Monday, October 24, 2011

Boxwood and Berries~Day 1~

 ~This lovely old pincushion was an unexpected treat from Maggie~

You know how sometimes you look forward to something so much that you blow it up in your mind to unrealistic proportions…so that when it finally comes, you are disappointed by the reality? Well, even in my most vivid imaginings, I couldn’t have dreamed up the Boxwood and Berries Gatherings. A gathering this perfect could only be dreamed up by fabric designer, Jeanne Horton, of Country Sampler in Spring Green Wisconsin.

Simply put, Boxwood and Berries was the best of everything. The best people, the best projects, the best shopping…the best trip I’ve ever taken.

I left early on Friday morning, and with music blaring, drove across the farmland of Illinois and then into Wisconsin. The scenery was breathtaking and as I rounded each bend in the road I exclaimed aloud to the creator, “Magnificent!”, “Well done!” and “Thank You!”… “THANK You!”. I always seem to do my best praising in the car…

The area around Spring Green is incredible, with rolling hills and farmsteads dotting the autumn landscape. It’s so beautiful that architect Frank Lloyd Wright built his final home there and is buried in a nearby cemetery. I arrived in town around 6pm and found my way to my modest motel room. It was nothing fancy, but the owner was sweet and my room was clean. The property was beautifully landscaped with flower gardens and gazebos for the use of guests, and there was always hot coffee in the office.

 The wonderful, independently owned, "Arcadia Books" in downtown Spring Green. What more could a girl ask for?

Oh, I dunno, how about alfresco dining in the town square?

In the morning as I drove into downtown Spring Green I was mesmerized by the waves of yellow leaves along the streets and the gorgeous treetops filled with fall color overhead. Pulling up in front of Country Sampler felt like a dream…I was finally there.

Being the new kid in class, I wasn’t sure where the school room was, so I wandered into the shop looking for help. I was overwhelmed by the extensive inventory in this four star needle arts shop. Everything on my wish list was there…and more. But it was almost time for class to begin, so I pulled myself away and walked to the classroom where everyone was just finishing breakfast. 

I could not have received a warmer welcome. Jeanne immediately jumped up to greet me and invited me to sit at her table with my hero  Maggie Bonanomi. Now seriously folks, I had to keep pinching myself, trying not to fawn or drool. Do you have any idea how long I have admired this lady’s work? And here I was, at Boxwood and Berries, casually chatting with Maggie Bonanomi!

So now let me tell you how absolutely silly I am…it turns out that Maggie is just like everyone else. She could by all rights be a Diva, but instead is one of the warmest and most genuine people I’ve ever met. And Jeanne is just as lovely, she was so kind and helpful to me during my stay…she went above and beyond to make me feel sincerely welcome. Both ladies were so generous in sharing their knowledge and friendship that I felt like I’d known them all my life.

(Front Row, L to R) Kim, Liezbeth, Nel, Patti~ (Back Row, L to R) Stacy, Maggie, Carla, Wendy, Linda, Els, Nicki, Me and Jeanne. soon as breakfast was finished I was greeted by the sweet and talented Patti from Winding Vine Wanderings. She brought everyone over to say hello, including Linda whom I had chatted with through email. Oh my goodness what a group! Talented, funny, helpful, kind…I knew it was going to be a fabulous four days. I was fortunate enough to share a table with Patti and Kim, a seriously wonderful duo. Patti is as patient and helpful as can be and Kim kept me laughing.

Now, a little about the school room…Jeanne has created a wonderful work space for her students in a building that adjoins the shop. A row of big windows across the back wall let in lots of natural light and there is plenty of room for displays, workstations and even a buffet table at the front of the room. We were seated 3-4 ladies at each of the big round tables. 

On that first morning we were greeted by a rustic wire basket filled with sumptuous hand dyed wools and the pattern for Maggie’s project. I’ll be honest, it was a little overwhelming to compare that bundle of wool to the magnificent bedcover hanging on the classroom wall…but in true Maggie fashion, she broke the project into easy steps and gave us the confidence to begin. One of the best things about Maggie’s projects is the relaxed way she approaches things. With a true make-do attitude she encouraged us to piece together fabrics as needed and make the project our own. This mind-set is just one reason her finished pieces have such great character. 

(Photo courtesy of Patti Gagliardi)

We worked until lunch and then had a bit of free time to see the sights. Patti, a Boxwood and Berries veteran, graciously led the way to visit "Yore", a wonderful primitive shop in Gotham, Wisconsin. We wandered through lovely vignettes featuring antique furniture and fall decor.

A favorite corner at "Yore".

After our adventure we went back to the school room for dinner and a truly fabulous trunk show. Maggie displayed the pieces she stitched for her new book, "Buttonwood Farm", and shared her inspirations for each one. What an absolute treasure to hear her tips and creative process first hand!   

Maggie sharing inspirations from her latest book, "Buttonwood Farm".
(Photo courtesy of Patti Gagliardi)

Maggie's finished pieces were incredible...what a thrill to be able to  closely examine each piece! They are beautiful in the book, and even more so in person. I admit that I was hanging on Maggie's every word during this session...Patti graciously shared her photos with me.

 Jeanne and Maggie hold up the "Buttonwood Farm" wool bed cover. This was made from several cream wool blankets pieced together. The motifs were stitched from Maggie's collection of antique blue calicos and hand dyed wools.
(Photo courtesy of Patti Gagliardi)

 Jeanne offers kits for Maggie's designs in the shop. Of course I bought this one.

  Maggie's (and Stacy's) finished pieces were on display in a corner of the classroom for the duration of our stay. It was wonderful to be able to admire and study each piece at our leisure. What a treat! 

 The wool hearth rug "might" have been my favorite design from the new book...although it would be hard to pick just one. This is definitely on my to-do list.

Some of Maggie's small projects from the book.

I’m rather a slow stitcher and at the end of the day had only constructed the backing of the bed cover and cut out the endless small pieces of wool for appliquéing. Back in my motel room, I spread my project out on the bed and stitched down some of the larger motifs. It was very satisfying to see some progress on such a large project.

My night ended quietly with a phone call home, to tell Mr. Kattywhompus about my day. Poor man, he listened to every detail and even pretended to be interested. Mostly he was just happy to hear the delight in my voice. I feel blissfully asleep that night dreaming of cross stitch samplers and velvet sewing boxes…

Tune in next time to hear about our fabulous day with the extraordinary Stacy Nash...

Blessings to you,

(Please forgive the crazy spacing on's being temperamental today)

Sunday, October 23, 2011

Remembering Helen

Being the junk junkie that I am, I often watch the online listings for estate sales, hoping there might be something close by. A few weeks ago I came across an listing for a sale to be held in my little town. I was excited to see something so close to home...little did I know.

The night before, while talking with a friend, I mentioned my plans for the next day, which included attending this particular estate sale. She was interested in going along, and so we rounded up a few more friends and decided to meet there bright and early in the morning. But...just where was 'there'? Because addresses are not typically announced until the night before a sale, I had no idea. Upon checking, I was shocked to find that the estate sale was being held on the farm of my closest neighbor. 

 Early Sewing Roll

Helen passed last fall, leaving a big old house filled with wonderful things she had collected in her 95 years. I'd like to say I knew Helen well. I didn't. For instance, I didn't know Helen had a degree in Home Economics...or that she was an accomplished seamstress and weaver. I didn't know Helen had once been interested in fashion design and had notebooks filled with fashion sketches. I wish I had known. It makes me sad that I didn't "stop by" with her more. I think Helen and I would have been friends. 

Helen was born right down the road and lived in the same house most of her life. And even in her nineties, she was sharp..and funny. We did have some amusing exchanges during the time I've lived in her neighborhood.

In nice weather Helen sat on the screen porch...she always waved when I passed by on foot or bicycle. We commiserated over our predicament with the skunks who had taken up residence under our respective porches...and plotted how we could be rid of them, once and for all. 

When our orange tabby came up missing I walked to Helen's searching for him. She was in her familiar spot on the back porch, and inquired if my cat would come if she called his name. "What IS his name?", Helen asked. When I replied, "Fido, his name is Fido.", Helen chuckled, and with a mischievous smile quipped, "No wonder he ran away!"

So when I found out the sale was at Helen's house, it felt a little strange. In the end, I'm glad I went though...
Several of Helen's family member's were there, selling coffee to ward off the morning chill and benefit the Three Creeks Historical Association, of which Helen was a lifelong member. They had already been inside and taken the things that meant the most to them. And it was fun to see the things Helen had saved and collected...and to imagine her coming down the wide stairway as a young girl. The same young girl who went off to college and who designed and sewed the dresses hanging in the closets upstairs. 

 I was thrilled to find this very early sewing roll among the doll clothes in an upstairs bedroom. Just look at the wonderful fabrics.

I came home with some wonderful things...I couldn't help myself. I love knowing the history behind these things. I love knowing they belonged to Helen, and in some small way I think she would like it too.