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.

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.

A Stepback Christmas


Even the outhouse was decorated for Christmas.

It was a cold bleak morning as we set out on a time travel adventure.  We headed to a settlement called Stepback – a Victorian village was open to the public to celebrate Christmas old style.

On 200 acres, a man with a vision has created a historic settlement.  Roger Pierce has a general store, a schoolhouse, a church, and many farm sheds and buildings.  Often the acreage is quiet, sometimes populated by school groups or scouts who have made plans to visit for a day.  But yesterday was its annual opening to the public for Christmas.

Family members, friends, and local community members dressed in period clothing were on hand to educate and entertain.  There was a corn sheller operating, grinding corn using energy from the waterwheel.  A schoolmarm was on hand to answer questions and lead children in the construction of paper chains to decorate the tree.  In the church, live piano music provided the perfect backdrop of Christmas carols and hymns.

Oh, and there were women, who for this day, donned their Victorian best dresses to pose as floozies.  They layered the clothing to ward off the cold, fortified themselves with a bit of antifreeze (medicinal, they said).  As they raised a toast, I heard “May we be floozed the rest of our lives!”

While walking about, we ran into old friends and made new friends.  In a picturesque setting, we were enchanted with simple decorations of the past.  As the day progressed, the sun came out from behind the clouds, and more people came out, too.

 

The people of this community recognize this treasure and come to show their appreciation.  The owner was a local businessman with a love of history.  After he retired, he began to create this haven.  In some cases, he found old buildings and dismantled them and rebuilt them on his property.  Other buildings are made from trees growing on his property.  Likewise, the furniture and contents of the buildings are assembled from a wide range of sources.  All of it comes together in a bucolic settlement which serves to trigger memories in older folks and educate the young.

Mr. Pierce charges no admission at Christmas or any other time.  Those who choose to make a donation know that it will be used to buy toys for children whose Christmas would be less abundant without it.

 

And, did I say that “Mayor Pierce”  wears overalls?  Well, of course he does.  Yesterday, many of the men working there, and some of the visitors, were wearing overalls.  Yes, I got lots of photos.  Yes, there will be some art quilts depicting this place!

 

Kaffe visits FDR

Look – it’s a president with one of my quilts!  Not the current president, but a president with ties to Georgia. The statue is in Franklin D. Roosevelt State Park, at Dowdell’s Knob, near Pine Mountain.  We had this quilt along with us and I thought he might be a bit chilly.

Following the photographic lead of Kaffe Kassett and Bruce Lundstrom, I decided to take a quilt on a day trip.  This bright fall day seemed a good time to bring Kaffe’s Walk Through the Woods.  Kaffe Fassett is a California-born artist who has lived in England for the last 50 years or so designing knitting and needlepoint designs.  Known for his bold use of color, Kaffe has added patchwork to his textile repertoire, designing vibrant quilting fabrics and using them in simple patterns.  His books on quilting are fabulous photographic journals.  He takes a collection of quilts to exotic locations and stages photos with extraordinary scenes.  Bruce Lundstrom is the photographer mentioned in my latest post here.

Kaffe’s Walk Through the Woods is made from one of Kaffe’s patterns that I began while taking a class from him in 2009.  The pattern is Diagonal Madness and is the result of cutting lots and lots of squares in two sizes and arranging them on a design wall to create patterns in horizontal, vertical, and diagonal rows.

My quilting sister Tess and I shared a work table that day and boldly chose to ignore directions. Here is  Tess beside her rows of squares.

 

 

 

 

I thought my work was destined for the trash bin until Kaffe himself gave his critique and elaborated on the smokey, ethereal quality of my color choices.  He remarked that he felt like he was walking through the woods with the leaves shimmering on the trees.  So I had a title and reason to finish it – if Kaffe himself liked it, it was a keeper!   But not right away, of course.

The pieces stayed rolled up in the flannel design “wall” we had used for quite a while.  In 2012, I stitched the pieces together and had one of my longarm quilting friends, Kathy Darley, work her magic on the quilting.  Just look at her feathers in the closeup – Wow! Click on this, or any other photo, to enlarge and examine details.

On this fall day, FDR enjoyed the quilt, too.  At least one park visitor took a photo of a crazy lady warming a statue.  I’d love to hear the stories the lady with the camera had to tell friends about our encounter.

The finished quilt measures 56” x 76”.

You can google Kaffe Fassett and “images” and spend the day being mesmerized and inspired by color.  This link takes you to a page focusing on his patchwork, fabrics, and books: http://www.gloriouscolor.com.  More info including videos are here.

Mary Ellen’s Quilt Tours

This quilt, Mrs. Chillingsworth, is so named by my friend Mary Ellen, in honor of the resident ghost in their home in Minnesota.  Mary Ellen is a gifted and prolific quilter whose friendship I cherish.  This piece was made using a pattern called Sidelights and a panel Mary Ellen found at Missouri Star Quilt Company.

Mary Ellen and her photographer husband Bruce, took Mrs. Chillingsworth on a seasonal outing recently and shared photos.  This photo journey is the 48th installment in what Mary Ellen intended to be 52 Quilts-A Journal/Journey of the Stars and Stripes and Other Quilts. I say intended because Mary Ellen says they’re having so much fun, they probably won’t stop at 52.  And, she has plenty more quilts on hand, and is still sewing.

The photo journey with quilts began sometime in 2016 and Mary Ellen has posted groups of photos on Facebook featuring quilts in picturesque settings including roadside vistas, historic sites, and remote areas of natural beauty.  On occasion, they’ve secured permission to pose a quilt on a priceless antique chair for its photo op.

Since the first few installments, I’ve begged for a published version; a history book, travelogue, and quilt reference, all in one!  There’s no commitment yet from the pair, but at Christmastime last year, their children showed them what fun it would be to have a bound copy of their adventures.  Their son and daughter collected the posts and photos and had the first 29 episodes published and bound for them.  Nice, huh?

Mary Ellen had a shop in Battle Lake MN, Sweetapple, where she sold gifts, pottery, primitives, and furniture made by Bruce.  In the same building was B’s Quilt Shop.  The two complemented each other, merged, and the obsession with quiltmaking began.

Mary Ellen does all her piecing on her 1957 Singer Featherweight and all the quilting on a longarm machine.  Some of the quilts in the photos were made as samples; for her shop or for others’.  In each post, she’s shared the name of the pattern used, so when the book comes out, you’ll get lots more details.

In addition to driving around looking for photographic spots, Bruce and Mary Ellen still make and distribute portable pressing tables. Theirs were feathered in Fons and Porters magazine in 2009, on Simply Quilts, and in various magazines.  Now (theoretically retired) they mostly distribute wholesale to shops in their area, but will fill orders from all over.  I have contact info if you need it.  My table is in the foreground of this photo when I was sewing in the breakfast room one cold day last winter.

I know the photos make you hungry for more details of their adventures.  You can see their spirit of adventure and Mary Ellen’s excellent workmanship in the photos here.  In spite of the intriguing locales, no injuries have been sustained in the photo shoots, though Bruce and Mary Ellen do admit to some exhaustion from the hikes.  I love the scenery in all seasons, but anxiously await seeing a quilt at Bruce’s ice fishing hut.

Here are a few more photos.  As always, you can click on a photo to enlarge it.
When their book comes out, I’ll be sure to share the news here!

The Camera


Sometimes the camera tells a story.  Sometimes the camera is the story.

While exploring in some antique stores on Friday, I found some treasures.  Bits of lace, buttons, old hand embroidery.

 

And photos of unknown folks with a story to tell.

 

 

 

 

Jim found a treasure, too.  A miniature 35mm camera with leather case, original box, and paperwork.  He enjoys giving these tools new jobs to do, running a roll of film through them, letting the camera tell stories again.

On Saturday, he took it to a local shop to get a new battery.  The store owner, George, said, “I remember an occasion when I worked on a camera exactly like this one time before.”  It was at a gathering hosted by Phil Walden in the 1970’s.  A fellow came by with a camera like this in his hand, profanely exclaiming that it wasn’t working properly.  George asked what seemed to be the problem, adding, “I work on cameras, I can look at it for you if you like.”  Taking the offered camera, making the necessary adjustments, George got the camera working and handed it back.  Andy walked away and continued photographing the social event.

Years later, the two men’s paths crossed again in New York.  Andy looked at George and said, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”  After hearing, “I repaired a camera for you once in Macon, Ga.,” Mr. Warhol muttered, “Oh, yeah,” as he walked away.

Sewing on the Road

We took a road trip yesterday and I did some sewing while riding.  I haven’t done that in a while.  Lately, I’ve been enjoying the scenery, sometimes helping with navigation and driving.  Before leaving home today, I grabbed one of my favorite projects to go:  English Paper Piecing.

I love this technique.  Some of the first quilt making I did was using this method.  In Ollie Jane’s Flower Garden, I pieced the hexagons for the background by basting fabric to freezer paper templates.  This was a great travel project while visiting with my mother during the years of her life in an assisted living facility, in hospitals while family members were receiving treatment, and later a repeat of the situation with my mother-in-law.

I’ve found other kinds of hand work to be portable, too.  I’ve done wool appliqué and the seed stitch while riding, details described here.  But for quick preparation for an on-the-move project, EPP can’t be topped.  Today I grabbed a mini-charm pack of fabric, some hexagons I had cut from card stock (using my AccuQuilt Go, and a little tin of supplies I keep at the ready.  In this box is a pair of scissors, a couple of pins, a needle, a thimble, and thread.  I can grab it and go.

Here’s a photo of all I got done in the car…of the 42 fabrics in the collection, I think there are 5 left to be basted.  The rest are ready to attach together or to something else.

 

 


Once home, I pulled out this bag of templates to make my version of La Passacaglia, a complex EPP project of many shapes.  I love the geometry of it all, and began playing with it a while back, especially using some fabric with symmetrical designs to demonstrate possibilities while teaching the technique.  It’s all stored where I can pull it out and work on it a while, put it away, and visit again later.  Pieces in progress are pictured in the pile. (The orange and blue probably won’t end up in my final quilt, not colors I like…I was just playing with the colors and symmetry of the fabric in this rosette.)  I took this to our guild a few months ago, planning to offer the whole caboodle for sale at a bargain.  Now I’m glad I rethought it.  Who knows when a ready-to-go project will come in handy?  When Jim says, “let’s go,” I say “I’m ready.  Where?”.  But I feel better knowing I have some sewing to take along, even if it just goes for a ride and doesn’t get touched.

New Old Stuff


I’ve acquired some real treasures in recent days…my brain is spinning with ideas for using them.

The red windowpane checked towels are old linen.  Yes, they do look like graph paper.  But they work well as an underlying grid for free form appliqué and stitching.  The loose weave and years of washing make them a delight to use – the needle just glides through the openings between the threads.  The red/burlap trim and the lace are gifts from a friend.  They came from Europe and look like they belong with a collection of French General fabrics, don’t they?

The doilies are another antique store find.  Yes, they are treasures in their original box, with the label, but they won’t stay there.  Click on the photo to enlarge if you want to read the details.  You will swoon! They will become mats for photos on fabric, I think.

And the blue linen hankie, oh, my, what a beauty!  A friend found this while shopping and thought of me.  And this was before seeing my vintage blues from Bell Buckle!   Enlarge his one to see the hand drawn thread work and the amazing tiny appliqué.  The white squares in the nine-patch measure 3/8” on  each side.

This piece will not find its way into a quilt for a very long time.  It now lives in my basket of blue.