Birds of Amicalola

On a recent visit to a train station and refurbished old store, I took my camera and a quilt.  Birds of Amicalola posed on a bench and in front of the weathered boards of Mildred’s Store.

The quilt is made using the same basket pattern I created for Miss Lily’s Baskets.  In this quilt, I used charm squares of Kaffe fabrics for the appliquéd baskets and Cherrywood hand-dyed blue fabric for the background.  I made a lot of these blocks (I still have quite a few left over for some yet unknown project) before deciding how to assemble them.

I had some bright fabric on hand that had birds flying all about vines and leaves.  Those birds said, “we want to fly amongst those baskets.”  And the leaves seemed perfect for the wreaths in the baskets of the three focus blocks, so I fussy cut the leaves and birds and attached those elements with the invisible basting stitch I had learned from Jude Hill.  When I quilted, I stitched those pieces down with free motion stitching before moving to the background quilting.

The quilt measures  51 ” x   58″ .  The background quilting was done using silk thread (100-weight) on top, two-ply cotton (50 weight) in the bobbin.  The vine in the border is quilted with 30-weight polyester thread.

 

 

Photos of this quilt in progress were included in the post here.  Oh, and we were on a trip to Amicalola Falls State Park when I added the birds and leaves to the basket blocks.  That’s the source of the title.

 

 

And here is a closeup of the vine stitched on the border.

And, and update to include a photo of the entire quilt.  Here it is hanging in our local guild’s show.  The ribbon is for Best Machine Quilting on a Home Machine.

Fern Fronds and Fibonacci


A historic covered bridge seemed the perfect backdrop for a quilt photo shoot.  On a beautiful spring day Jim and I loaded the car with a couple of cameras, a couple of tripods, and a couple of quilts.

This stop was at the Red Oak Covered Bridge near Woodbury (details and a map can be found here: http://www.exploregeorgia.org/listing/476-big-red-oak-covered-bridge).  The quilt you see is my Fern Fronds and Fibonacci quilt, made in 2007.  It finished at   56” x 61” and features a sunprinted image of an Australian Tree Fern (Cyathea cooperi ) which was growing in our backyard garden at the time.

Some of my first explorations into putting images onto cloth were through the process of sunprinting.  This predates the printing, painting, and dyeing I’ve been exploring more recently.

The life size image of the fern frond measures 29“ x 34“.  The turquoise and white blueprinted image needed some color to give the quilt a more spectacular “wow” factor, so I chose to include a variety of brightly colored fabrics in the border.

Many batiks were used, along with some fossil fern prints.  I still love that line of fabric, and continue to use them a lot.  They are soft and loosely woven, but to me this makes them turn easily for appliqué.

To create a unique border, I referred to the Fibonacci sequence – the infinite mathematical sequence 1,1, 2 ,3, 5, 8, 13, 21, 34… .  Each term of the sequence (after the first two) is found by adding the preceeding two terms.  For those of you who want a math review:   t1 = 1, t2 = 1, tn+1 = tn + tn-1.  And the answer to the inevitable test question, “is it arithmetic, geometric, or neither?” can be found at the end of the post.

The Fibonacci sequence is found in the growth pattern and leaf structure of many plants, including ferns. Google will help you with more intense investigation if you want to pursue it.

To interpret this into my quilt, I made colored rectangles all 1” tall, but whose widths were 1”, 1”, 2”, 3”, 5”, etc.  To avoid single loooong bands of color, I did not use a length greater than the 34” (limiting myself by the dimension of the plant image itself), I just repeated that sequence in a spiral until I was satisfied with the look.


The woven ribbon portion of the border was a design taken from one of Sally Collins’ books.

I was very inexperienced with machine quilting at the time and didn’t feel confident stopping and starting at the edge of the design.  So I quilted the grid in the sunprinted space by hand.  Make that read BY HAND.  That pretreated fabric is more closely woven than your normal quilting cotton making this a less than pleasant experience.  I used Dream Cotton batting which is nice and thin and generally easy to quilt through.  But now I know that wool would be sweeter to needle.  I don’t think wool batting was widely available at that time.

Then I dared to freemotion quilt fern fronds in the border space.  I traced a section of the fern, transferred it to the fabric using a lightbox, then stitched with an invisible polyester thread.

As I write this, I am amazed at how much I’ve learned since that experience.  But even though it’s full of what many would see as mistakes; I love this quilt.  I still love the fern.  I love the unique opportunity to combine nature and mathematics in fabric, and I love that I’m still learning things about quilting.

At the time I printed this image, I made many more blueprint images of plants including multiples of this plant.  I love planning ways to include these fabric images in new projects.

Older posts with details of other quilts with sunprinted images are these:

http://sandygilreath.com/gbi-blues/,

http://sandygilreath.com/whats-in-a-name/ (this one had a sunprinted label)

http://sandygilreath.com/annie-maes-lace/

Answer to the math question:  neither.  Arithmetic sequences are generated by adding a fixed constant to one term to get to the next; geometric, by multiplying.  Neither is the case in this sequence.

The black & white photo with color accent is Jim’s darkroom magic.  The other photos are mine.  If you think the fern is blurry, it’s not the camera.  It’s the motion of the fern in the wind during the 15-minute sun exposure.

Diggin’ in the Dirt

With a fence full of flowers like these, is it any wonder that gardening and tools are in every room of my house?

I love diggin’ in the dirt this time of year.  My morning walk has me counting the hostas that have raised their heads above the soil line, inspecting the buds on young trees, and even pulling a few weeds here and there.  Dirt therapy has always been a good thing, but at our house we seem to be more immersed in the pleasure than some years.  Perhaps because we were traveling last spring and didn’t get to enjoy newly emerging growth in our yard we are appreciating it more now.  And the dogwoods and azaleas have never been prettier.

While in the sewing room today, I noticed that not only were digging implements under the needle of my sewing machine, but the design wall holding projects in progress has gardening as a theme, too.

The ongoing free motion quilting is on my version of Lisa Bonjean’s Primitive Garden.  It’s wool appliqué on cotton, including some flannel and some homespuns, too.

Primitive Garden is not the first time rakes have appeared on one of my quilts.  This little wall piece pictured above (Off to the Garden, 22″ x 21″) is one I quickly assembled when I bought my Bernina.  I was anxious to drop the feed dogs and quilt, so the appliqué is fused.  You won’t read that often here, as I prefer needle turn appliqué.  But on this occasion, fuse I did.  I added a cotton ball for the tail and danced with my sewing machine.  This wall hanging helps us welcome spring every year.

As usual, click on any image to enlarge and see details.

 

A Snail’s Place



Did you know that terrestrial snails love portobello mushrooms?  It does make sense.  I love portobello mushrooms and they have an earthy flavor that I think snails would love.  But, until recently, I had never thought about what these creatures eat.

I love snail shells.  We have a small collection on our kitchen windowsill.  Some we’ve found (empty) in our yard, some we’ve brought home from the beach.  We have a friend who’s focused much of his career on research of olive snails.  These tiny snails comprise much of the diet of wading birds.

But until I discovered a treasure of a little book a few days ago, I had never thought about things I didn’t know about snails.  I knew their shells possessed geometric qualities related to logarithmic spirals.  But now I now that though most of those spirals are counterclockwise, some are clockwise.  And, only if the spirals spin the same way can a pair of snails mate.  And when they eat, the hole (such as in a leaf) is a square shape.  Snails and their geometry – oh, my!

I learned all this by reading The Sound of a Wild Snail Eating by Elisabeth Tova Bailey. I found this little book at our local used book sale a couple of weeks ago.  The Friends of the Library hosts an annual sale with more than 100,000 books.  The prices are bargain basement level and we usually come home with some treasures.

This delightful book charmed me instantly.  There’s something especially appealing about a small book.  And the simple drawings of the snails intrigued me, too.  The description in the overleaf reminded me of another charming little book that’s been part of our library for several decades, That Quail Robert.

The wild snail in this book doesn’t get named, but provided  companionship when Ms. Bailey most needed it, and delivered lessons in observation and philosophy that we can all heed.  Reading this snail’s story makes me slow down and appreciate the little things.

I’ve already been motivated to pull out the watercolors and play with them.  A stitched snail in wool has a new level of respect now.

As I often do after reading a delightful book, I searched for podcasts with the author.  I found a delightful conversation with Bailey and her “snail scientist” advisor Timothy Pearce.  His research has included affixing thread to the back of a snail in order to track the snail’s travels.  What a delightful image!

Notes:

The book is readily available in print, as an ebook or audio book.  The charm of the paper, the size of the book, and the illustrations make me recommend the paper version.

The podcast I found was a broadcast from October 9, 2014 on NWP Radio.

Quilt Show Eve

The quilts are all hung, the ribbons attached.  Our guild members have been busy today “getting the show on the road.”  Well, not on the road, but ready for viewers to enjoy.

Here are some teasing photos of ribbons awarded.  These ribbons are awarded in ten categories by votes from guild members.  Some quilts have more than one ribbon, being blessed with bling.  All the quilts there are wonderful, and have stories to tell.

It’s no surprise that the most decorated quilt is a Baltimore Album quilt by Joyce Jones.  Joyce is ninety-something and is a shining light in our sisterhood.  She reminds us that we are never too old to learn, to teach others, and to set a good example.  We all hope to be like Joyce when we grow up.

I wrote about Joyce when this quilt was in progress here.

I’ll share more stories later, but for now, enjoy some sights from the show.  These sample images might whet your appetite.  We are hoping you will come see us at The Methodist Childrens’ Home (the Rumford Center), 304 Pierce Avenue, Macon.  Hours are 10:00 until 5:00.

Click on any image to enlarge and zoom in.  Know that these were taken at night with an iPhone, so some low light conditions prevail.

Quilt Show Time

One of the delights in my life is the family that has come to me in quilting.  The work entailed in getting ready for our quilt show every two years is rewarded by the opportunity to spend three days with my closest friends.  As with any family, reunions are treasured times together.

Sharing our quilts with non-quilters is important, too.  We hope to educate people about the joys of quiltmaking, the processes involved in that endeavor, and the love that goes into every stitch. We always meet fellow quilt makers and want-to-be quilt makers and I never know which is more fun – talking with new friends who are already addicted, or sharing the fun with people who are just getting interested.

In between meeting and talking with new quilt friends, there is time to visit with fellow guild members.  For me, one of the biggest pleasures at the quilt show is examining each others’ quilts and sharing details of the techniques involved.  Just visiting.  As I’ve heard Susie say before, “it’s OUR three-day party.”  Though we see each other at meetings once a month, that’s only a couple of hours, and we are sometimes busy with, well, business.

But at the quilt show, the work has been done ahead of time.  We spend one day hanging the quilts and setting up, then the two days of “the show” to admire our collective work and visit.  On the evening after the quilts are hung, our spouses join us to see the display as we vote for our favorites.

The idea of reunion is continued here.  Jim and Ted reconnected at our guild’s show in 2012, having not seen each other since Army days 40 years prior.  Ted’s wife is a quilter, too, and seeing an announcement on Facebook about our show brought the guys together!  Such fun we always have visiting with them!

The photos here are from past shows. Like the photos here, if you visit with us, you will see quilts of all colors and sizes, using varying techniques and fabrics.  I hear that the total on display next week is 147 quilts.

 

This year, the show is March 9 and 10 at the Methodist Childrens’ Home in Macon.  This is a new location for us, and oh, so appropriate, since every resident at that facility is given a handmade quilt as they are settling in.  This tradition is nearly forty years old!  Some of those quilts have been made by members of my guild and by members of other quilt guilds in Georgia.  Stories of those quilts and the impact on the lives of the recipients can be found in a book entitled Patches of the Quilt.

If you live nearby, I hope you will join us.  If you aren’t close enough to come to our guild’s show, I’ll bet there’s one near you.  Spring is a popular time to schedule a quilt show!

The basket quilt you see at the top, and the closeup photo featured is by Alice Smith.

Earlier posts about quilt shows are here: http://sandygilreath.com/the-ribbon-maker/ and here: http://sandygilreath.com/my-new-friend-janet/ and here: http://sandygilreath.com/deadlines-are-good/.

Love Birds


What better way to welcome Valentine’s Day than stitching a heart?

This was the lucky shot I captured on our recent trek to see the trumpeter swans visiting here from northern climes.  When Jim tiptoed to the truck for a shorter lens, I caught them swimming and their long necks forming a heart, skewed perhaps; but I saw a heart!  I like “wonky” in quilts anyway, so the heart they formed was perfect!

I printed the photo on silk fabric, layered it on wool and cotton batting.  I quilted the entire photo with silk thread, then added hand stitching with a heavier red thread when done.  Beads were hand stitched as eyes.

Some unknown person who tatted the edging on the placemat contributed to the piece as I used that as a mat for the photo.  A bit of red fabric created an inner border.

All is stitched to a black canvas ready to hang on the wall.  For Valentine’s Day, or any time one wants to think of love.  Or visiting swans.

The photo image measures 7” x 10”.  The finished canvas is 16” x 20”.  Click on any image to enlarge it.

More details of the swans’ visit is detailed here, if you missed that one.

Cemetery Fog

The atmospheric conditions yesterday morning were not what most people think of as a perfect day for photography.  But since our destination was the cemetery, the dense fog was perfect!

We headed to Rose Hill Cemetery with a few devoted photography friends and I came home with lots of images for angelic quilts.  An earlier post about my first Galadrielle quilt is here and includes a bit of history of this magical place.

Yesterday I captured images of some more angels that I think need to be on fabric.

Little Martha, made famous by the Allman Brothers, is especially pretty in the fog, I think.

Other angels spoke to me, too.  This one sits atop the tomb of Parthenia Raines.

And here is a different interpretation of Galadrielle in fabric.  This time, her image is stitched to a vintage placemat with elaborate embroidery.  I added many pearl beads by hand, securing her to a remnant of an old quilt dipped in the indigo vat.

 

A reclaimed doily serves as the label on the back.

GBI Blues

One of the sites on a must-see list for visitors to Macon, GA, is the Hay House, an antebellum mansion now maintained for tours and special events.  Jim and I chose this site for a recent visit, taking my GBI Blues quilt along for a photoshoot.

GBI (Gee’s Bend Inspired) Blues represents everything I know that’s fun about quilting.  I started with a sunprinted image I had made, surrounded it with log-cabin-style piecing of some of my favorite fabrics, used no rulers or pins, and just sewed!  And the blues part is no surprise to regular readers.

Improvisational piecing is a love of mine.  It’s done well by many quilters and I admire so many pieces created that way.  But there’s a fine line between appealing quilts that have been pieced improvisationally and what I consider a big ‘ole mess.

The Gee’s Bend quilts are an art form all their own.  In Gee’s Bend, an isolated community in Alabama, descendants of slaves made quilts in anonymity for generations.  With limited resources, they stitched any fabric they could get, using no rulers or patterns.  In the 1990’s, an art collector “discovered” their creations.  He brought some of the women and their work to the attention of the art world.  Just google Gee’s Bend quilts and you can spend the day discovering these magnificent pieces of cloth.

I had a friend who had taken a class from one of the Pettway women from Gee’s Bend.  Her summary of the technique was, “don’t measure, don’t worry about cutting straight, just sew one piece of fabric to the next.” So, that’s what I did!

I followed the example of the women of Gee’s Bend, using fabrics from clothes Jim and I had worn, not necessarily quilting cotton.  There’s a shirt made from ticking in there.  When my friend Marie, a lacemaker, saw that I had left the pocket intact, she contributed a bit of lace to tuck inside.  Borders of my beloved Cherrywood blues, along with a strip of triangles using indigo fabrics and a mint green solid, added to the mix.

With no measuring, and no finished size in mind, the top was done when it was done.  It turned out to be a perfect lap size quilt, measuring 41” x 54”.  I pieced the back, too, using a Wonky Star (I need to write about that technique – haven’t done that yet) as the center, and again pulling some of my favorite blues together.

When it came time for the quilting, I continued the theme of “this is for FUN,” playing with all kinds of designs and threads.  I added french knots to the Queen Anne’s Lace at the end because it seemed that it still needed something.

I have a self-imposed rule of keeping blog posts reasonable in length.  But, do use your search engine to see more of the Hay House and Gee’s Bend quilts when you have time.  Both are well documented online and worth your time!

Some photos are ones I took.  Some are Jim’s with his amazing digital darkroom skills.  I think you know which ones are whose.  The only full view I seem to find is this shot at the Ga National Fair.

Swan Songs

“Have we told you about the time a swan came to our front door?”

That’s a question we’ve asked birding friends recently.

There’s been a lot of chatter about rare birds, trumpeter swans, in our area.  These birds normally live in western Canada and Alaska.  They don’t like the South.  In fact, the pair now visiting Piedmont National Wildlife Refuge near Juliette, GA, are believed to be the first ones to ever visit GA.

Our Minnesota friends recently posted photos of a huge flock of swans near them.  I was enthralled and obtained permission to use their images in art quilts, thinking I’d not be likely to see any of these birds.   Then, we heard there were some swans near us!  (More of Mary Ellen’s Minnesota stories are here.) This photo by Bruce Lundstrom.

On Saturday, Jim and I drove to Piedmont and were fortunate to find the pair close to shore at a pond.  We quietly approached the group watching, visited with old friends and made a couple of new friends.  Then everyone else left and we slowly walked out on the deck and got even closer to the beauties.

We had heard that the two stayed on the far side of another pond, so Jim took his big lens.  The birds were so close to us that he couldn’t get the whole bird in a shot.  I had carried my camera thinking, “this is a waste, I can’t see them well enough to photograph.”  Wrong.  I could, I did.  Jim went back to the truck (walking ever so slowly and quietly) to get a smaller lens.

I was thrilled to capture a few images, but I was so mesmerized by the glassy surface of the water, by the reflections of the trees and the birds, and by what I saw as parallel behavior of the swans, that I would forget to put down the binoculars and pick up the camera.

But snap the shutter, we did.  Jim got great detailed shots of the birds, I got some surprisingly nice images, too.  I love the two birds with the loose feather floating on the water!

 

 

I was thrilled when I realized I had captured a heart in one shot!

 

 

Their balancing acts as they preen, stretching that long graceful neck into Mobieus-like positions, that one big black foot in the air, the thrill of them when they unfurl those huge, huge wings – all formed   indelible moments in my mind.

I knew standing on the dock on Saturday that   this elegant swan would be the subject of my next drawing in Mark Ballard’s class..  From the moment I snapped the shutter, I said, “that’s the pose.”

Oh, and the earlier encounter with a swan was on Mother’s Day, 2004.   Our Welsh Corgi, Dixie, greeted a mute swan at our front door.  We lived a couple of blocks from the nearest lake, so our photos of her are not surrounded by reflections or ripples of water.  But the visit was memorable.

That swan twisted her long neck into crazy positions, too.

 

Next project:  stitching some swans!