Summertime in South Georgia

Memories of a hot summer day in my childhood include sweet, juicy, sticky watermelon.  At our house, there was most always a melon or two cooling in the shade of a pecan tree in the backyard.  Mid-morning was the time we would gather round the picnic table with Aunt Nellie’s butcher knife, some forks, and a big appetite!  I had a salt shaker in my hand, too.

This quilt is made using a photo of childhood friends with slices of that summertime treat.  The photo is printed on vintage linen fabric, the watermelon slices are painted and seeds are hand stitched with black thread.  A seed stitch was used, of course.  Machine stitching and wool batting adds dimension to the piece.  It is layered on red fabric and a remnant of denim jeans, measuring 10” x 12”.

Thanks to Arlene for permission to use the photo.  She and her brothers Wayne and Jerry portray the perfect summer scene in south Georgia!

 

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.

Pink Ribbon

My sister was beautiful.  This photo was taken when she was about twelve years old – she was still an only child at that time.  It would be three more years before I came into her life.

When I was younger than twelve, I would look at this photo and dream of looking like Jane when I reached that magical age.  The years rolled by and my mother took me to a photographer to mark that special birthday, but I was disappointed in the result.  I did not have Jane’s thick, wavy hair, her tanned complexion, or her beautiful brown eyes.

The original photo of Jane was taken by my grandfather and there is a version hand tinted by my Aunt Corinne.


Recently I scanned the image, printed it in on fabric, and painted the bow.  Jane’s favorite color was pink,so a deep shade of that was the obvious choice for her ribbon.  In the photo, she was wearing a locket, and I had a mother-of-pearl bauble which seemed to be a good substitute.

A bit of batting, some free motion machine quilting, and I was ready to hand stitch the piece to a bit of vintage edging.  I used some metallic thread to stitch her necklace (hand embroidered backstitch) and some silken twist thread to attach the photo to the lacy border.  Both threads were gifts from a friend, items from his late mother’s stash. The in-progress photo is one I sent to the friend while I was working, letting him see his mother’s supplies at work.

 

All these layers were stitched to a red background, commercial cotton fabric.  This is custom framed in a 16” x 20” frame, with a double oval mat.

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.

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.

Sunday School Picnic

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

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


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

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

Paper Dolls

My mother entertained little girls by cutting paper dolls from paper.  She would fold the newspaper or catalog pages accordion style, then cut one-half of a girl in a dress.  All of us squealed as she unfurled the string of girls holding hands.

I finally learned to do the folding and cutting for myself, even to change the cuts to make strings of little boys, or of girls linking hands up, then down, then up again.

I had some fabric on hand that looked like little girls’ dresses, so I made a template and appliquéd some of Mama’s dolls on fabric.

Later it occurred to me that one of the granddaughters might like a parade of little girls like she once played with in paper.  I happened to have fabric from five dresses she had worn as a toddler.  I cut a pattern so that five girls would fit on a vintage doily I found, and a memory was rekindled. I layered the dolls and doily on a bit of indigo dyed linen and used machine quilting to add dimension. Buttons from those five little dresses were used as embellishments and to secure the layers to a bit of a vintage cross-stitched quilt.  The finished piece measures 17” x 16”.  

Hearts in the Kitchen

This time of year we see hearts in abundant numbers.  This symbol of love is everywhere, and often seen in shades of red.

I love the heart motif and have it all around my house and in quilts I’ve made.  This year I’ve been adding to my bowl of blue hearts in the breakfast room.  I made a few last year and in the past couple of weeks, I’ve been adding more.

I’ve used ribbons, buttons, and lace to embellish some of them.  In other cases, I just stitched and stuffed some of my favorite fabrics.  I added French knots to one.  On another I stitched pearls from a rescued strand I bought.  The fabrics include barkcloth, vintage ticking, African indigo batik, hand-dyed linen, bits of an old quilt, and fabrics from well-worn clothing.

This bowl of stories sits on the breakfast room table.  It warms my heart (pun not intended, but appropriate, I guess) to recall memories associated with each element.

Oh, I can use red fabric, too.

 

Photo notes:  The pitcher with heart is part of my Rowe pottery collection.  The wooden bowl (and possibly some of the spoons) is by my favorite wood carver, Ralph Smith.  The heart-shaped bark basket holds memories of St. Simons Island where I bought it many many years ago.

The Kite

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

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

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

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

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