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.

Bonnie’s Baskets

A dear friend whose new favorite color is purple needed a quilt.  She didn’t know she needed a quilt, but I did.  Rather, I knew I needed to make Bonnie a quilt.

You see, Bonnie is having a rough time health-wise.  She’s going for chemo treatments every couple of weeks, and in between those she’s having to rest more than she likes to let her body heal.

I don’t live close enough to go with Bonnie to her treatments or to help with cooking and housework.  Nor am I close enough for frequent hugs of support.  But, as most people know, a quilt is an endless supply of hugs from the maker to the recipient.

I like all traditional quilt blocks (well, ok, most traditional quilt blocks).  Four-patches, nine-patches, stars, waves, crowns, all have their appeal.  But my go-to quilt block is the basket.  I was once part of a mini-group that called ourselves the Basket Cases. The name was probably more appropriate for me than for the others – but you get the idea.  We all loved making basket blocks.

So for Bonnie’s quilt, I put together a few purple baskets, one overflowing with flowers and leaves and such.  The assembly was quite improvisational, simply baskets on white with white open spaces.

I have a reputation for quilting pieces that are bulletproof because I do like dense quilting.  But in this case, I stitched a meandering vine rather sparsely, leaving space for the quilt and batting to breathe, making it more cuddly to wrap oneself in.

The label is a remnant of a vintage doily with a basket embroidered by someone’s loving hand.

 

 

As I worked, my whole being was thinking of Bonnie and her treatments.  “Every stitch a prayer” kept echoing in my mind.  And there are many, many stitches.

Now Bonnie knows that I love her and am mentally traveling with her through her treatments.  And I know that she knows.

Star Over Tahiti

This time of year I often think, “I need to make more red and green quilts.”  And, I sometimes stitch using those colors, part of being  in the holiday spirit.

But here is a quilt I made one Christmas season that isn’t red or green.

I needed something seasonal to hang above the table where my Nativity scene would live for the holidays.  I had always loved the raw-edge technique of Rosemary Eichorn’s work, and had enjoyed making Stella, Harvest Princess using that method.  I was in a hurry to have something on the wall, so I was off to the fabric store to find ancient biblical – looking foliage.

I came home with some leafy fabric, did some fussy cutting, and went to work.  The patchwork sky was easy.  I had some brilliant blue fabric with flecks of sparkle that made for a perfectly magical sky.  I drafted a star with some elongated points, stitched that in place, and cut Bethlehem-like buildings free form.  Then I added palm trees and was proud of my accomplishment.

Jimmy G, who had been called upon a few times to give names to quilts, promptly named this one Star over Tahiti.

Whatever you call it, it served as a backdrop for the nativity scene.  And, I learned some ways to get a functional piece together in a minimal amount of time.

Finished measurements are 22″ x 30″.  I used cotton batting, cotton thread.  The quilting stitch secured the free-form pieced elements and raw-edge appliqué, all accomplished in the quilting process.

Challenging Quilting

seasquared-mouthOur guild’s challenge quilt is due in three weeks.  It’s secret until then, so I can’t show photos of it now, but I can say I’m excited about what I’m doing.  Tess, our Challenge Queen, gives us the annual specifications in February with the deadline being our November meeting.  I typically think about it, research photos and patterns, basically collecting thoughts until October or so when I have no choice but to make something.

There are years when I’ve started early, but I often aborted the first plan. There have been exceptions; occasions when I started earlier than usual, stayed focused on a project that took a lot of time, and brought it to completion ahead of schedule.  But several have been done the week before the due date.

On the single occasion when I completed the project early, I really disliked the quilt and abandoned the idea of using it as my entry. The challenge in 2013 was “ Dare to be Square” or something like that.  Tess always comes up with catchy titles.  The rule was that the quilt must be pieced (no appliqué!) and every piece must be a square. In October, I sprang into panic mode, grabbed a half-yard cut of a bold fish print by Brandon Mably, some hand-dyed fabrics of similar colors, and started cutting squares.

seasquared-whole-quiltI cut the largest square I could from the focus print (20” finished. (I know – it must have been a generous half-yard cut)), then cut smaller squares from the fish fabric and the others.  20” finished was a nice measure to use as the reference.  It was easy to patch together units using 1”, 2”, 4”, 5”, 10” components.

seasquared-fishesAs the project grew on the design wall, I had fun finishing a fish.  Where one had been cut off, I could find missing components of that fellow somewhere else in the smaller squares and place it close by to make his image extend into the other spaces.  I even discovered a batik striped fabric that mimicked the background of Mably’s fish and inserted that.

seasquared-starfishAs the “squarequarium” grew on my design wall, I began imagining quilting lines.  I could stitch even more of the missing parts of fish bodies, add bubbles in the water, and enhance fish fins and tails.  Oh, my, how fun was that?

seasquared-octopusI sewed quickly to get the piecing done, layered it with cotton batting, and began dancing with my sewing machine.  I used some heavy threads on some of the solid spaces, enjoyed stitching lots of free-motion quilting motifs, and especially enjoyed adding the octopus and starfish.

Even after all that, things looked a little “flat”.  Eyes.  Fish have prominent eyes.  So out came the wool, a circle cutter, some buttons, and voila!

seasquared-backA solid blue fabric on the back made the stitching details noticeable. Susan said she liked the back of this quilt better than the front.  So for her next birthday, I stitched a fish on blue fabric for her beach house.

This quilt does not contain colors in my house or colors I particularly enjoy using in a quilt.  But I love this finished product because seeing it reminds me how much fun a challenge can be.

I called this finished project “Sea Squared.”  Some of my math colleagues will notice the reference to a  project we worked on for years. The finished size is 40” x 34”.

This year the challenge requires at least three fan blocks, and some yellow fabric.  The finished size is prescribed this time: 36” square.  My first reaction was “I’m not a fan of the fan block,” but in my research I’ve certainly learned a lot about those historic blocks and their reinterpretations through the years.  As a friend said yesterday, “I love our challenges.  They force us to think about things differently.”  Indeed.

Update:  A later post revealed my entry in the fan block challenge.  It is here.

Piecing Pleasures

featherweightToday was a day with much time on the phone and on the computer.  Arranging details for upcoming events, paying bills, scheduling things.  Frustrating all.

And, seemingly accomplishing nothing.

But then I went into my sewing room for an hour or so.  I cut up some fabric and sewed it back together.  Now I’m myself again.

It was a simple design…one I’ve done before, but just refining the size of the block for another project.  But the pressing of the fabric, the slicing with a sharp rotary cutter, the sewing back together again, the hum of the machine.  Is there anyone who doesn’t find this process comforting?

I know, there are people who break out in hives just hearing about this.  But those are people who like to clean house and pull weeds, I think.  I love to sew!

I think I should reiterate that I was using a really simple forgiving pattern that does not involve matching intersections or tedious measuring.  Though those kinds of projects are rewarding too, today I needed improvisational bliss!  I oversized the pieces, sewed with a casual seam allowance, and trimmed to fit.  Pure pleasure!