Quilting in the Digital Age

Recently we had a double water whammy downstairs. First, the newly installed water filter for the refrigerator failed and leaked –unknown to us until I walked into the kitchen hours later and saw water puddled under the fridge.

Long story short, I discovered the problem, took the filter out and mopped up the water I could until T & H could get home and pull the fridge out and reach the rest of the water.

What we didn’t know was water had seeped down below into – *drum roll* – the quilting studio! Well, isn’t that just peachy?

Unfortunately, there was a was wet spot in the middle of the floor that we had to dry up and my first edition of Quilts, Quilts, Quilts was water-logged.

After a Shop Vac, hours of fan power and dehumidifier AND some really excellent carpet deodorizer, all was well with the world again.

Until…about three days later when T & H went downstairs and discovered the condenser on the AC had run over and we had a rather large damp area. This time one box of vintage quilting magazine was soaked.

So for about a week, I walked down quilting memory lane – one that spanned 20+ years of quilting. It was amazing – sometimes stunning to see how much and how far quilting has evolved during that time. One of the most obvious evolutions was the use of computers and the digital age in quilting.

I went through each of those soggy magazines and saved articles I thought might be useful resources. My process was to tear the pages out, lay them out on a dry towel, the iron them – yes, I said iron them, punch holes in the pages and curate them in binders.

What I ended up with was a ton of inspiration…much I which I’ll be able to convert to my digital addiction/library.

Speaking of which, I’m always on the lookout for anything quilt related for my tablet, smartphone or computer. Today as I was browsing Amazon I happened upon this Kindle edition quilt book I thought I might share with yall. The title is Cornish Hedge Patchwork Quilt Design, by Jo Colwill. What’s one of the best things about this little eBook? It’s free!

I love this digital age of ours – freebies and instant access!

A damaged stack copy

Waiting to be salvaged

waiting for rehab copy

Waiting for rehab

salvaged pages copy

Salvaged Pages

the old and the new

The Old & the New  – 1st edition and 3rd edition

© 2014 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 7: The BamaSteelMagnolia’s Diaries: My Sew – Sew Life or The Spool Block

Well, it’s a new year. It’s so very hard to believe yet another year has rolled around and I’m a year older – a year I wasn’t particularly looking forward “turning”. But, then again, there’s a lot of thing worse than the birthday I just had – like being forced to watch a marathon of Honey Boo Boo. Perish the thought…

I’m not one to make resolutions, but one thing I do want to do is move forward on my diary quilt, so I thought I’d start the new year off with a new block.

This chapter is dedicated to the spool block. Look for the piecing diagram and rotary cutting directions below. The block in a 6 inch machine pieced block. All the blocks in the quilt are 6 inches.

Spool Block

My Spool Block

I come from a long line of women who were handy with the needle. They were seamstresses if you would like to call them that.

When doing genealogy research I came upon a census from the early 1900s that had enumerated my great-grand aunt, my grandfather’s sister. In the census her occupation was enumerated as “seamstress”.

I knew Aunt Eliza made quilts, I have a couple of her quilts and an unfinished quilt top we would call “scappy”. My take away from the census discovery was Aunt Eliza was proud enough of her work to list it on a federal census record as her occupation.

Who says women couldn’t or didn’t feel empowered “back then”?

I remember my Aunt Eliza. She and my Aunt Ruth, her sister, were both forces to be reckoned with, and they both adored my daddy, their nephew. They were strong, God fearing mountain women – and, excellent role models for a young lass who was about to grow up in a brave new world. They were a bridge from my past to my future – a reminder of where I come from.

Aunt Eliza was also an example one shouldn’t become too self conscience of “body image”. She was almost as round as she was tall when she was older, but she had a spark plug personality and men loved her. I can’t tell you how many husbands she outlived.

My momma’s side of the family had their fair share of “seamstresses”, also. It was actually my great-grandmother Becky Shafer McGee who was the driving inspiration who lead me down my quilting road.

Becky was part German and part Irish or Scotch-Irish. I don’t know if there was anything she couldn’t do good. She could cook, make homemade sauerkraut – the REAL way – in a barrel in the ground, garden, she was the midwife of her county, and she raise a passel of kids who in turn had a passel of kids.

Becky made a quilt for each one of those grandkids and it was my Momma’s quilt that made me vow to myself years ago when I saw it, “I’m going to do that someday when I grow up”.

And, I did.

Becky lived to be almost 100 and sometimes I wonder if she knew what kind of an influence she was on her family.

Another strong woman giving love and empowering her family.

My maternal grandmother sewed some – mostly she did alterations in the family’s clothing business. My beloved Aunt Larue sewed and of course my Momma sewed. Somewhere I have enough Sun Bonnet Sues to start a small city and most of them are clothed with the scraps left over from dresses Mom made me or my sister when we were girls.

So, it comes down to me…

I’ll have to admit when I was a teen I didn’t know if the “sewing” thing would catch on. When I was in Junior High or middle school as they called it now, I took home ec. One section was built around sewing. It wasn’t the most inspired lesson in the world and didn’t leave me with a burning desire to become the next tailor extraordinaire.

But, it did get me familiar with sewing. Over the ensuing years I made an A-line skirt here, a vest there and so on. And then, my sewing fell into the Dark Ages of nothingness.

Finally something came along that sparked that interest again. It might have been the bicentennial in 1976. That was the year quilting saw a revival in the USA. It might have been the fact we moved next door to an older couple who would become surrogate grandparents to me – Herman and Lola Lovelady were their names.

Mrs. Lovelady lived to sew and through her gentle tutelage I began doing fun stuff like making pillows with the counted cross stitch I was creating. Lovelady had sparkly blues and she was quick in a quiet way. She had you doing things before you knew what hit you. She was a refugee of human kindness and encouragement. Everyone should have a Lovelady in their life.

By 1986 I took the plunge and made my first quilt. Ever since, quilting has been in my life. Some times it’s been quiet, sometimes its been eventful, other times it’s been crazy. I’ve been a quilt show judge, started a quilt guild, published a guild newsletter, sat on the board of a state at-large guild, won ribbons, taught quilting, taught my ex-husband to quilt and taught my current husband to quilt – which I have to say has been one of my biggest joys. This is a man who started college as an art major before switching majors and he needed an artistic outlet.

Quilting has given me comfort, entertainment, challenge and fulfillment. I have branched out and tried other things – using my serger for table linens, something I would have never done if I’d never quilted. Quilting has meant a lot of things to me – it is part of who I am, maybe even my DNA which shouldn’t be surprising given the women in  my life.

So, I guess you could say quilting has given me a sew – sew life in the very best of ways – and the spool block represents that in my diary quilt.

spool block piecing diagram

Piecing Diagram for 6” Spool Block


Rotary Cutting Diagram for spool block

Rotary Cutting Directions for 6” Spool Block – 1/4” seam allowance is included

© 2014 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.


Men and Astronauts in Quilting, Oh My, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The other day I wrote a piece about men in quilting over at HubPages. I was mostly writing about my experience in teaching my ex-husband and current husband how to quilt.

But, in doing the article I came upon some neat information like:

  • The CFO of Accuquilt is a Harley riding he man who quilts – and loves his Accuquilt GO!. Video is provided in the article.
  • And, recently Astronaut Karen Nyberg made a quilt block while on the space station. The block will be in a quilt exhibited at the International Quilt Market in Houston and will have blocks made by earth bound quilters like you and me. Now, that’s high – tech quilting! There’s also a video provided in my article of Ms Nyberg in space discussing the “perils” of space quilting.

I also write about what actually drove me to teach both guys to quilt (yes, there is some humor involved), but, there’s many benefits, too. Equal opportunity quilting ;-)

And, I refer to how Tall & Handsome and I used EQ7 to make South by Southwest when he began quilting.

South by Southwest

South by Southwest – EQ7 image

There’s a lot of goodies packed into the article, so if you have a chance, check out The Benefits of Teaching Men How to Quilt.

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch

Regrouping for the Diary Quilt in 2014, by Beverly Hicks Burch

I’ve been writing about the diary quilt I started some time ago. I’ve name it The BamaSteelMagnolia’s Diares.

The concept is based on a book called A Quilter’s Diary: Written in Stitches Master Quilter Mimi Dietrich wrote a few years ago. I was mesmerized be the idea and decided to make a combined written and textile art project out of it. I would make a block and then write a chapter in the diary/book and explain why the block was important. That way I was killing several birds with the proverbial stone – block, check; diary quilt, check; write book about life every one says you need to write, check.

Now, I will admit it’s been a while since I’ve written a new chapter. I’ve made some blocks, but life has been a little hectic with illness, moving, class and a bunch of other junk –that probably will work its way into the the diary quilt.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but a goal I would like to accomplish in 2014 is to move forward on this project and make strides in the progress of the quilt.

You’ll be able to catch back chapters and the introduction here at Around the Block.

I’ve written about the project over at HubPages and given the link there to the blog post that contains all the links to the chapters and introduction.

To give you a small taste of what’s in the quilt, here’s a picture of the block in the first chapter Happy Birthday to Me – the Cupcake Block.


The Cupcake Block

Is a diary quilt is your future? Take a look at my HubPage article. I was able to find a video of Mimi talking about her quilts and in the video she shows her diary quilt and explains the meaning. It was exciting to hear her talk about it. Catch up on the past chapters of mine here at Around the Block and who knows – you just might get the bug in 2014, too.

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

The Quilt Room Update, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Over the last few months Tall & Handsome and I have been making some changes to the quilt room. The other day I was inspired by a post on organizing your space, so I thought I’d share our latest adventures in organization.

quilt studio B

The room is long (18+’) and has two doorways. This is the view from one door.

quilt studio E

View from the other door. You can see in front of the Hoosier cabinet T & H’s new pride and joy. That’s an “ironing table” not an ironing board. He wanted it for his birthday, and I have to admit, it’s nice. There’s so much surface!

quilt studio F

Our cutting table. We like this because it’s portable and we can move it out of the way when we set up the basting frames. The legs are also adjustable.

quilt studio G

Sewing machine row – well, one sewing machine and one serger. And, a better look at T & H’s ironing table. The bed to rest the iron in when not in use is a great idea and T & H added the cord manager – another fantastic idea. No more cord dragging over the fabric and getting in the way when we iron. It really is awesome when you share the same hobby with your gadget loving husband.

quilt studio H

The other sewing machine, design wall, and Sweet 16. Baby Girl wanted to make her debut in the quilt room, but, she didn’t have time to pose, thus the gray blur in the bottom center of the picture. T & H loves the Sweet 16 and is getting pretty good at it. I’m not surprised because he started college as an art major and has a lot of sketching under his belt. That comes in handy with free motion quilting.

quilt studio A

The Sweet 16, T & H’s pride and joy. He also loves the purple fabric grippers you can see on the table. They help maneuver the quilt as you free motion quilt. Also, please, get a good comfortable chair when you sit down to free motion quilt or sew. We plan on eventually getting another chair for the sewing machine station.

I’m sure over time the room will change again. I’ve learned that organizing can be an ever changing process. It’s usually spurred by a better idea or imagination.

For now, we’re happy and enjoying it…

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

Land of Enchantment, by Beverly Hicks Burch

It has been way too long since I have posted anything here at Around the Block. I do sincerely apologize. Life just sometimes has a way of inserting itself with rather nasty and inconvenient events that seem to engulf you at times.

But, regardless, even during those times – maybe I should say in spite of those times, I always try to find time to devote to quilting. It is during those times when quilting seems to soothe, comfort and normalize my life. It has now been over a year since a treasure family member passed away, and many times when I’m working I sit and think of the goods time we had.

Let’s talk about today’s project!

First the name. It’s a clue as to the theme of the quilt. Once again I’m working in the color palette southwest. Land of Enchantment is the state logo of New Mexico, the home state of my Tall & Handsome, so yet another quilt influence by him. He certainly is my muse many times.

The emblem on the state flag of New Mexico is called a zia and I have wanted to make a quilt with a zia for some time. The block I will show you today will translate nicely into a zia.

The colors: The gold represents the southwestern sun and the blue represents the ever present turquoise found so predominately in southwestern jewelry. The small bit of black found in the border fabric represents the small bit of black found marbled in turquoise.

The border design is yet to come and I’ll share that in a later post.

Land of Enchantment block

Individual Block for Land of Enchantment

Screen shot land of enchantment pull apart with text

Cutting and Piecing directions for Land of Enchantment block

1. Cut 2 A’s 10 1/2 ins. x 2 1/2 ins. – one blue and one gold

2. Cut 1 B 12 1/2 ins. x 2 1/2 ins. – one gold

3. Cut 2 C’s 8 1/2 ins. by 2 1/2 ins. – one blue and one gold

4. Cut 2 D’s 6 1/2 ins x 2 1/2 ins. – one blue and one gold

5. Cut 1 E 4 1/2 ins. x 2 1/2 ins. – one blue

6. Cut 8 squares 2 7/8 ins. x 2 7/8 ins. – 4 white and 4 gold and cut in half to form triangles to make pinwheels.

Land of Enchantment B

Building a zia

Land of Enchantment border fabric

Border fabric

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

Quilts at Arlington House in Birmingham, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Last week I had the pleasure of going on an outing with my mom and one of our dearest friends, Betty Wittmeier. Mom has been really sick lately, so the chance for her to get out for a pleasure excursion was really great. Betty and I like to sneak off whenever we can and get into what ever trouble we can Smile

A few weeks ago Betty alerted me to the fact there was a special quilt exhibit at the Arlington House here in the Birmingham area. The quilt exhibit is running at Arlington until the end of August and if you go on Thursday like we did you can make a reservation for the luncheon served at 12 noon and at 1:00 PM.

The yummy menu for our luncheon was a marinated vegetable salad, seared beef tenderloin over hoe cakes, braised cabbage and choice of Oreo cheesecake or vanilla ice cream with praline sauce. Can you guess which one I picked? A hint? Well, I’m Southern and it was hot as Hades outside! Yes, nice cold yummy vanilla ice cream and that heavenly praline sauce. Chef Jason was gracious and came out and visited each table as the luncheon was winding down.

Arlington House is the only Antebellum house in the Birmingham area and is now part of the Birmingham Museum system. The house was built before the Civil War (1845 – 1850) by Judge William S. Mudd one of the founding fathers of the Birmingham area. At the time of its building the area was called Elyton. Arlington House is all that is left of that area now because Birmingham grew up around Elyton and absorbed it as part of Birmingham.

Arlington itself has a colorful history including a period of occupation by Union troops who used it as a headquarters as they made plans to burn the University of Alabama (oh, no they didn’t, but oh, yes they did!). Union General James Wilson entered the Elyton area and met Judge Mudd at his home in the Mudd Sitting Room. Since they were both Masons, Gen. Wilson spared Arlington, but using it for quarters, his troops did destroy Confederate barracks at the University in Tuscaloosa and in nearby Irondale, Tannehill and the Selma furnaces.

After the war Judge Mudd sold the house in 1884 to Henry F. DeBardeleben for $10,000, but the new owner never lived in the house choosing instead to live near the iron furnace he owned in West Birmingham. He sold the house two years later to Franklin H Whitney for $36,000. Whitney, a former Union soldier who never lived in the house used it as a boarding house. Whitney then sold the house in 1902 for about $12,ooo to Continental Gin president Robert S Munger who took the run down home and repaired and updated it.

The home is furnished with wonderful, beautiful period furniture and antiques. It’s two stories with four large bedrooms upstairs. The day we visited it was stifling hot with a heat index close to 100 degrees. It was a reminder that back in the “good old days” there was no such thing as air conditioning! There were lovely Birmingham Belles serving as hostesses and I couldn’t help but feel for them in their beautiful hoop skirted dresses. I was dressed in jeans, lightweight summer top and fashionable sandals…and I was drenched to the bone. I can only imagine had I lived in the era of Scarlett, I might have been a rebel of a different kind…

Even with the heat, the house was packed with visitors and our luncheon was sold out. Everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves…that is except for some visitors from up North who went from room to room and very loudly and pointedly in  Northern accent made sure everyone else knew…”this is all just fiction…it never happened…” I’m sure Judge Mudd would be quite relieved to know those Yankee soldiers never commandeered his home and wrecked havoc on the area. It was kind of like that dream Pam Ewing had, don’t you know? Oh, yeah and the house those “informed” visitors from up North was standing in…it was just a figment of your imagination…

Well, one thing is for certain…the quilts are very real, so lets take a look at some of them…I made a really big boo boo and forgot to load up my SD card in my camera so I wasn’t able to get as many pictures as I would have liked…

Traditional Log cabin at Arlington

This is a traditional log cabin quilt set in the Barn Raising design. It is seen in the Mudd Sitting Room where Union General Wilson didn’t took over the Arlington House.

Pineapple Log Cabin at Arlington

Here we see another type of log cabin quilt. This setting is call the Pineapple Log Cabin. This piece is made with silk, velvet and embellished with embroidery feather stitching. The quilt doesn’t have batting. It would almost qualify as a “crazy quilt”. It’s also on display in the Mudd Sitting Room.

Soke quilts at Arlington

You may be unable to see the date on these quilts, but they date from the 1930s…about 1936. The pattern is called “Spokes” and it’s a type of album block/quilt. Album quilts are usually made up of blocks that are signed and dated by the makers. These types of quilts were used for fundraisers and people would pay a nickel or dime for their block and their spot in the quilt. Album quilts were also used for commemorative occasions. The quilts see here are displayed in the dining room.

Lone Star at Arlington

This was probably my favorite quilt. A large Lone Star with exquisite workmanship. With a closer look you can see the narrow stripe border, something you don’t normally associated from this time period. The stripe border fabric was imported from India and was a rarity for it’s time. The colors, the piecing, the hand quilting, the unexpected corner checked blocks…everything about this quilt is pure delight. It is truly a work of art.

Sewing Machine at Arlington

And, we’ll end our tour with a delightful discovery! Can you guess what this is? Yes, it is an early sewing machine! Look closely at the very bottom and you can see the pedals. There are two shaped like the bottom of shoes. There has long been a misconception our ancestors hand pieced and sewed everything. Wrong!!

Several years ago I did research on that very topic and was surprised myself to learn that just like us, our ancestors were glad to find tools of efficiency and economy. Just because they lived generations ago, doesn’t mean our ancestors were stupid! They weren’t that different from us in many ways.Our grandmothers had a lot on their list of “household chores” to do and if they could find anything that gave them a few more minutes of time, or a better way of doing something, they were open to it. It was the evolution of life from the pre-industrial era to the modern era where people began to have what is known as leisure time. Without that evolution many of us today would be minus many of our hobbies and would be chained to tedious tasks.

The other surprise was the discovery of machine piecing on antique Amish quilts that were on exhibit in a museum. Of course the machines used by Amish were human peddle powered since the Amish avoid use of electricity.

Another factor that played into our ancestors use of sewing machines to makes their quilts was the “status” factor. You see if you could afford to own a sewing machine there was a certain cache in that and you wanted to be able to show that off. Hence the growing use of sewing machines in quilting. (Look at sewing machines as the iPhones, iPads or tablets of their day and then asked yourself: “Would I deny myself the use of these tools and just use a rotary dial phone because that’s what my grandmother used?”)

Somewhere down the line the fable that all good worthy quilts are totally hand made came into being. Many times I found it was held more by uneducated non-quilters than by quilters. But, when I started quilting in 1986 I will admit there were still many quilters who hand pieced and they tended to look down on quilters who machine pieced. That gradually began to change and I personally saw the change accelerate after a machine pieced and machine quilted quilt won Best of Show at the AQS show in Paducah, KY. Now, that conversion seems upside down and the majority seems to be everything is done mostly by machine. Myself? Well, I am almost a dinosaur because I machine piece, hand applique and hand quilt although I will say there is a growing interest in my house towards machine quilting…especially since Tall & Handsome has taken up quilting.

So, if you use a machine for any part of your quilting, you really do have great-granny and her new fangled contraption like the one above to thank!

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

Nautical Flags at Harbour Town Pier–Great Ideas for Quilt Blocks, by Beverly Hicks Burch

under the lighthouse

Today’s blog is to share an inspiration that has been rekindled by a recent trip Tall & Handsome and I took a few days ago…

I love nautical flags. For years I have sworn I would make a quilt using the designs from nautical flags. They’re so bright and cheerful and happy. I think it’s the primary colors that give them away…

As a matter of fact, if you are a quilter as well as a traveler and photographer, here is a website of the Alphabet in Nautical Flags. Most quilters will be able to pretty easily convert the flags into quilt blocks. I would recommend the rotary cutting method and maybe use EQ7 to design them.

The link to the website above gives you 26 flags each corresponding to a letter in the alphabet. I’m sure with EQ7 you could draft them to any size you desired and then get either rotary cutting directions or print out paper foundation piecing directions. I’m a rotary gal myself…

When my son was young, I planned on making a wall hanging using nautical flags that spelled his name out. I just never got around to doing it, although I did make him a sailboat quilt. Now that he’s grown and gone, I’ll have to find new inspiration to use these wonderful colorful flags…

Jared's Boat Race & the USAF

Jared’s Boat Race – taken before def digital photography – but you get the idea…

These flags lined the pier beneath or in front of the Harbour Town Lighthouse on Hilton Head Island, SC. It was a glorious sunny day and wonderful colors abound…

A dream for a photographer and textile artist…

If you do become inspired by these wonderful little flags and dream up a quilt, I’d love to see the results. Let’s us see what you’ve created! Feel free to come back and post your results!

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

C’est Fini!! by Beverly Hicks Burch

When I first started hand quilting I hated it. It was laborious and I felt it took forever. I also, didn’t believe I was very good at it. So, I made a lot of tops. No, really a whole lot of tops…drawers full…

But, the inevitable had to come. To call my self a quilter, I had to quilt. Take into consideration I started quilting in 1986 before the current machine quilting firestorm took hold in the quilting world. As a matter of fact, when I first started quilting, machine quilting was frowned upon and considered “inferior”…something “real quilters” turned their noses up at. (More on that later.)

Also, I am a tenacious creature.Tall & Handsome says I have a knack for minutia. For example, I am a genealogist and when he watches me go through census records, he says he’d gnaw his arm off if he had to do that. I, on the other hand love the search…and discovery!

It would stand to reason at some point I would discover I truly love quilting. It began to develop when I realized the more I did it the better I became at it and the better I became, the more I liked it…it was kind of like a dog chasing its tail.

Then the cincher for me was when I entered my first local quilt show. This was a highly respected, well known and well attended show. I would have been thrilled with an honorable mention on one quilt. My chin had to be tied up like old Joseph Marley’s to keep it from dragging the floor when I went to the show the last day and I discovered every quilt I entered had won a ribbon, including several first place ribbons and a Best of Show.

A quilting lover (and maybe an addict) was born that day…

After founding and serving as President of the Heart of Dixie Quilt Guild, I developed an inclusive attitude about hand and machine quilting. This developed over time from attending regional and national quilt shows. When the first machine quilted quilt won Best of Show at the AQS show in Paducah, I knew we were in for some radical changes.

My feeling is this: Both quilts…hand quilted and machine quilted should be entered into quilt shows and appreciated, but should not compete against each other. They should be in separate categories and judged in their respective categories.

But, I digress…

Another thing I have discovered over time is…how quickly I am able to hand quilt a quilt!

With that said…C’est fini! Oui, Looking Through Grandmother’s Garden Window is finished…and hung. (Block designs are from Piece O’Cake Designs.) It took me way less than six months…way less…to hand quilt, add a rod pocket and apply binding to the top. A note here: Once I finish a quilt, I run it through the extra delicate cycle in the wash just to make sure any impurities and oils from the hands are removed. I then dry it. The end result is usually a quilt that looks antique.

I have been pleased with the results. I quilted in the ditch around the sashing to create and imply the panes of windows. Each block is quilted basically the same: the design is outline quilted to emphasize the design and the the background is quilted in diagonal lines spaced 1” apart. The diagonal lines represent sun rays coming in the windows.

Since 1986 I have developed chronic health issues…I had a second bout of non-smoking lung cancer in 1995 and lost 60% of my left lung. I’ve developed autoimmune disorders including but not limited to Sjogren’s Syndrome, fibromyalgia and osteoarthritis. Last year I was diagnosed with an aneurysm in my heart. Why do I tell you this? Two reasons…

First, I was always compliments on my very small stitches. People would ask if I had done them on a machine…they were that small. Now, because of the arthritis and other illness, my stitches may not be that small, but they’re not too shabby!

Second, if you too deal with chronic health issues…don’t give up!! Yes, it does hurt to quilt! Some days I just cannot do it and I confess to having to take pain medication…something I never had to do…not even 5 or 10 years ago. But, they say if you don’t use, you loose. So, for as long as I can, I’m going to keep using…

Besides…I still have those drawers full of tops that need quilting and I keep making more…

looking thru granmother's flower garden - finished B

Looking Through Grandmother’s Garden Window

looking thru grandmother's - block 5

Looking Through Grandmother’s Garden Window – block detail

looking thru grandmother's - border detail

Border Detail

looking thru grandmother's - quilting detail

Quilting Detail – my stitches now…

looking thru grandmother's - quilted backing

The quilted backing

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 6–“Till Death Do Us Part…Well, Maybe” or The Wedding Ring Block, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 6 – “Till Death Do Us Part…Well, Maybe” or The Wedding Ring Block

And the two shall become one flesh; so they are no longer two, but one flesh. Mark 10:8 NASB

Wedding Ring block

I started this chapter in February some time ago and it seemed a fitting month to start writing the latest chapter of The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries. The block for this chapter is called Wedding Ring. It is a single wedding ring and not the double wedding ring we know so well. The block is a simple 6 inch pieced block and it represents the fact that I don’t know many in life who have not been affected by a marriage in some way or another…including me.

Being a genealogist I can see how all the “begats” or unions/marriages in our ancestry make us who we are. When you stop and think about the numbers in the equation of “you” it becomes pretty staggering.

For instance, for each generation you go back the number doubles to how many sets of ancestors, or marriages if you will, it took to trickle down to create the final individual you. Look at it this way…you are the starting point on the road backwards into time and your ancestry. Take those sets and multiply them by two and you have how many people it took to create the one special individual called you.

It works this way; you had two parents, four grandparents, eight great-grandparents, 16 great-great-grandparents, 32 great-great-great-grandparents, 64 great-great-great-great-grandparents and 128 great-great-great-great-great-grandparents and so on. As mind boggling as 128 may seem, your heritage and ancestry doesn’t stop there and it continues to double for each generation back. There are so many life lessons just in the formula of who you are and how you were made, but that is for another story. One missing link in that chain and you would not have been you…as a matter of fact you probably wouldn’t have been, well, here on Earth at all.

I would ask you to reflect on the marriages in your life, including your own that have affected you and what they mean to you. I’m sure everyone has different recollections and feelings and experiences.

The most immediate marriage that has affected me all of my life and is actually responsible for me even being here is of course the marriage of my parents. My parents have something that is rare to find in this day and age. That’s a long lasting marriage. For you see, on Feb. 28, 2012 they celebrated 59 years of marriage.

Oakley Hicks and Juanita McGee Early 1950's

Daddy and Momma early 1950s

Momma and Daddy were high school sweethearts. They were 15 and 16 when they met at a church function being conducted by my Momma’s daddy. Yes, Mom was a PK…a Preacher’s Kid. She was the shy quite one with big brown “doe eyes” as Daddy calls them. Momma and Daddy were a couple all through high school, for four years, so for all practical purposes you could say they’ve been together for 63 years and that is the biggest portion of their life. When they laid eyes on each other, there was no one else as far as they were concerned…that was it.

Daddy started the University of Tennessee with intentions on becoming a mechanical engineer. But, Momma and Daddy also had secret plans…yes, in their own quiet non-conforming conforming way they were rebels with a cause. They had plans to get married and I don’t mean a big church wedding with the wedding party, flowers, music and weeping mother of the bride (and in this case weeping mother of the groom, too). Nope, no way, no how. Momma and Daddy were going to make Hicks history…or at least stuff that would go down in family history. For you see, the shy lovely quite preacher’s daughter and the tall good looking guy from the foothills of the Smokies eloped…all the way to Ringgold, GA!

Now, the plan was to get hitched and drive back home. Mom would go back and keep quiet and live at home and Daddy would go back home and live with his parents and continue going to college. The slight hiccup in their little plan happened when Mom told her next oldest sister, Korinne, what she had done and swore her to secrecy…which of course was the very last thing that actually happened. Before you knew it the cat was out of the bag, the cow was out of the barn and the camel’s nose was under the tent or in other words, it was like telling Western Union and everyone found out. As Ricky use to say to Lucy, “There was some `splaining to do.”

Well, of course everyone knows you can’t keep true love apart very long anyway and by the time the parents (my grandparents) had time to wrap their heads around the events Momma let it be known in no uncertain terms she was living where Daddy was. And that was that.

Everything went along pretty good in newlywed life until about three months later. At that time Mom came down with a raging case of flu. Made her sick as a dog. She just could not get well. That was the “Beverly” flu. Yep, eleven months after they married I was born…and Mom’s flu was cured.

Cominghome Day 1-7-1954

Daddy, Momma and Bev – Coming home day

I was an only child for about three and a half years. During that time we moved for a brief time to Texas where Daddy worked as an engineer in the aircraft industry for Chance-Vought Aircraft. I celebrated my second birthday in Fort Worth, Texas which has always left me with a soft spot for Texas and branded me Daddy’s “little Texas girl”. And, as I have always said, some of the most famous and infamous Texans were Tennesseans.

“Oh, really?!” I know you Texans are saying… yep. For instance: remember Davy Crockett…♪born on a mountain top in Tennessee…♪ and also famous for the Alamo. Then there’s Benjamin and Henry McCulloch who both fought in the Texas Revolution and became Texas Rangers; Mack Brown head coach at the University of Texas and oh, yeah some fellow named Sam Houston. I think you might have heard of him, too. Sam’s time in Tennessee included time as a governor of that great state and time spent teaching in the town of my birth…a long time before I was born or course Smile

Being the true East Tennessee mountain boy that Daddy is, the Plains of Texas didn’t do much to lift the Tennessee boy’s spirits and heart. In other words, he got sorely and mightily homesick, especially when those Nor’easters barreled into the Plains faster than a New York minute without any warning. It wasn’t too long before we were packed up and headed back to the lush green climes of Tennessee.

Over the next eight or nine years Momma had two more cases of “flu”. And, two more baby girls followed those cases of “flu”. Pamella was next in line, followed by Yvonne. For a little Hicks trivia here: Mom named her girls Faith, Hope and Charity…in that order. I always teased her and said if we had been born boys we would have been named Matthew, Mark, Luke and John…

Momma and Daddy’s marriage has mirrored life in general…a road with ups and downs and bumps in the road. Almost every young couple starts out with the bare necessities and grows from there. Daddy was smart and savvy and his engineer career grew. We also moved several times following that career. We landed in Birmingham, AL (for the second and final time I might add) when I was 12 years old and the rest of that is history. That is why I proudly say, ♪…my home is in Alabama…♪ and one of my ringtones on my cell is Sweet Home Alabama…

My baby sister Yvonne, really Charity Yvonne, was born in Greeneville, TN when I was in the third grade. Mom’s delivery with her was fast. Like greased lightening…about 20 minutes. She barely had time to step off the elevator at the hospital before Yvon was born. When Momma & Daddy brought the baby home, they brought home another beautiful baby girl (Momma and Daddy had the reputation of popping out beautiful baby girls with long dark eyelashes and heads of thick dark hair. The nurses in the baby nurseries used us as baby dolls and hated to send us home. Back in those days they had about seven days to get attached to a baby before it went home.)

It seems like from the recollection of my child’s mind that it wasn’t too long after she was born that Yvon seemed to get sick and stay sick. So sick in fact that Mom had to take her all the way to Chattanooga for medical care and stay with family that lived down there. Papaw and Mamaw came to Greeneville to help Daddy take care of Pam and me.

I remember it as a tumultuous time. Yvonnie was sick. We didn’t quite know what was wrong and in the world at large, the Cuban missile was going on.

Over time Yvonne was diagnosed with cerebral palsy and for the last 50 years has lived at home. Do you know what the statistics are for marriages surviving for couples who have disabled children? They’re not very good. The divorce rate is very high and it’s usually the husband who takes his walking papers and goes on to create another worry-free life for himself.

It is a testament to my Daddy’s character that he is right where is started out 59 years ago, disabled child and all, and that is with my Momma and our family. As a matter of fact Daddy is pretty much the rock of the family and the three of us girls are Daddy’s girls. It is also like having a Jewish momma having him around, which is our way of saying he worries over us like a Jewish mom would…he just never learned to cook that chicken soup. Daddy’s remedy is to always take it to prayer…

I heard some place one time that marriage is a marathon not a sprint. My parents’ marriage would certainly qualify for the marathon…

Unfortunately, the first time around, I married a sprinter…

There is a lot I could write about my first marriage. My child is the issue of that marriage. And, sometimes I feel really badly because I feel I provided a poor example…a sprinter if you will as a role model for my child. I do not adhere to the current feel-good philosophy that divorce does not affect children. It does…no matter what their age. I think our society today reflects the side effects and ravages of decades of divorce. On the other hand I also believe that some parents can be toxic and I do not adhere to the theory that having a toxic parent around is better than having no parent around.

But, with that said, there are just times when divorce is unavoidable. Marrying that “marriage sprinter” is certainly one instance. Infidelity usually ends a marriage fairly fast or ends the chance for that marriage marathon partner. Another unavoidable instance is when you marry the type of person who ends up creating the “tragic love” scenario or as I wrote about a few years ago, the type of guy (or gal) that causes love to hurt.

If that is the case, I would beseech you to go back and read a blog I wrote a few years ago that addresses just that subject. Called When Love Hurts I address the rash of tragic stories in which women have chosen to stay and in the end unfortunately paid dearly for that relationship…sometimes with their lives.

The most recent example would be Susan Powell and her precious boys. Susan disappeared one cold December day in 2009 while her husband supposedly had taken their two very young sons camping in a blizzard. On Feb. 5th of this year her husband blew up himself and those two precious boys as the police drew closer to lowering the hammer on him and his pedophile father. The coward and those poor children died in a burning inferno that should have never happened.

My love hurt story wasn’t like that, but it was traumatic just the same. Had I just opened my eyes and looked at the warning signs early on I could have saved myself sorrow and devastation years later. After 27 years of marriage my ex walked out because he was unfaithful. The summer he left I read my diary from the summer we started dating and as I did it was a real eye opener…he was the same back then…had cheated then and had not changed in 27 years. Leopards as they say do not change their spots. I just could not love him enough for him to change.

Bev & Momma on the Regrettable Day Nov. 1974

Bev & Mom – me as a young bride not paying attention to warning signs

And, unfortunately staying in a bad relationship hoping to make it functional only teaches children dysfunction. What did Susan Powell’s children learn in the end by her hanging on to a bad marriage? It cost her kids their lives. What a tragic shame… There is a saying…”The sins of a father (parent) are visited upon the children…” In other word the kids will learn from the father…from the parents. And, if you close your eyes to alcoholism, addiction, incest, abuse, violence and plunge ahead into that and choose that as a family center for your children…it will trickle down to them and affect them in one way or the other

For me realizing I could not love the ex enough to change who the core of him was, it was, well, the beginning of a new future, hope and moving forward…

So, even though I was scared to death when Gomez the Underwhelming abandoned me I began to have hope. Yes, I was disabled. Yes, he had wiped out the bank accounts. Yes, I had not worked outside the home full time in over 21 year. Yes, at one point he left me without health insurance. Yes, he assaulted me before he left and injured my back. Yes, I had hoped with everything in me that that he would have a change of heart and come home and things would go back to normal.

But, to have normal and a marriage that’s going in the same direction, you have to have two people who want the same thing. Without that, it’s just not going to happen and the only resulting by-product is going to be pain, sorrow, poor health, a bad example for the kids and low self esteem.

In the end the veil was lifted from my eyes and I was able to see there just might be someone out there who not only would help heal my broken heart, but became my marathon runner.

As the Rascal Flats song goes…God blessed the broken road that lead me straight to you…and that you is my Tall & Handsome…my southwestern cowboy.

Our story is unconventional at best. A sign of the times and a sign of what happens when a geek (me) comes into her geekdom and starts to revel in her life and gain self esteem once again. And a lonely, broken hearted southwestern cowboy who had given up on the hope of a loving nurturing relationship begins to hope again. You see we met playing an online MMORPG game. We emailed, talked and instant messaged for almost a year before we met face to face.

When I first laid eyes on my Tall & Handsome he was walking out of the Birmingham Airport. He had on tight blue jeans, a Western cut jacket and a Stetson. I got out of the Lead Sled (what I “affectionately” called my Park Avenue) and walked towards him. He walked toward me, smiled and said, “Hello, darling” and then kissed me under that cowboy hat in front of the Birmingham airport.

I felt 18 again! Wow! It was like living in a movie…a real chick flick. He really had me at “Hello, darling” and that kiss.

The kiss 12-30-03

The Kiss – my favorite of our wedding pictures

I have also learned words are cheap, but actions speak volumes and they do so loudly! Some of Gomez’ parting words were (referring to my illnesses and disabilities), “I didn’t want to take care of you, I hated taking care of you, but I did. So, there!”God help him when his karma comes rolling around.

I have never wanted to be a burden…to anyone. So, I was very up front from the beginning with T & H about the status of my health. The man did not tuck tail and run. He called me his wounded dove…

He knew I saw in him a heart that was larger than large…and he appreciated that.

I never felt secured and truly loved with a man I was married to for 27 years. I never felt “good enough”. I poured myself into him, body and soul. But my self confidence and self esteem was non-existent. There were episodes of suspect cheating from the beginning. He had developed hepatitis before we were married five years and I was so naïve back then I didn’t realize how hepatitis is contracted. Deep down inside though I knew something wasn’t right…

By the time T & H and I married, I felt loved, appreciated, confident and secure. I had found my muse. I wanted to create again. That is a huge gift any man can give to the woman he loves. My T & H does it effortlessly…

It has been the little things that some people would never notice. The time I lay dying in the back of an ambulance in Knoxville, TN my feet were bare. T & H dashed quickly into the house and grabbed a pair of sock and gently put them on my feet before the ambulance doors were closed. At the hospital ER, he refused to be separated from me and was by my side until I stabilized and was released.

When we moved from Alabama to Tennessee I was so sick I had to go through the ER first. When we got to Knoxville I was exhausted and slept quite a bit. I woke up one weekend afternoon to discover T & H had set up the deck furniture like a side walk café, bought flowers and grilled a luscious dinner. All I had to do was eat and enjoy him and the outdoors.

Another time when I was deathly sick and my stomach would hold absolutely nothing down, he cut up corn tortillas and made home-made lime-pepper tortillas chips and they were the only thing I could eat and not get sick.

Life may try to batter us, but we fight back together as a team.

We’ve taken care of a couple of bucket list items together. But, our greatest strength is being there for each other, understanding each other and appreciating each other. I love to see life through my T & H’s eyes. It is seeing life anew sometimes.

In the end, my greatest regret…our greatest regret? That we won’t have more years together and didn’t meet years earlier. If only fate had intervened when we were young…how many times have we had that conversation?

But, in the end, it is what it is…as much as we both hate that saying. We are thankful for what we have and for finding each other. It would have been awful to have never found each other. Neither of us can imagine a life without the other. I cannot imagine a day without his voice and his blue eyes and his sense of humor.

My Tall & Handsome and me at the Survivors Dinner in Savannah, GA (2011) celebrating 29 years cancer free non-smoking lung cancer (right lung) and 16 years cancer free non-smoking lung cancer (left lung)

And, in the end we resolve…`til death do us part…with the wedding ring block…

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

*The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries is a writing and textile art project I started a few years ago. It’s based on a concept started by Mimi Dietrich and a book she wrote about diary quilts. I was so inspired by the book I started my own and decided to accompany each block with a chapter. Everyone has always said, “Bev, you need to write a book!” Well, here it is…at least part of it!”

If you’re interested in catching up, here are the beginning installments:

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries Begin

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 1 – Cupcake Block or Happy Birthday to Me

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 2: Southern Belle and Yankee Puzzle or A House Divide Will Fall…

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 3 – Compass or Where in the World is Bev?

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 4 – Paw Print or To All the Dogs I’ve Loved Before

The BamaSteelMagnolia™ Diaries: Chapter 5 – How Green is My Thumb? or Grandmother’s Flower Garden Block