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Archive for December, 2015

I will always remember and cherish my Mother’s woolen quilts, although I have few memories of her actually making them.  They were just there, covered in warm flannel.  We used them on our beds, and when we curled up on the couch to read or watch movies. I couldn’t imagine sleeping under anything else.

The time came when Mom was older, and was no longer making quilts.  I remember thinking…what will I do when my quilt wears out and Mom isn’t here to make me another one.  I asked her one day where she got the wool for the quilts.  She told me about a place in Alberta, Custom Woolen Mills, wrote their name and address on a small slip of paper, and handed me the paper.

A couple of years ago, when the fleeces from my sheep were still sitting in bags waiting to be cleaned and carded, (it takes a long time to wash and card wool by hand), I remembered that slip of paper.  I searched through my old papers and found it.  I contacted the Mill and arranged to ship my wool to be processed.  The first batch was done in rovings, long thick strips of wool that I would use to spin.  The next batch I had processed into batts…big sheets of wool, perfect for making quilts.

I have thought and dreamed of making a wool quilt ever since Mom gave me that piece of paper.  I am very good at thinking and dreaming, but it takes action to make something happen.  I had never acted on those thoughts and dreams.

Brother Tom had one of Mom’s wool quilts, old and well-worn.  He also has a young grandson, who often sleeps on his Grandpa’s bed.  One day, during the afternoon nap, an accident occurred, as sometimes happens with the very young.  The quilt could not be saved…it had to go.

When I heard about the loss of the quilt I knew now was the time for my thoughts and dreams to turn into actions.  I would make a new quilt, out of Morris Brook sheep wool, cleaned and carded from the very place Mom used to get her wool.

Now you should know that I do not sew.  I was actually asked to switch from sewing to cooking in high school.  I never had the patience to sew, just the sight of a sewing machine raised my blood pressure. I am older and wiser now though, I believed I could do this.

I may not remember seeing Mom making the quilts, but somewhere in my memory I recalled the steps she took.

The first thing was to find two flat sheets to cover the wool.  It took a while but eventually I did find them (most sheets now come in a set of one flat and one fitted).  I also decided that simply making the quilt would be enough of a challenge for me, I knew if I tried to sew the cover as well I would not succeed. (It is important to know your limitations!) I searched until I found the perfect flannel duvet cover.

I pinned and cut the flat sheets to match the size of the duvet cover.

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Then it was time to sew one end of the sheets together.  I pulled out Mom’s sewing machine and began, trusting in my new wisdom and patience to see me through. It was hard remembering how to fill the bobbin, and pull the thread though all the loops and levers but I managed, until it was time to thread the needle…that hole is so small, and it keeps moving.

I could feel my blood pressure rising, the frustration building, and as I struggled to thread the needle all that patience and age-old wisdom just drifted away.  I was 16 again, sitting in sewing class, and failing.  I did what I had done then, I quit.  I packed up the machine and once it was out of sight I breathed a huge sigh of relief.  I did not need  a machine to make this quilt…I had my hands.

I picking up one of Mom’s sewing needles, threaded it with no problem, and began to stitch.  It wasn’t perfect, and not always consistent, but it worked.  It didn’t take long before the edge was stitched.  On to the next step…

The sheets flipped open and I began to lay the wool batts.

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They folded out beautifully and it was like working with fluffy clouds in your hands. The tricky part was getting the wool spread evenly.  Can you see the lumps and bumps in the bottom part?

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These all had to be spread out and adjusted until the wool was even. Once that was done, I flipped the top sheet back over and voila!…a quilt.

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Well, not quite yet, but it was beginning to take shape.  It took awhile to straighten the edges, and using safety pins, tack it in place.

Then began the actual quilting…using wool I had spun myself, I started tying little knots evenly spaced across the quilt.

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They were trickier to do than I had thought.  Getting the needle through was easy, but getting it back up in the right place took practice.  Eventually I figured out that if I used the width of my index finger, it usually worked out.

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I spent many an hour down on my hands and knees tying knots. This was to be a Christmas present for Brother Tom, so it all had to be done in secret too.  I planned my quilting times to match the times I knew he was away, or busy doing something.  One afternoon I was busy tying when all of a sudden I heard footsteps on the back stairs.  I jumped to my feet, ran down the hall, shouting at the top of my voice “You can’t come in!!”.  Imagine my chagrin when I reached the door and saw my neighbour standing there with a Christmas gift  in her hands.  She understand once I showed her the quilt.

Many hours and bruised knees later it was done.  All quilted.

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I loved the look of the puffy little pillows I had created.

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The next step was to turn in and pin the remaining three edges of the quilt.  Then it was time to start sewing again.  It was the eve of Christmas eve, not much time left. I sat down on the couch, in front of the fire and pulled the pinned quilt onto my lap.

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Emma slept, the tree lights shimmered and I began to sew.

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It was a very peaceful and satisfying time.  Sewing by hand produced none of the frustration and impatience that machine sewing did.  This was pure pleasure, even when I pricked my finger and had to bandage it to prevent getting blood on the quilt.  This I could do.

Then it was done.

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Complete, all stuffed and stitched.  Nothing left to do but put on the cover.

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A beautiful Black Watch Plaid, very manly don’t you think?  I tacked the four corners so the quilt didn’t shift (something else I remember Mom doing), then I folded it all up…

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ready to be wrapped in a big garbage bag and tied with a bow.

It was a gift.  A gift for Brother Tom but also a gift to myself, the realisation of one of my dreams.  I had made a quilt.  Not just any quilt, but a quilt from the wool of sheep I had raised myself.

It was a good Christmas!

Happy New Year everyone, and may this be the year one or more of your dreams come to fruition.

 

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Winter Wondering

There is nothing like a fresh snowfall to clean everything up and create a beautiful winter wonderland.

Emma and I took a walk today,

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and came across some beautiful winter tree art. Some small and pretty,

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and some big and majestic.

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The winter garden is sleeping peacefully, making no demands on me.  I look at it and wonder what will be growing there next spring and summer.

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Remember this fellow?

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Pritchard the ram is back for a short visit, spending time with the ladies.

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I look at them and wonder if the farm will have lambs next spring, bouncing and frolicking in the fields.

Winter, the perfect time to daydream, plan, and wonder what the spring will bring.

 

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