Memories to Heirlooms
Memories to Heirlooms
As a cancer survivor, I wanted to give back to a program at the Lancaster Family YMCA which has been instrumental in my recovery. My solution: make a quilt to be auctioned online in October to help to raise money and awareness for this remarkable program. Since then I found out that one of my best buddies from this program bought the quilt at the auction. That is so special to me.
CaRE (Cancer Recovery Exercise), now LIVESTRONG at the YMCA, is life changing, with a focus on exercise, wellness and community. Through it I have gotten stronger and have made friendships that will last a lifetime.
This quilt is my way of telling the story of the circles that support me and all the positive things that happened in my life from the time of diagnosis through recovery. It was action October 2019 and the money raised went to the YMCA Annual Campaign and helped to support LIVESTRONG and the YMCA's mission of providing this program to any cancer survivor, free of charge!
The meaning behind each circle
Diagnosis and Support
I used mottled gray fabrics with flecks of gold because cancer, at best, is a dark cloud, but I was lucky to have many gold flecks shinning through. My family showed through example how to battle cancer and support people going through it. I knew I was facing a fight but having this love and support, knowing that much more was available if I choose to reach out, was gold.
Purple was the color of my YMCA CaRE program and the touches of silver represent the brightness it brought into my life. Cancer taught me that life is too short to limit yourself. It made it easier to walk into a class with total strangers and take on exercise that I had not done for years. This class was a game changer for me, pushing me to do more and want more in my life.
Classic blue calico reminds me of freedom. It is very stressful to feel you have the imperative to fix the wrongs of the world. Cancer gave me the freedom to step back, focus on my health and decide how I will choose to "leave the world better than I found it."
This fabric reminds me of the night sky and because of where I live, I have to remember to look up to see the stars. The two mindfulness classes I took at the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute were enlightening. I still have to be mindful, to be mindful. . . but I don't mind!
CaRE to Continue/LIVESTRONG
A darker purple was the perfect choice for CaRE to Continue because the program was such a rich experience. Ours was the first class allowed to continue with CaRE after the first round. It encouraged me to keep pursuing fitness, it bonded my friendships and inspired me by the people in each new round of classes.
CaRE members gather occasionally to make mastectomy pillows for the patients of the Ann B. Barshinger Cancer Institute. We mark them with "Peace, Courage, Heath, Hope" and attach inspirational tags so they know they were made by people who have been there. It is a great way to give back.
"Kermit" has forever linked the color green to gratitude for me. Mom cared for me; my "Other Mothers" were at the ready to listen/do; my neighbors looked after "my boys" and home; my friends supported me in perfect ways; my medical team was outstanding; and my trainers were supportive. I am truly blessed.
I took a year to find myself. I hung out at the Y, played with pottery and stained glass, enjoyed time with Mom, family and old and new friends, cuddled the cats, noticed stars and butterflies, and took time to breathe.
Yellow fabric represents light and "namaste" means "The light and love in me honors the light and love in you." Yoga introduced me to this word and I try to live it each day by seeking out ways to honor others: thanking a veteran, holding a door, sharing a kind word. Little things are not little. Namaste.
Orange is my sister/hero's signature color and she has always been an amazing example of love in my life. Through cancer, I have strengthened bonds with my loved ones and have gotten to know remarkable people who have enriched my life. Through it, I am more keenly aware of how love abounds in my life. There are much easier paths to discovering love and I pray that no more must follow this one.
This is the only fabric I didn't already own and I went to at least three stores to find it. Its colors and design speak to my path as I move on. I see endless possibilities and for the first time I feel I am actively crafting my life. Life is good.
In the quilt no circle stands alone forming an interlocking chain reaction. It is significant that the links of the chain that connect all others are:
Do you have a friend that you have known for years; through their children’s births, through good and hard times? I have several. The children of one of these families made me an adopted aunt. I have been to birthday and Christmas celebrations, summer picnics and weddings. Through this I got to know their extended family including their Sasha, my friend’s father.
Their Sasha made a career of the Air Force. It was there he met is match, a registered nurse, also in the USAF. Sasha and MomMom were a match made in heaven and tough and nails. It prepared them to raise their five children in the service, where they were stationed all over the world.
Sasha retired from the Air Force June of 1971 as lieutenant colonel. He was a hospital administrator in the Air Force and continued that career in civilian life.
He was kind, funny, bright and honorable. I loved kidding and talking with him. After he passed, my friend asked me to make 10 pillows from his dress uniform, over coat, dog tags and medals for the men in the family. Once I could bring myself to cut, it became a remarkable experience. Each pillow was unique but on each one I placed his monogram and made a pocket to hold a card that listed his honors.
I feel blessed to be able to use my talents to help tell his story and make something so special for the family. I believe he would have been happy and honored with the results.
If you have items tucked away for safe keeping, we could work together to create heirlooms that you live in your home and the homes of people you love. Contact us and we can start a special tribute.
My brother, Mike, tells the story about visiting Great Grandma and Great Grandpa when my beloved stuffed animal, Sleepy Cat, had been left at home. At bedtime, I was inconsolable because I had never slept without my dear friend. Great Grandpa, in his kind and quiet way, walked out of the room, returned with a big fluffy slipper, and handed it to me. Problem solved.
Sleepy Cat was with me well into my adulthood when she was well past her prime.
I share this with you so you might understand that when I first saw Celia's Slippy Blanket, all worn and torn, I understood this was a well-loved, dependable, dear old friend.
Celia thought Slippy was lost for good but recently found it at the bottom of her childhood closet while helping her mother move. Celia claimed Slippy Blanket as a child when her parents didn't like how it slipped off their bed. She just loved it's slipperiness and has fond memories of its original gold background and pink roses. Several weeks after I received Slippy, Celia contacted me to explain how important the curved quilting (bottom left-hand corner of the above picture) was to her. She told me that as a child, she would trace the stitches with her finger. I had to look very closely to see what she meant, which only deepened my understanding of their bond.
As I started to work, I counted 5 past surgeries; from zig-zag to fine hand stitches to darning. For years, life has been breathed into Slippy Blanket, and now it was my turn.
Celia's primary wish was to restore Slippy to it's silky, fluffiness in either pink, grey or a combination of the two.
I knew Slippy was made from a synthetic fiber by its feel and durability. To determine which fiber I conducted a burn test. Conclusion: polyester because it melted to hard ash. (Fabric Mart has great instructions for conducting and evaluating a burn test.)
Did you know polyester fabric could be dyed at home? I didn't until I talked to the wonderful people at Dharma Trading Company. They told me about iDye Poly, and the results were fantastic. I sent the samples off in the mail and Celia settled on the raspberry color.
Slippy was dyed outside using a turkey fryer. It was great not to have the fumes in the house. I also dyed some small spools of cotton quilting thread to see if the whole spool would take the dye. Answer: Cotton does not take iPoly dye as polyester does.
Slippy was studied to determine how much usable fabric was available. Then it was graphed with movable "puzzle pieces" to determine how to remake Slippy as large as possible. Only once this was decided was any fabric cut.
The pieces were sewn using a French seam, which encases the edges. Then the seam was folded to one side and stitched again, resulting in a strong bond and design detail.
Some of the fabric pieces needed to be patched or reinforced. Rather than sew down the patches, which would affect the feel, patches were fused using iron-on webbing. I tested 4 webbings: Heat and Bond, Light Wonder Under, Heavy Wonder Under and Ultra Hold Heat and Bond. For the test, each was fused to a scrap of fabric and washed with 5 different loads of laundry. Ultra Hold Heat & Bond had the best hold but stiffened the fabric. The other three all held well without impacting the feel, so I went with Heat and Bond. I applied it on the wrong side of the fabric at every place Slippy could use some reinforcement.
Putting it together
Slippy ended up being a good-sized quilt tied with white wool yarn. The pocket in the corner is large enough to hold Slippy's Story Starter as well as Celia's chapstick and worry stone. The button is a vintage yellow rose button reminiscent of Slippy's faded roses and the roses from Celia's childhood bedroom. Two "finger" blankets were also made for Celia to keep in her pocket when life gets tough.
Best wishes to Celia and Slippy for a long and happy life together.
Have a beloved keepsake that is past its prime? Contact me so we can discuss the possibility of giving it new life!
I was pleased when Ashley and James accepted my offer to make a tree skirt as a wedding gift. James is the grandson of one of my best friends, Mary Lou Ellsworth, and although I have heard stories about him all his life, we have only met once. Other than wanting it to have a Moravian star, the couple gave me complete creative freedom. Ashley told me they were more traditional with their Christmas colors and decorations. I knew that all six of Mary Lou's children display Moravian stars each year to have some Pennsylvania in their holiday. I was good to go.
So began the search for a patchwork pattern of a star. I settled on this one by Jinny Beyer called Sea of Crisis. At first, the name did not seem Christmassy, but the design was perfect - so perfect that I did not look at how complicated it was to make. Those two thoughts converged for me as I worked on this piece.
Here are two Jinny Beyer designs.
Putting this star together took persistence and resiliency. That continued once it was together, as it did not lay flat, so I had to ease into a curved piece. The more trouble I had, the more I thought about the star and the journey Mary and Joseph had to make:
Let it shine!
The five stars were fitted into the skirt, bordered with thin red pipping. The edge and center was made from a beautiful holly fabric with gold accents. The skirt was finished with simple quilting.
A Little Note
A pocket was sewn to the back to hold a note to the happy couple. May this skirt grace their tree for all their Christmases to come.
The fabric on the left was the right tone but too bright for my current project. Solution: The soak the fabric in tea until it mellowed to the perfect color and set the color by ironing the fabric. (I usually use basic tea, but used Chai Rooibos for this.)
In 2011 I started a business called “Keepsakes for You.” It was the same concept as Remember When Studio, with a focus on making only bears and bunny keepsakes. The business never got off the ground because I took a job at local nonprofit, but before that job offer, I did a lot of work that is now benefitting Remember When Studio. First, I had to rework the pattern. I had been using Vogue patterns, but drafted new ones so that I had original work.
Here are Bearlooms I made before I redrafted the pattern.
My Bearlooms' bellies are rounder, with curved arms, more pronounced bottoms and the chin piece, called a gusset, gives a rounder, sweeter face. I am really pleased with the changes. As you can see, I added the buttoned flap that protects the heart to the Vogue pattern.
The Vogue bunny pattern I redrafted from the start to create a unique Hareloom pattern. It took several tries to get it where I wanted it. Their ears are stiffened yet still flexible, arms are curved, bellies plump. They make me "Hoppy"! (Hee, hee!)
A friend had lent me an embroidery machine, so of course I added quotes to personalized them. Next, I divided them into three categories;
All Bear/Harelooms have a heart: some are protected with pockets, while others wear them out where all can see!
I especially enjoyed working with materials that are not traditionally sewn. Since the 60's I had saved a Valentine from my Aunt Murph and was pleased how well it sewed into the leg of my personal Hareloom. On my family Hareloom I used a baby ID necklace as a glasses holder for Grandma's sewing glasses. I assume the necklace was my sister's, since she always told me I wasn't born at the hospital, but rather arrived on the family doorstep wrapped in newspaper. Luckily, she fought to keep me!
When I look at any of the heirlooms I have made, stories play in my head. To help keep those stories alive I decided it was essential to have a pocket in each heirloom to hold a story starter booklet that explains the meaning behind each piece used to make it. Below is what I wrote for my personal Hareloom, pictured above.
Jean's Personal Hare-loom
Now that we are "bearly" in business again as Remember When Studio, you can contact us to make an heirloom for you or someone you love!
Although my 5th-grade teacher, Miss. Longenecker, did her best, my spelling has still not improved. Luckily I have Sue Miller and Amy Sechrist to proof my blogs and Mom to spell check my embroidery. Thank you to all my help and support!
Diane, like me, is a Saver of Treasures. She finds meaning and stories in anything from a beaded dress to a matchbox car. So I was honored when she brought me a box of her prized possessions and asked me to make two Bearlooms, one for her parents and one for herself. Some of the treasures were her:
Do you have cherished treasures tucked away? Contact me, I would love to talk to you about how they could be worked into an heirloom to live in your home
One of my dearest friendships is with my teaching partner, Mary Lou. We were a formidable team as our talents and temperaments were a wonderful combination that greatly benefited our students. Our relationship goes far beyond the classroom to the point that I was officially inducted into her family!
No surprise, I was pleased to get the announcement that her grandson, Connor, was getting married. I offered to make a tree skirt as my gift to them, and Courtney, the bride-to-be, graciously accepted.
Courtney liked this design by Penny Lane Primitives, a 13 inch candle mat. So I used it as inspiration to create a 39 inch tree skirt.
Best wishes to the happy couple for many happy Christmases to come.
My mother once said, "Part of heaven is when people say good things about you after you are gone." This is the heart of Remember When Studio.
After my father died, I looked for ways to keep his story in my life. One way was to give each family member a "Plant a tree" ornament in his honor. For me, this ornament always has a special place and is kissed going on and off the tree.
Starting a tradition
When my sister-in-law passed, I wanted to keep her close and share her stories. An ornament was my natural way to do that. Over time and experimentation, I came up with this design which created a story starter to an amazing woman's life. I loved this design so much that I designed and created one for my father and both sets of grandparents.
Each ornament is: made from porcelain clay, stamped with:
Passing it on.
When my friend Pam passed, I was able to make one to celebrate her life for her friends and family.
As each is placed on the tree, I hope that questions are asked, and stories told, sending a bit of heaven to those we love for years to come.
I would happily create a unique ornament to celebrate someone you love. Contact me, and we can design one together.
Jean is the owner and designer for Remember When Studio.