my quiet place.


When i was younger, my family would take vacations to Lancaster, PA.  There was a period of time where we went each year for like 5 or 6 years straight.  Before and after that period, it was a bit more sporadically.   But we had been there so many times, by the time I knew had to drive, I could navigate “the strip” (route 30, if i am not mistaken) as well as I could navigate my hometown.

My father and brother were into model trains at the time and Strasburg , PA was filled with train rides and model train stores for them.  My mom, sister and I (although i have to believe my sister was pretty bored since i don’t believe she was really “into” crafty things) would travel the craft stores, the amish gift stores (most definitely NOT run by the amish), and we even discovered a few REAL amish-run quilt and craft shops.

The one that particularly captured the attention of my mom and I was Zook’s Craft’s on Gap Road in Strasburg.  (I believe it’s still there!) It was owned by the Zook family and was filled to the brim with quilts, wall hangings, potholders, amish dolls all made by the ladies in the family.  The back room had some dry goods as well as “antiques” – which were really no more than a collection of junk and kerosene lamps.  Upstairs was beautifully crafted wood furniture made by Mr. Zook.

Without electricity, the ceiling fans were run by propane.  When not helping customers, Mrs. Zook sewed on a treadle sewing machine in the big front window.

This was my first upclose look at an Amish person.  I was fascinated by the the straight pins holding her dress front together.  The little white bonnet on her head.  The forgien language the Mr. and Mrs. used to talk to each other.  The … peace that one felt as soon as you walked into that little quiet shop.

Being a girl who was always convinced she had been born in the wrong century and spending most of her free time reading Little House on the Prairie and Anne of Green Gables and pretending she had a horse stable under the deck, I was just blown away about this group of people who lived, at first glance, a lot like the people I read about and dreamed of being.  I always wanted to wear praire dresses and bonnets.  I always wanted to live in the country surrounded by rolling farms.  I dreamt of and yearned to learn how to ride a horse.  I was … a tad obsessed with dreaming about this type of lifestyle. :)

And, once I was truely conscious enough to understand and grasp the Amish culture … I fell in love.

At first, it was all romanticized, of course.  I was eating up the Lancaster tourism like I hadn’t eaten in years.  I wanted to visit the “Authentic Amish Homes” and ride an “Authentic Amish Buggy”.  I visited store after store of Amish souveneirs and seriously wanted to buy a bonnet.  I mean, I wanted one. So. BAD.  The only thing that kept me from purchasing one was the knowledge that, if I EVER put that bonnet on at home, a whole mess of family members would probably make fun of me.  We tease each other A LOT in our family.  Sometimes to the point of tears.  I knew that this would be something the family would latch on in heartbeat.  And never let me live it down.  So, I passed on the bonnet. :)

After a few years of visits, I was captured by the quilts.  I decided I needed to learn.  While my mom shopped at Zook’s, I stealthily watched Mrs. Zook sew and piece her quilts from behind aisles and displays (I’m SURE she never knew I was looking.  I am nothing if not subtle.)  I decided I could do this.  Buy some fabric, a pair of scissors and some thread … and I too would make something!  And so, my love of crafts and quilting was born.

At this time too, I purchased a few non-fiction books on the Amish and started to learn about the REAL Amish and not just the “souvener shop” Amish.  I was just so facinated by this group of people who fought modernization and technology and struggled to live this different lifestyle … completedly surrounded by our modern life.  Watching buggies fight for road space with cars illustrated it perfectly for me.  They were truly “in the world, not of it”.

Once home, I went to JoAnn’s and bought myself fabric, thread and a good pair of scissors.  I also bought a Dover book that had patchwork patterns and plastic templates.  I don’t remember what I first made from those materials … but I know I was hooked and was DETERMINED to make quilts.

Fast forward past my first sewing machine that my parents bought me for Christmas (a Brother that was with me up until last year!!), fast forward past fighting with my mom for spreading out all my stuff on the dining room table and then not wanting to have to put it away each night, past the zillions of little pillows and odds and ends that I made because I could never, ever keep my mojo going long enough to actually finish piecing a quilt. Fast forward past a divorce and everything ending up in storage while I slept on a couch in my parent’s basement.  Fast forward to getting my own place and being able to COVER my table with all my stuff … and being able to LEAVE it there everyday! :)

I started following the blog Little Bit Funky a while back … and she had a quilt-along in 2009.  I bought some Riley Blake fabric off of Etsy and started cutting.  But after a few weeks I lost my steam, of course.  And a partially pieced quilt top languished in my apartment.

Last March we bought a house and I decided that it would be nice to finish the quilt for our first night in our new home.  I missed the mark by a few weeks but I did finish it!! :)  I’ve been on a roll since.  :)

Today was a beautiful Spring day.  I opened all the windows and worked on quilting a lap quilt for my mom.  I am quite pleased with how it turned out …

Just need to work on the binding now! :)

As I sat at my sewing machine listening to the birds chirp and the wind rustle the trees, I stopped for a moment and looked out the window.  And I realized that I “arrived”.  I had my sewing machine in front of the window.  :)  And I breathed a prayer of thanks to God.  I am truly blessed.


One response to “my quiet place.”

  1. Melanie Avatar

    Nice Jess. Beautiful work! Arriving is nice!
    FYI: Leaving for FLA this Sat until next Sat. Prayers please!

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