Tag Archives: childhood

Quilts and blizzards

There was a whopper of a blizzard when I was a child. Right smack in the middle of it, my siblings (including some sulky tweens) and I all had chickenpox (I still have a scar on the bridge of my nose like a drunkenly placed inverted bindi), the power was out (including the water), the snowdrifts were so high that the pony* walked up and out of her corral, and our smallish house still lacked the addition that came a year later that made it much more livable – and survivable with a serious Nordic wood stove.

If I had been my mother, I’d have abandoned us all (perhaps first letting the chickens into the house so we’d have something to eat – actually they may have already been in the garage).

Instead, she made a quilt for me.

childhood quilt

The fabric, unfortunately a cotton – poly blend, and now very faded in in parts, came from a fabric store a few towns away that had been devastated by a tornado a few years earlier – you could still see its path a decade later. The colors matched the wallpaper in my room that I think I hated for my entire childhood (early on I saw faces in it, later I thought too many of the colors were too close to excrement, snot, and sickness, and I was over the moon to be able to finally tear it off for my 13th birthday, but in hindsight, I think I like it now – I kept a square of it, but I can’t find it at the moment). The paper was mostly greens and blues and sicklier shades of yellow and brown, and my carpet was a green and blue berber, so it was a tight color family in there. But I still really like green, and I liked the outdoors and my parents moved to the country when I was an infant to do that back to earth thing, so the colors of earth and sky were good ones to have overdone.

childhood quilt-poultry

The embroidery was the best part, and unfortunately most of it has worn away and neither of us remember what all was there. Certainly most of it contained scenes and icons of country life – our country life.

childhood quilt-blue eyes

Although a few oddballs cling on – like this solid-blue-eyed blonde floating head. I think it was supposed to be me, but I had green eyes and auburn hair and pupils – I’ll just pretend the blizzard kept her from obtaining the appropriately colored floss…

childhood quilt-house

And some of the applique and its puffy stuffing has literally held on by a thread…

childhood quilt-cabbage

A bit of the fabric was also on this piece and retained its deeper color.

So during this blizzard nearly 40 years later, and several states away, though nearly the anniversary to the day, I repaired it.

childhood quilt-repair

I’d like to re-create some of the missing embroidery, but knowing what it was is impossible… though I’m pretty sure this was the dedication square and the sun I sewed back on had rays…

childhood quilt-inscription

Or perhaps just leave well enough alone…

And enjoy its warmth (although stuffed with poly) during this stupid blizzard slamming into and darkening the windows while I try to knit and ignore the howling wind and my fear of loosing power (mostly because of the water).

sugar & chick snow

*Sugar the pony with a feathered friend.

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Child stitchery (not in a sweatshop)…

On a trip to visit my folks (I won’t say home because they tragically (for me) sold it some years ago) earlier this summer, I finally found this little fabric picture that used to hang in my bedroom.

Birdscene

The scene is one I drew, and drew quite often as a slightly obsessive little sh*t, and at the dumbsh*t age when I didn’t comprehend that the sky wasn’t just up there and therefore depicted it as a stripe.  So let’s say I was four, or should four-year-olds understand how the sky works?  So maybe I’ll say three…  Regardless, my mother deemed my “Bird In Flight to Nest” precious and decided to turn it into a sewing lesson.  I’ll say that it was my first, but I really don’t know.  She cut out the pieces, sewed the margins on the machine, and gave it to me to applique.  I do clearly remember getting somewhat bored or frustrated with it, and it is also quite clear that she finished it for me and then added a few embroidered embellishments.  I don’t know if this took place in the span of a day or I abandoned it for some time and she got tired of having it only partially completed for weeks or months.  I also don’t remember if it was during the one truly massive blizzard of my youth (though I think I was down with the chicken pox then) or in the leisurely long days before I had to go to school.  Either way, it was something I did as a child wherein my hands and mind were engaged (and it wasn’t so traumatic that I didn’t want to do it again).

Birdscene-det

This was before the recent cringe-worthy days of fashionable “upcycling.” Smack in the 1970s when fuel crises, a renewal of the back to the earth movement, thoughts of Silent Spring, and the birth of Earth Day were kicking around.  My parents left their urban home to escape air pollution, overcrowding, and to grow wholesome organic food on a few idyllic acres.  We were also broke-ass poor, so recycling old clothes into craft projects was both a necessity and entirely practical – how many thousands of years have we just used what we have and then used it some more?  Why should this now be a trendy buzzword to help sell our crafty stuff?  Convince the buyer that her materialism is ok because it’s upcycled and therefore she is a conscientious fabulous person?

Fabric is fabric is fabric… and is infinitely re-usable.  Sometimes the perfect print is on a bolt, sometimes it’s a pair of pants… you’re not special for using or buying either one.

But back to the picture.

The components are:

Sun:  I assumed the terrycloth sun was salvaged from a much abused towel, but my mom said it was leftover fabric from some shorts she made for my brothers as small children in the 1960s… I’m not sure I’d like terrycloth shorts… they seem so, absorbent?

Tree trunk:  Yep, that’s my dad’s old tie – gotta love plaid neck wear…

Sky:  Leftovers from a quilt my mother made for me of yellow, green, and blue gingham to match my wallpaper of the same colors (only the wallpaper also had puke tones in it too).

Flowers, eggs, bird parts:  Felt scraps – who didn’t have random felt scraps lying around?

Nest:  Burlap feed sack – we lived on a little farm with little animals and a pony.  Food for them came in burlap bags.

Bird:  This is an odd denim/oxford cloth hybrid that was probably clothing in its former life.

Grass, leaves:  We can’t remember what these scraps are from, but I wore various homemade calico skirts, shorts, halter tops (remember, 1970s over here) and dresses.

Background:  This could have been leftover paining canvas or material for rustic curtains.

And even though this turned into a rage against the preciousness of upcycling, it was originally meant to be a rage against not teaching children how to sew or make bread or brush animals or do anything constructive with their hands.  Yeah, there are a few schools that teach such things, but as a whole we’re becoming such boring dumb-asses with our iSh*t.

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Neck stretches and why I’m not an archaeologist

waneka-no face detI can now reveal my Waneka cowl by the fabulous and fun designer Annie Watts (aka Wattsolak).  I used my recent Kool-Aid dyed yarn for a super bulky version and totally love its gargantuan squooshiness.  The pattern is easily and brainlessly adaptable to any weight of yarn – thinner yarn = more coils, thicker = fewer.  And it looks great with gradient dyed yarn – a perfect one-skein project especially for the thousands of beautiful indie dyed hanks out there at wool shows and in webworld.  I also made a  worsted weight version out of the maligned Lion Brand Amazing, and though I love the colors and the pattern, I still hate the feel of the yarn.

Waneka-with lamb

And I actually prefer my obnoxious-hued, still slightly noxious-smelling version.

waneka-no face

I can even wear it on my head.  Aging old-time Hollywood actress turban-chic.

This has had me remembering my youth (yet again – I guess I’m doing some mid-life thing) and the countless hours I spent traveling via National Geographic magazine.  I couldn’t stop thinking about neck rings worn by Kayan and Ndebele* women while I was knitting.

 400px-Kayan_woman_with_neck_rings ndebele1

Of course Waneka won’t ruin your collarbones or require marriage…

But as a child, I was utterly fascinated about the rest of the world – especially cultures that seemed unchanged or little changed for thousands of years.   When not reading or playing with animals, my other favorite pastime was digging up old sh*t – fossils in the creek, arrowheads in the field, or broken saucers, rusted scissor halves, and bottles in buried trash heaps in the woods.  By the age of nine, I was quite certain I wanted to be an archaeologist.  Luckily around that time, we had a class assignment of interviewing someone who was what we wanted to be when we grew up.  We lived in the sticks; I have no idea how most people were employed around there apart from service and functional jobs – teachers, undertakers, auto repair persons, farmers, and the like.  I don’t remember what my classmates wanted to be (and most girls were destined for early motherhood and possibly marriage anyway).  But my parents actually found a relatively local archaeologist at a university in the closest thing resembling a city 40 minutes away.  I was nervous about interviewing this professor – it was like meeting Indiana Jones or glimpsing into my certain glamorous and fulfilling future.

At first glance, his office was full of books and sunlight was streaming down on piles of Very Important Documents about Very Intriguing Finds.  He was (and yes, I could be making this up) cloaked in a brown corduroy blazer with worn elbow patches, mussed with unclean hair and a lack of a shave, and sporting a timeworn look of fascinating experience and adventure.

Then he opened his mouth.

I don’t know much about children, but I know that up to a certain age you should deceive them into thinking that life is ok.  If you study and work hard you can achieve whatever you want within reason.  Money should matter less than happiness.  It’s best to do something you love and the world will embrace you and appreciate your effort.

But instead of encouraging my little sh*t self, he launched into an epic and exceedingly bitter rant about the profession.  It boiled down to: don’t do it because the pay is sh*t, the days are long, hot, and tedious to the point of self-immolation, your projects won’t be funded or so severely underfunded that you will pay out of your own pocket, you will have to resort to teaching and you will not be respected at the university and will have to sell your soul to campus politics, tenure games, and administrative delirium, you will loose your marriage, your kids will despise you, your dog will run away and you’ll die stinking in the streets.

So today, though I work somewhat in the history business, I am not an archaeologist.

Trash from woods

I still occasionally dig up old broken sh*t in the woods though… (when not knitting of course).

* Pictures (that aren’t mine) yanked off the web from here and here.

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