All posts by Sonja Hakala

I have been a professional writer since 1987. I've written for newspapers, magazines, worked in the book publishing industry, and published novels and non-fiction books. In addition, I've guided numerous authors through the process of independent publishing, and offer workshops in that same vein. I'm the founder of the Parkinson's Comfort Project and over the course of six years, we gathered and gave away over 500 handmade quilts to people with Parkinson's disease.

Dear Jane

Jane reading a pattern
Jane reading a pattern
Jane sewing at Piecing for Parkinson's
Jane sewing at Piecing for Parkinson’s

PfP-Jane finished a quilt top for web
In the quilting universe, there’s a Civil War era quilt that’s renowned for its amazing beauty and complexity. It hangs once a year at the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont and it was made by a woman named Jane Stickle. Among quilters, it’s referred to as the “Dear Jane” quilt.

Well, in my quilt guild (Northern Lights in Lebanon, NH), we have a couple of Dear Janes, one of them being Jane Buskey who came bearing her sewing machine and a pattern to our first Piecing with Parkinson’s day.

We had fabric to start the day and then a woman showed up with four bags more so we had PLENTY of colors and patterns to choose from. So Jane got to town on this oversized chevron quilt.

From top to bottom, you can see Jane at the beginning of the day familiarizing herself with the pattern then sewing at her machine (we were all loving that great sewing table she found online), and then sharing her finished quilt top.

Love that pattern! And loved having Jane be a part of our special day.

The Gift of a Magical Day

Maureen Nevers at the Piecing for Parkinson's event
Maureen Nevers at the Piecing for Parkinson’s event

Most of the time, most of us go through our days without stopping to be grateful.

But then—once in a while—you receive the gift of a magical day, one that you know makes life worthwhile.

I had that experience on Saturday at our first annual Piecing for Parkinson’s day.

I founded the Parkinson’s Comfort Project in honor of my Mom and Dad at the end of 2010, the year my Mom died of complications of Parkinson’s disease. The last quilt I made for her was smallish—quilters call them lap quilts—because the bed quilts I’d made for her had become too heavy for her to manage.

After Mom died, I looked around for an organization that would take  quilts I made in her memory and distribute them to folks with Parkinson’s disease.

Well, no such organization existed. So I had to start one.

The Parkinson’s Comfort Project is now growing into a full-blown nonprofit that provides comfort in all sorts of way to people with Parkinson’s disease and their caregivers.

One of the other members of our board, Annette Houston, is a quilter as well. We had been talking about putting together a day of quilting for Parkinson’s. But the woman pictured here, Maureen, is the one who got it jump started.

Maureen lost her Mom to a rare form of Parkinson’s disease last year, and like me, was looking for a way to give support to those similarly afflicted. She heard about the Parkinson’s Comfort Project, and emailed me to ask: Do you ever have sewing days to make quilts? If you do, I’d love to be involved.

So Annette and I got to work, and the result was a magical day with a lot of stories brought to us by the people who came to help. I’ll be telling them all week long, right here.

Piecing for Parkinson’s

This quilt is the symbol of the Parkinson's Comfort Project
This quilt is the symbol of the Parkinson’s Comfort Project

Tomorrow is the day!

The first annual Piecing for Parkinson’s quilt making event will be at Quail Hollow in West Lebanon, NH starting at 9 a.m. and running until 5 p.m.

We have folks driving in from several different corners of the bi-state region to put together quilts to donate to people with Parkinson’s disease.

Should be quite the day. If you’re in the neighborhood, please stop by.

What Has He Got in His Pocketses?

Placemat 1 for web Placemat 2 for web Placemat 3 for web Placemat 4 for web Placemat 5 for web Placemat 6 for web
Our son’s birthday was yesterday.

And since he’s the child of DIY parents, that always means there’s something handmade among his gifts.

A couple of months back, I heard his fiancé say that they could use some new placemats.

Now if you’re a beginning quilter, placemats are the very best place to start learning because they are, essentially, very small quilts.

These got started when I was inspired by a pattern in my guild’s newsletter called “Cheaper by the Dozen,” a scrappy quilt made from sets of six rectangles measuring 6 1/2 x 4 1/2 inches.

I thought “Cheaper by the Dozen” was perfect for making Parkinson’s quilts so I took nearly all my fat quarters and largish scraps, cut them all to size, and now I have precuts to make easy tops any time I want.

I was laying out a single block (which measures 12 1/2 inches square unfinished) when I thought it would be fun to cut the two ends off and reverse them to make something a bit more interesting for a placemat.

So I did and liked the effect. But I obviously needed to add something more to make them long enough horizontally and that’s when I remembered that I had this stack of back pockets from old blue jeans just sitting around waiting their turn to be part of something.

Presto–placemats like no others.

The pockets are perfect for the inserting of napkins and silverware. Roll them up and take them on a picnic.

I even got to use up some of my 2 1/2 inch binding strips. I just love scrappy projects like that.

Roar Y’all

Goldie fits in the kitchen sink
Goldie fits in the kitchen sink
Goldie's fur gets all curly after a bath
Goldie’s fur gets all curly after a bath
The first haircut of spring takes time
The first haircut of spring takes time

Our cocker spaniel, Goldie, is the inspiration for Nearly Wolfe in the Carding, Vermont books.

We usually don’t let her fur (actually, cockers have hair like poodles so they don’t shed it once it gets to a certain length) get this long.

But it’s been such a cold winter, we haven’t wanted to give her a haircut.

In the last few days, the temps have  started crawling on their hands and knees above freezing, and she’s  sleeping further and further away from the wood stove which is a sure sign that her fur is making her too hot.

We begin with the ritual bath which she ritually endures.

Then we let her dry a bit. With her hair this long, she gets REALLY curly, and looks like a golden sheep.

And then Jay gives her a haircut.

Her hair is very fine and its length kept jamming the combs on the cutter. So Jay had to stop frequently to clean them. After an hour, which is about as long as Goldie can stand, her back end was sheared so we called a halt for the day.

We often do this because we find that the shock of losing her whole fur coat is not as intense.

And for a couple of days, she looks like a funny little lion. Jay calls it her “Simba cut.”

We’ll finish up in the next day or two but in the meantime “Roar y’all!”

Getting Totally Blown Away!!!!!

Bare trees of November for web
For those of you who adore the Winnie-the-Pooh books like I do (the books, not that Disney thing), you’ll recall the story about the very windy day.

Well, we are having one of those. March is having a big blow. Gusts are swooping down the river.

Our bird feeders have been knocked off their hooks and…WE ARE SO HOPING THAT MEANS THAT WINTER IS ON ITS WAY OUT OF HERE!!

Seriously, the whole valley is engaged in one big community whine and we need a change in conversation.

And if my sister posts one more picture from Florida on her FaceBook page,  you will be able to hear me screaming from here.