Thursday, September 30, 2010

Pictures from Cottonseed Glory Class!

Last night, the pillow making class was so much fun!
We gathered at Cottonseed Glory to make Amy Butler's Hourglass Decorator Pillow Pattern. This can be downloaded free from Amy Butler's great website.
Students came with fabric ready; they were eager to learn.
It's fun being in the quiet shop at night.

My students were new to sewing, but they learned and accomplished so much!

I love seeing how careful new seamstresses are with cutting and marking. It's a reminder to us all.

This class is complicated because students have to get used to a machine and its quirks as well as learning how to handle fabric, make a seam, press it flat without incident, etc.

But look what they made!
And so cheerfully.

Wednesday, September 29, 2010

Better to be Honest?

Do you ever wonder if it's better to be honest? One time I found an earring. I stepped on it at the Towson Town Center when I was there with the AACS Marching Band (a marching band at a mall you ask!), yes, it's true and I stepped on an earring and the post went into the sole of my shoe.  I picked it up and saw that it was made of real diamonds. Lots of really big real diamonds.

I found the mall office and turned it in. I wanted to keep it because it was so pretty and I like diamonds and I guess I want more for some dumb reason. Can't think why. I wonder now what happened to that earring. Did the owner look for it at the office? Did she or he get it back?

I suppose I'll never know, but I am glad I turned it in. I know that is right to do and I believe it is right and good to be honest.

But today I'm especially grateful that other people are honest.  I was driving home and needed a bathroom urgently.  I stopped at Marshalls  and ran in.

I thought about leaving right away, but I decided to look around a little, checked out the socks in the back of the store, the shoes, the baby clothes, and then went back to the women's section in the front of the store.

I was looking holding a pink shirt up to see how it would look on me when  a woman, who was around my age, came up and sort of squinted at me. She was holding a green wallet and I thought, "why is she looking at me like that" and "she's got a wallet just exactly like mine."

So exactly like mine that it was mine!
She was squinting at me because she wanted to compare my driver's license picture to the real thing.
She said, "This is you, I can tell. You dropped your wallet in the parking lot." She handed it to me and smiled.
I said, "Thank you," a few dozen times and smiled, too. She waved and scooted out the door.
I stood there letting the blessing sink in. I thanked God for my new friend's honesty and kindness. She came looking for me to help me out!  Thinking of the hours saved, wondering when I would have realized that the wallet was gone, humbled by the fact that she had returned it untouched, nothing missing tears came to my eyes.

So I was able to spend the time reading to little Clare instead of calling and fretting and getting things renewed. If the woman who found my wallet and found me also is wondering at all, I'm praying that God will bless her; I want her to know I'm so grateful.

I think it is better to be honest.

Tuesday, September 28, 2010

Cottonseed Glory

One year nearly thirty years ago on my birthday, my husband suggested we get a babysitter and walk around downtown Annapolis. That's when I found Cottonseed Glory. A tiny shop with homemade things and a few bolts of fabric I remember feeling at once at home.

While I was busy with my growing family, Cottonseed Glory grew too. They moved to West Annapolis and changed their focus. Now a quilt shop, it became the hub of the activities of the area's growing number of quilters. When my children caught chicken pox one after another and I desperately needed to get out of the house, I took a quilting class at Cottonseed Glory.
quilt I made while waiting for Care and Eric's baby

I loved quilting. I loved choosing the colors, thinking through the pattern, piecing and finally sewing the quilt layers together, called "quilting."
Clare with the quilt I made for her. 

When you're done, you have a lovely, colorful, soft blanket to keep or give to someone you love. What could be better than that? Over the years Cottonseed Glory has been a source of inspiration, education and high-quality, beautiful fabrics.
homemade quilts bring warmth and comfort to everyday life

Now in the store, they have over 6,000 bolts of quilting fabric making them the largest quilt store in the area.  Not only that, but they publish their own brand of patterns. I've bought and sewn several of these and have found them well-written and beautifully designed.

I love the samples that hang in the shop. They are plentiful and inspiring. Because I've admired the shop for so long, I've always wanted to work at Cottonseed Glory and spend the day with fabrics and quilts and people who love them. And today when I was there working, the owner, Pat Steiner, returned from a quilt show in Florida and I helped her hang the quilts samples she'd taken with her back in their places all over the shop. She said, "If you think of a creative way to hang these or a better way, just do it! I won't object; I'll be glad." What a thrill for me. I appreciated the gesture and Pat's confidence, especially when you think of how artistic she is and how beautifully displayed everything is in the store. But you see, Pat's invitation to participate is the way she runs the store; she looks for ways to include and encourage, ways bring out other people's creativity.

When Pat heard that I had written a novel, and that the novel had at its center a quilt store patterned in some ways after Cottonseed Glory she asked me a dozen questions, then said, "Let's sell it here! Let's have a book signing. I was touched and grateful. So we're scheduling one there for Thanksgiving weekend.

In the meantime, I'll be working there once in a while, now and then. There's been a bit of a learning curve in shopkeeping for me. I've loved every minute, though. I love helping customers and straightening the racks of fabric. I love making the quilt kits and folding the fat quarters. I love it all!!

learn how to make this hand appliqued piece this Sunday!

I've had patient teachers: Delight, Kelly and Pam, Pat and Rhoda. But my all-time low was when I signed the customer's charge slip for her. Just being cheerful and efficient! Just trying to help out!  Aaagh! I scribbled out my name, apologized a million times and asked her to sign above the scribbles.  The customer was very gracious and said, "I was wondering what the heck you were doing, but I didn't want to say anything." No really, feel free to stop me. I'm new.

A class on this quilt is offered in the shop this fall. It's easier than it looks!

 And I'll be teaching some beginning sewing classes. The first one, this Wednesday night, we'll be making a simple decorator pillow in an hourglass pattern. (click on the link to download pattern for free)

 It's easy and there's still room for more of you who want to learn to sew.

And there are two classes scheduled in October where I'll be teaching how to make these cute pajamas:

The pajamas can be made in any size or fabric! 

When you have a bit of time and are looking for something to brighten your day or nurture your soul, stop into the store and see the samples for the wonderful quilt classes offered this fall some of which are pictured below.

When I am there and walk in the classroom, I want to take every single class!  You choose your own colors, get a 10% discount on fabrics during the class itself,  learn more than you could ever imagine and go home with a great deal of a lovely quilt ( or other fabulous sewing project) completed.

Find Cottonseed Glory now on Facebook!

Monday, September 27, 2010

I saw Jupiter

When I was young, I remember being outside a lot at night. I can't explain this. But I treasure the memories. I remember staring at the moon it seems night after night, season after season, noting its progress, its full glory, its poignant diminishment. I loved to watch the stars grow brighter as the night darkened and of course I noted my favorite constellations, Orion and the Big Dipper and Casseopeia. I remember walking home from babysitting at the neighbor's and watching the moon edge out from behind a glowing cloud. I remember sneaking out to the golf course behind our house to see what the greens looked like in the blue light of the moonlit night.

Looking up invited me to dream and because the moment seemed so still and solitary and clear, I tried always to remember what the sky looked like when I wished and dreamed.

More than a year ago, Andrea, Valerie, Jen and I had such a wonderful time our summer sewing camp for girls that we thought we'd extend the idea. We had a lovely church building that wasn't used much during the week. It was located right in the middle of a neighborhood that we thought might enjoy the celebration of creativity. We formed a creativity guild and set up meetings where we could gather together and encourage each other in the things we liked to make. In conjunction with these guild meetings, we organized classes on things like canning food, knitting, crocheting, baking, cake decorating, furniture refinishing, sewing and all the home making skills. We were thrilled and amazed that we knew women who were experts at each of the skills listed above. Val made a website and the year began.
We made this poster to show some of our hoped for and actual activities last year

I asked if the group could be called "Eight Hands Around" like my blog title and after the quilt store I imagined and wrote about in my soon to be published novel.  Eight Hands Around is the name of a quilt block and the reason I chose this name is the suggested meaning in the block title.  It is reminiscent of quilting bees where women would gather to help their friends and family members to finish, by joining the layers of a quilt together with the small and delicate stitches that put the finesse on the artwork in the patchwork pieces.  The idea is that four women sit around the sides of a quilt, four women, two hands each makes eight hands joined together.

A little aside: Because I am also an English teacher, I know that there is a figure of speech called synecdoche that uses part of the thing to represent the whole thing. So when you call for, "all hands on deck" you mean all sailors, bringing both their hands (everyone hopes) to work. The phrase, "get your butt over here," means the entire person (which in most cases is inseparable from his or her butt) should come as quickly as possible. Or to belabor the point, when you give your hand in marriage, your hand stands for your entire life, self and energy. So in this sense, eight hands could also mean eight women or eight groups or eight nations, oh dear... I'd better stop.

This sort of group has been my dream for many, many years. So much so that when I wrote my novel, Solomon's Puzzle, the quilt store rightly became the center of that community represented there. This sort of sewing community exists in many forms in reality and even specifically in Annapolis.  I think of the Annapolis Quilt Guild which is one picture of the store I created in my novel and also Cottonseed Glory an actual quilt shop in Annapolis that served, in many ways as the model for my fictional Eight Hands Around.  It is a place where beauty is created, souls repaired, friendship fostered, inspiration available by the armful.

Problem was that last year the creativity guild struggled.  Two faithful friends from church came to the meetings and we had a lovely time.  Only a few of the planned activities actually happened; a few people did learn to decorate cakes and cookies. This year we weren't sure what to do.

We decided to try again expecting maybe three people to join us we set the meeting at my  house. A few of the women had nursing babies and wanted the option to bring them.

The first meeting was so crowded, we barely had room to set up! It was too crowded, too hot!  We decided to move the next meeting back to New Hope Chapel (they have a nice nursery for any babies who come along) where we gathered in the spacious, warm cafe there! And what fun! How interesting that many of the women knew each other from college associations, or AACS connections, or church visits, or from working together. It was great to hear the conversation draw us together, wonderful to help with projects begun and plan projects for Christmas! No one wanted to leave.

And the next day an eloquent hand wrote an email to say that sewing, as she was learning to do, fulfilled one of her life long dreams.

Another aside: If you'd like to join our creativity guild and sit there and work on your own projects while you visit with us, just plan to come and bring what you need. We would love to have you. People donate lots of supplies to us and you are welcome to rummage through the scrap bag or the button bucket. If you want to learn from the instruction we've planned for that night, contact me. There is a small charge for the instruction part only because we supply much of what is needed to complete the project and I want to pay the teachers a little bit.

I left New Hope Chapel that night with Andrea and Valerie. It was well after dark and the sky was clear.  As we were getting in our cars, Andrea said, "Oh, look up! There's Jupiter!"

I looked up to see the full moon shining its light on us. The moon, the constantly returning one, was not alone. Beside it, glowing with a tint of orange, was Jupiter. I know that I will memorize this moment also, as I'm prone to do; I'll remember it as a moment when the three of us dreamers realized our humble, happy little dream was coming true.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Road Trip Rock Star

Val had a gig and needed a nanny for Clare.
 I've always wanted to be a nanny for  "rock star" so I was pleased to be given the job.

Clare is rock star when it comes to traveling.
At first she was just plain happy in her car seat - facing backwards. She couldn't even see us.
 She played, talked, threw things.

After a while she'd say something like "Ayahh," in a pleasant, quiet tone and Val would say, "Oh, she needs something. She's fussing."

That's fussing? Apparently Val doesn't remember what it was like at our house long ago!

I leaned back to give Clare a toy. I couldn't see her, but saw her little hand reach out and take it as if she were some hidden goddess grabbing an offering. Then she was happy for a long while.

Val, the original family rock star, planned things so well. We stopped when it was time for Clare to eat. Then we hung out while she played and walked around.

This is the face Clare makes when Valerie says "princess."

Clare liked meeting all the many people at the rest stop. She made friends with everyone by giving them what Val calls her "princess face" which is friendly and funny. She entertained an entire family while they were eating Popeye's chicken. I guess she knew they needed the distraction.

While Val was singing,

Clare and I hung out in the library.

It had an entire children's section for us to explore.

We could still hear Valerie sing,  and she was AWESOME. Clare thought so, too.

We heard the inspiring sermon,and read lots of new books and old favorites.

Don't worry, we cleaned up before we left.

The ride home was no big deal.

Clare likes to put things on her head.  When I gave her the fabric shapes Valerie had made for her to play with and said, "Can you put that on your head?" she tried...everytime...flinging it over her shoulder like she was one of those automatic banks that shoots the penny back into the container!

When most kids would have been screaming (the end of the trip,) our little road trip rock star was giggling.  She has a phrase she says, "buh-dee, buh-dee, buh-dee" and for some reason when I was able to imitate her (real hard) she giggled.  That got her laughing and she laughed at everything. And laughing, my dear readers, when in a car with a baby, is a whole lot better than crying.

I'm so impressed with how the young mothers I know are handling life's challenges. They pursue their careers, their interests, they keep creating their art and follow their calling and still take such creative, thoughtful, planned ahead care of their children.   It makes me wonder what a wonderful, special sort of generation must be coming along now. Let's pray for this rising generation.

Thursday, September 16, 2010


Certain things come naturally to people and I am thrilled to be able to tell you that my granddaughter will one day be a seamstress like her mother, both her grandmothers, her great-grandmother and on back through the generations!

Yes it is true. Clare loves to go to the fabric store! When she was a child, my daughter was the only one of my children who could tolerate the fabric store. I hate to classify by gender, but… the boys HATED going in there even for a quick errand. They’d be cheerful, obedient, cooperative children in any other store, making soldiers or airplanes out of the clips on the floor or hiding in the racks or chattering amiably until we stepped into the fabric store. Then their bladders were bursting, they felt sick, their hands formed a fist that struck others (somehow!)and their litany was a chorus that sounded like, “when, oh when are we going hooooome?”

Clare sits up straight and reaches her hands out to touch the fabrics. Her eyes are alight, full of joy and interest.

At my house I have a little sewing room. I don’t allow people under 5 to play in there or to walk in there barefoot because of the possibility of pins on the floor (I have a creative temperament which means I can be a bit messy when I sew). My grandsons are fascinated with my sewing room chiefly because it is off limits. Both of them have had seasons in their young lives where they’d stand just inside the doorway eyes alight not with interest, but with daring and mischief waiting for that strange joy obtained from getting in trouble.

But when I walk by the door to my sewing room with Clare she reaches out her hand toward the cloth doll I made years and years ago when her mother was a girl.  At first Clare was afraid of it but still compelled by it. When I carried her in to see it, each week we got closer and closer and now that she is a bit bigger than the doll, she loves it.
hugging Bridget the cloth doll

Last week my daughter and I had to get something out of the sewing room. I said to Clare, “Let’s go into Grannie’s sewing room.” She squealed with delight.
She waved her arms up and down and bounced with glee.

She loves the funny old innkeeper from our nativity marionettes that I forgot to put in the box. I’m keeping him in the sewing room until Christmas when I get the marionettes down. Now the innkeeper is not so cute. 
the bling he's wearing was Andrea's brilliant idea!

We made him kind of scary looking even though I suppose it was not his fault that his inn was filled up with people that night long ago.
It was really Clare's idea to kiss the innkeeper. 

She loves it when I shake the bottles of buttons and she can say “button” now.

I think of the days when we were cleaning out my mother’s home after her sudden death. From all of her many possessions, my daughter took the big can of buttons and called it her inheritance. If you look around my sewing room, you can see things I have from my mother’s sewing room, the little finger paint jar where she kept pins and where I now keep rotary blades for cutting quilts,

 the cards of needles probably fifty years old that fill my needle tin,

 the scraps of lace, the darning bulb, the sleeve iron and the jar of tiny mother of pearl buttons from her days as a children’s clothing designer.

 There are things from her sewing room that I regret letting go, things that meant home and heritage to me, but I suppose the love for sewing, the wanting to create beauty with fabric and scissors is deeper. At least I think so when I hear my little granddaughter giggling and laughing as she holds the colorful cloth. That’s exactly how I feel, too. I think I have a wee, kindred spirit here in Clare, don’t you? 

Clare, modeling an apron I made her, with her beautiful mommy

Tuesday, September 14, 2010

Annapolis Quilt Guild

I tried to join the Annapolis Quilt Guild years ago.
I  went to one meeting, met some nice people, but was too busy to ever go back.
I tried again last night.
What an inspiring group of women!
The beautiful green quilt you see in the back of the speaker will be raffled off at the annual quilt show in June.  The pattern is called "Hunter's Star,"and is an overall pattern. I've made a small one and the piecing requires some concentration!  Can you believe how beautiful this one is?
 I love the look. 
(Tickets cost $1.00 and I have 20 here to sell!) 

After the business of announcements guild members showed what they've been up to all summer.
The quilts were breath-taking!

This treasure depicts the quilter's family tree.

The names of her grandparents are appliqued on top. What a beautiful tribute.

This quilt is a Baltimore Album Quilt which means its designs are based on a style and technique that originated in Baltimore during the 1840's or so.  The pieces are appliqued by hand. Notice the tiny, even stitching of the quilt. Amazing!

The points in this bright quilt are difficult to get right, but this one is sublime.

I love the dark background on the quilt.  It is made with a special technique. Though the yellow discs (called Dresden Plates) look unique, they are all cut from the same fabric.  Amazing! 

The quilter won these blocks, made by guild members, and put them together in this striking setting.

I found out about all of the guild's charitable activities! They sew for children and those who are ill and hopeless.

The quilt guild has joined with other groups in the county to provide quilts for the Lighthouse Shelter's new  home. This is one of the quilts that will comfort the homeless there.  Someone said once, that beauty makes people feel at home.  I'm sure these handmade quilts will accomplish that and so much more for the people who are starting anew at the Lighthouse Shelter.