Near the end of the year, I get reflective about my accomplishments or lack thereof in the previous months. In looking back, my biggest thrills this year are the continued health and happiness of my husband and family as well as the continuance of our company, Niermann Weeks, through this dreadful recession. What more could one want? World peace would be nice but more practically for me I tend my own corner of the world. My musing came to a head last night as I put the last stitch into a quilt I designed and started fabricating during the Annapolis blizzards of February 2010.
Being trapped alone in the house for eleven days led me to dreams of summertime and my favorite fruit, the watermelon. Usually my quilts are made for a specific new-born baby, but this one was for just for me. My poor non-mathematical brain stretched to create this slightly irregular watermelon pattern with its three concentric circles of red, white, and green in a size, and then to scale them to a queen-sized bed. The border of square steps just seemed a good way to accentuate the more ragged patterns of the melons.
This quilt also refers to my mother Eleanor Hanratty McKay, who grew up on a farm in western Minnesota. From childhood my mother was crazy about watermelon rind pickles, which she and her mother canned for the twelve members of the family plus the varying numbers of farmhands. In my childhood, my mother no longer prepared her own pickles but still ate the store-bought ones with gusto.
My mother lives on even more completely in a hanging quilt I made from the surviving scraps of all her table linens. Long after she left the farm and married my father, they ended up after World War II in the US Foreign Service stationed in Greece, Turkey, and adjacent countries. As an official hostess, my mother accumulated linens, dishes, crystal, and utensils to serve forty people. My brother uses all her silverware, and he and my daughter Claire now use her Rosenthal dishes and cut crystal glassware. My favorite cookbooks are enshrined over my refrigerator in a wooden carton shipped from the Rosenthal factory. In the days when I still had a friendly relationship with my ironing board, I asked for her linen collection. Mother was proud of them, always keeping them starched and carefully folded as though she were still expecting a grand party for dinner.
Alas, the starch provided a banquet for silverfish. When all this cloth came to me, happy insects had riddled it with the tracks of their feasting. N.B. an antique dealer told me that the starch had been the culprit, so please be warned by my experience. As I looked at stacks of ruined fabric, Claire suggested I salvage enough to make a quilt, which seemed like a great idea. Cutting away all the bad parts left me with only a tiny amount of small bits.
While I squared them up and randomly pieced them together, individual two inch squares flooded my mind with remembrances of times past. A fragment of a card tablecloth brought back my mother ferociously playing a hand of bridge with her friends and enjoying a ladies lunch between hands. She bought this hand-embroidered cloth with its napkins during a vacation in Florence in the late 1940s. Its cheerful colors made it her favorite set to use, even though the red dye bled into the rest of the fabric, and I have ironed it many times.
Her favorite hand towels survive only in this linen fragment. She used these towels so often that much of their embroidery eroded over the years. You can see that only a few of the black dots survive from a once elaborate spray to the left and right of the center pink dot.
Putting my little square together and randomly quilting each one in a separate pattern has left me with echoes of the happiest period in my parents’ lives.
They loved serving our country in the Foreign Service, and they also loved the expansive way of life that allowed them to live. In Greece our home was a marble mansion in the lovely neighborhood of Kifisia, and in Turkey we lived in the old part of Ankara in a former German boy’s school. True, in Athens the house lacked central heating, and in Ankara the cement floors telegraphed the cold right up through our bones. Nonetheless life glowed for them with parties, famous people, and good feelings for America as our country was then propping up the war-ravaged world with aid through the Marshall Plan http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Marshall_Plan. Mother’s linens in this quilt reflect that happy time for our family. Just looking at these photos floods me with good memories.
So I leave you with in my reflective mood to return to my workaday world of furniture design and manufacture. We at Niermann Weeks are madly finishing and shipping orders so our patrons can enjoy new goodies in their homes for their holidays.
With this holiday image designed by my daughter Eleanor, I wish you all well during your own holidays and thank you for reading my blog!
From Eleanor and all of us at Niermann Weeks