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Mama Made Me

Quilting The Old Fashioned Way

DJI see all these articles on different quilting sites about machine quilting with your regular sewing machine versus quilting with a long arm machine. Frankly, they both scare me half to death! I have tried to do some machine quilting with my standard Bernina sewing machine, but it is hard! How does one keep their stitches going where they want them? Mine never follow the lines I am trying to follow. Everybody makes it sound so easy!

 To further confuse the situation, I was not taught to quilt with a machine. According to my mother, using your sewing machine to quilt the top once it was together was sacrilege! She was born in 1906 so you had to do that part by hand. That was the only way to do things, right? She had relented and sewed most of her pieces on the machine, unless she was doing a Lone Star or something with circles. They are always easier to adjust your fabric and stitch when sewing them by hand.

 As I started making quilts, I remember her talking about all these women quilting their quilts on a machine You would have thought they were out having an affair or something. She was adamant that no decent quilter worth their salt would ever machine quilt a quilt!

I remember coming home from school and the living room would be taken up by a quilt. I would chop and carry in the firewood, eat dinner, do my homework (when I got old enough to bring it home), and then I would sit at the quilting frame with mama and grandma. Our quilting frames consisted of four pieces of 1 inch by 2 inch pine with “C” clamps on each corner to hold them together. These corners would be held up on the backs of kitchen chairs and the sofa. She always used denim for the fabric strips on the wood as it was a much sturdier fabric, and they were fastened to the boards with tacks. No fancy upholstery tacks, either. Just plain old black tacks!

We did everything that was quilted in a style very similar to what is now called “stitching in the ditch.” Of course we had not heard of that back then. When we were finished with the blocks of the quilt, the fancy stitching was drawn onto the quilt top using a very high-tech apparatus called a string and a pencil! Grandma had a long piece of string with a pencil tied to it on one end. Approximately every 2 or 3 inches there was a knot all the way to the other end of the string. She always started closest to the edge of the fabric and she would hold the knot closest to the pencil with one hand while drawing an arc on the fabric with the pencil with her other hand. They never drew over the edge of the stitching they had already completed, either. This was the design for the outer fabric — like around the large star in the Lone Star quilts. They would do a few arcs and then move farther down the side of the quilt and repeat this process being careful to not go over the lines they had already drawn or the stitching they had already completed. They would continue like this until the entire outer perimeter was done. And then they would quilt on those lines.

 Below are a couple of pictures of a baby quilt I completed a couple of years ago. It is a combination of freeform quilting to outline the design in the main body of the quilt — this being Corduroy Bear — and the way I was taught to do the quilting. From what I have seen and read online about “stitching in the ditch,” it is done by stitching very close to the seam on one side. As you can see, we always did both sides of the seam. Mama said that put less stress on the seams and the quilts would last longer. My mother had a lot of things she believed about her way of quilting and those are things that have stuck with me over the years. I guess that is why it is so difficult for me to learn to quilt using a sewing machine.

 Hand Quilting By Me 2

Corduroy Bear Baby Quilt 2

A couple of other things my mother never did are:

— Never, ever, use a blanket for batting in your quilt. You use real batting or it wasn’t a real quilt! 

— Never use cotton for the backing if you planned on using the quilt on your bed. One always used flannel. The reasoning behind this was twofold. The flannel is warmer and it doesn’t slide off the bed as easily.

I was given a couple of quilts a few years ago by one of my aunts who thought my mother and grandmother had made them, but I can look at them and tell that they didn’t make these quilts. How? The last two rules I just gave you. They have blankets in them instead of batting and they do not have flannel as the backing.

Fast forward to today. I do understand her feelings. After all, she was raised in a time period when they did almost everything by hand. Now I hear about all these fancy feet for your machines and all the different kinds of quilting frames and machines that are available and it literally makes my head spin. I have come to enjoy my time hand quilting my quilts and I can look at something that I know has been made the way they used to be made. I know there are a lot of you out there who feel the same about some of the things you do, too.

 My last thoughts on all this ... keep up the good work! It is so worth it!


Puzzled About Patterns


I do a lot of sewing since that is what my mother, grandmother, grandma’s mother, etc., did. However, I have had it pretty easy I guess. I remember looking at the picture of my grandmother and grandfather on their wedding day (shown below) and wondering if she really sewed that dress by hand or if they had a sewing machine. It never dawned on me at that time that they may not have had a pattern either.

Clara Boyd Clayton and Chancy Taylor

 Later, as I grew older, I remember coming home and finding a new dress for my Barbie doll that my mother had whipped up while I was in school. Sometimes I would come home and find she had made herself a dress from some fabric she had, too. For whatever reason, though, I never thought much about it. Then I realized one day that my mother didn’t have any patterns for herself. In fact, I don’t remember her having any patterns for my stuff either! But she made my clothes until I started going to junior high school. Then she bought a couple of patterns and I began making some of my clothes. She began saving up to buy me a couple of items, also. I guess she realized how hard it was on me going to school in handmade clothes while all the other girls had store-bought dresses! This was in the '60s and '70s and I don’t remember hearing much about people sewing their children’s clothing at that time. I know some of them did, but it wasn’t quite as prevalent as when my mama grew up in the 1910s and 1920s.  Below are a couple of pictures of the things she made for me. (Please, do not laugh at my ugly glasses in the one photo! My mother and brother both tried to talk me out of those things.) But, she did let me pick out the fabric in the one picture with the ugly glasses! I don’t know if that is a good thing or not.

Diana in Junior High SchoolDiana Age 4

 All of this comes back to me as I am trying to make some ladies shirts and finding it very difficult to find patterns for what I am wanting to do. I looked online and found a couple that were very close to what I wanted; I even found one that was perfect, until I downloaded the pattern. It seems the girl who made the shirt is from Japan and the way they do their patterns over there is quite different from the way we do them here. Her pattern was an 8.5" X 11" piece of paper with measurements on it in centimeters and, of course, the pieces drawn on there with those measurements, but the pattern itself had to be traced and converted to the proper size. And converted to inches!  I finally gave up on that one and did manage to create a pattern of my own, but it wasn’t as easy as I thought it was when I saw my mama do it.

I can’t help wondering about all those ladies who were seamstresses in the 1800s. And the women who made their husbands shirts! I have sewed most of my life. I have made wedding dresses, formals, and even tailored men’s suits, but I had patterns for all of them! How did these men and women tailor those suits for the guys without patterns? Needless to say, I have learned a whole new respect for the tailors and seamstresses of old. Making a quilt is nothing compared to putting together a suit or one of those fancy lace dresses! And at one time they did all this by the light of a lantern! No wonder women were all so haggard and tired! Take care of kids, housework, cooking, splitting wood for the fires and cook stoves, doing laundry, and then evening came and you got to sew while the kids were sleeping and your husband went out and checked on the animals and milked the cows. And part of the time, if you had girls to help around the house, you got to go out and help the men in the fields, or milk the cows and feed the animals. Not to mention, you had the honor of killing and preparing the chicken for dinner! I know why they only had chicken on Sunday, now. That would have been a fun project in the middle of the week now wouldn’t it! I guess there were plenty of women who probably did it more than once a week, too.

Sorry, I got a little off track there. I did do a little research online about the history of patterns and the pattern industry and found out they didn’t have any real patterns until the early 1860s. Then they didn’t put instructions with them, or put them into envelopes, until the early 1900s. And Butterick didn’t put any markings on the patterns themselves until about 1948. Talk about a giant jigsaw puzzle! There were many different pattern companies and some of them did begin printing on their patterns a little earlier than Butterick, but the industry as a whole was not able to do a lot of the things we take for granted now due to the technological advances we have made. I guess the next time I look at a pattern book, I will be a little bit more grateful for having the pattern and, hopefully, I won’t grumble quite as much about the price of that pattern!

Looking Back In Time


I am going to go down memory lane a little in this post today. I hear all the controversy about how people should be raising their children, and I wonder how many people would have lost their children to the Department of Social Services so many years ago if that department had existed. I am not downing the state for helping children where it is needed, it is just some observations over the past 80 years of parenting from my family. I hope you enjoy!

This first picture is of my grandmother and grandfather on their wedding day, and the second picture is my grandmother with her youngest daughters. I wish I had some photos of grandma when she was young, but alas, not many people took pictures back then (it was a little more laborious then). Now, on to the stories!

Clara and Chauncey Taylor Blog Photo



















Gramma Sumpter And Two Daughters

I don’t remember how old I was, but we were talking about playing as kids and she was telling me about a time when she was running down a path, heading toward a creek near where they lived. She told us she was the smallest, so she was the last one in line because it was harder for her to keep up. She said they were running along and jumping over sticks and whatnot on the path when the child in front of her jumped over a stick. She started to jump over the same stick, and the stick moved! She said she did a reverse jump and headed back home screaming. She believed she was the only child that had ever reversed their jump in mid-air without touching the ground. Of course, all of the other youngsters probably thought she was crazy because by the time they got stopped and caught up with her the snake was long gone.

Most of the time kids do not go anywhere like that unsupervised now. And if there was a snake, we would call 911 and have it dispatched forthwith. Unless you live in the country, then your dad — or mom — would dispatch it for you!

This picture is my mother when she was probably in her late 30s or early 40s. Obviously, I wasn’t here yet to know that for sure!

woman with cow

She was the one who usually washed the dishes, she said. She was telling me of one time when she had just finished heating the water on the old wood cookstove. There was a terrible thunderstorm outside, but she didn’t think much about it. Until the lightning came through the kitchen window, that is, and danced around on the top of the stove for a bit. Since she was the only one in the kitchen at the time, no one else saw it. Everybody thought she was just being a "scaredy cat" because of the thunder and lightning.

Now days, people would not be letting their children heat up the water on a wood-heated cookstove, even with adult supervision! The adults would not even be doing that! And heaven forbid we allow the children to call their sibling a "scaredy cat!" Does that word even exist anymore? Just curious. Plus, we don’t wash our dishes anymore, anyway. We have dishwashers. I do love some of these modern conveniences!

We are going to move forward in time again with this next story.

This next photo is a picture of my brother carrying weeds on the peach orchard with mom and dad in the Lewiston Orchards in Idaho. Lewiston Orchards is called that because that’s where all the orchards used to be as opposed to the people who lived below in "the town." And, of course, the town was Lewiston, Idaho. In that day and age, it was expected that the children would help on the farm or in the garden. They had chores. They also had to clean their own rooms. And the girls learned how to use the wringer washers — while the mothers prayed they wouldn’t get their hand stuck in the wringers — while the boys learned how to drive the tractors and other pieces of farm equipment. And the mother’s prayed they wouldn’t fall off and get mangled by the machinery. But they also learned important lessons in safety and self-sufficiency. Today, the children are learning about the world they live in. Computers, cell-phones, connectivity, etc. It is still all about learning how to take care of one’s self in the world we live in.

boy in orchard

Most of the time now the only kids who know much about any of this live in the smaller towns or rural areas. I am so very glad to see people who are truly wanting to go back to some of these older ways of living so they can live a healthier, more fulfilling life. Home-grown foods are so much better than all this stuff they sell in the grocery stores. Most of that "fresh" produce has been sitting in storage for so long it can barely be called produce, let alone fresh. I am also very glad to see some of the younger people today who want to learn some of the skills that have almost been lost with the advent of machines that do it all. Now, obviously, these last statements are my opinions, but I feel like I learned so much more than some of the children of today have the chance to learn.

Almost-Older-Than-Dirt Root Cellar

DJA lot has happened since my last post a year or two ago. I have moved — twice — but I have not given up on my blogging or my ideals of living as close to nature as I can.

I am living in another older home, but this one was built in 1925 and is mine! The structure itself is sound, but — as is to be expected in a house that is almost 100 years old — we are going to need to do some work here and there. It is a simple miner’s house with one bedroom and an added bathroom. We recently pulled up the old, glued-down tiling in the living room and were greeted by the sight of the original wood flooring from 1925! Hooray!

In this installment, however, I am going to talk about my favorite room in the little house, one that I have told my husband will only be changed with the addition of a few more shelves, period! I call it my root cellar!

The first two photos show the main doorway and how thick it is. It is amazing how they layered all these different pieces of wood and made their own tiny door! It is only about 60” tall, 32” wide, and 3-1/2” thick. A hefty little thing that I have to duck to go through! There is a 9” step down going into a small, walk-through area, which is 24” thick. I guess they wanted to make sure this place stayed cold! The next two photos are this walk-through area. (I call it that for lack of a better way of describing it.)

Root Cellar Door

Root Cellar Door Thickness

The next photos show the room itself and some of the shelves. As you can see, I have it quite full with boxes of empty jars and my canned goods. There is a small kitchen or bathroom cabinet in the corner that I do want to remove. That way I can put more shelves on that side. I have included a picture of one of the corners in the root cellar as well. This shows a closer look at the old lumber and the detail they used when building these little rooms. They were an integral part of the house, and as such needed to be as close to constant in temperature as possible. They probably did not have a refrigerator, so this is where they would hang their meat, too. As you can see, there is a metal closet bar on this side.

Interior of root Cellar

Root Cellar Shelves

Corner Of Root Cellar

This next picture is of the smaller door, which actually leads into the root cellar. It is only about 3/4” thick, but they have it covered with an old blanket. When the door is pulled shut, this blanket can be pulled over to cover the gap between the door and the frame to the transition, or walk-through. There is not a mechanism for keeping the door shut, just a handle and an old nail in the wall of the walk through. They would hook a string or rubber band around the door knob and then around this nail, thus keeping the door closed.

Interior Door On Root Cellar

I am not sure what the hole in the door was for. There is a similar opening, or pass-through, in the wall about head height on the end wall of the root cellar. You can see it in the photos. I have it filled with jars of jams. There is also a small hole — about four square inches — in the ceiling. I thought this might indicate some sort of meat curing area, but there is absolutely no evidence for that. I plan on continuing to research this by visiting some of the local historical society’s here in the Silver Valley of Idaho.

Another clue that may help some is the fact that the root cellar used to be totally outside. The small room it is off from now used to be the back porch. This would explain the step down. In 1925, they probably did not even have a real porch; there would have been a door leading outside from the kitchen onto bare earth. That leads a person to think that the hole in the door and in the end wall may have been for ventilation purposes. The small hole in the ceiling may have had a small section of stove pipe in it, allowing heat to escape. I do not know yet, but I do plan on continuing to check into it.

Another Tale of Paul Bunyan and Babe

DJI was trying to decide what to do my blog on this week and decided to delve into some folklore and write about Paul Bunyan, the giant logger of yore, and his giant blue ox, Babe. Why would I want to write about him again, you ask. Because out here we believe he really did exist! I know you are all thinking I’m crazy. And that’s fine.

Before I started writing, though, I did some research and there are some very interesting stories about Paul Bunyan. One says he was so big it took five storks to deliver him. Another one says it was five ‘giant’ storks. And yet another one said it took seventeen storks! That was one huge baby!

I read one story that said he was abandoned by his parents as a baby in a cave and found Babe in a snow storm during the winter the snow fell blue. In this rendition, Babe was frozen when Paul found him, or her, and Paul took the poor thing back to his cave with him and thawed it out by the fire. When Paul woke the next morning it was to Babe’s rough tongue giving him ox kisses. In another rendition his parents have to use wagon wheels for buttons and Babe was given to him as a gift when he was young. I’m not quite old enough to know which is true, though.

In most of the stories, I have found they all agree on a couple of key points. Number one being he was born in Maine. (Bangor, Maine to be exact in one story.) And he used to run around Minnesota a lot, and that was how the 10,000 lakes were formed. In one story he even created the Grand Canyon by dragging his axe behind him while he and Babe were traveling through Arizona. That was purely by accident, mind you.

Out here we still have Paul Bunyan Days in the small town of St. Maries, Idaho. St. Maries is in the northern part of the state by Lake Chatcolet and the St. Joe River. It is a gorgeous area with fishing and outdoor sports of all kinds.

Every Labor Day they have a three day event called Paul Bunyan Days where they honor Paul and his sidekick Babe, the blue ox. There are carnival rides and games, food booths, logging competitions of all kinds, and antique car shows. When I was younger I remember going to Paul Bunyan Days and wondering how those men ever stayed on the logs when they did the log rolling. They held them in the swimming pool instead of the river, I guess for safety issues. Paul and Babe are really a big deal up here. Not just for the folklore. I can already hear you laughing so I am prepared to offer up some proof.

To set the stage a little bit, I have a couple of photos of the canyons around the Asotin and Peola, Washington area. To get through these areas you had to have several good animals to pull your wagons, a good sturdy horse to carry you, or some mighty strong legs. Unless, of course, you were Paul Bunyan, then it wouldn’t take very many of those long strides to get you over these hills.

 The steep drop from Peola Road to the bottom of the canyon.       

 How's this for a view across the valley?

And now for the proof you’ve been waiting for - pictures! We have pictures of his footprints! I know these have to be from Paul Bunyan because they are too big for Bigfoot even. (And, yes, we know he lives out here, too.) The first photo is of the most distinct print, while the second photo shows both prints. The footprint closer to the camera is not quite as perfect, but if you look you can see it. We figure you don’t see Babe’s prints next to Paul’s because he stayed down in the creek bed where there was plenty of water. Smart ox, huh?

Paul Bunyan's footprint outside Peola, Washington.   

Both of Paul's footprints.

Heirloom, Antique, Or Old Growth

DJI know it is still January, but the sunshine outside coupled with the melting snow is making me think about my garden already this year. So, I decided to write about some of the fruit I don’t have to mess with very much.

And here is the question. What is the accurate way to refer to bushes that are close to 100 years old? Are they simply Heirloom, or maybe as Antique? Would they be called Old Growth like we do when we talk about the forests? I am referring to some Red Currant bushes at my cousin’s old ranch where my husband and I are currently living. (Not the same place. Just wanted to clear up any confusion I may have inadvertently created there.)

 Bankson Peola Homestead

Foundation where Sally lived 

Foundation of cellar 

The pictures above show where these plants were started. The overhead is fairly self explanatory being the foundation of the old homestead from an overhead view. The second photo is what is left of the foundation to the main house. And the third is the foundation to the root cellar at the old house. The house itself wasn’t built here, either. It was built farther down Pow-Wah-Kee Road (pronounced pow-walk-ee, just like it’s spelled. Kind of.), and was moved to this location when my cousin’s father purchased it and had it moved.

There are still a couple of places where you can see where they buried the ‘deadmen’ – usually large logs used to wrap rope or cables around as support for the teams of horses to pull against. This house was moved from down in the valley up the hill to where the current foundation remains to this day. And they did this with horses! It sets in the middle of farming country, as you can see in the first picture, in what used to be called Peola, Washington. It is still referred to as Peola by people today as more of a place reference than the once thriving community it used to be. Back to the plants. Sorry.

Currant Bushes at the Ranch 

Sometime after my aunt and my cousin’s father were married, his grandmother moved up to the place with them. With her she brought some Red Currant bushes. The forerunners of the ones pictured above. That was probably back in about the 1930s or 40s. When my cousin’s father and mother moved from Peola, her mother took some of those Currant bushes with her to their new home. They thrived there, too. When my cousin married her current husband and moved to this ranch, she also brought starts of her great-grandmother’s currant bushes.

 Grandma Banksons Red Currants

The little tiny dudes in the pots in the photo above are my husband’s first attempt at growing plants. He has never liked plants, preferring to pave everything over so he didn’t have to mow the grass or water anything. He did not care how pretty anything was, or how it could be used. Go to the grocery store! As you can see things have changed. These little tiny red berries have turned my husband into a farmer. (Sort of.) He is so amazed these little guys would live as long as they have. They have been on the farm here for about 40 or 45 years. So the original plants were started before 1930. Some were restarted in Peola, and then more were restarted in Clarkston, Washington, years later, and we still have plants in the back garden that are a minimum of 40 years old. So, what do you think, heirloom, antique or old growth? It doesn’t much matter what you call them, I guess, as long as you keep them. Happy gardening guys!

Stay tuned for next week's installment. I am trying to get information together to start a series on some of the old farms and churches, etc., around the area here in Latah County, Idaho!

Reasons I Am Thankful

Family Building house

DJI have so much to be thankful this Thanksgiving and am at the age I have finally figured out all this fuss we make over it is just about being with family. We all hear that every year, but it sometimes takes a lot of time to really sink in. My blog this week will be short with lots of photos highlighting who and what I am grateful for. The above picture is of my dad and some uncles and aunts building a house for one of my uncles to live in at mom and dads’ peach orchard.

First of all – I am thankful for my mother and father, Roy and Gladys Parker, and my grandmother and grandfather, Chancey and Clara Taylor. Grandpa Taylor is where I got my bright red hair. You can’t tell it from this picture, which was taken on their wedding day in 1899.

 Gladys and Roy Parker Wedding Photo   Clara and Chauncey Taylor Wedding Photo

I am grateful for my brother Ronald, shown here with our mother and father and the second photo is Ron dressed up at the annual Crazy Days Sale in our hometown. I am also grateful for my sister-in-law, Sammie (in the red blouse), and their boys, Stephen and Curtis, shown in the third photo at a family reunion. I remember Ron taking me for a trip to the river with him and a friend of his named Everett Long. He was so afraid I would drown in the river that he wouldn’t let me out of Everett’s truck. He made me stay in the bed of the truck and let me play with a kitten they had with them. Not sure why they had a kitten, but I assume it was Everett’s.

 Mom, Dad and Ron     

Ron at Crazy Days    Ron, Sammie, and Boys

I am grateful for my aunts and uncles in the photos below. Every one of them had a different life and personality that helped me learn that not everybody is going to always get along. No two people have the same way of doing things, or raising their families, or even looking at the events that happen in life.

 Aunt Ella  Aunt Nita  

Uncle Lester and Aunt Hazel  Uncle George and Uncle John

And last, but not least, this is a shot of part of the extended Parker family from many years ago. Part of me can be traced back to everyone in this picture, from cousins and aunts and uncles to Grandma and Grandpa Parker, who I never had the pleasure of meeting.

 Parker Family Photo

My one wish for this Thanksgiving is that every family has the chance to be together for a little while, at least, and that nobody forgets what they have to be thankful for. To some it may not seem like much, but there is always something. I have never had what folks consider to be a blessed or easy life, but I can see now that even when I didn’t have that roof over my head, or a job to pay the bills, it eventually turned around, and I had so much more than I ever realized I had. 

I fear I have started preaching now. My sincerest apologies. I just wish everyone has the best Thanksgiving ever. Not just this year, but in every year to come. Happy Thanksgiving to everybody!

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