Wednesday, October 15, 2014

My Latest Material Mavens Quilt: The Spirit Tree

The Material Mavens are now in their second round of quilts.  The group elected to have the option of making our quilts either 12"x12", as we did in the first round, or 11"x14", and we could either use the portrait or the landscape view.  We have also moved to an every-three-months Reveal.  Our theme this time was Contrast.

So I chose to use the new size.  While pondering how to interpret the theme, I was also reading the wonderful book THE INVENTION OF WINGS.  This book, based on real-life sisters who pre-Civil-War were active abolitionists and even advocates for the rights of women, featured the relationship between a slave girl, Handful, and the daughter of her owner.  In a chilling passage in the book, Handful is presented to the daughter as a birthday present.

The CONTRAST between the life of an enslaved girl and that of a wealthy slave owner was striking and powerful.

Handful's mother, a slave on the same plantation, told her daughter about the African custom of choosing a spirit tree and then investing one's spirit in this tree.  And so mother and daughter choose such a tree.  When the mother steals a spool of red thread from her owners, they begin to wind the thread around the tree.  To me, this symbolized the surreptitious rebellious spirit of the mother and daughter.

The mother also made quilts, and she often used a pattern of triangles and favored the contrasting colors of red and black.   She explained to her daughter that the black triangles were the symbols of birds and of slaves who had learned to fly to freedom.  Of course, I realized that this quilt block was the traditional flying geese block.  Thus the background of my quilt is a mini-quilt made up of flying geese, black geese against a red background.

I used a copy-right free image* of a realistic flying goose, printed it onto ExtravOrganza, and super-imposed it onto the quilt top.  I loved this theme, love the new format, and greatly enjoyed the construction of this quilt!

I agreed to credit the image I used, and so the citation is below.

*<ahref="" target="_blank">GeekPhilosopher: Instant download of free stock photos, images, backgrounds, and desktop wallpapers. Pictures can be used for personal and commercial web sites.</a>

Friday, August 8, 2014

Yellow is the Color of Friendship and Cousins Make the Best Friends!

After nearly three years, the First Round of the online art quilting group that I helped to organize is now over!  For our final Reveal, the theme for the 12"x12" quilts was Friendship.  Early on I choose a charming photo of our two youngest grandchildren to use in the quilt.  I was eager to try screen printing, too.  Trying new techniques and using new-to-me materials has always been one of my personal goals in being a part of this group.

A friend with a Thermofax machine graciously made the screen for me to use.  It took many tries for me to get an image that I liked.  Around the same time, the sunflower fields between Ft. Worth and Waco were at their most glorious.  Somehow I wanted to combine sunflowers with this image of the little boys.

I didn't get a photograph of the fields that suited me, but then one appeared in the local newspaper, the Waco Tribune-Herald.  I received permission to use this image, went down to their offices to pick it up and purchase it, and then I used Transfer Artist Paper to transfer the image onto fabric.  

Still--how to work these two images into a coherent quilt?  Somehow I happened onto a list online that connected colors with emotions.  Yellow was the color associated with friendship!  Hurrah!  Now I had a way to link the two.  I added a third element, a silk flower sunflower and tacked it onto the batik background, a luscious fabric of red-orange, yellow, and white.  I quilted the background by hand, using Perle cotton and an embroidery running stitch.  The quilting hardly shows, so busy is the background!

As I worked I thought about the older two grandchildren.  Would they feel hurt that I didn't include them?  The photo of the younger boys was taken in 2006 at a wonderful beach house on Lake Michigan.  We had gathered there as a family to celebrate bachelor son Rob's 40th birthday.  And so I included on the back of the quilt not only the photo that led to the screen print, but also photos of all four of the grandchildren (at ages 2, 3, 4, and 5), as well as their beloved Uncle Rob.

It is bitter-sweet for me to remember that the California grandchildren's mother, our beloved Kathy, was the one who first had the idea to celebrate her brother's birthday together.  She knew that without a wife, there would be no one to engineer any sort of celebration for this milestone birthday!  So this quilt is, in a way, a tribute to Kathy's thoughtfulness and love for her brother, who was born 21 months after her birth; Kathy departed this Earth in February, 2012.

Below are close-ups of the front and back of this, my last quilt in the first round of The Material Mavens!

Tribune-Herald staff photographer Rod Aydelotte took
the sunflower-field photo.

I superimposed these images onto a Jacquard ExtraOrganza printable
sheet that can be used with an ink jet printer.

The top two photos were taken on the big, wrap-around porch
at the house on Lake Michigan.  Uncle Rob sits with the
children on our last morning there, they still clad in
their PJ's!

The bottom image. taken the same summer, is of the children in Waco, at
the Mayborn Museum, a place we visit yearly when they come to visit.

Friday, June 20, 2014

My "Sarah's Gypsy Throw"

Is this an art quilt, or would this belong better on my blog that discusses my more traditional quilts?  Well, for now anyway, I am going to say that this quilt, based on a Kaffe Fassett design and using 80-90% of his fabrics, is a work of art!  Not an original design by me, and usually I think of art quilts as being an original design, but the truth of the matter is--I prefer this blog over my other personal blog, and so here it is!

I've been working on this quilt off and on for many months.  Not that anything about the sewing of the blocks was difficult, but getting the blocks arranged to suit me was challenging!  I can't tell you how many times I moved blocks here and there, exchanging one for another, etc.

I finished the borders only today, and I am amazed at how adding them made this quilt come alive.  The  Ikat Dot outer border fabric and the Fruit Basket paisley inner border were suggested by Fassett, and I am so glad that I purchased these two when they were available.

Fassett suggested that in each of the perimeter blocks you use two darks (either black or brown background fabrics) and two gold paisleys.  I had two different gold paisley fabrics by Fassett, but I wish I had purchased more when he was "doing" paisleys more often.  When it came time to make the quilt, I had to use some other fabric designers' paisleys to get enough to complete the quilt.  Actually, I rather like how these more traditionally designed paisleys give my eyes a rest.  I also like how the occasional brown-background triangles are sort of a surprise!

Kaffe also suggested that the four corner triangles in each of the perimeter, hour-glass, blocks,  be four different floral fabrics that were medium values.  Fortunately I had plenty of these fabrics.  For the "cornerstone" triangle square blocks within the inner border, he used four different darks and four different golds.  I did use different gold paisleys, but I decided to use my very favorite of the floral fabrics, red and purple flowers on black, for the dark triangles.

Perhaps I ought to have waited to publish photos of this quilt when the quilting was done, but I am just so delighted to have finished the top and so happy with it, I have jumped the gun on this post!

Eventually I will rename the quilt with a name original with me.  Kaffe called it Sarah's Gypsy Throw, using the name of the long-ago quilter Sarah, which I like.  This design appears in his MUSEUM QUILTS book--quilts from the Victoria & Albert Museum in London, a museum that I have visited and dearly love.

Friday, May 23, 2014

My Latest Material Mavens Quilt--Raggedy Ann in the Box!

Our theme for this current quilt in my online art quilting group was Spring.  I wanted to avoid blue bonnets or any spring flowers, despite having some lovely photos that would work wonderfully well to portray Spring in Texas!  I happened to see some jack-in-the boxes at a toy store, however, while pondering the theme.  Aha, a toy that uses a spring to make it work!

I sketched a box and then decided to have a Raggedy Ann doll be what sprung out of the box. ( I have never liked clowns, which normally spring from the box, finding them even now rather scary and disturbing.)  I've always loved Raggedy Ann and Andy, though, and so Ann seemed a perfect choice to pop out.  It did help me decide what to use to see that in the boxes I saw, one was a princess and the other a teddy bear!

After getting my sketch as I wanted it to look, I chose commercial fabrics for the box, for Ann, and for the background.  I found directions online on how to make yarn hair.  I made freezer paper templates from my sketch to cut out the various elements in the design.  I embroidered Ann's features after cutting her out like a paper doll, used buttons for her eyes, and fused the clothes onto the doll.  I then fused the doll onto the box, once the box was fused onto the background fabric.  I love this harlequin green fabric!  I first used it for a great nephew's baby quilt, so it seemed a good choice for this playful little quilt.  I machine quilted following the diagonal lines on the background, after zig zagging around the box and the doll to further secure them.

I used a marker and a bit of red fabric to make the handle, which one of my fellow Mavens said was her favorite part of the quilt!

Below is the backing on the quilt.  I printed two photos onto the sheets of fabric you can run through an ink jet printer.  These are photos of two sets of Ann and Andy dolls.  Mother made me the small dolls sometime during the 1940s, when I was a huge fan of the Raggedy Ann books.  Then in the 1970s, I made daughter Susan the large dolls which are still in great condition.  Sadly, my own old dolls are quite tattered and torn and are missing their lower legs!  I used these dolls as models for my Raggedy Ann in the Box!

Saturday, March 15, 2014

My Latest Material Mavens Quilt--Kransen

The theme this time for the Material Mavens quilt was "translate." Literalist that I am, I fear, my mind went immediately to literary works I've read in translation.  My very favorite of these is the trilogy written by Sigrid Undset in the 1920s, for which she was awarded a Nobel Prize.  The trilogy is called KRISTEN LAVRANSDATTER.  The first book in the trilogy is translated in English as THE WREATH or, sometimes, THE BRIDAL WREATH.  In Norwegian the title is simply KRANSEN.

My 12"x12" quilt depicts the protagonist of the trilogy, Kristen, daughter of Lavrans.  I show her on her wedding day, wearing the bridal wreath, looking pensively over her shoulder.  The entire first volume deals with Kristen's love affair with an unsuitable man--unsuitable in her parents' eyes, that is.  They had chosen another suitor for her, but she persisted in refusing to marry this man and clung to the wild and handsome Erlend.  The conflict with her parents, especially her beloved father, was exceedingly painful for both father and daughter.  When she ultimately prevailed and "won" the battle, it was with extremely mixed feelings that she wore the bridal wreath.  As it turns out, though she remains passionately in love with Erlend, their marriage is a rocky one and she is never able fully to forgive herself for hurting her father so grievously.

I used a photograph of a real person, a real bride, and copied it by hand onto flesh-colored fabric with colored pencils.  I used the pencils for the shading of her face and for her features.  The "real" bride wore a happy smile, so I had to change the smile to this more pensive expression.  I changed the colors of the "real" bride's hair and eyes, too, to reflect the Norwegian bride Kristen.  Her hair was constructed with many different fabrics in shades of yellow and gold.  The wreath is fashioned artificial flowers and a vine with tiny leaves; these I attached to the quilt both with hand stitching and with fabric glue.

I used two batiks for the background--a green leafy one and then one depicting birch or aspen trees, both of which grow in Norway.  I machine quilted the background and Kristen's hair.  I fused the face on with Wonder Under and then used a tiny zig zag stitch to applique it.

I've read this beloved trilogy every decade of my life, since I was a teenager.  That is how much I love these books, and it pleased me to depict a dearly-loved book in a quilt.

PS  Loving these books as I do has also led me to take two different trips to Norway!

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Colorado FROM My Mind

Colorado From My Mind

In the fall of 2012 friend Carolyn and I took a Quilting Adventures workshop with quilt artist Sue Benner.  We had a wonderful time, enjoyed the other art quilters, and loved being in a class with such an accomplished artist.  She was teaching a class called "Sewing the Land:  Fused, Collaged, and Quilted Landscapes."  Sue's quilts were spectacular, assembled from a myriad of strips of all sorts of fabrics--cottons, silks, even polyesters.  She encouraged recycling fabrics by buying clothes from thrift stores and cutting them up to use in quilts.  (Shades of our grandmothers!)

For some reason I had a very difficult time "pulling off" this method.  In my quilt above, the SKY is the only section of the quilt that employs the true "Sue Benner" technique that she was teaching in that class.  After that, I confess I abandoned the strips and assembled my quilt as I have done in the past with other scenic quilts, cutting larger pieces of fabric that corresponded roughly to the elements in a photo.

When I came home over a year ago, I was not happy with my quilt, so I rolled it up, stashed it in a closet, and really forgot about it.  Recently, however, I ran across this quilt.  When I pinned it up on my design wall, I saw it with different eyes.  I could see that it had real potential!  So I kept three-quarters of the quilt, substituting, however, the four fabric shapes that you can see at the bottom for other fabrics that seemed out of place to me.

Today, having just finished my March 15th Material Mavens quilt, I was ready to start a new project, so I got back to work on this one.  I completed the fusing, squared it up, and then began free motion quilting.  Now, I am not comfortable free-motioning, not at all, but I am determined to get better at this technique.

One of my many quilting books suggested using a Superior Threads monofilament thread called Mono.Poly, which I had recently purchased.  Too, it suggested the size needle to use (#10), leaving feed dogs up, and putting the length and width of the stitch at 0.  I did all of this.  I have to admit that leaving those "dogs" up gave me a sense of more control and seemed to work for me as well or better than lowering them.  I followed the contours of the land forms--the mountains, the foreground, etc.--and then followed the contours of the myriad of shapes used in the sky.

I am calling this quilt "Colorado from my Mind" because though this quilt began as one based on a photo taken in Colorado, the new additions were not based on that photo and came totally from my imagination.

This quilt is not yet bound. I am contemplating using Benner's method of multiple zig-zag stitching along the edges, or I might bind it conventionally.  For now, I am happy looking at it pinned to my wall, almost but not quite complete!

Close-up of the free motion quilting.  Not perfect, but I am proud of myself for quilting an entire quilt in this manner for the first time--except for the small 12"x12" quilts I make for the Material Mavens group.  Now if only I can make myself practice this stitching daily!

Thursday, January 16, 2014

My Latest Material Mavens Quilt--Strong Women

Strong Women
In Memory of Kathy--In Honor of Susan
As soon as I learned what the latest theme word was in my online quilting group, the Material Mavens, the phrase "strong women" came to mind.  At first I considered focusing my quilt on either or both of my grandmothers, remarkably strong and truly powerful women.  But then it occurred to me that I could focus on Kathy.  But why not Susan, too?  But how?  It occurred to me that with both of them being runners and Susan's being an avid tennis player, that could be the focus.

I found coloring book images that are copy-right free online.  I took my favorites and used them as patterns to cut out the silhouettes from black felt.  After I had quilted the background batik in a grid pattern, I adhered the silhouettes to the background with Wonder Under and then stitched around their edges.

In the narrative I wrote for the MM I discussed the multiple strengths of both my amazing daughters.  I won't repeat that narrative here--it can easily be accessed at

I'd love for readers of this blog to visit the MM one and see ALL the wonderful quilts, based on the theme word of "strong."

I chose a commercial fabric of young women swimming for an inside joke.  Again,
see the narrative on the MM blog!

Susan on the left, and Kathy on the right.  Photo taken in 2009 when the family and close friends gathered
for our wonderful 50th anniversary celebration.  Kathy, at that time, showed no signs of the depression that would eventually devastate her and take her from us.