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 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.
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.
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.
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 Baskets. Ollie 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.
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.
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.
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.
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.
For many years I decorated for Christmas using my Grandmother’s basket quilt she made in 1890 (that story is here). When I started quilting, I longed to make my own holiday quilt. Now one of the first steps in decorating our house for Christmas is to swap out the fall quilts for red and green ones.
I love to sew with red and green fabrics during this time of the year so I often start a new project for my sewing serenity during the season. In the days of Christmas 2008, I began work on what became Pomegranates and Poinsettias. I was spending quite a bit of time with my mother-in-law, Sadie, during a time of failing health for her.
She loved helping me decide which red fabric should be used for a particular bloom, which green should be used for stems and leaves. She loved the sampler background (as does everyone else who sees this quilt), and when I decided to add buttons for the berries, she giggled like a little girl. Imagine, putting BUTTONS on a quilt.
That was something her mother had never done! This piece was finished in June 2009 and has been the focal point on a wall in our house every Christmas since. It is based the Holly Threads pattern by Need’l Love. Mine finishes at 44″ square.
It’s a beautiful fall day, the sky is blue, gingko leaves are at their peak of golden, so we head to the cemetery. Isn’t that what all families do on a glorious day? They do if they live where we do and have a more than 200 acres of serene beauty to stroll.
Rose Hill Cemetery was established in 1840 on 65 acres of land along the banks of the Ocmulgee River. In 1887, another 125 acres of adjacent land was devoted to Riverside Cemetery. Both of these were designed by highly respected landscape architects and were intended to be used as a park as well as a solemn final resting place for citizens. Continuing that tradition, both of these cemeteries are now part of the Ocmulgee Heritage Trail, a walking, biking, communing-with-nature space which we treasure.
So, with camera and crayons in hand, we headed out the door. We had walked these trails and admired the art of the cemetery before I became acquainted with the art of Susan Lenz. Finding her work answered the question, “how can this beauty be incorporated into a quilt?” So now I am prepared with fabric and crayons, just in case.
My latest art quilt is the result of last Saturday’s stroll. Jim took the photo of Galadrielle, an angel at the foot of Duane Allman’s grave. I printed it on vintage linen fabric, added some stitching though layers of wool batting, more vintage linen, raw silk, and an indigo-dyed remnant of an old quilt. A few buttons and a bit of angelic lace came out of my treasure bins for this project.
I used free motion machine stitching to define the shape of Galadrielle and add dimension and detail. Hand stitching was used everywhere else. Some unknown sewist had done some hand stitching on the remnant I used as the base. Her hand quilting and cross stitch has a new life. The worn quilt has been cut up and used in several of my favorite pieces. I’m loving the blue ones best! I wonder if this unknown colleague did her hand stitching while visiting with friends, or perhaps while listening to the television, as I do.
The quilt finishes at 14” x 23”.
My local quilting sisters and I just saw each other’s secret projects at our annual guild challenge. The photo above is a closeup of Alice’s entry. She won a ribbon with this beauty in which she combined our rules with a project in a Craftsy class online. The online class was free motion machine quilting with Judi Madsen.
Earlier I wrote about my resulting entry here. I didn’t write about all the ideas I had but abandoned along the way. As guild members shared their entries, many reported starting and abandoning, or adapting, or rethinking their process. All reported learning something, and having fun in the process.
Here are photos and snippets of stories of all 16 quilt entries at our meeting this year.
Ethel teasingly dubbed herself the complainer, said she called Queen Tess 65 times. She doesn’t like square quilts, doesn’t like the fan block, and doesn’t like yellow. But Ethel is not a quitter, she’s a quilter, and her resulting piece is one of my favorites (the blue in the center is to dye for).
Janet exercised her EQ design features by resizing a fan block to make a manageable project. Kelly’s Sunbonnet Sue quilt contained numerous fans. A sun, a cooling fan, and some blades of grass were also blades of a fan.
Linda combined this guild’s challenge with a project she was entering in a Windows and Doors exhibit at the Ashe Arts Center in West Jefferson, NC. Working from a photo she had taken in Nimes, France, Linda pieced the doorway panel. She added asymmetrical borders to bring the project to the 36” requirement for our guild, including pieced fans as butterfly wings and some yellow flowers blooming on the vine.
Angie expressed some frustration, but stuck with her traditional block to make a 36” square for now. She shared plans for further embellishment to add some zing to her entry. (Tess often reminds us that the rules do not say the challenge has to be finished to enter.)
Mary had other priorities, so stuck with a simple design, but got it finished in time for the challenge, and now has a functional table topper with pleasing fabrics.
Sharon made, not one, but two quilts. One was made with fabric she bought in Japan while visiting her son and his family. The other, Ocho, RibBonz, and Shadow–3 FANtastic Cats, was inspired by several quilts on Pinterest. She has two cats name Ocho and RibBonz.. Since she needed three fans, she had to make three cats, and Shadow is the name she gave to her imaginary cat. She was asked to explain about one cat’s tail. He’s scared, she said.
Susan looked for an easy pattern, crediting me with inspiring her to look for fun techniques. I’m known to remind quilters that, “it’s supposed to be FUN.” I love her ferris wheel blocks and would like to try this myself.
Deann hand pieces and hand quilts everything. Her work is always amazing, but she shared that her biggest challenge was the curved part. Wanda’s entry was her first foray into our challenge world.
Marie machine pieced and hand quilted a beauty including linen and cotton fabrics. Her title was Did you mean these fans? An M&M’s button on the label depicted her reference to the popular tv commercial. Dewey confessed that this commercial was his inspiration, too. His quilt exists only in his mind as he’s been busy building a new quilting studio.
Carol explored paper foundation piecing and got enough practice on her piece that she is now an expert.
Susi’s first place winner, Fantastic Frolicking Felines, brought smiles to all of us. Look how much fun these dancing cats are having. I think Dewey had fun, too, quilting this beauty. He added the thread-painted musical notes as he quilted the entry for Susi on his longarm machine. Susi adapted a pattern from Amy Bradley for this crowd pleaser.
Before leaving for the day, Sharon shared more stories about her cats and their names. Her quilt was visually appealing, but as with most quilts, the story gives it more life. Here are details you will remember:
“We adopted the two identical black kittens from our grandchildren’s other grandmother’s cat’s litter. The grandchildren were squealing excitedly when we brought them to the house and one kitten escaped by running up a tall tree. The more we called or tried climbing higher to get the kitten, the higher it went. After some time, it fell asleep about 40-60 feet up, then tumbled down through the branches to the ground. To identify them, we put a couple of ribbons on the untraumatized cat so we could closely watch the one who had obviously used up “one of the cat’s nine lives.” Not knowing if they were males or females, we named the uninjured kitty ‘Ribbons’ and the one with 8 lives remaining became ‘Ocho’. When we found out that they were both boy cats, we changed the spelling of Ribbons to a more masculine name ‘RibBonz’! We don’t have a third cat, but I thought a third cat needed to be on my quilt since three fans were required for the challenge. The surprised arched-back third cat became Shadow because our outdoor cats love to stalk chipmunks, lizards, moles, etc. from the shadow of bushes and other hiding places.”