Chelle Summer


The Chair

Michelle Rusk

On a sunny day several months after my mom's death in 2014, I dropped off some of her stuff at a local thrift store that benefits local animals. No one helped me unload the car and as I drove away, a chair she always sat in– one that was in our living room most of my life– stood alone on the loading dock waiting for someone to take it inside.

I didn't think much about the chair in the past few years. I hadn't been sure what I could do with it because it matched the decor of our Chicago suburban home, not my Albuquerque mid-century design. It's just one of many items I've held onto only later to finally give away (many of them because I did two cross country moves over a year and a half) because I wasn't sure how I could use them in the future.

About a month ago, however, I saw something that sparked an idea of what I could have done with the chair. I saw how I could have repainted and reupholstered it to match my decor. This isn't the first time that's happened but it stayed with me until I finally let it go– probably because I got distracted by other projects I'm working on.

Then on Veteran's Day– a day both Greg and I had off from work– we went to an estate sale in an older neighborhood (actually, the one that he grew up in), nearby and I spotted a great chair in the living room. It was a rather small house, built in the 1940s, and the chair looked huge. But comfortable. And an ottoman no less!

We purchased our items and went home. 

But I couldn't stop thinking about the chair. It wasn't overpriced. It was in good condition. It could wait until we found the right fabric to redo it.

And when we went back the next morning, it was still there.

We brought it home; I worried it would be too big for the living room. I moved the chair in its place to my office where I found it actually looked better. The new chair was perfect in its new home.

Finally, it was something Greg and purchased together, part of our new journey together. And a gift from Mom.

Signs and Messages

Michelle Rusk

I was only going to go to one estate sale Thursday morning. I have a quadrant in Albuquerque that I focus on, partly because I have other things to do and also because I've had more luck in certain areas than others. I went to one, not planning to go to the second one I knew about, because I didn't think the area would have anything of interest for me. 

I ran my errands and then decided I would go anyway. 

I entered a room of the townhouse and instantly saw some vintage blue and orange fabric. I bleed blue and orange, not so much for the Chicago Bears but because my high school colors were blue and orange. As I went to pick it up, a lady standing next to the pile said, "Oh, that's mine."


She showed me where there was more but there was nothing more cool than that blue and orange she had picked up. And I had no idea what was under it. I began going through piles of fabric, finding a few neat things but nothing as great as what she had. And as I did, another woman started looking with me. We talked a bit and she told me she was the president of the Albuquerque chapter of the American Sewing Guild. And that she taught classes on fitting.

She left the room before me and as I drove home with my new stash, kicking myself for not going straight from the first estate sale to the second (thinking it was more important to buy dog food and bananas for the next week), I was reminded of a conversation on my run-walk with Hattie earlier in the morning.

We were walking with a man named Sam whom we often see. I happened to mention something about sewing and he looked at me, surprised, and asked, "You sew?"

He proceeded to tell me how he hadn't met anyone else so young who sewed and that his wife is a big sewer. 

"You should come shop at our house," he joked and I instantly knew what he meant (there is always the joke about who has the biggest stash of fabric- my friend Bonnie taught me that).

Twice in one day life had intersected with sewing. It was one of those moments where everything had fallen into place so I could receive a sign.

I'd been late getting out to run in the morning because Greg and I had stopped to talk to our newspaper carrier about an issue we'd had and then I opted for my shorter route rather than my longer route. If I had gone longer, Hattie and I would have missed Sam.

While I missed the elusive blue and orange fabric, had I not been in the room at that time, I wouldn't have gotten a chance to talk to that particular woman while we sorted through the boxes and bins of fabric.

I'm in the midst of recreating my own version of the blue and orange fabric on paper, hoping it might be the first of my own fabric designs. And knowing that the signs and messages are all around us all the time if we're open.

Keep sewing, I told myself. It's slowly coming together.