Sunday, November 23, 2014

Meet Dorothy

Dorothy is a simple 16-patch -- half Kaffe Fassett polka dots, half Connecting Threads pin dots. She measures 72 x 80 inches. Her backing is a white-on-white polka dot, batting is a bamboo & cotton blend, quilting is wiggle zigzag & her binding is striped.

She's been finished for a while, but with the shorter days & bad weather -- which always seemed to come on the weekend! -- I haven't been able to get a good photo. We got to use her during the cold snap & she works just fine! Could I love Dorothy more? I don't think so!




if quilts could talk

I suspect that many people, both quilters & non-quilters, have happened upon a well-loved, home-y -- maybe a little homely -- quilt or top at an antique shop, thrift store, garage sale & been moved by its sweet nature & good price to buy it. Someone didn't love it, but something about it speaks to us so much so that we do & want give it a Forever Home. I've had the very good fortune to have inherited quite a few quilts & tops, but still, I've brought home quite a few more.

My most recent addition I got at this year's Quilt Festival -- a mid-20th century string top. The strings are stitched to cloth foundation squares. Many of the foundations are coarse white cotton -- probably sacking of some sort. But there are also a few prints & some pink rayon squares (smart, I thought, the rayon gives a base for the string sewing without adding much bulk or stiffness). I had thought it was all machine made, but closer inspection showed there are quite a lot of hand-sewn squares, maybe more than machine-sewn ones. And the hand-stitches are nice & small, suggesting a skilled needle-person (probably a woman, but you never know).

And the fabrics! WOW! Everything is here! There are solids, florals, printed & woven plaids, stripes wide & narrow; coarse sacking, fine sheeting, seersucker, pique, twill & one that might be silk. In the prints we see flowers, fruit, birds, teddy bears, Mother Goose characters, cowboys, palm fronds, dots, buttons, fish, houses, Mickey Mouse & friends, a parade, a girl at a soda fountain & deep sea divers! There are more than one color way of at least two prints. My guess is that most of the fabrics are from the late 1940s to early 1950s. But there are some muted prints that make me wonder if they are from the 1920s & a bold pique that could be from the 1960s. I really wish it could tell me where & how its maker got so many fabrics!

Making this top into a quilt will hide its inner story, but I suppose by documenting it here, it will live on. Quilt historians say that a quilt is as old as the youngest fabric in it, so if I do finish this top, I will bring it in the early 21st century. The backing I assembled is two fabrics -- one I found in my parents' house, a butterfly stripe from the early 1960s, some stripes cut away to embellish play clothes made for me by my Mom. The other is a big hunk I got at a Big Box store. I think I want to hand quilt it, big stitch next to the string seams -- so it will be a long-term project. But no hurry! And I really want to spend some time with these fabrics.










Sunday, November 02, 2014

Fall back

I will be using my extra hour today catching up on housework & resting a bit -- & maybe a bit of sewing.

I spent Wednesday evening, all day Thursday & Friday at the Quilt Festival. I am foot-sore & sensory-overloaded! I enjoyed myself more than I have in recent years -- I don't really know why, can't really explain it. When my feet were run over by rolling carts, when my sides were jabbed by bulky bags, when the woman in front of me suddenly stopped to admire something cute or beautiful or whatever -- I just smiled & accepted it as part of the Whole Experience. The not-my-style quilts that I usually pass by with a nod & a yawn, this year I stopped to really look at & admire & learn. I felt more open to Quilts, Quilters, Quilt-making, than I have for a long time. It was nice.

I caught up with friends that I see once a year at Festival, hung out with other friends who I see more regularly, made a few new friends & deepened a relationship or two. I came away with a vintage string top that I am completely crazy about, 3 pairs of scissors, just a bit of fabric &, most importantly, a fresh perspective on who I am as a quilter & where I want to go with my quilting.




Monday, October 13, 2014

The lies that lying liars tell

Do you recall me saying that I was not going quilt with my wiggle-y walking-foot zigzag for a while?

Well, I lied.

To date, I have 5 quilts I've kept & a few I've given away that I have quilted with this manipulated programmed stitch. The first time I used it was in combination with straight stitching around oval templates -- the result was a braid-look. After that I did parallel lines, the others have all been grids of varying widths, some parallel, some perpendicular to the quilt edge. I LOVE the look I get with it -- especially after the quilt has been washed & dried -- so cozy & crinkle-y.


But I worried I was over-using it, getting in a Wiggle-y Zigzag Rut, so to speak, so I "vowed" to leave it behind. I should have waited to make such a sweeping statement. I quilted all the + quilts with it. With 3 quilts made assembly line-style, I wanted quick, easy & utilitarian quilting -- the wiggle-stitch is perfect for this & I think it looks a little fancier than it is. It is also great for in-the-ditch quilting, hides any wobbles away from the Straight & Narrow. I also like it with very perpendicular patchwork, kind of softens & counterbalances the look. Now that the Christmas quilts are done, I'm using The Wiggle Stitch on my dotty 16-patches. As soon as I began piecing them, I saw them quilted with this stitch -- more blocky patchwork calmed with snake-y stitching.






Never say never, right? :-}



Friday, October 10, 2014

Quilts for quilters

I recently made a quilt for a friend who quilts. It was a milestone birthday for her. She is so adorable, she deserves a quilt every day of the year, but I just made her the one.

Back in the spring, I gave her a long list of questions to help me get what I would make for her in focus: solids or prints? cool colors or warm? scrappy or controlled? blocky or overall pattern? Etc, etc, etc. I finally chose a palette & pattern, but then I was nearly frozen with anxiety over whether or not my choices were right. I can't explain it, it isn't that I put less love & effort into a quilt for a non-quilter, but somehow it feels different making a quilt for a quilter. Not that a quilter will be more picky, probably less so. But something about making something for someone who knows how make the thing themselves, I just want it to be just right. Anyway, I finally bundled up my courage & dove in. Because of the interlocking design, laying out the colors was challenging, but not difficult & the piecing was quite easy. I free-motion quilted it it a pebble pattern -- again, challenging but not hard & I certainly improved from the beginning to the end. Overall, a pretty successful quilt.

And she loved it!




Monday, October 06, 2014

Hives

I know you know what I'm talking about.

You've been going along for a while (doesn't it seem like *forever*?), things are moving forward, things are good, but they just aren't -- well -- exciting anymore. It has become routine & almost seems like work now. You are easily distracted. A quicky detour here & there helps scratch the itch. Then there is that new, fresh face that has really captured your attention. And the old familiar one that you are seeing in a new way. Or? Hmmmm, maybe the two together ........

Wait a minute! You didn't think I was talking about Shug, did you?!?! No!!!!
Quilting projects!!! I'm talking about quilting projects!!!!!
Phew! OK, now that we are on the same page.

I know you know what I'm talking about.

Much of my summer was spent with the 3 + quilts. I enjoyed them, though on the downhill side I did get a little tired of them. I was itching to sew on something different. I could have taken a break & dipped in my deep pool of WIPs -- spike-y batik stars, wonky vintage brown stars, Terra Australis zigzags, my own + quilt, etc, etc -- but I *had* to start something new, so I started some flying geese with men's shirts. (Which brings me to a philosophical question: when does a Work In Progress become an Unfinished Object? Not working on it for 6 months? A year? Longer? Or does it have to completely sink from sight & mind for 6 months? A year? Longer?
Hmmmm, a question to ponder .....)


Now that the + quilts are finished, my time is more free. And even though I've got one more WIP than when I began them, I'm still looking at fabric stacks I've pulled -- MIL's skirt with a recent fabric gift, Liberty florals with solids, scrappy 2.5 inch squares from almost 20 years worth of projects -- & wanting to start something newer.

 
I have no trouble being true to Shug. But when it comes to my patchwork projects, I'm not so faithful -- a real bigamist!

Sunday, October 05, 2014

Don't go there

But if I do go there, should I bring scissors?


Last spring, I went with several HMQG-ers on a day trip to La Grange, Texas. If you are ever anywhere in SE Texas, you really should make this trip. La Grange is a charming, old-timey Texas town. It is also home to the Texas Quilt Museum. The museum, begun by the organizers of the International Quilt Festival, is housed in what was once 19th century retail space & has been beautifully restored to a new purpose -- that is displaying quilts.

When we were there, the special exhibit was butterfly quilts -- beautiful quilts in a beautiful space! I was standing in front of a quilt with another Guild member, um, a 'mature' woman like myself. This quilt had a large variety of fabrics, not just cottons, but satins, brocades, velvets. I don't remember who said it first, maybe we said it together, but we each had the same thing on our minds -- cutting up our wedding dresses! Both of us in happy marriages, for years we've lugged around our dresses & allowed them to take up space. Neither us see much likelihood of anyone ever wanting to wear our dresses. We told the rest of the group what we had been thinking; the more recent brides looked horrified, the ones with more candles on their anniversary cakes looked intrigued.

I loved my wedding dress! I remember like it was yesterday shopping with my Mom, putting on mine & immediately knowing, "this is MY dress." But now what? No daughters, my nieces either have different bodies or are already married. I'll never again be able to zip the tiny thing, so I can't even wear it as a Halloween costume! Yes, I could sell or donate it, it may be getting old enough to be considered vintage. :-} Or I could incorporate the fabric in patchwork -- kind of a have-my-cake-and-eat-it-too approach.

A few years ago I stumbled upon Cassandra Ellis. I liked this quilt & I really loved her attitude & approach to quilts & quilt-making. She has transformed my thinking about fabric & combining fabric in quilts! Chunky hunks & precious slivers of treasured fabrics make beautiful, meaningful &nurturing quilts. The old & the new; silk, cotton, velvet, wool -- all together in one quilt. I have dear bits of very old family clothing, many of them rayon, with which I have long wanted to make something. Ms. Ellis may be my Muse.


I'm not there yet, but if I go, I may bring scissors.

Monday, September 15, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop


 

Ailsa at Cape Pincushion tagged me for the Around the World Blog Hop! Thanks, Ailsa! (Go check out her blog, she does lovely, lush patchwork.) I have to admit I wasn't sure whether or not to join in this Hop. Then I read the questions for us "hop-pers" to answer & my doubts disappeared. I love probing questions like these, not the what's-you-favorite-color kind, but the real, what-makes-you-tick kind. Not only do they help others to better know you, they help you to better understand yourself.


So here goes:
  • What quilting/sewing thing am I working on?
Where do I begin? It might be easier to tell what I'm *not* working on. This year I'm experiencing a sort of Quilting Adrenaline Rush! All I want to do is cut & piece & quilt. I have a spouse, home, job & cats who would all suffer if I indulged myself as I wanted, so I am not able to devote every moment to quilt making. When I do get into my sewing space, I am going in many directions. But to specifically answer the question: I'm quilting a gift for a friend's birthday & working on several small gift projects. I have 5 (!) stacks of blocks & block parts that I am dabbling at & I'm eager to begin quilting my dotty 16-patch.

  • How does my work differ from others of its genre?
I feel most closely aligned with the Modern esthetic, but because of the youth of many of the Modern Guild's members & because of my lack of youth, I sometimes feel marginalized from it. My stash is deep, so I use fabrics not usually considered "modern", I think this makes me different from the Modern mainstream. I'm not just talking about the charm of vintage fabrics but also those just old enough to be stodgy. Don't misunderstand, I definitely buy new fabrics, but I love blending the old with the new, I think it makes for a more timeless quilt. For some time now, I've been using the cloth from clothing in my patchwork. It began with memory quilts from family clothing, but now I am as happy buying 'fabric' at the thrift store as at the quilt shop.

  • Why do I create/write what I do?
Quilt-making is more than a hobby for me -- avocation, passion are better words. During the years of my Mom's decline, then death, quilt-making was a balm -- restorative & healing. Even now, it is my calm center. I quilt & I blog because I have to. Sometimes I think I might burst into flames if I didn't sew or write about my sewing. Crafting & sewing go back to my childhood, they're in my blood & bones. The writing is fairly recent, since I began my blog -- oh my goodness! -- almost 4 years ago. Blogging may be dying, but I really like writing mine & find writing it helps me think more clearly about my quilt making. Also, because of blogging, I've made some real connections with friends I've never met who live Around the World.

  • How does my creating/writing process work?
Most often, my quilting begins with a piece of fabric. Less frequently, I begin with a sketch or pattern. Whether it is finding a design for the cloth or cloth for the design, for me, that is the most joyfully fun part of making a quilt. I am process- rather than product-driven, so it isn't about The Quilt, it is about Making The Quilt. As for writing, I find myself mentally writing all the time now -- sort of narrating my own story to myself.

Now to pass the baton.
I'm passing it to YOU. If you have read these questions & my answers & have begun to ponder your own answers, then you have been tagged. Blog them if you like (if you do, link back to me, please) or just keep them in your head -- though I have come to believe there is value in actually writing them down.