This is one of my paternal grandmother’s quilts, and it is over 100 years old. My Mammau. She was from Bayou La Fourche, Des Allmandes and Jacoby, Louisiana. I have no idea what happened to her other quilts but I am very pleased that this one was put in my care, moved from house to house, lovingly packed each time. The colors are still lovely, vivid and clear. The fabrics appear to be clothing remnants, flour sacks and such. The star patterns are not all the same design.
The faded, rough backing
The backing is also interesting – I have not been able to identify what the textiles are. Loosely woven work clothing perhaps, faded whites and blues, and the batting layer is still intact and very thick. The entire quilt is quite heavy, large and of course it’s all hand-stitched. My Mammau taught me to sew on her 1918 Singer treadle machine.
I would love to try and duplicate her patterns in this quilt but the thought of all those little pieces gives me a headache. Ok, I love to quilt – just not with pieces this small. So how do I reconcile my love of quilts and quilting and my aversion to tiny piecing? Because I know how quilting and sewing can enhance a life, and even change one’s emotional perspective. It’s all about creativity and community.
Therefore, I want to join with Scott Fortunoff of Blank Quilting Company in starting the “Sewing Revolution of 2018”. In his most recent blog, he said the following:
- I am going to continue to urge people to teach others how to sew and quilt.
- I am going to try to convince people to get a new machine and give away their old one to someone that can’t afford one.
- I am going to keep selling more fabric, of course.
- I am going to continue to donate fabric to those who can’t afford it.
If you say it more and more, people will believe it and they may venture to jump in. And in Scott’s words: “We cannot allow this great art to wither away and become a lost art” when it is so easy to embrace. “What is going to be your contribution to the Sewing Revolution?” Let’s do this and let’s have fun doing it.
Sew………. are you with me?
Lemons still on our tree
The best thing about New Orleans is that everything grows. The worst thing about New Orleans is that everything grows. Given time, a tiny cat’s claw vine will take over anything in it’s way. It will even invade an attic if there is a crack in a window. It will grow underneath siding and emerge through a hundred-year-old wooden shutter, clinging to rusty hinges and reaching towards the sunlight.
Every year Robert makes preserved (salted) lemons. He squeezes the lemons, cuts them up, adds Kosher salt and seals this up in jars. After about ten days or so, the lemon juice becomes syrupy and the lemons become soft enough to mash. The juice has a distinctive rich lemony taste that adds deep flavor to anything – guacamole, soup, salads. We have several citrus trees in our yard. Our semi-tropical climate is conducive to thousands of plant species. Many we don’t want. Many we do. Our grapefruit tree has its first 3 fruits that we are waiting to pick, as soon as the green disappears.
Grapefruit, almost ready
There is an old storage shed in our backyard made from the original slabs of bargeboard in the walls of our house. Beside the shed grow invasive elephant ears and Mexican petunias. We dig them up month after month and they keep coming back. On the walls of this shed, the cat’s claw vine creeps up. At one time it covered the roof but we hired someone to pull it all down and dispose of it. But it comes back. Always. In dry climates I hear that the plant is propagated because it is drought tolerant and has pretty yellow flowers. Well, yes, it does. But it grows maybe a half-foot per day here in NOLA.
So how do we co-exist with things that grow and are valued elsewhere, but are hated here in our own back yard? I think of the cat’s claw vine like I do my husband’s cancer cells.
Cat’s claw vine trying to take over our backyard shed
We tolerate them, but we try to live as if they are not there. We try to do what we can to eliminate them, and we hope what we do is good for us and for the “good” plants (and “good” cells). All we can do is try to keep these things under control so they do not smother out the good things in life.
We enjoy our fruits, and keep planting good things – like more orange trees, more herbs and veggies – the “good stuff”. Maybe the good stuff will outgrow the bad. We can only do what we can. We can only hope.
That’s what this Christmas season brings to me. Hope. Hope in the future. Hope in good health, good energy, good friends and
Cat’s claw vine growing through our neighbor’s historic shutters. There’s no apparent origin – unless the vine is growing under the siding.
Posted in New Orleans, Uncategorized
Tagged cancer, cat's claw vine, Christmas, gardening, gratitude, health, home, lemons, New Orleans, preserved lemons
A couple of months ago, my husband R. was diagnosed with Metastatic Carcinoma of Unknown Primary. At first we are numb. Walking around staring at each other, trying not to get teary-eyed, but doing it anyway. Now, a few weeks down the road on this new journey, we’ve moved into another phase. Not acceptance. It’s something else for me. R. has an “attitude of gratitude”, and I’m into some other twilight zone of feeling I have not quite owned up to. I’m dealing with this new circumstance as I deal with most others.
I’m making things, keeping my hands moving. Yes, I’m escaping in a sense. Sometimes escape and denial is necessary to get you through. I’m making tiny houses. What is a house but a place where a soul resides. Little doorways. When I’m stitching, I do not have to think so much about the fact that my husband will gradually disappear from this life. But all these thoughts jump back into my stitches. I pray for him to not have pain. I try not to think about how lonely I will be in the future in this house.
I try not to think a whole lot about what I’m doing and my mind can wander off down the endless avenues of my brain. Every stitch a prayer. Going down one way I think of the beauty of the fall season here in New Orleans, which is the cooler temps. Then my thoughts take off another way and wonder about that hurricane that is forming and heading our way.
But with each stitch, each pull of this deep purple thread tightening that little doorway, I am thinking of what these cancer cells are doing to my husband day by day. And that I can do nothing to stop them, nothing to stitch those cancer cells up in a little box and burn them – and my scissors cannot cut off their threads of multiplication. It’s going to be a long journey. Over time, about twenty minutes into my little house, my brain settles into the rhythm of my stitching, and I am once again in a meditation zone. I’m not in charge. And every stitch is a prayer.
Posted in cancer, creativity, depression, healing, life-writing, memoir, Uncategorized
Tagged cancer, creativity, family, gratitude, hand-stitching, New Orleans, sewing
The creative team at Uptown Needle & CraftWorks
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YOU’RE INVITED: Don’t forget the Magazine Street Champagne Stroll on Saturday May 13, 5pm-9pm. We will be open!
The Frannie Baby
dress by Children’s Corner has to be one of the cutest baby and toddler dresses ever designed. Summertime COOL! Make it and let Kate monogram it for you! And, we have a workshop coming up!
Calling all knitters! Bring friends! Help us make “knitted knockers” for breast cancer survivors who need prostheses, 3rd Sundays.
May 21, 4pm-6pm.
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Emma, Robert, Kate, Hannah, Kit, Meredith, Jennifer, Rebecca and Grace (our shop dog) hope to see you soon and very soon.
UPTOWN NEEDLE & CRAFTWORKS
4610 Magazine Street
New Orleans La 70115
This year seems like it has flown by like a “galloping group of giddy greyhounds” (term borrowed from Anne Lamott). As soon as I’ve become accustomed to writing 2014, in about a week it will be the year 2015. Where does all the time go? My mother once said that time goes faster the older you get (I think I was about 15 years old at the time, and probably whining about waiting for something to happen). She was exactly right. I can only imagine that she had a few regrets in her life. I remember asking her once about the one thing she never did that she wished she had. “I always wanted to be a dancer,” was her answer. The only dancing she ever did (of which I am aware) is that she and my father danced to the Mitch Miller Show dance tunes on Friday nights in the 50s or 60s. Two months have passed since I made the decision to jump off a cliff with no financial net. Things are progressing at the shop. Each day there are new visitors who say they are thrilled that the shop is there, and that they love what we have – fabrics, vintage items, workshops, handmade things. I enjoy meeting each person. And each person has a story. Most of the customers are locals and live nearby. Several older women have come in and we’ve had some great conversations about what I’ve done. And I’ve said to each one that I did not want to be 80 years old and regret that I never took the leap to open the shop I have now, and that is one reason why I made the decision to take the risk. So far so good. I love the location and the physical space of the shop. It is really beautiful. Please keep me and my family in your prayers. Merry Christmas!
And please share the thing that you are most afraid of doing, but you know somewhere deep inside that you really want to because it brings you such joy.
The air was cool on Friday morning, so the front door was open. I was inside the shop talking with friends when a young lady riding by on her bike stopped, parked her bike, then walked up the steps. I saw her stoop to pick something up. She knocked on our open green shutters. In her hand she had a white cloth beaded box, about the size of a shoe box, and she held out the box and said, “This was on your step.” She thought we had left it there, forgotten to bring it in. Apparently the box was left on the step by a stranger. The young lady was just riding by and saw the nice box and she thought that someone might pilfer it. She saw no one leave it there. We walked outside and looked around. No one was looking for a nice linen-covered box with hand-sewn beads. A jewelry box, or perhaps a sewing box. Inside the lid was a mirror, and a lone tiny red silk purse. Empty.
The box seems very old, and the backing was loose. I have repaired it now, but these photos show the box as it was delivered to my front step by the mystery person.
The lovely box contains a story. The beautiful woman who used this box had fine tastes, and I imagine a string of pearls may have resided inside. The owner of this treasure box used it to hold special things. Who gave it to her, and why did she give it up? And who passed it on to me?
The City of New Orleans has many mysteries. This is one more.