A Tattered Quilt

A most fabulous event occurred yesterday in my family – a new granddaughter was born! She is perfect and healthy and blessed to have such wonderful parents, though she is as yet unnamed. Piper is her two-year-old sister, so Brad and Beth have been calling the baby P2 up till now. They said they have to look at her a while before they decide on the name. Fair enough.

My own name, to all my grandbabies, is “Oma” (not Grandma or Grammie or any other sweet name for grandmother). I love being Oma.

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I got it in my head some time ago to make a quilt for this little baby. I finished it and mailed it off yesterday, pleased with how it came out but at the same time kind of nervous. I chose the fabrics. I chose the colors. I know Beth is partial to purple and liked a simple green receiving blanket I had made for Piper. I found a friendly, happy daisy print that’s got purple, green and yellow and decided to build the rest of the quilt around that one.

But colors are funny. Think of the variety you see when you go to buy paint – how many different reds, greens, blues, etc. Colors can be warm and inviting or cold and off-putting. They can make you feel comfortable or give you the creeps. They can calm you down or make you want to want to run in the other direction. So how do you choose? Will they like what I have chosen?

Comfort came unexpectedly from my neighbor Tracy. “I have a quilt my grandmother made for me and I used it until it started falling apart,” she said. “I hope they love yours just as much.”

That’s when I flashed back to two quilts I made many years ago and gave to friends who had had babies. The images that came in my head were of meeting up randomly with both of these moms and their babies after some time had gone by, maybe a year, maybe two. Both quilts that I had so carefully sewn together were right there with each child and both were in tatters – I mean ragged edges and stuffing coming out. Can’t get rid of it, both moms told me in different ways. “She loves this quilt! This is the one she wants.”

A little bit like The Velveteen Rabbit learns from the Skin Horse, right?* I know I’ve referred to this story before, but it’s pertinent again.

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“What is REAL?” asked the Rabbit one day. “Does it mean having things that buzz inside you and a stick-out handle?”

“Real isn’t how you are made,” said the Skin Horse. “It’s a thing that happens to you. When a child loves you for a long, long time, not just to play with, but REALLY loves you, then you become REAL.”

“Does it hurt?”

“Sometimes.” For he was always truthful. “When you are real, you don’t mind being hurt.”

“Does it happen all at once, like being wound up, or bit by bit?”

“It doesn’t happen all at once. You become. It takes a long time. That’s why it doesn’t often happen to people who break easily, or who have sharp edges, or who have to be carefully kept. Generally, by the time you are Real, most of your hair has been loved off, and your eyes drop out and you get loose in the joints and very shabby. But these things don’t matter at all, because once you are Real you can’t be ugly, except to people who don’t understand.”

I don’t know if any of them – Brad or Beth or Piper (who has a dolly-size quilt to match) or especially the new baby – will like the colors and the pattern I’ve chosen. Hopefully they will not want to put it in a drawer under a bunch of other stuff! But Tracy’s words about the quilt her grandmother made gave me an image of the quilt I just made, only with its colors faded and its edges worn and its fibers super soft from use and time. By then the colors and the pattern are no longer important. What will matter, what I hope will override any other impression this quilt gives, is the love that went into it, the deep, inexpressible love in my heart. Nothing will make me happier than if it serves as the vehicle of that love, if it speaks to it and of it, and is someday worn, thin, tattered, Real.

Think what you will of the colors. These are the fabrics I chose.

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This is the pattern I chose.**

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First you make a plan to evenly distribute the three yellows, three purples and three greens, using the daisy print to tie them together. This was my plan. I messed it up by the third block, but was able to recover.

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Then you cut out all the squares with a rolling blade.

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You have to pay close attention during the first block or two. Before trimming, it looks like this, which throws you a bit.

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Same block after trimming (ah, that’s better):

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Then you make the other eight blocks and move them all around until you are happy with the balance and distribution of color. It’s never perfect. Lots of the corners are not perfectly joined. I did the best I could with the balance of colors.

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Then you add cross-pieces to hold it all together. I used the same purple (flannel) as the four triangular corners of each block. I hope Beth still likes purple!

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Then you add a middle layer of batting and a backing and you bind it all together. I found a soft green flannel for the backing. From the back it looks like this. Nothing fancy. I am no expert. But it will serve.

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I had enough leftover pieces to make a small dolly-size quilt and I thought Piper might like it.

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Can you imagine it years from now, faded and tattered? Stained maybe? Much used? Much enjoyed? I hope so!

 

*The Velveteen Rabbit by Margery Williams and illustrated by David Jorgensen, Alfred A Knopf Publishers, New York, 1985

** from 501 Quilt Blocks, Better Homes and Gardens, Meredith Corporation, Des Moines, Iowa, 1994

Fun with Names

People can tell you that they love the sound of waves crashing on the shore or birds singing in the trees, but common sense tells you (and studies have shown) that the sound people love more than any other is the sound of their own name. “How can I help you, Mr. Jones?” is so different than “How can I help you?”

When I was directing the training program at a high-end resort, we had a set of “behavioral standards” that helped staff to know, in general, the expectations for their interactions with guests. These were not the technical directives such as the wait staff offering to refill the guest’s coffee cup within three minutes of them finishing the cup they have or the housekeeping staff remaking the bed “tightly and attractively” during daily service. Behavioral standards were the basics like smiling, being polite and maintaining eye contact. Use the guest’s name, we told them. Do not underestimate the power of using someone’s name. Use it discreetly, but use it.

Using someone’s name builds good relations, makes people feel respected, shows attention to detail, is the ultimate personalization. There are good reasons why, when you sign in to a web page such as your email or credit card statement, you invariably see some form of “Hello, ______[your name]______” or “Welcome back, ______[your name]______.” These companies know the power of using your name and work hard to make it seem natural, as if you are being spoken to personally.

Plus it’s fun, especially if you have names like Eppie and Rise. And we should have fun wherever and whenever we can! This past week my granddaughters and I did something we have done twice before on previous visits (does this make it a tradition yet?). We made name pretzels! They may be only four and five, but they know their names!

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It’s rather tricky to guide a child in dough-rolling and take pictures at the same time, so many thanks to Fred, my friend who was visiting, for the great photos that follow.

For pizza dough and pretzels, I have used King Arthur Flour’s “Easiest Bread You’ll Ever Make” recipe for many years. I grant that all the practice I’ve had makes it easier for me than for someone who is new at it. Nonetheless, this is what I started with when I was new at it, and it has served me well. https://www.kingarthurflour.com/recipes/hearth-bread-recipe

Once the girls have their aprons on and the dough is rising on the counter, it’s time for the real fun to begin. You pinch off a piece of dough and get a snake started, one snake at a time. Applying enough pressure to get the dough to stretch out lengthwise but not so much as to smoosh it is probably the trickiest part of this whole operation.

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But after a few of them, you get the idea.

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With a four-year-old and a five-year-old, this activity is about working with your hands to make something interesting and yummy. If it’s not perfect, it will be yummy anyway, but the fun for a child – think of it – writing your name using snakes of bread dough! And then getting to eat it!

Let’s start with E for Eppie (which is short for Eponine, in case you wondered).

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How proud and happy she was to see it take shape.

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And R for Rise. Do we like it?

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R is not so easy as E. A little tweak is in order.

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That’s better. She’s happy. I’m happy. Onward.

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I’m not sure this is strictly for kids either. Can you see yourself with your friends in your kitchen, party-time (!), each of you making your names? Eppie loved seeing hers!

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By the way, those are silicone mats on my baking pans. I love them. Before I had these, I prepared the pans differently. I used to cut brown paper grocery bags to fit the pans and then greased the paper. This technique works beautifully but I prefer the mats. One less step.

Rise was equally proud of her name.

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We also made OMA (for me, Oma), an F for Fred, and a J, A and W for Jennifer, Anna Lane and Will, our neighbors who were coming later to play. But before you bake them (at 400 degrees), you first have to paint beaten egg on them and then add salt. The painting is another artistic element for the girls to enjoy.

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When the time comes for adding salt, you can talk about how different people have different tastes, different preferences, even with something as simple as salt. Some like more, some like less. We put on as much as we wanted to, and in some cases more (oops) than we intended to, though their ability to distribute it carefully and evenly was quite remarkable. If you do put on too much, you can push it off later. We are using coarse salt, umpteen varieties of which are available to choose from.

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While waiting for them to bake, the new swing came in very handy. I don’t know about the kids in your life, but these kids LOVE to swing!

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We didn’t read as many books together this time as we did in March – I wonder why!

When the pretzels are good and browned, take the letters off the baking sheets to cool. Wire racks are perfect for this.

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Add a plate of cheese (this one has dried cranberries in it) and a perfect plum or some other fruit cut up, and you have lunch! A very special lunch!

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