Fascinated by fabric from girlhood I’ve found my creative home in quilting. What I really love is finding the elements and putting it all together. I’ve long described myself as a mixed media collage artist—this allows me many options. I have no formal training in art. As a girl, I expressed myself in artistic ways including scrapbooks, collage, sewing and fashion. My talented mother, Marie, loved creating with fabric and I believe this love is in my genes or at least in my Scotch-Irish heritage. I learned to sew with her guidance. Sometimes I look at a piece of fabric or a simple tailored dress and think, “Mom would like that.” Or I think, “Mom, would call this ‘gippy’ ”–her favored description for something overworked or overdone.
What inspires me? Sometime it is something recycled, sometimes it is a pattern or a designer fabric. Sometimes it is a guild challenge. Since the early 1970s I have searched thrift shops and flea markets for “something looking for me”–something that calls my name! Usually it is a textile of some sort. We grew up with beautiful fabrics at home and in the stores. At that time when you bought ribbon it was silk–not polyester like most stores sell now. Polyester had not yet come to dominate the sewer’s marketplace.
Almost thirty years ago I made my first quilt–a baby quilt for my sister Lea’s young son, but it was not until 1994 that I had the time to begin quilting with a passion. That year I met Lila Rostenberg who had recently opened her shop, Quilt Your Heart Out, in nearby Fayetteville AR. Lila became a mentor and a friend sharing her fascination with florals with me and helping me develop my own skills. Her shop often served as an informal community center for area quilters. I thrived in this atmosphere and began teaching classes at Quilt Your Heart Out in the mid 1990s.
Two hundred and fifty quilts later I still feel the excitement of playing with fabric in my mind and on the design board. Some of those quilts are small, others are large. Some I hand quilted and many I machine quilted. Often I’ve combined both hand and machine quilting on the same quilt. My primary machine is the one I bonded with in 1969. With one of my first TWA paychecks, I took the bus to the Singer dealer in downtown Kansas City, Missouri and carried my Singer Featherweight home to my apartment on the Country Club Plaza. A quilting friend passed on her 1971 Bernina Model 830 to me a decade ago–this is the machine I still count on for my machine quilting projects. I can do my own maintenance on both of these workhorse sewing machines.
Historical quilts thrill me, batiks fascinate me and bold plaids call to me. I can’t resist large scale florals on dark backgrounds. I could go on here, but I won’t. I’ve learned that so-called ugly fabrics have their place in my fabric stash. Because I have kept a record of all the quilts I have sewn, I can see that most often my inspiration to start a new quilt has been a particular fabric or fabric combination.
What inspires me? Sometime it is something recycled, sometimes it is a pattern or a designer fabric. Sometimes it is a guild challenge. Since the early 1970s I have searched thrift shops and flea markets for “something looking for me”–something that calls my name! Usually it is a textile of some sort. This summer I swooned over a vintage pillow tucked in the corner of a flea market booth. The black sateen background contrasted with the shapely basket formed of yoyo fabric circles the size of a dime. I knew it was a treasure! I took it to our quilt guild that evening and other quilters agreed.
At home I removed the polyester stuffing and framed the basket with a simple border then hand quilted it. Of course I added a label telling where it had been discovered and documented what I had done to turn it into a small quilt. I named it Basket of Dimes. I feel sure the original maker would be pleased to know how we appreciate her handwork eighty years later.
I like to “hunt and peek”—looking for connections and relationships. What elements are similar? What would draw these objects together? I hunt and gather. Combine and recombine. This involves lots of fooling around or, my favorite description, puttering. If the word “putterer”was not so awkward, I would use it rather than artist. “Play” is the central element in my “work”. I believe we all have creativity lurking inside just waiting for a chance to come out and play. Inspiration is meant to be expressed and to be shared.
I see this blog as chance to share my quilts and to describe the inspiration which allowed each quilt to come in to existence. Other quilters have been a major influence on me and my quilts. I plan to write about how we influence each other. I encourage other quilters to write about their own creative experiences.
Many of my quilts are scrapbook quilts or memory quilts full of visuals and vital events in my life. Perhaps, too, I can describe myself as a visual historian. I want to record happenings and thoughts and attitudes that shape my life. Quilting is my grand adventure!