The days have been very cold…and windy.
Not really to our liking, at all.
There has been a lot of indoor time, looking outside, listening to wind chimes…
Playing inside in boxes…
And desperate faces at the window…
Not much to write home about.
Seeing how there wasn’t a lot going on, I took the opportunity to start another new project because, you know, I need another new project.
While reading Handstories (I went all the way back to 2011 and have been reading through) I was taken by Hazel’s Uncertainty quilt. For the quilt top she simply sewed together strips of fabric that she had around and then hand stitched over them. She also dipped it partially into her indigo vat, changing many of the existing colors to a blue/green shade. The dipping certainly unified the piece by casting the same blue hue over them all. She left a little bit at the bottom to show what the fabrics used to look like.
Since beginning my own blog a few months ago a big goal of mine has been to reduce my fabric stash. Working on small pieces isn’t really a way to use things up quickly, and I had a whole box of quilting fabric from my days of visiting my late friend, Judi, at her quaint little shop tucked away in the hills of rural Kansas. Ok, it wasn’t exactly in the hills, but it was located in a very small town on a slight incline with hills around it. It’s actually a very beautiful part of the state, one of my favorites.
Judi used to live in Dexter when she was younger, and her mom and sister were still living there when she returned from Seattle. Judi was a storyteller, an avid quilter and spinner, and her husband liked to weave. They installed a smallish Mortan building on the empty lot behind their house and there set up Creek Water Wool Works. They had a couple of huge weaving looms, shelves of weaving thread, at least one spinning wheel and spinning supplies, bolts of quilting fabric, and a variety of top-of-the-line sewing notions. They also sold specialty items from time to time, like two-cup ceramic tea pots (I used mine so much the spout end fell off) and antique Czech glass beads.
I used to stop by Judi’s shop, unannounced, and usually in the middle or the end of a rough work week when I just needed to get away from everyone and everything. As a reporter, I could always use the excuse I was looking for stories. Judi often had some for me and I wrote up quite a few ideas from news tips she shared, starting with the opening of her shop in 2002. To open a business in Dexter was news, indeed.
Judi was easy to be friends with. She loved to talk and I loved to listen, although she was a very good sounding board when I needed one. I was into crazy quilting then, not sane quilting, and I told Judi that.
I’m not a quilter.
But that didn’t stop me from buying oodles of yards of beautiful quilting fabrics (especially ones from her clearance bin) or stop her from selling them to me. I always figured I would use them for something, but certainly not traditional quilting. I think Judi always secretly hoped I would launch myself into the art. She always enthusiastically shared her pieces and her love of hand quilting with me. I tried hand quilting once and ended up giving the quilt away, I hated it so much. Once, Judi frowned at me when I told her I’d used some of the quilting fabric to make curtains.
Judi was the only real friend I ever had here as an adult, aside from H, of course. When she died in 2010 I was heartbroken.
But I still had loads of her fabric.
So, the other night, after a day of not doing much of anything and feeling fairly unmotivated, I went up to the sewing room and began machine stitching together yards of quilting fabric. I chose the fabrics I thought looked best together, not in a matching sort of way, but I left out some of the brighter ones like the pieces covered with butterflies and frogs.
For a long time I had thought about turning some embroidery pieces – kept with the quilting fabrics – I got from Judi into a quilt. I found those, too, and they were different than I remembered. Prairie girls, but with rounder bonnets and many more French knots than I had recalled. I blushed again when I remembered how I had cajoled her into giving them to me. She had them in kits, cute little colorful bags each holding a square piece of muslin with the template on it, a lovely color of embroidery floss, and a needle. These were kits for kids, but I fell in love with them. She graciously let me have them, and I went home and stitched them all up. They’ve been in the quilting fabric box ever since.
I didn’t get a photo of the prairie girls, but I did take one of the new quilt top. I am still amazed I had enough pieces (more than enough) to make a king size top.
Judi would really not approve.
Judi would hate the haphazard nature of this quilt. She would probably frown at the lack of imagination that has gone into creating it. But, Judi would never say anything disparaging about it. She would find something to like.
That’s how she was.
I managed to get a fair amount of stitching done to it yesterday. I’m simply using a running stitch to tack down the seams using pearl (or is it perle?) – it’s perle – cotton thread. The perle cotton does away with the need to separate strands of thread, which is a necessary process of using six strand floss.
Judi would probably say something nice about the stitching, how even it was, or the use of color.
When I showed Judi my first sample size cq effort, the first thing she complimented me on was how I had used the same fabric to match 3 of the 4 corners.
That had been an accident.
She went on to gush about the beauty of it. She was such a wonderful woman.
Of course, more than anything, Judi was a big supporter of women making real quilts for use on real beds. She wanted so see things used. She liked to stitch on fabric before washing it and then, when it was done, throw it in the washer on hot and then in the dryer on the hottest setting. The end result was something puckered, slightly faded, and ever so slightly worn that looked like a real quilt being used on a real bed, and not something hanging up as a display in a window.
I felt close enough to Judi that I thought she might have left me something as a memento when she died. It seems foolish that I ever thought of such a thing. But now I’m grown up enough to realize she probably meant more to me than I ever did to her, and that is fine. She was loved by many.
And, I know now, I have the prairie girls and the fabric they will be stitched to, which all came from Judi. And, every time I look at the prairie girls and these beautiful fabrics I will think of her.
On the day Judi posted the photo below online, someone complimented her on how happy she looked. She was very sick then, maybe a year away from death, but her response was just so her.
“You know, I really believe happiness is a choice.
I love to spin and I was having such fun that day:)”
I’m naming my haphazard quilt in memory of Judi and my time with her. If nothing else, this quilt and its name would probably make her smile.
The Creek Water Quilt.