Thursday, April 25, 2019

Off the Beaten Path

If you read my last post, than you know that I have been on a bit of a fabric buying strike, but allowed myself to indulge in buying some thrifted men's shirts, (results of which to date can be found on that post as well). 

Well... I also allowed myself to buy some vintage grain sack fabric found at a local Mennonite quilt sale. I figured it was fair game, as it isn't new and I fell hard for its quiet beauty, flaws, stains and all. 

And on a quick side note... may I say many thanks to those that did read my last post and a special thanks to those that took the time to leave a comment. I know much time can go from one post to another, (although not this time) and everyone's kindness is always so very much appreciated!  

I got several pieces of this incredibly soft grain sack fabric that has the most amazing drape. Old dirt and mildew stains speckle the cloth which I find lovely. (The fabrics all appeared to have been washed before selling, with no evidence of active mold or mildew. However, I still gave everything a thorough cleaning in very hot water and dried on a long high heat once home as well. I want those lovely stains to remain, but also wanted to ensure that no active spores were still present.)

Now that I hopefully peeked your interest, I regret to say that I am still contemplating what to do with the above fabrics, so nothing more to show you there. And I might as well be up front now, (after my last post set the bar a bit high) just ONE quilt to show this time, but I think it's a good one!

Ok, back to the fabrics, and eventually that one quilt...

I also got a stack of these low volume beauties...

I am serious as can be when I tell you that their weave, their colors, their typography... 
all make my heart speed up and my mouth literally starts to salivate. 
Why on earth I do not know... it's not like I want to eat them.
(Or do I?) 

No, I'd much rather sew with them...

Vintage grain sacks
Freehand cut, machine pieced, hand quilted
27.5" x 21"

Out of all the quilts I've ever made I think this was my favorite one to quilt. 

All the hand quilting was done in a VERY freeform manner. 

No planning, no marking, just stitching. 
It was, in a word, LIBERATING! 

Some of the material was very gauzy and light weight, so I decided to line the whole quilt with a piece of muslin fabric layered between the top and the batting, in order to give it better stability. This also came in handy when I decided to mend two small holes found in one of the fabric pieces. I just hand stitched the edges, and left the hole openings be, allowing the muslin lining to peak thru. You can see a better close up in that photo at the very top of this post.

Oh, and here's a little tid bit... 
Have you noticed that little slice of fabric that says Baltimore? 
It was part of the address found on one of the grain sacks.
I put that in as an ode to where I was born.

I backed the quilt with a natural unbleached muslin and for the binding I used a gauzy vintage fabric that I got at the same sale. Then I washed it to bring out all that delicious, crinkled, quilt texture. 

Quilt is currently for sale in my Etsy shop and can be found here.

Thanks for stopping by.


Saturday, April 13, 2019

Waste not, Want Not - Shirt Quilts

For the last year or so, I've been on a bit of a self-imposed fabric buying ban, (with a few exceptions for buying mostly backing fabrics here and there). I mean, it's not like I don't have enough fabric, right? But then again, can you ever have have enough fabric? 

With that second thought looming more prominently in my brain, I decided to allow myself some indulgence, with the caveat that all "new"  fabric would actually be old reclaimed fabric. 


So off to the thrift store I went in search of men's shirts, (which we all know is made from much higher quality fabric then women's clothing, but we will save that discussion for another day).

Here's a pic of some thrifted shirts after dissecting them...

A good seam ripper and a sharp pair of fabric scissors, coupled with a little patience, is the key!

And look at all that nice fabric! We've got cottons and linen. 
Shot cottons and chambrays. Stripes and ginghams, too!

And here's what I've made so far...

Shirt Quilt # 1
Cotton and linen
Freehand cut, machine pieced, machine and hand quilted.
19.5" x 14.5"


Shirt Quilt #1 Detail

Shirt Quilt #2
Cotton and linen.
Freehand cut, machine pieced, machine quilted.
29" x 18.5"

                                                                 Shirt Quilt #2 Detail

Freehand cut, machine pieced, machine quilted.
22.5" x 20.5"

Shirt Quilt #3 Detail

Shirt Quilt #4
Freehand cut, machine pieced, machine quilted.
20.5" x 17.5"

Shirt Quilt #4 Detail

Shirt Quilt #5
Cotton and linen
Freehand cut, machine pieced, machine quilted.
33" x 30.5"

Shirt Quilt #5 Detail, front and back

And to end with I shall share a little bit on the making of that last quilt.
I call it...

The Saga of Shirt Quilt #5

Compared to other quilts I've made, there was nothing out of the ordinary nor technically difficult in the making of this piece. However, I have never been so happy to be finished with a quilt, then with this one. Were it not part of this on going Shirt Quilt series, I simply would have named it "Petulance". 

As a general rule, I try to listen to the work and respect where it wishes to go. This usually creates a working harmony and respect between myself and the piece. This quilt however, WHINED its desires and when I did as it requested, it threw its head back laughing, as it waved a five finger salute at me. Every. Single. Time. 

 The one and only thing that seemed to make it play nicer in the sandbox with me was if we listened to Johnny Cash, specifically the songs from his American Recordings and American IV albums. The quilt still stuck its tongue out at me, but at least it stopped throwing sand in my eyes and hitting me over the head with its bucket. 

The only reason I didn't walk away was to show it that I am just as stubborn!


Friday, December 28, 2018

End of Year Wrap Up

Well, 2018 zipped by like a flash of lightening, and though it's been quiet here on the old blog, I do continue to make. So, while 2018 still has a few days left in it, I thought it'd be nice to do one last blog post for the year. (Hey, that brings me up to a full 5 posts for 2018... no slacking here.) 

Take a look below to see what I've been stitching since I last posted back in June... 

(Note: If you are a supporter of our current administration, you may not like the creative thoughts behind the works below, and that is ok, as we are all free to believe what we choose to believe. If you choose to leave a comment that obviously differs from my own political views, please make it thoughtful, respectful and constructive. Help me to understand your point of view. Hateful and nonconstructive comments will be deleted. Thank you.)

This Land is Your Land, This Land is My Land
36" x 36",
Cotton fabrics, (Moda Grunge)
Machine pieced and machine quilted

I made this quilt while reflecting on the many ways we divide ourselves in this country, while at the same time craving connection more then ever. The work itself explores division and reunion. Using a multitude of colors helps to illustrate and celebrate the importance of diversity in America.
(Thanks to Woody Guthrie for the title inspiration.)

31.5" x 21.25"
Cotton fabrics
Hand cut, (no straight edge used)
Machine pieced and hand quilted

This quilt was made while reflecting again on how divided we are as a country and how quickly our world wide credibility is fading under the current administration. The man in the White House seems hell bent on trying to deconstruct the American values that we have held so dear while trying to refashion them into a wholly different America, and it is very alarming to me the speed at which he seems to be accomplishing this and the lack of response from republican senators and congressmen/women.

26" x 26"
Cotton fabrics, (shot cottons)
Hand cut, (no straight edge used)
Machine pieced and machine quilted

This quilt was made while reflecting on several things: line work, local surroundings, and of course, politics. In regard to line work, that's the term I am calling my ever developing and deeper desire to explore organic line shapes and how they interact with each other and how color influences that interaction. (The piece before this one is the beginning of my intent for a more mindful exploration, and going forward in the new year you will be seeing more of that exploration.) (Until I tire of it and move on to something else.)

This curiosity of line is of course deeply connected to the study of lines in my local rural surroundings... those old barns and outbuildings still fascinate me. (Below I've posted a photo I took just the other day that has wonderful lines and is a good example of the loveliness I see on a regular basis.)

And still, my mind can not help itself from continually thinking about our current state of affairs, (fueled no doubt by news often playing in the background while I sew). I seriously considered calling this piece "Tilting at Windmills" in a playful reference to the delusional Don Quixote and our own delusional Don occupying the White House. However, It was Thanksgiving when I finished it and in a desire for rest, I refrained and simply titled it "Windmill". (I'm saving that other title though for a possible future quilt.)

See? Good lines!

And here's a peak at something currently in the works, which I will share more of once it's finished, (which may be awhile). It's not big, but the stitching is going slow. Except for the smallest circle in each fan, I am basically eyeballing it, with the intention of not perfect quilted lines, but nevertheless, unity and relative consistency throughout. Much harder then I thought it would be. .

For all of what is shown, I was going back and forth... stitch a row, then flip the quilt and stitch the next row, thus saving on cutting, knotting and burying thread every row. However, (and here's a tip if you try this yourself!) I have finally realized that it's easier for me to stitch a row where the previous row is below the row being stitched and much harder for me when flipping the quilt and stitching a row where the previous row is above the row being stitched. Having that previous row below helps me eyeball  the new row much easier. So, more cutting, knotting and burying, but less pulling stitches out and starting over. (And if you are reading this but are not a quilter, my apologies for something that must sound very confusing!)

Happy New Year to Everyone!
See you in 2019!

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Catching Up

Sometimes I honestly forget that I have a blog, and those sometimes seem to be more often then not of late. Oh Instagram... you have made it so much easier to connect and share and how I enjoy you, but I had this dear blog child long before you and do not wish to abandon her altogether! 
(Forgive me little blog child... I still love you!)

Ok, so what's new? Well, I had to get a couple of new self-portrait shots for a lovely interview, which I will share in a minute. But first, I am going to tell the truth about this above photo. (Which I think looks nice and gives me a rather casual relaxed air, yes?) So this is what you don't see... I was sitting on a low stool, in front of a bookcase where I suspended two long loops of ropes on either side from thumbtacks sticking into the right and left top corners of the bookcase. The quilts had dowel rods in their hanging sleeves and I stuck the end of one rod into one loop and the other end of the other rod into the other loop. Then I clothes pinned the two quilts together around the top middle section. Their was some slack which made them droop, so I then folded the top edges of the quilts over one of the shelves and placed some heavy books on top to take up the slack. Next, I worked to get my old little point and shoot Canon camera, (which is about as high tech as I go) at just the right height, (no tripod. Why, oh why, don't I have a tripod?) I accomplished this by using one coffee table, with one small stool on top, followed by several books, followed by the camera. Easy! I set the camera on a timer, leaned forward, pressed the button to take a picture, leaned back and smiled. I did this about 50 times and still wasn't pleased with any of the shots. Then the quilts fell down and landed on my head. Re-hung the quilts, and took about 50 more photos and voila! One self-portrait of me doing my best to look casual, relaxed and chill!

But see, all that effort was for a good reason, as I had been asked by the lovely Kim Soper of Leland Ave Studios if I would be willing to be interviewed for The Creativity Project, which is where Kim is interviewing 52 quilters over 52 weeks to get to the "Why" we quilt. If you are not already following along, I hope you check it out... both my interview and the others. Kim is doing a wonderful job and I was honored to be a part of it!

And as for creating, well, I've been doing a lot of playing around... much experimenting and just a few actual finished works. This is one of the finished works, a quilt titled "Seasons Merge".

It's machine quilted on my domestic with a a free-form baptist fan adaptation, a design which always connects me to the local Lancaster County countryside with its plowed fields and soft rolling hills.

And I also made this rather lop-sided punch needle pillow which I adore. In the hoop it looked nice and round, but I later realized that the hoop had gotten distorted by the level of tension I had used to keep the fabric taut. Now I know to look for those distortions next time!

And like I said, I really adore this pillow! It was inspired by Pennsylvania Dutch frakturs, which hold great interest for me. And best yet, when positioned at an angle on the chair, as shown above, or...

 held just right as in this second attempt at a self-portrait, 
(which went a bit smoother then the other one) 
you can't even see the lopsidedness!

And in praise of things that are lopsided, off-kilter and not perfect...

This is what makes my heart sing! I am so blessed to live an an area that reminds me daily that there is great beauty in that which is not perfect. Look for it, embrace it and celebrate it!


Thursday, March 1, 2018

Rag Rug Inspired

I've always been attracted to rag rugs. Woven rag rugs, hooked rag rugs, braided rag rugs. in fact, one of my earliest textile art crafting memories was helping my grandmother braid fabric strips which she then would curl around and around, stitching the braided cords into chair cushions. I liked how one color of fabric in a braid would end, and a new color would take over. My eyes would flit from this color to that color marveling at how they played off of each other. When I think back all those years ago I can still see a baby blue fabric, a dark green fabric, a brick red fabric, a bit of yellow fabric, and then some dark grey fabric, all twisted and spiraling around together. Pure magic it was, this making something from almost nothing.

So I thought it would be fun to use that love of rag rugs as inspiration in making my own version with yarn and punch needle. I've done some other posts about punch needle, (also known as needle punch or punchneedle) here on the blog, but if you are new here or missed those posts and  don't know what punch needle is, I will tell you...

Punch Needle is an old technique that falls into the family of embroidery. It is done with a pen like apparatus that has a hollow needle inserted into it. Yarn, or floss is threaded through the pen and the needle. Special fabric, (not all fabrics can be punched on, and different forms of punch needle sometimes require different types of fabric) is stretched very tightly either in a locking hoop or over a frame. The needle with the threaded yarn is then repeatedly punched into the fabric on the wrong, that is to say back, side. With every punch a little loop of yarn is formed on the front of the fabric.

Punch by punch, loop by loop, the design emerges. And I marvel over the magic of it the game way I marveled over my grandmother's braided chair rugs all those many years ago.

When making this I collected the 8/2 cotton yarns in the colors that came to my minds eye when thinking back to my youth, standing in my grandmother's kitchen braiding rug strips. I started with the outermost rim of dark grey and worked my way in. I would love to know how many  little punched loops it contains, but counting would have been madness. I even lost count of the hours I spent punching, but I would guess somewhere around 30.  A labor of love and memory and curiosity. Wonderful, wonderful curiosity... she has been my constant friend.

And then I decided to make something else rag rug inspired, so I made some little brooches...

They were also done in punch needle, but with some beautiful Valdaini hand-dyed cotton threads that I was seriously tempted to horde as they looked so lovely in their little box... 

Along with being inspired by rag rugs, 
I also took inspiration from old utilitarian quilts that built their design 
based on the "house-top" block, (think Gee's Bend). 

It's my absolute favorite quilt block as I love it's simplicity and never ending design possibilities.

Each brooch is backed and stitched with some grey wool-blend felt that I had on hand, 

and is mounted on a little card with a short intro description of punch needle on the back side...

I think the next time I print some up though 
I will add a bit about the pen like tool with the hollow needle... wish I had included that on these. 
Sigh... I can always find something that I wish I had done differently!

These are now available in my Etsy shop