Sometimes the process goes smoothly, other times not.
The secret’s out. My quilts talk to me.
Here’s what “Prom Dress” girl said to me as I worked on her over a few days. (this piece started with an old photo of my mother, so you may recognize her voice):
I’m wearing the white dress I made for my graduation, all stitched by hand. We didn’t have a sewing machine. The photo was taken on the farm beside the smokehouse. Are you going to cut away the building? So the focus will be on me?
You’ve printed the photo on vintage linen fabric. Have you decided if you will put it in a frame when you finish? I will fit nicely in a 5” x 7”.
What are you doing to my hair? Brown is the right color, but I never had long hair in my life. Oh, you put more paint than you planned. Ok. Maybe I should have had long hair, this looks pretty good. And, you are right, now you see a face in there. I did blend in with the background. We know the grass is green, but the black/white photo doesn’t reveal that. You could have planned to paint the grass. Or stitch it with green thread.
You plan to call this piece Graduation Day, right? So you have to leave the dress white. Because it was.
So you’ve cut an oval frame from that beautiful green silk Dupioni. I like that, but it doesn’t contrast enough with my photo, do you think? Oh, you’re making an oval “mat” to place in a rectangular frame. Even if you don’t put it in a wooden frame, you can make a cloth frame. I get it.
Ouch. You pinned me to a nice oval doily; guess you abandoned the silk like I said, then you saw that blue Irish linen handkerchief and started over? You get in such a hurry, then have to redo things. Think, first, ok? And now the blue kerchief and I are pinned to a black embroidered hankie, on point. Ok, but your design is getting bigger and bigger.
What happened to the pieces of the silk log cabin quilt that you cut as my background? Yes. I guess you can use them for something else. Wasn’t this supposed to be a quick project?
Now I’m getting a ragged edge. You are stitching me to the linen and the hankie using wool batting for dimension. Nice. Warm. Are you writing on me? Oh, drawing lines for stitching details on my dress. Ok.
Not bad. When you press me and the marker disappears, it will be good. And the pebble stitching on the blue looks nice, too.
Now what is that design on the black hankie? It’s ok, but aren’t those embroidered flowers sorta rough looking? Is it UPSIDE DOWN? Maybe you are right, maybe no one will notice. Go steam these marks out, though, ok?
WHAT? The marks aren’t disappearing? You used a regular pen? You goofball! Now what? Oh, I see the blue paint. Yeah. My beautiful white graduation dress has to be blue? So, now it’s not a graduation dress anymore.
And, the black hankie is WHERE? Well, you saw the problem before stitching the whole thing. So you have three corners to use in another project. Think you can remember to check right side up next time?
Whew! I’m back on the oval white doily you started with as my frame days ago. But on what? Oh, this is lovely brown linen. Just enough drama. You made it work, but you didn’t make it easy!
Oh, you are finally getting to use a piece of that cross-stitched quilt you bought, aren’t you? Its colors do carry the blue dress to the back. Wasn’t it hard to cut into that old quilt that someone spent many many hours stitching? And they quilted it by hand, too.
I know it has holes in it, but I can hear the ladies at your guild now. They aren’t going to like the idea of cutting up an old quilt. Yeah, you are right. The nice handwork that remains will be seen now. With holes in it, it would have been relegated to a closet, or to wrapping furniture for moving. Or, as you found it, languishing in an old dusty store.
And, you did change the name from Graduation Day to Going to Prom. No, you cannot call it Bossy Girl in Blue Dress.
Ok, I’m back. The sequence of steps would make more sense if I had photographed each layout, but when I’m feverishly tossing things about, auditioning colors and shapes, there is no thought of documentation, just doing.
Yes, I do have scraps of silk Dupioni, an old silk log cabin quilt, and a beautiful black embroidered hanky that are cut into bits. But each of them has potential in other projects. They are not lost, they are not forgotten, and, I confess, they are not well organized. Serendipity plays a big part in my fabric combinations. Something that is lying on the cutting table gets stirred to the top of the pile while I’m looking for something else, and the pairings that occur inspire dozens of other projects. Ideas come faster than I can sew.
This afternoon project wasn’t completed until four days after I started working with it. Interruptions come about because of life’s events, and because the design stalled and I needed to walk away from it. And, though this is not the “graduation dress” design I had planned, I can reprint the photo and go at it again if I choose. If something doesn’t work out, I don’t consider it a failure, but as lessons learned. I might be more careful in the future to be sure the embroidery is right side up. And, I’ll check to see that I’m marking with a removable pen when sketching quilting lines.
Photos: The finished quilt measures 15” x 20”. Wool batting, silk and cotton threads were used for quilting. Hand-guided, free motion stitching attached the photo to the blue linen, to the vintage doily, and that to the brown linen. Hand stitching was used to invisibly stitch the lace edges down and to attach the linen to the vintage quilt on the back. I used a modified seed stitch. The backing has a bit of lace stitched over a hole in the quilt, and a label made from a portion of a vintage linen napkin.