The Glow of Orange

It’s October, cool, and time to think about glorious leaves falling.  I love to see the leaves drift down from the trees, and I love the colors as the chlorophyll breaks down.  The shades of red and yellow taking over from the green are spellbinding.  And orange is there, too.

Orange is not my favorite color in decorating or in quilts.  But this time of year, I incorporate it into our lives.  Our guild’s designated Challenge Queen, Tess, loves to require a bit of orange in her rules; so I’m learning to incorporate it without screaming.  And, if the theme is fall, I get to use pumpkins, which I love.  I love their shapes, texture, and color.  The pillow here is wool appliqué. The pumpkin and leaves wools were purchased hand dyes, the background is a recycled wool skirt, felted and reused.

Two recent projects include pumpkins.  This 5” x 7” framed piece is a pumpkin appliquéd onto a fabric replica of an old sampler in colors of autumn.

Another pumpkin is hand appliquéd on an old linen doily with free-motion machine quilting, hand embroidery, and beading.  It is attached to a remnant of an old quilt and measures 22” x 17”.

The middle layer is a found remnant of linen drapery fabric. I just love the grasshopper.  You can click on any photo to enlarge it, but this is one you might really want to examine.

Above is the entire piece.

This post describes some earlier quilts with fall themes and colors.

And to read more about Tess and challenge quilts, you can type “challenge” in the search box, or click on that category name.  There are several related posts.  Many include orange.

And, an earlier quilt called After the Chlorophyll is here.

Dyeing Notions

My indigo dye pot has seen action this summer with fabric and notions.  I found a big bag of  wooden buttons in an antique store and wondered, “will these take dye well?”  For a $3 investment, I thought it was worth the risk.  The payoff was spectacular!  I suddenly had a tray filled with blue buttons drying on the back porch.

I love buttons almost as much as I do fabric and love to find old buttons of bone,  horn, or wood to add the perfect note to projects.  These that went in the dye pot were NOT antique treasured wooden buttons.  They were machine-made for craft projects, just hadn’t been used and were being sold for a song.

After that success, I decided to try dyeing some threads.  I have dipped some embroidery floss and some perle cotton.  It adds a little more personality to know that I’m stitching with something unique.

So my latest finished piece is called Blue With Blue on Blue.  I appliquéd the melons onto a vintage linen tea towel, then did minimal machine quilting around the appliqué, and attached the dyed buttons using dyed floss.

 This turned out to be a  fun project which will generate memories of hand stitching, dyeing, and playing every time I see it.  It is now keeping company with another couple of favorite pieces in an out-of-the-way corner that almost no one sees.  But I see it.  And I like it!

Pink Ribbon

My sister was beautiful.  This photo was taken when she was about twelve years old – she was still an only child at that time.  It would be three more years before I came into her life.

When I was younger than twelve, I would look at this photo and dream of looking like Jane when I reached that magical age.  The years rolled by and my mother took me to a photographer to mark that special birthday, but I was disappointed in the result.  I did not have Jane’s thick, wavy hair, her tanned complexion, or her beautiful brown eyes.

The original photo of Jane was taken by my grandfather and there is a version hand tinted by my Aunt Corinne.


Recently I scanned the image, printed it in on fabric, and painted the bow.  Jane’s favorite color was pink,so a deep shade of that was the obvious choice for her ribbon.  In the photo, she was wearing a locket, and I had a mother-of-pearl bauble which seemed to be a good substitute.

A bit of batting, some free motion machine quilting, and I was ready to hand stitch the piece to a bit of vintage edging.  I used some metallic thread to stitch her necklace (hand embroidered backstitch) and some silken twist thread to attach the photo to the lacy border.  Both threads were gifts from a friend, items from his late mother’s stash. The in-progress photo is one I sent to the friend while I was working, letting him see his mother’s supplies at work.

 

All these layers were stitched to a red background, commercial cotton fabric.  This is custom framed in a 16” x 20” frame, with a double oval mat.

Free Form Log Cabins

I love hand piecing.  There’s something about pulling a needle and thread through cloth that soothes me.  It’s the rare day that I don’t have to do a little stitching before going to bed.  Most of the time, it’s during the couple of hours after supper when we watch tv.

Even after spending hours in my sewing room as I did yesterday, cutting and sewing at the machine, I still find it necessary to unwind by stitching a bit.

My current project is pictured here.  Log cabin-style blocks that approximate 5” finished.  Mostly in blues and whites.  I was inspired by a blog entry by Jude Hill a few weeks ago when she was piecing some free form log cabins.  I started my own and can’t stop.  It’s so addictive.  Part of the fun is using special fabrics.  Many of these pieces came from clothing remnants, some from scraps of vintage linens.  I selected some special fabrics to be the “heart” of the blocks, too.  Some bits of embroidery, some pieces of a friend’s silk jacket, various old treasures lying about.

In theory, the blocks start with 1” squares and use 1” logs.  But, if the chosen center element is larger, I just adjust as I go.  I have some templates lying nearby and use them sometimes, but other times I just eyeball it and start stitching.

I’m using Jude’s technique of invisible basting the seam allowances open, too.  It makes subsequent stitching so pleasant.

I have no plan.  I’m just stitching for fun.  Enjoying the process, letting the assembly evolve.  I did scatter a few blocks on the design wall a few days ago, on top of a piece of silk I had dipped in the dye pot.  Here’s how that looked.

 

 

Some years ago, I made this little wall hanging.  (I wrote about this before, remembering that I sewed the binding on while visiting a B & B.) Here, I hand pieced tumbling blocks from assorted blue fabrics.  Then I did use a template to have exactly the same sized blocks, and I used commercial fabric.  I collected beloved blue fabrics, including the fossil fern (I love that fabric!) in the border.

A blue and white toile on the back is a favorite of mine, too.  I quilted it using free motion quilting, invisible nylon thread and cotton batting.  It measures 26” square.

Generally, commercial fabrics are not nearly so much fun to stitch as the softer, thinner, more loosely woven fabrics I’m using now.  And the memories ….memories of the homespun jumper my mother made for me and I wore for years, the shirt Jim wore with his overalls, the threadbare linen jacket of mine, and the remnants I dyed indigo last summer make these pieces special to handle.  Those memories don’t come off a bolt in a store.

Hearts in the Kitchen

This time of year we see hearts in abundant numbers.  This symbol of love is everywhere, and often seen in shades of red.

I love the heart motif and have it all around my house and in quilts I’ve made.  This year I’ve been adding to my bowl of blue hearts in the breakfast room.  I made a few last year and in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been adding more.

I’ve used ribbons, buttons, and lace to embellish some of them.  In other cases, I just stitched and stuffed some of my favorite fabrics.  I added French knots to one.  On another I stitched pearls from a rescued strand I bought.  The fabrics include barkcloth, vintage ticking, African indigo batik, hand-dyed linen, bits of an old quilt, and fabrics from well-worn clothing.

This bowl of stories sits on the breakfast room table.  It warms my heart (pun not intended, but appropriate, I guess) to recall memories associated with each element.

Oh, I can use red fabric, too.

 

Photo notes:  The pitcher with heart is part of my Rowe pottery collection.  The wooden bowl (and possibly some of the spoons) is by my favorite wood carver, Ralph Smith.  The heart-shaped bark basket holds memories of St. Simons Island where I bought it many many years ago.

Treasure Hunting

A beautiful fall day, an escape from routine, time spent with my best friend, vintage linens; how can I decide which one of these is the most treasured?

treasures-bee-linenYesterday Jim and I went junking.  Well, not really.  Dumpster divers we aren’t.  We aren’t even heavily into yard sales or estate sales.  We like antique malls where someone else has made the selections, maybe done some cleaning up, and displayed items in a pleasing manner.  Well, the last is not always true.  But, we do like antique malls.

We’ve had booths before.  The set up and decorating is fun, but we didn’t make a lot of money because we don’t enjoy the junky level of searching. But as is true in all aspects of life, it’s not about the money.  We do find Saturdays out and about discovering treasures, recalling memories, and driving back roads to get there to be joyous.

Yesterday’s finds were numerous.  Now that I have found a way to include vintage linens that I love in my quiltmaking, I sometimes have a list of things I need.  Often it’s linen to use in the printer for photos, or fabric doilies and coasters to use as labels.  Yesterday I really needed nothing.  I have quite a collection on hand and friends have even started sharing their treasures hoping I can find a use for them.

treasures-old-quiltBut  I did find a few things I couldn’t leave behind.  An old quilt with a masculine look will be perfect as the backing for men in photographs.  The homespun backside is amazing, too.  A blue cross-stitched linen tablecloth.  A couple of bargain pieces which will be amazing labels, and a lovely bee!

treasures-coatsI didn’t really plan to spend a day this week cutting apart old wool coats and felting them.  But at $5.00 each, these 100% wool coats begged to be included in a quilt project.  Ok, will do.  Any ideas about what to do with the fur collar?

treasures-boothAnd I found inspiration!  Not so much in the textiles themselves, but in displays.  Old suitcases opened with vintage trims and fabrics inside, laces and ribbons wrapped around old wooden spindles, jars of buttons pleasingly arranged.  These kinds of things make my heart sing.

Julie Cameron would be proud of the date my inner artist had yesterday.  Not a solitary trip, but a real date with my soulmate and my soul!  The drive though pasture land (the solitary chimney on 52 Tuesdays was on the route), lunch at one of our favorite local establishments, and an ice-cream cone treat reminiscent of childhood drives made it heavenly!

Spinster Sisters

spinster-sistersNeither 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?

spinster-sisters-olderDuring 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.”

spinster-sisters-backDetails 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”.

Another Voice

prom-dress-girlSometimes the process goes smoothly, other times not.

The secret’s out.  My quilts talk to me.

Here’s what “Prom Dress” girl said to me as I worked on her over a few days. (this piece started with an old photo of my mother, so you may recognize her voice):

I’m wearing the white dress I made for my graduation, all stitched by hand.  We didn’t have a sewing machine.  The photo was taken on the farm beside the smokehouse.  Are you going to cut away the building?  So the focus will be on me?

You’ve printed the photo on vintage linen fabric.  Have you decided if you will put it in a frame when you finish?  I will fit nicely in a 5” x 7”.

What are you doing to my hair?  Brown is the right color, but I never had long hair in my life.  Oh, you put more paint than you planned.  Ok.  Maybe I should have had long hair, this looks pretty good.  And, you are right, now you see a face in there.  I did blend in with the background.  We know the grass is green, but the black/white photo doesn’t reveal that.  You could have planned to paint the grass.  Or stitch it with green thread.

You plan to call this piece Graduation Day, right?  So you have to leave the dress white.  Because it was.

So you’ve cut an oval frame from that beautiful green silk Dupioni.  I like that, but it doesn’t contrast enough with my photo, do you think?  Oh, you’re making an oval “mat” to place in a rectangular frame.  Even if you don’t put it in a wooden frame, you can make a cloth frame.  I get it.

Ouch.  You pinned me to a nice oval doily; guess you abandoned the silk like I said, then you saw that blue Irish linen handkerchief and started over?  You get in such a hurry, then have to redo things.  Think, first, ok?  And now the blue kerchief and I are pinned to a black embroidered hankie, on point.  Ok, but your design is getting bigger and bigger.

What happened to the pieces of the silk log cabin quilt that you cut as my background?  Yes. I guess you can use them for something else.  Wasn’t this supposed to be a quick project?

Now I’m getting a ragged edge.  You are stitching me to the linen and the hankie using wool batting for dimension.  Nice.  Warm.  Are you writing on me?  Oh, drawing lines for stitching details on my dress.  Ok.

Not bad.  When you press me and the marker disappears, it will be good.  And the pebble stitching on the blue looks nice, too.

Now what is that design on the black hankie?  It’s ok, but aren’t those embroidered flowers sorta rough looking?  Is it UPSIDE DOWN?  Maybe you are right, maybe no one will notice.  Go steam these marks out, though, ok?

WHAT?  The marks aren’t disappearing?  You used a regular pen?  You goofball!  Now what?  Oh, I see the blue paint.  Yeah.  My beautiful white graduation dress has to be blue?  So, now it’s not a graduation dress anymore.

And, the black hankie is WHERE?  Well, you saw the problem before stitching the whole thing.  So you have three corners to use in another project.  Think you can remember to check right side up next time?

Whew!  I’m back on the oval white doily you started with as my frame days ago.  But on what?  Oh, this is lovely brown linen.  Just enough drama.  You made it work, but you didn’t make it easy!

Oh, you are finally getting to use a piece of that cross-stitched quilt you bought, aren’t you?  prom-dress-backIts colors do carry the blue dress to the back.  Wasn’t it hard to cut into that old quilt that someone spent many many hours stitching?  And they quilted it by hand, too.

I know it has holes in it, but I can hear the ladies at your guild now.  They aren’t going to like the idea of cutting up an old quilt.  Yeah, you are right.  The nice handwork that remains will be seen now.  With holes in it, it would have been relegated to a closet, or to wrapping furniture for moving.  Or, as you found it, languishing in an old dusty store.

And, you did change the name from Graduation Day to Going to Prom.  No, you cannot call it Bossy Girl in Blue Dress.

 

Ok, I’m back.  The sequence of steps would make more sense if I had photographed each layout, but when I’m feverishly tossing things about, auditioning colors and shapes, there is no thought of documentation, just doing.

Yes, I do have scraps of silk Dupioni, an old silk log cabin quilt, and a beautiful black embroidered hanky that are cut into bits.  But each of them has potential in other projects.   They are not lost, they are not forgotten, and, I confess, they are not well organized.  Serendipity plays a big part in my fabric combinations.  Something that is lying on the cutting table gets stirred to the top of the pile while I’m looking for something else, and the pairings that occur inspire dozens of other projects.  Ideas come faster than I can sew.

This afternoon project wasn’t completed until four days after I started working with it.  Interruptions come about because of life’s events, and because the design stalled and I needed to walk away from it.  And, though this is not the “graduation dress” design I had planned, I can reprint the photo and go at it again if I choose.  If something doesn’t work out, I don’t consider it a failure, but as lessons learned.  I might be more careful in the future to be sure the embroidery is right side up.  And, I’ll check to see that I’m marking with a removable pen when sketching quilting lines.

Photos:  The finished quilt measures 15” x 20”.  Wool batting, silk and cotton threads were used for quilting. Hand-guided, free motion stitching attached the photo to the blue linen, to the vintage doily, and that to the brown linen.  Hand stitching was used to invisibly stitch the lace edges down and to attach the linen to the vintage quilt on the back.  I used a modified seed stitch.  The backing has a bit of lace stitched over a hole in the quilt, and a label made from a portion of a vintage linen napkin.

My Threaded Needle

bluebird on linenSaturday night finds me stitching through layers of delight:

A photo of Eastern Bluebirds made by Jim Gilreath  is printed on a vintage linen tablecloth.

The photo is layered on hand-dyed Osnaburg fabric the color of the male bluebird’s breast.

These are atop a remnant of vintage linen dipped in my indigo vat.

My needle is pulling smooth cotton thread through these layers and wool batting.

I am accompanied by live music from the photographer and his stringed instruments.

Are there really people in the world who would prefer to be anywhere else?  I can’t imagine.

Loving the Blues

indigo fabricsI’ve been playing in my indigo vat for the past few days.  The pile you see here includes some of the results.  I’ve dipped pieces large and small of old vintage sheets, old hankies and napkins, doilies, placemats, purchased commercial fabric, bits of lace, and a cotton Matelasse bedspread.

Fabrics are cotton, linen, silk, and combinations of those.  Some have been dipped once, some several times.  I love to watch the magic as the oxidation process occurs.

indigo vatWhen first removed from the vat, the cloth appears green.  As the dye oxidizes, the blue appears.  If a resist is applied to block the dye absorption, interesting patterns can be created.

The only resists I’ve tried are some tying of the fabric and a bit of folding.  Already I can see how addictive this process can be.  And though I’ve already peered into the rabbit hole of staining with tea and blackberries, and then explored the browns, this lover of all things BLUE is tumbling headfirst into the indigo dye.

indigo stitchingThis third photo shows that I’ve started some projects using this most delightful fabric.  I’m loving the work I’ve recently been doing with vintage linen; it’s so deliciously soft to stitch by hand.  The photo shows a vintage baby dress appliquéd on linen now ready to embroider and quilt and some squares prepared for piecing.  Both pieces use techniques I’ve learned from that amazing artist, Jude Hill.  Her invisible basting stitch and paperless piecing technique have changed my stitching forever!

I haven’t limited myself to playing with yardage.  If I took a selfie right now, you would see a cotton knit shirt and a silk scarf which have both spent some time in the indigo vat.