Birds of Amicalola

On a recent visit to a train station and refurbished old store, I took my camera and a quilt.  Birds of Amicalola posed on a bench and in front of the weathered boards of Mildred’s Store.

The quilt is made using the same basket pattern I created for Miss Lily’s Baskets.  In this quilt, I used charm squares of Kaffe fabrics for the appliquéd baskets and Cherrywood hand-dyed blue fabric for the background.  I made a lot of these blocks (I still have quite a few left over for some yet unknown project) before deciding how to assemble them.

I had some bright fabric on hand that had birds flying all about vines and leaves.  Those birds said, “we want to fly amongst those baskets.”  And the leaves seemed perfect for the wreaths in the baskets of the three focus blocks, so I fussy cut the leaves and birds and attached those elements with the invisible basting stitch I had learned from Jude Hill.  When I quilted, I stitched those pieces down with free motion stitching before moving to the background quilting.

The quilt measures  51 ” x   58″ .  The background quilting was done using silk thread (100-weight) on top, two-ply cotton (50 weight) in the bobbin.  The vine in the border is quilted with 30-weight polyester thread.

 

 

Photos of this quilt in progress were included in the post here.  Oh, and we were on a trip to Amicalola Falls State Park when I added the birds and leaves to the basket blocks.  That’s the source of the title.

 

 

And here is a closeup of the vine stitched on the border.

And, and update to include a photo of the entire quilt.  Here it is hanging in our local guild’s show.  The ribbon is for Best Machine Quilting on a Home Machine.

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.

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.

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.

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.

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!

The Farmhouse

My husband is a magician.  Not only can he see beauty though the lens of his camera, but in post processing, he can emphasize whatever he wants.  Recently, he’s put the emphasis on my quilts.  I love what he can do, don’t you?

Yesterday found us riding backroads with quilts and cameras in the car.  We ended up at The Farm House.  An old sharecropper’s cabin with numerous additions, good food, and decor to please any southern girl; it’s one of our favorite destinations.

We had a nice lunch in the dining room with a fire burning in the open fireplace.  Outside, guineas were roaming around, a scarecrow was standing guard, and piles of pumpkins adding color.  The menu included candied sweet potatoes, turnip greens, and corn muffins – more evidence that this is a place to please any county soul.

Surrounded by old quilts, old baskets, old ironstone, I feel like I’m visiting relatives from my childhood.  Since much of it is for sale, visitors can take elements of the past home.

 

 

I personally brought a wreath with a crow inside, and a pair of earrings made from feathers from the wandering guineas.

 

 

 

The owner gave us permission to take all the photos we wanted; her goal is to share this place with all who will love it.  Quilts posed on farm implements, beside pumpkins, in the garden, and on the porch.

 

 

My talented husband worked his magic in post processing.  Some samples are here, more (with details of these quilts) will follow in upcoming posts.

Street Photography

street photo TEGWatching some YouTube videos on the art of photography led me down a rabbit hole.  I’ve fallen into the world of street photography, past and present.

My photographer husband and I started out looking at videos on focusing technique with various cameras and lenses.  We viewed first one, then the other online tutorial with a master, and ended up exploring a lot of street photography.  Wikipedia confirmed my notion that today’s street photographer makes art using his camera lens to capture images of life.  People going about their daily lives, or a combination of line and light,  might be all it takes to record a thought-provoking image that transforms the viewer.

But I recalled evidence of street photography of a different sort in our drawers and boxes of old photos.  Every family probably can find images like these I’ve included of family and friends. Black and white images printed on heavyweight professional paper; all of ours measure 4” x 6”.

street photo with dogIn the 1930’s, ‘40’s and maybe into the ’50’s, studio photographers could be found snapping photos of people on city streets.  I wondered if there was some forerunner of Polaroids that allowed instant printing of the image, but a bit of research said that was not the case.  These photographers were sometimes hired by big department stores, but more often were from local portrait studios.  The candids were taken and a business card was given to the subject. The hope was that a visit to the studio to collect the photo would result in more portrait appointments.

street photo Jim & ConnorI am thoroughly intrigued by the notion of both kinds of street photography.  Just what I need; another hobby.  But, the memories of the old images we have led to the discovery of some newer ones we have made already and I’m already incorporating one into an art quilt.  Oh, my, what have I started?

Photos:  black and white images are Jim’s Dad, Edwin Gilreath in Atlanta, and family friends somewhere I don’t know.  The color image is one I shot of two guys on their way to watch a bicycle race in downtown Macon, GA, in 2006.