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’ve remember a special 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.

Basking in Blue

I spent a lot of time in June dipping in my indigo dye pot.  I dyed and overdyed treasured bits of fabric.: baby blankets, remnants of old quilts, bits of lace, repurposed shirts.  I experimented with heavy paper and wooden buttons.


Part of the fun is the surprise element.  As time goes by, the vat becomes weaker and the color less intense.  Of course, any blue is beautiful to me, dark, light, and all shades between the extremes.  Every fiber reacts to the dye differently, and the results change based on how many times a fabric is dipped.

In an earlier post, I’ve written more details about the dyeing process.  And, if you want to see more work with my results, type “indigo” in the search box and you’ll find finished art quilts which included some of the pieces I had dyed.

Many of these recent bits of blue will become part of future pieces of art, but I made a journal keepsake preserving many swatches of treasured blues.  There are sixteen pages cut from old quilt remnants in shades of white.  Every added snippet of fabric, button, bead, and even thread, holds a memory of the search, the find, the experimentation with its color.  Preserving stories doesn’t always need words.

New Old Stuff


I’ve acquired some real treasures in recent days…my brain is spinning with ideas for using them.

The red windowpane checked towels are old linen.  Yes, they do look like graph paper.  But they work well as an underlying grid for free form appliqué and stitching.  The loose weave and years of washing make them a delight to use – the needle just glides through the openings between the threads.  The red/burlap trim and the lace are gifts from a friend.  They came from Europe and look like they belong with a collection of French General fabrics, don’t they?

The doilies are another antique store find.  Yes, they are treasures in their original box, with the label, but they won’t stay there.  Click on the photo to enlarge if you want to read the details.  You will swoon! They will become mats for photos on fabric, I think.

And the blue linen hankie, oh, my, what a beauty!  A friend found this while shopping and thought of me.  And this was before seeing my vintage blues from Bell Buckle!   Enlarge his one to see the hand drawn thread work and the amazing tiny appliqué.  The white squares in the nine-patch measure 3/8” on  each side.

This piece will not find its way into a quilt for a very long time.  It now lives in my basket of blue.

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.

Bell Buckle

Vintage blue calico, antique stores, delicious food, friendly people, and a caboose!  It’s no wonder that we found ourselves returning to Bell Buckle, TN on our recent trip to Paducah, KY.

We had visited Bell Buckle once before on our way home from an AQS show in Paducah.  I remembered the beautiful rolling hills, the pastoral campus of the Webb School, ice cream cones, and vintage blue ticking.  Our stop this time was on a beautiful morning as we headed to Paducah.

After the requisite photo shoot on the caboose, we visited several shops and enjoyed all of them.  But the delight came in the Bluebird Antiques and Ice Cream Parlor.  There we met Billy Phillips and his mother, Nancy.   I recounted memories of being there before and buying vintage ticking.  Billy enticed me to the Mercantile store after we had a bite of lunch by telling me about his latest acquisition; items from a sixty-year collection of vintage blue and white calicos from a Nashville collector.

After sharing a lunch of chicken salad (freshly homemade that morning) and a fried apple pie (also prepared from scratch that day), I visited with Nancy.  In our conversation where she proudly proclaimed her age being 85,  she identified herself as the maker of the pies, not as the savior of the town.  That story came later from Billy.

We didn’t have room to try ice cream in one of their freshly made waffle cones, but I’m certain that’s why the ice cream from a few years ago was so memorable.  We passed up the homemade pimento cheese, and the fried green tomato cheeseburger, but that last is on my list for the next visit.

While we waited for our food, we browsed the shelves in the Bluebird shop.  Dishes adorned with bluebirds, old quilts, old camera equipment, and Tasha Tudor books.  What’s not to love?

I asked about the sign advertising Miss Jeane’s Cafe.  Miss Jeane ran the cafe in that building for forty years, establishing high standards that Nancy and her helpers continue with their menu.

Nancy heard us say we were on our way to Paducah and revealed that she, too, is a quilter.  And doll maker.  It was her love of all things doll related that led her to save the town.

As Billy shared the story,  the mercantile/hardware store had been closed for some seven or so years in the 1970’s, but was still filled with original merchandise.  Nancy saw a cabinet inside that reminded her of a dollhouse.  She called to inquire about buying the cabinet and was first told, “it’s not for sale.”  Determined, she called the owner again and this time got a quote of $750.  She said, “that’s a bit high for a cabinet,” only to hear the reply “Oh, I mean for the store and all its contents.”  Sold!

To save the store from a bulldozing plan to make way for a new Piggly Wiggly, Nancy researched listing the property on the National Register of Historic Places.  Because of shared fire walls, she was able to save not only her new store, but all the buildings attached to it.  I, among many, am so glad she did that.  What a pleasant little town was saved!

With a population of fewer than 500 residents, the town welcomes as many as 100,000 visitors to its festivals. We heard about the Moon Pie Festival (Bell Buckle is the place where Moon Pies, made fresh in Nashville, were first paired with RC Cola), coming in June, and the Arts and Crafts Festival in October.  A google search will give you details in case you are interested.

Though I’m impressed with their festivals and would enjoy the excitement,I’m glad we’ve had a chance to visit the quaint little town on quiet days, with time to browse its treasures.

In the photos, you see what I’m talking about.  The blue calicoes were simply divine.  For someone who loves all things blue, especially indigo, and cloth with a history, it was spellbinding.  I brought home a few treasures, and have them displayed in a basket close to my sewing chair.  Daily inspiration!  Talking with Billy about these treasures was very educational.  I didn’t realize, for example, that English fabric samples in the 1800’s were swatches the size of today’s fat quarters!

With all our time on the road the past few weeks, and then things to catch up when we got home, I haven’t had a lot of sewing time.  But I am working on a Paducah journal quilt, and this little block is one of the pieces representing our stop in Bell Buckle.