Sunday, November 29, 2009

What I did Saturday night

Saturday night, I did something I have never done before.

I rode in this combine harvesting corn, in the rich but soggy fields of central Illinois. We were having pizza at my Uncle Charlie's house and he said his boss Randy was still working and if someone wanted, they could ride along. 81-year-old Dad rode first, then I ventured out. I was nervous. It was dark, the combine and fields are huge. I climbed up the steps into Randy's very big John Deere and off we went. I had heard combine cabs were the lap of luxury, with tvs and loud music, etc. Randy's had the loud music and an amazing computer screen that showed where we were in the field, what kind of corn we were pulling in, how wet it was, how many acres he'd worked just went on and on. I was so amazed.

We were up pretty high, looking down into the rows of corn crumpling as we passed. Looking backwards, I could see shelled kernels of corn shooting into the bin behind us. Before long, the back window view was blocked  by all the corn. From then on, we depended on the computer to tell us how full it was.

Suddenly, another trailer appeared beside us. The auger (a big pipe-like device) swung out and corn started shooting out of our vehicle into the truck! The back window was clear again! Keith Urban music was  blasting in the cabin! Randy was calling his co-workers on his cell phone! A possum scooted out ahead of the combine as we finished the row!! We came upon a cornless patch spot and Randy went wild speculating about why that was there. Lightning strike? Tornado? UFO??

Can you tell, I found it exciting. Here's a picture of my dad, with Randy in the middle and Uncle Charlie on the right. When we drove home to Kansas today, I saw the corn fields in a new way.

Saturday, November 28, 2009

Our day of listening

We are having a family reunion in central Illinois today. So we'll be celebrating the national day of listening all weekend. I'm a huge fan of NPR's Storycorps, a wonderful oral history project. This is a little story of what I heard:

We drove around my dad's hometown of Lincoln, Illinois. I was driving as we looked for my cousin Donna's about-to-open quilt shop. As we circled the downtown square, Dad called out the names non-stop of the stores that USED to be there. He remembered Bushell's Beer Hall (where grandpa used to go every Saturday night to visit with neighbors), Ritchharts Auto Service (their son Bob used to be the quarterback on dad's football team), Hauffes Doughnuts (their 2 boys represented their products, being rather doughnut shaped) Langellier Ford (where his family always had our cars serviced and traded) JCPenneys and Sears (no longer downtown, which Dad finds disturbing). He pointed out the spot where he and his brothers parked their truck every morning when they got to high school. He pointed out the courthouse, where EH Lukenbill's office was (the former superintendent of schools - they went there to be tested at the end of 8th grade to see how their school measured up against others).

Last but not least, he pointed out the spot where he said his grandparents house was, not far from Route 66 as it passes through Lincoln. Today, the house is gone and it is home to this new Lincoln landmark. It's listed in the Guinness Book of World Records as the World's Largest Covered Wagon (the canvas is put away for the winter).

My husband and his 4 siblings gathered last night. They have not all been together for many years. The oldest
is 74, the youngest 56. They poked fun at each other and talked about things like gallused overalls and helping with washing with old machines with agitator levers ("kids were the motor") and wringers (a scary memory). And they so clearly loved being together....

We found my cousin Donna Becke's shop, the Log Cabin Quilt Shop. She will open for business on Saturday, Dec. 5 at 118 N. McLean Street in Lincoln. To start, the shop will be open Saturdays 9-3, and Mondays noon-6. They have notions, patterns, books, a quilting machine and high hopes to keep adding and adding to the shop's exciting!

Record your own family stories whenever you can. It is so satisfying, to take a few notes and save your story for posterity.

Thursday, November 26, 2009

A workhorse survives

Sometimes I find a quilt that was clearly meant for use and marvel that it has survived for us to study. Quilts made for utility in a thrifty style fascinate me. This one is constructed of strips of squares, 4 squares wide, with strips of fabric inbetween.

Pecualiarities can be exposed when I add a sleeve to the back of a quilt and hang it on the wall. Look how this one is skewed. Was it stretched that way by siblings tugging for a bigger share of the blanket on a cold night? and wouldn't you like to see what the home was like where this was used? I imagine a cabin on the prairie....

Indigos are predominant in this quilt. I looked up the chapter about that in Barbara's book about quilts and fabrics from 1890 to 1970, Making History.  Synthetic dye developed in 1897 made this shade cheaper and thus widely used in quilts made between 1890 and 1925.

I also love the way the plaids are wonky in some squares. And notice the backing on this quilt. it's a wonderful indigo woven with lots of slubs. (I use the word slub as often as I can.) And note the whisker guards on each end of this quilt. They are well worn....

This quilt measures 65" x 76". It is machine-pieced and hand quilted in diagonal lines.

Check out Barbara Brackman's blog for more information about indigo, she wrote about it just days ago......

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

Thank goodness

Thankfully, I have friends who drive by signs like this and go back to get a photo. The very sharp-eyed Roseanne saw this one in Minneola, Kansas.  She didn't notice the second sign under it until she went back.  When Roseanne and I travel together, it takes us a while to get there - and it is isn't dull, for sure. Rural Kansas can be highly entertaining.

I'm grateful to have a best friend who plays a mean ukelele. Yesterday we visited our friend Bill who is ill too soon. Ray whipped out the uke and Bill's face really lit up when he played Blue Hawaii. There is just something about grownups strumming those little ukes that make other grown people smile. It's a wonder.

I'm also lucky to have friends who send me articles like this. It's the best recipe for tomorrow.....
Relax and have a Happy Thanksgiving.

Friday, November 20, 2009

A Red Flower Garden

This was an emotional purchase,  a rescue.
I found this quilt when I visited a Baldwin antique shop a few years ago. As I walked in, it was on the floor! Just laying there! So of course, I had to pick it up and inspect it.

It's a classic flower garden, measuring 63" x 77". It is hand pieced and hand quilted.

Some of the fabrics are funky in a good way (see the detail shots - notice the huge navy polka dots and the odd little orange leaf/lip shapes). I am a sucker for red. I think that clinched it - it is so cheery. We had stitch group in the room with this quilt yesterday and noted the red bled and turned the whole quilt a little pink. It would look like a different quilt if the whites were white. It has some mouse holes too.

Oh well. Antique shop owners, take note. There are soft-hearted shoppers out there, like me! Throw those quilts on the floor, and look out!

Wednesday, November 18, 2009

Great Jacket!

I should be working (I edit quilt books in my home office).

But I just opened the New York Times website and found this picture of Hillary Clinton arriving in Afghanistan. Politics aside, is this not exciting? That we have a secretary of state representing our country wearing a gorgeous stitched jacket like this!

I checked several spots on the web just now and can't find any details about the jacket. Did she get it in China this week? Or somewhere else?

I will keep looking and see if I can find out. There is an even better photo of the jacket on a state department blog (scroll down to the Nov. 18 travel diary).

Monday, November 16, 2009


I LOVE basketball, college basketball especially.

The season has begun. Our town is all x-cited about several freshman who just started playing for KU. Xavier Henry had a great first game, scoring 27 points in a debut record. When he dunks, otherwise calm women in our age group text each other things like "Xavier is a stud!" and "Wait, don't you mean stud muffin!" We are thrilled.

I noticed some inventive fans in the student section were holding their arms above their heads, crossed like an X........

which made me think of this quilt picture a friend sent last week. More X's! This quilt is in the International Quilt Study Center collection in Lincoln, Nebraska. Click on the words underlined above to read more about it.

Friday, November 13, 2009

Friendship Ring quilt

I found this swell quilt in Canton, Texas in 2002 at the huge First Friday Flea Market there. It measures 66" x 78" and I think it's circa 1930. The block is Friendship Ring (16 pieces) a Coats & Clark pattern, #3471a in the Encyclopedia of Applique. The blocks measure 13-14" across.

The quilt is in good condition. The background and borders are sturdy fabric. Some of the ring fabrics have deteriorated but most are fine. The rings are put together in an interesting way. Those patches are hand pieced together. They were laid atop the gray centers. The rings were then attached with machine stitching, which goes around the outside and inside of the ring and then along the edge of one piece so the ring is connected.

This is hand quilted in a grid. It's possible it came from the South as it has no batting. It's backed with an old flannel blanket.

Thursday, November 12, 2009

Green quilters and distance learning

Today our quilt guild (Kaw Valley Quilters) presented a program about GREEN quilts for distance learning sites around the state of Kansas.
I was eager to see how this program worked. We gathered at the northeast Kansas library office in Lawrence, one of 17 sites around the state with enhanced library meeting rooms. We assembled our show-and-tell items in front of what looked like a big screen TV.

At 10 a.m. we started talking to (all in Kansas) quilters in Sublette, Dighton, Dodge City, Colby and Coffey County public libraries. On our screen was the image of a room full of students (grades 5 through high school) in Wellington (and perhaps one more school participated).

We told them quiltersare all about being GREEN. We have always recycled, often making do with what we have. Various guild members showed off their garage sale finds, treasured family quilts made from old clothing, and newly created thrifty items! We showed t-shirt quilts in Wellington and Lawrence at the same time. And the kids demanded a repeat performance of a sparkly quilt made for the best dog ever, the dearly departed Lexie Brackman.

Hats off to the library system in Kansas for having such a swell learning program in place. This was a special distance learning WEEK, focusing on recycling ideas. And a special hello to the kids in Wellington!

Monday, November 9, 2009

20 years ago today

There aren't many days when you are reminded of where you were 20 years ago.
Our family was living in Worms, Germany and most of the time, I was raising our 2 little girls while my husband was a cold war warrior.

But on this day 20 years ago, I was on an art history tour of Vienna, Austria. I'd spent the day touring museums, seeing the Lipizzaner stallions, the Hundertwasserhaus, stopping for Sachertorte in the afternoon, ah...

And in the evening, I was having dinner with other touring Americans when we heard the news. The Berlin Wall had fallen! I remember we all just gazed at each other, rather dumbfounded at what we were hearing.

It was a tremendous time to be living in Germany. Things changed quickly, the neighbor's cousins came over to visit from the East in their little tin-can-like Trabants.....

Several weeks ago, our daughter Kate (the one in the Santa hat above and standing below) brought some foreign exchange students by for lunch. We had a wonderful time. Stefan (on the right) is from East Germany. We were reminiscing about things we loved about Germany and I told him I'd visited the east after the wall fell. He said he could not remember when there were two Germanys: he was too young.

That was another memorable moment for me, to realize a generation has grown up since then. A very wonderful moment.....

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

A Flannel Colts Corral

This quilt is hand pieced of mostly flannel strips. It measures 67" x 77" and the blocks are 5" square. There are a few strips of cottons and wools. The cottons are old (1880s) and the flannels seem old-timey also. I purchased the top at the very large antique mall in Centerville, Indiana in ~1997.

The block's name in the Encyclopedia of Pieced Quilt Patterns by Barbara Brackman is fitting: Colts Corral, a Prudence Penny pattern of 1932.

The top's condition is good. Many strips of this economy quilt are pieced together very thriftily. My mom Lou Gehlbach added the backing and very simply machine quilted it. It hung in her vacation home in Green Valley, Arizona for several winters, I often wished I was there too. It is a very cozy looking quilt.

I just walked the coworkers on this sunny fall afternoon and noticed that the colors of this quilt are very like the late fall colors in northeast Kansas. Many of these flannels are varied shades of browns and blues and golds too.....

Monday, November 2, 2009

Family Reunion

My father's German family faithfully had family reunions every August in Lincoln, Illinois, usually coinciding with the weekend of the Logan County Fair. This was a big trip when we were kids. We got to stay at our cousins house, with brave Aunt Betty and Uncle Bill. They had 4 kids and we had 4 kids so it was an nonstop fun for us. We played and read comic books and ate a lot.

Above is a classic family reunion picture from 1961. A little blurry, black and white. Those are my grandparents in front, with their 5 children behind them. Lining up for pictures was a reunion ritual. Each family would line up, cousins would line up, inlaws, outlaws.....

By 1979 someone got a banner! I notice the photo was posed MORE for the banner clarity than the people (Gehlbachs often do not think like photographers). These are cousins lined up.

All these memories were dredged up by this little quilt with Lincoln roots. I've named this little quilt Family Reunion: it measures 46" x 46". The blocks were stitched in the 1960s by Mary "Granny" Laughlin of Lincoln, Illinois and I stitched them together into this quilt in 2000.

Granny gave the blocks to her neighbor, my aunt Betty Purkey Gehlbach. The fabrics came from Betty's home sewing projects, as well of other neighbors like the Rankins. Betty can remember which of these was a shirt for her son Phillip or a dress for daughter Linda.....

Granny pieced simple 9 patch blocks. I set them together in groups of 9 with wild sashing between. Several extra blocks were added to the border.

I purchased the backing fabric at an antique shop in Lincoln. The quilt is tied with several colors of perle cotton. I made it all for myself to use, to wrap up in happy memories of our family reunions.