Posts Tagged ‘duluth’

love stories in minnesota

we just got back from a visit with my family in Minnesota for a week.  it wasn’t exactly spontaneous as we knew we were going to go there at some point this spring or summer.

duluth boysthe timing for our visit got a little bit more urgent a few weeks ago, though, when a doctor delivered some difficult news.  my wonderful, funny, supportive grandmother (who is  91 and whip-smart) is in danger of some serious heart complications.  it made me really want to sit and be with her.  so, off we went.

my grandmother is not like anyone else I know.  she is serious when she needs to be but has a great sense of fun, too.  one of my fondest childhood memories is of watching her dance the chicken while wearing a pair of those fake eyeglasses with a big nose.  she grew up the oldest of five and has always worked hard and worked with her hands.  her mother, my great-grandmother, was a seamstress for the Pendleton wool company and my grandmother insists her mother is the magic seamstress behind the Pendleton Turnabout: the reversible wool skirt.  I have no doubt this is true.  especially given my grandmother’s own immense sewing talent, making jackets and wool dresses for her whole family for years.

me and irene

when she moved from her house to an apartment recently, she handed down loads of Pendleton wool and other fabric to me.  I most definitely get my desire to make things by hand from her. she is definitely my biggest (in quantity of support not physical stature obviously) and loudest cheerleader for all my sewing endeavors.

she doesn’t sew much these days but that is just about the only thing she doesn’t do.  she is so full of life and wit and love.  one evening, over her modest brandy and 7, after watching my sister struggle to unscrew a wine cork, she quipped “you just don’t know how to screw, do you?” in her gentle, mischievous, angel voice.  the woman is 91! (sorry grandma, I had to share…it was too good!)  she’s funnier than most and more loving and beautiful, too.  and, hasn’t slowed down one bit.  it did my heart much good to see her.  I’m really hoping that I will grow up to be a 91 year old just like her.

we saw the whole family while we were there…grandparents, aunt, uncle, second cousins and visited one really important place, Lake Superior.

the boys and the lake

something about this lake and this beach.  for me, lake superior brings an immediate peace.  it’s true that Minnesota is chock full of lakes but this one is so majestic and yet welcoming.  too many of my younger days (years?) were spent in front of this lake trying to fruitlessly figure out the details of the future.  gotta love those angst-y teen years, huh?   these days nothing is better than watching my boys fall in love with this lake. I like knowing they know it.  if you have never visited the beach at Park Point in Duluth, MN you should do that.  and soon…possibly right now.

me in the canal

being with family also gave me a chance to pass on some belated Mother’s day/birthday gifts.  I’ve been playing around with a new bag pattern and made a bag for both my mother and my grandmother in some new fabrics.

for my grandmother I used oilcloth in an amy butler pattern.  on the front good-sized pockets I added a strip of bias tape and the handles are made using d-rings.  paired with a matching little wallet (just like these) I’m hoping she can use it for little shopping trips.

grandmas shopper

the base of the bag is made with a kind of oval shape that gives the bag a bit of structure.

for my mother, I used a thick wool I got at a yard sale and added medium weight interfacing and made the same bag.  using fabric scraps I made her a little wallet, too.

wool shopperfor the bag lining I used some liberty of london fabric that I scored in the sew mama sew sale.  this is the very first time I have cut into liberty of london.  it is just like everyone says…butter soft, easy to work with…it’s basically a dream.  it was hard to cut it but I’m glad I did.  there is not point in just having fabric, it exists to be used!!

peek! there is liberty inside.mmm…so pretty.

there is more to report from our little sojourn to the midwest but I’m saving that for later.  best to keep it to one big emotional story per post, don’t you think?


if you live in the upper midwest of the United States, near the great lakes, you know that lake superior is shaped like the head of a wolf.  and if you travel to the very tip of that wolf’s nose, you would be in duluth, minnesota.  but standing on the shore of the lake in duluth you hardly feel like you are anywhere so small as a nose.  you can’t help but be aware that you are on the edge of something vast and great and powerful. the beach is soft sand and the lake looks as endless as an ocean.  the difference is that more often than not you are alone or nearly alone.

as a teenager, I threw more than my fair share of emotions into its deep, dark, cold waters (yay..accepted into college!! boo…first big break-up.).  it’s breathtaking and mysterious and has inspired whole communities of artists, architects and musicians to set up camp.

but sometimes I think there can be something menacing about the lake and its powerful but stoic response to everything. or maybe it is just that the lake itself isn’t always enough.  either way, the towns that dot up and along the lake’s shore are the home to lots of kids with mental health and chemical dependency troubles.  it seems like everyone, including me, has been touched by this problem…sometimes in tragic ways and sometimes in triumphant ones.

and that is why I’m so excited to be involved in a new development in my hometown.  the powerful force that is my mother has been working tirelessly to raise $6 million and build a children’s mental health center called Amberwing in a beautiful wooded area of Duluth that will serve the surrounding area.  the facility is thoughtfully designed to provide mental health resources with innovative programs including art, drama, music, yoga and animal-assisted therapies.  there is a great new report about it here, (it is worth watching to see just how beautiful and thoughtful the facility will be).   part of the fundraising for services at Amberwing is a black tie event coming up at the end of the month called Artcetera with music, wine, and an auction.

and, right there on page 331 is my donation of a memory quilt.   I’m so honored to have thrown my lot in with so many other area artists and craftsmen and I can’t wait to get sewing for such a good cause!

the whole thing got me thinking about craft-ivism (you know craft-activism) and the many ways that crafters can play a unique and heartfelt role in philanthropy.  then a friend wrote about her craft-ivism efforts and I decided to start a pinterest board to keep track of any opportunities I came across.  so, if you can make a pillowcase or a quilt, go check that out!




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