Sunday, November 29, 2009

A Thanksgiving Surprise

We celebrated Thanksgiving Day here at the old jail. Two of my brothers were here with their families, plus my mom and my sister-in-law's sister, Amber. In addition to a wonderful salad, Amber brought with her a scrapbook of clippings and other mementos that had been assembled by a woman who lived here for eleven years in the 1940's and 50's when her husband was the sheriff. The scrapbook included a lot of things about our old building.

I spent several hours for a couple of days after Thanksgiving scanning the clippings and photos that pertained to our building into my computer and printing them out for my own scrapbook. In the process of doing so I learned a lot that I hadn’t known before. I was especially excited to see a photograph of the fireplace mantle and wood moldings on the first floor, all of which had been removed by the time DH and I bought the house. I was saddened by a story about a little 10-year-old boy who committed suicide in his cell in 1948, discovered by the sheriff's wife when she went to bring him his dinner. When I read about a couple of prisoners who had enlarged a hole in the southeast corner of the jail and used it to escape, DH and I went into the cell block to look for the place where the wall had been patched. There was a cute photograph of a bunch of kids celebrating a birthday party on the jail steps, just in front of the "Visiting Hours" sign.

As I removed the items from their plastic covers for copying, it occurred to me that the last person who had touched them was probably the sheriff's wife who had assembled them, maybe even sitting in this same room, which was most likely her bedroom. I felt close to her, this hard-working, underappreciated mother of six who toiled daily for no salary, feeding the prisoners and her own family, seeing things no woman ever wants to see. She obviously felt a special connection to the old place, because included in the collection are clippings pertaining to the sale of the building long after her residence here. Near the end of the book was an article announcing the death of her husband at an untimely early age; I thought about how shocked and grieving she would have been as she placed it into the book.

Old buildings are like that--for a time they are the center of our whole world, the place where holidays are celebrated and tragedies are mourned, where children grow up and leave and return with their own children. Then we move on and another family takes our place and the whole cycle starts all over again.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

What happened to the train?

The picture above hangs in the entrance hall of the Lawrence County Museum; I see it just about every day and it reminds me of why historic preservation is so important. It is of J Street in downtown Bedford, the same street our castle faces, at a time when the railroad was a daily presence in the life of our town.

I remember being stopped by a passing train in Bedford on lots of hot summer days before car air conditioning. My siblings and I would count the cars while the sweat ran off our faces. A hundred or more wasn't uncommon. When DH and I bought the old jail and moved back here in 2007, the train still passed once a day, and it was always fun to wave at the engineer and hear him blast the horn so loud it made our windows rattle. Cars would line up on the street out front, waiting for the train to pass. The Christmas parade that year had to stop for ten minutes to let the train roll through downtown.

When I came back from my trip in early July of this year, I noticed that the train didn't come by anymore. I don't know why; I suppose I could research it, but it doesn't really matter. What matters is that another part of our history has been lost, at least for the time being. Maybe some Bedfordians are glad to be rid of a noisy train, but I miss it.

October was really nuts--three big fundraisers to organize at the museum (take a look at for details), and both my kids were sick at some point. The kids are both healthy now, thankfully. The last of the fundraisers will be over tomorrow night; it was all fun but it will be great to be free to think about something else.

I'm looking forward to a visit from one of my sisters who lives out of town; Friday and Saturday I hope to go out with her and my mom for some girl stuff (probably antiques/crafts shopping and lunch in some cute southern Indiana town--stay tuned for a full report). I'm always on the lookout for places that serve real meringue pie, made with real eggs and browned in a real oven. If you know of any place like that within an hour and a half of Bedford, please share the information!

Friday, October 23, 2009

Behind Closed (Pocket) Doors

You may remember that earlier this year we traveled to Detroit over a weekend to buy pocket doors to replace a set that was removed from our house who knows how long ago. I even included a picture of my handsome DH posing in front of the salvaged doors. What I didn't show you is what lies behind those doors--the first floor turret room, which is mostly round and which serves as our living room.

This room still isn't finished--it needs baseboard moldings and the fireplace needs to be reopened. I would love to build in floor-to-ceiling bookshelves one of these days, and add some furniture that hasn't been bought at a garage sale. Still, it is my favorite room, and when I turned on these lights the other night after a couple of hours of dusting, what I saw made me happy. After hauling out buckets of crumbling plaster, sanding floors, and stripping woodwork in this old house, we can take our coffee into the living room and savor the feeling of home.

Monday, October 12, 2009

No Time for Fun

I've been volunteering a lot of time at our local museum and haven't had much left over for my needlework (or blogging). I did manage, one sleepless night, to rip out a lot of the teal Blue Sky Bulky sweater I started late last winter and re-think the design. I'm pretty sure I'm only going to be able to knit the body of the sweater with the yarn I have, then maybe the sleeves can be felted wool dyed to contrast or something. More on this later.

Saturday was my birthday, always a reminder that time stops for no one. DS had a bout of flu last week that was remarkably focusing; I spent a day at home playing board games with him (he won them all) It was great; having one child off to college this year makes me savor the time I have with the one still at home. My dear husband is up to his elbows in things to fix as usual.

I'm taking a drawing class--in the first class I mostly drew cylinders. Maybe this week I'll move up to cubes! I look forward to drawing something well enough that I won't be embarrassed to post it here. That might be a while.

Saturday, September 19, 2009

Tomatoes, tomatoes, tomatoes

When the days were still short and it was cold outside early this past spring, our son planted tomato seeds in egg cartons and placed them on his windowsill. He tended the plants like children, transplanting them into pots as they outgrew the egg cartons, then reluctantly moving them outside when the time came. Once out of doors the plants required very little human attention, although they got a lot of attention from a certain groundhog.

There was a tense day in June when DH, who doesn't always read labels, decided to spray all the plants for bugs. Not only did DS, an organic gardener, not approve of the use of chemicals on his children, but the spray DH used appeared for a time to have killed the plants. Contrite, he hosed them all down, hoping to save not only the plants but his son's happiness. Fortunately a few survived, and DH sneaked in a few more he bought from the Feed and Seed across the street. Had all the plants lived I don't know what we would have done with all the tomatoes.

For the last few weeks we have been awash in tomatoes. We have orange ones. We have Roma, which always make me think of the gypsies I encountered overseas. And we have the classic red ones that taste great on a ham sandwich. It is a great joy for me to pick them in the gentle September sun and lay them carefully into a doubled Wal-mart bag, which I lug into the kitchen and empty onto the counter. A mixed blessing, however, is figuring out how to use them all. I've given as many away as I could find recipients for. I've made salsa, I've made spaghetti sauce, I've frozen a dozen Ziploc bags full, I've made more salsa, I've made more spaghetti sauce... DH grumbles that there's no room in the freezer for anything important, like ice cream.

I hate to admit this, but I left several dozen to rot on the vine. The groundhog, who early in the summer got thumbs-down for getting fat off the fruits of our son's labor, now gets an indulgent smile when I see him race away with a big orange tomato in his mouth.

Friday, September 11, 2009

World's oldest known fibers found!

Check this out:

The thing I love about this story is not that people have been working with fiber for 34,000 years, it's that even way back then, we dyed them. It wasn't enough that the flax be functional, from the beginnings of time our fibers had to also be pretty. Is that great or what?

I took a particular interest in this discovery because as many of you know, I spent four years in the country of Georgia and have great admiration for the Georgian people, the single most artistic group I have encountered in my travels. Every person you meet in Tbilisi can recite poetry. The flowers in the first picture are from a wall hanging in Georgian theka, or felt. The second picture is of a handmade Georgian rug. These are only two of many examples of the beautiful textile work done there. It's no big surprise to me that the first person to spin flax into thread might well have been a Georgian.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

Blue and White China

I love blue and white china. Here are a couple of pictures from my dining room, just to prove it. It seems I'm not the only one--I discovered this wonderful painting of a woman with a blue and white china ruff and bonnet at an exhibition at Vascoeuil Castle in Normandy this summer. The image above is a watercolor done by my daughter Isabella (aka DD), using my blue and white Delft teapot for inspiration. She claims to prefer Fiesta Ware for herself, but she's still young.

It's funny--my collection started entirely by accident, when one of my former high school teachers called me up one summer during my college years. He said that he and his wife were divorcing; he was moving back in with his parents in northern Indiana and he didn't know what to do with his half of their china service. He thought my sister and I might want it. I said yes, sight unseen, and he arrived with four blue and white English ironstone plates, cups, saucers and bowls. Sorry as I was for his misfortune, I was immediately smitten with the dishes and a life-long love affair began. Fortunately when my sister moved to a different apartment she left the blue and white for me, and the rest is history.

I probably have two hundred pieces by now, and I love them all. Many I bought for myself and many were bought for me by family and friends. My DM (darling mother) contributed at least a couple of dozen pieces, often precariously mailed through the diplomatic pouch. The collection traveled the world with me; at one point, during the 1993 military mutiny in the Central African Republic, I thought I had lost it, but it all eventually arrived at our new home in Djibouti. Fortunately the Foreign Legionnaires who occupied our house during the hostilities were honest and had no interest in china.

There was a time when I couldn't pass up a nice blue and white piece at an antique store, but my passion for collecting has cooled somewhat and now I enjoy rearranging them in our castle, finding new uses for them, and setting a pretty table occasionally. I'm still on the lookout for a covered vegetable dish that doesn't cost an arm and a leg, having passed up many beautiful but expensive ones, however regretfully, many times.

Thank you, Mr. DeBeck, wherever you are.

Thursday, August 27, 2009

Yes, I visited the Alamo!

And here it is, with the two-person universe of happiness posing nearby. It was a quick visit to San Antonio, and a hot one, but I not only got to see where Davy Crockett drew his last breaths, I also got to visit the River Walk twice. The last evening was spent with five college freshmen and a high school junior at the Hard Rock Cafe, and I've got a glass (and this goofy picture) to prove it, except as usual I'm not actually IN the picture because I'm the one taking it.

It was fun to hang out with the kids, if a little exhausting, but back in Bedford it's time to harvest a bumper crop of tomatoes and get back to work on the house. I helped DD move into her college dorm yesterday, a bittersweet occasion. She's the third generation in our family to attend Indiana University. We had lunch at the Runcible Spoon, which I remember from my own college days (I'm not sure how long it has been in Bloomington, but there were thirty years' worth of literary journals on the bookshelves.) The iced coffee with mint was sweet and good.

Wednesday, August 12, 2009

Back Home Again...

in Indiana. It was a quick trip that included Washington, D.C., the Eastern Shore of Maryland, and the great city of Pittsburgh, which I had never visited before. I chose Pittsburgh because it would allow me to do the Eastern Shore-Bedford, Indiana drive in two days with something interesting in between.

Our first impression of Pittsburgh was an exciting one, until a driving rain obscured everything but the road in front of us. We checked into the Lady Palm suite at the Parador Inn (, a fabulously restored 1870's mansion-turned-B&B on Pittsburgh's North Side, and since the rain had stopped we proceeded to explore the neighborhood. Seconds after stepping across the street we got caught in a downpour and sought refuge in one of the arches of the Calvary United Methodist Church. Learning that the church was open, we jumped at the chance to not only get out of the rain but see those famous Tiffany stained glass windows from the inside of the dark sanctuary with the fading afternoon light behind them. We couldn't make out anything of the interior (I hear the oak ceilings are also impressive), but the windows took my breath away.

I just had to see the Emmanuel Episcopal Church, which was designed by H.H. Richardson, pioneer of the Romanesque Revival style that inspired the architecture of our jail. It was only a block away, so I ran through the rain to get a better look. It was impossible to take a decent picture with water dripping all over my face, needless to say. We had dinner at a nearby Thai restaurant, and it was all delicious. Our waitress at the Thai place, a pretty young woman with an abundance of glitter highlighting her eyes, brightened when we told her where we were staying; she hopes to have her wedding at the Parador.

A few years ago I had negotiated (unsuccessfully, as it turned out) with the Andy Warhol Museum in Pittsburgh to have a Warhol exhibition in the overseas country I was serving in at the time. I had wanted to visit this museum ever since, so after an excellent breakfast at the Parador we took a walk down Millionaires' Row, imagining Pittsburgh at the turn of the last century, and spent a couple of hours in the museum learning about the life of Pop artist Andy Warhol, a Pittsburgh native. I was pretty young in the late 1960's and early 1970's when Warhol and his friends were considered the coolest people in New York City, so it was fun to relive that era, with its striped bell bottoms and long play albums in Warhol covers, Mick and Bianca Jagger and a very young, fresh-faced Michael Jackson. The seventies were one big party for Warhol and his friends, evidently. By the time we got to the end of Warhol's life, however, to his collaboration with Jean-Michel Basquiat on a long line of Jesus punching bags, it was obvious that the party was over and it all just seemed sad somehow. That final impression stayed with us as we checked out the offerings in the gift shop, where we spent a half an hour and didn't buy anything.

It was almost two o'clock when we emerged from the Warhol Museum, and we had a long drive back to Bedford ahead of us, so we scrapped plans to visit the Aviary and the Mattress Factory and hit the road. Pittsburgh is definitely worth another visit, and its proximity to the road to Washington pretty much ensures I'll be seeing it again in the near future.

Saturday, August 1, 2009

Adventures in Hot Glass and Remember the Alamo

Last night an exhibition of glass artistry by Ross Thackery opened at the Old Jail Art Center. I am showing you just three of the gorgeous glass items on display in the hopes of enticing you to come see the rest. There's not a lot of time--the exhibition closes this Wednesday--so hurry! In addition to being a very talented artist, Ross is a great teacher; he has taught two very successful stained glass workshops at our center so far. This fall we are again offering stained glass, and are adding a fusing/beadmaking workshop as well. I was one of Ross's first stained glass students, and I loved it. I'm looking forward to taking fusing next month as well. There's something magic about glass, as I'm sure you'll agree if you've ever watched a glassblower at work.

I'll be in and out this month (mostly out, I suspect) traveling with DD and the aforementioned sweetheart (hers, not mine--mine will hold down our very large limestone fort as usual!). I have visited the great city of San Antonio numerous times (DM, my darling mother, lived there for years, with my youngest siblings), but I have never, believe it or not, visited the Alamo. DH and I did get to the River Walk once, where we drank a beer with my sister Jessica and her husband while we paid the "little kids" (at this point teenagers) ice cream money to go away and leave us alone. Anyway, that was a long time ago, too--Jessica and Don have been married for 26 years this summer and DH and I for 25, and the youngest of the little kids turns 36 in November.

This time I will see where Davy Crockett took his last breaths, I really will, at last. I will blog about it, too. Stay tuned!

Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Dvasos Church

The two pictures to the left are of a beaded artwork in the Dvasos Church in Vilnius, Lithuania. I don't know the name of the artist, but I was dazzled by the beauty of the work and thought I would share it with you. As a person who dabbles in needlework, I could imagine the hours and hours the artist put in to create this piece, and how proud she was to see it hung on the walls of this gorgeous church. (I suppose the artist might have been a "he", but it seems unlikely.) The Dvasos Church itself has an unusually colorful interior, painted bright green, pink and turquoise with gold trim; according to my guidebook it has both Rococo and Baroque elements. The top photo is of the altar.

Our Lithuanian Boy Genius (aka the love of DD's life) didn't see what all the fuss was about; evidently this church is not considered an important jewel in the Vilnian crown, but I appreciated the exuberant use of color. Most of the churches we visited were austere, painted either white or left in natural stone; to me their spareness, although beautiful, reflected a more subdued, even somber, side of the Lithuanian national experience. Dvasos Church suggests something else altogether, joy, maybe.

Saturday, July 18, 2009

Sculpture Gardens at the Chateau of Bois-Guilbert

My DD had the fabulous luck, during her school year in France, to be hosted by three wonderful families. The third of those was the Thierry de Pas family, who run the first Pony Club to be established in France. All summer long the pony club is hopping with kids learning to ride and care for Shetland ponies. The first morning I was there we accompanied Thierry's daughter Agathe to bring in the horses from a back pasture--what an adventure to follow more than 300 horses through narrow country lanes back to the barns of the pony club. The de Pas family were wonderful hosts and I enjoyed getting to know Thierry, his wife Delphine, and their children, in the week I spent as their guest.

Next door to the pony club, on what used to be the same estate, is the Chateau of Bois-Guilbert, owned by Thierry's brother Jean-Marc, a celebrated sculptor. Jean-Marc has established beautiful sculpture gardens at the chateau, and this summer he has organized the "Sixth Bienniale of Sculpture in the Gardens of Bois-Guilbert." (You can see more at, if you can manage your way around a site in French.)

Never being one to miss out on an opportunity, I did not neglect to visit the chateau and its gardens. The beauty of the place was breathtaking. We spent a couple of hours walking through the gardens, taking in the sculpture and its interaction with the landscape, shooting photo after photo with my iPhone, and getting more inspired by the minute.

I've posted a couple of pictures for you to enjoy as well. One is of the chateau as you approach it from the road; you will see DD and her host brother Jeremie in the foreground. Closer to the castle is a sculpture by Robert Arnoux. The other picture is of a sculpture just outside the little chapel on the estate; I believe it is by the owner, Jean-Marc de Pas. To me this sculpture reflects the aristocratic history of this wonderful place, handed down from one generation to another.

Thursday, July 16, 2009

The Hill of Crosses

DD and I had a wonderful trip; we met in Paris, where we spent a single night before traveling to Vilnius, Lithuania the next day. Her sweetheart Andrius, who really IS a sweetheart, showed us all over his country for the next two weeks, joined by his wonderfully hospitable parents Viktoras and Rasa as soon as they arrived from Tbilisi. Altogether this family made sure we didn't miss anything in their beautiful country; they are a real class act.

One of the most memorable places we visited in Lithuania is called the "Hill of Crosses." The way it came about is this: Back in the bad old days of the Soviet Union, a group of Lithuanian partisans were killed by the Soviet authorities and buried in unmarked graves on or near a small hill in the northern part of Lithuania. Some of the local people erected crosses on the graves, to honor the sacrifice these brave individuals had made for their country. Even though religious displays were strongly discouraged in the Soviet Union, others added crosses of their own, and the hill became full of crosses. The authorities brought in bulldozers on occasion and destroyed the crosses, but the people always returned and put up more, even after guards were posted and it became much more dangerous to do so.

Now, of course, Lithuania has won its independence and there is no penalty for putting up a cross of your own on the Hill of Crosses. There are more than 200,000 today. Some make you want to cry, like the one above, placed by a young American soldier to honor a fallen comrade. Others are kind of funny, like the one that uses children's magnetized plastic letters to convey its message. All of them together testify to the power of faith to change the course of history.

Monday, July 6, 2009

In France, ask for "wee-fee" to connect!

I'm sitting in a cafe in Rouen, France waiting for DD to join me so we can go to a meeting of the Rotary Club that sponsored her stay here during this past school year. I've been Internet-less for most of the three weeks since I left Indiana, so there's a lot of unreported news, but I'm typing with one finger, so most of it will have to wait. Let me just say that I am blessed with a wonderful daughter and am happy beyond words to be with her again. We spent two weeks in Lithuania where I got to know the young man who is the love of her life and not surprisingly, he's terrific, too.

Unfortunately, my iPhone won't let me upload any photos, so stay tuned. We leave for home this Thursday.

Tuesday, June 9, 2009

Pocket Doors

When we removed all the plaster from the stairwell in our old house we discovered the rails for sliding 8' double pocket doors between the stairwell and the living room. Of course in my quest for historical accuracy (not to mention more light and openness), this meant that we had to find old pocket doors to fit in the space, and thus began a daily early morning Internet search that eventually yielded a pair of promising doors at Sunset Antiques in Oxford, Michigan (, north of Detroit, more than eight hours from here. DH, ever one to seize the day, insisted that we had to go the next weekend or miss our chance altogether, and so we trekked north in two vehicles. DH, DS and our exchange student son from Brazil led the way in our truck, and I followed with my sister from Texas in my little Toyota.

It was a long trip, involving an overnight at the very comfortable Waterloo Gardens Inn. When we finally got to Oxford on Sunday morning, the doors were just as stunning as we thought they would be. The folks at Sunset were very accommodating and found wheels for them, too. While we were there my sister and I fell in love with several stained glass windows, including a gorgeous nativity scene sadly removed from a cathedral in a neighborhood in Detroit hard-hit by difficult economic times.

There was an ominous black cloud in front of us as we crossed the Michigan-Indiana line, and it erupted into driving rain for several minutes, during which my heart sank as I envisioned our beautiful doors, protected only by a tarp in the back of our red truck, all swollen and waterlogged. I called DH on my cell, advising that we tuck into a gas station with a large roof until the rain let up, but he knew better, and as usual he was right: the doors arrived in perfect condition, and he wasted no time at all in getting them installed. Now when the doors are open the stairwell and living room are like a single space, and when they are closed they are beautiful.

Monday, June 1, 2009

No, I haven't been anywhere!

I can't believe how long it's been since I posted on this blog--I think about it every day, but every day gets away from me somehow. Anyway, I wanted to make sure and let everyone know that this Friday, June 5 from 5-8 p.m. you will have a great chance to see a lot of wonderful creative work on display in downtown Bedford. Put on your walking shoes (it really isn't that far--maybe six blocks if you walk the whole thing) and park behind the Lawrence County History Museum. You can pick up a map at the Lawrence County Art Association tent and go from there. We are supposed to have beautiful weather and I look forward to seeing all of you there.

Sunday, April 26, 2009

Reason to Smile

I just noticed that this tatted collar and cuffs set looks like a big smile the way I have pinned the pieces for blocking. That smile pretty much represents the way I feel about finishing the tatting on this project--now I have to design the top to go with it. I've gotten inspired from some of the offerings on to create a top that is not at all granny-ish. Wish me luck.

The collar and cuffs pattern is from Barbara Foster's book "Learn Needle Tatting Step-by-Step." One of these days I'll take the online shuttle tatting class, but in the meantime, I'm happy with what I can create with a needle.

I'm starting to work hard on our Gallery Walk, scheduled for June 5. There are still a lot of decisions to be made and people to be talked to. It is shaping up into a big, fun event with a lot of different things going on in downtown Bedford. Put it on your calendar for 5-8 p.m. and go have a nice dinner afterward.

Friday, April 24, 2009

You're gonna LOVE Barbara Lynn!

I'm really looking forward to Barbara Lynn's exhibition at our center, which opens with a reception on Friday, May 15, from 5-7 p.m. Barbara is one of the most naturally creative people I know, and her work always brings a smile. I get a big kick out of this gourd clown, and the gourd mushrooms pictured at I haven't seen everything that is going into this exhibit, but I know there will be a lot of happy surprises and I know you're going to love Barbara's work. Put the opening reception on your calendar and come celebrate with us.

I'm pretty much finished with my tatted collar and cuffs, but haven't found time to block them yet, so stay tuned for a photo.

Friday, April 10, 2009

What can you make with 2,688 tiny patches?

This quilt! I finished the top today and am ready for a celebration. I started this quilt on another continent, in Tbilisi, about four or five years ago, in the downstairs sewing room with my kids. The fabrics are scraps from thirty years' worth of sewing projects, my husband's old shirts, clothes I wore as a kid, worn-out sheets, and donations from friends and relatives. Each patch started out as a 2" square, sewn into 16-patch squares, sewn into 64-patch squares...well, you can see how it turned out. And now to get it quilted.

Thursday, April 9, 2009

Streamcliff Farm near Commiskey

I haven't had much time for needlework in the couple of weeks since my last post, but I wanted to let you all know about a lovely place about an hour east of Bedford called Stream Cliff Herb Farm (check it out at We went there last Sunday to celebrate DS's fourteenth birthday; he loves plants and good food, so Stream Cliff, with its gourmet restaurant and huge plant selection, was the perfect destination. In addition to a wonderful lunch (the berry cobbler a la mode was a high point in a lunch full of culinary delights), we enjoyed walking through the greenhouses and gardens; some of the adults among us had fun sampling wines at the winery. The farm dates back to 1821 and has been in the same family for six generations. Its success is living testimony that there is a market in southern Indiana for wonderful things.

In the pictures you can see our family grouping testing the weight limits of a little Monet-style arched bridge, and my niece enjoying a walk through one of the greenhouses. We were expecting rain at noon but it held up until late afternoon, when DS's new plants were all tucked away in my brother's van and several bottles of wine rested on the back seat of our truck. With DH at the wheel, I allowed the windshield wipers to lull me into a soothing nap all the way home.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Historical Finds

DH and I have spent several days removing crumbling old plaster from the walls of the stairwell of the sheriff's residence. The house is a big mess, of course, but we made a few finds that have helped us learn more about this old building.
A closet had been added to the stairwell, just left of the front door, at some point late in the last century. The closet had a ceiling that was several feet lower than the stairwell ceiling, which is pretty high. When removing the closet, DH found an old Crane ammo box between the two ceilings. It was a time capsule, put there in May 1968 by a fellow from Mitchell named Ron Trueblood. My guess is that Mr. Trueblood is the person who built the closet and added the ubiquitous dark woody paneling to most of the rest of the house. I'm not going to say much about the time capsule just now, since the Times-Mail newspaper is in the process of writing a story, but it was very interesting to travel back to a time that I remember only vaguely from my childhood, when all the important businesses were around the Bedford square. I immediately called my friend and fellow history enthusiast Mary Margaret Stipp, who came over to go through the contents with me. What do you know--on the front page of one of the newspapers in the box was an article by Mary Margaret about the first Lawrence County jail, which was built in Palestine in 1818, before the county seat moved to Bedford.
Removing the plaster walls also revealed some evidence to support my theory that the red brick 1850's jail was at least partly incorporated into our limestone building. I had read that the "new" (i.e., 1904) building was built on the foundations of the old, but there are a number of walls on the first and second floors, and in the attic, that frankly wouldn't have been there had any normal architect designed the building from scratch. A photo and a sketch of the 1850's building in the Lawrence County History Museum confirmed this theory at least partially, and most people agree with me that our kitchen at least is older than the rest of the house.
DH's first find was a square hole, four bricks in size, in the brick wall over the attic stair landing. It seems pretty obvious to me that this hole held a beam of some kind, maybe a roof support given the two-story height of the first jail. What that would mean is that the entire north wall of the 1850's jail was built into the 1904 building.
The second find was even more exciting; a window in the wall between the kitchen and the stairwell, proving that the wall predates the house. The window is at an odd height--too high up for the first floor and too low for the second. I can't say why it is so exciting to find evidence of a 150-year-old window that has been hidden for over 100 yers, but it is, and I'm thinking hard about ways to finish the stairwell without hiding it again.
All the breaking and hauling of plaster (and cleaning of the resulting dust) has left me with little time to work on any of my other projects, unfortunately.

Tuesday, March 10, 2009

Pfaff City

In 1980, while I was serving with the U.S. Army in Frankfurt, Germany, I went to the PX and picked out the sewing machine of my dreams, a top-of-the-line Pfaff 1222E, all metal, made in Germany, with a switch to allow operation on U.S. 110-volt and European 220-volt electricity. It cost me somewhere between $600 and $700; I put it on layaway (a great thing in those pre-credit card days) and it was a few months before I could take it home.

This sewing machine has been my most beloved friend for almost 30 years, dragged from one side of the Atlantic to the other several times. For a while, unable to imagine living without it for even a day, I carried it on the plane with me, since it fit under the seat nicely. Occasionally a stewardess would argue with me as I tried to bring it in, but I generally won those arguments and used it as a footrest on countless transatlantic flights. I only abandoned that practice when I had to carry babies and diaper bags instead.

With my Pfaff I made a beautiful outfit that my handsome young husband wore in a fashion show, a wedding dress for my friend Pat, a raw silk suit for my mom, two suits for my mother-in-law, two sets of blue and white draperies for the bay window of our house in Maryland, bedding and curtains for the nursery, a whole queen-size quilt top and lots of other things too numerous to list. My Pfaff was more faithful than most friends and never let me down, until recently.

You could say it let DH down. While trying to patch his own clothes, he managed to break the machine. I don't really blame him; it IS 29 years old and he is normally the person who fixes things; he's not a breaker by nature. He tried hard to fix my machine, but it needed a part that a broad Internet search revealed to be no longer available.

I suppose I could have just bought a new machine, but you know how it is when an inanimate object becomes a member of the family? I couldn't bear to retire the old Pfaff. I also suspect that no new machine could be as good as the one I already own. Thus began our search for twin machines that could be used for parts. We had several false starts on eBay, but were finally successful in buying one whose motor supposedly didn't work. It arrived, much newer-looking than mine, and guess what? DH managed to fix it, more or less. Of course that meant we still needed spare parts for my machine, so we bought another one. This one was missing a lot of parts, but had the one we needed, plus a much nicer case than mine, which was itself a replacement bought after the original case got damaged in shipment back from Africa ten years ago.

So now I have two Pfaff 1222's, both more or less working, and an extra for spare parts, all sitting on the table in my sewing room. There's no room to actually do any sewing, but how great is that?

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

Free Tatted Edging Pattern!

My mom and I like to make day trips into the Indiana countryside, and on one of those trips, I found the antique white dresser scarf you see in the picture. I was struck by the way the designer of this edging stacked large ovals to form columns, reminiscent of classical architecture. I had never seen this particular design of tatted edging before, and the price was right, so I bought the scarf for my friend Stephen Bowman, lacemaker extraordinaire, who was having a birthday soon, as I recall.

Stephen is gifted in all the lacemaking arts. He is the founder of the Bedford College of Lacemaking, our first tenant at the Old Jail Art Center, and he was/is my tatting and bobbin lacemaking teacher. Check out Stephen's website at for more information on lacemaking classes and other fun stuff. Stephen rose to the challenge of preserving this edging pattern for posterity by figuring out, stitch by stitch, how the original artist made it and documenting his findings. He worked it up in a blue size 20 thread (see the top photo), and checked his enormous library of tatting patterns (including about 40 years of Workbasket magazine) to ensure we wouldn't be violating any copyright laws in making the pattern available to you.

Here is the pattern for an antique edging that Stephen calls "Rowena's Tatted Edging" and I call "Tatted Columns." Enjoy.


R = (ring) Ch = (chain) Clr = (close ring) Rw = (reverse work) + = (joining of picots)
P = (picot) Rnd = (round) Tw = (twist stitch) Ds = (double stitch) Sep = (separated)

R 3ds, p, 3ds, p, 6ds, clr, rw

Ch 4ds, p, 4ds, rw

R 6ds, p, 6ds, clr, rw

Ch 4ds, p, 4ds, rw


R 6ds, p, 6ds, clr, rw

Ch 4ds, p, 4ds, rw

R 6ds, join, 6ds, clr, rw

Ch 2ds, p, 2ds, p, 2ds, p, 2ds, p, 2ds, p, 2ds, p, 2ds, p, 2ds, rw

R 6ds, join, 6ds, clr, rw

Ch 4ds, p, 4ds, rw

R 6ds, join, 6ds, clr, rw

Ch 4ds, p, 4ds, rw

R 6ds, join, 6ds, clr, rw

Ch 4ds, p, 4ds, rw

R 6ds, join, 3ds, p, 3ds, clr, DO NOT REVERSE WORK

Ch 4ds, p, 4ds, DO NOT REVERSE WORK

R 3ds, p, 3ds, p, 6ds, clr, rw

Ch 4ds, join, 4ds, rw

R 6ds, p, 6ds, clr, rw

Ch 4ds, join, 4ds, rw

R 6ds, p, 6ds, clr, rw

Ch 4ds, join, 4ds, rw

Repeat from * for desired length.

Monday, March 2, 2009

Ross's Stained Glass workshop was terrific!

Four of us Old Jail Art Center regulars took a preview class on February 28 of Ross Thackery's Stained Glass workshop, scheduled for this coming Saturday, March 7. What a great time we had, and how exciting to be learning a new art form! I've posted a photograph of my completed Easter basket, the project we worked on in class, and my mind is abuzz with the possibilities of new projects. Yesterday in church I studied the stained glass windows with renewed interest, imagining the artist at work creating the detail in a dove with about 20 tiny pieces of white glass. Of course mostly I paid attention to the service, but it was a sunny day outside and those beautiful windows glowed with color.

Anyway, if you were thinking of signing up for this class, I highly recommend it. Ross is wonderful and gives each student just the right amount of individual attention. If, like me, you generally leave the power tools to the man of the house, you might be surprised at how fun it is to shape glass with an electric grinder. Getting the right shape and size is harder than it looks, but all four of us managed to fit the pieces together to make a cute Easter decoration.

Monday, February 23, 2009

Don't miss our new exhibit!

I'm giving you a sneak preview of two of my favorite paintings in our exhibition of work by Lawrence County artist Janet C. Foster. I have always had a deep appreciation for our southern Indiana Amish community, and in these two paintings I believe Janet has beautifully depicted the quiet dignity of their lives. The Amish are not her only focus, however; Janet's work captures both Indiana and western landscapes and people with honesty and love. Don't miss this exhibition! You can view it through March 4, and admission is free.

I've become, as some of you have suspected, addicted to tatting, and since my last post have finished several small projects. The most recent, just completed yesterday, is this edging lace, from the book "Tatting" by Carol M. Winandy. It looks pretty on the towel, but those large holes in the center may cause trouble when I try to wash it. Stay tuned for the final verdict.

The loom has been shipped from California and is due to arrive later this week. We'll see if weaving manages to displace tatting and quilting in my affections; so much art, so little time!

Wednesday, February 11, 2009

A Loom Looms!

Woo-hoo! I was the top bidder on a 36" Harrisville four-harness floor loom on eBay. I have wanted a floor loom since I was about five, when my Grandma Cross took me and a half dozen paper grocery bags of rolled-up rags out to see a weaver in the woods around Elkinsville. This lady had a huge loom on the back porch of her little hillbilly-style house, already warped and ready for my grandma's rags. I sat there on the porch and watched her turn those rags into rugs, and I have wanted to weave ever since.

Last year I took a weaving class at Yarns Unlimited in Bloomington and was really hooked, but life and the Foreign Service intervened and those trips to Bloomington got farther and farther apart. Now we will have a loom right here in Bedford. Too cool.

The loom is in California, so it will take some time to get it here, but stay tuned for weaving adventures. Save your old t-shirts and we'll make some rugs.

Monday, February 9, 2009

Last post on tatted hearts, I promise!

I'm taking some of these hearts to the Waldron in Bloomington tomorrow to put in a "Valentine Mart," but I thought I would put up a picture to show you what our door looks like in all its glory.

I had a lot of fun tatting, but it's time to move on to the next project, a sweater in Blue Sky Bulky yarn that I bought on sale at In a Yarn Basket ( I took every skein they had, but I'm pretty sure it isn't enough to finish the sweater. I'm scouting around for a yarn in a solid teal that will coordinate with it well--any ideas? Here's a photo so you can see how really chunky this yarn is (I'm using #17 needles).

Renovation update: DH spent most of the last week installing window moldings on the second floor of the sheriff's house. I'm getting loopy from the smell of polyurethane, but it's worth it. Some day the house will be finished and we can turn our attention to the cell blocks.

Saturday, February 7, 2009


Back to Solsberry--this time to check out the offerings at Robin Edmundson's studio (you can find her at I met Robin in October at the Fiber Arts Festival at Corydon, just as she was closing up her booth and tucking the most beautiful yarns into boxes. She said she welcomed visitors, and so I arranged a visit for myself, Bev and Necoe, both students in last fall's sock knitting class.

Robin lives a few miles from Solsberry on a back road that was covered with packed snow and quite hilly, so we held our breath on our way in. We needn't have worried--my old Toyota clung to the road and we cruised up and down the hills and right on into Robin's driveway. We found her in her studio with her two daughters, who were spinning yarn like professionals. There were so many beautiful yarns that it was hard to focus at first, but since (as you all know by now) I am obsessed with tatting hearts, I picked out some pinks and a variegated cotton in shades of blue for a summer top (by this time the temperature was in the high 40's and we were all thinking about spring). Necoe and Bev fixated on a soft angora blend and proceeded to split what was left of it between them. Robin also makes irresistible fragrant soap, a couple of bars of which found their way into my bag. As Necoe's former sock knitting teacher, I was delighted when she chose an expensive but intriguing hank of yarn to make "watermelon socks." What with ooh-ing and aah-ing over all the great stuff, we were there about an hour before our stomachs told us it was time for lunch. A quick stop back at Ellie Mae's for more of that green apple and passionfruit soap I bought the last time, and a handwoven rag rug that I talked myself out of the last time, and we were off for heartwarming chili and grilled cheese at the cafe on highway 45.

All in all, Solsberry is getting to be a happening place, and we Lawrence County girls had a whale of a time. The thread I bought is a little finer than I'm used to tatting with, but I made a heart with it anyway. The art center door is getting too small for my collection of crocheted and tatted hearts. Good thing it's only a week until Valentine's Day.

Thursday, January 29, 2009

At long last, tatted hearts!

Boy, am I proud! Take heart (no pun intended), would-be tatters, the fog does eventually clear and you can make pretty things, too. (That message was especially for you, Angela.) Giving credit where credit is due, both patterns came from the book "From my Heart" by Betty J. Goetgeluck. They are called "January Hearts" which I find entirely appropriate, especially since it took me a good chunk of January to make them. And while I'm handing out kudos, thank you, Stephen, for lending me the book.
DH and I used the ice and snow outside as an excuse to linger a little longer over coffee yesterday morning--I took this picture after spending at least an hour perusing a book about cathedrals and another about impressionism. I wish I were a painter; I love this still life.

Sunday, January 25, 2009

Heart Decorations, Part 2

Well, I got back to work creating heart patterns in crochet, and I came up with these two.

Then I decided we needed a tatted heart to go along with all the crocheted ones, and I made one, but it's not ready for prime time yet.

I found a set of heart-shaped cookie cutters at Wal-Mart and used one of them to shape a needle-felted heart that is now hanging with the others. It looks a little like an air-conditioning filter, but I like it with the pale winter sun shining through it. Here's a picture of the view out the art center door now--it needs a few more hearts, but it's getting there.
You might notice that the purple tatted heart is no longer there. That's because it looked more like a skull than a heart. I might bring it out again for Halloween!


Wednesday, January 21, 2009

Ellie Mae's in Solsberry

I had heard that there was a new shop in Solsberry, Ellie Mae's, that had been opened by Marcy Heshelman Cook, so my mom, my aunt Bert and I set out this morning to investigate. I've known the Heshelman family since I was in high school; several of my siblings and I were members of Future Farmers of America under Gary Heshelman, and I babysat for the Heshelman kids one summer when Marcy was about five. They are a fine family and the kids never caused me any trouble. But I digress.

Ellie Mae's is in the cutest little white cottage right on Main Street in Solsberry. I wish I had taken a picture for the blog; I vowed I would but then forgot as soon as I saw the place and couldn't wait to check out the inside. If you are looking for a "Made in Indiana" gift, as I was to send to DD in France, this is the place to go. Bert bought a fab hanging oil lamp made from an old bottle and my mom picked up a jar of preserves, but I was too busy to notice which kind, because I was scooping up cranberry bread mix, scented soaps, local organic flour and the softest turquoise gloves (to match the coat I showed you in December--I have expensive leather ones but they are getting a bit ragged). There were tons of other things worthy of perusing; rag rugs, butter-soft bathrobes, cute pajamas, personalized cake pans and lids (I took the flyer and can't wait to have one made for DS), lots of jellies and jams and baking mixes and fun stuff. Check it out.

We worked up an appetite with all that shopping and chatting with Mary Alice, so our next stop was the Corner Cafe on highway 45 near that triangle where 45 meets 54. Lunch was likewise entirely satisfying; Bert and I had a beef-rich patty melt sandwich and my mom had the grilled tenderloin. We finished off with peach cobbler and ice cream and left the place feeling extremely well-fed, Indiana-style.

Before returning to the castle and the financial aid applications for DD that have been driving me so crazy, we spent a little time at Bert's admiring all her handwork. She's an accomplished stained glass artist and after seeing all her beautiful things, my mom and I are both itching to try it out ourselves. Lucky we found a teacher and have a class scheduled this spring! Bert also has a couple of new quilts nearing completion, to add to all the gorgeous ones on the beds in her house. I left the place thinking, someday, when the dust subsides, maybe my house will look that nice...

Sunday, January 18, 2009

Hearts Inspire

Hearts always make me happy; over the years I have acquired a collection of stuff-paper-cloth-stickers-ribbon-metal-wood-ect.Why, so I can make Valentine cards to send to friends. I started doing this yearly when my three daughters decided they wanted to do Valentine cards with Mommy;since then I still do it cause it is fun and I always have my eye out for blank cards on sale, stamps, glue,
lace...above all words and friends to share the fun with- you know chocolate-wine-giggles-creating!!!

Friday, January 16, 2009

Heart Decorations, Part 1

I saw a Valentine's Day decoration on that involved making hearts from two layers of waxed paper with crayon shavings in the middle--you run your iron over the waxed paper (through a regular piece of paper so the wax doesn't come off on your iron) and the colors all melt together and look really pretty, at least if you believe the picture on the website. I wanted to make some waxed paper hearts to hang on the door of our center, then I thought, "But Rowena, you can crochet some beautiful ones!" I hate it when I get like that, don't you?

So I looked for materials. The only thread I had was purple, and that didn't belong to me, but I had held onto it since the tatting class my mom and I had taken with Stephen last year, and he wasn't screaming for it, so I figured I could use it. I found that I don't own any crochet hooks small enough to crochet with the purple thread, so I decided to tat a heart instead. I found a tatted heart pattern in "A New Twist on Tatting" by Catherine Austin, and got busy. The instructions for the three motifs were easy enough to follow, but I didn't understand the instructions for the border at all, so I just made it up as I went along, and you can see the result in the picture. Not exactly a heart, but kind of pretty.

So I went to Ben Franklin in Mitchell (see previous post) and bought three balls of thread (Aunt Lydia’s, made in India)—one red, one dark pink and one light pink—and two crochet hooks. I spent about an hour looking for a suitable crocheted lace heart pattern on-line before giving up and asking my mom. Now you should know that my mother is a master crocheter who probably crocheted her way through the delivery of all nine of her children and owns every crochet pattern ever published. She couldn’t find a crochet lace heart pattern, either, but she did find an actual heart, which she donated to the cause so that I could copy it.

Well, that heart was done in microscopic thread with a hook that would be at home in a dollhouse. I copied it with my Ben Franklin thread and after the second row it was obvious that if I kept at it, I would have a tablecloth. At this point I told myself, “Just make something up!” And here’s the result. Not bad, huh? Unfortunately I didn’t write down what I did, so the red and dark pink ones will be all-new adventures.

Some Good News

There's a nice new cafe in Bedrock. Some of you may have noticed that the old BRI headquarters on 16th Street west of the square, formerly Churb's Cafe, was showing signs of life. I stopped by the Side Street Cafe yesterday and was impressed with the clean, continental look of the place--except for the absence of cigarette smoke, it felt like a cafe in France or Italy. The owner, Arlisha Charles, was very friendly and we chatted while I wolfed down biscuits and gravy, my favorite breakfast. I'm looking forward to trying it out for lunch as well, and one of the many coffee variations on the menu. Living so close by may not be good for my waistline!

I finished the last two quilt blocks last night and am undergoing a sort of withdrawal. I still have a lot of work to do on the quilt, but cutting those little 2" squares and arranging them into blocks had become my favorite pastime. Thanks to DS, whose math is better than mine, I now know exactly how many squares are in the quilt: 2,688. In anticipation of completing the top, I investigated batting and liner fabric at Ben Franklin's in Mitchell the other day and was impressed with the selection of materials available. I love Bloomington as much as anyone else, but it's great not to have to drive 20 miles to find things. The Sewing Center right here on J Street is another excellent source for quilting fabrics and tools, although they don't sell batting. I found replacement blades for my rotary cutter there and met an interesting textile artist at the same time, so that's another nice destination for a downtown walk, when the temperature rises again. (-7 degrees this morning; can you believe it?)

Saturday, January 10, 2009

A few things never to declutter

This is the time of year when I am naturally drawn to sites like and, that preach decluttering, simplifying one's life, etc. Taking down the Christmas decorations and making lists of New Year's resolutions can put a person into a cleaning, sorting, discarding frame of mind that is very useful when applied to things you really don't need or want, like old newspapers (piling up in one of the cell blocks as I write), magazines (piled in the dining room since Thanksgiving awaiting my dear brother's taking them to a doctor's waiting room that supposedly wants them), or outgrown/unwanted but still serviceable clothes (DS grew five inches last year and is picky about what he wears; there's no point leaving the stuff hanging in his closet when someone can use it).

I was interested to read recently that had received some angry mail attributed to the economic downtown. Unfortunately, none of the hostile posts made it onto the site, so I don't know what reason the writers gave, but I imagine it had something to do with the need to conserve all available resources as we go into the Great Depression Part 2. Now, even though I support the principles of decluttering in general, I started thinking about the things I have never been able to get rid of, and thinking that maybe it's not so bad to hold on to certain things that I haven't used in years. Here's my list. Add to it if you want.

1. Scraps of fabric, yarn, and trims: Self-explanatory. Creativity starts with raw materials. The best raw materials are those that don't require a trip to the store.

2. Used clothing in fabrics you love: I have a couple (okay, more than a couple) of outfits made from the most wonderful fabrics--a hand-dyed green and black silk dress with broad shoulders in the size I wore in Bonn in 1987, a tie-dyed raw silk in shades of spring green from my Djibouti years, 1996-99, and a red tartan plaid wool jumper that I wore often in Tbilisi, with bright red platform loafers, to the horror of my chic Georgian colleagues, I am sure. These will not be released to the universe; they will be recycled into something fabulous. Someday.

3. Old sheets, men's shirts, and other woven cottons: I have used all three in my quilt. Items too faded for the quilt get ripped into strips and crocheted into a round rug for DD's round bedroom (take a look at the picture). The rug is thick and heavy and will be impossible to clean, but it makes me happy just to look at it--I see DD sitting on the floor in our sewing room in Tbilisi, her slender shoulders bent over that rug with a big wooden hook, a basket of rag balls nearby. Sheets also are very helpful in protecting floors and furniture during painting, sanding, grinding and other dirty renovation activities, about which I could write a book.

4. Gifts from people I love: I know lots of declutterers will disagree with me on this, but if someone gives me something, I cherish it, especially if it is handmade. It doesn't matter if it isn't something I would have bought or made for myself; the point to me is that by having that item I have a permanent reminder of that person. I still have every outfit my mother made my kids when they were little.

5. Stuff I made in the past: Some years ago, in a fit of clearing space for the new size I had become, I gave away a beautiful pale gray cabled vest in expensive Shetland wool that I knitted while living in Mainz, Germany in 1983/84, and I still regret it. It would look so cute on DD now. Most things I kept, and I even exhibited one (my prom dress) recently. Somehow the word "heirloom" didn't resonate back then the way it does now.
6. Blue and white dishes: They look so pretty; how could I part with a single one? There was a time when I could hardly pass a piece of blue and white English ironstone in an antique store without bringing it home. When we were evacuated from Bangui, for a while it looked as if we might have lost everything, and I wasn't worried a bit about those dishes--I knew I would have a good excuse to shop for more.
The challenge in holding onto too much stuff is finding it. For our last exhibition I wanted to include a table scarf crocheted by my mother's mother, who died before I was born. I searched through box after box, every box in the house, I'm sure, and it never turned up. I'm sure I'll find it when I look for something else, though, and when I do it will be Christmas all over again.