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.





11 comments:

Carolyn said...

Judy, how lucky you were to come across this wonderful scene! It sounds like such fun, I could just picture you talking to the ladies and checking out their work. I'll bet you could have taught them a thing or two about quilting as well! What a great memory this will make.

atet said...

You know -- I think you just did give us a picture, one composed of words, but one that is lovely and makes me smile. Thanks for sharing such a wonderful story.

swooze said...

What a great story. Thanks so much for sharing with us.

Sweet P said...

What a truly wonderful way to spend a summer afternoon. Your words describe the afternoon better than any photo could. Thanks for sharing your experience.

Rhonda said...

Although you didn't have your camera, I could easily imagine from your wording, that wonderful day. Sometimes words are just as good or better than a picture. Thanks for sharing.

Kathy Wagner said...

Thanks for writing about your adventure Judy...I really enjoyed reading about your wonderful outing!

Libby said...

What a perfectly special memory - no photograph is needed to place the picture in my mind. Thank you so much for sharing your special shopping day *s*

Mrs. Goodneedle said...

How lucky for you to happen upon this time and place. Thanks much for sharing this experience, it sounds like an amazing adventure for everyone involved. Let us know when you try some of the recipes from the book.

Jeanne said...

Sounds like a wonderful day! I could picture it from your delightful description. Thanks for sharing.

Greenmare said...

you painted a lovely picture with your words, and you could always turn it into a quilt picture.......

Rose Marie said...

Thanks for sharing your lovely story. What an outing to remember!