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.

70 and Still Wearing Jeans


The world’s greatest husband had a birthday.  To celebrate this milestone, I completed a project for him that I had started several years ago.  Yes, it was a project in progress for a while.

I had collected some novelty fabrics and made 9” Ohio Star blocks.  The working title for this project was Things Jim Likes.  Construction stalled when there were some categories that had to be included but were difficult to find.  Fabric with cameras, birds, maps, were some of the most elusive.  I put everything in a box and put it on a shelf until I could collect more fabrics.  By everything, I mean a diagram of the quilt I had designed in EQ7, notes to myself about the possible sashing and setting triangle fabrics, and a list of themes I had and wanted to add.

When I would find fabrics that were appropriate, I added them to the box, and time marched on.

 

 

 

 

As this birthday approached, I decided that this would be his “three score and ten” gift .  Yes, he walked in the sewing room several times while the blocks were on the design wall.  And, no, he didn’t realize what was there.  I worked as quickly as I could with them on the wall, and I lied a bit (ok, a lot) about what I was doing upstairs in the weeks before Christmas.  (His birthday is December 26 – the design wall photo was taken Sept 23.)

Once assembled, I knew I couldn’t hide it long enough to quilt it myself.  And, it’s big and would take me a long time.  So Dewey Godwin became my partner in secrecy and did the quilting in record time.  Knowing the theme and seeing the trains, Dewey incorporated a railroad track into the border.  Perfect!

While I was working on this, Jim was playing Amanda by Waylon Jennings with a line  “finally made 40 and still wearing jeans.”  There’s where the title came from.  Not 40, but still wearing jeans.

 

 

My partner, my assistant, my musician, my photographer, my soulmate now has a new quilt of his own.  And, just in time for the coldest weather in a very long time.  It works at nap time in front of the tv.

 

 

Some of the things represented are cameras, lighthouses, scientific instruments, football, windmills, Christmas lights, birds, travel, the great outdoors, banjos, guitars, railroads, geology, the US Army, and even  sharks (those represent the years he taught Oceanography and dissected sharks in his lab, gaining notoriety for the smelliest classroom at school).

The patchwork back is made of fabrics whose motifs wouldn’t fit in the star design, but fit the theme.

 

 

 

 

For email subscribers, here is a photo of the whole quilt.  It measures 65″ x 80″ .  For more detail, go to the website and click on any photo to enlarge.

Christmas Quilts

I love to stitch with the colors of the season.  I know professional artists have to work ahead of the season, getting seasonal prints, cards, books ready during the summer for Christmas, working on Easter themes during snowstorms.  Not me.

I love to sew on pumpkin colored fabrics in the fall, pastels in the Spring, and give me some red and green to stitch while the tree is up.

Right now, I’m stitching on a project called Mistletoe and Holly (that’s the name given to it by the designers, Barb Adams and Alma Allen – and my working title now.  But as the stitching goes on and the design evolves within my life, that name is subject to change).  This is a design I’ve loved for years.

Here is a photo of their finished product. This Christmas season finds me stitching on lots of bindings, finishing some projects for gifts, some for our guild’s upcoming quilt show.  But I had to start a red and green project or the season wouldn’t feel right to me.

Earlier in December, I stitched this wool appliqué piece from a block-of-the-month from Maggie Bonanomi.  I believe this project will be in her book coming out in 2018.

 

 

My quilt ladder shows evidence of my fascination with red and green.  In the center is Five Seasons in Bonaire folded with the Christmas season showing.  The top and bottom are Tree Farm of Lorane and Small Tree Farm. These are two sizes of a quilt I designed and made for my daughter’s family a few years ago.  Friends saw it, loved the simple technique, and patterns were born.

Pomegranates and Poinsettias is in the dining room, Miss Lily’s Baskets are in a basket, and a red and green Irish Chain I made for a challenge one year (but did not enter it, I liked another project better for the competition) are around, too.  Detailed descriptions of these projects in earlier posts are here and here.

 

Above the playhouse hutch, a Santa marches through the woods (based on a design by Jan Patek).  Just as I finished this piece a couple of years ago (needed something seasonal to fit the space), I found the wooden Santa you see on the top shelf marching along in an antique store.  Serendipity!  Oh,  we do know how to spell Noel in our house, but when I bought these blocks in the 1980’s, Jim said to the clerk, “Do you think I should be worried?  I don’t know anyone named Leon.  Why do you think my wife is buying this?”  Her laughter still rings in our ears.  So as a tribute to that memory, we sometimes display the blocks that way.  I forgot to move them when I took the photo.

If history repeats itself, the Mistletoe and Holly thing will be part of next year’s display.  I have another couple of ideas in my brain, too.  But the ideas sometimes flow faster than these fingers can stitch, so only time will tell how much gets done.

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!

Meeting Sue

“Those are quilts?”

“How did you do that?”

“You mean these aren’t paintings?”

“Wow.”

“I’m amazed.”

These are phrases I overheard while standing near the booth where Sue Turnquist was demonstrating her art at the Georgia National Fair in Perry.  I’ve been an admirer of Sue’s work for several years, but had never had the chance to meet her.  We share a love of stitch, a passion for storytelling though cloth, and have trod some of the same soil in south Georgia.  I was delighted to have a chance to finally talk with Sue and learn more about her quilts.

Sue began quilting in the 1990’s after being entranced at the state fair in Missouri.  She bought a sewing machine and taught herself to quilt, beginning with traditional patterns.  A class with Caryl Bryer Fallert changed her approach, and she’s become a star in the quilting world.

Sue’s background in veterinary medicine is reflected by the animals she depicts in her quilts.  The selections you see in the photos are all Sue’s unique creations.  She starts with a photo, has it commercially enlarged, then creates her pattern.  Fabrics are fused to a background and she uses free-motion machine quilting to stitch it all down. Her attention to detail and precision cannot be denied.  And the visual impact is amazing!

Her zebra quilt is entitled Do These Stripes Make My Butt Look Big?  This quilt has won many awards, including the New Quilts from Old Favorites challenge by the American Quilter’s Society.  This and other of Sue’s quilts have traveled and exhibited extensively, nationally and internationally.  Sue  travels to guilds to share her work and teach classes.  I’m sure those audiences are as enthralled as the visitors I overheard in her booth.  Her work is amazing!

Other quilts you see pictured include Skeeter Eater, Piney Woods Mule, and Pony Express.

 

 

 

Sue’s winners at the fair for this year’s competitons are shown below:

October Welcome

The calendar says it’s time for more orange in our lives.  Another fiber art piece has orange in it now, based on a drawing of a jack-o-lantern by our front door.

The jack-o-lantern is a cherished piece made by one of our favorite Georgia potters, Shelby West.  Shelby’s work is normally southern folk pottery with an ash glaze, but for Halloween, he creates some unglazed pieces with personality.  A watering can on an old stool created a fun vignette which says “Welcome to Our Home,” country style.  The photo was printed on cotton fabric, free-motion machine stitched; then embellished with paint, hand embroidery, and beads.

The image is bordered with hand-dyed Cherrywood fabric, layered on linen canvas, then on a remnant of an old quilt.  The orange in the old quilt (a basket pattern) made it the perfect backdrop.  The piece measures 15” x 17”.  A portion of a vintage napkin with delicate appliqué in the corner serves as the label on the back.  I tilted this one October Welcome.

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!

Treasures from Toshi

I saw Toshi a few days ago and she came bearing gifts – delightful sacks of fabric scraps.  One was silk, the other indigo cotton.

The Japanese silks were from Toshi’s sewing basket.  A friend had sent her some fabrics from Kyoto, others Toshi had kept from her sewing days.  There was a baker’s dozen silk remnants in all colors, sizes, and weights.  The light reflected off all those colors delights my soul!

And, then, there was the dress in another bag.  Indigo.  I don’t know how old.  Toshi wouldn’t guess, either.  She had begun deconstructing the dress because the indigo is so precious, so beautiful, it needed to be reused somehow.  For sure, it does.  I am thrilled beyond belief.  I was delighted to find woven cotton earlier this year (in black), with a variety of weaves across the yardage.  But to have this in indigo blue, in fabric with a history, oh, my, my.

Even the bags in which Toshi brought these delights were thrilling to me.  The silk remnants were in a small plastic bag with French writing, the outer bag was a Japanese store’s bag with, as you would expect, practical, simple, elegant handles.  And the moment of serendipity came when I realized the dress was in a bag imprinted with the name of a church where Jim’s great-grandfather was once the preacher.  And Toshi has no knowledge of that family history.

Isn’t it fascinating how time and people are woven together?

I’ve incorporated some of the indigo cotton into some blocks I’m hand stitching and I’ve cut squares from each of the silks to make a sampler piece.  The rest will be incorporated into my silk collection for a stunning project.  I think I have enough variety now to make something special.

An update on the baskets on my design wall – they are now assembled into one unit.  The moment when many blocks become one piece of fabric, a quilt top, is always satisfying to me.  In this case, there were 39 blocks and 22 setting triangles stitched together.  Now it’s pinned to my design wall while I contemplate whether to add borders or not, and, if so, what they will look like.

I’m including two photos in the progress of assembling the blocks.  The green bits of tape were used to number blocks as I moved them to the sewing machine, the safety pins reminded me which way to press the seams so they nested when the rows were sewn together.

Witches on Parade

My friend Penny came to visit.  Penny is oh-so-talented.  With a sewing machine, and with a paintbrush.  Usually, she paints furniture and stitches with fabric – but this day she brought fabric she had painted.

Serendipity again…she was using a pattern developed by Meg Hawley of Crabapple Hill.  That’s serendipity because I had recently watched Meg on an episode of The Quilt Show, so I had a better understanding of her technique.  Meg uses crayons on fabric, then embellishes with some embroidery.  Penny is using Derwent Inktense pencils which yield a very vibrant color.  I love it, don’t you?

The details in this group of witches is amazing.  Every time I looked at the piece, I saw more fun surprises hidden.  Penny has personalized hers, of course, making it even more special.  I can’t wait to see the final result

Here is a photo of another panel in progress.  Look how much control she has with the shading and contour.  Coloring books moved to fabric!

I know Penny is like me, she juggles several projects at once.  So whether these witches will be marching across a finished quilt by this Halloween or not, I’m not sure.  But she’s promised to share with me as it goes, and I’ll be sure to post final pictures, too.

In the meantime, she brought some of these pencils to share with me, so I’m off to play now.

Note:  These photos were taken with my phone, but you can click to enlarge an image and see more and more of Penny’s details.  Do that in the parade, and be enchanted (or maybe under a spell).