One Quilter’s Trash…


I love the feel of fabric. I love patterns that are subtle, patterns that are loud, solids that are muted, solids that are bright. Like most quilters, I buy quite a bit of fabric, and like most quilters I buy fabric I like even when I have no idea what project it will be part of.

Flowering Crabapples

From time to time, quilters find themselves with fabric they no longer love. In fact, in some cases we may even say we’ve come to hate it! About three years ago my quilting group, Dog River Quilters, decided to tackle this love/hate relationship in a creative way. We each brought two fat quarters to a meeting – one of fabric we loved, the other of fabric we hated. We put all the “loves” in one paper bag and all the “hates” in another bag. We each took a turn drawing one piece from each bag. The challenge was to create something using both the love and hate fabric we’d chosen and no more than two other fabrics.

The next month when we met there was an amazing array of articles: a doll quilt, potholders, wall hangings, place-mats and more. They were also amazingly attractive. It was hard for us believe that someone else took our hated fabric and incorporated it into something pleasing.

The “hate” piece I had drawn was a tropical print of bright pink with large flowers and I could see why it had made it into that group. As I thought about ways to use it I became inspired by the all the crabapples that bloom so gloriously in this area in late spring. To achieve the effect of the petals I cut the piece into tiny, tiny pieces which I then sprinkled onto an area I’d sprayed with temporary adhesive. I covered this with water-soluble stabilizer, stitched over randomly several times and when I removed the stabilizer and the piece had dried, there was the 3-D effect I’d gone for.

I can’t say I no longer come across mistaken purchases that were abandoned for various reasons, but I’m now less likely to categorize them as unusable. I know that given some time, and the right inspiration, it may be just what I need.


Political Paraphernalia

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The political season is upon us in full-force. From time to time I like to pull out vintage political pins and wear them on jackets or coats: I like Ike, Leahy ’86, I Want Roosevelt Again, among others. Many of these belonged to my grandfather or my parents; some I’ve acquired on my own over the years.

Sample of political pins

As a child election day held a certain fascination for me. This was probably due in part to my mother working on the election board. She was one of the people who took your name, handed you a ballot, and made sure there was no voter fraud. She worked at the polls all day, then after they closed she was one of two officials who accompanied the ballot box to the county courthouse about 20 miles away. Rules required one Democrat and one Republican to deliver the ballots, driven by a town policeman. To me, the whole thing seemed extremely important and a little mysterious.

In my family, voting was stressed as a major civic duty. Sometimes my father would try to tell me that he and my mother always voted the same, “Otherwise,”  he would say, “we’d cancel out each other’s vote.”  My mother’s take on this was slightly different. She would only say, “You don’t know what I do when I go into that voting booth.” I always liked this idea; the right to vote, and the right to vote without undue influence.

These political pins are reminders of my parents respect for the democratic process and the fulfillment of one’s responsibility to participate. And on a more abstract level they are reminders of the historical definition of paraphernalia, the one we rarely think of from family law, referring to things “separate from the dowry, items owned by a woman, that cannot be sold or appropriated by her husband”  – kind of like a vote cast in private.

Sisters in the Garden


Sumac near the railroad tracks

Maple leaves reveal their colors

Peak foliage is almost here in Central Vermont, and it is one of those times that makes me greatly appreciate living in a place that experiences four distinct seasons. While it is true that the weather here dictates our daily lives more than it may in many places, it is also true that these changes in temperature, humidity, color, light, and even smell, are often a way to embrace each day and see in it new possibilities.


The gardens reached their peaks several weeks ago, with just a smattering of pumpkins, winter squash, or other hardy hold-outs still visible. This time of the year, September up through Thanksgiving, is deeply connected to our ideas of harvest and what it means to be sustained by the land.

One source of sustenance in my life has been my sisters. They were some of my first teachers, and sometimes my caregivers. They taught me a lot about how to play and have fun, how to be happy for someone else, how to treasure what I have, and how to stay connected in spite of distance.

A few years ago I became very interested  in making small quilts that depicted some theme having to do with sisters, especially three sisters. I began looking for stories (folk-tales, legends, places, and other art for some inspiration). One such legend comes from the Native American practice of planting corn, squash, and beans together, known as “three sisters in the garden”. These three grow best when planted together; each enhances the growth and health of the others. Here is my homage to the sisters in the garden, who remind me of my relationship with my own sisters.

Sisters in the Garden

What a Doll!

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Laura with her new BFF

Laura came to my family in 1960 when I wanted a doll “as big as me” for Christmas. She’s lived with one or more of us for more than 50 years now. As I grew older, she remained a handy playmate for my nieces and nephews and eventually their children.

Over the years she’s started to show some signs of wear. Her once shiny and smooth locks are somewhat matted and no longer completely cover the built-in bald spot on the back of her head unless pulled tight into a pony-tail. A few of her fingers are missing due to my childhood dog’s overzealous exploration, and her arm somehow got broken along the way (it has been carefully bandaged).

Her wardrobe currently consists of a dress and bloomers my sister, Cheryl, made for her for my 50th birthday celebration, and a toddler outfit that same sister purchased in Hawaii in 1969 for my niece. We call that her “summer outfit”.

After living with my sister, Diane, for more than 20 years, Laura recently came back to me. She was carefully packed in a large box and sent by UPS across the country.  She arrived safe and sound, along with some surprise treasures including doilies made by my grandmother and baby dresses of various family members.

Laura wasn’t actually as “big as me” when she first stood under that Christmas tree, but whatever she lacked in length she has made up for in longevity. As a beloved member of our family we are looking forward to having her around for many more years.