BACK IN THE DAY

Posted March 20th, 2017 by Ellen and filed in Family, My Work, Quilt Events, Vintage

Star, Civil WarStar Block, Civil War Reproduction Fabrics

Star, CW Det

Detail

When I began my quilting journey, I was a “dyed-in-the-wool” traditionalist. I grew up in an era where my mother and aunts traded the paper wrappings from Mountain Mist batting, of which I still have many. Inside each was a pattern for a different quilt!  My first quilting lessons were learning how to make traditional blocks, and I loved them.

After a week-long class at QSDS with the incredible David Walker, things changed. David taught me how to sit quietly in my studio, looking intently at my work and letting it speak to me.   My work began to come from my heart. It was OK to let the work stay on the design wall for days or weeks until I intuitively knew what it needed. My quilts began to tell a story, to become intensely personal. My quilts became my voice.

I was reminded of my early days a couple of weeks ago when a customer in my booth (40th Anniversary Charlotte Quilt Show) said she was in search of Civil War reproductions. Initially, I thought she meant military, as I once vended near a fellow who specialized in only military items. But when she began leafing through my fabrics, it hit me. Of course she was looking for Civil War reproduction fabrics!  Is it no longer available?

When it was all the rage I bought fat-quarters of a dozen or so designs. I made one star block and then sent the remainder to my baby sister in California. She had a project underway and needed a bigger fabric selection.

I knew I would not be using the fabrics, as my “style” had evolved to abstract and intuitive. I still dearly love traditional patterns, and have a small treasured collection of pieces created by relatives. But this Civil War fabric star is probably the last thing I’ll create from a traditional pattern. Strange that I haven’t been able to part with it. Maybe I love tradition more than I realized.

MY COLLECCTIONS

The farmhouse in which I grew up was built in the 19th century. In it were things not of monetary value, but precious to us nonetheless. Family things with history. The somewhat crudely wrought table, made by a man who lived at the “county home” where my great-grandfather was superintendent, as a wedding gift to my parents; my Mother’s beautiful sewing cabinet with the little stenciled drawers that swing out like arms, a gift from my Father in the early years of their marriage; the round oak pedestal table my parents bought when they set up housekeeping, and the beautiful rocking chair belonging to great-grandma Louisa Merkel von Ohlen. “It came from Leland,” we were told about many items from my Father’s boyhood home, the farm where his father and grandfather had been born. Everything “belonged.”

I loved that house and the things in it. I loved being able to open a door in my sister Sue’s room and enter the attic, with it’s pressed tin walls and slanted ceiling, wide plank floors and a tiny window overlooking the farm’s outbuildings. Years later, when my parents had to move, that window would hold a chute down which many of the memories would slide, into a truck to sadly be carried away.

Growing up in a world of cared for things, old books, hand-made clothes (Mother was a wonderful seamstress who made everything from our snowsuits to our prom formals) and the occasional treasure box of hand-me-down clothes from the Chicago relatives of our Danish neighbor Agnes, led to a lifelong love of “things old.”

I still prefer old to new, a choice that led to a small antiques business I ran for years. When I stopped vending every other weekend years ago, my inventory came to live with us here.
Most of my collected things are vintage textiles. I’ll have many in my booth at the upcoming Charlotte Quilters’ Guild Show, appropriately named Down Memory Lane, March 10 and 11. Location details under “See My Work Here” and in the previous post.

Happy Birthday, Dear Mother

Posted March 4th, 2015 by Ellen and filed in Family, Personal

       14A.HelenHS

Today would have been my Mother’s 100th birthday. She died unexpectedly a year following the death of her own mom, and was buried on my birthday.   I shall miss her always.

“Somewhere in a memory,

Someone wiped away a tear

Held me close and loved me

Thank you, Mother dear.”

I used to have this little poem (author unknown) hanging on our kitchen wall.  But I took it down, as I cried every time I read it.  After 26 years without her, I still cry.

Out There, Still

Posted February 6th, 2015 by Ellen and filed in Exhibitions, Family, For Sale, My collections, My Work, Personal, Teaching, Travels

My drafts folder is full of out-of-date, half-written blog posts.  The last 13 months have been busy, busy, busy with kitchen remodeling and home repairs.  What began as a 90-day project (which went seamlessly) turned into us realizing what others have known:  You make one room in your house really nice, and everything else looks like kaka.  We ended up painting most of our lower level’s rooms,  up the stairway and  the upper hallway.  Roofs of our house and garage were replaced, garage doors rebuilt, and many minor repairs completed.  Two days before Christmas, just as we thought things were settling, our furnace died.  After two weeks without heat, a new, energy efficient natural gas unit was in place.  The main AC unit is also new, as the refrigerant for the old one is no longer made.   We are, in a word, exhausted.  But we love our new kitchen and are happy to have so many overdue items taken care of.

After 33 years of travel teaching, I retired at the end of the year.  I’ll miss that part of my life, but want to concentrate on my own work and ideas.  I also want to spend more time with our two adorable grandchildren!  They are already 2 and 3, and I don’t want to miss a moment of it.

Lev Ira Rotate2Our grandbabies in their Grammy Jammies!

I have big plans for this year which include downsizing my “collections” and getting super organized, writing decent blog posts, making more quilts and most importantly, spending more time with friends.

Wishing all of you a belated happy Groundhog Day and an even later Happy New Year!

 

A Long Absence

Posted November 12th, 2014 by Ellen and filed in Family, My Work, Personal, Teaching, Travels

Windows, Side Light

When I began blogging in 2007,  I wrote almost daily.  I was excited to have a forum in which to share my life through thought and photography.  A lot has happened since then.  Not only am I busier than ever, I’m not at all the same person I was seven years ago.

Great joy has come to me, through the birth of two adorable grandchildren.  Leven and Ira, 3 and 2, are my heart, the center of everything I do.  Friends who were grandparents had said, “Just wait.  There is no way to tell you how wonderful it is.”   How very true were those words.  Blessings be!

I view things differenetly now, with an entirely new perspective.  Things which seemed important to me in the past now seem trivial.  My greatest  treasures are my family and friends.  They’ve all been lifelines.

“If I ‘d known I was going to live this long, I would have taken better care of myself,”  attributed to Eubie Blake and others.  Aging brings wisdom, but also health issues.  I’ve now  outlived my father; my older sister has outlived both our parents as well as her late husband.  We all have the usual aches and pains.  I have a host of issues, most of which I don’t even think about.  The exception is macular degeneration, which threatens central vision.  But after almost three years of treatment, I can still see quite well.  I am so thankful for my wonderful retina specialist, Rick Weidman, and the researchers who developed the miracle drug Eylea.  I’m counting on being able to watch my grandbabies grow up!

I’m sewing once more, following a sabbatical in which I underwent three hand surgeries.  Finishing Ira’s quilt is my top priority.  After 33 years of travel teaching, I’ve decided to retire at the end of the year.  I want to work on my own projects now.  And of course spend a lot more time with the grandbabies.

Thanks to those who still check my blog occasionally for “something new” and not giving up when you see the page is unchanged.  Watch this space!

xo  Ellen.