Thinking About “Negative Space”

“Imitation is the most sincere form of flattery” anonymous

"Negative Nines" was inspired by a quilt Leeanna Walker brought to the July 2105 Modern Quilt Guild meeting featuring vintage butterfly blocks and lots of negative space.

“Negative Nines” was inspired by a quilt Leeanna Walker brought to the July 2105 Modern Quilt Guild meeting featuring vintage butterfly blocks and lots of negative space.

I hope Leeanna Walker is flattered when she sees this small quilt top (24″ x 38″) because her Butterfly quilt inspired my pulling together my wallhanging named “Negative Nines”. Leeanna sent me this picture of her quilt as she is working on the binding. I first saw this quilt when she brought it to the July meeting of the Modern Quilt Guild last week. She had grouped the twenty-one vintage appliqued butterfly blocks worked on plain muslin in the bottom left corner. The upper right corner section was composed of bright teal plain blocks except for one more butterfly block in the extreme upper right corner. All that negative space created a sense of drama and balance making it visually intriguing. At least I was intrigued!

Leeanna Walker set her vintage butterfly blocks in this asymmetrical way which features large amounts of "negative space" . Her quilt inspired me to try this technique.

Leeanna Walker set her vintage butterfly blocks in this asymmetrical way which features large amounts of “negative space” . Her quilt inspired me to try this technique.

At home forty-eight hours later I was searching through my vintage blocks looking for candidates to try this technique. I found eleven pieced nine patch blocks (from Linda Hancock) that seemed to be a possibility since they featured a variety of solid color fabrics. After arranging and rearranging them on my portable design wall I felt like I had a satisfactory grouping and began looking for fabrics to work with the nine patch blocks. I came across the bright blue scrap of dupioni silk and knew I wanted to include a strip of that saturated color. The batik blue triangles added a texture I valued. But the star of the piece is the Daiwabo taupe used in the upper right area making the negative space shine. Every other piece of fabric I auditioned for that space seemed drab.

I’m including two pictures of this wallhanging because in the smaller version (below) you can see the power of the negative space more clearly. Once I quilt it there will be new textures to appreciate.

negative-nines-2

Posted in Contemporary Design | Leave a comment

Wide Sashing with Lots of Energy!

Dianne's 2013 quilt from the Rebel quilt blog--this was her response to the challenge to use a vintage drapery fabric featuring cowboys.

Dianne’s 2013 quilt from the Rebel quilt blog–this was her response to the challenge to use a vintage drapery fabric featuring cowboys.

In October of 2013 Dianne, one of my fellow bloggers on the Rebel quilt blog, posted this quilt which wowed me! I was amazed by the effect of the wide sashing with split elements. She created this as part of a quilt challenge to use a vintage drapery fabric featuring cowboys, horses and desert scenery. It is always a challenge to use a single piece of fabric printed with an overall “theme” and to make it come alive in a dynamic quilt top. But I was awed by what Dianne had created. I stored the memory of this quit and its unusual setting away in my visual catalog for possible future use.

Amy Rollins, one of my quiting cohorts, presented me with a vintage feedsack at our July, 2015 guild meeting. When I looked at it I saw that it had numerous WWII visual references like Churchill and FDR huddled together, place names of famous battles like Pearl Harbor, and other motifs from the 1940’s. I was intrigued. When I was born in 1945 my father was serving in the US Army. He was stationed in the Philipines–another one of the places named on this unusual feedsack.
wwII-whole

The first thing I checked at home the next day was to note the width from selvage to selvage. Since it was 36″ wide I had another clue that this was, in fact, an old textile kept in very good condition. In my own girlhood, fabric was usually sold from 36″ wide bolts. Someone had carefully hem stitched the two cut edges. The fabric was the loosely woven (often 200 threads per inch) common to historical feedsacks. Upon closer inspection at home I noticed this printed along the edge, “Kent’s-Cloth of the United Nations-233” which sent me to the computer for Internet research.
WWII-detail

I learned that this fabric is older than I am! It was printed in 1942 in Buffalo, NY (near where my Dad was born and raised) by the Perry Kent Mills. It is printed in red, yellow and blue with 38 war or battle symbols, slogans from the time, and caricatures of the three leaders of the Axis powers Tojo (Japan), Mussolini (Italy), and Hitler (Germany). It is a powerful example of an everyday propaganda piece from tha time in US history. I do have a hard time imagining how it was used, since it has no signs of wear or use.

This all brings me to my challenge: How was I going to use this fabric in a way that respected the integrity of the repeat design and would not be boring? I wanted to preserve this unusual artifact. It probably had a better chance of continued survival if I did make a quilt featuring its WWII motifs.

WWII-top

I went to the Rebel website and looked again at Dianne’s quilt–this would be my inspiration. I studied her color use–my background was lighter which made it even more challenging. The wide sashing gives this quilt its visual interest. Up close you can inspect the variety of designs and references in the feedsack. But it is the large cornerstones and the sashing that give this quilt personality. The wide, but split, sashing and the variety of fabric choices in those split segments are the elements that demand attention here. When I showed the top at the local Modern Quilt Guild, Natalie McCrory pointed out that those split sashings looked like propellor wings when viewed from a distance. I agreed and realized how appropriate since aircraft powered by propellors were central to the war efforts around the world.

Choosing which fabric from my stash to use for the sashing, cornerstones and the borders was both fun and challenging–I looked for variety of color and texture as Dianne had done in her original. The only fabric I purchased for this project was the dark blue woven plaid–I found it in a thrift store shirt and knew it would be right for this project when I spotted it. I expanded on the red, yellow and blue of the original feedsack to include shades of blue and a deep red mixed with golds. Some of the fabrics are even batiks. Choosing the light fabrics was a special problem since my background was so light. The lights in the split sashings needed to provide contrast (medium-lights) and some interest, but not dominate since there was already a lot going on visually.

When I discovered the wide border fabric I was excited by how it seemed to repeat some of the “feel” visually of the feedsack, that is repeating and uniting the blocks with the border. Then I decided to split that border and insert the dark blue plaid to pull it together. This was the very technique (of splitting a wide border by an insert) I had blogged about in my previous post “Challege Collaboration”–what fun! My next challenge is to baste it and quilt it. Thanks again Amy!

Posted in Uncategorized | Leave a comment

Round Robin Consultation

I never know who or what I might find at a local quilt or fabric shop or thrift shop. I see each as a place for a “treasure hunt”. Several weeks ago I ran into a Janet Brown who is a quilter from our guild. We were both shopping at a local quilt shop. We visited some and then she asked if I would look at the Round Robin challenge she was working on. Janet said she was looking for some inspiration for the border she needed to add to the ongoing project. That Round Robin project had begun with a center panel portraying a Japanese woman in traditional dress.

Round Robin quilts are a combination of several quilters inspired choices. Where would you go next with this work-in-progress?

Round Robin quilts are a combination of several quilters inspired choices. Where would you go next with this work-in-progress?

Several simple borders had been added–each pulling colors from the original panel and adding texture to the composition. The quilter before her had added a very wide border using fabric with a black background and a small flower print. I considered the options and suggested she divide the wide border with a bright green batik I had just discovered and was buying for myself.

That green batik has the quality I call “inner light” meaning it moves from darker spots to brief glimpses of sparkling light–similar to what you see in the woods when light peeks through the trees. And it contained a range of green colors allowing it to pick up some of the green in the small flower print. Janet seemed pleased with the idea as we explored the possibilities and considered the width of the insert.

I also suggested that the green insert would look good carried out into the edges thus providing a contrast to the previous square borders. We both enjoyed the interaction with each other. I was pleased that Janet asked for my input that day at the quilt shop–it was fun for me to consider the possibilities and then to search out fabric that might accomplish the contrast she wanted.

Janet took my advice and then added a brilliant idea of her own! She took it one step further by adding the Japanese characters! She paper-pieced these Japanese characters meaning “Japan”. Janet had to decide where to insert this additition in to the green border. She carefully placed those characters off center even as the original panel had the solid black line off center. Asymmetrical design is a common theme in Japanese art. Those bright graphics have now become a focal point–it will be a hard act to follow.

It seems to me that Round Robins are all about exploring possibilities and sharing our ideas. Even though I was not a member of the Round Robin group, I had fun adding my ideas. Additionally I have seen how our shared ideas can spark more creativity–perhaps I will find a way to incorporate Janet’s idea into one of my next projects.

Posted in Black Accents, Pieced Border | 1 Comment

Quilters on a Joint Adventure

“Fabrics have a presence and a warmth totally different from paint or photography. As a result, many people respond to quits in a very personal way.” Ruth Mc Dowell, a Fabric Journey, 2005, p. 43

Picture two avid quilters shopping in an antique mall in southern Missouri. Together they spot a gorgeous vintage decorating fabric featuring rustic pictorial motifs printed in muted colors. Both are fascinated by this unusual fabric. Who gets to buy it? There was an easy answer for Joan Beyette and Robin Bodishbaugh–they will split it! These women are quilter friends of mine with creative minds. Let them tell their stories about the making of their quilts inspired by this fabric encounter.
Joan2-close

Robin speaks first:
Joan and I found this piece of vintage light-weight upholstery fabric with enough yardage to split. We each thought it would be fun to use the pictorial motifs as medallions in blended quilts, a style we both appreciate.

I wanted a soft, blended look to my quilt and liked the way the gray plaid I found worked by emphasizing the grays in the center tableau. I had originally pulled several soft pinks along with the greens, but ended up limiting the use of pink to keep the effect almost monochromatic. I threw in a few squares of muted tone-on-tone ocher here and there to echo the gold in the scene, as well as some gray and gold paisleys, but if I had it to do over again, I would omit the tone-on-tone because I think it calls too much attention to itself. I placed triangles in the corners of the center square to allow the eye to zero in on the two individuals in the tableau–an effect I learned from Paula. The two fabrics in the center triangles are both French, which adds to the French provincial effect.

Robin chose this contrasting plaid to frame her tableau.

Robin chose this contrasting plaid to frame her tableau.

In addition to the gray plaid, my first set of fabrics were almost all Daiwabos featuring muted gray-greens and soft pinks. Eventually, I decided that the blended effect needed more floral vines and paisleys. I think there’s only one of the muted Daiwabo fabrics in the finished top. I used one in the half-square triangles and again scattered around in the blended sections.

The pattern I adapted for my quilt is called Toile Medallion from Quiltmania by Margaret Sampson George. I had planned to add the other 4″ borders like the pattern, but the quilt seemed finished when I put the corner squares on, so I stopped there. This quilt is 45″ square and I named it “Le Petit Oiseau,” which means “The Little Bird.”
2-Robin0744

Joan tells us her experience:
These two quilt tops were inspired by a gorgeous vintage decorating fabric Robin and I found in an antique mall in Missouri. After splitting the large piece we vowed to make quilts with our find. We both love the McCloskey/Yenter blended quilts books and had this style in mind.

For my quilt I was influenced by Robin’s color palette used on another of her projects. I was determined to make a cool gray, sophisticated quilt and purchased fabric with that in mind. I also bought a rosy pink for an accent. Once I placed that rosy pink around the central scenic panel, I couldn’t direct the quilt to my original vision!
Joan-blog

I found that only pinks and greens drew me in. Finally I just allowed myself three days to play and follow my intuition. The colors chose themselves. I love this quilt, naming it Versailles, as earlier Robin said one of my fabrics had a “Versailles feel” to it. The pattern Aegean is one out of Quilt Mania, but I kept simplifying it until it no longer resembles the original pattern.
2-Joan-corner

Another quilter friend, Donna Alsobrook, suggested that I give the cool, sophisticated gray idea another chance since I still had a section of the original panel. I proceeded to pull out blacks, grays, and browns from my stash and from some recent purchases. I found myself struggling with this new direction until I came across a reproduction pillar print featuring a gray floral. Perfect! Still feminine and gorgeous, but understated. This time I worked with a pattern from Yenter’s Blended Wall Quilts and used soft greens to add subtle color. I found several small, much-treasured bits of floral fabrics I had been hoarding, and these provided the bit of feminine sparkle I needed.
photo-1
I love this quilt, too! It is not the cool gray I first intended, but a new look and tone for me. Versailles II is my name for this version.

Paula concludes: Playing with fabric can be a joint adventure–whether it is a “round robin ” quilt or quilts featuring a unique fabric or technique. Fabrics do have a presence and a warmth we can respond to with energy and enthusiasm. We quilters inspire each other to create and we appreciate the long artistic heritage of “borrowing” ideas from each other as we improvise and play.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

The Value of “value” for a Quilt.

“Color gets the credit and value does the work!” declared Pam Goggans talented quilted and pattern designer at our recent guild meeting. When I later talked to Pam about this idea, she said she originally read the words in a Quilter’s Newsletter article years ago. I often entertain myself by reading past issues of QNM. What luck several months later to happened upon the source of this quote: quilter Carol Taylor in the December 2007 issue of QNM!

Pam emphasized this basic concept with a catchy phrase. I wrote it down that night because working with value is central to all my quiltmaking. I first learned to work with value in the late 1990s when “colorwash” quilts were first popular. “Value” refers to the lightness or darkness of a fabric. If you want a high contrast between adjacent fabrics, you need a strong contrast between the two fabrics. Conversely, if you want low contrast between adjacent fabrics, as in “blended quilts” you will seek fabrics with similar value. This is a simple concept, but can be tricky because the value of any single piece of fabric varies depending on what you place next to it! Practice is the best way to learn about the possibilities of playing with value changes in a block. Play with triangles or squares on your design wall and see where it takes you. Note how the the lights seem to move forward and the darks seem to recede.

In 2000 I began these Tobacco Leaf hand appliqued blocks as my favored "take-along" project. Called "Fifteen Years of Applique" it measures 60" x 75". Arranging blocks of differing values gives it visual interest. Note how the lights jump out and the darks seems to recede.

In 2000 I began these Tobacco Leaf hand appliqued blocks as my favored “take-along” project. Called “Fifteen Years of Applique” it measures 60″ x 75″. Arranging blocks of differing values gives it visual interest.

Posted in Uncategorized | 1 Comment

Is it a “Jadite” sewing machine?

Is it a green Featherweight?
Is it a Jadite sewing machine?
Is it an update of a basic Singer portable first made in 1911?

Only the last statement is true!

This Singer model 185K was made from about 1959-1963 when I was still in school at Hialeah High School. Singer repackaged the tried-and-true Model 99 with a fancy new exterior to its sturdy cast iron body and added a reverse feature. I did not have my own sewing machine at the time, but I would have loved this one even fifty years ago

This Singer model 185K was made from about 1959-1963 when I was still in school at Hialeah High School. Singer repackaged the tried-and-true Model 99 with a fancy new exterior to its sturdy cast iron body and added a reverse feature. I did not have my own sewing machine at the time, but I would have loved this one even fifty years ago.

Yes, that last statement is a reality–Singer updated a machine first built in 1911! My primary sewing machine is a Singer Featherweight that I bought used in 1969 when I began work as a TWA flight attendant. The Featherweight, or Singer Model 221, was introduced in 1933. Because it was built of cast aluminum (very expensive at the time) it only weighs eleven pounds. No one who is familiar with the Featherweight would pick up this green machine and call it light. It weighs almost thirty pounds and is not easy to maneuver!

The other obvious clue is that the medallion on the front of the green machine identifies it as Model 185K, not a 221. That green is an appealing color with none of the acid yellow undertones of today’s very popular chartreuse. Many of my quilting friends are as fond of that gray-green color as I am. It is a distinctive green associated with Depression-era quilts. According to quilt historian Barbara Brackman in Clues in the Calico, “…this slightly gray, or slightly bluish pastel green was the rage in Depression-era quilts in the 1925-1950 era. Sears, Roebuck and Co. called the shade ‘Nile green’ in their 1927 catalog….” Brackman added, “In 1929, Ruth Finley called it colonial green and mentioned that it was popular for interior woodwork, a legacy in the name kitchen green, which is popular today along with institutional green.” My quilting friends and I have come to call it “that green”.

My kitchen contains many “kitchen-green” items including the large green enamel bread box I’ve admired since I discovered it in a Kansas City flea market in the mid 1970s. Green handled kitchen tools, green milk glass dishes and bowls always draw my attention. The mottled glaze of “Prairie green” Frankoma pottery works well with the smooth surfaces of the green dishes now know as Jadite. Let’s talk about that “Jadite” term.

This green enamel bread box probable dates to the time period when "Jadite" items were seen in kitchens across the country--perhaps even with wood trim in the kitchen painted in this same green. This bread box has been a central feature of my kitchens since the mid-1970s when I found it at a Kansas City flea market.

This green enamel bread box probable dates to the time period when “Jadite” items were seen in kitchens across the country–perhaps even with wood trim in the kitchen painted in this same green. This bread box has been a central feature of my kitchens since the mid-1970s when I found it at a Kansas City flea market.


This photo shows our kitchen counter reflected in the mirror over the mantel filled with bird nests. I discovered the hanging light fixture at the resale shop for Habitat for Humanity.

This photo shows our kitchen counter reflected in the mirror over the mantel. I discovered the hanging light fixture at

Jadite has become a generic name (thanks to sellers on eBay) for any glassware similar to the pastel green milk glass produced in the U.S. starting in the mid 1940s. That spelling actually was used to refer to a green jade-shade of vaseline glass product made in the early 20th century. McKee was the first company to mass-produce jadeite dinnerware in the ’30s. Anchor Hocking, another U.S. glassware company, called their product “Jadeite Fire King”. Produced primarily between 1945 and 1975, Jadeite products were durable and featured a fashionable color. It became the most popular product made by Anchor Hocking (who makes reproductions today). Jeannette Glassware was another U.S. manufacturer of green milk glass tableware similar in appearance to Jadeite Fire King. Still other glassware companies created their own opaque green glassware during the same period. One called theirs Jad-ite.
jadite

jadite2

jadite3

jadite4

In the 1990s Martha Stewart regularly featured Jadite glassware in the pages of her magazine Living introducing new generations to the opaque green milk glass popular for decades in the mid-twentieth century. Millions of examples from these companies still exist and continue to excite interest from buyers making it an affordable and popular collectable today.

Martha Stewart Living magazine often featured Jadite green glassware in the lush photo spreads the magazine became known for and introduced readers to the visual appreciation of this spring green popular for decades.

Martha Stewart Living magazine often featured Jadite green glassware in the lush photo spreads the magazine became known for and introduced readers to the visual appreciation of this spring green popular for decades.

The Singer Sewing Machine Company transformed their tried-and-true Model 99 (introduced in 1911) with a sturdy black cast iron body into a fancy new green exterior and added a reverse feature. This repackaged machine was produced from 1959 through 1963. For decades the Model 99 was a reliable workhorse sewing machine for the home sewer. When introduced it was an innovation as one of the few sewing machines not encased in a large cabinet–making it an early “portable”. But, due to its weight, most sewers today would not consider it easily portable. Only someone like myself, who is entranced by the lovely green color, would consider hauling it to a quilting class.

The early incarnation of the green185K was this Singer 99K--a basic black, sturdy and reliable sewing machine sold for decades.

The early incarnation of the green185K was this Singer 99K–a basic black, sturdy and reliable sewing machine sold for decades.

Singer took the green theme on this machine to the extreme–green cords, green foot pedal and even a green belt from the motor to the fly wheel. The plastic case is a subdued tan plastic known to become brittle with age (mine has a small section missing on the back). I could not find any information on how Singer described the color of this machine when they were promoting it. However, I seriously doubt that Singer referred to this sewing machine as “Jadite”. I did see that term used by an enterprising seller online to entice prospective buyers.

Some of you may believe I have gotten side-tracked from focusing on this sewing machine. It’s true, but as a collector it all relates to what appeals to my eye and to my sensibilities. True, I do not need another sewing machine. But I wanted this machine when I saw it at a flea market a hundred miles from home. Actually, my friend Susan pointed it out to me. I loved the green at first sight. I hauled this small, but heavy machine, over to a table, turned it upside down and looked for any missing parts or damage. All looked fine. I was not familiar with this Model 185K machine. The price was well under a hundred dollars, but I walked away after writing the model number down. I planned to check it out online that evening.

At Susan’s house I did some minimal online research learning about its history as a repackaged Model 99K–that pleased me because I knew it was a reliable machine. I already had a 99K (another reason to pass on this machine.) I tried to talk myself out of buying this machine.

The next morning I was heading home from southern Missouri and would pass with in ten miles of the Rusty Rooster Flea Market where this delightful green machine was waiting for an appreciative buyer. I drove there and carefully inspected the machine. I opened the inside and found lots of vintage cotton lint indicating it had been ignored for a long time. I plugged it in and figured out how to thread top and bottom (this took awhile). It did sew a good seam, but sounded sluggish. I negotiated the price some and bought it.

When I carried it to the car I did not use the handle on the top of the plastic case because sometimes these antique latches do not hold well allowing the machine to fall to the ground. I carried this thirty pound baby with my hands underneath. The next day I was oiling and cleaning after researching more information online.

We bring favorite quilts to our annual Airing of the Quilts. Some are unique examples of vintage quilts like this one that hung in 2014.

We bring favorite quilts to our annual Airing of the Quilts. Some are unique examples of vintage quilts like this one that hung in 2014.

Two days after buying the 185K, I took it to our guild’s Airing of the Quilts annual picnic. We hang quilts on the rail fences surrounding one of our member’s homes. For the picnic I took a folding six foot table and a green checked tablecloth. As I was setting it up, my quilting friends were teasing me when they asked if I’d also brought a plant to be the centerpiece for the table. I laughed, but it gave me an idea. I had brought along the 185K to show it to a friend. I decided to pull it out of the truck and make it the centerpiece for our table. This seemed an appropriate decoration for a quilter’s event. Lots of women seemed to enjoy the sight of my new vintage machine–peppering me with questions about where I found it and what I knew about it. Later, one of these women emailed me that she was “green ” with envy over this machine. I laughed and sent her online links to other green 185K machines for sale.

In closing, I am posting a series of Jadite-related images ranging from the kitchen sink to a kitchen clock–all are photos I found online. Each intrigued me. Hope you enjoy them too. Thanks, Susan, for roaming through the 100 booths at the Rust Rooster Flea Market and spotting this jewel of a sewing machine.
gr-clock

gr-cupboard

gr-mixer

gr-sink

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Quilt Show Adventures & Challenges

“In its simplest form, a quilt is just some fabric and a little thread. It’s up to you to decide how to put it together.” YLI ad in QNM, March 2000

Whether a quilter chooses to work from a pattern or creates a quilt from her imagination, it still requires talent and skill to choose the combination of fabrics and to maintain the sustained commitment to accomplish each of the steps to finishing a quilt. Our April quilt show was a vivid display of our pride in our accomplishments.

Often, we quilters are presented with a challenge to our skills in trying a new technique or process. I had not considered making a quilt based on a photograph I’d taken until this idea was presented as our guild challenge for the 2015 show. To begin the process I reviewed my favorite photos stored on my computer and in the camera. First I remembered the delicate yellow ladyslipper photo from spring 2012. Then I considered a photo of the gentle rattlesnake meandering across a garden bed with the amazing colors and textures of the her skin. Still not sure what I wanted to attempt to recreate as a wall quilt, I took a few artsy pictures of a white coral necklace  (from my mother) placed around a curvaceous seashell. In reviewing my favorite photos I was also drawn to one of a spectacular sunset. Each of these I seriously considered. The technical construction elements of each did not excite me.

The ladyslipper is a native Ozark wildflower that blooms mid-spring. We rescued this plant from a small colony chewed to the ground and moved it years ago to our garden.

The ladyslipper is a native Ozark wildflower that blooms
mid-spring. We rescued this plant from a small colony chewed to the ground and moved it years ago to our garden.

In late summer, we often experience surprise visits of timber rattlers. Since we live in an oak/hickory forest this is not surprising. They usually move on within a few days to a week.

In late summer, we often experience surprise visits of timber rattlers. Since we live in an oak/hickory forest this is not surprising. They usually move on within a few days to a week.

My "artsy" photo of the coral and jasper necklace surrounding  the intriguing sea shell still pleases my eye, but defies my reproduction in fabric!

My “artsy” photo of the coral and jasper necklace surrounding the intriguing sea shell still pleases my eye, but defies my reproduction in fabric!

This December 2013 sunset made me grab my camera and swoon even as the sky flamed before it faded into night.

This December 2013 sunset made me grab my camera and swoon even as the sky flamed before it faded into night.

That guild challenge had been announced in mid 2013, but I had not decided on a project. The challenge required that the wallhanging not be smaller than 30″ x 30″ or larger than 40″ x 40″, and it must contain a circle somewhere. Two item not in the photo could be added. the instructions asked for a recognizable representation of your photo. The “artsy” photos were taken in February, 2014. Still not inspired! By summer I picked the dramatic picture of a western Steller’s Jay I’d photographed high in the Rockies in October, 2011.

I followed this jay with my camera lens trying to get a good picture as it hopped or flew from spot to spot. I was rewarded for my efforts in this photograph. Now my challenge was to recreate it in fabric!

I followed this jay with my camera lens trying to get a good picture as it hopped or flew from spot to spot. I was rewarded for my efforts in this photograph. Now my challenge was to recreate it in fabric!

The raucous Steller’s Jay catches everyone’s attention in Colorado and other parts of  the West. The shiny black head and brilliant blue body is a breath taking sight on wing. My photo captured this jay against the winter backdrop challenging me to recreate in fabric and thread all I observed.

In making my selection, I was drawn to the strong contrasts in the picture, and to the diagonal play of light across the surface. Another big influence on my choice of this photo was my memory of how much effort I had put into composing the photo itself! That bird had led me on a merry chase.

Since I’d not attempted to recreate a photo before I read about the techniques that various quilters used and described. I decided to take the original high resolution photo to a office supply shop and have it printed 32″ x 32″ in gray scale. This gave me a pattern to work from and a sense of the values (lightness and darkness) for every element. I began with the pieced background carefully emphasizing the diagonal pattern of grasses and of the light. I kept the original blowup intact and traced the body and feathers from there. I cut patterns from the tracings and choose the fabric carefully. I added detail to the feathers by drawing the bars on with a Pigma Micron pen. I used both machine and hand quilting to add more details.

In studying the enlargement, I noticed tiny snow crystals clinging to the upper beak where my avian friend had been pecking in the snow. I sewed glass beads there and added lots of beads along the path of light along the ground. The leaves and dried grasses were a challenge and the deadline to finish was near. To add detail, I used embroidery thread for the eye and the toes, and some of the grasses. I finally found the wrong side of a pale green fabric to simulate the dried leaves and appliqued them in place. Other items like a few twigs, some odd buttons and even some ash shavings helped to make the texture of the rocks and duff recreating the landscape this jay thrives in throughout the year.

This is the photo of the quilt I did for our quilt guild challenge as it hung at the 2015 quilt show. I named it "Colorado Jay". I found many adventures and challenges in designing and in sewing this fun quilt.

This is the photo of the quilt I did for our quilt guild challenge as it hung at the 2015 quilt show. I named it “Colorado Jay”. I found many adventures and challenges in designing and in sewing this 32″ x 34″ quilt .

I learned much about the body structure of this particular bird often referring to several bird books to get a clear image of parts I could not see clearly–especially the grasping toes which I created with applique and then black embroidery thread. Along the way I decided to add all the information I could find about the habits and habitat of the Steller’s Jay as part of my quilt. In my photo of the quilt it is difficult to read the information I wrote in my 1950s public school script, so I include it here:

“Steller’s Jay Cyanocitta stelleri: A large black and blue perching bird with a tall crest and a long, powerful bill. These jays are a noisy, bold, intelligent and mischievous. Coloring: Females and males look alike. Juveniles resemble adults. Foreparts blackish; wings and tail deep blue, underparts lighter blue, mantle of grey. Corvid foot and legs are sturdy with strong grasping toes. Size: 12″-13 1/2″. Prefers conifers where it builds nests of large twiggy bowl. Eggs: 3-5, greenish, spotted. Range: Alaska to Nicaraga and west Texas. Food: almost anything edible. omnivore. Relatives: Crows, Ravens, Magpies, and other Jays: Corvidae

Narrowing our choices of what to sew is a large part of our adventure as quilters. A little bit of thread and a variety of fabric can keep us entertained for days and days. We learn more about ourselves with every quilt we sew. As the Irish saying I once heard mentioned on NPR goes: “Please yourself and at least one will be well satisfied.”

 

 

 

 

 

 

Posted in Contemporary Design, Hand Quilted, Paula's Quilt | Leave a comment

Goal of a Quilt Show?

“A quilt show represents a chance to be recognized for our talent and our skill. It is also an opportunity to dream about and plan our next project.” from The Sister Blocks by Edi McGinnis, 2001

Since 1995 I’ve participated in the QUILT of Northwest Arkansas quilt show–that is two decades! Our biennial quilt shows happen every other year in the odd numbered years. Each show becomes a “quilt immersion” weekend for me. I swim through three days surrounded by quilters who are surrounded by quilts, by fabric, and by the tools to make quilts. We arrive on Thursday with enthusiasm for setting up the show and special displays. Then we pack up on Saturday evening with more ideas and inspiration.

Planning and organizing for this complex event takes two years–we had two talented leaders this year! Kathy Garringer has served as our guild president and has just been re-elected. Diane Crandell pulled all the details together as quilt show chair.

Our guild president at left (also reigning queen) and her quilt show chair, Diane Crandell, both giddy with enthusiasm at the 2015 quilt show.

Our guild president at left (also reigning queen) and her quilt show chair, Diane Crandell, both giddy with enthusiasm at the 2015 quilt show.

I snapped this photo of them together at the show on Friday. Both are enthusiastic quilters and hard workers on behalf of our guild.

Joan Beyette and I pulled quilts from our own collections and borrowed from others in the guild to create our special exhibit on string pieced quilts. We described the exhibit this way:

Strings and Things: Creative Scrap Quilts: String quilts are made from strips of fabric–usually scraps, but there are plain and fancy versions of string quilts. Quiltmakers may use random scraps, selvages, blue jean scraps, or leftover pieces of fabric from other projects or even worn clothes. The strings may then be sewn to form a pattern or design to please the viewer’s eye.  Sometimes the fabric is stabilized on a foundation of newspapers or fabric. This informal display of vintage and contemporary string quilts may expand your idea of how to use favorite scraps with new possibilities.

We included a variety of unique examples of what women have pieced for pieces of scraps. See for your self in these photos. Do you have a favorite?

Dolls love quilts, too!

Dolls love quilts, too!

Paula found this framed version of string piecing set in a window frame at a local thrift shop and paired it with a vintage set of carnival glass.

Paula found this framed version of string piecing set in a window frame at a local thrift shop and paired it with a vintage set of carnival glass.

From a modern "Bars" quilt by Sally LeBeouf to a vintage 1950s Seminole Indian jacket from Paula's girlhood, we had items to surprise everyone.

From a modern “Bars” quilt by Sally LeBeouf to a vintage 1950s Seminole Indian jacket from Paula’s girlhood, we had items to surprise everyone.

Diamonds, stars or simple squares--each is a possibility with string piecing. some use a paper foundation, some a muslin foundation and others use no foundation at all.

Diamonds, stars or simple squares–each is a possibility with string piecing. some use a paper foundation, some a muslin foundation and others use no foundation at all.

Therese Ramsey's exploration of using selvage edges to create her "Spools" quilt was a favorite of many visitors.

Therese Ramsey’s exploration of using selvage edges to create her “Spools”
quilt was a favorite of many visitors.

The center quilt is a vintage spider web design. Adjacent to the left is another version of the web design. On the far left is an unusual curved path design which brought many comments.

The center quilt is a vintage spider web design. Adjacent to the left is another version of the web design. On the far left is an unusual curved path design which brought many comments.

The center section was begun in the late 1990s for a string piecing class I taught at Quilt Your Heart Out.. when I found this bold floral in my stash, I finished it in time for the exhibit.

The center section was begun in the late 1990s for a string piecing class I taught at Quilt Your Heart Out.. when I found this bold floral in my stash, I finished it in time for the exhibit.

Satisfied with a job well done, we undid all the hard work of building our “quilt city” on Thursday! Clearing out and packing up went well with many hands contributing. My last image is one of our president Kathy Garringer (still wearing her patchwork crown) shoving a huge dust broom over the floor of the empty building. She’s an amazing woman.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 2 Comments

Inspiration Creates More Inspiration!

My vest creation of green lame fabric before embellishment, then i added the  lime feathers and  a red crochet doily on the back--all recycled objects.

My vest creation of green lame fabric before embellishment. Then I added the lime feathers along the collar and a red crochet doily on the back–all recycled objects.

Here is the update I promised you of the vest-creation-adventure in December, 2015. Below you can see some of the other wild and crazy things women created for our guild event. Our grand winner was Natalie on the left. I am pictured with sisters Adele and Suzanne.

Natalie

“Among women the giving of gifts creates the magic of addition and reciprocity and of special identification with one another.”                                      Arlene Raven, (1944-2006) feminist art historian, author, critic, educator, and curator. Raven was a co-founder of numerous feminist art organizations in Los Angeles in the 1970s.

Sally-vest2999“You never know what is around the corner.” This observation has comforted me in difficult situations and has energized me at other times in my life. I could not have guessed at the string of events that would follow, when Sally L. sent me an email last spring asking if I wanted this appliqued vest. She was offering it to me before planning to donate it to her guild auction. Sally moved from northwest Arkansas in 2006 and found new quilting friends in Washington state. We had stayed in touch sharing some of our quilting adventures online.

I quickly let her know I would be delighted to wear her creation. She had put together a raw edge appliqué collage of interesting fabrics. I recognized the central basket with tropical foliage as a piece of fabric I, too, had discovered in the recent past. Lush, tropical foliage was a central feature of my girlhood growing up in Miami Springs, Florida, and this bit of the tropical paradise appealed to me. The panel of this fabric that I had discovered had languished, as you can see below. I had added only a narrow dark border to my fabric waiting for more inspiration to strike.

original-fabric

S-vest3421

With these close-ups, you can see Sally used a black and ivory check for the binding that contrasts with the soft hues and curved shapes. She stabilized everything with dense free motion machine quilting. I was so enamored of this vest that I began adding glass beads to enhance the flowers and stems. I spent hours choosing the right beads from my stash for each section, adding my own creativity. It was such fun, and I received compliments from friends when I wore it. I emailed Sally a picture of her vest with the bead work.

theme-fabric

Same bold print central to her vest and to my panel–in a sheath dress!

Months later, in one of my weekly thrift store jaunts, I discovered a slim sheath dress featuring the same bold print central to the vest and to my panel, but in a different colorway!  The green/gray background is one of my favored colors. And this dress already featured beading on the bodice along the bird-of-paradise flowers emerging from the woven basket. I bought it for less than $5 not knowing exactly what I would do with it.

P-vest-beads

That size 12 sheath dress became a vest. I cut a newspaper pattern using Sally’s vest and carefully took the dress apart. The beaded front of the dress became the back of the vest. The fabric for the front of the vest was cut from the back of the dress where the zipper was placed. Because of the subdued colors in this vest I wanted a binding without too much contrast, but with personality. I found a tobacco-colored fabric printed with small gold leaves to finish all the edges.

Sally's appliqued vest

I added an inside pocket and the labels from the original dress as well as a name tag identifying me as the designer and maker of this vest.

Vests are easy to wear and relatively easy to fit. Because I have lots of experience doing bindings as a quilter, I find a binding the quickest way to finish the edges. Also, I like the opportunity to add a bit of contrasting fabric to the edges. These were not the only vests in my closet, but they quickly became favorites. Since I had a second mastectomy in 2011, I have become more aware of finding clothes that make my flat chest less obvious. Knits are comfortable, but knits do cling.

“Make visual decisions visually.” Great quilting advice!

I wasn’t planning another vest in my future, but in September I visited a thrift shop in Bentonville, AR that I rarely get to visit. There I found a jacket pattern with a shawl collar designed by quilter Lorraine Torrence. Several years ago she provided me with a favorite quote.  She advised us in an article in Quilter’s Newsletter Magazine to “make visual decisions visually”. I used her advice that day standing in the thrift store: I liked the looks of the jacket, so invested 25 cents in the pattern.

Several days later I cut out the pattern pieces using a floral fabric of a heavier weight decorator cotton from my stash. After following the directions to sew the front sections to the back section, I tried it on and realized I could sew a shawl collared vest from this pattern and skip the sleeves that would make it a jacket (and make it much more work). This was an inspired discovery! I love this new vest and it’s flattering collar—I’ve even loaned the pattern to a friend who admired my vest.

Shawl collar vest of floral fabric with vintage button and gold leaf binding.

Shawl collar vest of floral fabric with vintage button and gold leaf binding.

Reversible too! I wanted to feature the luxurious marbled lining.

I’m not planning any beadwork on this vest, but I found a spectacular lining of a marbled fabric labeled ” ‘Marbled Alchemy’ by the Woodrow Studio, Licensed by Cockerell Papers, Cambridge, England, The U.K.’s Oldest Established Marblers”. The gold leaf fabric I used on my first vest worked perfectly here too!

This reversible shawl collar vest features a luxurious marbled cotton fabric, a usable pocket (where my label is hidden), and another vintage button.

This reversible shawl collar vest features a luxurious marbled cotton fabric, a usable pocket (where my label is hidden), and another vintage button.

I am convinced that creativity is “lurking inside all of us”. Our creative impulses are constantly seeking a means of expression. Some people are creative musicians, some of cannot carry a tune–like me! Look for your strengths and build on each skill. Karen Page in Creative Collage for Crafters describes her experience, “Once the ideas begin to pour in, one thing leads to another. The excitement builds, time becomes nonexistent and a dialogue occurs. Things are unexpected–there are surprises.”

Surprise Yourself: This is the Essence of Creativity

I surprised myself in early September with a quick trip to Lawrence, Kansas (where we once lived). I planned my whirlwind roadtrip around the moving sale of quilt historian Barbara Brackman. I learned of the sale in her blog post I saw on Tuesday morning September 2. I saw it as once-in-a-lifetime opportunity since I respected her work and enjoyed the reproduction fabrics she designed. The post assured us that there was lots of fabric and other quilt-related items.

Moving sale full of quilting treasures from Barbara Brackman in Lawrence,  KS.

Moving sale full of quilting treasures from Barbara Brackman in Lawrence, KS.

Note the quilt tops draped on the porch rail at the front of Brackman’s house. I was the early-bird for this 8:00 a.m. sale three days later. I spent much of the morning in the studio behind the house culling through boxes of fabric that excited my senses. I picked what I wanted to add to my own collection. In the frenzy, one of my treasures was a length of deep purple (perhaps heliotrope?) cotton fabric I guessed to be a vintage drapery fabric because of its heavier weight.

Vintage Drapery Fabric Transformed (as did Scarlett…)

When Brackman saw me admiring the long, but narrow fragment, she too admired it. Then she explained that she had used the vintage fabric years ago to cover chair seats enjoying them until the fabric wore out from use. Before I left Lawrence I visited the food coop there that Jeanne and I had once belonged to. The Community Mercantile has thrived and grown, I bought organic sweet corn to take back to Arkansas.

Perhaps you have guessed by now that I this velvet fabric would find its way into a vest. Yes, but it was a challenge because the fragment was only 8 1/2″ wide and about 70″ long–not enough for a vest. My quilter self said, “Well, piece it, and make it interesting!”

A remnant of vintage drapery velvet is transformed into an elegant vest via some creative stitching and the addition of two dramatic fabrics.

A remnant of vintage drapery velvet is transformed into an elegant vest via some creative stitching and the addition of two dramatic fabrics.

By using the narrow velvet strip down the center of the back, I preserved the limited velvet for the front  although I did have to piece both front sections.

By using the narrow velvet strip down the center of the back, I preserved the limited velvet for the front although I did have to piece both front sections.

I started this project in late October, six months after Sally sent me her vest! Both front panels are pieced to make each wide enough for the pattern. By using the narrow velvet strip down the center of the back, I preserved the limited velvet for the front. On the back, I used the dramatic tobacco-color fabric printed with small gold leaves for contrast as well as a strip of the peach color batik used for the lining. If you are observant, you will see that the gold leaf is the same one used for the binding in the earlier vests.

Inside the lining I sewed an elaborate round label to recount the entire story of this vest. The pocket features another batik fabric which I trimmed in gold lame rickrack I found in my stash. Can you tell I had fun pulling this all together?

Sally’s gift began this journey! Thank you, Sally, for knowing that your creation would find a good home with me. We, who play with fabric, do have a special identification with one another. Do you have a story about this idea that you would like to share–please leave me a comment.

P.S.  There is another vest of green shiny lame with red trim and chartreuse feathers that I have made for our guild’s “Ugly Xmas Sweater” contest. I’ll post that photo after our December guild meeting.

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized | 4 Comments

Paula’s “Love It or Leave It” Challenge

We’re going thrift store shopping together! The last day of October is the first day of guild retreat and we will meet at 9:00 in the lobby. You will look for some “textile treasure” that excites your imagination. We’ll car pool and take a brief road trip (about seven minutes) to a large nonprofit thrift shop and spend an hour or so browsing for treasures—fabric or otherwise. (Bring cash for your purchase because it will make it easier.)

The central square was an orphaned block I purchase at our guild store at our 20013 quilt show. I added my own ideas: cut corners, beads, text and asymmetrical borders.

The central square was an orphaned block I purchase at our guild store at our 20013 quilt show. I added my own ideas: cut corners, beads, text and asymmetrical borders.

Your challenge is to find something you love and to repurpose it as something you love even more. If you are reading this ahead of retreat, check out your local thrift stores and flea markets for something that is special to you. There are treasures and bargains everywhere. As quilters we know quality fabric when we see it and we have imagination to transform it into something new. The more you look the more likely you will find something you love!

Back in class, we’ll use a large design wall and each of us can show our treasure and describe our thoughts about possibilities. If desired, each participant can ask for group brainstorming thoughts.

Then we grab our fabrics to start cutting and sewing. Bring lots of fabric for this adventure. I’ll provide some Triangles-on-a-Roll papers to aid in your quilt design. By lunch we may have some show-and-tell to share with each other. In any case, we will have fun as we exercise our imaginations while staying within a budget.

I discovered this vintage beauty (with matching pillow cases) at a local flea market this year. I resold it to a quilt lover.

I discovered this vintage beauty (with matching pillow cases) at a local flea market this year. I resold it to a quilt lover.

Consider the possibilities!

I see “lurking creativity” in each of us! Keep yourself open to possibilities and trust your gut. Here is a list of things I have used to spark my imagination in the past.

Orphaned quilt blocks and quilt tops (of course)

Feed and flour sacks

The central Bluebird Brand flour sack was a gift waiting for the right blue fabric to come to me. I found the blue silk/cotton fabric at a thrift store dress on sale for $2.

The central Bluebird Brand flour sack was a gift waiting for the right blue fabric to come to me. I found the blue silk/cotton fabric at a thrift store dress on sale for $2.

Pillow tops

Curtains

Doilies and dresser scarves

Handkerchiefs

Cotton shower curtains, tablecloths and bed skirts

Vintage fabrics

Skirts and dresses

Shirts and slacks

Cotton or silk scarves or neckties

Cotton tote bags

Felted projects

Beaded items

Use your imagination and have fun as you browse.

The supply list is tricky for this class. Bring as much fabric as you can tote. Since we do not know what we are working on, bring the fabrics you currently favor and we will make do with what shows up that day.

Sewing machine, cutting and ironing tools are all good ideas. A portable design wall is the most important tool for this class!

 

Posted in Contemporary Design, Paula's Quilt | 1 Comment