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.

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!

Government Bird Going for a Ride

On Saturday mornings, my Daddy would go to the “fillin’ station” in Sycamore and meet up with some of his friends.  Mama said there was more gossip spread there than at any beauty shop.

govt bird

One day a newcomer to our rural way of life came to the station and asked about “those white birds I see with the cows in some pastures.”  He was told that “those are government birds.  They eat flies and protect your cows.”  Oh, he wanted some of those for his bovines.  “Go on down to the ASCS office – and tell them we sent you.  They’ll ask how many cows you have and issue you one bird per cow.”

The regulars kept their composure as the city slicker walked back to his truck to speed to the office of the Agricultural Stabilization and Conservation Service to put in his requisition. As he drove away, the knee-slapping laughter ensued.

I don’t remember any follow up to the story regarding when the new fellow realized he’d been taken for a ride.  But from that day on, any time we rode past a pasture with cattle egrets among the grazing cows, my Daddy made reference to the government birds.

My latest quilt is based on this story and on a photo a friend took a few months ago. Based on his photo, I drew this scene using colored pencil, then transferred it to silk fabric and added some details with quilting.

Silk fabric, Cherrywood hand dyed fabric, commercial cotton, and Moda linen were used.  Lots of raw edges!  Dream Wool batting.  Kimono silk thread and variegated YLI cotton thread based on Cherrywood colors. Finished size is 20″ x 19″