Tag Archives: Mysteries

Nothing Up My Sleeve… Presto!

butterscotch yellowInterview With A Quilter: by James D. Snoope

I spent the last few miles of my journey checking the rearview mirror, amazed at the rooster tail of red dust that was kicked up in the wake of my rental car.  When not looking back at where I’d been, I focused my attention on where I was going and keeping the small economy car from rattling itself off the washboard road.

I checked my watch, I was still a few minutes early for my appointment.  I’d fought my new boss for this assignment, a much sought after interview with the semi-reclusive quilter, Savannah Threadwell – such an article would be considered a coup in the world of quilt journalism.

A new, leather bound notebook lay open on the seat next to me, a present from my parents after I landed this job, my first real job after college.  I stole a quick glance at the the scribbled driving instructions, nearly missing the last turn in the process.  Gripping the wheel, I made a wide, sliding curve onto the gravel driveway of a rambling red brick house, braking hard to avoid the farm equipment parked there.  The trailing dust cloud caught and enveloped the car – a small blessing, I thought, that I wouldn’t have to see the business end of a bale mover connect with the front end of my car.  It really was a shame that I had declined the extra rental insurance.

In the next moment I realized that the car had not only stopped but stalled, the only sound I heard was the ticking of the engine as it cooled.  When the dust settled, I could see that I had avoided both financial disaster and a K.O. to my budding career.  In my notebook was a photograph that had been procured by our research department and I’d studied it well in preparation for today.  The snapshot had been taken quite a few years before, but there was no doubt in my mind that the woman standing beside the bale mover was Ms. Threadwell herself.

A tall woman.  Her once dark brown hair was worn shorter now, and more than lightly touched with silver.  She was flanked protectively by two yellow-orange dogs.  If they had been cats, the color of their fur would be described as marmalade, but I knew by looking at their hard and alert eyes that no one could ever mistake them for jam sweet doggies.

As I took in the tableau, I noticed that Ms. Threadwell had accessorized carefully for today’s meeting, a shotgun hung easily across her left arm.  With justifiable caution, I climbed out of the rental car and introduced myself, adding, “I’d be wary of casual strangers,too, if I lived as far out in the country as you.”

Savannah Threadwell’s reply didn’t warm me.  She said it quietly, and the words hung heavily in the air before she turned to lead me into her home to begin the interview.  “Strangers don’t scare me.  Zombies do.”

James:  Ms. Threadwell… may I call you Savannah?  I’ve read a lot of stories about the project that you, and many other quilters around the world are working on, a quilt designed by Bonnie Hunter called Celtic Solstice.  I’d like to question you more closely on that subject, but before we begin, could you shed some light on one thing for me?  Did you really say zombies?

Savannah:  Would you like some coffee, Jimmie?  I…

James:  Uh, the name is James.  But maybe you’d be more comfortable calling me Jim.  And thanks, I could use a cup.  Black, please.

Savannah:  Oh, right.  As I started to explain, I don’t worry about strangers so much as I do zombies, Jimmie.  As a point of reference for your readers, I read, and books always make a strong appearance as Christmas gifts.  While what interests me is such a mixed bag – everything from hardboiled detective novels to hard-core science fiction – my one constant is to have a good horror story in the pile.  It really starts the new year off with a bang.  You may not know this, Jimmie, but in the horror market, vampires are un-dead meat, so to speak – zombies are the monsters of choice right now.  So to answer your question, Jimmie, when one has a lively imagination, one must be aware of strangers wandering onto one’s property.  Have one of those peanut butter cookies, Jimmie.

James:  I thought we’d settled on Jim?  Are you trying to say that these books frighten you into paranoid, er, delusions?

Savannah:  Oh no, not paranoid.  Let’s just call it a heightened state of awareness.  Banana bread, Jimmie?

James:  [blink] Okay.  So, regarding your quiltingI’ve heard that Bonnie Hunter hosts a mystery quilt-along every year, beginning on the day after Thanksgiving and finishing with the reveal on New Years’ Day with a link-up party after each weekly clue.  This seems very intense.  As a rule, do you always work at such a pace?

Savannah:  Not at all, Jimmie.  I think that I could best be described as a lazy quilter.  I cut a little fabric, I do a little piecing, and I stare at the progress a lot.  If I worked on every quilt as intensely as I do during Bonnie’s mysteries, nothing would ever get done.  You’ll notice, if you haven’t already, that the Christmas tree and holiday decorations still haven’t been taken down.  Then there’s everything that goes along with the general neglect that you see; a lot of meals out of cans, and the drawers are nearly empty of clean laundry.  Well Jimmie, all of that is just an unfortunate by-product of this once a year quilt bash.  Try some of that canned Spam, Jimmie, it’s a treat.

James:  When making a quilt from a designer’s pattern, do you follow the instructions down to the last detail?

Savannah:  Well Jimmie, it’s all about tweaking the pattern to make the quilt your own.  Sometimes it’s something as simple as adding a border of your own design.  At other times, it’s changing up the block pattern just a bit – a variation, a deviation, or perhaps the process could be best described as a mutation.  Mutants!  First there was Godzilla, then Rodan, and now me.  Fudge?

James:  Yes, please.  Have you ever considered an alternative pastime?  What if you could no longer quilt?

Savannah:  Do I have a Plan B?  That’s a very interesting question, Jimmie.  As a matter of fact, I do.  In the past I flirted with several musical instruments; the harmonica, the dulcimer, but it’s the accordion that has always held a special place in my heart.  I’ve often thought that if all else failed, I could rely on my accordion to sustain me.  Have you noticed how much airtime the song Shipping Up To Boston by Dropkick Murphy’s has been getting lately?  It was used to great effect in Scorsese’s film, The Departed, but now the song has been featured in a mainstream beer commercial – that’s the accordion for you.  Some Vienna sausages, Jimmie?

James:  And your husband, your family, and your friendsare they as supportive as you hoped they would be?  What do they think of your passion for quilting after all these years?

Savannah:  Nuts.

James:  Thanks, but that fudge really filled me up.

Savannah:  No Jimmie, that was in answer to your question.  Nuts… as in nutty.  Everyone I know thinks I’m barmy.  Fruitcake, Jimmie?

celtic solstic bonnie hunter reveal[Edit.: I have one more border to add yet, a scrappy green border that didn’t get done in time for the last link-up party – close, but no cigar.  My version of Celtic Solstice with an extra border will finish at 83″, or 210.82 cm. square.]

I Like Red… A Lot

redwork embroidery toujours l'amour french market threads need'l loveThe color red always makes me hungry… apples, beets, cayenne pepper, cherries, cranberries, currants, guava, kidney beans, pomegranates, radishes, red bell peppers, red cabbage, red plums, rhubarb, strawberries, tomatoes, watermelon – yum!  So how many more food items have I left off the list?

Is there anything more truly luscious than red?

It doesn’t much matter the tone – I like reds anywhere from the reddish-pink to a very nearly burgundy red.  Currently (and that gets me thinking about that red of a different color), I favor the tomato red.

I like reds in hand embroidery.  The image above is a piece of redwork that I finished (mumble) years ago and it’s been languishing in a UFO drawer ever since.  I know that it wants to become a pillow, and I’ve been waiting somewhat patiently for inspiration to strike, but it better strike soon or I’ll have to start referring to this piece as my vintage redwork.  And what if it begins to compost… (gasp)?

If you’re curious, the pattern is from a Needl’l Love book called French Market Threads, and happily it’s still in publication.  There are a lot of fun projects inside, including some quilts that are still on my to-do list.

I like reds in a quilt, too.  Anything from itty bitty pieces in a scrap quilt, to an entirely red quilt (with some neutrals tossed in just because).

Kansas Troubles Kaye Egland Civil War Legacy Stitchin' Witches Quilt AlongAnd as of today, I am all caught up with Stitchin’ Witches Quilt Along.  I have officially pressed the last seam in segment #8, Kansas Troubles. I had the idea that perhaps this would be the segment where I toned down the reds somewhat.  Wrong again.  If anything, I think that I added more red prints than before – that green almost looks like an oversight.

split triangles bonnie hunter celtic solstice mystery 2013No, it’s not red, but I do like orange as well.  I’m still plugging away at the components for Bonnie Hunter’s mystery quilt, Celtic Solstice.  I’ve got everything finished in Parts 1-4, but a mere 5 of the split triangle units for Part 5 are completed (sorry – that doesn’t make for much in the way of scrappy variety for the photo).  I only need 100 total of this particular component, and I’m positive that I can get the remaining 95 knocked out easy before Part 6 goes live on Friday morning.

We’re getting so close to Bonnie’s reveal.

mikado tomatoo seed packetPS – Barbara Brackman has given us a heads-up on a new Civil War BOM that begins January 25, 2014.  I haven’t quite decided for sure, but I’m wavering.

I’m such a soft touch when a quilt along is mentioned.

Yay! It’s Ugly Sweater Season

theuglysweatershopLike a large part of the US this past week, it’s been cold enough to be considered sweater weather here in SW Oklahoma.  We had a little freezing rain, some sleet, and for us, a whole lot of snow.  Enough snow that the small town bank where I work didn’t open for business one day.  A snow day for adults (woot!).

The snow has finally melted in the last few days, turning our dirt road into a muddy bog – but even with the extra play day that saw me hunkered down in the house with our two dogs, I find that the closer it gets to Christmas the more hurdles there are trying to keep up with ongoing and time critical projects. No surprises there.

Stitchin’ Witch has sent out the instructions for Segment 8 of her mystery sampler.  The pattern is Kansas Troubles, a beautiful block, but I haven’t had the time to even contemplate fabrics or color placement.  Perhaps I can make some progress later on this week.

bonnie hunter celtic solstice part 3 pinwheel hstNote to self: use more pinwheels in future quilts.

Part 3 of Bonnie Hunter’s Celtic Solstice mystery project posted the morning of Friday the 13th, which as it happened, turned out to be a wild and wooly day at work.  In addition, it was just a couple of nights away from a full moon.  Perhaps it was those two events so near to each other that caused things to get so weird around the edges.  At any rate… after all of the bizarre and curious events of Friday, I decided that rotary cutting would be better left until the weekend.

For the small quilt, we were required to make 200 HSTs, using 100 to make twenty-five 3.5″ (8.89 cm) pinwheels, reserving the remainder to use somewhere else in the quilt.  Every time I make pinwheels, I’m reminded of how much I like pinwheels.

This time last year – while working on Bonnie’s Easy Street mystery – I fell behind, eventually finishing up weeks after most of the other participants.  I’m determined to stay on target with this year’s project, so I cut on Saturday and pieced on Sunday, putting a period to this segment.

We finally have enough components to start playing around with.  The yellow floral stands in for the unknown parts of the blocks – with so many possibilities, it’s a guessing game.  In all probability I’m way off base, but use a little imagination to fill in the blanks…

cstar

cshedgescsmaybeI’ve added a photo (and link) from Bonnie Hunter’s website.  The image below is a portion of the floor from Christ Church in Dublin, Ireland.  It’s easy to see that Bonnie was inspired by the palette.  More than that?  Only time will tell.

bonniehunterchristchurchdublinfloor

Still Living It Up With Color

Quilting in serial form.  Ever tried it?  Most folks call it a quilt-along, but it is after all, October, and I’m feeling like a serial quilter – ooh, scary.  On offer today is the next installment in the exciting saga of The Stitching Witches Quilt Along.

First up is the Montgomery segment.  This is to be our ‘signature’ block, and I haven’t decided what I’m going to put in the blank space at the center of the block.  Wait.  Let me clarify that last statement: I have all kinds of ideas of what I’d like to put there, but I’ll have to do a little winnowing before I can fit what I’d like to see in that small space.  Then there’s the application method: Pigma Pen? – that’s the easy route – Or hand embroidery?  Decisions, decisions.

Spoiler Alert: the pen will end up the winner… guaranteed.

Montgomery Stitching Witches Quilt Along Kaye England Civil War Legacy Scrap QuiltsNext is Yankee Pride.  I don’t usually have large prints suitable for a fussy cut center hanging around in my stash, but I turned up a floral that worked just fine.  I may have erred when selecting fabrics for this block, in particular, the small leaf print that I used to border the red star.  In hindsight, I probably should’ve used a fabric with higher contrast.  But do I think that the low contrast is enough to cry do over?  Nope.  I adore that wee print, so it’ll stay.

Yankee Pride Stitching Witches Quilt Along Kaye England Civil War Legacy Scrap QuiltsTune in next week for another installment… same Bat time, same Bat channel.

Batman Quilt Along Stitching Witches October 1966

Warning: Sunglasses May Be Required

The year long quilting party celebrating the Fight For Women’s Rights is over.  Now what?  For starters, I have no projects in mind that include yellow.  I’ve also joined another QAL, but this time I’m making a scrap quilt.  Am I having fun with it?  Boy Howdy!

Kaye England Civil War Legacy Quilt The Stitching Witches Quilt AlongIt’s such a relief to wallow in color again.  I’ve been diving into my fabric bins and pulling out bits and pieces and yardage in reds and greens and browns.  The only other restriction that I have is that the fabrics must have fun together.  So far so good.

Kaye England Civil War Legacy Stitching Witches Quilt AlongPulling fabrics for a scrap quilt can be likened to a surprise visit from an old friend.  In the photo above I see several fabrics from two different quilts that were made for my nieces.  Loved the fabrics then, still lovin’ them when they pop in again.

You might want to link over to Flickr and browse the group pool at The Stitching Witches Quilt Along, which is hosted by the one, the only, the original, Stitchin’ Witch.  What?  You were expecting someone else?

While you’re there, you might want to consider joining our group – don’t be shy, there aren’t any divas to be found among us, and it’s not too late to catch up.  All the details can be found at the Flickr Group, but in a nutshell: it’s a Mystery Quilt Along, and once a month on or about the 13th, Stitchin’ Witch will email you the pattern and instructions for the next segment.

Kaye England Civil War Legacy Stitching Witches Quilt Along

A Promise Is A Promise Is A Promise

June has blown right by with little thought on my part for anything in the way of regular posts.  The only excuse I can provide for the chirping of electronic crickets at this end was the unusual weather we’ve been enjoying here in SW Oklahoma.  We have certainly seen the mercury rise, eleven days over 100° so far (37.7° Celsius for my metric using friends), but other than those few days, when all I wanted to do was to hunker down and ride out the heat, it really has been a balmy spring.  Now my definition of balmy may differ somewhat from yours, but trust me on this one, it’s been a season worth remembering.

Weeks ago I mentioned the existence of a key to the much celebrated Saucier Family photograph.  Both photo and key were generously contributed by Glen Cowan, but time has unfortunately gone into overdrive since I made that promise.  At last, today is the day for the unveiling.

Here’s the photo once again, this time accompanied by the key that was provided by Aunt Mabel’s daughter, Mary Virginia “Ginny” Cowan Wahl (b. 17 June, 1922 – d. 12 September, 2011).  Aunt Mabel is seated in the bottom row, third from the left.

saucier_familysaucier_family_photo_keyGo ahead and click on the image for a larger view – as you will see, there are question marks and omissions in the key.  One glaring error is the line, “Grandfather Saucier… died two years after picture”.  It is known that Eugene F. Saucier died in 1913, so the supposition that this photo was taken in 1911 is, I think, slightly off-base due to the ages of the identified children.

At the same time there are a few tasty tidbits included that give us a glimpse of the people we came from:  great grandfather Eugene F. played the violin, his father played the organ at the Old Cathedral in St. Louis, Missouri.  Stumy lived for nearly 100 years – a jaw-dropping 98 years to be exact – and may have played the fiddle as well.  Charles was killed in World War I (in the first days of the Meuse-Argonne Offensive); and two of the Saucier boys, Stumy and Wayne, together with a third man by the name of Dan, bought the Old Mill Farm (aka the Twin Springs Farm) and paid it off in a year.  So here’s yet another mystery – who in the world was Dan?

I had hoped, by some incredible stroke of luck, that the mysteries of the Saucier Family photograph would be unraveled by now.  That hasn’t happened, but perhaps the key will kick-start someone’s memories, or simply spur somebody to step forward to help set the record straight.  Stranger things have happened, and the eternal optimist (yours truly) refuses to give up on this particular little pipe dream.

One of the side benefits of this discussion has been the surfacing of family photographs.  I’ll wrap up today’s post with a few of my favorites:

Nana on horseback sidesaddleHere is a photograph of my grandmother, Ida Louise Hoffmann Saucier (b. 23 June, 1888 – d. 14 September, 1963).  Ida married James Garfield Saucier on 16 February, 1909 at Union, Missouri.  James is located top row, far right in the Saucier Family photograph.  And yes, you have my permission to giggle or chortle over the hat that she’s wearing – I do, every single time I see it!

josephinesauciercowanJosephine Saucier who married Eugene Cowan, Sr.,  photographed at her home in Columbia, Missouri (which, by the way, is still standing at 406 Conley Avenue).  Aunt Jo was one of the eight daughters of Eugene F. and Louise A. Saucier.  Unfortunately, Jo does not appear in the Saucier Family photograph.

Lastly, from another of Josephine’s grandchildren, a photograph said to be of a much younger Jo Saucier with an unidentified man.  The photo captures the final moments of a profitable day spent hunting – I spy pheasant, rabbit, possibly raccoon or maybe just a tangle of squirrels, in addition to some unidentified bits and pieces.

Josephine (JoJo) SaucierI’ve said it before, but I’ll say it again – thank you, each and every one of you, who’ve made these wonderful photographs of our family available.

The Gibson Girl: An American Ideal 1890-1910

nanapa2Time for me to toss another family photograph in the mix, and the only people that I can positively identify are the couple on the left, my grandparents: James Garfield Saucier (b. 16 April 1887) and Ida Louise Hoffmann (b. 23 June 1888).  James and Ida were married 16 February 1909 in Union, Franklin County, Missouri  [Note: Anyone recognizing the three people on the right, please feel free to sing out.]

This photograph, coupled with the Saucier Family photograph in the May 1st post ought to provide enough clues to help date the latter.  To arrive at that destination, we’re going to take a stroll through the women’s department.  You men out there?  Just carry your lady love’s handbag proudly, and bear with me for a few minutes.

Ladies Fashion Circa 1900

A little bit of background: Charles Dana Gibson was an American artist who realized fame and fortune for a series of pen and ink illustrations satirizing the relationships between men and women.  The women in his artwork personified “a composite of thousands of American girls,” and he portrayed the women dressed in the current fashions.  For thirty years, Gibson’s work regularly appeared in Life, Harper’s Weekly, Scribner’s, and Collier’s, and the illustrations became so iconic that the style of the era was named for him – The Gibson Girl.

First Stop: The Beauty Salon  During the Gibson Girl period, a woman’s hair was her crowning glory, and putting your hair up was still considered a rite of passage – a young girl did not put her hair up until she was considered old enough to go out into society.  The typical Gibson Girl wore her hair piled high on her head in a loose pompadour style.

English: Pen and ink drawing of the Gibson Gir...Second Stop:  Lingerie  The S-shaped, or “kangaroo” corset was in vogue.  Nipped waists decidedly got a thumbs up.  Busks, bustles, and crinolines… nix.  The natural silhouette – and I use that term loosely – was finding favor, but in the 1900-1910 era, that look was still a few years off.

Image: Courtesy of Bridges on the Body - bridgesonthebody.com

Image: Courtesy of Jo at Bridges on the Body

We have the hairstyle, and we have the form to hang clothes on, so let’s slide on past the After Six department in our search for daytime fashions.

Final Stop: Ladies Dresses  Frills, flounces, and furbelows were fading into the background while the tailored look took a giant step forward.  An A-line skirt was the order of the day, worn with a shirtwaist that often sported a high-necked collar.

Love in a Garden, Gibson.jpg

In the Saucier Family photograph, I count six shirtwaists in the top row alone, all with high-necked collars – and please note, every woman is wearing her hair up in the Gibson Girl style.

collarsThe following illustration for Arrow Shirts: 1907, was a lucky find.  I stumbled across it while doing some homework on the Gibson Girl, and it stopped me in my tracks.  Take another gander at the photograph above – the young woman on the far right – she’s wearing a tall, stiff collar and a narrow necktie in the manner of menswear.  Then, as now, fashion houses often based their designs on what was seen on city streets, so it really doesn’t surprise me in the least to see this advertisement dated 1907, especially during a period of conservative fashion.

Arrow Collar 1907Let’s Put A Bow On It

saucier_familyI’m very comfortable with the suggested 1902-03 dating of the Saucier Family photo, but I’ve been toying with the idea that it may have been as early as 1901 – not any earlier than that – and here’s why:

jg3I’ve extracted James G. from both photographs.  If we assume that the photo on the left was taken about 1902-03, James would have been fifteen or sixteen years old at the time.  Looks about right – so far, so good.

I’ve also extracted two more “knowns” – Mabel (b. 18 March 1899) and Eugene Field (b. 21 August 1894).  In 1902-03, Aunt Mabel would have been three or four years old, and Uncle Gene would have been eight or nine (still in short pants!).  Taking a second look, Mabel might be as young as two, and Gene as young seven, but no younger than that – so I think 1901 is a viable possibility.  I would not, however, place the photograph any later than 1903.

Which brings me back to the reason I’ve started this conversation… who were those extra women in the Saucier Family photograph?  I’ve provided a little more information for you to chew on, but for now, the ball is back in your court.