Welcome to HorseAndBuggyCountry, a showcase of my wool applique designs. My name is Karen Hahn, and I discovered wool applique in 2005 by way of browsing through what came to be my Favorite Antique Mall Of All Time, The Roller Mills Antique Center in Lewisburg, Pennsylvania.
During my first visit at the Roller Mills, my curiosity was piqued by a very old, excessively tattered’n’worn hand-crafted woolen piece, carefully displayed in a locked glass case. The design was unlike anything I’d ever seen before … equally different sizes of concentrically stacked circles of varying colors of wool, stitched together, side by side … as one would the circles of a yo-yo quilt.
It was a slow day at the store, so I was treated to the captivating history of a thing the clerk at the front desk called “penny rugs.”
But the real story starts much earlier than that. Nearly forty-four years earlier.
When I was six years old, my mother sat me down on the couch on a sunny summer afternoon, and put a small piece of white flannel fabric in my left hand, and a threaded needle in my right hand. The windows were open and I could hear my friends playing outside in the yard next door. I wanted to go outside, too.
“You hold the needle like this,” she began, “and the fabric like this.”
“Sit still. Let me show you.”
I didn’t know at the time that my German-born mother had spent several years in a tailoring school in Berlin in the late 1940s and early 1950s. I only knew that she enjoyed sewing, and was very good at it, and that I had no aspirations to take it up myself.
She bore patiently with my first crooked stitches, but over time I would hear, “Open that back up. You can do better.”
Having been trained to stitch to absolute perfection, she eventually came to expect the same from me. I became a master (if not an often frustrated one!) at opening my work back up, and doing it over.
Now, many decades later, my mother’s vision is no longer such that she sews very much, any more. But on sunny summer afternoons, when we are able to sit outside where the light is bright enough, she watches me stitch, and with her still German-accented voice, lets me know in her own way that she thinks I do lovely work.
So, in honor of one who survived so many horrors during her growing-up years in war-torn and post-war Berlin, and who has passed so much along to me, not only about sewing, but about patience and persistence, I sit, even now, during sunny summer afternoons, with the windows open (and sunny winter afternoons, with the windows closed) and stitch away on my own original wool applique designs.
I hope you enjoy them.