The Quilt Scout
by Mary Fons
A Weekend By The Lake: Making a “Little Boathouse” Quilt
My mom and two of my cousins, Corrina and Shammond,
in the Little Boathouse.Someone told me once that summer days are supposed to be “hazy” and “lazy.” I hope they didn’t mean all of them. If so, I am not doing summer very well.
But if it’s okay to have just a handful of languid, easy days in the summer months, it’s not so hopeless for me: This month, I get to spend a few precious days at my family’s summer place in Wisconsin, making a “Little Boathouse” quilt.
First, let me set the scene for you.
When I was a kid, summer meant one thing: Washington Island. Located off the tip of the Green Bay Peninsula, Washington Island is part of idyllic Door County, the land of boat mechanics, do-it-yourself cherry picking, and a lot of homemade fudge and frozen custard. (Perhaps the Door County Chamber of Commerce should print bumper stickers that say, “Door County: Where diets go to die.”)
My family’s connection to “the Island,” as we call it, runs deep. My great-grandparents lived most of their lives on the Island; consequently, my father, my three aunts, and their parents (aka, my Gram and Gramps) spent most of their summers there, too. Great-grandpa Jack and great-grandma Thelma are buried there, now; my grandparents, Lloyd and Venita, are buried there, too. My aunt Valerie, uncle Joe, and my six cousins have lived on a farm there for many years. The year-round population hovers around 500, total.
But in the summer, of course, the Island gets a lot busier. Daytrippers and “summer people” come over from the mainland for a slice of heaven. The beaches come alive with families and couples. The ice cream shop opens for the season. Canoes are available for rental. Smiling birders and hikers abound.
And this week, in a cozy, converted boathouse on the family property, yours truly will be making a baby quilt with her favorite sewing buddy: her mom.
When my mom and stepdad, Mark, bought the house we have up there, there were two boathouses on the property: a big one and a little one, which we very creatively named “The Big Boathouse” and “The Little Boathouse,” respectively. The Big Boathouse was made to contain, you know, kayaks and stuff. It’s right there on the water—so close, that when my sister Rebecca married Jack on our beach two years ago, the wedding party waited inside the Big Boathouse for the procession. I tried not to get cobwebs in my (fabulous!) hair.
But the Little Boathouse is my favorite of the two. When the property was acquired, I could hardly believe there was any discussion of what we’d do with it: Obviously—obviously, people—it needed to be a sewing studio. I’m pretty sure I remember my mother clapping her hands with delight.
My mom and her longtime friend Jan, who got a private lesson in the early
(and not quite fully-rehabbed) days of the Little Boathouse.
And indeed, the Little Boathouse is a sewing studio so perfect, I almost chose to not write about it at all for outing myself as Possibly The Luckiest Gal On Earth. It’s a little boathouse! On the water! With a sewing machine and a design wall! And several drawers full of notions, organized by the one-and-only (and very-organized) Marianne Fons! And you can open the sliding door and look out at Lake Michigan, knowing later that night you will likely eat s’mores and bratwurst.
It might make you feel better to know that the Little Boathouse is...tiny. It’s maybe 600 square feet, though that could be a little off. (I’m basing that estimate on an apartment I lived in for six months in Manhattan which was 800 square feet. You do not want to know how much I paid in rent — and I would like to forget.) But though the Little Boathouse is close quarters, there’s enough room to cut, sew, and press patchwork with a friend (or two), enough room for a radio playing softly in the background, and more than enough room for a plate of homemade cookies.
Truly, I ask: What more do you need?
Any quilt made in the Little Boathouse is officially labeled on the back as “A Little Boathouse Quilt.” Indeed, many quilts have come from that “wee nook,” a good deal of them made not by me or Mom, but friends, family, and neighbors. The Little Boathouse is a popular place, for all the reasons I have shared above. It’s also kinda cool there are two experienced quilt teachers to help anyone making a quilt for the first time.
Some recent pics of the Little Boathouse (inside and out) courtesy of my mom (a.k.a Marianne Fons).
I may not have many “hazy, lazy” days of summer, but trust me, one Little Boathouse sewing day provides enough contentment to get me through a whole lot of days far less pleasant. I practically float home after a spell on the Island, and I always make huge progress on my “latest greatest” quilt. Sometimes, I even finish one.
So here I come, Little Boathouse. Mom, better get started those cookies.
*In case you were counting, I made no fewer than eight (8) references to food in this column. I have a thing for summer cuisine.