Be Remarkable

remarkableI have been accused of creativity on occasion. In reality, I am just so lucky to have come from a family that fosters exploration and expression. I have cousins who are teachers, social workers, musicians, day care providers, architects–they do everything and many of them also make things. Today I want to feature some of my remarkable relations and their favorite creations. So I will.

Cathy Nelson (Mom):

When I was little, my mom made me a LOT of things. Now she expects me to make them for myself, which is totally fair. My favorite thing she ever made was my floral print jean jacket with bunny buttons but she’s moved on from there. She’s a sewer and a quilter, she’ll deny it up and down but she knows how to knit. She’s also a talented painter. My mom is awesome. Her favorite project is her Midnight Garden quilt.

It came about through experimentation that resulted in a completely original Midnight-Gardendesign. I try to let my projects open me up to new experiences and techniques. I am thankful to my Mom for the ability to see so many possibilities in stacks of fabric.

I love working with fabric. My mother introduced me to sewing when I was around ten or eleven. She taught me the basics on her White sewing machine that was an early model workhorse with no bells or whistles like my electronically programmed machine. Mom sewed with a purpose. With seven children and a limited budget, she figured ways to repurpose items and make things that we could not otherwise afford. And even though her sewing projects were born out of necessity, she thoroughly enjoyed every stitch. Thanks Mom, for teaching me the joy that results in combining creativity with hard work.

I feel so fortunate that I am able to sew a quilt just because I want to, not because my family needs it to stay warm.

10552511_691237447625232_1624859866124612569_nLori Mapes (Cousin):

Lori has been making things for forever, really. She’s been sewing since she was 12 and learned how to crochet from her grandma. She’s also a talented jewelry maker–you can find some of her pieces at her Etsy shop in addition to some awesome hand-sewn projects–and quilt designer. She designed and made the pictured quilt for her brother David. Her other favorite project is this fair isle sweater that her grandma started for her grandpa but passed away before she could finish.


Image01122013080514Honestly my favorite project is one we both had our hands in. Finishing my grandma’s work on this sweater for my grandpa. It was nearly complete and to have a hand in finishing it for her made me feel like she was right there with me again when I gave it to Grandpa.

I learned how to crochet from my Grandma Nelson. After I finished a row she would inspect and if the stitches weren’t even enough she made me pull them out and do it again…the way she learned from her mother and she probably learned from hers as well.

Barb Schoen (Aunt):

I learned how to quilt from my Aunt Barb. She was remarkably patient with the group of young girls she entertained for a weekend with lavishly costumed tea parties and hankie blankie creations. We left feeling equally fancy and skilled. Barb is an incredibly creative woman and frequently the first of us to learn things so that she can teach the rest of us. She’s always been a loving presence in my life and an inspiration to keep honing my skills and trying new techniques. Her favorite project is the graduation quilt she made for my cousin Carly, her oldest daughter.

She brought to me a picture of a quilt from a book, not a quilting book, just a book. Consequently, a pattern for the quilt was impossible to locate. However, with graph photo(8)paper, a magnifying glass & a calculator in hand we created our own pattern! Reds, browns, creams ~ it’s beautiful!

3889 pieces assembled by machine.
Hand quilted.
2 years to completion.

My mother taught me to sew, she also taught me to love & pray for others.  I have put sewing loving & praying together, as I create quilts for those I love ~ my family & friends ~ I pray for them.

Quinn White (Cousin):

Despite being hundreds of boring miles away (oh god, Iowa, you’re so flat), Quinnie and I grew up to be very similar–a testament to our family, I like to think. Quinn likes cool glasses, good music and books, and she’s a knitter. She also blogs about knitting right here. She’s fun and clever and I wish I could spend more time with her. Her favorite project thus far is this lace scarf she made, though she’s made some beautiful things for her darling little nieces and for her almost-born son.


unnamedI chose this scarf because it surprised me with its beauty as I was making it. It demonstrates to me the many possibilities that knitting offers. I mean, who knew you could make something so complex with a couple of sticks and some yarn?


I knit for many reasons. Both of my grandmothers knit, so I feel connected to them when I create. I love offering unique and hand-crafted gifts to friends and family on special occasions. And, last but not least, it is relaxing. I just get lost in it, which is a necessity in my sometimes stressful life.


Theresa Sipe Curtis (cousin):

Theresa’s another cousin who grew up hundreds of miles away from me and wound up a knitter. She’s made some beautiful things (including her two daughters, though I suppose Nick had a handphoto 1 in them, too) and we’ve spent some great quality time together at Fun Ta Boot, lounging and knitting in the grass.

I design and detail buildings for a living,  but knitting is one of my favorite stress busters – buildings can take years to finish and take teams of people, so sometimes you just need to do something creative that is ALL you and you can actually finish!  Ironically, my favorite project took me 3.5 years to complete!  It’s a queen sized garter stitch blanket made with un-dyed cotton.  I love it because it is so simple and is a lovely field of texture.  It was a labor of love for my family, but they haven’t really been allowed to touch it yet.  All mine for a little while!

Nathan Sipe (cousin):

My cousin Nate was a rowdy kid who I remember loving skateboards and Green Day. He grew up to be a poet and bluegrass musician for the rockin’ band Pert Near Sandstone. Also, Nate’s a pretty nice guy and a great person to converse with. His favorite project is this music video for “Ship of Fools.”

“Ship of Fools” is a song I wrote, and the animated video is my story line concept. I’m pretty proud of it. I had a print of Hieronymus Bosch’s “Ship of Fools” in my apartment. Every time I stopped to study it, I always thought that there could be a great song based on that painting. One day the idea for lyrics came to me. Although fairly dark as a song, I wanted it to reflect the folk fables and limericks we are taught as children i.e. – “London bridges falling down…”, “Ring around the rosy..”, etc.

Before I started playing music in a band and writing songs, I wrote poetry. I have continued to write sporadically throughout the years, and am always satisfied with the creative process while writing, and the limitless way language can be used to paint images and influence sensations.

Hannah Schoen (Cousin):

Hannie is Barb’s daughter and she’s very ticklish. If you ever need to test a quilt after you’ve finished it (or at least sandwiched it), get Hannah under it and tickle her. There’s a big joke at quilt retreats that Hannah and her sister don’t ever make anything, they just get Barb to do the work for them but it really is just a joke–Hannah is a talented sewer and also enjoys knitting.

It all started one day I was surfing the internet and found a picture of a girl with a purple skirt and it had an amazing flare when she twirled. Since I was old enough to twirl in dresses I have loved it, there is nothing greater than twirling in a skirt or dress. There was no pattern or instructions, just a picture, which was okay with me because I am not the greatest pattern reader (I always need my mom’s assistance). I had the perfect deep plum purple fabric and an event that I needed an outfit. So I 75345_1449491238981_2655309_nset to work. My skirt had to twirl and it had to have pockets. As much as I sewed, I seam ripped. But I was enjoying the challenge and excited to see the finished result.


I was telling my friend Karina about the skirt I was making and she was interested in making a skirt, too. She had never sewn before so I had to teach her the ways…it’s a good thing I had good teachers (my mom and grandma). After a few mistakes and lessons, she finished her skirt and was so proud of the work she had done. And I had finished my skirt and was proud I had put pockets and a zipper into a skirt!


I was really proud of the skirt I made because I worked really hard at it and it was entirely my own creation. But half the fun was working with a friend and teaching her to sew and seeing her enjoyment and excitement as she finished a stitch. We laughed as we stayed in on a Friday night to sew (unheard of in the college life) but we also loved every minute of it.

I love you, family. You are truly remarkable.

(Watercolor quote not done by me, from An Abundance of Katherines by John Green)
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  2 comments for “Be Remarkable

  1. Avatar
    Cathy Sipe Nelson
    December 10, 2014 at 6:47 am

    I love this! ♡

  2. Avatar
    December 10, 2014 at 9:11 am

    B, how blessed are you to have such a close and creative family? Love your blog today!

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