Getting all dressed up

Did you ever start to get dressed and realize that you aren't satisfied with what you are wearing and how you look? Then change outfits several times?  Come on now, I will just bet that you've done it more than once.  I know that I certainly have.  On many, many occasions.  If it doesn't feel good, or look right to me at that moment,  I just won't wear it. Often I must change my top or my pants or my shoes several times before I am dressed for the day. Same thing with Posy here: This is where she began
I thought she was just a bit too plain Jane.  No pizzaz.  She needed some flowers to surround
her log cabins.

Something was just still not quite right.  I loved her new look, but kept thinking that something was missing.  Plus the thought occurred to me that she might be more useful in a queen size.

 I could add borders.  I considered charcoal and ivory when I snapped this picture with the top laid out on my tile floor.  It looked pretty cool.  But then when I actually added large triangles around the actual quilt, she screamed NO NO NO.  Way too contrived. 

So I tried making some other types of blocks - large blocks so that she could be a queen size quilt.
Now she shouts
HELP ME, I AM BEING OVERPOWERED BY GIANT LOGS AND POSIES.   Okay, got the message, she just does not want to be queen size. She is just going to be what she wants to be.  So I tried once again.  The thought occurred to me that she began as my experimental version of the Gee's Bend house top. This brought me around to another thought, "make more Gee's Bend style blocks for the border."  After trying big chunks, big strips, wavering between no border/yes border, I made lots of improvisational, free pieced blocks, using only the scrap fabrics from the background.  I trimmed these blocks to 6 1/2 inches in width and left the length whatever it happened to be.  Got all those placed around the quilt and thought to myself, STOP THIS MADNESS.  And I went to bed. 

Got up this morning still obsessing.  I remember a posted comment from Margaret suggesting that I have the posies spill over into the border.  "Why not give that a try?"I think   Now I am back to making more posies and leaves.  And if this doesn't work, I will  have quite a few blocks to make into another quilt.
So here she is trying on a few new posies.

 She is still not totally happy with what I have done to her.  Still a bit unsure of herself and her new look. Is she a bit overdone?  Sorta like way too much lipstick and rouge.  Perhaps I should let her rest for a while and go play/obsess with some others.   Anyway, she isn't scheduled for any public appearances any time soon.  If this look doesn't grow on us, we can always try something else. Tomorrow is another day. 


It makes the world go 'round.  I think?  If one does not progress then one will surely die a lingering death. Progress always makes me think of a Joni Mitchell song;  Big Yellow Taxi.  "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot."  She is one of my heroes.  An artist.  A true artist to my way of thinking. Anyone who can write such exquisite lyrics and music, as well as paint incredible images is just brilliant in my book. Which brings me 'round to this.  In my somewhat smallish hometown, we are progressing.  In a couple more years, or less, we shall have a new airport.  Not a large, commercial airport, just one to accommodate private jets.  It will accommodate the captains of industry who must travel from far away places to our small city.  New industries that will make solar panels, cars, appliances, even shipping all those "cannot live without items" from Amazon, to name a few.  It will assist in providing new jobs for our depressed economy.  All those things that we need to progress. So, why am I spouting about all this?  The airport will encompass the land where I grew up. 

I took a walk over the property a few days ago.  The huge equipment has already uprooted the trees where I used to play as a child.  A huge, old oak tree, with roots extending on all sides had been cut down and hauled away for prime lumber.  As well as all the other oak, hickory, walnut, cedar and poplar trees.   These roots had provided the "house" for my acorn family when I was 8 or 9 years old.  I would "dust" out all the leaves and debris and have a glorious, multi-level dwelling for my entire acorn family amongst those huge oak roots.  This walk caused quite a few tears.

The farm where I grew up, where my brothers and sister grew up, where my mother grew up, where my grandparents, aunts, uncles, cousins, great grand-parents lived is no longer a family farm.  This is one of the few structures standing and will soon be gone as well.   This project will assist in the progress of our county and region.  It is progress. Ann and Lucius moved from Clay County, NC to Bradley County, TN.  Many of their descendants are still here.  Including me.  

And progress we must?   Reproducing my great grandmother's quilt. And in doing so, I am progressing in my own way.  I can only hope that it is the right thing that we are all doing. 

Binding those ties couldn't wait


No matter that  I had resolved that December be the month to finish all those projects that I have hanging around in my studio.  I could reduce the tension in my shoulders and neck if I would just get out those pieces that are languishing around and complete them.  I have  placed them in pretty boxes on top of the cabinets that hold my fabric stash.  My thought here:  let's make them look nice even if I can't finish them up.   I am making a bit of progress, though. And if I am not able to empty those pretty boxes, I will be able to enjoy seeing the pretty boxes.  (Is there a song in that somewhere?) So these two small ones are fini.

Look out!  Here comes a fiberliscious package of recycled shirtings fabrics from a new friend, Lee Ann.  All the way from Seattle. She was so gracious to share her wonderful fabrics.  And it seems as if she used a microscope, or maybe even ESP, and sent exactly the fabrics that I would need to make great grandma's repro quilt work.  As she says, the older, used pieces add so much.  Of course I was compelled to jump right into the this. UFO's,  get back!  Me gots a new project to begin. 

The fun part:  trying to reproduce a similar look in this new quilt.  The not so fun part:  doing all that precise piecing. The string piecing seems to be a no brainer.  However, it has been so long since I have done actual, traditional type quilt blocks, I had forgotten why I lost interest in piecing/quilting in the first place.  I just cannot seem/seam to sew a straight line.  No matter that each part of my puzzle/block appears to be precise, when I begin to sew it all together ~ %&*@*!!!%^#&##. .  Well, then, this will be the challenge for the new year.  I have committed myself to do this thing and do this thing, I will.  Isn't that the reason for steam irons? Press and stretch that sucker into shape!  Jeeze, Louise!  What would Great Grandma and Grandma say about this? And please, do not mention anything about this to Ma.  Once it is all together and quilted and washed, who will know the difference ~ right?  It is gonna be okay.  And I can still make it fun.

 great grandma's original star


my repro star

Ties that Bind

One of the good things about moving, as in moving your possessions from one place to another, is that you rediscover things to which you had previously never given much thought.  No, I am not moving, but Mom has moved.  Almost.  We have almost gotten all her stuff settled into our/her basement apartment.  She has been a collector of things.  Lots and lots of things.  And one of the things that she has collected over the years, has been quilts.  She was not a quilter, but she does love quilts.  And of all the lovely quilts that she has in her collection, I have rediscovered one.  We have determined that my fraternal great-grandmother must have made this one.

Rumor has it that great-grandmother did not get along very well with her daughter-in-law, my grandmother.  It seems that my grandmother used this quilt  as a padding under her nice, white linen tablecloth for Sunday dinners.  She had obviously trimmed it down just to fit her dining table, as there is no binding, only four raw edges  Get the idea?  Boy, was she 'dissin' her mother-in-law!    And, this same quilt was used by my mother under her nice, white linen tablecloths for her holiday dinners.  I always loved the nice cushion that it provided as we laid out the china and silver on the table.  And it absorbed any noise as well as the wet rings from the iced tea glasses as our large family dined.  A very nice table protector, indeed.

Now, I have discovered a new relationship with this quilt.  As stained and ragged as it might be, I think that the calico fabrics could possibly be from the mid 1800's.  It is beautifully quilted, although I do not know she could have made those tiny stitches through such an extremely thick and heavy batting.  Never the less,  I want to make a replica of my great grandmother's quilt.  I never met her, nor my grandmother, but this can be my way to connect to these steel magnolias.  I find myself conjuring up stories of their past.  The strings that tie us together.

So I am off in search of fabrics that will closely resemble the originals in this quilt.  Most of them look to be from shirtings of that era.  There are blacks, blues, purples, golds, reds, greens.  Of course they are very, very faded and many of the fabrics are in shreds.  But that only adds to the fun.  Wonder what those ladies would think of all this?  Scraps, strings and stars.

Pillow Psychology 101

I have this passion for pillows. I am not sure where it originated.  I have made hundreds of pillows in my life time.  I have made pillows will the nice cording all around, embroidered with all types of imaginable designs. Pillows with expensive trims and fringes.   I've made custom ordered pillows for folks. From ring bearer pillows to sea shell pillows.   I've sold my one of a kind pillows in shops and to friends and family and anybody who would buy one.   Simple pillows and over the top pillows.  Pillows out the wazoo.  Just a bit over the edge with pillows am I.

Why?  I ask myself. Well, when you have all those beautifully coordinated pillows in your chairs or on your sofa or on your bed, they look so pretty and decorative.  Kicked up a notch.  Welcoming.  Homey.  But then someone sits on said chair or sofa and the pillows instantly  become a nuisance.  What do you do with this awkward blob of fiber?   Folks are always squirming around in their seat, trying to adjust that pillow so as not to offend their hostess.  Others just toss them out of their way. Now comes my big question.   Is there a pillow psychology?  I often find myself doing this amateur analysis thing when it comes to how folks react to pillows.  For instance, does the person who tosses the pillow out of his/her way with reckless abandon have no regard for personal property and is only concerned with their own personal comfort?  While the person who discreetly moves the pillow aside and gently places a hand on the edge of the pillow, says this is so pretty,  it's in my way but I don't mind.  I appreciate what you have done. Then there is the person who plops down on the chair and forces the pillow into submission under their body weight.  Guess I have as much fun watching people as much as I enjoy playing with fabrics.    I am weird that way.

How do you feel about decorative pillows?  I've tried it without them, but I don't like it.  More is better in my book.  Then I had this thought.  There are quad trillions of design ideas that I want to try.  From the Amish, Mennonite, Gee's Bend, playing with new techniques and making my own designs,  to the traditional pieced and appliqued designs, to free pieced fabrics.  So why not go play with all of those ideas.  Perk up my house for the holidays, for every day, for each season, with pillow art.  And if someone is not comfortable with all that fiber lumped on their backside, that will just give me more fodder for my amateur analysis.

pillow back
pillow front
pillow back
Even more fun when you make the back as interesting as the front. 

pillow front
pillow backs

pillow front

I am thrilled that I have discovered a new way to try out all those designs that are constantly rumbling around in my head. And productive as well. While playing around for a few minutes a day, I am satisfying my creative needs while accessorizing my chairs and the sofa.  And by the way, I am using goose down and feathers as forms.  That way, when folks sit in the chair or on the sofa, the pillows will politely shape themselves around what ever form is needed.

monthly colors

Every time I check out 15 minutes play website, I am inspired.  Victoria has generously provided a wonderful spot for quilters to gather, play and show & tell.  Now I am fortunate  enough to be able to participate in Victoria's online quilt bee with 12 very talented and creative ladies. This is a first for me and I am totally hooked.Each person has  been assigned a month of the year.  When your month arrives, you must choose an idea for making scrappy blocks. Each person, will then, make blocks along that idea, send them to that person and post them on the website.   It has been so much fun to see all the blocks from all the ladies as they are posted.  What has been a plus for me is the inspiration that I get from everyone.  For instance, the choice for November by Nifty Quilts  was scrappy block all in red fabrics.  I sent these 3 blocks to Nifty.

Once I began making these quick, fun, blocks, I couldn't stop.  I had to keep making more.  The same thing happened when I made October blocks for Victoria's month   This has inspired another idea.  Now I am thinking that I could make scrappy blocks for each month of the year.  But as an added idea, choose a color for each month of the year.  For October, I would make blocks using only blacks fabrics.    Reds for December.  Then make more blocks for November using golden yellows,  January might be blue.  You get my drift?  And as another added bonus, I already have a short stack of single colored scrappy blocks that I've had laying around  for a couple of years just waiting for more.

I had even made one into a pillow. Most of the scraps came from this quilt. All nicely coordinated, huh? 

This picture shows the back of the pillow.  Rather than sewing it permanently "closed", I like to make one side lap over the other.  Plus, it is fun to make a band that slashes across for added appeal.  I usually end up liking the back more than the front.   

 More to follow on this monthly theme as well as on the pillow theme.

A weak moment - Part II

So.  It is over.  And it wasn't nearly as terrifying as I thought it was going to be.  After all, those ladies love quilting and I do know most of them.  They did ask me to explain how I do what I do.
I was prepared as I was ever going to be.  I held on to that podium for dear life, adjusted my reading glasses and before I knew it, it was all over.  It still isn't easy speaking to a group of people about yourself and what you do.   Now it seems that I find myself thinking that I wouldn't mind doing this again.  Scratch that.

The sample has been completed and then I was inspired to do another ~ a set of leaf portraits, as it were.  The maple leaves were machine appliqued while I decided that the dogwood leaves would be pieced.  Once I learned the Ruth B. McDowell technique of drawing a piecing pattern, I have abandoned ye ole applique  technique.  Although the initial drawing and pattern making is much more involved, the sewing goes much more quickly.  I realized this as I worked on the applique sample for my presentation.  Although my Thistles quilt was done with mostly machine applique using the same process as the Maples,  and I enjoyed making each petal and piece , I find that the pattern making and piecing has a more appeal.

Let me pause to give a bit of credit where credit is due, the artists who have inspired me through their instruction books.  I have found that I learn more easily in my own space and in my own time by using the quilting and art quilting books that are available.  I have a rather large library of those.  The main artists that have inspired me to design and create several of my award winning quilts include:  Ruth B McDowellBarbara OlsonKatie Pasquini MasopustCarol Taylor, and Vikki Pignatelli.  Of course there are so many other quilt and textile artists that I admire, but these ladies have provided excellent sources of inspiration in their books as well as their art.  I don't know that I would have ever figured it all out on my own, had I not bought their books and spent countless hours studying and drooling over every page.  They empowered me to give it a go and develop my own style and technique.  I suggest that you check out these websites as well as their books. There are much more instructive than I.

So enough rambling.   Now on to the completion of the maple leaf sample.  Once all the pattern pieces have been cut out, ironed onto the fabrics and pinned onto the cartoon, it is time to glue. 
I usually begin with the background pieces.  Looking to see which pieces will be mostly covered by the others, I select one and check to see which edges need to be turned under.  First I will clip any curves that need to be clipped,  then using a mini iron,

I press the seam allowance that over the edge of the freezer paper, and let cool a bit.  Then gently lifting  the freezer paper,  I use Elmer's Glue Stick and lightly touch the edges to be turned under. Next, turn under that seam allowance and press to dry the glue. 

Choose the adjoining piece, matching the registration marks  and slide it into place with the folded edge covering the raw edge. Add a touch of glue to secure the pieces into place, fold the freezer paper back onto both pieces and lightly iron down.   

I continue in this manner until I have several applique pieces glued together.  Lay them onto the Sulky Totally Stable cartoon and press in place, checking  to be certain that all the proper seam allowances are folded under and glued together. At this time I go ahead and machine applique some of the pieces in place.

Once all of the pieces are in place on the Sulky foundation, I will finish the machine applique.  Next I will gently tear the Sulky from the back of the piece.  I don't worry about removing every bit of the Sulky, because I don't want to stress the seams. 

TA-DA!  Ready to be quilted

Here is the dogwood leaves under construction, showing my piecing pattern. 

And the pair ~ still waiting to be quilted.

a weak moment

To say that I do not like to stand in front of a group of people and speak would be a huge understatement.  The thought of being a public speaker creates waves of panic in my mind.  No matter that it might be speaking to a group of people that I know very well, many who are close friends, my heart begins to pound fiercely in protest.  You would think this silly, I think it is ridiculous, never the less, there it is.  Along with that predicament, there is this idea that I have;  that for a person to speak publicly about what one does indicates to my mind that one actually knows what one is doing. Nowadays I rarely do the same thing twice. When I am in the midst of a project, I usually don't make conscious decisions about the process.  It has always been an intuitive thing, based on what I've seen or read, or what I might be feeling at that time and place.  (yeah, ok, call me moody)  Now comes the ringer.  I was asked to present a program to my quilt guild on how I do what I do when I make an art quilt.  I was so flattered that I agreed to do it.  What was I thinking?  Or better yet, why was I not thinking?  The words "no, thank you just the same", didn't come out of my mouth.  My mind was saying, "no way, are you crazy?" and my mouth was smiling and saying, "well yes, of course, I would be delighted."

Regardless, the time has almost arrived and I have spent the last 3 days trying to figure out how I do what I do and put it all on paper.  After typing for 2 hours, non stop, which resulted in 4 single spaced pages in size 10 font, I realized that I had only just begun.  Where do I go now? 
When I asked a friend to read over those four pages (I owe her big time), she said many kind words, but then she delicately suggested that it would be helpful if I had an actual sample to visually enhance the process . As usual she was correct.  No matter how I wrote and rewrote instructions on technique, it didn't make sense, even to me. The clock is ticking and I have procrastinated far to long.  Well, the best place to go would be to my drawing board, and my fabrics.  I need to physically reproduce my methods step by step, which will result in a sample design.  I don't have time to do a large piece and  I normally do not make small pieces.  But then, maybe this could be one of those small pieces that I could hang in a local gallery to sell, at a reasonable price?  

 So here goes.
I grabbed some maple leaves that are falling from the spectacular tree in our front yard.

Then I chose 3 leaves and arranged them on the bed of my copy machine, punched the enlarge button, hit copy and out comes the basis for my pattern.  Simple Simon, huh? 

The next step is to trace the these leaves with a pencil.  I use vellum for this step as I have found that it holds up to wear and tear, as well as being able to easily see through for tracing.

Now to add a few more design lines.  Once I am happy with the design I will go over each line with a black Sharpie Fine Tip Marker.

One of the most important things is to label every piece on the drawing, which, incidentally is known as a cartoon.  I use numbers, letters, or a combination of both, to suit whatever I've got going on.  Once this is completed, I'm good to go onto the next step.  
I am really getting excited now and I've forgotten all about having to do this presentation about it next week.
(footnote: if the size of the paper doesn't meet the requirements for the size of the finished piece, simply cut and use masking tape to afix additional pieces of paper to the drawing.)

For the actual pattern, I tear off a sheet of freezer paper and tape it, shiny side up onto the cartoon and trace all the lines with my Sharpie.

Once that is accomplished, I turn the freezer paper over to the dull side, retrace all the lines and label all the pieces exactly as the pieces are labeled on the cartoon. 

And the finally,  but one of the most important things, is to make registration marks.  See all those little red marks that are slashed across every single line.  This does try my patience, but having skimped on this step before, I learned that I won't be skimping again.  This way you are able to fit the pieces together nicely when you begin to sew all those pieces together.  

Another tip:  using another colored marker, draw around all four edges of the piece.  This helps you in cutting your fabric pieces for the edges on the straight grain of the fabric.  Which in turn helps with distortion of the edge of the fabric piece. 

One more tracing needs to be done onto Sulky Totally Stable,  This is iron on, tear away stabilizer which is used when I begin to place and sew the piece together.  Using a fine tip Sharpie marker, once again, trace the design on the shiny side of the Totally Stable.

Now comes more fun. Choosing the fabrics.  Oh, the possibilities.  But time's a wastin', so make a choice and get on with it.  Having all those fabrics from my summer of dyeing in the garage, (it was a scorching, hot summer and I was about to die on several afternoons)  I decided it was past time to put them to use.  This pile includes old shirts, sheets and scraps of gray, blue and natural fabrics that I was experimenting with.

Terrific background material.
I don't think I was wrong here. 
 I'm doing what I love best.  Selecting fabrics for each piece.

I like to begin with the focus of the piece.  Being the maple leaves in this case.  Using my small paper scissors, I cut a few of the pattern pieces from the freezer paper.  Select a fabric and iron the pattern piece onto the back of the fabric.

Cut out the pattern piece with a 1/4" seam allowance.

 Pin each piece onto the corresponding space of the cartoon.

Continue in this manner until all pattern pieces have been cut and pinned onto the cartoon.

Are you following all this?  

This is as far as I gotten today.  It's been a long day.  I think my brain is saying that it is time to shut this project down for a bit.  Not to worry, I'll be back with more in a few days with more details and techniques.   
Tick tock, tick tock.