Valentine’s Day and Matters of the Heart

This graphic represents what I see when I look out my dining room window while I'm sewing.

It seems appropriate to speak of matters of the heart today, how one can fall in love with an idea, with a vision. I’m going to share with you why Joyful Linens is my heart’s delight and how an unknown small enterprise lost in the vast reaches of internet ether (truly it might as well be floating out there among the stars in endless space) means so much more to me than simply a venue for selling handmade tablecloths and pillowcases.

Chance is dashing full speed ahead, answering my call, just a black blur to the left of the red topped bird feeder.  You can see one of the giant snow capped boulders under the apple tree and the chicken barn.

Chance dashing full speed ahead, answering my call, just a black blur to the left of the red topped bird feeder. You can see one of the giant snow capped boulders under the apple tree and the chicken barn.

Joyful Linens was born in February last year in a snowstorm just like the one we’re experiencing right now. As I write this the snow swirls, dancing down out of a gray sky, the small birds flock in the bushes and at the feeder, while K.C. and Maggles (my cats), Chance (my dog), and I (me) toast ourselves beside a cheerful fire. In that magical time last winter I had no idea I was about to embark on an extraordinary journey, an unparalleled adventure, an expedition into the world of making, marketing, learning new things daily, and connecting with a worldwide community of like minded people. Those people are kindred spirits, my tribe, though the vast majority of them I will never meet in person, and a very great many of them are not now, nor will they ever be, aware of my particular existence. No matter.

Into the woods

A closer look into the woods

The pictures in this post, except for the last two, comprise the view from my dining room window, which takes up half of the wall in a small chestnut paneled room. We’ve always had our table in front of this window and it’s where my mother, Eenie, sat when she came to visit and watched the birds while she drank her coffee and shared meals with us. But she liked to remain there long after the children and I had abandoned the table and proceeded with our day. We had many bird feeders back then and she loved to watch the steady stream of avian visitors who flitted in and out among the trees and bushes–the lilacs, the spice tree and apple trees, the box woods, the hydrangeas, the roses, the forsythia–all the greenery that is not visible here in the dead of winter. She liked to watch the activity in the back yard–Emma going out to her playhouse, the chickens wandering down to the kitchen door, Julien and Carter in their tree house in the apple tree, all three children scrambling around on giant boulders near the barn, me ever and eternally carrying five gallon buckets of water to the animals–all the bustle of a small farm with young children afoot, her grandchildren. My sewing machine sits on this table now and as I work I am ever mindful that I’m sitting in my mother’s chair, my eyes taking in the view that gave her so much pleasure. She has been gone a long time and I miss her every day of my life, but it comforts me to know that when I look out that window I am seeing the same trees, the same shrubs, and most probably the descendants of the birds and the deer that she loved to watch so many years ago.

Playhouse behind one of the many ancient apple trees

Playhouse, far right, behind and beside two of the many ancient apple trees

I really didn’t realize until my mother died how much of her lives on in me. She loved to work with her hands. She made the most beautiful quilts and crocheted antimacassars, shawls, bedspreads, and afghans, which my children and I use in our homes today. She embroidered dresser scarves and pillowcases, crocheted lovely and complicated edges for them, washed them, hung them in the sun to dry, starched and ironed them. At night, without giving it a second thought, we lay our heads on the sunshine scented art that she had created. She never considered it an art or a craft, though it satisfied her soul to make beautiful things. For most of her life she worked for a living to provide for us, but what she truly loved was creating a beautiful home, sparkling clean, filled with the practical and lovely things she had made for everyday use. She loved gardening, the work of it, the put your hands in the dirt of it, and in a time before flower gardens became all the rage, when the pristine mowed lawn with a tightly sheared bush or two was the norm, she turned our entire yard into a magical garden so lovely to behold that strangers stopped their cars in the middle of the street to gaze in wonder upon it.

My grandfather, Pat Allen, and my great uncle, Emmett Carter, who worked on the railroad (Carter is named after him) made gorgeous walnut and mahogany furniture–beds, drop leaf tables, chests of drawers, cupboards, all necessary and practical, all beautiful and finely crafted. James, my father (called J.W. by his friends and loved ones), was a mechanical genius and in the 1950’s made an electric lawn mower out of a well pump, a barrel, and an extension cord.

I am so grateful for this legacy and for the talents I inherited from my forebears and passed right along in good ole DNA, as well as by example, to my own children. I’m so very grateful that I will leave my children not only stacks of lovely linens, but the knowledge deep in their bones that they can create anything in the world that they can dream up. I mean this not in a ‘chant positive affirmations and manifest your visions’ way, but more in the belief that where there’s a will there’s a way and something good, although highly unpredictable, will happen when you follow your dreams and your heart–because we all know that usually things don’t turn out quite exactly the way you planned, no matter how great your visions are!

I refurbished a broken down bird feeder by using a box top from a case of copy paper to provide shelter from the snow.  I love the spot of red in a white landscape.

I refurbished a broken down bird feeder by using a box top from a case of copy paper to provide shelter from the snow. I love the spot of red in a white landscape.

It took a long time to come up with a name for my business that hadn’t already been claimed. When I finally hit upon “Joyful Linens” I loved it (happily my ever supportive children and friends love it) and it has turned out to be more than perfect. I thought it reflected my name, of course, and most of all the happy vibrant nature of the cheerful fabrics I adore. But unexpectedly, and fortuitously, it encompasses all the wonderful surprises, unending delight, and joyous living I have discovered in this new adventure. My most far reaching dream is that my joyful linens will make people so happy that I won’t be able to meet the demand for them and will have to hire and train young single mothers to help me make them, thereby creating a little workshop of happy hopefuls earning a living by the work of their own joyful hands.


My clever readers, all nine of you, have probably figured out by now that the graphic at the top of this post, the design for my online presence and paper goods, represents what I see out of that dining room window, rich with the memory of my mother. It also represents the bountiful world of nature here on Sweetwater Farm, alive with the music of birdsong, the curious deer who watch and wonder at my work, and all creatures great and small who inhabit the ancient forests of the mystical Blue Ridge Mountains. It is my dream to live out my days here on this land that I love in the embrace of water that flows from every direction, abundant life giving water.

All shall be well   And all shall be well And all manner of things shall be well.   Dame Julian of Norwich

All shall be well
And all shall be well
And all manner of things shall be well.
Dame Julian of Norwich


About Joy

Owner of Joyful Linens and Sweetwater Farm in the mountains of North Carolina
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4 Responses to Valentine’s Day and Matters of the Heart

  1. DixCutler says:

    That was utterly beautiful, Joy. You painted a very vivid portrait of your mother, your home and your life. You have the soul of a poet.

    • Joy says:

      Thank you so much, DixCutler! I appreciate your compliments a great deal. I’m wondering if you have a blog I might visit? Or how did you stumble across mine?

  2. MaatSilk says:

    Hello Joy,

    It’s a wonderful thoughtful post. I love how you describe your mother and how you talk of kindred spirits. I come from a very creative family and my mother most of all. She often says when I feel we must be the only ones in the world living like we do or doing any of the crazy creative things that end up happening, that there are others who feel exactly the same. It’s comforting to think that, even as you said I will never meet them, there are others. Out there somewhere.

    It looks so beautiful where you live. I also live in a countryside “paradise” in the middle of nowhere. Imagine hillsides full of olive and almonds tress, dry and dusty in the summer, green in the winter. No snow or crystal clear streams (muddy rivers when it does rain) but lots of sunshine, birds and wonderful fresh air. I find most of my inspiration in the countryside around me. Have you read/watched “My Family and other animals” by Gerald Durrell? Well it’s very similar to life over here, with perhaps not so many animals. There’s a bird outside my window just now who’s singing a very complicated song. I think spring must be on the way already.

    By the way, I don’t know if you read my reply to your comment on my blog, but thank you and all the best good luck with your lovely shop.


    • Joy says:

      I appreciate so much your lovely response. It sounds so beautiful where you live, olive and almond trees, I can’t imagine how wonderful that must be! I have read “My Family and Other Animals,” but so many many years ago that I can’t remember it at all. I will hunt it up again. So here we are, kindred spirits you and I, sharing our love of art in all its many forms, no matter that we live on different continents. Isn’t that the most incredible joyful thing?!!! I’m so glad you wrote because I thought I was following all the people who have liked or followed my blog, but somehow I missed signing up for yours; I’m so new at all of this. That’s all done now and I see you have been very busy and I have a lot of reading to do to catch up with you! Also, we are home for another snow day~~I really am snowed in, the snow is so deep it’s even hard to walk in~~and today I absolutely have to clean up my house and hopefully get back to the actual making of linens, taking a break from the marketing end for at least a short while. So while the sun is shining, clearly illuminating all the mess, off I go! Happy Valentine’s Day to you and yours.

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