Chapter 8 The BamaSteelMagnolia’s Diaries: Nobody Climbs Mountains for Scientific Reasons or Delectable Mountain

It’s been almost two years since I wrote my last chapter in The BamaSteelMagnolia’s Diaries. To say the least, during that time Tall & Handsome and I have seen our fair share of mountains and valleys. To borrow from Sir Edmund Hillary, “Nobody climbs mountains for scientific reasons.”

I can assure you T & H and I haven’t been on a long science project and we sure haven’t been on the giant whirly-gig of fun grabbing brass ring after brass ring. No, in fact, a time or two we’ve felt like Atlas, but instead of shouldering the universe on our back, we’ve been pushing it up Mount Everest with a teaspoon.

But, it got better, I promise – and I plan on it continuing in that direction.

In a nutshell in 2014 within five month T & H had an accident at work and broke his leg at his ankle. I had a car accident (no health insurance) and the vehicle was totaled and T & H had triple bypass surgery. He went from being a man who had always been as healthy as an ox to a man who missed death by a hair when we discovered his widow maker artery was blocked 100% and two others were blocked 95% and 97%. He was a dead man walking. There’s like a cholesterol problem in his family – RIGHT?! There was definitely Divine Intervention working in his favor during that time. I developed serious shoulder problems and bad plantar fasciitis.  In the era of mobility I became frustratingly immobile.

Yep, mountains…and mountains…and mountains, oh, yeah and more mountains…

I’ve never seen mountains as obstacles. In fact, I’m a mountain (and cooler weather) person verses beach person any day of the week, any time of the year. Being in the mountains make my heart sing and my spirits soar. I’ve always attributed my love of the mountains to the fact I was born in the foothills of the Smoky Mountains in East Tennessee. Yep, I’m a mountain girl from good strong, and sometime stubborn mountain stock. And, I take pride in that.


My Daddy was born in Townsend – the quiet side of the Smokies. And, that’s saying a lot, because the Smoky Mountains of my childhood aren’t the Smoky Mountains of today.

For instance, take Gatlinburg. T & H recently showed me a very 1950s-ish looking picture. It looked like a scene that had just jumped out of an old 1950s black and white TV set – only someone had added color.

I took one look at it and said, “That’s Gatlinburg! That’s the Gatlinburg of my childhood!” Remember, my T & H is a native New Mexican so that’s why I was being a little emphatic.

Here is a similar picture to the one he showed me. (I would love it if the photographer would contact me so I could get more details and add an attribution to the photo.)

Gatlinburg of the 1950s

This is what Gatlinburg looked like when I was a child. There was no Titanic floating downtown, no Rebel’s corner, no neon light – nothing to make it look like a misplaced Las Vegas hiding out next to a UN protected biosphere. And, half of it certainly had not being bought up by Arabic investors changing the face of a good solid Southern mountain town. This town was quiet, peaceful and beautiful. It was natural. It had been settled by people who were from my Momma’s side of the family and many of the business were owned by those families. It was kind of like Mayberry.

We would drive up to visit my Daddy’s parents and take drives through the mountains. Go on wonderful little hikes, wade in ice cold mountain streams and picnic under stately old trees that offered shade in the summer and a kaleidoscope of color in the fall.

We would drive over to Kinzel Springs where my great Aunt Ruthie lived to visit her. She lived in a big green house that was perched on the side of a mountain. We had to cross a little foot bridge over one of those cold mountain streams to get to her door. One thing I’ll always remember about Aunt Ruthie’s house was how cool it was in the summer time. Was it because of all the shade of those lovely trees, the side of the mountain and the cool mountain stream coursing its way a few feet from her door?

I don’t know. I just know Aunt Ruthie’s deserved a place in a C. S Lewis tale. A tale where an Aslan like mountain character takes sisters from the `burbs on an adventure dodging creepy mountain haints, saving the forest, learning a good morality lesson,  guided and nurtured by a tall, thin, loving great-aunt’s wise mountain ways.

If you’re Southern mountain folk you pretty much know you’re Scots – Irish. Since I’m a genealogist I knew I was Scots – Irish with a good smattering of English and German thrown in. During the past two years a fun thing I participated in was a DNA testing. Included was an ethnicity breakdown. It confirmed a lot I knew or suspected, but, my oh, my did I also get some surprises!

Check – Scots, Irish, English and West European (which includes Germany). Surprises – 12% Iberian Peninsula (Spain and Portugal), 9% Scandinavia – (seriously?!), 7% East European; 1% Finland/Russia and traces of south Asia (this may account for my secret guilty pleasure of Bollywood) and traces of the Middle East.

Lawdy, lawdy – I’m a one person melting pot!

But, when I look at all these location I realized something  – they’re all marked by wondrous mountain ranges. The Alps in Germany, the fjords of Scandinavia, the Pyrenees that separate the Iberian Peninsula from the rest of Europe, the Himalayas of India. It seems mountains have marked my ancestry for generations and centuries.

My love of mountain truly is in my DNA…

So, for a little girl who grew up in the suburbs, those visits to Gatlinburg and the Smokies of days gone by was like visiting a magical, mystical place. You could almost expect to see Bonnie Prince Charles step out of the Smoky mist…

And, now you know why Delectable Mountains had to be one of the blocks in my diary quilt.

This block is a 6 inch pieced block. Use a quarter inch seam allowance when piecing. Below you’ll find directions for rotary cutting and placement for piecing.

delectable mountain.jpg

Delectable Mountain – Pieced


© 2016 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.



Documenting Your Work

For years I’ve been an advocate for documenting you work. I’m always sadden to see an antique quilt and  find nothing on it that tells me anything about the maker. Who was she? Where did she live? Why was the quilt made? When was it made?

Sometimes we’re fortunate enough to have a quilt that has been passed down in a family or by caretakers who have kept the history alive. But, in so many cases that isn’t so.

I began documenting my quilts early on by placing a label on the back of the quilt. You can even quilt information into the quilt – make that part of the quilting design. When I was president of a local quilt guild, I tried to make quilt documentation a program every so often.

Over at All People Quilt they have some great ideas to get you started. I’m sure you can take some inspiration and go from there. The options are only limited by imagination.

For this quilt that my husband and I made, South by Southwest:


I made this label:

South by Southwest Label

Not one of the best pictures but you get an idea.

For this baby quilt named Addi’s Ark,


I made this label:

Addi's Ark label A

I’ve made many others including cross stitched ones, but these and the ideas over at All People Quilt should start the creative juices flowing.

© 2016 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

Bettye Kimbrell and Indian Leaf Pounding

Many years ago when I first took up quilting I met a quilter who unknown to her became a mentor of such to me. Her name is Bettye Kimbrell.

Bettye was the president of the North Jefferson Quilters Guild that met at Mount Olive, Alabama at that time in the old community center that was the big old white school house. It has since been demolished. Bettye is a no nonsense type person, but will help anyone. That’s my kind of person. As the Good Book puts it, she’s no respecter of person – in other words everyone is treated with the same respect.

At the time I was kind of a rarity. I had taught my ex to quilt and he was a rare bird – a man that quilt. Today, that’s not so rare – many men quilt, including my current husband, who yes, I taught, but, he was very eager to learn. He had been an art student in college, so you can see why quilting appealed to him.

So, here I was this half of a quilting couple with a “qubby” that tagged along. Bettye wasn’t phased by that unlike some of the other little ladies who did adjust over time. Bettye incorporated a “men that quilt” exhibit into one of the quilt shows because eventually more men began to trickle to the surface and admit they quilted.

Bettye is an exceptional quilter in her own right. Her quilts have been exhibited at home and abroad. In 1995 she was awarded the Alabama Folk Heritage Award and in 2008 she received the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. 

A few years back I took a class a class of Bettye’s called Indian Leaf Pounding. Every once and a while you can catch her demonstrating it on Alabama Public Television. Here’s a YouTube video of Bettye and her grandson doing a little leaf pounding.


Bettye made a whole quilt using this technique and it is stunning. I thought you might enjoy seeing that today. Also, if you get a chance, read the book Out of Whole Cloth: The Life of Bettye Kimbrell, by Joyce H. Cauthen. It’s a great little book and Bettye’s leaf pounding quilt is on the cover.

Enjoy the videos!

And, by the way, Bettye, I’m still a hand quilter!

© 2016 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.


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.