Thursday, May 29, 2014

Project catch up.

One of the projects I finished in the last couple of weeks is a pillow made in a class with my quilt guild.

Joan Ford held a class and trunk show at my quilt guild earlier this month.  (I originally wrote 'last month' because it feels like ages ago.)  The class used a pattern add-on to her pattern 'Common Sense'. 

We used the fusible method she uses for the entire quilt but just made a single block and finished it as a pillow.  

A year or two ago I attended another of Joan's lectures and trunk shows so I'd already employed her scrap therapy method of managing scraps.  It sure made preparing for class easy.  I just picked up my box of precut squares and headed off.  I only needed to sort and audition different combinations until I had one I liked. 

It really turned out to be a fun way to make a quilt block.  Even the scalloped edge was easy. 

Now I want to make the entire quilt so I've added another project to my very long list of projects I must make...because I needed more of those! 

We have officially begun Buttercup's high school 'goodbye tour'.  She has been involved in many activities over the last four years and is celebrating a staggering number of honors as she winds up her senior year.  It is such a bittersweet phase because we have been active and involved parents so have many fond memories and good friends as a result.   Big changes are coming our way as our last child graduates and we become semi empty nesters in just a few weeks. 


Sunday, May 25, 2014

As promised...

the story that put the Willard Insane Asylum on the map is a 200 page book called The Lives They Left Behind; Suitcases From a State Hospital Attic by Darby Penney and Peter Stastny.  It's nonfiction and was  published in 2008...more than a decade after the hospital closed.  I first read about the book in an area magazine and pre-purchased copies for myself and my mother.  My mother worked for ARC when I was in high school in the late 1970's so I'd heard stories of Willard.   Living in the same general area as the hospital and working in the state court system leads me to have an additional awareness of the current facilities.  That, along with the looming abandoned buildings, would make anyone curious.

The book came about after the state closed the hospital and employees tidied up and emptied buildings that would be torn down. They stumbled upon 400 suitcases in an attic.  That discovery lead to a museum exhibit and the book.  The authors carefully researched the history of mental illness treatment in our country and the history of Willard.  They then put together this book detailing the lives of 10 of the suitcase owners. 

 Here is the book on a table in the Romulus Historical Society.

Also in the historical society are some of the placards that might be included in the exhibit as it travels from place to place. 

Sometimes a few facts are known about someone even though their suitcase was empty.

Josephine was from my immediate area.

Sometimes very little was known about a person but seeing a picture put next to a name and a few facts is still very moving.

One of the nurses answered a few questions people asked about this book and another one recently released, The Life She Left Behind by Maisey Yates.  Maisey's book is fiction but inspired by The Lives They Left Behind.  The nurses are understandably reluctant to endorse the books.  They feel that by focusing on a few unfortunate incidences the entire hospital is being defamed.  After all, they were only doing the best they could with the knowledge and resources available at the time.  One nurse was adamant  that these suitcases were not stored in the attic they were found.  She said that once a patient died their possessions were packed back up and stored away.  In my opinion, that isn't possible.  Some of the items would not have lasted the 30 or 40 or more years that patients were in the hospital.  Dresses and shoes would have long been worn out, tossed, or otherwise ruined.  Photographs and other prized processions would have deteriorated or been lost given the dormitory living situations. 

However it happened, finding these suitcases and saving them captured something that would have never been possible if patients were allowed to keep their possessions by their sides.  It is a very interesting book and well worth reading. It would make a great book club selection since it would surely inspire conversation.

On the stitching/sewing front....I am trying to create some order in my sewing room.  When that happens I will have some things to show.


Monday, May 19, 2014

An ordinary Saturday in May?


I don't have any sewing to show today...instead I have a little bit of a history lesson.

While reading about the flooding in my area I stumbled on a post about New York State's Insane Asylum's once a year tour.  Well, who doesn't want to tour an old abandoned insane asylum? (Besides every member of my household but myself, I mean.) The Willard Asylum for the Chronic Insane opened in 1869 and operated until 1995 when all residents were finally relocated.  Turns out it's not so much abandoned as it is poorly maintained yet still used by the state Department of Corrections.  There is now a correctional facility and a Dick Van Dyke Addiction Treatment Center on the grounds which hampers picture taking.  You can't point a camera in the direction of the facilities, which lie in the midst of the sprawling grounds.  A variety of the buildings are also used for DOC offices, training, dorm style living for recruits in training, and stuff like that.  So, while we toured the old hospital, little of historical relevance remains.  (I bit my tongue when I passed a group of young people excited by the prospect of seeing the room where people received electroshock therapy.  It holds a couple of bunk beds and lockers now.) 

The grounds stretch over more than 400 acres with rambling red brick buildings.  Once a self sufficient community (even the red bricks were made on the grounds) Willard was the largest employer in the region.  At its peak Willard housed over 4000 patients.  

Any of the 5 building residence units not being used by the correctional facility are in such disrepair you can't tour them.  They are eerie and would probably have been the most interesting to see.  Old photos show large dorm style rooms, patients lining the hallways in chairs, rooms with rows of bathtubs, and rooms full of people participating in various 'therapies'.  (Crafts and such meant to keep them calm and occupied.)

The hospital, another sprawling building, took care of patients with specific and immediate medical needs.  The building is in fairly good shape and houses recruits during their training.  Touring the inside left no real sense of what it was like when it was fully operational. 

This building, North Home, was housing for married and older employees.  There was a second one for single staff that later became the dorm for the nursing school which opened on the grounds in 1945 and closed in 1978.  Many of the nurses who worked in the hospital were graduates of the School of Nursing. 

One of the buildings that remains true to its history is the mortuary.  It was a little building that you'd almost pass up thinking it was a barn or garage. In this picture it is the little tiny building tucked down behind that white house.  I don't know at what point all the sky lights were added but without them....whoa!  It would have been even scarier inside. 

Prepare yourselves for the next pictures....

The nurse/tour guide (who graduated from the School of Nursing in 1958) told a harrowing story of having to witness an autopsy in this room as a student. 

In the other room was the cooler with room for 5 unfortunate soles.
If this is what is left for us to see in the mortuary I can only just imagine what is left in those condemned buildings we weren't allowed in!  

The only building that actually housed patients (sadly sometimes referred to as inmates) that we toured was Grand View. 

Grand View was originally the state's agricultural college.  It closed when students and professors left to join the civil war.  The ag college didn't open back up at this sight but down in Ithaca as New York State's land-grant university...a portion of Cornell University.  

Grand View housed 'calmer' female patients.

The hallways looked as expected. 

Look at those doorways...

A patient room.

A cafeteria with a small kitchen.  Food was prepared off sight and brought to the various dorms to be served.  Apparently, patients didn't mingle with patients from other floors.

A day room with a very large sun room.  The view stretched out over the entire campus and the lake.  (The no picture rule held fast in that room.)

Lastly,  the recreation center.  This building was in really good shape.  The gym floor was newly refinished.  I am not sure who uses it.  Maybe the correctional facility guards, the recruits when they're on sight, or maybe the rehab residents.  At any rate, it was a beautiful building.  Back in the day, patients who were allowed to leave their wards could come here to watch movies, see shows, or play basketball. 

Inside there was a stage at one end of the gym and a basketball hoop at the other.

In the balcony there were rows of wooden seats.

Behind the balcony seats was a projector room.

On the back wall of the projection room people had noted every single movie shown.

In the basement there were bowling alleys.  

There are a couple beautiful homes down by the lake where the medical director and the steward lived.  The houses were a mix of old and 1970's new.  The area historical society is also housed on the grounds in a family home that was reportedly originally the train depot and later the home of the engineer that ran the power plant on the grounds.

I wish I had better pictures of the old crumbling buildings. They are spooky and imagining the people's lives within the walls is almost too much to dwell on.  Old asylum histories are usually shameful and it seems like states don't want museums established reminding people of how little we knew about caring for people with mental illness. 

Willard State Hospital has something very unique, though. Something that has brought it to the attention of the nation and created a traveling museum exhibit but I will write about that in my next post.  This post has gone on (and on) long enough.  It really is a shame, though, that a place like Willard doesn't have a museum that maintains the legacy...even though it's a dark and sad story. 


Friday, May 16, 2014

X's are being crossed.

You may think I've forgotten my first love...cross stitch....but I haven't.  I still putter away at one project or another.  I am developing old lady hands that can't stitch like they used to along with my newish kitties that think any lap is available for their own personal use.  They're too in need of endless attention to be pushed away.  Hot summer is coming...they'll learn.

I recently finished this Plum Street Samplings piece.
 Hares' Christmas.  

I am always drawn to pieces that include 3 children.  Mrs. Hare has 3 little hares in her litter so I have a couple of these patterns in my stash.  

I should have gotten a close up but today isn't the day.   Spring was late to arrive and apparently we are going to get all of our spring rains in one week.  One area town is suffering in a dramatic fashion.  The town is falling apart and washing away.  The end of my driveway and the curve in the road are flooding but, drat, not bad enough to mean I have to stay home!  (Or maybe...Buttercup just send me a photo she took on her way to school.  Flooding all around.)  I couldn't be so lucky.  Not when there is so much drama fun to be had in the workplace.

My husband and I celebrated our 25th wedding anniversary this week.  Somewhere around year 12 time took off at warp speed.  Here's hoping it slows down so we can take in the next 25 at a more reasonable pace.


Friday, May 9, 2014

One WIP down,

way too many to go.

This quilt is called Carriage Wheels.

I dug through my fabric and pulled every one, except for the background, from my stash or scraps.  Woot.  That was a commitment I made at my quilt use stash.  

I love the little 9 patch block.

I quilted it with a simple Baptist Fan pattern.  I say 'simple' but making them nest just right on a long arm is harder than you'd think. 

This was a class I took at my local quilt shop.  My shop holds classes merely as social gatherings...not because we're going to learn anything.  Last fall I signed up for a couple because I felt disconnected from my usual group of quilting friends.  While I accomplished my goal...I was left with several WIPs...which I don't like. I have one (oh wait..I just remembered another one and a BOM and a new BOM on the way, and an old WIP....) left plus the fall mystery quilt.  So, I'm making progress but new projects enter the room at a remarkable pace!

Today I will give this pink ribbon Friendship Block quilt to my coworker who has finished her radiation treatments.  I wrote about this quilt just 2 months ago here, if you want to read a little more about it. 

The bad quilt maker in me didn't make a label.  I kept thinking I'd get to it but that time never came.  I am going to write a little note on the back with a pigma pen because I know I'll never get it back from her in order to add a label. 

The Boy Wonder is home for the summer and Buttercup's drama club won big in the area Emmy-like awards ceremony last night.  Such a HUGE big deal for our little drama club in our little high school. We've never entered before and we went up against a bunch of big schools with big budgets from fancy schools in a wide reaching section of western NY.  We rocked it.  I need to check the results but it's possible we are the only school who won in the final 'big three' musical, best actor and best actress.  (There are multiple classes of winners so each category had several winners.)  Such a fun night but I was out way past my bedtime.

Happy Friday.


Saturday, May 3, 2014

A cute little woolie.

I love the little wool candle mats, mug rugs, and table toppers that are so popular these days.  Despite all the cross stitch I do, I don't do hand applique which has kept me from making any of the little wool kits that I have accumulated. 

Recently I was visiting with a friend at her office and she had a cute little wool snowman on her desk and she pointed out how she just used a straight stitch around the edges...not the blanket stitch shown in the pattern.  She said that the difference was not apparent...which I had to agree with. 

So, that gave me the encouragement I needed to give it a try.

While it's a little late for the season, I pulled out this little kit for an Easter candle mat. 

Aren't they the cutest little guys?  Their beaks are a little large but they were such a tiny little piece to hold and stitch that I'm not sure I could have worked with anything smaller.

Of course, the over all fuzzy effect lends itself to a simple straight stitch so it was a good piece to start with.

Even the name is cute...Little Stitchies by Bareroots.

I immediately pulled out another wool kit.  It's for a table topper so is larger and requires a light weight cardboard template that has stalled the project.  I will poke around for an old tattered file folder at work. 

Happy Stitching,


Friday, May 2, 2014

You may think I've fallen off

the face of the earth but it's only an optical illusion.

I have so much to do in such a little bit of time.

We traveled over spring break which came at a very bad time for work.  So, I've been working extra to catch up.  I have been home 2 weeks and I am still not there.  I think I'm making progress...or that's just an optical illusion too because the 'to do' list simply changes from day to day.  I feel like I've accomplished things but I am not positive if all the shifts are a net increase or decrease in the overall list.

Anyhow, the sewing goes on.

Does everyone have a 'go-to' pattern?  I know we all have go-to recipes but is the same true for a quilt or other crafty items?

Just Can't Cut It an All Washed Up pattern is my go to pattern.  I don't know how many times I've made this quilt.  It works up pretty quickly and is perfect the title says....a fabric you just can't cut.  

I've made 2 in recent weeks. 

The first was using a fabric with sailboats.

The quilting is a pattern that looks like a big splash of water.

This was for the Scholar's birthday so I made it with a flannel back so it would be a nice cozy quilt to wrap up in while watching TV or hanging out on the couch in the evening.

The second is a gift from the seniors (Buttercup is a senior) to their drama teacher.  Traditionally the seniors give him a gift at their year end banquet.  In the past few years there has been a quilt or two raffled as a fund raiser and he always buys lots of tickets and really hopes to win.  So this year I used some extra fabrics from the quilt that was raffled and made this quilt.  Shhhhh....he doesn't know.  The banquet is at the end of the month.

I used a variety of large squares...unlike the first one.  The spring musical was Phantom of the Opera.

The quilt pattern had music notes and symbols.

The backing was all the left over pieces with a center square of muslin so the kids could all sign it.

I especially liked how the quilting showed on the fabric with the same pattern.  (Apparently it's upside down!  It's just part of the backing and probably not noticeable...after all, I managed to make the entire thing and not notice until I was taking the picture.)

I can't wait until the banquet. 

I am plugging away at various other projects.  Somehow I've managed to have a crazy number of WIP's.  I took a bunch of classes last fall which lead to starting projects faster than I could finish them so I hope to remedy that this spring.

Happy Stitching.