Ecofeminism, Subsistence Living & Nature Awareness

February 18, 2014

Quilting With Heart

Filed under: Needle and Thread,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 3:24 am

Inspiration is where you find it! You’re the only one with your particular life experience. Even if you had a twin, her experience of life and the world would be different! None of my own teachers in sixteen years of formal schooling considered me “artistic” or “creative”. Another woman’s insight expanded my thinking about creativity when I read this quote, “Creativity is usually regarded as an individual attribute, but it depends on opportunities for expression and on a receptive audience.” Margaret Cruikshank wrote these life-expanding words in her book Learning To Be Old: Gender, Culture and Ageing published in 2009.


Gold Dust, 2001, inspired by the traditional Wagon Wheel block featuring contemporary batiks and even a lame fabric.

Because of that insight, I no longer view “creativity“ as an individual attribute! All of us have creative impulses lurking inside and waiting for a chance to be expressed! I know we quilters influence and inspire each other. I find that my local quilt guild, Quilters United In Learning Together of Northwest Arkansas, or QUILT, provides both an “opportunity for expression” and “a receptive audience”. Fascinated by fabric since my girlhood, I’ve found my creative home in quilting. My talented mother, Marie, loved creating with fabric and I believe this love is in my genes or at least in my Scotch-Irish heritage.

Almost thirty years ago I made my first quilt–a baby quilt for my sister Lea’s young son, but it was not until 1994 that I had the time to begin quilting with a passion. That year I met Lila Rostenberg who had recently opened a quilt shop in nearby Fayetteville AR. In Lila, I found a friend and mentor.

Two hundred thirty quilts later, I still feel the excitement of playing with fabric both in my mind and on the design board. Historical quilts thrill me, batiks fascinate me and bold plaids call to me. Some of my quilts are traditional and others are contemporary. Many of my quilts are scrapbook quilts or memory quilts full of visuals and vital events in my life. Perhaps I can describe myself as a visual historian making scrapbooks in fabric. I want to record happenings and thoughts and attitudes that shape my life. Quilting is my grand adventure! Teaching and sharing my skills and my enthusiasm are part of the adventure.

Without the guild I would be limited in my opportunities for expression and a receptive audience. In reality, I find we quilters are vital inspirations for each other. A recent example of this phenomena happened last July at our quilt guild meeting. Jeanie Schneider showed her wonderful quilt featuring large hexagons all cut from different sections of the same bold fabric. The hexagons tumbled down from the upper left hand corner moving from lights down into darks at bottom right. I found Jeanie’s quilt a complex, exciting visual feast. When Jeanie showed her quilt to the group she explained that she had been inspired by my quilt Gold Dust (displayed at my show at Arts Center of the Ozarks in 2008). I appreciated her acknowledging that connection. Both quilts are here for you to see the similarities and the differences.


Star Dust by Jeanie Schneider, 2013 inspired, in part, by Paula's Gold Dust, 2001.

Jeanie had not yet named her quilt and asked if I had any suggestions. Days later I thought of “Stardust” and suggested that as a possibility. Jeanie was delighted and did name her quilt “Stardust”–another connection between our two creative efforts. Whenever I teach classes and show “Gold Dust” I always mention that the arrangement of blocks was a principle that I learned from Lila. She had pointed out that since in our culture we read from left to right and begin at the top of a page moving downward, we are used to and quite comfortable viewing that arrangement. It is pleasing to our eyes to have the lighter colors arranged at the upper left moving down to the heavier and darker colors at bottom right.

Writing this blog and thinking about quilts and creativity has inspired me to create another blog, to explore these ideas in depth sharing my own quilts and what influenced and inspired me to spend hours and hours making “blankets”. Quilts are not blankets, but some cannot see the difference. My quilt blog is dedicated to those who know the difference first hand! If that is you, please visit and leave me a message.

You have a chance to express your own version of the world in your quilting. Playfulness and creativity go hand in hand. “What if” thinking is one doorway into playfulness. Quiltmaker Betty White speaks to all of us when she wrote in Quilter’s Newsletter (August/September 2013) “Respect your gift. Not everyone can or wants to make a quilt. If your gift is to do so, then by all means make quilts.” There has to be room for all of us to express ourselves in the “big tent” called quilting! Whether we work with preprinted panels or intricate appliqué or traditional pieced blocks we are all exploring creating with fabric and our own ingenuity. Go for it! Work from your passion. Enjoy petting your fabric, bonding with your machine, and praising your outcome. We quilters are united in learning together!

February 4, 2012

Time is a Seamstress, continued!

Filed under: Homestead garden,Needle and Thread,Paula Mariedaughter,Wildlife — Paula Mariedaughter @ 1:58 pm

“Time is a seamstress, specializing in alterations,” observed Faith Baldwin. We here at Cedar Hill have experienced death, loss and new beginnings all woven together. If you have not read my previous post, please do because I wrote about all the events of the first months of 2011. I will continue writing about our October vacation in Colorado near Mt Princeton and the Chalk Cliffs. The last quarter of 2011 brought many challenges.

quilt shop

Paula lounging with the local quilter's scarecrow at Bev's Stitchery.

Bev’s Stitchery, the local quilt shop was thriving. Jeanne took my picture with the decorative quilter posted outside the shop. I found fabric I likes and enjoyed my conversation with Bev–we talked knitting and quilting and visited about her long history as a quilt shop in Buena Vista. Next, Susan, Jeanne and I went exploring the ghost town of St. Elmo high in the mountains and found a happy colony of chipmunks usually fed by the summer tourists. We were feeding them in October and they scrambled and scavenged for the crumbs we offered. Some bold chipmunks scrambled up our hands and arms. Then the local big blue Steller’s Jays appeared on the scene to steal what they could. We watched the spectacle for at least an hour enjoying all the activity generated by our feedings. One of my favorite pictures from our trip, was one I worked really hard to frame. Finally, I caught an image of one of the striking dark jays against the patch of snow.


Dramatic Stellar's jays are well adapted to Colorado's climate.

More of those unique scarecrow figures dotted the small town of Buena Vista, from the local newspaper office to the library and the knitting shop. I see them as examples of public art and humorous adventures into creativity. As you can see these figures added personality to a small community for both the locals and for the visitors like us. I persuaded both Susan and Jeanne to be part of this photo shoot too. Jeane is pictured outside of the newspaper office and Susan is associating with the library’s mascot who holds a stack of–what else–books.

newspaper scarecrow

Jeanne with a crow and a scarecrow.


Susan outside the library in Buena Vista, CO.

Hiking and soaking in the hot springs pool and in Chalk creek happened every day, sometimes we visited the hot springs twice a day! Because it was October, we sometimes had the creek area to ourselves. One late afternoon, we three soaked in the hot water and looked across the creek to see deer browsing without regard for our presence. These mule deer act like our whitetail deer in Arkansas, but they have tall, mule-like ears. I wonder if they can hear any better than whitetail deer? Chalk creek, at Mt Princeton resort, is about thirty feet across and the cold water rushes across rocks and boulders with spots of very hot water along some edges. We visitors can rearrange the rocks to create sandy soaking pools. The mountain air is cool, but by laying back in the water one is delightfully submerged. Today the resort makes no claims that the water has healing properties, but one hundred years ago this area was advertised as having mineral springs with healing properties. Before the Europeans arrival, the Ute Indians sought out the springs when in the area. All I can say is that the water feels healing to me–both emotionally and physically.


Mule deer browsing at dusk across Chalk creek while we soak in the hot water.

The local landmark named the Chalk Cliffs rises to the north of Chalk Creek. The cabin we rented backed against the chalk-white cliffs rising straight up hundreds of feet. Susan and Jeanne did some difficult exploring of the shard-filled area below the cliffs, coming back more than ready for a long soak. We heard and saw deer there morning and evening. While hiking a different mountain, Susan took this photo of us and the rat terriers with the Chalk Cliffs in the background.

dogs and us

Jeanne and Paula hiking with the Chalk Cliffs appearing the background.

The Arkansas River is a predominate feature of this part of Colorado and we found Heckla Junction public access area and park to be our favorite part of the river. Two different days we explored this river park and reminisced about our dog, Annie, swimming across the river the first time we discovered Heckla Junction. Annie was a red heeler who we rescued as a puppy after she was hit by a car on AR highway 16, our notorious narrow and curvy local highway. She was headstrong and half wild, as well as a great swimmer. These pictures give you a sense of the beauty of this high desert area fed by the Arkansas River. The boulders are personalities that inhabit the landscape.


The Arkansas River at Heckla Junction in early October.


The rocks and boulders of Heckla Junction park seem like living creatures lounging in the water.

While in Colorado, we got a phone call from our realtor telling us she had an offer on the Kansas City House! We were hopeful that we could find an ideal buyer. Before our trip I had seen a doctor about a suspicious spot on the mammogram of my remaining breast, but I felt hopeful that it was benign. I had chosen to seek a second opinion and found a woman surgeon in KC. We had an appointment after our trip to Colorado. That small growth was not benign.

The first offer on the house fell through, but a second one appeared and looked promising. Adjusting to the shock of a cancer diagnosis is not easier the second time. Adjusting to this new reality and considering my options took time and energy. Time at home and time with Jeanne both helped. Along side of this bad news, came the good news that the sale of the house was proceeding. My surgery was scheduled for Tuesday, November 21 and the closing on the house was to happen November 30. We needed to have everything out of the house by Saturday five days after surgery! Jeanne’s cousins helped load the rental truck and we did leave KC on schedule.

Friends have been supportive. Returning to the routines and rhythms of living together on our homestead has sustained me. Yoga classes at the Arkansas Yoga Center ( have helped me regain my strength and full range of motion in my arm and shoulder. In fact, yesterday I moved three huge rocks with the help of a prized homestead tool. Over a decade ago a friend gave us this unique tool—it is six-foot long pry bar created from the axle of a Model T Ford! One end is modified to slip underneath the rock to initiate movement. Once I can get the rock (really a boulder) to wiggle, I know I can move it. And I did without hurting my back or shoulders.

After having our favorite carpenter, Kas, do some major renovation needed in our cottage/storage area, we are sorting and organizing and passing things along. We are rearranging all our indoor spaces, as well as trying to clear space in the cottage for me to have a three season quilting studio! This is a dream that pleases me and excites my creative self every day.

Kas will also be working with us next month as we add more insulation and our first ever ceiling to our house. We’ll be up on scaffolding and working over our heads for several weeks, but after that will enjoy our beadboard ceiling every day. In winter, the house will be warmer and in summer it should be cooler. Jeanne researched insulation to try and find something with relatively minimal environmental impact. She found this one with a R-14 value: 4’x 8’ sheets of 2” thick ThermaSheath (polyisocyanurate) from a company called R-Max (special order from Home Depot). Some companies make this with ozone-depleting processes. Others don’t, so check out your sources. We’d have preferred to use a more natural material, but this product is a panel that can be nailed to the bottom of the rafters, adding to our existing nontoxic insulation.

Here at Cedar Hill in the Boston Mountains of the Arkansas Ozarks, we have hundreds of daffodils popping up in sunny spots. The snowdrops are setting buds even without any snow. If you think we do not get snow here, you are wrong. Here’s a snowbound picture from last year. Climate change has brought us a mild winter. Today it was 65 degrees! On February 1 we planted the Amish Snap Peas we are fond of eating–often we eat them in the garden right off the vine because they are so fresh and crunchy! Our Virginia bluebells are waiting for their chance at center stage again this spring—that hasn’t changed. We are back online and hope 2012 will be a good year for all of us to reduce our carbon footprint by growing more of our own food and by staying home to enjoy all home has to offer.


Eight inches of snow covers everything in our Rusty, Rustic shade garden last year.


The women at Serendipity Yarn ( created a scarecrow for an avid knitter featuring a variety of her UFO's (unfinished ojbects).


Aspens at the lower altitudes were still golden bright. Look closely to see the gold leaves resting on the fir needles here. Behind Jeanne and Paula is an unusually large multi-trunk aspen growing in a sheltered spot.


Images reflected in the window behind Paula create a new dimension to this simple portrait.

January 30, 2012

Time is a Seamstress

Filed under: Homestead garden,Needle and Thread,Paula Mariedaughter,Wildlife — Paula Mariedaughter @ 7:12 am

The wheel of the year has turned through four seasons since we communicated here! “Time is a seamstress, specializing in alterations,” observed Faith Baldwin. We here at Cedar Hill have experienced death, loss and new beginnings all woven together. John O’Donahue cautioned, “…be patient with the natural unevenness and unpredictability of living.” Both people expressed ideas that helped sustain me through a year of unpredictability and rapid change. When my friend Lila shared those two quotes with me last March, I had no idea about the changes I faced!


Virginia bluebells, a native wildflower, up close in our shade garden.

Looking back along the length of the circle of 2011, I’d like to share some of the highlights of my year as recorded by me and my camera. Winter moved into spring with no grand surprises. Virginia bluebells are an expected spring miracle, producing delicate blue flowers when the weather is still unpredictable and cool. I delight in the red-purple of the unopened buds gathered next to the blue of the dangling flowers. The bluebells bloom when the hostas are still nudging their foliage up about six inches. As a spring ephemeral, bluebells gather their sustenance for the year and die back by summer to rest until the next spring.

In early April, our quilt guild held our biennial quilt show creating a deadline for me to finish several quilts I wanted to include in the special exhibit I did called, “When This You See, Remember Us”. I asked others in the guild to loan any timespan, memory or signature quilts for this display and several other women responded. I am pictured here in the midst of the display.


Special Exhibit of Memory Quilts: When This You See, Remember Us.

Guild members also created a large exhibit of antique and vintage quilts from our own collections allowing everyone to see the inspirations of our mothers and grandmothers. You can see the selection of antique quilts I brought to share.

antique quilts

Most of these antique quilts are treasures I found at flea markets or thrift shops over the last thirty years.

In May, the guild gathered together for our annual picnic and Airing of the Quilts where we drape favorite quilts along the fence at a member’s house. After our potluck picnic, we walk the fence and learn about each quilt. Some are antiques and some were finished yesterday. In the picture, Valerie and I were admiring fat quarters of fabric destined for my stash.

Valerie and Paula

Valerie and Paula at the Airing of the Quilts in May.

Jeanne and I planted our big front garden although she was in Kansas City much of the time caring for Fran, her 94-year old mother. I watered and sewed and kept the homestead functioning. The days went quickly, but the evenings did not. I’ve listened to hundreds of audio books from the library over the last three years as I sewed or washed dishes. Our dogs and cats were good company too. One night in the midst of the drought, we had a disturbance in the back yard and I found a raccoon trapped under the two big dogs and the small terrier was nearby, barking her excitement. Once I managed to get the dogs in the house, the raccoon left. I believe that critter must have been desperate for water and came to the stock tanks where we collect water from the roof.

On a late afternoon Shyla, our mixed breed dog, alerted me with her special bark to the presence of a rattlesnake in our driveway. I hustled all three dogs inside and grabbed my camera. The large, but docile, snake was moving steadily into our asparagus bed and away from all the commotion. We are always alert for snakes in the summer, but a recent sighting renews our awareness of their presence.


In late July, we have often seen large timber rattlers passing through our land.

At dawn on the morning of July 20th Jeanne called me to tell me Fran had died in her sleep overnight. She had been failing, so this was not unexpected. We comforted each other and began the process of accepting this loss of the woman who birthed and raised Jeanne. I was there in Kansas City by late afternoon and we began the plans for her funeral and memorial service. You can see the collage of photographs from Fran’s life that we created for the service.

The next months were spent making repairs on Fran’s house, interviewing realtors and preparing for a huge estate sale. I traveled back and forth trying to keep our garden hydrated and the tomatoes, basil and cucumbers picked. Jeanne managed to get home some, but her energies were focused on clearing out Fran’s house of 40 years of possessions, and on finding the perfect new owner for the house her parents bought new in 1969.


We displayed pictures of Fran taken throughout her life.

We planned a Colorado vacation for September to celebrate Jeanne’s birthday, but it had to be postponed until October where it snowed on our first night. Our long time friend Susan accompanied us and our two rat terriers. We returned to central Colorado where we enjoyed the hot springs and hiking in the clear mountain air. On a whim we visited Serendipity Yarn shop ( where we were dazzled by the vibrant yarns. Jeanne and I each bought enough to make a simple scarf. As we planned, I returned and took a refresher lesson on knitting. Once I got my needles clicking, I showed Jeanne how to maneuver her bamboo needles to start her scarf. We made our favorite meals, read and hiked together from the home base of a cabin we had rented. Every day we soaked in the hot springs and melted our cares away! Jeanne’s knee started to heal and my body relaxed all its kinks. Susan was great company and accompanied Jeanne on some of the more adventuresome hikes.


Susan and Jeanne with our dogs hiking in the snow and ice.

As three book lovers, we were enchanted by the Book Nook in Buena Vista. While browsing there I discovered strong words from Susan B. Anthony. In 1871, she is quoted as declaring, “Away with your man-vision! Women propose to reject then all, and begin to dream dreams for themselves.” Susan, Jeanne and I often repeated her words at appropriate moments for the rest of the trip.

One night we opted to eat out at a nearby Mexican restaurant. Driving in the late afternoon, we saw two red foxes playing along the edge of the road. I managed to photograph one as she merged with the dusk.


This elusive red fox showed herself along the edge of the road, then faded into the dusk.

Some things had changed in the area since our last vacation in 2005—we searched and searched for our favorite beaver dam-filled valley. We had visited that valley several times before, but could not find it. I did photograph the recent demise of a tall tree to the persistent nighttime visits from a beaver determined to use that tree as a log for her own purposes. Change is everywhere…. To be continued in early February.

beaver chew

Night time forays allow beaver to select the trees they'll harvest.


Spring Beauty is my original design inspired by the work of other quilters and featuring a spring iris broken in segments by strips of silk. I made the blocks after seeing Adele Athea's quilt in our 2009 quilt show. I separated the blocks when I discovered the iris fabric at our 2011 show and used them to surround the blooming iris.

April 12, 2009

Ragged Treasure from the Recycling Center

Filed under: Needle and Thread,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 8:40 am
Rescued Quilt: Golden Sunrise

Rescued Quilt: Golden Sunrise

Look at the ragged treasure of a quilt I found for two dollars. I could see the potential in the dirty, ragged quilt they were selling for dog bedding! Our recycling center here in Madison County, Arkansas gives me a chance to shop when I drop off my sorted items. It is a poor county, yet we have access to a large recycling center. A dedicated core of local citizens over a decade ago pushed local government to fund the Recycling and Transfer Center as it is called. Any reusable items donated to the recycling center are offered for sale in the adjacent resale shop. Books, clothes, flower pots, tools and more can be recycled to my house for a small fee.

As an avid quilter and amateur quilt historian I was excited by the graphic sunrise design on the tattered quilt made circa 1930. It had seen hard use as the batting was coming out of threadbare fabric in many places on the top and one edge was torn and tattered. But the biggest problem was how dirty it was. I could not begin my repair efforts until I had washed this quilt. And that would be a risk. It could disintegrate in the washing machine. I stabilized all the weak areas with multiple safety pins to minimize the affects of agitating the quilt in water. I used a commercial washing machine because those machines tumble the clothes.

Special Exhibit of Two Color Quilts

Special Exhibit of Two Color Quilts

My risk paid off. I now had a clean quilt to restore. I named the quilt Golden Sunrise. An Arkansas woman unknown to me had hand pieced and hand quilted the blocks and added triple sashing and border to create a bright and cheerful quilt for herself and her family. I decided the ragged border on one edge was beyond repair, so I cut that border off and sewed a new binding around the whole outer edge. It looked good except for the batting popping out in many spots.

I used the trick of applying a circle of fine beige tulle or net over the delicate spots and carefully stitching the tulle to strong sections of the quilt. Once this is done the repair is nearly invisible even up close. As you can see from a distance in the picture, the quilt looks intact. I believe I spent about one hundred hours recreating this beautiful piece of folk art. I added a label noting where I found the quilt and documenting my repairs because I had become a co-creator of this treasure.

Paula at the quilt show

Paula at the quilt show

Sharing My Vision

Last weekend my Golden Sunrise quilt was a centerpiece of the special exhibit I put together called “The Drama of Two Color Quilts.” Three different groups of school children visited my booth at our Quilt Guild’s biennial quilt show at the Springdale Holiday Inn Convention Center. I showed them the vintage coke bottle with a sprinkle top on it for sprinkling clothes before steam irons were invented. I used a sprinkler like this almost every day growing up in Miami, Florida in the 1950s. Many of their eyes widened at my story of our putting the rolled up, sprinkled clothes in the refeigerator if we had to leave off the ironing for awhile. Some seemed to believe that I was “pullling their leg”, but I explained that once damp we wanted to keep the clothes damp without going sour until we could accomplish the ironing. Then I showed them the heavy iron that I currently use by heating it on top of my wood stove. I explained that our only source of power was the solar energy form solar panels on our roof, so we were very careful about any electricity we used each day. This was how I iron my quilt projects all winter. I pointed out that I was using energy that would have gone unused. I commented that irons and refrigerators are some of the largest energy hogs in our households. One boy spoke up and said that some things like a TV even use energy when not turned on. Obviously someone in his life is talking about energy use in a positive way.

When I pointed out the gold quilt on display and described the ragged and dirty quilt sold as dog bedding for two dollars I had their attention. This was a “rags to riches story” to capture their imagination. In fact, the next day at the show one of the teachers told me that she had asked the students to write about their experience at the quilt show. One girl had carefully listened to each detail about the quilt discovery and the restoration because she described it all in detail in her paper.

As a school girl, I had a strong reaction to learning about all the tons of rich topsoil lost to erosion because of not plowing fields following the contour of the land. I remember being concerned about the loss of soil and then the harm all the soil caused in the waterways. My young adult career did not reflect that concern, but it was planted deep in my consciousness! When Jeanne and I began to build our homestead in 1987, we knew we wanted our raised beds to follow the contours of the mountainside. Perhaps my story of seeing treasures in ragged quilts and of living off the grid will remain an influence about possibilities with some of those young people.

Photo credits:Each of these photos was taken by Judy VanderHam at the April, 2009 show sponsored by the Northwest Arkansas Quilt Guild. We thank Judy for her generous assistance!

March 12, 2009

A Thousand Stitches

Filed under: Needle and Thread,Paula Mariedaughter — Paula Mariedaughter @ 9:50 am

In my arms is an antique indigo blue and tan woven coverlet. I imagine a possible history because it has no spoken history. Sally, a dear quilter friend, moved from northwest Arkansas to Washington state several years ago and gave me this ancient blue and tan coverlet. I had never touched a woven coverlet before. This treasure smelled musty. It is in poor condition and has lost its provenance. But there are clues in the warp and weft to help me recreate the history!

I have finally aired it out enough to be able to work on it.

But, why would someone want to work on this tattered textile? It has huge holes and the sections sewing the 36 inch widths together have pulled apart and unraveled in many places. It is big: 72 inches by 86 inches, and it is heavy.

Woven into the bottom left corner is the information. “Property of L.S. Orleans County.” The next line of letters is missing most of the parts of the letters due to unraveling. My atlas tells me there is an Orleans County in New York state just west of the Finger Lakes region where my father grew up.

The warp seems to be a tan linen and the weft is a dark indigo wool. Since it was reversible, I had to choose which side to use as the right side. I chose the side where the indigo color is the predominate color. I am stabilizing the large holes using cotton thread and a appropriate color cotton fabric behind the holes. I have already used a thousand stitches, I am sure, in the eight hours I have spent starting the repair. The repairs look good. None are glaringly visible. My goal is to stabilize this fragile textile (or someone is going to throw it out someday).

I appreciate each of the unknown women who did not thow it out in the last 159 years. None are my biological ancestors, yet I have a lot in common with those women. I value the textile and the woman who used her life energy to create it. I believe a woman used her home loom to weave this coverlet about 1850. The intricate design of eagles, stars and wreaths would probably have taken years to create!

I hope to have it repaired by the end of the month to be included in the special exhibit (The Drama of Two-Color Quilts) I am doing for our guild’s biennial quilt show. I am speculating that two-color coverlets were one part of the inspiration women had for creating two-color quilts. Doing something to repair the ragged edges of the coverlet is the next challenge.

I have found the web site for the National Museum for the American Coverlet, but if you have other recommendations to me about learning more about coverlets I would appreciate it.

Why spend my life energy doing this repair? My needle is a magic tool humans have used for thousands of years. My sterling thimble was used by another woman before me. The work is tactile and direct. I can visualize the whole and I can use my needle and thread–simple tools– to make it happen. It is everyday honest magic.

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