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.

Lace Day

Yesterday was Lace Day.  It’s not on your calendar as an official holiday, but I’m proclaiming it.

 

 

 

 

Sometimes when I’m out shopping buttons call to me, other times it’s tattered linens who beg to be cut up and sewn back together.  Yesterday it was lace.  Everywhere I looked I saw lace.

There was white tatting, crocheted edging in white, black, and beige.  Technically, these may not be lace, but they are lacy and perform the function of lace in some of my projects.  All in today’s hunt were bargains.  Most were handmade.

If it’s stained, I will dye it.  If it’s not stained, I may dye it.  But I love giving a home to someone’s pieces with a memory.  I keep it out of the landfill and get to add more history to a  photo on cloth, or just a collage of vintage remnants.

I love walking through antique malls.  I’ve said this before, but it bears repeating.  It soothes my soul to see old things.  Memories surface at the sight of roller skates like I once owned, a towel in a stripe like my Mother had, even a can that held a ham.  The can may still hold a ham.  I didn’t want to know.  But when have I thought of those Sunday menus?  Ham from a can and orange macaroni and cheese from a box.  My Mother grew up wringing the chicken’s neck for lunch, so she embraced all the convenience foods available to her once they moved to town.

Inspiration comes in many forms.  The color palette here suggests a touch of black with some neutrals and that green.  Wow – that green.  If you subscribe to Julia Cameron’s advice in The Artist’s Way, to take your artist self on a date each week, this is the kind of thing she’s talking about.

I didn’t buy all you see in the photos.  Displays in the antique malls are inspiring, even if I don’t always make a purchase.  The way the pieces are displayed in a drawer, or old suitcase, or in a basket make me smile.

 

I bought some home with me.  Here is the pile of treasures.  I love the vintage bias tape and seam binding in the original package.  100% cotton, unstained.  At 25₵ each, I didn’t buy them all, but I did add to my supply.  And even the basket came home with me.  I love the double-handled  baskets for storing and carrying projects in progress.  The Longabergers are so sturdy.  I never bought them when people were having parties; I missed that boat.  But when I find them for a song (this one was $14), I grab them!

I don’t know what these finds will become.  But I know they will find their way to a project filled with memories.  Memories that include the fun time shopping for them and memories unknown to me but stored in the fibers of these pieces with a past.

The Farmhouse

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

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

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

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

 

 

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

 

 

 

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

 

 

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

Let’s Strip

Some of my best friends are strippers.  One member of our organization moved away and became a hooker, but stripping seems to remain a favorite activity.

My quilt guild’s annual challenge quilts were presented this week.  This year’s challenge title was “Let’s Strip.”  So, strip we did.

The rules were simple.  Make a “strippy quilt”, any size, any color (no orange required this year), any technique.  That was open to interpretation by the maker.  Refer to antique English quilts, Amish bar quilts, recent jelly roll collections from manufacturers – or any other type of quilt in which you assemble the units in strips.

Members mingle and socialize while examining all the entries before casting their vote.  In addition to choosing their favorite quilt for ribbon awards, members study the quilts for evidence of personalities in the work.  One of the most coveted prizes of the day is the one awarded to the winner of “Guess the Maker”, the person who is able to identify more quilt makers than anyone else.

In the photos, you see Queen Tess moderating.  She periodically announces how much time is remaining for judging and reminds us again to follow directions we tend to ignore.  Here, she is standing in front of Marie’s entry, One Golden Autumn Day.  As winners are announced, they reveal the story behind their entry, then all other members do the same.

This year’s third place ribbon went to Joyce, for Maui Sunrise.

 

 

 

Second place went to Mary, one of our most prolific members.  Mary always does amazing work and has fun doing it.  This fun piece, Chicken Buffet, was no different.  Evidently, the block with the toilet paper was really an interesting one to make!

 

And, lucky me!  My entry, Autumn Elegance, won the blue ribbon!   My piece measures 29” x 47” and began as a jelly roll (a collection of strips 2 1/2” wide by 40” long) from Cherrywood hand-dyed fabrics.  I added batik leaves, and then quilted it densely using a variety of motifs.

Carol’s entry had to have a name change.  Carol began with strips of flying geese she bought at one of our guild auctions (we clean out our closets and bring things we no longer need and buy and sell from each other).  Thinking they were brought by Betty, she had titled the quilt Miss Betty’s Geese.  Learning that in fact Tess had made and discarded the strips, the quilt title is now Tess’s Geese.

Members aren’t limited to one entry.  Marie finished her large quilt early, then had scraps lying around and made a table runner that complied with the guildelines, too.  (it’s the red and black one with tiny squares in one row).

Susan made her challenge quilt  (behind Tess in this photo) using our friend Candace’s pattern called Sonja’s Windows  (available here).  Susan shared another quilt (the one she and Tess are holding) from the same pattern, not assembled in rows, too.   In addition, Susan made a strippy red and black quilt for the contest.

DeAnn, who is busy building a new house, created a pattern with a story in each panel.  Times in the Garden depicts scenes from each house DeAnn has owned. so this wall hanging is filled with memories she will take with her. to her new home.

Hilda’s title, Study in Black and White, Oops, (seen in the background of a group photo) conveys the message that quilts have a mind of their own sometime.  That red fabric just jumped in!  Janet likes black and white, too.  Her Silhouette came from a pattern she found in McCall’s quilting magazine.

Linda’s Sunrise, Gladys’ Kaleidoscope Pinwheels, and Angie’s Happy Scrappy, added to the inspirational display.

 

Carolyn’s Rework Nursery Rhymes depicts familiar scenes rendered in hand appliqué and framed with red calico.

 

Sharon and her grandchildren love to make bubbles, so Sharon made a bubble quilt using some unique materials to depict transparency.

Oh, if you are still wondering about the member I mentioned who left our group, she still keeps in touch.  And she shares photos of the beautiful rugs she’s hooked from strips of woven wool.  So, I guess that makes her a stripper, too.

Our meeting day was a rainy, dreary day, not the best for photography.  I’ve included some views of my quilt in the great outdoors with sun shining on it.

Click on any image to enlarge.

 

 

The Camera


Sometimes the camera tells a story.  Sometimes the camera is the story.

While exploring in some antique stores on Friday, I found some treasures.  Bits of lace, buttons, old hand embroidery.

 

And photos of unknown folks with a story to tell.

 

 

 

 

Jim found a treasure, too.  A miniature 35mm camera with leather case, original box, and paperwork.  He enjoys giving these tools new jobs to do, running a roll of film through them, letting the camera tell stories again.

On Saturday, he took it to a local shop to get a new battery.  The store owner, George, said, “I remember an occasion when I worked on a camera exactly like this one time before.”  It was at a gathering hosted by Phil Walden in the 1970’s.  A fellow came by with a camera like this in his hand, profanely exclaiming that it wasn’t working properly.  George asked what seemed to be the problem, adding, “I work on cameras, I can look at it for you if you like.”  Taking the offered camera, making the necessary adjustments, George got the camera working and handed it back.  Andy walked away and continued photographing the social event.

Years later, the two men’s paths crossed again in New York.  Andy looked at George and said, “Don’t I know you from somewhere?”  After hearing, “I repaired a camera for you once in Macon, Ga.,” Mr. Warhol muttered, “Oh, yeah,” as he walked away.

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.

On My Design Wall

I have a magic wall in my sewing room.  Two 4’ x 8’ sheets of foam insulation board are covered with fleece and nailed to the wall.  They hold projects for me to consider, analyze, rearrange, and organize for sewing.

My grandmother did not have a design wall.  Quilters these days are advised to use a vertical wall to consider color placement and other options in the quiltmaking process.  I am fortunate to have space to have a permanent design wall, but there are options to use one that can be put away when it’s not in use.

In the photo here, you see that my space is larger than most quilts I make.  The left side holds a wall quilt in progress.  Once I start sewing the blocks together, I’ll put them back on the wall in units so the layout doesn’t become confusing.  The magic of this wall is that fabric clings to the fleece (or flannel, or batting, whatever you use) without pins. This makes it easy to move blocks around until the arrangement is just right!  Once several blocks are sewn together, the weight sometimes makes it necessary to add pins to hold things in place.  And, yes, I do move to the floor when the whole thing is too cumbersome to hang – but by then the design decisions have been made.

My wall also serves as a holding station for projects on the way to becoming.  As I see pieces in progress (as on the right side of the photo here) I plan ways to bring them to completion, or combine them with another project.  Serendipity comes into play sometimes as stray blocks sit beside each other and become companions in a quilt.


The blocks on the wall are a reinterpretation of Miss Lily’s Red Baskets, which I shared here.  I stitched all these little baskets (they finish at 5 1/2” square) with Kaffe Fassett fabrics onto a Cherrywood background.  Once I put them on the wall, they needed something.  I decided to use the focus baskets like one in Miss Lily’s project, but, rather than one, I used three.  And, rather than a bow, I added these birds cut from a funky whimsical fabric I had on hand.  The leaves came from that fabric, too.  While the baskets are all needleturn applique, the birds and leaves are raw-edged.  They are held in place with Jude Hill’s invisible baste stitch.  As I do the free motion machine quilting, I’ll stitch these pieces down.

This photo shows my debate about using all basket blocks, or including some free-flying birds.

As usual, you can click on any image to enlarge it.  When done, just exit the photo and you’ll come back to this page.

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).

Steel Magnolia

I heard her voice before I saw her.

While I was checking in with the receptionist, I heard her explaining to her husband about his procedure.  She lovingly, kindly, patiently explained the test they would perform on his arteries.

With my clipboard in hand, I sat near the husband on a couch in the waiting room.  I realized a woman in a wheelchair was near him, but didn’t pay much attention.  As I answered the questions about my medical history and symptoms with almost all no’s, I realized how fortunate I am to have these interruptions to my schedule – these bothersome tests that are recommended when one reaches a certain age – be nothing more than that.  I became conscious of the frail woman sitting near me.  She couldn’t have weighed more than 80 pounds.  But her leg braces and shoes looked much heavier.  She sat erect in that chair, though, alert and composed.

After her husband was called for his procedure, she sat quietly waiting.  When I heard a mechanical sound, I realized she had tapped her watch and it was audibilizing the time for her.  I paused to think of the challenges she has every day and now her husband is in for some tests.  My interruption to my day for this pesky test was seeming less troublesome by the moment.

Before I could complete my pages of family medical history and engage her in conversation, her partner returned.  He said, “ I can go now.  Should we call transport?”  “Yes, push me over and we’ll ask them to call.”  She tapped her watch again and it gave the time as “8:05.”  Then again, and it spoke “8:06.”  But it was 11:06 a.m.  Oh, my.

The pair approached the desk where, in a confident voice, she asked, “Could you call our transport for us, please?  The number is ….”. She recited the ten digits confidently.  And, then, “Thank you,”  in as strong a voice as any southern lady possesses.  That voice alerted me that this woman did not want my sympathy.  She has my respect.

I’ve thought of this couple many times in the days since that encounter.  I wonder about his test results.  I wonder who cooks for them.  I wonder if they get out a lot and interact with other people.  But I do not wonder if she is handling everything like a steel magnolia.  I know she is.

Art quilt notes:  The finished size is 13” x 17”.  The line drawing is free-motion machine stitched on a remnant of an old linen pillowcase.  The remainder of the work is hand stitching – layers of vintage lace, buttons, and an old quilt fragment complete the assembly.  The lace tablecloth remnant and linen coaster used as a label were dyed in my indigo vat.