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.

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.

Mom and Apple Pie

 


A friend visiting in our home said, “what are you working on now?”  I spread this quilt top on the floor in the den.  His comment, “Oh, boy!  That’s just Mom, and Apple Pie, and more, isn’t it?”  I agreed, mentally noting that this project now had a name.


The appliqué for this quilt was done based on patterns from Alma Allen and Barb Adam’s book, Celebration of American Life.  Today most quilt makers change something about the pattern as they work, and almost always change the name to represent their interpretation.

The patterns for the blocks are like those in the pattern except for the lower left block.  I personalized that one, substituting a watermelon slice for their orange, and added some figs, using the broderie perse technique (an age-old method of using designs printed on fabric).  My border and sashing are totally different, too.


The appliqué is something I typically do at night in front of the tv, or when sewing away from home.  One the fabrics are selected and the pieces are prepared, I keep just the supplies for that block (these squares measure 20” on each side) in my sewing basket so the work is portable.  Once all the blocks are finished and sewn together, the big unit is a stay-at-home project.

Another work habit of mine is to select the fabrics at the beginning of a project and set them aside in a basket so they are designated for this quilt and don’t get used in another piece before this is done.  I like to repeat fabrics across the quilt to make the design cohesive, so the same greens used as leaves in one block appear again in several others.  It’s easier to do this if I have a limited selection of fabrics as I prepare each block.  It may take months to complete the appliqué on a big quilt such as this.


I quilted this using 100 weight silk thread, echoing the appliquéd design with stitching lines 1/4” apart.  I refer to hand-guided, freemotion quilting as dancing with my sewing machine, even on a project this large.  This quilt measures  75” x 95”.  I start in the center, working outward block by block on a quilt such as this.  My large table supports the weight and bulk of the quilt as I work.


I don’t normally keep up with the time I spend working on a quilt, but for some reason, I did do that on this one.  The time I spent sitting in the chair pushing the quilt around under the needle while it was moving up and down was 65 hours.  That was spread over 3 months, I think. I work in 30-45 minute intervals and more than two sessions a day is exhausting.  That’s why I have another sewing machine set up so I can be piecing or sewing on something else during those weeks that a big quilt is under the needle.

The finished quilt measures 75” x 95”, covering a queen-sized bed.  It has made a few public appearances, winning ribbons at our local guild show last March, at the Georgia National Fair in Perry last November, and was juried into the AQS Show in Paducah, KY last month.  It is currently en route to the East Cobb Quilt Guild show in Marietta, GA, scheduled for June 8-10.

Sunday School Picnic

Another family photo has become a quilt.  This image of my husband’s grandparents was taken sometime around 1915, probably at Stone Mountain, GA.  The occasion was a Sunday School picnic.

I printed the image on a bit of vintage linen napkin, painted his tie, and machine stitched using free-motion quilting.  The rickrack frame is hand stitched around the photo on a layer of hand-dyed cotton fabric.


I used metallic thread to stitch the red layer to a vintage quilt remnant using a seed stitch, adding a bit of sparkle.

The label is a vintage coaster stitched to the old quilt remnant, too.  The final piece measures 12″ x 14″.

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.

Man With Bicycle, 1905

Homer Carter and Homer Youngblood were both professional photographers in the early part of the twentieth century.  In our house, we have a lot of photos taken by these two men who, to our knowledge, never met.

Homer Carter was the father of Sadie, my mother-in-law.  Homer Youngblood was the father of Cleo, my mother.  Interesting, don’t you think?

This serendipitous happening means that we have some images on hand that were made with the best photographic equipment available at the time, and printed on quality paper.  Perfect for scanning and printing on fabric, I think.

This photo of an unidentified gentleman of the early 1900’s was compelling to me.  He was a client of Jim’s grandfather.  I printed his image on a remnant of a vintage linen tablecloth, painted the bicycle red, and quilted the layers with silk thread.  Free motion quilting gives dimension to the man and the bicycle with wool batting underneath.

The image is layered on a denim remnant, hand stitched with a Kantha stitch using red embroidery floss.  All is then layered and attached to a scrap of an old tattered quilt.

The label is written on a piece of an old man’s handkerchief.

What’s in a Name?

Sarah Beth, Sarah Bob, Sarah Frances.  Margaret Ann, Lou Emmelyn, Mary Frances; all are common names in the South.  And with women, both halves of the double names are used on a daily basis.  Shortened forms of Mary Elizabeths I’ve known were Lilly Bet, Mae Liz, and the ever popular Mary Beth. To get the right perspective here, you should read the list aloud, slowly.  Very slowly.  Put a little twang in there.  Now you’ve got it.

Names run through cycles of popularity.  In one generation, almost all the Sadies have died out.  Then there is a rash of little Sadies running around. I think that particular name is beautiful, because it is beautiful, and the Sadie (actually in her generation it was Sadie Belle) in my life was a beautiful person.  She is the woman pictured at the top of this post.  There was a beautiful Cleo in my life, too.  But I’m not hoping to see that name resurrected.  The same goes for Ena Belle, Maudie Lee, and Mary Etta.  Those don’t roll trippingly off the tongue.

In the South, if a woman doesn’t have a double name already, we make it so by adding Miss or Aunt.  Miss Lily, Miss Emily, Aunt Gladys (though no kinship exists) were big in my life.  And then I became Miss Sandy.

When it comes time to naming quilts, I sometimes resort to the southern names of my childhood.  I’ve made a Miss Lily’s Basket, Ruby’s Red Bouquet, Miss Emily’s BasketsOllie Jane’s Flower Garden was named for my grandmother and the pieced pattern used for the center.  Granny Zee’s Scrap Baskets has a sentimental reason for its name, too.

Miz Sadie Turns 80 was made for my mother-in-law in 2004.  The blocks are the traditional Ohio Star blocks, finished at 9”.  Sashing is 1” wide (beginning my insistence that narrow sashing separates, but doesn’t overwhelm the blocks).  The overall quilt measures 63” square. It is pictured here hanging at the Georgia National Fair in 2004, one of the first quilt competitions I entered.  It won a blue ribbon, and Miz Sadie was so pleased that she asked if she could have the ribbon, too.  The quilt hung in her home with ribbon attached, as long as she lived there.

The label is a sunprinted image using metal letters used in scrapbooking as the mask.  I didn’t have three lower case s’s, thus the spelling of Miz. The quilting is a pantagraph done by Pat Holston on her longarm.  This quilt was featured in a Kansas City Star publication, My Stars, in 2009.

 

Soulful Stitching

I’ve written before about how stitching soothes my soul.  That happens when I’m in front of the tv and multitasking, when I’m visiting with family and friends and my hands are busy, or sometimes when riding in the car.  Those are often the times when my hand stitching gets done.
I realize I need to add some opportunity to quietly do some hand stitching when I’m alone. Watching Jude Hill’s videos remind me of how studying the texture formed by stitch gives way to thoughts about light and shadow, contrasting textures, symbolic meaning of weave and stitch, even relationships between people.  Though I’m not sure my thoughts run as deep as do hers, I know that mindful stitching leads to deeper appreciation of everything.

As I watched her video where Jude is adding white hearts to a heavily stitched white nine-patch and emphasizing the touch points of the hearts with red thread, she notices that they remind her of a scar.  Her perception always gives me pause, and this struck me deeply.

 

I can’t explain why, but I had a flashback to my life working with teachers.  One of my colleagues heard a teacher say, “we like this book because we can go in the classroom and teach without having to think about it.”  Harriet said to me, “I don’t want teachers who don’t think about what they are teaching.”  Indeed.

Sometimes I sew without thinking about sewing.  And, that is relaxing to me, to be sure.   The rhythmic pulling of thread through cloth allows my mind to be somewhere else, planning something.  But Jude’s symbology in her work, her soul searching thoughts remind me to pursue even more depth in my stitching stories.  She reminds me that only when we share the stories behind our work, the symbology we’ve included, the strategies we’ve used, do others really appreciate our art. I admit if I had seen the white hearts on white stitching, I might not have noticed the red thread, and if I had, I might not have made the “scar” connection.

A needle and thread are how I’m stitching myself to the universe these days, so I don’t want it to be shallow.  With the recent art quilts I’ve been making, I try to ensure that the viewer knows the story behind the photo or appreciates the handwork in a vintage remnant.  I hope that seeing the connection between my work and some element of the past will cause one to think of their own family’s past generations and find the stories that are there.

Another word on Jude Hill and her influence on me.  I found her online a few years ago and realized she was offering some online courses.  The latest series was already underway and i had missed it.  I resolved right then to get in the next one.  But then she opened up her vast base of videos and audios for free.  You are free to watch them and make a donation or not (I have).  But I found a quote from her in one of them that resonates with me.  She was responding to a comment from someone who had warned her, “you share too much of your process.  Protect your art.”…

Jude’s response:  “And, by the way, just to be clear, sharing IS my art.  And in case you haven’t noticed, I am out singing in it.” Sept 10, 2015

Wow.  I have noticed.  And, I am amazed by it.

You can learn more about Jude Hill and her work at http://spiritcloth.typepad.com.

My earlier posts with references to her work are here, and here, and here.

Photos:  The photos of the “beast” piece is one I was fortunate enough to buy from Jude.  When her pieces go on sale, you have to be sitting at the computer watching (or lucky) because they sell quickly.  I love having this piece to examine.  Seeing her stitches and handling her work informed me of her techniques so much that I began to consider selling some of my own work.  If my work could help another quilt maker with a particular technique, or if the final result gave a viewer satisfaction, than I would be willing to share it that way.   You see images of the whole piece, approximately 6” x 9”, and closeups of the front and back.

The photos of the blue hearts are my work.  I made that piece after watching Jude’s Whispering Hearts series of posts on her Feel Free site.  That piece may become part of something else or be finished as is.  That’s one thing Jude and I have in common.  A work may be started, then incubate a while as ideas mature, then later become complete as it is or as part of something else.

This post is published with permission from Jude Hill.

Drugstore Deli

Sometimes the quaintest treasures are right in our own backyards.  On a recent afternoon when we were out antiquing, we found a delightful lunch spot in an old downtown building in small town USA.

As is our habit, we were eating after the crowded hour, in fact, we had the place to ourselves.  It was open, inviting, very clean, and offered just the menu we were looking for; soups, sandwiches, salads.

Our waitress Vicki told us that the soup was almost gone, being in high demand on a such a cold day.  There was less than a serving (by their standards) left of today’s special so they gave us a complimentary bowl.  It was fabulous, as were our sandwiches.  But before the food was served, I was captivated by the decor.  There were quilts!  An old log cabin quilt first caught my eye.  It was hung above a beautiful dresser and its subtle colors and handwork stole my heart!  A more modern medallion quilt was displayed in another corner, and yet another eyecatcher, a blue and white quilt, was used on a table.

I asked permission to take photos and shared my fascination with the old log cabin quilt.  The conversation led to an old-home-week kind of reunion with people I’d never met.  Jo, the owner, came out of the kitchen to share the quilt stories.  The log cabin quilt came from her husband’s family.  Her father-in-law had two aunts,  Alice and Exor, who did a lot of needlework of all types.  One or maybe both of these women worked on this piece of family history.

 Jo is not a quilter, but has treasured the quilts these family members made and decorates her home and restaurant with them.  Vicki has done needlework in the past, but quilting is not part of her experience (yet) though she has friends who sew and quilt.

In the course of the conversation, I learned that Jo’s husband, and his quilting aunts, were related to Ferrol Sams. Yes, the same Ferrol Sams whose novels and short stories are part of the great storytelling tradition of the South.

The sisterhood of experiences connecting us with needle and thread is never to be denied.  Vicki told of her friend who makes bags, pillows, quilts, when she hears of a need.  I recalled the women in the Peachtree City guild who were making tote bags and duffle bags for children in foster care to use.  I never cease to be amazed at the generosity of women who sew.

I have a stack of muted red fabrics from the French General line that are waiting to be cut up and sewn back together.  After seeing that old quilt in similar colors hanging in the Drugstore Deli, I’m thinking log cabin is a good plan.

Our outing that day was a mere 20 miles from home, in Byron, Ga.  The Drugstore Deli is in corner building near the railroad tracks.

The Kite

In 1952, he was four years old and wanted to fly a kite.  In this photo, he watched as his Daddy held the string and the kite climbed higher and higher.  The air was crisp, the wind pulling the string quickly.  At the moment the photo was taken, the boy sensed disaster on the horizon.

He was right.  Shortly after the shutter clicked, the string broke and the red kite was gone.  As the little boy grew, more kites flew and did not fly away, but the anxiety born that day was ever present when the kites were in the air.

When asked for appropriate titles for this art quilt, he said, Childhood Trauma, or Hold Tight, Daddy, or Don’t Let Go, would all be appropriate.  In truth, he barely remembers the day, and probably wouldn’t remember it at all were it not for the photo.  This is exactly the kind of experience I love to capture in cloth.  A memory.  A story.  A moment frozen.

I printed the photo on a piece of vintage linen from an old tablecloth and added color to the boy’s jeans and cap with watercolor crayons.  I had overdyed some old linen in the indigo vat that looked a lot like a winter sky, so I cut the foreground image from the photo and stitched it to the blue.  I appliquéd the kite using a bit of French General red fabric, and hand embroidered the kite string and tails.  When I added machine quilting stitches, I used dark thread to emphasize the fence posts and trees.

I finished the piece by attaching the fabric photo unit to an old quilt remnant, adding borders of ribbon and a coarsely woven red checked fabric.  Hand and machine stitching were used for this step.  The piece finished at 16” x 22”.  A vintage doily serves as the label.