I printed the image on a bit of vintage linen napkin, painted his tie, and machine stitched using free-motion quilting. The rickrack frame is hand stitched around the photo on a layer of hand-dyed cotton fabric.
My mother entertained little girls by cutting paper dolls from paper. She would fold the newspaper or catalog pages accordion style, then cut one-half of a girl in a dress. All of us squealed as she unfurled the string of girls holding hands.
I had some fabric on hand that looked like little girls’ dresses, so I made a template and appliquéd some of Mama’s dolls on fabric.
Later it occurred to me that one of the granddaughters might like a parade of little girls like she once played with in paper. I happened to have fabric from five dresses she had worn as a toddler. I cut a pattern so that five girls would fit on a vintage doily I found, and a memory was rekindled. I layered the dolls and doily on a bit of indigo dyed linen and used machine quilting to add dimension. Buttons from those five little dresses were used as embellishments and to secure the layers to a bit of a vintage cross-stitched quilt. The finished piece measures 17” x 16”.
The man on the far right…what’s that he’s holding in his hand? That’s my grandfather, here with three of his brothers. When I find a photo in which he is included, I’m always intrigued by how the photo was taken, since he was usually the one behind the camera.
I recently wrote about the coincidence that both my husband and I had maternal grandfathers who were professional photographers. Sometimes we can find a cable in the photo leading to a remote shutter release. Those were available from as early as 1918 in advertisements like this one found here.
In this case, zooming and examining (you can click on any image to enlarge it) reveals no cable, and in the 1940’s when this photo was probably taken, there was no timer built in to cameras as we have now. However, my Grandfather did have a son who helped him with his photography business by that time. Homer, Jr. went to work in the darkroom at age 7, in 1935. It is likely that he, Jr., is the one taking this photo. And, GrandDaddy is probably holding the remnants of a cigar.
I printed this photo on fabric from a vintage linen tablecloth, painted some elements, layered it on wool batting, and stitched around the figures with silk thread. It is layered on cotton fabric, a layer of old burlap, and then on an old quilt remnant. The resulting piece measures 14” x 17”.
Homer Carter and Homer Youngblood were both professional photographers in the early part of the twentieth century. In our house, we have a lot of photos taken by these two men who, to our knowledge, never met.
Homer Carter was the father of Sadie, my mother-in-law. Homer Youngblood was the father of Cleo, my mother. Interesting, don’t you think?
This serendipitous happening means that we have some images on hand that were made with the best photographic equipment available at the time, and printed on quality paper. Perfect for scanning and printing on fabric, I think.
This photo of an unidentified gentleman of the early 1900’s was compelling to me. He was a client of Jim’s grandfather. I printed his image on a remnant of a vintage linen tablecloth, painted the bicycle red, and quilted the layers with silk thread. Free motion quilting gives dimension to the man and the bicycle with wool batting underneath.
The image is layered on a denim remnant, hand stitched with a Kantha stitch using red embroidery floss. All is then layered and attached to a scrap of an old tattered quilt.
In 1952, he was four years old and wanted to fly a kite. In this photo, he watched as his Daddy held the string and the kite climbed higher and higher. The air was crisp, the wind pulling the string quickly. At the moment the photo was taken, the boy sensed disaster on the horizon.
He was right. Shortly after the shutter clicked, the string broke and the red kite was gone. As the little boy grew, more kites flew and did not fly away, but the anxiety born that day was ever present when the kites were in the air.
When asked for appropriate titles for this art quilt, he said, Childhood Trauma, or Hold Tight, Daddy, or Don’t Let Go, would all be appropriate. In truth, he barely remembers the day, and probably wouldn’t remember it at all were it not for the photo. This is exactly the kind of experience I love to capture in cloth. A memory. A story. A moment frozen.
I printed the photo on a piece of vintage linen from an old tablecloth and added color to the boy’s jeans and cap with watercolor crayons. I had overdyed some old linen in the indigo vat that looked a lot like a winter sky, so I cut the foreground image from the photo and stitched it to the blue. I appliquéd the kite using a bit of French General red fabric, and hand embroidered the kite string and tails. When I added machine quilting stitches, I used dark thread to emphasize the fence posts and trees.
I finished the piece by attaching the fabric photo unit to an old quilt remnant, adding borders of ribbon and a coarsely woven red checked fabric. Hand and machine stitching were used for this step. The piece finished at 16” x 22”. A vintage doily serves as the label.
It’s a beautiful fall day, the sky is blue, gingko leaves are at their peak of golden, so we head to the cemetery. Isn’t that what all families do on a glorious day? They do if they live where we do and have a more than 200 acres of serene beauty to stroll.
Rose Hill Cemetery was established in 1840 on 65 acres of land along the banks of the Ocmulgee River. In 1887, another 125 acres of adjacent land was devoted to Riverside Cemetery. Both of these were designed by highly respected landscape architects and were intended to be used as a park as well as a solemn final resting place for citizens. Continuing that tradition, both of these cemeteries are now part of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, a walking, biking, communing-with-nature space which we treasure.
So, with camera and crayons in hand, we headed out the door. We had walked these trails and admired the art of the cemetery before I became acquainted with the art of Susan Lenz. Finding her work answered the question, “how can this beauty be incorporated into a quilt?” So now I am prepared with fabric and crayons, just in case.
My latest art quilt is the result of last Saturday’s stroll. Jim took the photo of Galadrielle, an angel at the foot of Duane Allman’s grave. I printed it on vintage linen fabric, added some stitching though layers of wool batting, more vintage linen, raw silk, and an indigo-dyed remnant of an old quilt. A few buttons and a bit of angelic lace came out of my treasure bins for this project.
I used free motion machine stitching to define the shape of Galadrielle and add dimension and detail. Hand stitching was used everywhere else. Some unknown sewist had done some hand stitching on the remnant I used as the base. Her hand quilting and cross stitch has a new life. The worn quilt has been cut up and used in several of my favorite pieces. I’m loving the blue ones best! I wonder if this unknown colleague did her hand stitching while visiting with friends, or perhaps while listening to the television, as I do.
The quilt finishes at 14” x 23”.
Neither of them ever married. This photo was taken sometime around 1912. They were 18 and 15 at the time. Within ten years, their mother would be confined to a wheelchair, their older sister would die in childbirth, leaving two young daughters to their care.
The family was rich in acreage, but World War I and the boll weevil meant cash was in short supply, and these two women contributed financially to the household.
The older of the two earned teaching credentials, sometimes living with families in distant communities (ten miles from home) and sending money home. The younger ran the household as the orphaned nieces and younger sister grew up.
They saw women get the right to vote, lived through the Great Depression, and World War II. There were adventures, too: travel with an eccentric millionaire, letters from faraway lands, and a barnstorming adventure. Charles Lindberg did fly in Georgia, was he the pilot?
During WWII, the teacher was offered “script” as her paycheck (a promise for money from the state someday), so she traveled further to work in a naval ordinance plant. The younger worked as a switchboard operator and in so doing, connected many families to news of their beloved ones. She was the first in town to get the word that the war was over, running down the stairs of the downtown office to spread the news.
As they laid their parents to rest and saw their young charges grow up and establish lives of their own, they continued to hold their shares of the land together, hiring others to farm the land while they moved to town. They lived together until the death of the younger from breast cancer at age 49. A few years later, the older would face the same diagnosis, but her treatment would be successful. She would live her life productively until the age of 91.
These women were a big part of my childhood. From them I learned that life is to be lived fully and to be enjoyed on a daily basis. It may be hard to meet responsibilities in front of you, but complaints don’t help; just get the job done with a smile on your face.
Because of them, I am not surprised to read the ‘revelation’ that spinster does not have to be a derogatory term. In the later Middle Ages, the term spinster was first used. Then, it denoted a person who spins yarn and therefore has a marketable skill. Memories of these sisters convey the modern interpretation of” a woman who can live independently and doesn’t need a man to be happy.”
Details of quilt: A vintage photo (circa 1912) of two unmarried sisters was printed on a remnant of a vintage linen tablecloth. Hand-guided, free-motion machine quilting was used to add detail, lace collars and beading were added with hand stitching. The linen background for the photo was attached to a vintage linen log cabin quilt made from silk. A vintage cotton doily was used for the label.
Hand stitching on the piece was completed while demonstrating work at the Georgia National Fair. The quilt finishes at 16” x 20”.
“This has been so good for me today. I’ve been so down in the dumps lately. I lost my best friend and have been unable to do anything. Now I have new ideas and I’m going to make….”
These words came from a new friend at a quilt guild where I gave a talk yesterday. She came up to me at the end, when people had questions or wanted to see a quilt up close again. She was beautiful, seemingly calm, serene; her outward appearance did not reveal her troubled soul. But she and I know that stitching will soothe her. She can make something while thinking of her friend. She will recapture memories in the threads and forever after, when she looks at that finished project, she will remember the good times as well as the sorrow that she felt with the loss.
My talk was Capturing a Story in a Quilt. I shared stories that had prompted a quilt project of mine, like Granny Zee’s Scrap Baskets, or Government Bird Going for a Ride, as well as stories that evolved with the quilt (one example being Ollie Jane’s Flower Garden).
The centerpiece of the talk was Fifty-Two Tuesdays, a Journal Quilt, where I intentionally set out to chronicle a year of my life in fabric. But all of us who stitch know that every quilt we make holds memories; of friends who sat with us as we stitched, of travels where some fabric was purchased, or situations in life that accompanied the project’s progress.
In order for others to know those stories that live within the quilts, we need to write them down. A story quilt is a good visual cue to share family stories with future generations, but a written record will help preserve the details.
A quilting friend has recently prepared a manuscript ready to print a few copies as gifts for family members. A daughter-in-law interested in genealogy asked Ethel to write down some family stories, so she did. Keeping it simple, she wrote as if she were talking to this daughter-in-law. No editors, or publishers, or agents are needed these days, even if you want it bound and want multiple copies.
I treasure some memories my aunt wrote on scraps of stationery; she shared stories my mother had told me, but the details were fuzzy. I love that I have a written record of those childhood stories, compliments of my cousin Susie and her copying machine.
I left yesterday’s meeting with new friends and new intentions. Some of them shared their plans to write down memories associated with their quilts. I saw projects that inspire me to go to the sewing machine!
In the Artist’s Way, Julia Cameron advises artists to “take your inner artist on a date once a week.” Go to a museum, or a movie, or the beach, to feed your soul. Go alone.
I don’t do that. Not exactly that. No schedule, no plan. But I do enjoy the moment when it happens. Seize the day. Or the hour. Or the 15 minutes in a hot, old mill where antiques are sold.
That’s where you see me in this photo. Shuffling though family memories. Not my family, but a family for sale. Well, their memories are for sale.
Sad, you say. Yes. It is sad that a bunch – I estimate 500 or more in the bin I picked though (I looked at every one, bought dozens) family photos were sold in bulk to a stranger. The names and places may be gone, but the stories are still there.
I don’t know the name of the family, the location of the photos, or even the time frame for certain. But because they look so much like old photos in my family, I can guess 1950s and 1960s. I know they lived in a house with a backyard, that they built a water feature there at some point, they had a spot where they always took photos on birthdays. As the children aged, the bushes at the corner of the house grew and matured. The birthday boy or girl was almost always situated in the same spot with that corner of the house in the background. Usually it was the child alone with the cake, sometimes sitting on the ground, many times with the cake on a stool from inside the house. Later there was a picnic table added, and the cake sat there.
And, then the birthdays moved inside. My photographer husband notes that they got a camera with a flash. I didn’t think of that, but I’m sure he’s right.
I know this family dressed up for Easter, for Scout meetings, and what I hope was “tacky day” at school. They hunted Easter eggs in an area with pine trees and broomsedge. They visited older relatives, went to the beach a few times, to the mountains, and had family members in the armed forces. They fed ducks and went to a petting zoo. There were graduations, engagements, and a big anniversary celebration in later years. They bought new cars now and then, kids got wheels, too – wagons, tricycles, and then bicycles.
The core family consisted of a Mom, Dad, son, daughter. There were extended family members; brothers and sisters of the parents, their spouses, grandparents, close friends.
Mom baked cakes and kept an immaculate house. Dad worked hard and enjoyed playing with the children after work. They paid their bills on time, added a few improvements to the half-acre they called home as extra money allowed, and were good neighbors. You may think my imagination has run away with me here, and you could be right. But I think I know these people.
At least I know a family I imagine like this and that makes my day better. If I can create art from these photos that conveys part of that good feeling, that’s good for even more people.
So, is it still sad for the photos to be sold?
Is this what Julia Cameron wants to come out of my date with my inner artist each week?
I’ve already been working on more photos on fabric since Flag Bearer was done. Several are in various stages of completion; you’ll be seeing some soon.
And I’m pretty sure you expect a fabric story based on these children and their birthday cakes. Yep, I’m doing that!
I can hear joyous voices raised in song when I see an old church. A well-proportioned steeple reaching to the heavens is pleasing. Stained glass windows are nice. But even without those finer details, old churches thrill my soul. I know there are stories within those walls. Stories of peace and solace received there, of friendship and loving support in hard times, of comfort in grief. There are stories of gossip and scandal and intrigue, too.
We often stop the car on our backroad jaunts to photograph an old church. But on a recent Saturday, we went on an expedition with a local camera club to photograph a select group of historic churches in a rural county nearby. My husband has recently joined this group; thus the title of my latest quilt, Old Churches, New Friends.
Jim’s photos are of the highest resolution, with crisp details. I often print his photos on silk fabric which conveys this sharpness. But I wanted these photos to reflect the historic quality of the adventure, so I printed them on pieces of a vintage linen tablecloth, most of them in black and white. I loved the result – the coarseness of the fabric conveyed a grainy effect on the photos. Perfect.
I continued the primitive look by hand stitching the photos to another old piece of linen. The rough weave of this background fabric did not allow me to write on it successfully, so I printed the names of the churches on commercially prepared cotton fabric, and stitched memorable words using free motion stitching on the sewing machine.
Providence Baptist in Shady Dale was founded in 1810 and included some Revolutionary War soldiers as some of the first members. As I walked through the cemetery, I found a very old section and one grave with a magnificent cedar tree growing at its head. My thought was, “when this soldier died, he became a tree.” So, that photo grew into a tree on my quilt.
Hopewell Baptist Church was covered with a tarp as it is awaiting a new roof. But the architecture of it was amazing; not because of towers and turrets, but because of its simple beauty. The windows and shutters spoke volumes to me and to the other Sandy along on the trip. She and I photographed them from every angle and I drew sketches of them as we stood there sharing our love of their structure. Then we noticed the shape of the vent in the front of the church. Not the square, rectangle, or rhombus that is often the case, but a kite. So, a geometry discussion was included in the day as well.
The block on the outside of the quilt is an appliquéd version of one of the windows of that church. I made another one of these replicas for that week’s block in my journal quilt for 2106, Fifty-Two Wednesdays. That image seems to symbolize the day to me.
Since beginning work on Fifty-Two Tuesdays, I’ve wanted to make other journal quilts, some which chronicled a single trip, or a single day. This example will just say to others, “nice. They photographed some old churches.” But to me and to Jim, when we see it, we will remember the friends, the back roads, Queen Anne’s Lace blooming all along the roadsides, and fried chicken.
Details of quilt: Finished measurements are 17” x 38”. Vintage linen, commercial quilting cotton fabrics. Label is made from a vintage woman’s handkerchief. Hand stitching, machine stitching, free-motion quilting.
Another note: There is a website with beautiful photos and stories related to this adventure, Historic Rural Churches of Georgia. I’ve found details about some of the ones we’ve visited, and added to our list of “want to visit”, too.