At the beginning of December, my dad was diagnosed with kidney cancer and learned he would have to have one of his kidney’s removed. Dad and I had just gotten the news at the hospital, I had told mom over the phone, and by the time Dad and I got back home, mom had a bag by the door. Bags, from my mom, by the door, are not an unusual occurrence. What was unusual was how she grabbed me by the elbow and dragged me into the other room. “I have Daddy’s robe and his Merchant Marine jumper, I think you need to make a blanket for him for when he goes to the hospital.” I opened the bag, pulled out the robe, and with it my entire childhood of Sunday morning “dutch-rubs”, Christmas’ with dad in the chair with his robe on, mom with curlers in her hair, and Uncle Walt, all filled my thoughts in one split instant. Next, I pulled out the blue wool jumper. I put it up to my nose to see if it smelled like Puppa, the sea, or mothballs. Just wool. I was happy to see the fabric of both garments had maintained their color for over 50 years. I looked at mom, “I can’t cut these up unless he knows.” She replied, “He doesn’t know I have them.”
Not two seconds later, dad walks around the corner into the kitchen and I blurt out, “Dad, mom just gave me your robe and merchant marine jumper and she wants me to make a blanket with them.” He gave me a Puppa style grin and said, “She took those from me and hid them. Uncle Walt gave me the robe, I guess it has some holes…. and she shrunk the jumper.” I said, “but are you ok with me cutting them up?” He just chuckled a little, I took it as a yes.
I took the bag home, knowing I had Dad’s blessing for an art project. A few days later I was telling my friend Erin about mom’s idea. “That may be the best idea your mom’s ever had.” Next thing I know, Erin’s bringing over a pair of blue jeans that had been worn by my daughter Caitlin for 4 or 5 years, and then by Erin for another 4. Erin had patched and re-patched the pants to the point of not being able to wear them in public. Erin had thrown the pants away, heard about Puppa’s lovey, and soon the soft worn denim called to Erin from the trash, “We want to be used some more!” Erin heeded the call and from the trash returned to my house.
Christmas came and went. All the while the lovey was in the back of my mind. What fabrics would I use, how big was it going to be? What would I use to accentuate the beautiful red patches of the jumper? Red corduroy!! I had decided it would be mostly recycled, soft clothing. Robert donated some shirts, I had other fabrics from my stash that I thought would go well with what the clothing donations, I was assembling a pile of old clothes in the sewing room. Then, I tried on Puppa’s robe.
I walked around the house in it. I examined the holes. Overwhelmed with reminiscence of youth, my brothers, the houses I’d lived in, the dog’s I grew up with, I announced to Robert and Caitlin that I couldn’t cut up the robe. This followed with Caitlin taking her own little trip down memory lane and soon she was trying on her 7th grade jeans! We all agreed that between her and Erin, those jeans had gone on many adventures, as had Puppa’s jumper.
I started to cut and piece and sew and cut and piece and iron and sew the lovey together. The song by Dolly Parton, “Coat of Many Colors” would pop into my head. The song speaks of a coat her mom made from a box of rags. I think it was appropriate considering Dad’s Kentucky roots.
As with any art project, once I get going it takes on a life of it’s own. As I ripped apart the shirts I thought about my dad’s generation that wasted nothing. The shirts, jumper, and pants, all had pockets. How could I incorporate the pockets without ripping them apart? They seemed so useful. I remembered Sue’s lovey and one of it’s square’s had a pocket. Norma called it a God Pocket. Puppa’s could have lots of pockets and he could hold tissues or anyone who wanted to write him a little note could write a note and put it in the pocket! Or treats!!! Snickers bars!!!!
Initially I started designing the lovey on a sheet hung up on shelves in the sewing room. When it got too big, I moved it to the living room floor. Robert stood over me as I placed the sewn strips together. “That is a handsome lovey.” Having it on the floor gave me opportunity to walk past, move squares around, visualize the size, and let Rodeo, the dog, walk around on it or take a nap on it when no one was looking. Part of what makes a lovey a lovey is having Rodeo spend time on it. Considering he is my constant companion in the sewing room….I sew and cut, he will lie down between me and the machine and the iron, wag his tail when I have to walk over him, and occasionally we have a little quality dog time on the floor, we rub noses and I tell him how much I love him. Plus, Rodeo loves a nice blanket and Puppa. So spending time on the unfinished lovey is his way of sharing the dog love. I don’t worry about germs or dog hair as lovey’s are made to be used and washed in the washing machine.
With the top layer completely stitched together, the batting, backing, and tying process begins. My back gets a little tired getting all the layers just right so I’m grateful for my work table. With the lovey spread out, I have the opportunity to take a little rest on my creation, feel the fabric textures, say a word for the person that will receive it, basically get it ready to give.
You may have asked yourself, “What is a Lovey and how did it come to be?” A lovey is my own style of blanket. It is usually an old quilt top that was never finished and I either found it in a thrift store, it was given to me, or I bought it on ebay. I wash it, dry it, and figure out where and if it needs repairing. I repair any worn fabric or holes with bits of fabric from my own stash. The fabric tells stories and gives pictures of different eras. I like to imagine the lives of the women that made them. Then I put in new batting and soft flannel for the back. A few lovey’s have been made with new fabrics. One was made with blocks designed by all different people for a friend that was undergoing chemo. The name “Lovey,” came to me when I finished my first one. I wrapped it around my body and felt enveloped in its softness and warmth. I thought to myself, “This is a Lovey.” The name has stuck. I have been told, by more than one person, that their best nap or a night’s sleep was under one of my lovey’s. They lovey enjoys going to Baja, to fiddle camp, on long car rides, or just when the kids come home from college and want to keep warm watching television. I also feel they are the blanket of choice for anyone recovering from surgery, just ask my daughter Molly. So, I just keep making and giving them when I feel led. Or when my mom suggests it.
Erin and I have decided that Puppa’s is the Luviest of the Lovies. Yes, we also agree that this particular lovey is one of Mom’s best ideas.
It’s dark outside. I have a nice view to the northeast from Puppa’s hospital window to my left, Puppa and his lovey to my right. People here are enjoying looking at the lovey and putting their hands in the pockets. One sweet nurse recognized 7 jeans immediately. Puppa won’t remember much of this, but I wake him up every hour and make him do his breathing exercises. Anesthesia and surgery can take its toll on the old folks. I want Puppa to be able to return to the sea and the people he loves. I’m thinking he needs a few more fish stories. All, with the help of a lovey.
I hope this finds you and yours having a good day.
In Health and Love, Catherine