Irish Lake Quilter

......snippets and quilts, family, pets and friends....

Saturday, June 23, 2007

Oh, I Wish I Had Taken My Camera!

Here in northern IN, the corn is passing the knee high before the 4th of July test and fields of grain are turning golden - summer is here. Quilting often takes a back seat to outside activities and adventures and it is a time to explore one's world. Small town IN is one of those places where one can enjoy a double dip ice cream cone at an old-fashioned soda fountain or hear an old wooden floor creak as one enters the local hardware store. Wooden screen doors slamming shut are often heard as one enters the world of those who are not on the fast-paced time of those around them. On a sleepy Wednesday afternoon in June, an unknown quilt shop beckoned and nagged at the thoughts in my head. I and a neighbor got in my car and headed to a little town about 30 miles north. I had heard that there was a quilt shop in Wakarusa but didn’t know much about it. We chatted as we traveled and soon found it. Sidewalk Days, a summer ritual in most small towns, were coming up and bins were filled with sale fabrics. Following some shopping, we inquired about other quilting places in the area.. "Go down highway 19 to County Road 46. Go east a few miles and you will find one, Martin’s Quilt Shop". We nearly missed the small sign by the mailbox. It was tucked at the end of a lane amid the cornfields. The drive circled under a giant oak shading the small gray outbuilding that looked like someone’s workshop off to the side of the house. As we pulled in, a white haired Mennonite lady came from the house to open the shop and turn on the lights. It was filled with probably 200 hand-made quilts of all sizes. We were looking for fabrics, but we didn’t let that stop us from admiring her handiwork and chatting about our common interest. As we started to leave, I noticed several cookbooks on her desk near the door. Being a collector of cookbooks, I looked through a couple before I came upon the Martin Family Cookbook. The shop owner, Mary Alice, explained that it was a compilation of her family’s favorites and showed us one of her father’s favorites - Homemade Apple Butter. It makes enough for a small army, but he had 17 children so that much was probably needed during the year. Under the recipe was a story about Mary Alice falling into the well on Apple Butter Making Day and how Grandpa Martin pulled her to safety. Interesting stories appeared at the end of many of these recipes. At that point I knew I wanted to buy the book and she asked if I’d like to have her autograph the Apple Butter recipe. An autograph won’t make this book more valuable, but from the proud look on her face, I could tell it meant a lot to her. She then asked if we’d like to go in the house and have Edna and Miriam sign the book as well. I was hooked and although I had no idea who Edna or Miriam were, I replied that I’d love that!
We walked the few steps to the house and down three steps into what would be the family room in most homes. To my complete and utter surprise, there were three Mennonite ladies sitting at an old quilting frame working on another quilt for the shop! I was hit with a feeling of returning to my Grandmother’s era. White starched net hats covered their snowy colored hair that had gentle waves reaching back to the buns on the back of their heads. Summer weight dresses in pastels helped with keeping cool on a hot day. My delight with this discovery was evident and the fact that I had come to get recipes autographed was no longer as important as what they were doing. I was more intrigued by their quilting skills and immediately went to each one’s section to admire tiny, tiny stitches loaded on their needles. Mary Alice explained to them that she had offered autographs and the ladies were happy to share the recipes that they had submitted. When asked why they turned in certain recipes, the stories began about "Grossmommy" and chocolate gravy and so on. Two of the ladies happily chatted and signed various recipes. The third, Elizabeth remained a bit quiet and kept working so I went to her and asked about her tiny stitches and other quilt related things. After a bit, I asked her to sign the book as well, but she said that although her name was Martin, she wasn’t in the same family and didn’t have any recipes in it. I asked her to sign it any way as a memory for our afternoon adventure and Miriam encouraged her to put her Strawberry Pie recipe in. Elizabeth neatly wrote the recipe from memory and signed the her name below it. She proudly told me about her recipe and some tricks to making it better. They all invited us to sit and stay awhile and even place a few stitches. We declined - but in hindsight, I might have learned to some ways to improve my quilting if we had done so. The offer was also made to open the quilt for us to see, but with respect for their work and time, we said we wouldn’t ask that of them. The quilt was nearly finished and the four women had been at the frame for almost five days, sitting and chatting with each other about the things that make up their lives.
If I had had my camera with me, I’m not sure I would have asked for a picture. Most Amish do not want their faces photographed, but the Mennonite may be different in that way. I’m not sure. It would have been a wonderful printed memory. However, there is a wonderful picture stored in my mind that I’d love to see framed - that of four white haired women sitting at a homemade quilt frame, laughing and enjoying a sleepy summer afternoon, doing what they love to do.

Monday, June 11, 2007

Quilts and Cicadas

Wow, it has been a while since I posted, but details of life often get in the way. We returned from the cottage for a few days only to be bombarded by Cicadas. Their mating call, which they emerge from the ground every 17 years to do, is quite loud and incessant for weeks at a time. We can hear them in our basement with the house windows closed. Noisy little buggers!! Fortunately, they become quiet at night. Since we border virgin forests, we are blessed with many of these large bugs in the trees, on the screens, scrunched up on the driveway and flying thru the air. Some areas of ground that has not been disturbed since 17 years ago, looks like a machine gunner ran his gun over the ground - many, many holes where they have emerged. Where the ground has been disturbed in the past 17 years, there are very few bugs. Our friends live in a newer subdivision and have none at all. Interesting. I took a picture of one.

The bright yellow star quilt is done and on it's way to the quilter along with three others. It was a fun one to do and I'll probably donate it to charity. This week I'm going to try to finish the Bee Trees and work on the center of my Baltimore some more.....

The is small. Our sons want to bring friends and enjoy the place with us and we encourage them to come. However, beds are an issue and bathrooms a bigger one. So, if given permission by the county board, we've decided to tear down our very inadequate garage and replace it with a larger one with a small apartment upstairs. I spent several days last week drawing plans, jotting down ideas and dreaming about the quilts I can make to use in it! If all goes well - it depends on the permit process - we should be able to start in August and hopefully have a basic box done by Labor Day. That in itself will be great for the holiday as the younger crowd only wants a place to crash, shower and hang out. There will be an outdoor camp-style shower attached as well. (also a great place to shower the dog!) Jim will complete the inside work so that may take several more months. It should be useable next summer if things go as planned. Then it will be time to address the house which also needs to be bulldozed. It was built in the 40's as a weekend fishing cottage and the moisture has slowly taken it's toll. We love the knotty pine cabin interior, the view of the lake and the quaintness of the place so it will be hard to replace it.

We're off again for a week or two. My quilting is packed in my bag and the swing on the patio awaits some evening reflections. Enjoy this summer sunshine!!