Indeed, I got the sweetest thank you note from E, who said that now that she’d gotten her stitches out she had one less thing in common with the monkey.) I used scraps of my Woolylady wool for both the band-aids and eyes and was reminded what a pleasure stitching through wool can be…like butteh!

I was a little worried about giving her this rather odd gift, as I don’t know E all that well, but was gratified that the entire time I visited she kept the monkey in her lap. And I am so, so happy that she seems to be doing so well. I think their experience is part of what informed the last paragraph I wrote for my recent Etsy post on The Oxford Project: “Sorrow and fear, passion and joy will find you, and the completely unexpected can happen whether you strike out for parts unknown or move just down the block.”

From My Baby to Yours

Back from some additional travels—we went East to watch my nephew Karl receive his diploma in Virginia. It was a great family gathering that included my parents, sisters, bro-in-law, and even my daughter Rebecca, who flew from NY.

Rebecca’s been working in NY for nearly a year now and she’s had a fantastic boss who’s been a real mentor. She has made it possible for Rebecca to stretch herself, taking on substantive work beyond her role as administrative assistant. She’s also a caring person with a good sense of humor (I’ve actually never met her, but know these things from Rebecca). So when I heard that she was having a baby, I decided that the perfect thing would be to offer Rebecca a quilt to give her. As my sister so aptly said I should write in a card “I hope someday someone is a kind and caring to your baby as you’ve been to mine.”

Rebecca picked this scrappy triangles quilt from my stash of tops and it provided a great excuse to finish it. I quilted it myself and while I did a reasonable job, I can’t say that I really enjoyed it. Even when I start out intending to make big loops, my quilting gets smaller and smaller and takes forever. When I got to the borders I decided a series of parallel lines would be fine, and I think in the end, they are.

The piece is a true stash-buster: the only fabric I purchased for it was the graphic red and yellow dots (Beetle Boy by Ellen Crimini-Trent for Clothworks) for the inner border and binding and I am really happy with the way it picks up the colors and extends the wonky center’s playfulness. Place a baby on his tummy on this quilt and he’ll have lots to look at.

I was madly sewing on binding on the plane and at my sister’s house, so that I could send it back to NY with Rebecca. Finally got it finished, and yes, that is a Great Dane (my sister’s dog Danish) snoozing under the quilt. But no need to worry—the quilt was thoroughly washed and de-dogified before it was given.

Seed Savers

In my previous post I mentioned a three-hour drive to Decorah, and it was to visit Seed Savers for today’s post on Etsy. I’d been to Seed Savers once before, but it was autumn and after a hard frost. It was lovely, but not quite like going this time of year, when the urge to garden is strong (in late October, my gardening instincts are usually ready to be rested and revived by several months indoors).

At any rate, my friend Anne (see post below) and I thoroughly enjoyed our time in Decorah and especially appreciated John Torgrimson, the Seed Saver executive director who showed us around. The work they’re doing there is nothing short of amazing. If you haven’t read the Etsy story, please do, because it explains some of what Seed Savers is about. If you’re really interested, make sure to visit their extensive website, because I could only fit so much into an 800-word post.

One of my favorite facts that didn’t make it into the story is that while at the grocery store you might be able to buy 4 kinds of potatoes, Seed Savers has 800 kinds. And they have more than 4,500 varieties of tomato seeds! Their seeds are available online and at 500 seed racks around the country. And if you’re in Iowa, make sure and plan an afternoon at Seed Savers—nearly 900 acres, with hiking trails and gardens.

And now for something completely different…

Iowa is the land of cicadas. There are some nights in mid-summer when their drone nearly drowns out conversation. Their carcasses litter sidewalks and lawns and remind me of the feather-weight husks of tomatillos. These signs signal the warm nights of July and August, but they don’t exactly make cicadas endearing. Still, when I saw this short about a film being made about cicadas, I was intrigued.

Check out this short feature about Cicada Princess from Kickstarter. (If you’re not familiar with Kickstarter, be prepared to spend some time wandering through the amazing projects. It’s where the idea came from for the Etsy post about artist Julia Sherman’s project with the nun doll museum.

All hail the royal nuptials!

So, let’s hear it for Kate and William, who must not only experience the jitters that plague every couple about to make a life-long commitment, but have to pledge their troth in front of millions, including people crazy enough to get up at 4 a.m. to watch. And think about the walk down that aisle…I always watch the Oscars and marvel at the actresses who manage to make it up the stairs in heels and trailing gowns to accept their award. Imagine sashaying down that long gangplank (er, aisle) at Westminster, knowing that half the people were cheering for your uprightness and the other half (all those who imagined THEY’D be marrying the Prince) so wanted you to fall on your tush.

I have to admit that when we lived in England in the mid-80s I told my daughter (then 3 years old) that she’d be marrying the Prince someday. I even showed her Buckingham Palace, her future abode. Instead, she chose to marry three years ago…she found her own (American) prince. And I had enough trouble figuring out what to wear to their wedding…thank God I don’t have to worry about a hat suitable for royal nuptials! (Thanks to my friend Susie, who brought me the lovely Kate and Will tea-towel, direct from London.)

 If you want to stay up all night in preparation for the festivities, you just might have time to knit the Royal Wedding. These fantastic figures are from Knit Your Own Royal Wedding, a book by Fiona Goble, who apparently also wrote Knitivity, a volume with instructions for knitting nativity scenes. I love that she included a royal corgi!

Best wishes to Kate and Will. May they surpass his relatives in every way (including marital bliss).

More monkeys (and other critters)

Thought you might enjoy seeing a few more of the sock monkey photos I shot for this week’s Etsy post. These are from the collection of Todd Thelan, owner of the fantastic Artifacts. He has between 150 to 200 and his collection has grown over the years. In no particular order I give you more monkeys: