Celebrations take many shapes and forms. I celebrated my 70th birthday with quilting friends including our queen, Kathy Garringer (our guild president now in her second term), on August 28 at the Jane Sassaman class creating a small wallhanging. Jane is an internationally know quilter who provided the program for the guild on August 27. Jane has been designing fabric for fifteen years and quilting for decades. In fact, her quilt “Willow” was included in the Hundred Best Quilts of the Twentieth Century. Her fabrics and her quilts portray an exuberant Mother Nature with bold colors and stylized designs. But none of this information lets you know how accessible as an instructor she is. In the program on Thursday night and in the class on Friday, Jane was encouraging and not pompous, despite her accomplishments in the quilting world. Each of the more than twenty students in our class received help with our project and individual attention. When Jane saw the black and gold lame gingham check that I was using to decorate the rim on my pot, she grinned and said she had some of this same fabric in her stash.
We quilters were lined up by the door with all our quilting totes and paraphernalia at 8:30 to be ready for the 9:00 class. Once we unpacked our supplies and settled, Kathy surprised me with this patchwork silk jacket! She said she found it at a yard sale and it looked like something I would wear and enjoy–she was right. I took off my beige linen jacket and wore her silk gift the rest of the day. Knowing and being known is a great gift we can give each other. I certainly appreciated that element of Kathy’s gift as much as I appreciated the lovely jacket.
Fusible applique has not been a technique that has drawn me in the past. But Nora Krein, our program chair in 2114 was excited to bring Jane Sassaman to our guild in 2015. Then when I saw the date I decided to take the class and celebrate my birthday with quilters. Because I know that I get more from a class if I do extensive preparation before the class, I explored the teacher’s ideas and techniques and studied the supply list carefully. Then I packed lots of fabric possibilities. I bought a half yard of Phillip Jacobs fabric featuring large, bright caladium leaves that I hoped to use as the focal point.
Jane had indicated that she would have lots of her own fabric for sale at the class. She was showing various options that she had brought. When she held up the bold black and brown print she referred to as one of her vintage designs I “knew” it would look good with the caladium fabric. Others were selecting their choices before I got to the table, but no one was interested in the stylized ferns in those dark colors–except me! The process of “playing” with my fabrics began with the pot. I decided on a black pot to provide a strong contrast to my background. But I would trim that pot the the gold lame gingham! The night before Lila Rostenberg had given me a birthday surprise of several strips of dupioni silk in luscious colors and I hoped to use the spring green silk fabric in this project somehow.
Comprehending how to apply the fusible webbing was a challenge. Adele Atha gave me enough to complete my project and we exchanged hints on how hot the iron needed to be to actually fuse the webbing to the fabric pieces. Then when it came time to trace (and record) our final arrangement of leaves, flowers and pot. Suzanne Kittrel provided me with a section from an extra wide roll of tracing paper. I liked this paper which worked well and will buy some soon. Using the full size tracing of my design made putting the project back together at home go easily.
One thing I learned from this class was I prefer to work with fabric–not fused fabric. Jane explained to us that she started as a paper artist, so she prefers working with fused fabric that she can cut out shapes as if they were paper and then use a satin stitch to applique each in place. I did try this suggested technique, but at home I pulled off all the fusible backing and turned under a small seam allowance and hand appliqued everything in place. Instead of a large single background, I pieced the background to include the inner border using that green dupioni silk. The background fabric became one of the surprises you encounter when you view my still life up close. I quilted around the birds, large feathers and tree branches. The binding was cut from carefully selected sections of a fabric with wild sunset colors from pinks and purples to orange and terra cotta. The pinks and magenta colors picked up some of the makrings in the caladium leaves. The quilting added emphasis to some areas. I used mostly machine quilting with some hand quilting in the leaf veins.
My working title for this wallhanging was simply “Caladium”. After considering my options as I did the quilting, I decided to name it “Still Life, Still Alive at Seventy” a reference to my having had advanced breast cancer at age 43. Most of my quilts have a very personal connection giving me a chance to “speak my mind”. The final step was to add my round label with as much information as possible so no one will wonder who or why some anonymous woman made this quilt.
As a quilting teacher myself I often wonder about the results of projects started in class. Do they ever get finished? How were they modified? What did each quilter do with the ideas we talked about in class? With this in mind I emailed a photo of my completed wallhanging to Jane and received this generous response:
“Wonderful! Thanks for the photo of your finished piece. Being 62, however, makes 70 seem pretty young to me! Interesting background fabric. I like the offset composition and the binding picks up the inner colors nicely. It makes my day!”
Now you can see why I started this blog post with the quote I used!