Saturday, December 15, 2007

The Christmas Tree in America

Christmas has not always been a national holiday in the United States. In fact, until the middle years of the last century, Christmas in America was a religious holiday that was celebrated privately.

The nation's celebration of Christmas changed in the 19th Century. America had always been a nation of immigrants, but immigration increased substantially during the 1820s. Each ethnic group brought their own particular cultural traditions with them; however, they all shared a common reverence for the Christmas holiday.

The Germans are generally credited with introducing the "Christmas Tree" to America. The tradition allegedly began with a few German families in Pennsylvania who decorated their trees as early as 1820. Yet, the widespread practice of decorating evergreens was unusual until late in the 19th Century. In the United States, Christmas tree decorations significantly increased in popularity when Queen Victoria authorized the publication of an engraving of her family's Christmas tree in Godey's Lady's Book, an influential and popular American ladies magazine. Modified from a painting that was first published in the Illustrated London News in 1848, the Godey's illustration was the standard for how a tree might be expected to look.

[Original illustration of Queen Victoria, Prince Albert and family gathered around the Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle, published in the London News in 1848]

In the 1840s, most Americans did not have their own family trees. Instead, in places such as Williamsburg, Virginia, communities celebrated the holiday events with decorated "town" trees for the children. Trees were usually decorated with strings of popcorn, nuts and paper globes. Candles were frequently wired onto tree branches. Other ornaments during this time period included apples, gilded and natural fruits and nuts, cookies, popcorn, cranberries, homemade paper items, candles, cornucopias, and presents.

The first commercially produced Christmas decorations began to appear globally in 1848. Created in Germany, these ornaments were hollow balls that ranged in size from 1 inch to 18 inches and were meant to decorate one's Christmas tree. The modern glass ornaments we are familiar with today evolved from the tradition of these German glass blown balls; however, these delicate glass ornaments were not sold in America until the 1880s. William DeMuth of New York produced the first American-made glass ornaments in 1881. Drawing upon earlier tree decorating traditions, balls, beads and glass fruit ornaments were produced in large quantities.

By the 1870s, most Americans had embraced the winter holiday as a permanent part of its country's culture. The United States Congress officially declared Christmas a federal holiday on June 26, 1870. During this time, American businesses began to import tree ornaments from Europe. They were sold on street corners and toy stores. Tin ornaments, wax angels, cornucopias, tinsel, glass beads and balls were among the popular tree decorations.

[Modified illustration of the Christmas Tree at Windsor Castle, published in America in Godey's Ladies Book]

The 1870s saw the introduction of Tinsel and painted metal tree stands. Tinsel was made from a combination of wire and foil which was snipped to produce crinkled strands that were then hung as garlands on the tree. Also, before the 1870s, trees had been placed in crocks, wooden boxes and crates, but that soon changed when the first painted metal tree stand began to be manufactured in 1876.

It is interesting to note the many ways that the Holidays are now celebrated today and how these celebrations are traced back to the traditions of the past. Surely, connections like these help form the living spirit of the season and create enduring bonds meant to be shared with each successive generation. In an event, everyone here at Grandma's Attic wishes all of you a Happy Holiday filled with family, fun and lots of good food (and of course, FABRIC!)

Sunday, November 18, 2007

Hokies Thank the World

As many of you already know, the Virginia Tech Memorial Quilt Block Project has entered into a new phase. Principal photography has now been completed and the task of assigning talented quilters to stitch the blocks together is underway. We hope to have more photos of these quilts as things develop.

In the mean time, we wanted to share with you this heart warming message from the University addressed to the world. It seems especially fitting to everyone who has participated in this project so far.

Sunday, November 11, 2007

American Thanksgiving

Many people know the story of the first Thanksgiving, about how the Native Americans and the European Pilgrims celebrated the first Fall Harvest of 1621 together. And, they are familiar with the story of how those pilgrims suffered tremendous hardships, but thanks to their hard work and the generosity of the Indians, they were eventually able to scratch out a living in this "New World."

First Thanksgiving by Jean Louis Gerome Ferris

But fewer people know about the role Sarah Josepha Hale, editor of "Godey's Lady Book" magazine, played in making Thanksgiving into a permanent National Holiday. For nearly fifteen years, she had written numerous editorials in her magazine and sent several letters urging various State Governors to proclaim the last Thursday in November a "Day of Thanksgiving," most of whom did. But in 1863, she wrote to President Abraham Lincoln requesting that he declare Thanksgiving a permanent National Holiday.

Sarah J. Hale wrote the following editorial, which appeared in a February 1860 edition of her magazine. She included it, with others like it, in her correspondence to the President. She wrote:

We may now consider Thanksgiving a National Holiday. It will no longer be a partial and vacillating commemoration of gratitude to our Heavenly Father, observed in one section or State, while other portions of our common country do not sympathize in the gratitude or gladness. It is to be a regularly recurring Festival appointed by the concert of the State Governments to be observed on the last Thursday in November--thus made, for all future time, The American Thanksgiving Day.

Sarah then goes on to list thirty-two of the various "States and Territories [which] held and consecrated this New National Holiday." She also explains how and when the State Governors should issue the necessary proclamations. In the same article, Sarah further writes:

God has given to man authority, to women influence; she inspires and persuades, i.e. convinces and compels. For the last twelve years, the editress of the Lady's Book [Sarah] has been endeavoring to bring about this agreement in popular feeling. We have used our influence always, we trust, in a womanly way, and now we would render our deep gratitude to God who has blessed our humble prayers and effort, and express our thus publicly our thanks to those generous men who have encouraged and accomplished our plan. We now leave the perpetuation of this good work, by the enactment of a statute in each State, to the good and patriotic men everywhere to be found, who love the Constitution and the Union.

Everything that contributes to bind us in one vast empire together, to quicken the sympathy that makes us feel from the icy North to the Sunny south that we are one family, each a member of a great and free Nation, not merely the unit of a remote locality, is worthy of being cherished. We have sought to reawaken and increase this sympathy, believing that the fine filaments of the affections are stronger than the laws to keep the Union of our States sacred in the hearts of our people.

In many of her letters and articles, Sarah had often explained how she felt Thanksgiving could unite a dispersed and divided country. Sarah also argued that Thanksgiving would be a welcome third addition to the already established National Holidays of Washington's Birthday and Independence Day, also known as The Fourth of July.

First Page of Sarah J. Hale's Letter to President Lincoln

So, the next time you are celebrating Thanksgiving with your family, whether you're eating Turkey, decorating your house for the holidays, or sewing on that special seasonal project, be sure to give a little thanks to Sarah Josepha Hale for helping make Thanksgiving an important part of our National Heritage.

Wednesday, October 31, 2007

A Letter from Caroline

When we took on the Virginia Tech Memorial Quilt Block Project, we had no idea that the response to our request for quilt blocks would be so enormous. Who would have guessed that when my husband sneaked a bolt of fabric with logos from his alma mater into my cart, that it would lead to such a moving tribute to all of those who have been touched by this terrible tragedy. Stephen and I made the decision that this project should be fittingly memorialized by meticulous documentation of each quilter's block. As a result, we are thoroughly documenting each block, including the name of the quilter who made it and any sentiments they have shared with us.

As part of the documentation effort we are photographing every single block (and there are almost 600 of them). That means that we've looked at each of the blocks up close and personal, and have been able to see all the talent and methods of expression shown by all of the quilters who participated in the block project.

There have been many surprises and insights while working on this project. For instance, last week we received the following letter from a woman named Caroline:

As a novice quilter, I am always looking around the internet for tips, ideas and projects. I just graduated from Virginia Tech this year and am truly touched by your Virginia Tech Memorial quilting project. I felt especially compelled to write to you when I saw the photograph of the block made in honor of Dr. Librescu. I was a student in his class on April 16, and it is because of him most of my classmates and I were able to get to safety. To see him being honored in so many ways means so much to me, and it moved me to see that.

I just wanted to send you a heartfelt thank you for not only doing such a wonderful project, but for giving me a sense of comfort while I was doing something as simple as surfing the internet. Every day is still a struggle to get beyond the terrible things that happened, but seeing how many people were affected by this tragedy makes me realize I am not in this alone.

I asked Caroline if I could share her letter with everyone on the blog because it moved me very deeply. I knew other people would be moved by her comments as well. Caroline said to make sure to thank "everyone who has done something for Tech after this tragedy." She also said, "It really makes a difference to us."

Believe me, receiving letters like this one, confirms my belief that these quilts have a deeper meaning and will deeply touch and inspire those who see them in the future.

The next step is sorting the blocks and sending them to quilters so that they can be sashed and quilted. We are keeping the sashing very simple as we want the focus to remain on the blocks that everyone so lovingly shared. We'll keep you posted as the project develops.

Sunday, September 30, 2007

Fall Momentum

Fall is finally here and things couldn't be busier at our shop! For example, the fourth series of our popular $5 Quilt Club has already begun, with only the second talk occurring this upcoming Friday and Saturday. Patchwork Party is still in full swing which means our mail-order department is always buzzing preparing kits or mailing out our exclusive block to all of the "party-goers." And since the Holiday Season is practically around the corner, we've also been stocking up on all of the gifts and projects you'll need for those special, heart-warming gifts. Somehow, I even managed to squeeze in a small trip to a local quilt show to give a talk on Isaac Singer and his famous Singer Sewing Machine.

But before I go into too much detail, can you tell what is so special about the Singer Sewing Machine pictured below? (I'll share the answer at the end of this post.)

Antique Singer Sewing Machine

Singer Sewing Machine Case

The $5 Quilt Club remains one of the more popular events at our shop. Recent topics we've covered in class have included the First Ladies of America, She Flies with Her Own Wings (about Oregon), and Lewis and Clark's historic journey west. This year's theme is extra special: "Well Behaved Women seldom Make History." We're exploring how famous women of the past listened to their hearts, found the courage and fortitude to speak up, and exerted themselves to try and change their corner of the world for the better. We started out with Frances E. Willard. This coming Friday, we'll be talking about Elizabeth Cady Stanton. If you're making plans for the weekend, be sure to stop by the shop and register for these talks. You'll have lots of fun and learn a lot!

In addition to the $5 Quilt Club, Patchwork Party is still going strong! If you haven't take the time to visit the official site and look at all of the wonderful blocks we're offering this season, you'll want to set aside a moment or two to do just that. There is still enough time to collect your blocks and finishing kits to make an unforgettable Holiday Gift! The weather is getting a bit colder out where I live, and frankly, I feel there's nothing better on those days than to spend a little time snug in my sewing room with the patterns, fabric and threads of a new quilt project spilling out onto my lap.

Okay, so have you figured out what is so special about that sewing machine? It's the hand crank on the side. With the introduction of electricity, many of these machines were converted to electric by the addition of a motor. The hand cranks almost disappeared. With a motor, you could do twice as much work thank cranking by hand--and it didn't bother your shoulder as much either! No wonder so many of these machines were converted to electricity. When you see a Singer like this one today, it will more than likely have a motor on it--not a hand crank. Next time you're antiquing, you'll notice what I'm talking about.

Sunday, September 23, 2007

Rotary Cutters and Chocolate: The Secret Connection!

Who would have thought that a tasty chocolate bar could have helped inspire the creation of an indispensable quilting tool? But, it did!

In 1956, Mr. Y. Okada was just a young man working in a Japanese printing company. And at that time, workers in printing companies used either razor blades and standard knives to cut paper. But, Okada noted, workers spent a lot of time either sharpening blades, or when the blades were finally used up, replacing them. So one day, as he ate lunch, Okada tried to think of ways to reduce that time and improve efficiency.

Now, as you know, some chocolate bars (my favorites included!) are molded into squares that can be snapped off into smaller bite-sized pieces, and Okada's lunch had just such a treat that particular day! As Okada snapped off pieces of his chocolate bar, it occurred to him that a cutting blade might also be made into similar segments. A blade could be made with multiple cutting edges that the worn edge could be "snapped off" just like a chocolate bar, thereby exposing a sharp new cutting point.

With this insight, Okada and his colleagues founded a company to manufacture these new type of blades and called the company OLFA, which is a Japanese word meaning "breaking a blade." Ever since that time, OLFA has gained and held the market for premium cutters, knives, and blades. And, in 1979, OLFA developed the first rotary cutter for quilters, making cutting fabric faster and more accurate.

OLFA also produces a self-healing mat, the rotary cutter's companion, that makes it possible for quilters and sewers to make clean, accurate cuts through multiple layers of fabric. (I can cut up to six layers of cotton with mine!) And quilters, using their natural resourcefulness, quickly extrapolated the concept and developed quick-cutting techniques upon which more than one company in the quilting industry is based.

Essentially, a rotary cutter is a rolling razor blade that looks like a high-tech pizza cutter. You can use it to cut fabric into strips, shapes, and pieces. The blade in OLFA rotary cutters are made from tungsten, which ensures a sharp, durable edge for reliable and accurate cutting. But one of my favorite features of OLFA rotary cutters has to be the safety guide that can quickly and easily be operated with my thumb. I use the safety shield every time I put the cutter to a piece of fabric (and so should you!)

OLFA makes rotary cutters in many sizes: from tiny (18mm) for the smallest projects like miniatures with tight corners or curves, to the largest (60 mm)—the size I use. Furthermore, rotary cutters come in two basic designs: original and ergonomic. And both are currently on the market.

The Ergonomic Rotary Cutter, also in several sizes, features a unique handle which provides a comfortable grip for the user as it has been shaped to fit the hand. If you happen to have arthritis, carpal tunnel syndrome, tendonitis, or any other repetitive stress conditions, this would be the cutter for you! You can also use the locking feature to allow the blade to lock open for comfort or to close for safety. This one is so easy on your hands that, after you've used a few times, you will abandon your other cutters in preference to this one.

As far as the mats go, OLFA rotary mats are self-healing and durable, which means that you can make multiple cuts of fabric without dulling the blade or slicing through the mat. They can be used on both sides and are marked with a one-inch grid to help you measure and line the fabric up on both the straight or cross grain.

We use rotary cutters and mats every day and couldn't do without them! If you ever bought fabric from us, or received it in the mail, you can be assured that we cut it with our favorite and well-loved rotary cutters. With over 20 years of supporting quilters behind them, OLFA says they are committed to providing products to quilters before they even know they need them. But personally, I’m waiting for OLFA to provide more time in any given day in which to sew!

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Summer Redwork Adventure

Where did the summer go? I can’t believe it’s already September 9th. Time just seems to have passed so quickly I didn’t realize it’s been so long since my last post. Here are the highlights of a recent adventure to Washington State.

On August 4th and 5th, Stephen and I went to the Pomeroy Living History Farm where I gave talks on the History of Redwork Embroidery.

The Pomeroy Farm is really beautiful. Near Yacolt, Washington, the farm is an interactive educational museum depicting domestic and farm life from the early 20th century. There is a log home built around 1920, a working blacksmith shop, a barn, various animals, herb and vegetable gardens, a pasture, and a woodlot. My trip was scheduled to coincide with the Pomeroy Farm Quilt Show showcasing beautiful quilts on the fences and in the barn. The weather that weekend was absolutely perfect for a quilt show--in the 70s with a nice light breeze to gently blow the quilts around in the sun. Vendors sold a variety of old quilts, fabrics, notions and other goodies, and the Redwork embroidery club from Anna Lena’s in Long Beach, Washington were on hand to demonstrate Redwork embroidery techniques. They also brought along a variety of quilts for the show.

Pomeroy Living History Farm

A Quilt Display

My talk centered around Redwork embroidery and how it got started here in the United States in about 1876. It was during that year a display of embroidery from the Kensington School in England was featured at the Philadelphia Exposition. The Kensington Stitch, as worked by these students, became known later as the outline stitch--the type of needlework used to create Redwork embroidery. Eventually, this work was simply called Redwork (or Bluework if you were working in blue). For illustration, I brought my collection of antique Redwork quilts, pillow shams, splashers and other items with me for show and tell.

Redwork Embroidery was extremely popular as a method of adorning everyday items through the 1920s-30s. It is currently enjoying popularity again. I enjoy doing Redwork myself. In the evenings, especially when I’ve had a busy day, I work on Redwork embroidery projects to relax and have fun.

Vendors at the Pomeroy Quilt Show

Noel Johnson of was at one of my talks and took a selection of photos of me with my quilts and Redwork embroidery items. (Click here to take a look!) I wish you could have been there with me. The first guy in Mr. Johnson’s selection of photos is Farmer Bob, owner of the Pomeroy Farm. He introduced me before each session. The other guy in the Hawaiian shirt is my husband Stephen. He helped out during my sessions; he spent the rest of the time exploring the Farm and generally having fun.

If you are ever near the Pomeroy Living History Farm during their open farm weekends, you will want to see for yourself how fun and educational this place really is!

Monday, August 13, 2007

Have You Joined Our Party?

Patchwork Party 2007-Fall Edition has begun and we couldn't be more exited about it. We've been working hard behind the scenes to get everything ready for this special and popular program. This season's edition features beautiful blocks designed by Marti Michell using Marcus Brothers’ Home for the Holidays fabric collection by Faye Burgos.

It works quite simply. Each "party-goer" collects one of the twelve blocks from each of the online merchants participating in this year's program to get that shop's exclusive quilt block kit. Our exclusive block is “Hearts in the Stars.” Isn’t it beautiful?

Hearts in the Stars

In addition to our own exclusive quilt block kit, we’ve created a way for you to turn all twelve of your collected blocks into a stunning quilt titled “Star of Destiny.” Our finishing kit includes the pattern and all the fabric you need to add to the blocks to create a quilt top big enough to fit a queen-sized bed (85” square). You might note that the fabric is the Marcus Brothers’ Home for the Holidays collection designed by Faye Burgos. Faye’s fabric designs are totally drop dead gorgeous. She’s the one who created that beautiful pansy pattern that Marcus Brothers has been offering for over ten years now.

Star of Destiny

Our "Star of Destiny" quilt was designed by Barbara Lewis. I put it together and then sent it to Linda Perry of A Stipple in Time for quilting. It is available in three different packages so you can choose the one that is best for you.

In addition to our Star of Destiny Finishing Kit, we also created a wall quilt coordinate. Originally designed by Jane Davis, our wall quilt was constructed by Marge McCanse and quilted by Linda Perry. Seasonal Celebrations features four seasonal appliqué wreath designs which you can create using either traditional or fusible web appliqué methods. For your convenience, all the fabric you need to complete the quilt top and binding are included. We also offer matching pillowcases to complete the Star of Destiny ensemble. Click here to browse everything we have to offer for this year's fabulous party!

To see all of the beautiful quilts done by each of the 12 participating shops, the patchwork party website includes a quilt gallery where you can view them all. A planning guide and tips on quilting and sewing are also included at the official website to get started collecting your blocks for this fantastic program and to view the completed quilts.

The 12 shops participating in Patchwork Party Fall Edition 2007 program are: Anna Lena’s, Cabbage Rose, Cottage Quilts, Everything Quilts, Fat Quarter Shop, Grandma’s Attic, Homespun Hearth, Quilt Something, Quilter’s Quarters, Stitchin’ Heaven, Sunshine Carousel and Suzanne’s Quilts.

Sunday, August 05, 2007

Coburg Quilt Show

Saturday, July 28 was the Coburg Quilt Show in Coburg, Oregon. Stephen and I drove down there just in time for High Tea. The weather could not have been more perfect for an outdoor quilt show--in the 70s with a soft breeze.

I spent most of the afternoon appraising quilts. Some of the attendees at the Show brought treasured quilts from home to be carefully evaluated and appreciated. Among them were several crazy quilts made from scraps of antique fabrics, a couple of double wedding rings, and two beautiful floral quilts made from kits in the 1960s or 70s.

Appraising a "Double Wedding Ring" Quilt

On display at the show was a Crazy Quilt from 1885. One of the crazy quilt blocks included a civil war ribbon with crossed swords that had belonged to the woman's ancestor. The quilt--a living and tangible piece of history--was just incredible to see.

1885 Crazy Quilt

Later in the afternoon, I gave a talk on the "Care and Feeding of Vintage Quilts" and brought a little show-and-tell of my own as a back drop. I also found a set of antique Redwork pillow shams at a local antique store and also purchased a vintage "Trip Around the World" quilt to display at the shop.

Quilt "Show and Tell"

Quilts in the Breeze

It is always pleasure to meet and talk to quilters about their tremendous love of quilting. And, of course, it's just as delightful to see how they've expressed their creativity in all their wonderful and diverse creations. Overall, it was a very fun day. Stephen and I loved the opportunity to be a part of this terrific show!

Sunday, July 29, 2007

Virginia Tech Memorial Project

As you may already know, we've received a tremendous response to the Virginia Tech Memorial Block project. We've literally received hundreds of blocks for this project, an outpouring of love and concern for the everyone who has been touched by the tragedy of the Virginia Tech shootings. The project has moved solidly into its next phase, so now is perhaps a good opportunity to provide an update of its ongoing progress.

The first step of the project, the creation and submission of the blocks, has already been completed. As you have already seen in our previous posts, we have displayed many of these beautiful quilt blocks in the classroom area of Grandma's Attic to inspire others to participate and to generally give heart to all of those who have seen it. These individual blocks are already a moving testament to the power of quilts and the fiber arts to help people heal after a national tragedy.

The second stage of the project is in full-swing: the documenting and photographing of every block we have received. We feel that it is appropriate to honor and acknowledge each block submission by preserving both the names of the block creators and the images of the blocks they have created. As we are in fully in the midst of this second stage, we are perhaps better able offer some detail about its progress.

For example, we have compiled a large database containing both the name of the block and the person who created it. Furthermore, each block has been assigned a number so that it can be easily referenced in the database when necessary. In addition to this compilation of information, we have collected a large binder filled with the completed block submission forms and any other accompanying correspondence we may have received.

But, perhaps even more intensive than compiling the database in this second phase is photographing each individual block. This is the part of the project we are in now. The blocks are first pinned to a flat background as carefully as possible and any stray threads that have happened to have covered the block are carefully removed with a lint roller. The lighting and the camera settings are adjusted just so for each block and the picture is taken. As these are digital pictures, each block image must then be reviewed at a later point on the computer to see if it is a good image or needs be retaken.

We have already begun the initial part of the third stage of the project: the assemblage of the blocks into separate quilts. We're still planning how to organize this third stage, but we are already lining up the quilters who will be performing this important and emotional task.

As you can see, there is a lot of work that is still ahead of us. Above all, throughout all these first stages, throughout the project as a whole, our ultimate goal is to give the proper and appropriate respect that each block deserves on it's way to its final inclusion in quilts to be presented to Virginia Tech.

Sunday, July 22, 2007

Beautiful Batiks and their History!

Batik prints are among the most popular fabrics in the United States today--indeed, throughout the world. And it's easy to see why. Batiks come in an astonishing array of lovely colors and pleasing motifs: from beautiful plants and flowers awash in a warm sea of reds and purples to graceful butterflies, birds, and fish slipping through the cooler shades of greens and blues. The desire to capture these beautiful colors and designs in our own projects can be practically irresistible. In the act of admiring a brightly colored batik print, we often found ourselves wondering how these lovely types of fabric came into being. Here is the Batik Story.

Batik prints (pronounced BAH-teek), as they are known today, are generally acknowledged as being developed centuries ago in Java, now part of modern-day Indonesia. In the past, batiks had been worn as sarongs and head-coverings as public markers of identity that could sometimes tell the story of a person's social rank, economic class or even ethnicity. The word "batik" derives from two other Javanese words, "amba" and "titik," words which signify "drawing" and "writing" respectively.

Perhaps one can see the relationship between drawing and writing since, in order to make a batik by hand, one must draw or write on a piece of fabric with hot wax pen in a process called "canting." Next, paint is applied over and between the wax design. And finally, the fabric is re-waxed, dyed, and boiled. Since the wax resists the variously applied paints and dyes, when it is removed the intended design is seen in the final overall piece.

Although traditional methods for making Batiks by hand are still used today, most modern Batiks are made in the factory using roughly the same process. In 1850, the first method for making Batiks in a factory was developed to meet the then burgeoning European fashion market. In this first factory method, a metal stamp (called a "cap") was heated and dipped in hot wax, and the design was literally stamped into the fabric. The fabric was then laid out and hand painted, and ultimately re-waxed with black to prevent the background colors from penetrating the new pattern. The cloth was then dyed to produce the brilliant colors and boiled to remove the excess wax.

In the late 19th century, Europeans were fascinated by Batik prints and some even had individual pieces framed as works of Art. Batiks were commonly seen as interesting pieces most suitable for home decor. The hand-made craft element of Batiks also appealed to the Europeans because they resisted the mass-produced home decorations then available and, in this sense, partially allayed their anxieties about the increasing pressures of the relatively new Industrial Revolution.

Today, Batiks play an invaluable role in our various quilting and fabric projects. You can see batiks in everything from beautiful batik butterflies in decorative wall-hangings, to colorful blocks in a large bedroom quilt or even to a fun summer tote-bag. If you're inspired, be sure to check out our lovely selection of batiks in their stunning array of colors and designs. Batiks can make a special project even that much more special!

Sunday, July 08, 2007

Peanuts and Peanut Butter Cookies

We love peanut butter cookies. They’re pretty yummy, don’t you think? My grandmother loved to bake peanut butter cookies and I loved to eat them. So we got to thinking about the history of the peanut itself. When I think of peanuts, I think of George Washington Carver, baseball games, and peanut butter cookies. If you’ve ever wondered about peanuts, here’s a short history.

Peanuts originated in South America, probably in Brazil or Peru. At the time when the Spanish were exploring the New World, peanuts were being grown as far north as Mexico. It was the Spanish who introduced peanuts to Europe in the 15th Century, and the versatility and uses of the peanut were quickly realized. Portuguese slave ships began carrying peanuts as an essential food. Still later, traders further carried the peanut to Africa, Asia and many other parts of the world.

The Africans themselves regarded the peanut as one of several plants possessing a soul. It is interesting to note that the word “goober” comes from the Congo name for peanuts—nguba. When the Africans were brought to North America as slaves, peanuts came with them and were planted throughout the southern United States.

Considered an excellent food for pigs, peanuts were initially called groundnuts in the 1700s. When peanuts began to be grown commercially in the United States in the 1800s, early American records show that, in places like South Carolina, peanuts were used for oil, food, and as a cocoa substitute. During the Civil War, soldiers on both sides ate peanuts as food. Yet, they were not grown extensively because they were slow and difficult to harvest. At the time, they also had the distinction as being food for “the poor.”

Around 1900, equipment for planting, cultivating, harvesting, and picking peanuts from the plants, and for shelling and cleaning the kernels were developed. Mechanization made it more economical to sell roasted and salted nuts, peanut butter and candy. During the last half of the 19th Century, peanuts were sold fresh roasted by street vendors and as a popular snack at baseball games and circuses.

In 1903, George Washington Carver (1864-1943) began researching the peanut at Tuskegee Institute. He developed more than 300 uses for peanuts including shoe polish and shaving cream! He improved peanut horticulture so much that he is considered to be the “father of the peanut industry.” As a botanist, he recognized the value of peanuts as a cash crop and proposed that they be planted as a rotation crop with cotton in areas where the boll weevil threatened the agricultural base. His rotation method made the soil healthier and kept the boll weevil at bay. Today, peanuts contribute more than four billion dollars to the United States economy each year. Americans eat more than 600 million pounds of peanuts and nearly 700 million pounds of peanut butter each year.
Check out our great Peanut Butter Cookie recipe!

Grandma Ann's Peanut Butter Cookies

1/2 cup peanut butter (smooth or crunchy)
1/2 cup butter
1/2 cup light brown sugar
1/2 cup granulated sugar
1 large egg
1 and 1/4 cups all purpose flour
1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/4 teaspoon salt

Preheat oven to 350F degrees and place rack in center of the oven. Line 2 baking sheets with parchment paper and set aside.

Mix together the butter and sugars with an electric mixer under they are light and fluffy (about 2-3 minutes). Add in the egg and vanilla extract and beat to combine. Mix in the peanut butter. In a separate bowl whisk together the flour, baking soda and salt. Add to the peanut butter mixture and beat to combine. Roll the dough into 1 inch balls. Roll them in white sugar and place on the prepared baking sheet about 3 inches apart. With a fork, press down the tops of the cookies, marking them with a criss-cross pattern.

Bake for approximately 9-11 minutes or until the cookies just start to brown along the edges. Cool on a wire rack.

Makes about 2 dozen cookies.

Sunday, July 01, 2007

Betsy Ross

When I think of the American Flag, I think back to Betsy Ross and wonder: Did she really make the first American flag? Most contemporary historians doubt the popular legend of Betsy Ross sewing the original stars and stripes. However, it is so compelling that when President Woodrow Wilson was asked his opinion of the story, he replied, “Would that it were true!”

Here’s what we do know about Betsy Ross and the American flag. Betsy was born Elizabeth Griscom in 1752. She married John Ross, a Philadelphia upholsterer, and worked as a seamstress. When John Ross was killed in a munitions explosion in 1776, Betsy kept the upholstery shop going. She claimed that George Washington was one of her customers.

Nearly one hundred years later, in 1870, William J. Canby, one of Betsy’s grandsons, told of the supposed making of the first American flag at a meeting of the Historical Society of Pennsylvania. He said that, when he was eleven-years-old, Betsy Ross herself told it to him shortly before she died. According to Canby:

George Washington was a frequent visitor to the home of Mrs. Ross before receiving command of the army. She embroidered his shirt ruffles and did other things for him. Therefore, Washington knew her skill with a needle. As the General of the Continental Army, George Washington appeared on her doorstep around the first of June, 1776 with two representatives of Congress, George Ross and Robert Morris. They asked her to make a flag according to a rough drawing that they carried with them.

General Washington suggested 13 stars and 13 stripes. His version of the stars had six points. Betsy showed him how to make a beautiful five pointed star by folding a piece of paper and taking only one snip. Washington was very impressed, so the design was changed to five pointed stars instead of six. Betsy placed her stars in a circle and the stars and stripes design was adopted by Congress on June 14, 1777.

The painting below of Betsy Ross sewing the first flag was done by Charles H. Weisgerber. First displayed at the Columbian Exposition in 1893, it depicts the meeting of the fabled flag committee with Betsy Ross. Entitled “Birth of Our Nations Flag,” it is actually a composite portrait made up from pictures of Betsy’s granddaughters and other descendants. This painting was included in a book written by Canby’s brother, George Canby and nephew Lloyd Balderson in 1909 to bolster the claims made by Betsy’s grandson that she had made the first American flag. It was also reproduced in school history textbooks and used to make money in order to purchase the Betsy Ross house in Philadelphia.

Birth of Our Nations Flag

Historians have continually searched government records in order to prove Canby's account is true but so far they have been unable to find irrefutable evidence to support the popular legend. However, interestingly enough, they have been able to find some evidence that indicates Betsy Ross did make flags for the Pennsylvania State ships. In the minutes of the State Navy Board of Pennsylvania, there is an entry for May 29, 1777 that reads as following: “An order on William Webb to Elizabeth Ross for fourteen pounds twelve shillings, and two pence, for making ship’s colors, &c, put into Richards store.” Nevertheless, despite this apparent lack of historical evidence, descendants of Betsy Ross state that she was a truthful woman and had no reason to make up fanciful stories.

Another interesting tale related to this flag making legend is that after the Continental Congress Committee’s had visited Betsy Ross’s shop, a fellow church member saw the star that Betsy had cut out for them and asked to keep it. In 1925, the family safe of this church member was opened and inside was a five pointed star! It is now on exhibit at the Free Quaker Meeting House in Philadelphia.

A fair portion of historians believe that it was Francis Hopkinson, not Betsy Ross, who designed the official “first flag” of the United Sates. Hopkinson was a member of the Continental Congress and a signer of the Declaration of Independence. But, regardless of the truth of the Betsy Ross Legend, the story told by her grandson is quite enchanting.

If you would like to learn how to make a five-pointed star with just one snip of the scissors, follow this link HERE. If you're inspired to make your own patriotic project for the summer, click HERE.

Wednesday, June 27, 2007

Chicken Pictures

In early May, I said that I wanted to post pictures of the baby chicks so you could see how much they've grown! Well, here they are! They're awfully shy and don't pose for pictures as well as the older chickens do. While the older chickens are roaming the backyard for the treats Stephen will occasionally give them, the younger chickens hide underneath their coop! The picture below is a rare moment of bravery for three of them who ventured as far as the barnyard gate! The white chicken is the most noticeable, but they're all fun to watch.

Below are pictures of the older hens who occasionally will lay an egg in the yard instead of the coop. (On most evenings, when the chickens have been let out into the yard, Stephen will go on a mini-easter egg hunt to scoop up any of the stray eggs.)

Saturday, June 23, 2007

1930's Era Reproduction Prints

If you've ever looked through our store, either in our shop or online, you already know about our large selection of 1930's reproduction fabrics. These fabrics are among the most popular in our store, and it is not hard to see why. Whimsical designs elegantly combined with a pretty array of color makes these fabrics an absolute must have. But did you know the history of these fabrics?

During the 1930's, a quilt revival took place, a revival brought about by the hard economic times of The Great Depression. The resulting need to be thrifty, coupled with a strong need for socialization, brought women from across the country together around their quilting frames. Eleanor Roosevelt's campaign for American Arts and Crafts further helped propel quilting to the forefront of activity. One would frequently see quilt patterns appearing in local newspapers and sales catalogs. Newspapers and catalogs also advertised and delivered the necessary fabric and supplies the women needed to make their various projects.

World War I also played a role in the development of the 1930's fabric. For example, as a direct result of the war's end, pastels began to appear. Germany's surrender meant it lost all the dye patents it had previously held. Pinks, Blues, Yellows, Greens, Reds, Aqua, Peach, and Lavender made with these synthetic dye patents began appearing on cotton goods containing popular designs: flowers, geometrics, conversationals, and Art Deco motifs.

According to Quilt Historian Sharon Newman, author of the book Treasures from Yesteryear, the designs of the previous decade, the 1920's, were smaller, closer together, and overall more dense. But by the 1930's, prints had a bit more space around the designs with white grounds. Some of those trends continued in the 1940's. Fabrics saw even larger designs, more conversationals appeared, and many patriotic or military type themes became increasingly popular. And that's the story!

Just recently, we've received two collections of 1930's reproduction fabrics: Little Darlings Five and Mama's Feedsacks. If you would like order either one, just click on their names or visit our online shop and browse through our 1930's fabric department. If while you're there, and the spirit moves you, you can also browse our whole collection of these wonderful reproduction fabrics.

Sunday, June 17, 2007

New Arrivals

During the past month or so, we've received some great products that we just have to tell you about. We're always on the look out for great new stuff, most of which you can see on our Newest Additions page. We love to look at all the neat stuff that comes through our door, and sometimes we feel that certain products deserve a special mention. For example, look at these three fabulous items:

MODA SHADOWS. This is the most gorgeous group of blender fabrics I’ve seen in a long time. By Moda, these tone on tone prints are drenched in color. They’re quite like marbles, only instead of the marbled appearance, they have the subtle print of cotton bolls in the design. In fact, I loved the way they looked so much, we brought in the entire line. Click HERE to order.

PEAS AND CARROTS. Who can resist these adorable fabrics featuring life on the farm? Can’t you almost smell the hay while you envision taking a ride on a rope swing? Designed by American Jane for Moda, the Hole in the Barn Door Quilt kit contains the fabric and pattern that you need to make a good sized quilt (76” x 84”). Plus, the kit comes in the most adorable lunch box sized collectible tin reflecting the theme of the fabric. This is just cute, cute, cute!! American Jane has also designed an entire line of Peas and Carrots fabrics. We love them! Click HERE to order.

MAGIC VINE QUILT. If you had been quilting in the 1930s, you probably would have known about the Nancy Page newspaper column that appeared during that time. Nancy Page was the pen name of a woman named Florence LaGanke Harris. She produced a variety of quilt patterns that ladies of the day liked to cut out and save to use in quilt making. Her Magic Vine quilt appeared during this time and was very popular! Eleanor Burns’ new book shows you how to make your own Magic Vine Quilt. Eleanor shows you here different settings, two appliqué techniques for creating the flowers, and sets out options for finishing methods. Full-color instructions are also included. Click HERE to order this wonderful book.

Friday, June 08, 2007

Virginia Tech Block Update!

The blocks you see here are only a small sampling of the Virginia Tech Memorial Quilt Blocks that we have received to date. We are in the process of documenting and photographing all of these special and moving blocks. Here at Grandma's Attic, approximately 172 of the more than 500 blocks that we have received are hanging on the walls of our classroom. If you can, we encourage you to visit us and see these lovely blocks in person. We hope to make all of the block photos available in the near future.

Needless to say, receiving quilt blocks and messages from all over the world has completely blown us away. At night, when no one is in the shop, I've caught Stephen standing in the middle of the classroom absorbed in thought as he examines all of the blocks. Again, if you live close to Grandma's Attic, you'll want to come in and see them for yourself.

UPDATE: Below are two more pictures of the blocks that are hanging in our classroom. You can click on the images to get a larger view to better appreciate the love and talent that has gone into each one.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Memorial Day

When I was little, my grandmother would take me to the cemetery with her a few days before Memorial Day so that we could tend to the graves of loved ones who had passed on. First, we would gather up the tools needed to clean grave stones and clip grass. Then we would select the best flowers from her garden. The back of her car would be filled with roses, carnations, sweet william, azalea blossoms and many other flowers. Irises were her particular favorite. After the car was packed, Grandma would drive us up to the cemetery so we could decorate the graves of family members and people she knew. My grandmother lived 38 years longer than my grandfather, a ship-builder in World War II. This Memorial Day observance was a yearly vigil for her; one that Stephen and I have continued since her passing in 1998.

I've noticed that there are more stones to clean and decorate as the years go by. This year, there were 10 of them. When we were through, we talked about how much we missed those who had influenced our lives, reflected on lessons learned from each of them, and how we might make our own lives more meaningful. Cleaning grave stones and decorating with flowers may be a small thing, but its become a tradition of honoring our elders and those gone before us.

Sunday, May 20, 2007

Patchwork Party 2007

Hurry! You don’t want to be left out when the party ends in just eleven days(!) on May 31st. Don't worry; there’s still a little time for you to join this fun and fabulous program but you will need to act quickly! Most of you already know that the 2007 Spring Edition of Patchwork Party is a series of beautiful quilt blocks designed by Marti Michell using Moda’s Sanctuary line of fabric by 3 Sisters. So far, Spring 2007 has been a great "party" with many, many lovely quilts being made by our customers that are well on their way to completion. We've already seen a few and are full of admiration for the talent our customers possess. But once May 31st is here, these lovely blocks, one for each of the stores participating in this year's party, will be retired. (There's no doubt that those blocks will need the rest from the high-heeled good time they had at this year's party!)

Grandma’s Attic is the only quilt shop exclusively offering the Spring Glenn quilt block. You'll need to visit the other 11 shops to collect their particular quilt blocks.Once you've collected all twelve, you can buy our finishing kit entitled “A Rose by Any Other Name." Our queen size quilt measures 95” square and features beautiful appliqué.If you live close to our store, you’ll want to come in and see it.

If you’ve already purchased your blocks, you just might want to purchase another set and start the fun all over again. The blocks, postage paid, are a real bargain and are an economic way to make a quilt for family and friends.

Our Finishing Kit and all the accessories will continue to be available as long as we have fabric and supplies.

We're really looking forward to ending this year's party just like it started, with a big bang that promises loads of fabric fun!

Tuesday, May 08, 2007

Time Flies

After we got back from Dannielle's graduation, I was so busy at Grandma's Attic I wasn't able to post until now. It's amazing how quickly time can fly at certain times, and how slowly it can drag on at others.

This is a picture of Stephen and I that photographer Sarah Hillman took for the local newspaper, the Polk County Itemizer-Observer (Look for "Project comes from the Heart"). It accompanied an article that appeared on May 8 about the Virginia Tech Memorial Quilt Project that we have undertaken. I'm holding up the very first block that we received. The block was constructed by Barbara Lewis of Dallas. It is called Virginia Star. Isn't it beautiful? It's only one of many that we have begun to receive. We are currently in the process of identifying each block with the name of the Quilter, the City/State (Country) in which they live, and the name of the quilt block. We're placing them on the walls at Grandma's Attic and will soon be able to post photos of them. Just looking at the quilt blocks we've received is very powerful. I can feel the love and devotion in which they were all made. God bless each and every one of you who has made a block (or more) and sent it to us. We will soon create a page on our website to share them with you.

I hope to write more often now that I'm back from California, over whatever illness had me in its grip for a few days after that, and past the $5 Quilt Club that keeps us hopping the first Friday and Saturday of every month. We really have fun with the $5 Quilt Club and love seeing all our customers.

I'm also hoping to upload a picture of Stephen's baby chicks next time so you can see how much they've grown. They're almost teenagers now! The weather is getting warmer and the hens are laying more eggs. They like to stroll around the barn yard looking for tasty treats. The cats pretend that they are great hunters and stalk the chickens through the tall grass. All it takes to debunk that notion is for one of the hens to rush at a cat. The cats then go running off to the barn. The whole time this is going on, the two little daschunds bark themselves hoarse from the confines of their kennel. Then Edna, the cockateil gets into the act by screeching at the dogs. Have I told you that we have a real pet menagerie at our place? In addition to the pets, we have deer in the pasture (and/or snacking on the rose bushes), the occasional raccoon sneaking into the cat food dish, and a variety of other wildlife out in the fields. It's amazing. The kids have all left home but the animals, both tame and wild, provide us with hours of companionship.

Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Dannielle's Graduation

Stephen and I are heading down to Redding, California this weekend. Our daughter Dannielle is graduating with honors (summa cum laude) on Saturday. She has a degree in Cross Cultural Studies. She's not exactly sure whether she's continuing her education next Fall but she's been thinking she'd like to be a Physician's Assistant or Nurse Practitioner. We're very proud of her.

The Virginia Tech Memorial Quilt Block project is progressing. We are beginning to receive quilt blocks from the fabric that we've sent out. All I can say about these blocks is that they are fabulous! I hope to post pictures of them to the blog as soon as we get back from California.

I am a firm believer that every single one of us has a unique gift or talent to share with the rest of the world. Every once in a while, we are privileged to glimpse into a person's soul through the artistry of their quilt blocks. We are honored to be putting the quilt blocks up in the shop as they come in and hope to see yours among them!

To participate in this project, we are asking quilters who have been moved by the recent tragedy at Virginia Tech to join us by making a 12-1/2" square quilt block (unfinished size) in the colors of Virginia Tech--maroon and orange. We will then assemble the blocks into quilts. Finished quilts will be sent to Virginia Tech. Everyone who participates in this project will have their name listed on the quilt and included in the documentation about our project. If you would like to incorporate some of the Virginia Tech fabric we talked about in our last blog post, go to Grandma's Attic website and drop us a note in our comment section of the form on that link. While supplies last, we will send you a small piece of this fabric to use in your block.

Make your quilt block in the colors of Virginia Tech--maroon and orange. Please do not introduce other colors into the color scheme as this is a school spirit quilt. Add only maroon, orange and neutrals (white, black, gray, off white) to your quilt block. The block doesn't have to look dull and drab--just be predominantly Tech colors. Once you have finished your block, mail or bring it to Grandma's Attic at the address listed here on our website. Please note: in order to be included in the project, quilt blocks need to be returned to us by June 2, 2007.

This project is historically significant! It's a way of sharing what you were thinking and feeling at this moment in time with future generations. What could be better than that?

Sunday, April 22, 2007

Love and Support for Virginia Tech

The overwhelming show of support for the students and faculty of Virginia Tech and all who were affected by the recent tragedy on that campus has been so profoundly moving, so deeply touching, that it is nearly impossible to describe it in mere words. It has only been a few days into the Virginia Tech Memorial Quilt Block project and we have already been privileged to witness the outpouring of love and concern for our fellow human beings in their moment of stunning grief and terrible sadness.

People from nearly every state in America, even from across the ocean in the United Kingdom, have sent in e-mails volunteering to help assemble the blocks for this very special project. Soon, we hope to share with you some pictures of the results of the concern for Virginia Tech and its process of healing. But for now, we thought we would share some of the comments we have received through our online store.

From New York: What a strange coincidence [for Stephen] to have "sneaked" in Virginia Tech Fabric [into the cart] and what a fitting tribute to a most horrific event. God works in mysterious ways to have directed you in this. Please send me a piece so I may be a part of your quilt project. Thank you.

From Texas: I just read your blog regarding Virginia Tech. It [...] really touched my heart. Such a tragedy in such a beautiful and peaceful place. I love Virginia, just having moved away a year ago. I would be honored to help make blocks for the quilts [...] for the families who lost their most precious gifts, their children.

From Arizona: I would like to be a part of [the] VT quilt. What happened there is just too awful for words. [The] quilt will say what some of us are having a hard time expressing in words.

These comments touched our hearts more than you know and affirmed our belief in the common decency of humanity. We have also received many other e-mails from graduates and alumni of Virginia Tech, like Stephen, who have been so troubled that tragedy could strike in a place dear to their hearts. It is clear that their love for their Alma Mater does not simply reside in the buildings on campus, but also within the students and faculty who attend or have attended.

Most moving of all, however, has been the heart-wrenching e-mails from people who have felt the touch of this tragedy even closer to their lives:

From Tennessee: My son is a field engineer [...], and is a graduate of VT. He was a jr. and sr. while [the shooter] was a freshman and sophomore. [...] He has a degree in Computer Engineering. The Israeli professor was his advisor when he was a freshman. [...] I wore my VT Mom shirt to work on Tuesday and have a Hokie shirt on today, since it is mourning day for the victims of the tragedy. That's OK, but this will be a more concrete thing to do.

From Virginia: I am from [Virginia], know many Hokies, and work with several mothers at Tech. It has been a horrific week. Thanks for offering something meaningful for the quilting community to do.

From Virginia: Please send me a piece of the VA Tech fabric. I would like to make a square or two for your quilts. Thank you and God bless you for your thoughtfulness. We lost a local student in the tragedy.

This response leads us to affirm the reason why we are making quilt blocks to assemble into quilts for the families who have felt the cold touch of these heart-breaking events. Blankets by themselves are a powerful symbol of healing and nurturing within a society. For example, one of the first methods to comfort someone suffering from grief and trauma is to wrap them in a blanket. Like blankets, quilts are also a symbol of healing, but through the art and love people put in them, and the messages they can convey, the healing can become more personal and touching. The love of family, the connection to home, the things that are important to us are woven into the spirit of a quilt block in a way much more powerful than a simple solid colored blanket.

Although we cannot be physically present to offer each individual affected by this tragedy our personal sympathies, to offer each person a comforting touch on the shoulder, we hope that we can offer the most tangible thing we can give instead: the fabric hug of a quilt wrapped around them.

Please Note: There is still time to participate! Follow the directions in the previous post (click here to view it) to receive the Virginia Tech Fabric, and remember, make sure your completed block is returned to us by June 2, 2007 to be included in the final assembled quilts.

Friday, April 20, 2007

Virginia Tech Memorial Quilts Project

Grandma's Attic is making memorial quilts for Virginia Tech. We are asking quilters who have been moved by this recent tragedy to join us by making a quilt block 12-1/2" square (unfinished size) in the colors of Virginia Tech--maroon and orange. We will assemble your blocks into quilts. Finished quilts will be sent to Virginia Tech as an offering to all who have been affected by recent events. Everyone who participates in this project will have their name listed on the quilt. If you would like to incorporate some of the Virginia Tech fabric we talked about in our last blog post, go to Grandma's Attic website and drop us a note in our comment section of the form on that link. We'll send you a small piece of this fabric to use in your block.

Make your quilt block in the colors of Virginia Tech--maroon and orange. Please do not introduce other colors into the color scheme as this is a school spirit quilt. Add only maroon, orange and neutrals (white, black, gray, off white) to your quilt block. Once you have finished your block, mail or bring it to Grandma's Attic at the address listed here on our website. Please note: in order to be included in the project, quilt blocks need to be returned to us by June 2, 2007.

Quilts have always served as historical symbols of comfort and support. As a Quilt Historian, I couldn't let this moment in history go by without commemorating it with a quilt full of the hugs and healing we all feel for the victims, survivors, students and faculty. God bless each and every one of you in advance for participating in this very special project. To learn more about Stephen's and my connection to Virginia Tech, please read the post below.

Wednesday, April 18, 2007

Tragedy at Virginia Tech

A few weeks ago, Stephen and I decided to take time away from our normal work routines and spend the day together. At the last minute, I remembered that I needed to get a few things at a fabric warehouse so I asked him to tag along. While I was picking out the fabric I needed for the shop, Stephen noticed some bolts of fabric with collegiate names on them. "Hey, honey," he said, "here's a bolt with Virginia Tech motifs on it." I sort of nodded in his direction and said, "That's nice," while continuing to shop the warehouse. When it came time to check out, Stephen loaded up the car while I talked with a sales rep about other things. Imagine my surprise when I got back to the shop and discovered that I was now the proud owner of a bolt of Virginia Tech fabric--bright orange with maroon motifs, including a football helmet and a turkey! We live in Oregon now. What in the world was I going to do with this? Stephen had apparently snuck the bolt into the cart while I wasn't looking!

I decided to make a joke about it at the $5.00 quilt club meeting. I told participants about how Stephen loved his alma mater, Virginia Tech. Not only did Stephen get all his degrees at Tech, but I used to work in the geology department. (What I remember about that job was that my desk was wedged in and among various buckets of rocks! Sometimes I would have to move little boulders off the desk so that I would have enough room to type--making sure to keep them labeled and in order for the professors to study.) I also told club members that it was obvious that Stephen liked this orange and maroon fabric or he wouldn't have snuck it into my cart. The kids and I decided that we would make him some "projects" for Father's Day, but we weren't sure what. I asked for and received suggestions from the group, including pillowcases, curtains for the tool room, a quilt in a pillow, etc. At the time, April 6 and 7, it was a pretty funny story.

Everything about that changed early morning on April 16. I was at my desk in the back office when my mother called and told me that there had been a "shooting" at Virginia Tech, one student was dead. I couldn't believe it! As the day progressed, the news got worse and worse, ending finally with the tragic discovery that 33 people, the gunman included, had been killed on the Virginia Tech Campus. Stephen and I were so shocked we spent the entire day glued to the television set. The whole thing was too horrific and overwhelmingly sad to actually take in and try to comprehend. I think we've continued to be in a state of shock over this. I've always wanted people to know about Virginia Tech, but this is certainly not what I wanted them to equate with the school. Can you imagine? "Virginia Tech--oh yeah, isn't that the school where that terrible shooting occurred?" I'd rather people remember Tech for all the positive things that make it special.

You see, Stephen and I met in Blacksburg, Virginia. Our first "date" was at Virginia Tech where we attended a play at Burrus Hall. We used to walk along the paths of the drill field, feed the ducks at the duck pond, visit the veterinary barns to see the cows, watch the 4th of July fireworks, and in general "hang out" together at Tech. Homecoming Parades were always a treat. The Highty Tighties marching band practiced in the streets of Blacksburg all year long, and we loved hearing them play. We loved the fact that the alumni band would come to town and ride in the parade on an air conditioned bus with the windows opened so that 80-year-old band members could serenade the crowds. We thought the alumni band always sounded the best!

We were married in Blacksburg. Two of our daughters were born at Montgomery Regional Hospital. I owned a business in the center of Blacksburg and was part of the Downtown Business Association that put on the summer festivals and raised money for downtown improvements. The business owners were special too. Shops had names like Mish Mish; Books, Strings & Things; Mainstreet Bazaar; E. Gadd's (that was my shop); College Inn, Carolee Donuts, and Gilly's Ice Cream. All of our shops were adjacent to the Virginia Tech campus, and during those years, we literally saw thousands of students come through our doors as friends, customers, co-workers, and employees.

While Stephen was busy getting his degrees, he had an office on the 2nd floor of Norris Hall, the building so central to this tragedy. He taught classes on the 2nd floor of Norris--in Room 211 to be exact. I visited him there many times. We always thought that Tech was a beautiful, peaceful campus with an energy all its own, and we think that to this day.

As you can tell, many of our fondest memories together are wrapped up in that school. Now, some of our saddest memories reside there as well. Stephen knew Professor Librescu, the Holocaust Survivor who used his body to block the door so that his students could escape.

So, needless to say, it's been a difficult week. Now, the fabric that Stephen put into our cart has special meaning. I've even called the warehouse and ordered the rest of this fabric that they had in stock. Stephen and I strongly believe it would be fitting to put together quilts for the families of the victims. We're asking others to join us in making quilt blocks from this fabric to be sewn into quilts. I'm also going to mention this project at my $5 Quilt Club. If you'd like to help make a block or two for this project, let me know.