Fruitcake

Turman Capote and I have a shared history.  We had loving spinster aunts as partners in fruitcake preparation.  When I taught a high-school course called the American Short Story, students’ reactions to the old-fogey ways Capote related in his A Christmas Memory were not ones of delight.  But I was thrilled to revisit my childhood.

It’s the time of year when I buy things at the grocery store that I would normally never allow past my lips.  Some candied fruit (I don’t even want to know how that is accomplished), a lot of sugar, butter, nuts, disposable baking pans.

This is a result of a lifelong habit of eating fruitcake at Christmastime.  My mother baked the dark fruitcakes for as long as I can remember.  She chopped all the fruit by hand, added nuts that either my grandmother or my Daddy had picked out of the shells, and that I had picked up from underneath the trees at home, and filled the house with a delightful smell including vanilla, cinnamon, and nutmeg.

Mama made these cakes and gave them to family and friends.  Her gifts were generous, a full recipe baked in a tube cake pan.  They were huge!  Every year the search was on to find a store selling the round tins which would hold these 5-lb treasures.

Once I was grown, I became a recipient of the heavy gift in the tin.  Mama would always have ours ready to take home at Thanksgiving and we would savor the treat throughout the holidays.

Jim found a way to improve on Mama’s recipe.  We would remove her foil or waxed paper wrapping, substituting cheesecloth.  The cheesecloth would soak up the brandy Jim added and make the cake more moist.  Yes, that’s it, moist.  Once when Mama came to visit us at Christmas, I served dessert.  She remarked, “This is GOOD fruitcake.  Who made it?”  “I made it?  Are you sure?”  “Well, I don’t know.  This tastes much better than the one at my house.”  We never confessed the alteration.

Mama gave a cake to anyone who she thought would like them.  Only when I started following in her footsteps did I realize what a gift a fruitcake was.  The time, and expense, to bake these was no small matter.  A few years ago, a cousin said, “You know your Mama always made me a dark fruitcake at Christmas.  I always took it.  But I couldn’t stand those things.”  She lowers her voice when she uttered the words “dark fruitcake,” as it she were speaking of something evil.  Now that I think about it, I bet Mama realized Charlotte was unappreciative, but she was one of those people who would have been hurt had Mama not given her one.

I’ve found some shortcuts to Mama’s process.  I sometime buy nuts already shelled, and bake the concoction in small foil pans.  Once the cakes are cooled, they are ready to wrap for presentation to appreciative friends.  I know fruitcakes are the punch lines for many jokes, and I know we are all more conscious of our diets these days, but most reactions I get to the fruitcakes I share are of the “oh, I love this – it takes me back to Christmas of my childhood” type.  And when I take a plate of sliced fruitcake to social gatherings this time of year, it’s always emptied.

If your mouth is watering for a trip down memory lane, here is Mama’s recipe.

  • Mama’s Stirring Fruitcake
  • 1 lb candied cherries
  • ½ lb candied pineapple (white)
  • ½ lb candied pineapple (green)
  • 3 pts shelled nuts, coarsely chopped
  • ¼ lb raisins (⅔ cup)
  • 1 cup sugar
  • ½ lb butter
  • 4 large eggs
  • 1 cup self-rising flour
  • 2 teaspoons vanilla flavoring
  • 2 teaspoons almond flavoring
  • 2 teaspoons cake spices
  • Cream butter and sugar, add eggs one at the time and beat well.  Add flour and spices and beat well.  Add fruit and nuts.  Pour into a large greased pan and place in 375 degree oven (note that she found 300 degrees in her oven to be better).  After baking 15 minutes, stir.  Do this a total of 3 times.  After 3rd time, pack in tube cake pan and bake 15 minutes longer.  Let stand in pan for 15 minutes before turning out.

My recipe notes:

I reduce the nuts to about 4 cups.

“cake spices” seem to be unavailable these days, so I use: 1 t. allspice, ½ t. nutmeg, and ½ t. cinnamon

I sometimes use 3” x 5” loaf pans to give as gifts.  This recipe fills five of those.  The plate pictured above the recipe shows one of those small loaf pans sliced.  So the whole recipe is five of those!

Note:  An internet search will yield numerous links to Truman Capote’s story, analyses of that work, and even audio files for your seasonal listening.  It’s worth the time.

Fair Days

fair-boothI’m home after three days at the Georgia National Fair where I shared my work as one of their Artists in Residence.

Though I’ve long recognized quilts as an art form, I’m still surprised to see the word artist after my name.  This experience was affirming and fulfilling for me, and I hope it was informative and inspirational to others.

The photo shows my booth where I shared my quilting stories and demonstrated techniques.  I had several quilts entered in the fair, and three of them were easily visible from my booth.  Whether by design or coincidence, the fair organizers added opportunities for me to share more stories of making bed-sized quilts on a home sewing machine, improvisational piecing in the style of Gee’s Bend quilts, and Government Bird Goin’ for a Ride.

Jim and I enjoyed the opportunity to visit with former students, their parents, and now husbands, wives, and children.  We saw former work colleagues and friends, made connections with other artists in textiles, photography, woodworking, drawing, painting, and sculpting.  We made many new friends as people stopped to talk about quilts, my ragged lamp, and my Featherweight sewing machine.

fair-with-featherweightI took the Featherweight because it is my traveling sewing friend.  I take it to classes and work sessions at our local guild, I have taken it on a photo trip when Jim was taking a course and I would have time alone in a motel room.  It is compact, light weight, and a work horse.  Maybe everyone knows that.  But everyone doesn’t know that it can be used for free-motion quilting.

One of the goals of my days at the fair was to share the technique of hand-guided, free-motion quilting.  I chose the Featherweight because it is a simple straight stitch machine.  That’s all you need.  I wanted to erase the notion that you can’t quilt without a big, expensive, computerized machine.  The Featherweight conveyed that message well.

fair-with-childrenChildren were fascinated with the Featherweight.  Maybe because it is so small and sweet it looks manageable.  It’s certainly not threatening in any way.  I stitched names into quilt sandwiches for Marin, Christopher, Alexis, Catherine, Mark, and more.  Fragments of cloth, batting, and a bit of thread can bring smiles to faces of children of all ages.

I talked to men and women whose mothers or grandmothers quilted and they wish they had learned from them while they could.  (I’ll be your substitute Grandma.  I didn’t listen to mine like I should have either, but other quilters and I will be glad to step in and fill in the gaps.  Send me an email (sandy@sandygilreath.com) with a question and I’ll link you to a tutorial online or try to answer you in some way.)

fair-grownupsI talked with women who made one quilt, or started one, then became frustrated with a skill they didn’t have, and put it away.  I talked with those who work full time and can’t work it in their schedule.  My answers: “Relax, it’s supposed to be fun.”  “Join a guild.  Someone there will offer advice and assistance,”  “Start with something portable, like English Paper Piecing.”

I talked with young families wherein the husband/dad wants to explore quilting.  One asked if he could start learning with a $100 machine from a bargain store.  My advice was to find a reliable used older machine.  I fear that a new one made with plastic parts will be less sturdy and operate less smoothly than an old one.  “I’m afraid if you have frustrations with tension or mechanics as you are learning, you might think you don’t like sewing; but what you don’t like is a cheap machine.”

I have almost all my baskets unpacked and things back in place in my sewing room.  My brain is bursting with ideas generated by conversations over the past few days.  Fun times stitching ahead!

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.

G’s Treehouse

G's treehouseA couple of years ago a friend of mine told me she was having a baby, a little girl.  This beautiful mother-to-be loved a particular line of fabric which included birds and flowers.

I gathered together some of the fabric from the collection, made a tree, planted some flowers at the base, and constructed a birdhouse.  I had a ball!

A note about the some fabric:  just as I never follow a pattern exactly, I don’t think I’ve ever made anything solely from one designer’s collection.  Though the collections are a great way to get coordinating colors and a variety of scales and patterns, I find they are often a bit static.  I like to add a zinger or a focus, or just something different from another source.  In this case, the collection didn’t have a fabric that said “tree trunk” to me, so I used a little brown check.  Likewise, there was not the right blue for the birdhouse.  And I’m confident that the leaves were cut from green fabrics from the collection and perhaps from others as well.

G's treehouse birdhouseI cut the background to the finished size of the quilt (38″ x 65″), adding a bit in all directions to allow for shrinkage that comes with appliqué and quilting.  The tree, branches, and leaves were all freely cut using the eyeball method on top of the background.  Needle turn appliqué was used throughout.  I like raw edges on leaves (as in After the Chlorophyll, Shade Tree Mechanic, and a few other projects) but this was to be a baby quilt to be used, and I didn’t want fraying to be an issue when washed.  Nor did I want the little one getting stray threads in her hand or mouth.

G's treehouse detailBroderie perse (a fancy word for fussy cutting) was used with the flower centers at the base of the tree.  The birds were larger than those printed on the fabric, but I mimicked the birds the designers had used when I made patterns for mine.

The tree bark was quilted with a dark brown thread, the rest with a matching thread that simply gave texture.  The exception to this was some of the embellishing stitches around the flower heads.  In some cases, there were details printed on the fabric that couldn’t easily be cut out and appliquéd, so I recaptured those with the quilting stitch using a heavier thread.  All threads used were cotton, and the batting was cotton.  That is often my preferred fiber for all components of a quilt, but certainly is the case when it’s for a baby.  Seed stitch was used to embroider the seeds the bird on the ground is eating.

All quilting was done on the sewing machine, hand-guided, free motion stitching.  A variety of motifs were used, including echoing, vines with leaves,  curved crosshatching,  vaguely parallel lines.

Now G is having a little brother.  Hmmm….

Rescued Remnants

It’s been eleven weeks since I wrote about an adventure buying vintage linens.  Only today is this piece finished, featuring pieces of an old tablecloth found on that excursion.

This quilt has been in development since I brought that pile in the house.  Growing, developing, changing.  Pink is not my “go-to” color, maybe that’s why it took so long for me to hear what the fabric was saying.

I know, people have been referred for psychological help when they said their quilts talked to them.  But quilts do talk.  If only you are willing to listen.

Here is the conversation as this process ensued: Vintage Tablecloth (VT) and me (SG).

VT:  This basket motif wants to be the centerpiece of a medallion-like wall hanging.

SG:  Ok.  I’ll cut one out in an irregular shape and stitch it to a background. With wool batting underneath so you rise to be noticed.

VT:  What background?  The green pieces from the tablecloth without holes?

SG:  Ok.  Done.  Centered, stitched on the machine with dense machine quilting to make the embroidery pop.

VT:  Oh, I’m disappointed.  I’m not featured as I should be.  I need accentuating.

SG:  Ok.  I’ll cut you out from that background and put you on something darker.

VT:  How about pink?  See my perky little bow, let’s do pink!

SG:  Noooo, I don’t like pink too much.  Let’s try something else.  Let’s pick up all those other colors.  Here.  I like this stripe.

VT:  Ok.  But horizontally, no.  Vertically, no.  Both too plain.  I’m fancy.

SG:  Agreed.  How about mitering the stripe so there’s some geometric interest?

VT:  Yes, Mrs. G, I know you have to get that in there somewhere.

SG:  Done.  Now on the green.

VT:  uh-uh.  I want pink.

SG:  Pink?  I don’t like pink.  I don’t even buy pink fabric. Oh, wait, here is a gradated solid.  I bought a pack of these pastels (Lord, what WAS I thinking? That’s not me at all.)  But it does work with the colors in the ribbon. How about a pink border around the basket on the stripe?

VT:  Yes.  At last you heard me.  Pink.  Pink.  Pink.

SG:  Ok.  There is now a border around the basket.  It’s pink.  And, can I let it be raw-edged, since that is the way I applied the basket?

VT:  Yes.  Sure.

SG:  Done.  Now that is going on the green background from the original tablecloth.  Good grief, how many layers is this?  I guess I should cut triangles from the green and frame the center rather than continue to build thickness.  More cutting and fitting and sewing.  But that’s what it needs to be.

Now I need to layer the quilt.  Cotton batting this time, and look, I found a pink calico for the backing.

VT:  Ok, I’m done talking.  Have your way with me now as you quilt.  Oh, I guess you will bind me with that stripe, too; since that seems to be the only fabric you can use for a binding.  But will you not make it bias this time?  Let’s be a little bit subtle with it, ok?

SG:  Good idea.  Especially since I’ve used almost all of the stripe and it will have a jillion seams anyway.  But I’ll place the stripes perpendicular to the edge.

Quilting is done.  I repeated the bow motif from the original basket.  I drew a replica, resized, marked it on corners of quilt, and stitched with heavy pink thread.  I quilted the remainder using a matching fine thread (silk) so the emphasis is on the texture, not the stitch.

VT:  Your quilting worked out nicely.  But now the center stripe is a bit puffy.  Can you get it to settle down a bit?

SG:  Sure.  I’ll do the seed stitch with a matching thread.  But it makes a mess on the back.

VT:  Find something pink.  You use vintage linens for the labels anyway.  Just find one large enough to cover that center square.

SG:  I agree that it needs to be pink.  I don’t have any vintage pink stuff (nor pink dye).  I don’t DO pink.  But, you are right – any other color will be too high contrast.  It is the back, after all.

VT:  So, wait.  You don’t have to finish today.  Wait until you find the right thing.

SG:  Oh, WOW.  I saw this pink linen handkerchief at an antique mall. With lace.  It was $3.  More than I normally pay for a hankie to stitch on as a label.  But I thought of you and bought it.

VT:  Good girl.  I’m worth it.

rescued remnants backSG:  Done.  Label attached with seed stitch that just goes through to the batting.  Sleeve attached the same way.  You aren’t square, close though.  (16” x 17″).  And you speak “pink”

 

The Seed Stitch

I’ve been delighting in a new stitch in the past few months, the seed stitch.  It is a simple little stitch which is carefree and easy, but adds an amazing punch to textile work in many situations.

If you are a stitcher and haven’t used this versatile stitch lately, give it some thought.  Directions and video tutorials are abundant online.  Just search “seed stitch for embroidery”, or you’ll learn knitting.

seed stitch on floozieIn recent years, I used the seed stitch in this block of Floozies, a quilt I made using a Sue Spargo kit she called Bird Dance in 2013.  In this case, the stitch was done as an embellishment. The seed stitch can be seen in the area under the bird’s feet.

detail of Mourning Flight

In Susan Lenz’s class I took in May and wrote about it in detail here, I realized that this stitch could be used as a quilting stitch, to secure several layers.  In this case, I used a heavy black thread making the stitch itself quite obvious.  This photo is one from Mourning Flight, detailed here, where all the hand quilting is accomplished using this simple stitch.

seed stitch in carBut recently, I’ve used the seed stitch on another piece, this white baby dress on blue, still untitled. Here I’m using a fine thread (30-weight cotton) which matches the background.  The stitch is rather small, so all that is visible is the dimple created when the stitch secures the top, batting and backing.  The photo here is one I took while riding in the car. (The seed stitch is in the area of the white in the lop left quadrant of the photo.)  On a road trip yesterday to see and photograph a rare bird, I got a lot of stitching done.  I was not the driver.

The seed stitch is rather random in nature, neither the length nor direction of the stitch having to be consistent, making it a great travel project.  Much of the seed stitch on Mourning Flight was also done in the car, this time on a birding trip to Florida.

seed stitch intended pink basketAnd remember the pile of vintage linens I brought home here?  Well, salvageable parts of one of those old tablecloths has become this piece. After quilting the inner pink border and the setting triangles densely, the striped center is a bit puffy.  So, I’ll be adding some seed stitch in this area.

One caveat:  the seed stitch does not produce an even result on the back of the piece, so an additional back will be needed.  But if you plan an additional layer on the back, or you intend to frame the work, the seed stitch is an interesting one to consider for securing layers.  I’ve planned for that on the white baby dress, using an extraordinarily thin fabric (harem cloth) as the backing now. And on the pink/green piece, the label will be placed over the seed-stitched area of the back of the finished product.

Backroads

country storeHow long has it been since you saw a young lad execute a backflip from a wooden platform into the river below?

My answer to that question is “a few hours.”

On a day trip to Warm Springs, we took a route we’d not followed before.  All routes there are backroads, but most are some we’ve traveled many times.  A new path holds wonder.  With a favorite remark my driver likes to make, “this time and one more will make twice I’ve been on this road,” we were off on a new adventure.

Taking grandsons on a historic field trip, we saw numerous churches and cemeteries, a small community populated with an old store, schoolhouse, and church, all white buildings wearing red roofs.  We found two small towns filled with antique shops, a delightful restaurant with homemade bread, hamburgers topped with pimento cheese, and met a Corgi named Macon.

At the Little White House museum, I learned more about barkcloth than I ever realized I didn’t know.  Someone gave FDR a gift of beautiful yardage of tapa, and the story led me to new details about one of my favorite fabrics.  Who knew I would learn fabric history on this adventure?

It was on the way home that we saw him.  As we crossed a bridge over the Flint River, we saw the jump.  We were too high to see how cleanly he made his entrance into the water.

It doesn’t matter.  He had all afternoon to perfect his form.

We had had our moment.  A glimpse, memories triggered, stories to share.  Time travel.

Mourning Flight

Mourning FlightThis newly completed piece is one I began earlier this month in a “Second Chances” class with Susan Lenz in Tifton, Ga.  Susan’s work with textiles takes on many forms, but in this class, we worked with grave rubbings and vintage linens to rescue memories and bits of fiber that might otherwise be lost.

When asked why she focuses on “death”, her answer is, “I don’t.  I’m interested in life…how to best spend what time is left. … I focus on leaving a lasting mark…the words, life, and art that remain.”  A link to her website and more details of her work can be found here.

In this class, participants only brought needle and thread and worked with Susan’s materials.  We took a trip to a local cemetery to create our own grave rubbings, but were also given the option of including some rubbings Susan had made in the past.  That is the source of the Mourning Dove in my piece.

detail of Mourning FlightThe dove’s image is on dupioni silk, the background fabric is synthetic. The ruffle is from a cotton pillow sham, the black lace a remnant in the bin of fabrics.  The dove is stitched with hand-guided, free motion quilting on a sewing machine.  All the other stitches and beading are done by hand.  Some beads came from Susan’s bins, others were supplemented from my supplies once the class was done.

label for Mourning FlightThe quilt back is a piece of a tattered silk log cabin quilt I found a few months ago in an antique store.  The label is a linen piece I bought from some other antiquing trip.  I’ve been rescuing such treasures for a long time, but only when I became acquainted with Susan’s work was I daring enough to cut them apart and use them fearlessly.

I wrote a bit about this workshop in an earlier post, here.  A significant portion of class time was spent discussing our motivation for working with textiles, our connection with others, and the legacy we might leave behind with our work.  There was an emphasis on our stream of consciousness writings where we examined our goals and stories waiting to be told.  This piece will constantly remind me of the progress I’ve made and the goals I’ve set forth to continue sharing my stories in cloth.

 

Skinny-Dipping Quilts

mimi's boys skinny dippingChildren are so observant.  They see details that we adults pass right by.

Some of the first quilts I made were for grandsons.  There are now three teenagers, but at the time of the quilt you see pictured at the end of this post, there were two toddlers.  I saw an episode of Simply Quilts in which Judy Martin demonstrated the large block which dominates this quilt.  I had bought some Tom Sawyer themed fabric and companion pieces, and I went to work.

I made the largest block, (24” square, I believe) using two different scenes from the toile print in the center.  One was of the boys fishing, the other of them painting the fence.  I made smaller blocks using the fabrics I had in the collection and coordinates from my stash.  Now that I think about it, I was using my version of improvisational piecing from this beginning.  I laid blocks on my design table (otherwise used for eating dinner; the design wall came much later in my quilting life), measured spaces, and inserted filler pieces or blocks.

Now I sometimes lay out such a design on grid paper, calculating dimensions using the squares, but in 2002, I wasn’t so deliberate.  I gave the two quilts titles based on the toile, “Mimi’s Boys Fishing” and “Mimi’s Boys Working” and presented them as Christmas gifts.

Several years later, one of the grandsons attended a quilt show with me. I’m not affirming or denying if bribery was involved.  I saw a quilt with familiar fabric, and exclaimed, “look, this quilt has fabric like yours.”  I was quickly corrected, “Well, not exactly.  This boy has pants on.”

“Yours aren’t wearing pants?”

“Not the ones going swimming.”

His mother was as surprised as I was.  She hadn’t noticed either.

Back at their house, we all examined the quilt to see that, yes, indeed, the fabric I bought prior to 2002 had skinny-dippers.  I don’t know the manufacturer’s storyline, but I’m guessing someone was offended, and subsequent yardage was more modest.

Yes, I have scraps of the risqué print, even a bit of yardage.  Hmmm, I think there’s a story quilt idea.

Mimi's boys quiltQuilt details:  Finished measurements: 36″ x 50″, batting was probably 80% cotton, 20% polyester, quilting was straight lines with walking foot.

Tidying Up

Kaffe baskets in basketFriends and I were discussing the Tidying Up bestseller at dinner last night.  I’ve not read the entire book, but I have read a lot of it.  First, let me say that this woman’s definition of tidying up is different from mine.  My idea of tidying up means someone is coming over and it’s time to run the sweeper and stash some items in the closet.  (I will admit that I later straighten the closet and periodically purge it of unused items, but not on a rigid schedule and not enough to invite visitors to admire.)

Though I agree that “stuff” can get in the way of living your life, I’m here to tell you that cleaning can do the same thing.  Balance, people, balance.  Don’t be a hoarder, don’t live in squalor.  But, then again, don’t obsess over everything being perfect.

I wonder how many people on their deathbeds wish they had taken one more load of unworn clothing to the Salvation Army.  Can you tell that I spent yesterday cleaning and wished I were sewing?

When it comes to my quilting stash, I do sometimes find the need to straighten it to see what I have.  Sometimes I share remnants with other quilters.  It is fun to see their faces light up when they find a fabric I’ve used in a quilt they like and now they get to play with it, too.

My working style is that I have several quilt projects in progress at one time.  I sometimes get bored with one technique or another, but often the reason is location.  I always need a project that is portable – to stitch while watching tv or sitting on the porch, or recently, while riding in the car.  Once that phase of the stitching is done, that piece might get set aside until I have time to prepare it for the next level.

I do keep the fabrics that I’ve selected for a given project together until it’s completed.  I use baskets to contain them.  Sometimes there are lists in the baskets telling me what is  cut, how many are remaining to be stitched; maybe a sketch of the layout possibilities.  I will confess that there are a couple of projects that I like seeing the blocks in a basket – so I’m not anxious about assembling those at all.  Alma Allen and Barb Adams depict vignettes of such collections in their books and on their website.  They inspire me to enjoy all phases of the quiltmaking experience.

Susan Lenz explains that the beginning phase and the finishing phase of projects are exciting.  But one doesn’t need to be excited all the time.  The stitching phase is relaxing – so psychologically, I’m centering myself with my working style.

I have come to realize that sometimes I slow down on a project before it’s finished, not wanting to finish until another is at its relaxing stage.

Jude Hill says of one of her magic feather posts, “And yet there is still stitching.  Maybe I have slowed down even more.  Just to make it last.”

Oh, yes, I’m in good company if my working style bears any resemblance to Alma Allen, Barb Adams, Susan Lenz, and Jude Hill.  But it may not look tidy.