I don't think anyone can say the word Appalachia without thinking of quilts.
I've spent my life sleeping under handmade quilts. I used to view them from a utilitarian point of view, quilts were to keep me warm at night. It was only after I reached adulthood that I saw the beauty in handmade quilts.
The quilt above was made by Granny when I was a small girl. It's coming apart in places, but I still love it. If I'm feeling under the weather this is the quilt I want to cover up with on the couch. She made it from various scraps of old clothing, one of which was a red corduroy coat she used to wear.
Back in the day quilts were a necessity of life, well they still are to a degree. Quilts offer a way to protect ourselves from the cold. Yet, when you look back to the days of living in a house without insulation and only a fireplace or cookstove to supply heat you can quickly realize what an important role quilts played in the days of old.
In those days the skill of quilting stretched across all social classes. You needed warmth from the cold whether you were well to do or poor as a church mouse. Even though quilting was a necessary skill for women, it seemed they found true enjoyment in the process. Another pleasure that developed around quilting is the quilting bee where ladies gathered to quilt and visit one with another.
There are still quilting circles in communities across the country and some quilters have taken the quilting bee to a new level-a technologically savvy level. Quilters post about making quilt squares not to keep, but to pass along to a member of their virtual quilting circle.
Over the years I've discussed quilts here on the Blind Pig and The Acorn. Here a few of my favorite comments.
My grandmother used to make comforts, not quilts. We used them hard and I do not know of any in existence today. She was a hard German woman, but thrifty--all her quilts were made from sewing scraps. She wasn't Appalachian either-they lived in New Orleans and later in Washington DC. But I have quilts! None made by me, I'm not so talented. I find mine at auctions and yard sales, thrift shops, etc. My very favorite is a big, heavy comfort made from old upholstery fabrics--rich brocades and velvets--that I sleep under every night. Second favorite is a lovely feed-sack double wedding ring that I bought for $25 at an antique mall. I couldn't believe the price was right! I use it almost every time I tell stories because to me the rings symbolize stories circling back to us, the patterns represent the many different kinds of stories and the whole quilt represents the world we live in, as well as the creativity of the mountain people.
Granny Sue ~ 2008
We had wood heat early in my life & lived in Grandpa's sharecropper house (shack). It was rough built with no insulation & the beds were cold as ice. We used to stand & bake our behinds at the fire & then run & jump in the bed. We had a pile of those thick, heavy quilts & they were sure ugly but such a blessing. My husband's family is more refined & have pieced & quilted many beautiful "fancy" quilts. I love them but they aren't warm like the old timey kind.
Wanda ~ 2011
You story about quilts brings back memories of visiting my grandparents in Sylva, NC. Their old house was a big, old 3-story farm house that had no insulation in it at all. When we visited at Christmas, my brother and I were sent to a room on the third floor. The only heat in the house was a huge wood-burning kitchen stove and a pot-bellied stove in the living room. These were a long way from that third floor. I remember going to bed at night and crawling under a stack of grandmother's heavy quilts and freezing for about 30 seconds until the warmth kicked in. Then I was toasty, but could not move because of the weight of the quilts and the fear that I would have to warm up another part of the bed. Those cold nights under those quilts are some of my fondest memories of visits to Granddad and Grandmother's farm. The fancy quilts of today just don't have that weight to them, so I am not interested in them. I miss Grandmother's quilts.
Mike McClain ~ 2011
My hubby and I sleep under a beautiful cathedral window quilt my grandma stitched for me. Every stitch is by hand, and if you have ever seen a cathedral window quilt, you will know that's a lot of stitches! She has made one for every one of her children and grandchildren. She used to have one on her bed made by my great-grandmother. I loved looking at all of the fabrics and wondering what long-forgotten piece of clothing they came from. I, too, have spent all of my life sleeping under a homemade quilt. And I definitely have one at my mom's house that is THE sick day quilt. And the boys both sleep with baby quilts made by my grandma.
Twosquaremeals ~ 2008
My Mamaw (called "Maw" by us northern grandkids) worked at a shirt factory and brought home bags of scraps that my Great-Mamaw and Great-Aunts made into quilts. I have a quilt my great Aunt (who was also my Godmother) made me when I was a child. I still use it today, although one that I made now lives atop my bed. I have a much older one made by my Great-Aunts that I was given after their deaths and it sits on a bachelors chair in my livingroom, along with a rag doll that I got when I was 6. These are the things I would grab as I left the house if there ever was a fire.
Sarah ~ 2008
If you have a favorite handmade quilt please tell us about it!
p.s. The Pressley Girls will be performing Friday September 22, 2017 @ 7:00 p.m. at the Historic Courthouse in Blairsville, GA.
I haven't painted a folkart piece in I don't know when. Once I went back to work full time it seemed like my painting time kept getting narrower and narrower until it completely faded away.
Even though most of the paintings above sold a long time ago, thanks to technology, I'm still able to use the images as prints. I just added a variety of handmade greeting cards to the Blind Pig & the Acorn Etsy Shop most of which are made with prints of my folkart paintings. (you can click on the photo above for a better view of some of the cards)
See the very first card in the photo-that says Wonder? Let me tell you a story about the painting. It's titled Wilson and Judy. Wilson and Judy are the acorns the angel is holding.
Several years ago, after watching the movie Castaway, Chatter decided she needed a "pet" named Wilson too. For some unknown reason the child picked an acorn (a small acorn-Wilson is the little one in the photo). Do you know how easy it is to lose an acorn? Well I can tell you-very easy for a busy little girl.
She was constantly losing Wilson and constantly crying for someone to find him. You know who the someone was-me. I finally found her this little black box, thinking at least the box would be easier to find than the acorn.
Her cousin, and fellow Indian Princess, decided Wilson was lonely-so she found Judy (the big acorn) for Chatter and even made Judy a bed out of a nut hull. Thankfully Judy fit in the box with Wilson-bed and all.
Chatter continued misplacing the box-now losing 2 acorns. The last time she lost the box-it took 3 days and dismantling the back of the couch before we found it. After that, I convinced Chatter to keep the box on the shelf beside her bed for safekeeping.
I was inspired to paint the folkart angel with the acorns one day when I was thinking of how aggravated I got about something as small as 2 acorns-something that brought Chatter great joy. Looking back, I wish I had encouraged her imagination-even got Granny to crochet them a bed or a little acorn sweater. Now Chatter has out grown her need for Wilson and Judy. The acorns still reside somewhere in her college girl room and the painting Wilson and Judy hangs in my bedroom.
Here's another example of a card I made with the print from Wilson and Judy. If you'd like to check out my other cards-jump over to the paper goods section Blind Pig & the Etsy Shop.
Chitter made jewelry like crazy during the month she had off from college. I convinced her to let me add some of it to my shop-you know Valentine's Day is just around the corner. You can find it in Chitter's Jewelry Section. If you'd like to see the Blind Pig & the Acorn Etsy Shop in it's entirety go here.
I always feel a little let down when it's time to take down the Christmas decorations. Usually I spend the days after Christmas doing really deep cleaning-like going through closets, cleaning out the bookshelves, and changing all the curtains.
Getting the house in order seems to brighten the house after the dreary chore of putting up Christmas until next year.
This year I haven't been able to fit my usual cleaning frenzy into my schedule-since we're still in the middle of the kitchen re-model. My cleansing purge will have to wait.
I did find time to make an "after Christmas" decoration. Luckily I made the hardest part before Christmas...and before the remodel began.
I found the directions for dried citrus ornaments on this blog. They used a variety of citrus for their project-I only had oranges so I used them.
First-slice the fruit into 1/4 inch slices-and if you see any seeds discard them.
Second-lay the slices on a baking sheet and bake in a 175 - 200 degree oven. The directions said it should take 3 to 4 hours-mine took longer than that. Maybe my oranges were extra juicy? Turn the slices over each hour to ensure they dry evenly.
The option of air drying the slices was listed in the directions with the process taking about 4 days. The writer of the blog said using a food dehydrator would work as well-but drying the slices by air or by dehydrator didn't give the same result as drying them in the oven. The citrus dried in the oven seemed to retain more of their original color.
Once the slices are dry-you can use them in whatever manner you'd like. I really liked the way the bloggers showcased their orange slices. They used evergreen branches in a brown glass bottle to make sort of a mini tree shape-then hung the citrus on it.
I had some leftover spruce trimmings from the Christmas tree and I knew I had a couple of old brown bottles in the basement. I found 3 bottles-an old clorox bottle, an old beer bottle, and a much larger one that I don't have a clue what came in it.
I took the bottles upstairs to clean and realized the largest one had a lot of stuff in the bottom of it. Not remembering where I found it or who gave it to me-I figured I had put it up without trying to get the stuff out of the bottom. So I poured some water in it and set it outside to soak all the debris lose.
A couple of hours later I went out and poured the water out-noticing the stuff in the bottom was still solid. I took a long sharp stick and began poking at the mass trying to break it up so that it would fall out of the hole. After a good 15 minutes or so I had most of it out...all but one large clump that just would not break up. That's when I realized it was a petrified mouse.
After a short screaming while simultaneously gagging session I turned the glass container upside to await The Deer Hunter's return from deer camp.
On the bright side-the project turned out really well. I like the look of the brown jug, the green spruce and the orange slices-a clean fresh look that says it's still winter.
I believe the girls learned to make coffee filter Christmas trees in elementary school-if not there then somewhere along the way-but it seems like it was a teacher at Martins Creek who taught them and in turn taught me.
They are super easy to make-and the ones we made this year turned out really good.
To make a coffee filter Christmas tree you need:
- coffee filters
- glue-a hot glue gun works best
- a styrofoam cone or a paper cone (there are tons of tutorials online that show you how to make a cone shape from heavy paper-just give it a google)
- decorations for the tree (optional-they look pretty nice without anything on them)
Cut the coffee filter into strips. You can make your strips a larger or smaller width depending on what look you prefer. As you can see from the photo-I cut 2 strips out of a regular size coffee filter. Be sure to cut around the circle shape of the filter-once you've cut your strips you should be left with a flat circle of filter.
Starting at the bottom of the tree shape-begin hot gluing the strips around the base of the cone. Depending on the size of your cone, you may need to use more than one filter piece to make it all the way around.
Continue gluing the strips of filter all the way up the cone overlapping the previous one until you reach the top. Sort of like adding ruffles onto a skirt.
Remember the circle piece of filter left from cutting the strips? Use a portion of that to cover the top of your cone. Cones with a very sharp point won't need to be covered at all.
I found a sprig of fake holly to crown this coffee filter tree. For another, I used a pinecone from the yard.
You can add string or ribbon to give the tree a roped look.
If you'd like to color the tree-you can use watercolor paints or make a watercolor of sorts by mixing water and food coloring. Gently paint the color on. Or you can color the filters before you ever cut them-I believe that's what the girls' teacher did.
Mix a little coffee with water and paint on the filter edges for an antique look.
Coffee filter Christmas trees are a fun, easy, and inexpensive craft to make-and the end product looks like something you'd find in a fancy Christmas boutique.
Ever made coffee filter crafts before?
A few weeks ago I told you I had re-opened the Blind Pig & The Acorn Etsy Shop and explained a few reasons why I re-opened the shop (go here if you missed that post). One thing I failed to mention was the role Chitter played in my re-opening the shop.
Chitter's jewelry making skills have been growing by leaps and bounds over the last year or so. If you've been reading the Blind Pig for a long time you may remember the spoon rings Chitter made a few years ago. Since then she's been picking up skills and techniques to add to her arsenal. She's even opened her own Etsy shop: Stamey Creek Creations in an effort to put her creations out there for the world to see-and hopefully buy.
Today I'd like to share a short interview I did with Chitter about her jewelry and her new Etsy shop.
How did you become interested in making jewelry?
About 10 years ago, my cousin showed me how to make little dainty bracelets made from embroidery floss. I decided I wanted make them on my own and add my own style to them. Once I started making the bracelets, I realized if I could do that-I could do something much more advanced.
I started picking up supplies at yardsales, walmart, and where ever I saw them. Then I started adding embellishments to the embroidery floss or using two colors of threads at once instead of one. I also used youtube to learn some new knotting techniques like how to make a candy-stripe pattern.
Didn't you learn a lot at the John C. Campbell Folk School's Little Middle Program?
Yes, I was much older then and understood a lot more about how it all worked. I learned how to do basic wire wrapping to make earrings and how to make jewelry from sheet metal such as copper and brass. I also learned the value of using recycled materials.
How did you learn more intricate types of weaving for your bracelets?
A member of my clogging team taught me a basic knot of macrame and let me borrow a book she had. I learned a lot from that book-I gave it back and got a copy for myself to keep. Then I moved on to using macrame thread for most of my projects.
Did other people help you?
Yes. Every festival I went to I asked questions and the artists were always willing to give me tips and advice. Recently a work study student at the folk school, Cara, has taken me under her wing and has shown me the art of bead weaving. Along the way different people helped point out the types of hand tools I needed-that made a tremendous difference.
So how does all the different techniques you've learned over the last 10 years work together?
I use all the techniques, for example sometimes I do something as simple as bead stringing-making a necklace or bracelet in that manner other times I combine the techniques like using macrame and beading together. The thought process is similar for all the techniques. Something always has a beginning and something always has an end-yes what's in the middle matters but you've got to get the start and the end to complete a project.
What is the most rewarding part of creating your jewelry?
Putting my own creative twist on something. I love to make up my own pattern or my own technique on the fly and have it work out in the end-that gives me an awesome feeling.
You recently started crocheting-do you like it as much as jewelry making?
Almost as much-because like jewelry making-once you know the basic technique you can make anything you want. But I've got a lot to learn in the crochet world-lucky I've got Granny to help me.
What are some of the items you have in your shop?
Earrings, bracelets, and necklaces.
Are you going to put some crochet items in it?
Yes I will eventually.
What do you think about being an Appalachian Artist? What does that mean to you?
It means that I'm keeping the tradition of being creative alive-and I like that. I like keeping the tradition of making stuff by hand alive. For me personally I have to have some way to express my creativeness or I would be a lunatic.
I hope you enjoyed my interview with Chitter. Her excitement for her creations inspired me to think about re-opening my own Etsy shop.
Jump over to Chitter's Etsy Store Stamey Creek Creations and look around-I know Chitter would appreciate it. And be on the lookout more interviews with Appalachian Artists right here on the Blind Pig.
A few weeks ago I invited Blind Pig readers to come along on a hike with us (if you missed the hike you can click here to see it). B. Ruth left a comment on the post-giving us a dandy idea for the bits and pieces we find on our hikes.
The girls should get them a "rock tumbler" and "tumble" those glass shards they are always finding to smooth up the edges. Then a good jewelry wire, pliers to wrap it to hold it, add a loop and a jump ring and you have a piece of "Appalachian Old Home Place Jewelry"...I would buy a piece to hang on a chain around my neck, LET ME KNOW IF THEY MAKE SOME!...You see these made with "sea glass" all the time. A lot of sea glass is tumbled, it is not always found on the beach nice and smooth...LOL
After I read B.'s comment I couldn't wait to share it with the girls. Within a few days Chitter had a tumbler full of broken glass, pottery, and broken canning lid inserts going round and round. She let them tumble for a few days and the end result was really nice!
The edges are smooth and some of the pieces came out of the tumbler with a different texture than they went in with.
The tumbler retained the shape of the jagged pieces of glass-simply smoothing and polishing them all over.
I especially love how this piece kept the little Vs along the bottom.
And just like B.Ruth said-once Chitter used some of her mad jewelry making skills on the tumbled pieces of glass-we had our very own Appalachian Old Home Place Jewelry.
Valentine's Day is almost here. I'm sure you've been seeing the commercials enticing you to buy everything from flowers to pjs for your sweetheart; the displays of candy and cards in the stores; the kids planning for school parties; and the fancy restaurants offering romantic meals for 2.
My favorite Valentine cards are handmade ones-the simpler the better. The Deer Hunter gave me my all time favorite Valentine back when we were first married. He drew a heart on a piece of notebook paper, cut it out, and wrote I love you on it. When I went out to leave for work that morning he had stuck it under my windshield wiper.
With today's technology-homemade Valentines are super easy to make. I made the ones you see throughout this post with pictures I had on my computer-I added the words and the hearts and there you go. (if you'd like to use my homemade Valentines-just right click over the photo, save it to your computer, and print it out)
You can find tons of Valentines online-free for the taking. A few of my favorites can be found below (click on the words in orange to visit the site where the card is).
- A cool arrow Valentine that allows you to place a pencil in the card-sort of like those you buy in a store with a sucker stuck through a hole in the card.
- A card that needs color added to it by using markers or crayons-great for kids and adults.
- This site has a boy and girl version-the cards are cute enough to hang on your wall-and the site even has directions on how to make the envelope.
- Several cards in this post-all with clear neat graphics.
- Six cards that will for sure remind you of elementary school here.
- I'll Love You Always & Ever card here.
Looking through public domain images for old Valentines is another great place to find your own unique card. The vintage cards above and below are from Miss Cindy's Grandmother Dollie's collection.
Whatever card you use I wish you and your sweetheart a lovely Valentines Day!
Chatter and Chitter were homework free for their entire winter holiday from school. Oh I'm positive they could have studied or took notes or something-but for the first time in ages there was no pile of homework or projects to do over the holidays.
The girls thoroughly enjoyed their break from school. They made music, crafted, wrote in their journals, crafted some more, enjoyed putting their new rooms in order, and crafted some more!
One afternoon they braved the cold and took off down to the creek to gather rocks to paint. Have you ever painted rocks? The very first field trip I ever remember going on was to Fires Creek. Mr. Martin (from Martins Creek School) took us to find creek rocks-which we then painted. I can't remember if we painted them there or took them back to school to paint; but I do remember the magic of painting my ordinary creek rock into an owl.
When the girls were small we'd have create days. They'd say "Momma lets create today." It didn't take me long to figure out we needed something cheap-as in free to create with. Two things we had an endless supply of was rocks and lumber scraps from The Deer Hunter. We spent many hours painting pieces of wood and rocks from the creek.
The girls borrowed their Daddy's rubber boots; found a 5 gallon bucket; and took off to gather rocks for crafting.
Of course they couldn't help taking a short detour to look for arrowheads in Pap's big garden.
After they warmed by the fire, they washed the rocks and spread them out on a towel to dry.
The girls googled around for painting ideas-and wouldn't you know it-one of them decided to paint an owl.
These are my favorite creations from the day of rock painting.
Ever painted rocks?