Tag Archives: England

An Amazing Quilter

An Amazing Quilter

An Amazing Amish Quilter

I first visited Smicksburg, Pennsylvania on the last day of summer 2016. Smicksburg is a small rural town where a small arts and crafts community coexists with the Amish and other rural folks. The shops are fun to visit: pottery, antiques, dried flowers, yarn and wool, country gifts and a small Heritage museum. Other shops flourish on the periphery of Smicksburg and include an Amish furniture shop, antiques, a country restaurant, a chocolate shop (with more than just chocolate).

I wrote about that first trip (and the second trip) but I didn’t mention the Amish farm that my friend and I passed. We saw the sign by the side of the road: “Quilt repairs.”

I thought about the handmade basket pattern quilt I bought at the annual antiques show in a mall 18 to 20 years ago (Monroeville Mall, Monroeville, PA). Some of the material had frayed so I put it away hoping to repair it one day.

I knew it would be expensive to fix and finding someone who repairs quilts is like looking for a needle in a haystack. I tried. The closest quilt “repairer” that I had found was a five-hour drive away from Pittsburgh.

On the second rip to Smicksburg, I brought it along thinking I would get an estimate. The fabric had deteriorated even more; in fact, so had the cotton batting between the quilt top and the backing. We stopped at the quilt shop which displayed some of the most beautiful quilts I have ever seen in many different colors and patterns including crazy, log cabin, postage stamp (my favorite) and more.

She has her share of customers, too.

Effie greeted us and explained how long it would take and how much and that cotton doesn’t last. The Amish have switched to cotton blends. So I decided right there and then that I would leave the quilt for Effie to repair. That was in October. She had two other quilts ahead of mine to work on so it would take as until the Christmas holidays or even early January before she could finish it. I plucked down a deposit and wrote my name and address in her guest book.

The Saturday after Thanksgiving, Effie wrote to me that she had finished the quilt.  I picked it up this Saturday, December 10th (again spending the day in Smicksburg browsing and shopping).

Effie is an amazing artist;  the quilt is like new. Not only are the baskets replaced in their original colors (with fresh fabric) but the quilted background was redone like the original.  Effie’s mother told us that Effie used fabric that belonged to her grandmother to repair the baskets that had deteriorated (some of the baskets were in good condition).

We chatted with Effie and her mother for a while. I had never really communicated with the Amish before but it’s no different from speaking to anyone else.  (I once spoke to an Amish buggy driver in Lancaster.) Her mother told us that Effie was named after a beloved aunt.

Effie works by hand, without the benefit of electricity (or running water), a computer to store her patterns and database of customers, or a cell phone to text that the quilt is ready or that she’s running a special for the holidays. We communicated by letter or face-to-face.Their way of life reminds me of the seven months I spent in my father’s village in Cyprus: no running water, electricity, etc.

And the Amish are hardy. In October, Effie and her mother greeted us walking barefoot on the hard ground. Neither wore a coat yesterday and it was not a warm day.

Yesterday, I felt like I was going through a spiritual experience fixing my heirloom quilt!

A Brief History of Quilting

Quilting was first developed in Europe during the Crusades when European soldiers discovered that Turks wore several layers of fabric quilted together under their armor.

In other parts of the world, (China, North Africa, the Middle East, and northern Europe), clothing sometimes featured patchwork stitching. In ancient China, silk was so expensive that when an article of clothing wore out, the silk was cut into pieces and sewn into patchwork clothing. Today, quilting is primarily used on bedspreads, wall hangings, place mats and the like.

A quilt is composed of a top which is made of pieces of fabric cut and sewn into a pattern. Cotton (or polyester or wool) batting is layered between the quilted top and the backing. The three layers are pinned together, the quilted design marked on the top piece and quilted by hand or by machine. The outer edges of the quilt are turned under and sewn with binding.

By the time the early colonists arrived in the New World, quilting was a common way of sewing bedding and clothing. However, only the wealthy owned them. Fabrics were imported from France and England and expensive for the average colonial family.

By the early 19th century, American manufacturing cheaply produced cotton fabrics in various colors and patterns and designs evolved over time: the medallion, crazy pattern, mosaic, and Baltimore Album or Friendship design among others.

In 1972, the Whitney Museum of American art celebrated the history of American quilts with the exhibit, “Abstract Design in American Quilts.” The Bicentennial Celebrations and the growing feminist movement influenced the theme of the exhibit which featured vintage Amish quilts. The exhibit was a success with the public.

Quilts not only became popular to make and/or own, but vintage quilts became quite collectible.


Teague, Ken. Growing Up in Ancient China.  Troll Associates, Eagle Books, 1994.

Share Button

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Patience Lovel Wright

Revolutionary Women As Second Class Citizens: Patience Lovel Wright
Patience Lovel Wright

Patience Lovel Wright

Patience Lovel Wright was a successful painter, poet and sculptor. She was born on Long Island, NY in 1725. When she was four her family moved to Bordentown, New Jersey. She married an elderly Quaker farmer, Joseph Wright and bore him five children. After Joseph died, she supported her family working as a sculptor and moved to London to work on the bust of Benjamin Franklin. She became famous for her wax portrait busts of King George III, Queen Charlotte, the historian Catherine Macaulay, and other prominent people. She also created sculptures of Patriot sympathizers hiding the fact from her benefactor, King George.

Circulating among French and British high society, she was able to gather valuable information about British preparations for the war against the colonies. She didn’t hesitate to send that information to the American rebels often detailing it in her correspondence or hiding it inside her wax sculptures. After visiting John Adams in London, she fell and died a few days later.

Today the only existing example of her wax sculptures is the bust of William Pitt which stands in Westminster Abbey. Another miniature wax bust of an unidentifiable woman is in the Bordentown Historical Society’s collection.

Additional Bibliography:



Corn Husk Doll



Corn husks from one corn on the cob (summer is a great time to get corn husks for the price of corn on the cob or ask the grocer to set some aside for you). To make two dolls you will need the husks from two corns on the cob. Discard the corn silk.

Bowl of warm water


Black felt-tip marker

String or garbage bag ties

Scraps of fabric and/or paper


Embellishments like sequins, etc.



  1. Dry the corn husks (the outer leaves of the corn) overnight.
  2. Soak the corn husks in the bowl of warm water until they are soft to handle.
  3. Fold the corn husks from one corn on the cob in half and tie string near the fold. This will be the head of the doll.
  4. The husks are easy to split vertically. Shape the rest of the husks into legs by tying them at the bottom with string or garbage bag ties.
  5. Cut clothes out of the scraps of fabric or colorful paper. Add sequins and other embellishments to decorate the clothing.
  6. Use marker to make eyes, a nose and a mouth on the doll. 
Share Button

England 1976 – Part V – Leigh-on-Sea

England 1976 – Part V – Leigh-on-Sea

After a week or so in London, I left my friends and went to Leigh-on-Sea to see my relatives (some of whom lived in nearby Southend-On-Sea, too). Leigh was (and probably still is) the real England from my point of view . The surrounding countryside was rather dreary-looking back then although I got excited when I saw a ruin.

There was a board walk (with shops) in the town because the Thames River flows as far as Leigh. We never spent a day at the beach – none of our days spent there were sunny enough in spite of the drought. The boats along the river lent an air of quaintness to the area.

The house my relatives bought was probably typical for the times and of the British working class. The room where you bathed and the room where you went to the toilet were two different rooms. (Living now in a house with one all-inclusive bathroom, that makes more sense because two people can do what they have to do at the same time as long as the first person has to bathe and the second person goes to the bathroom.) I can’t remember if there was a bidet but there could have been because bidets are popular in Europe.

My cousin and I ate fish and chips at a small shop that served them on a newspaper (saves on washing dishes) although I usually ate my aunt’s home-cooking which was delicious and reminded me of my life in the village. My cousin’s boyfriend drove us to a night spot one night in his car but otherwise we took the bus or walked wherever we went. It didn’t take long to walk to a shop or the boardwalk. The locals who worked in London traveled by commuter train or by bus (one was faster and the other was cheaper).

I also met my two other aunts, uncle and their children, relatives I had never met before. My traveling companions came to visit us for a few days, too. When it was time, we left from there for Gatwick Airport (Our plane couldn’t depart as scheduled so we stopped briefly at Brighton; our the airline company had to take us somewhere.).

At one point, it finally rained. Actually, it was a thunderstorm as I recall.

Copy and paste the links below into your browser:




Share Button

England 1976 Part I

England 1976 Part I
1970s Writer as Photographer

The 1970s: Writer as Photographer

In July, 1974, Turkey invaded Cyprus which prompted me to travel to England in 1976. What’s the connection? My aunts, uncles and cousins lived in a hamlet called Harcha (sometimes spelled Hartjia or Hartzia) in northern Cyprus. Turkey invaded from the north and my relatives barely had enough time to flee for their lives. Not everyone from northern Cyprus escaped and many Greeks are still listed as missing (as are Turks and Armenians and others). My relatives found themselves living in refugee camps in their own country.

By 1976, some of them had immigrated to England so I went to visit them. I had lived with them for seven months in 1965 in Harcha so I wanted to see how they were doing.

1976 was a leap year. America was celebrating its Bicentennial (200th birthday) making it ironic that I went to visit the country whose taxation policies led to the American Revolution.

1976 was the year of the Entebbe raid, the discovery of Legionnaire’s Disease, and Jimmy Carter’s election to the presidency. The UK suffered the hottest, driest, sunniest summer of its twentieth century (at least, up to that point).

My friends and I arrived during the waning days of summer (Labor Day added an extra day to our vacation). I spent a week or so in London with my friends; then I went to see my aunts, uncle and cousins in Leigh-on-Sea in Essex. Leigh wasn’t anything like Harcha but it was the real England and that’s where my relatives settled. While we were visiting England other headlining stories occurred:

On Sept. 4, Palestinians hijacked KLM DC-9 on a flight to Cyprus.

On Sept.7, US Courts find George Harrison, formerly of the Beatles, guilty of plagiarism.

On Sep. 9, Chairman Mao Zedong of the People’s Republic of China died of a heart attack.

On Sept. 10, A British Airways Trident and a Yugoslav DC-9 collide near Zagreb, Yugoslavia (present day Zagreb, Croatia) killing all 176 aboard. (The newspapers carried the headline on the day we visited Big Ben, Parliament and Westminster Abbey.)

On Sept. 10, Five Croatian terrorists capture TWA-plane at La Guardia airport, New York.

While we were in England we saw all the major sites in London. Buckingham Palace was first on our list but the Queen was away at Balmoral. That meant that we couldn’t see the rooms normally open to the public. It was disappointing to us; we really wanted to see the interior of the palace.

I loved the British Museum and the Greek antiquities. Back then, we weren’t sensitized to the fact that Lord Elgin stole these ancient works from Greece.

Buckingham Palace has been the official residence of the British kings and queens since 1837. It is also the administrative headquarters of Queen Elizabeth, the Duke of Edinburgh and the immediate royal family. Great royal ceremonies, state visits and investitures are held there.

For more information, visit http://www.royal.gov.uk/TheRoyalResidence/BuckinghamPalace

The Queen Victoria Monument was the work of the sculptor Sir Thomas Brock in 1901 and unveiled in 1901. The Monument stands outside Buckingham Palace.

Established in 1763, the British Museum initially housed Sir Hans Sloan’s art collection. Sir Hans Sloan was a physician and scientist. The museum was first opened to the public on January 15, 1759 and until 1997, also housed a national library. For more information, visit their website www.britishmuseum.org

Saint James Park sits in the middle of a “square” with Buckingham Palace to the left, the Mall to the north, the Horse Guards to the east and Birdcage Walk to the south. Visit www.royalparks.org.uk/parks/St-Jamess-Park for maps and more information.

St. Paul’s Cathedral, an Anglican cathedral, is the seat of the Bishop of London and the “mother church” of the Diocese of London. Saint Mellitus, a monk, founded the original church in 604 A.D. and dedicated it to Paul the Apostle. Designed by Christopher Wren, the present church edifice dates from the 17th century.


NEXT WEEK: Trafalgar Square, Big Ben, Parliament and more…

Below are listed two books on the Decade of Disco Fever:

The 1970s by Tim Healey

The 1970s by Kelly Boyer Sagert

Share Button