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January 13, 1954

Sixty-three years ago today, a tragic event happened in the quiet little town of Callao.

Mrs. Erven Whitfield, a 71-year-old lady who lived across the street from the schoolhouse, set herself on fire in an attempt to commit suicide. She ran into the schoolyard while school was still in session, and some of the school kids saw her, including my mother, Hazel.

While doctors did not expect her to live past 6:00 pm that day, the poor woman actually hung on for nearly two full days. Such an awful thing. You can read the full story HERE and HERE.

The City of Callao has recently created a park and playground on the site where the Whitfields lived. Whitfield Memorial Park is at the corner of 5th and Pine.

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I’m not sure what the sign says, but I’ll be stopping by to find out the next time I’m in town.

Lowell Lee Andrews

A few years ago, I was sitting in my cousin, Deno’s kitchen, and we were having completely random conversations, and during the course of this, he said: “Yeah, like Lowell Lee when he went nuts and killed his family. He’s my cousin, you know.”

First of all, I had never heard of Lowell Lee Andrews, and had never heard of this crime anywhere, either. And at that moment my brain sorta froze in time, and Deno carried on with an entirely new subject.

When my tongue managed to start working again, I said: “Wait! Wait! Back up. Back. UP! WHAT did you say?”

He repeated the part about Lowell Lee, and my mouth just hung open. Deno’s mother happened to be standing there as well, and asked: “Who are you talking about?” Deno said: “Oh, you know, Lowell Lee Andrews.”

Aunt Betty said: “Oh, yes. Such a horrible thing. I never could figure that out. He was just the sweetest, quietest little boy. Always so nice and polite.” Deno pipes up, “Oh, Ma, you think everyone’s the sweetest thing you ever met.” I couldn’t even laugh — I was still processing.

So I made them tell me the story.

William and Opal Andrews lived on a farm outside the town of Wolcott, Kansas, in the 1950s. They had two children, Lowell Lee, and Jennie Marie. On Thanksgiving weekend, 1958, Lowell Lee was home with his family, on break from Kansas University, where he was a student.

While his family was in the living room watching TV, Lowell was upstairs in his bedroom reading, ironically, “The Brothers Karamazov”.

When he finished the book, he shaved and got dressed nicely, loaded up two guns, walked downstairs, and shot his 20-year-old sister, Jennie, right between the eyes. As his mother started toward him, he shot her as well. Six times. Then he shot his father twice.

William did not die immediately, so as he was crawling toward the kitchen, Lowell Lee reloaded, and shot his father 15 more times.

Then he opened a window, ransacked the house to make it look like a burglary, and got in his car and drove back to KU to his boarding room, one hour away in Lawrence, KS. Now mind you, the weather was snowy and icy and cold, so this was a pretty treacherous drive to make. On the way there, he disassembled the guns, and stopped to throw them into the Kansas River.

At his boarding house, he chatted with his landlady, telling her that he had come back to retrieve his typewriter so he could work on homework. Then he WENT TO A MOVIE!!! He went. To a. Movie. That’s some craziness right there, huh?

After the movie, he drove back home, fed the dog, and called the police to report a robbery. When the police arrived, they found Lowell sitting on the porch, petting the dog, and asked him what was up. He just pointed toward the house, and said: “In there.”

In there, they found the gruesome scene, and questioned Lowell, who maintained it was a burglary. His absence of distress was highly suspicious, but it was not until they called in the family’s pastor that Lowell confessed to the crimes and was arrested. He showed absolutely no emotion or remorse.

When asked about funeral arrangements, he told authorities, “I don’t care what you do with them.”

“I don’t care what you do with them.” How cold is that?

Given that most of the Andrews family relatives lived up in this area where I live now, they brought the bodies back “home” and buried them in the Mt. Salem Cemetery in Excello, Missouri, just down the road from where Aunt Betty (Andrews) grew up.

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Lowell lived on death row at the Lansing Prison for the next four years. He was fellow inmates with Dick Hickock and Perry Smith, the killers of the Clutter family, another famous mass murder in Kansas. If you’ve seen the movie or read the book “In Cold Blood”, it’s about the murder of the Clutter family, and towards the end, Lowell Lee is mentioned in the book and the movie. They called him “Andy”.

On November 30, 1962, Lowell Lee ate his last meal — fried chicken. He declined to deliver any last words, and was hung until dead. It is said that due to his size, he hung for quite a while before dying. As Deno put it, “They had trouble hangin’ him cos he was a big boy.”

And here’s the part I cannot bring myself to understand:

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They brought him here and buried him next to the family members he so brutally murdered!

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And they engraved his tombstone with “Son”.

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I cannot understand this part. Deno said: “Yeah, I remember Grandma saying that same thing — whatever family member was in charge of that sure screwed up. I wouldna wanted him buried next to me!”

Down the road about a mile west of the cemetery, stands the house where Betty Andrews grew up.

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Her father raised cattle on a 1000-acre farm, but sold out and moved into town to work for the highway department when Deno was just a little boy.

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And I’m still flabbergasted about the entire story. I took all these pictures yesterday. I made Deno go with me, and we drove there to visit the cemetery and look at the old farmplace.

The house where the murders took place in Kansas is no longer there. A lot of the family who were living at the time, are now dead and gone. Aunt Betty will be 86 years old next March. I asked my dad if he remembered this happening, and he said: “Yeh. There was somethin’ bad wrong with that boy for him to do somethin’ like that.”

So there you have it — one of the most interesting skeletons I’ll ever find in my closet, I’ll wager!

And while My Cowboy is easily the funniest person I know, the men in my family are pretty funny, and Deno runs a very, very close second to My Cowboy in the humor department, so to lighten things up after that horrific tale, I’ll leave you with a few Deno quotes from our trip yesterday:

“Their hair-dos are very unbecoming.”

“A lesser man woulda been crushed.”

“I didn’t realize . . . you are ate up.”

“I think I look extinguished.”

“I almost told her to put on some clothes, but I was too busy watchin’ her.”

“He had a silver spoon stuck up his ass before he was ever born.”

“You’re gettin’ the hang o’ this drivin’ thing!”

“Someone came here with more dollars than sense.”

“I was real religious for about an hour and a half.”

“Man! Life’s complicated if ya get ta thinkin’ about it.”

“I’m one of the elder cousins in the family now.”

“See, even you don’t give me the respect I deserve.”

Best. Christmas. Ever.

On December 25, 1952, Hazel declared it her Best Christmas Ever.

She got everything she wanted but a watchband!

In 1965, Hazel gave birth to a little baby boy on Christmas Eve. I’m wondering if that Christmas perhaps replaced 1952’s Christmas as her Best Christmas Ever?

Hazel loved Christmas, and I’m pretty sure that the gatherings with family meant more to her than the presents, but she loved those, too!

I knew that I wanted to include a Christmas quilt in the book because of this, so I used the traditional Christmas Star quilt block for one of the blocks in the main Hazel’s Diary quilt, and drew some poinsettia appliqué to go on top of it.

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The Christmas quilt I designed for the book is called “Best. Christmas. Ever.” and it uses the Christmas Star block in a medallion setting. I took the appliqué off the blocks, and moved it into the large triangles around the center block.

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I also wanted to do an unexpected color combination as a nod to the early 1950s, when table linens had motifs in odd colors, such as red horses or gray flowers. When I saw the Chalkboard Christmas fabric by Melissa Ybarra of Iza Pearl Designs for Windham Fabrics, I knew it was what I wanted to use for this quilt.

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This quilt is sized to make a great wall hanging or table topper for your Christmas decorating, or even a nice bed topper.

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I’ve been wanting to try the block in some new modern fabrics as well, so I chose some pieces from Holly’s Tree Farm and The Cookie Exchange, both lines by Sweetwater for Moda. I made just two blocks, and added some triangles to join them together into this little 18″ x 36″ table mat.

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I fussy cut the block centers to feature a couple of the cookie recipes from The Cookie Exchange fabric:

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I did some very simple outline quilting on it, so that I wouldn’t have stops and starts or any knots to tie.

You could also make just one block with the appliqué, and add a border to it for a small square wallhanging or table mat. Lots of options!

The block pattern and the pattern for the Christmas quilt can be found in my book, “A Simple Life: Quilts Inspired by the ’50s“, or you can download just the block pattern by itself (Month 6 of the BOM) — both in my Etsy shop. Both versions have full-sized appliqué patterns for the poinsettia appliqué.

Give-Away Winners

The winners of the book give-away are:

Mary C.

Sue Hook

Karen

Stephanie

Thanks, everyone, for playing along, and stay tuned . . .

There are more give-aways coming up!

Cotton and Chocolate

Is there any better combination?

Cotton and Chocolate is a wonderful quilt shop located in Thousand Oaks, California. Voted one of the Top Ten Shops by Quilt Sampler Magazine in 2012, this shop does some amazing things. I visited their booth at QuiltCon in Pasadena last February, and their samples were jaw-dropping!

I’m mentioning them here today because . . .

For their Saturday Sampler Club in 2017, they are doing the Hazel’s Diary quilt!!

And today is the sign-up day!

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So if you’re anywhere near Thousand Oaks, get yourself to the quilt shop and sign up! If Cotton and Chocolate happens to be your local quilt shop, then consider me jealous. They’re limiting enrollment to 100 spots, and you can read all the details in their latest newsletter from their website.

I’ll be following their progress all year; I’m so excited to see their quilts!

While I thought things might slow down a bit after Quilt Market (the trade show) was over, I was mistaken, and I’ve continued to be busier than a mosquito in a nudist colony.

Add to that, I’ve been without my longarm quilting machine for 10 days (and counting), and I still have 15 customer quilts to finish in time for Christmas! I’ll hopefully be back in business by Thursday. If not, I’ll be over here having a major panic attack and meltdown!

Due to it being the holiday season and all, and I still didn’t get the Canning Season Quilt-Along started, I’ve decided to put that off until the beginning of next year. Once we’re all done with the holidays, and settling into dealing with the winter months (unless you live somewhere where it’s never winter), I think we’ll all have a bit more time to deal with it, right?

So . . . my plan from now until the end of the year is to entertain you with some other stuff: recipes, stories, quilty stuff, and even a couple of give-aways. And we’ll start the Quilt-Along in January sometime (exact date yet to be determined, but stay tuned).

Meanwhile, if you’re looking for some stocking stuffers, I have vintage-style recipe cards and mini-notepads for sale, featuring some artwork from the book.

The recipe cards come in sets of 10 (5 of each design), or I can make you a custom set if you need more than 10. They’d be great with a handwritten recipe on them, tucked into a gift of kitchen utensils or with some potholders, or tied to a jar with some of the fixin’s inside. Or fill a vintage recipe box with them!

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The recipe cards are also available as a printable file, so you can just buy the download and print them yourself on card stock, as many times as you need.

The mini notepads would make great gift tags or stocking stuffers, too. They come as a set of 2 (1 of each design) for just a dollar plus shipping.

notepads

To purchase, just visit my Etsy shop.

And, let’s kick things off right now with a give-away. I won’t go into how it happened, and names are being withheld to protect the guilty, but I have some — ahem — rain-damaged copies of my book. Some of them were beyond salvageable, but a few just got a bit wet on the corner, so they’re still perfectly readable and useable, it’s just that some of the pages are a little warped. If you don’t mind that, then this give-away is for you! I have four copies to give away, and I’ll be sure and autograph them for you. All you have to do to have a chance to win one of them is leave a comment on this post. I’ll draw for four winners on December 15th. And I’ll throw in a set of recipe cards as a bonus!

And be sure and check back soon for all the things I have coming up, including info about the upcoming Quilt-Along!

Hazel Meets Elvis

My sister, Katy Kitchen, pieced and appliquéd a couple of projects for the book. One was the quilt called Dear Diary that is an alternate version of the main quilt. If you’re looking for a different setting for your blocks that isn’t as large or involved as the Hazel’s Diary quilt, Dear Diary may be just the option you’re looking for.

deardiary

 

Since Katy had all the patterns in her possession early because of helping me, she was doing some secret sewing behind my back the whole time!

She arrived at my house one day and flopped out the most gorgeous version of the Hazel’s Diary quilt — it took my breath away! Have I mentioned that my sister is a color genius? Well, she is — and the color way of this quilt is one of my favorites. Ever.

I took one look at it and said, “OH! That’s so ‘Hazel Meets Elvis’!” and the name stuck.

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We don’t know if Hazel liked Elvis, but my sister is an over-the-top super-dedicated Elvis fan. Since our mother loved music of all kinds, and also movies, we are guessing that she was probably a major Elvis fan in her own right.

My sister visits Graceland at least once a year, and we do it when we’re already nearly there to go to the AQS Show in Paducah every spring. We just swing on down to Memphis and include that in our trip. This year, we took the quilt along, and photographed it at the gates of Graceland!

Here are a few close-up shots of it.

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Check out the polka dots!

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I really really love this quilt in these colors.

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I did the quilting for her, using pink and black threads. It was a fun one to do!

Does this give you any ideas for making the quilt in other color schemes? The possibilities really are endless!