Friday, February 23, 2018

Quilt Hospital

Some people help others by adopting, counseling, healing, laughter, friendship, sharing, mentoring, well, you get the idea.  My way of helping is to run a quilt hospital.

This quilt top was made in 1992 by my daughter's mother-in-law, Nancy,  for her husband Bill. The quilt top gathered patina in a box until this winter. I offered to finish it for Nancy and Bill. He is now in a rest home, but back in 1992 he coached kid's baseball. The quilt is covered with compliments and signatures from kids Bill coached.

The back of the quilt is flannel. It will be a nice, cozy, snuggle quilt. They are all Boise State University fans, and my son-in-law Tj was a foot ball player there.

I love flanged bindings. They are a great way to frame the quilt, and if the colors are well chosen, your eye is drawn inward to the quilt.

Here are the kind words Tj wrote to me about the quilt. This is why I love to finish and restore quilts: Jane, what you created was an absolute masterpiece for me and my family. It makes me so happy that I will be able to wrap him up in that quilt before he passes on. His life was all about coaching me and many kids that didn’t have the opportunity to have a dad to coach them. These memories were his best and brightest moments of his life and what you made brings me to tears. I can’t thank you enough for all the work you put into that for me, for him, for my family. Truly special and know I love you!

Friday, January 5, 2018

Happy to have the Holidays Behind Me

   I did a lot of holiday sewing. Various pillowcases and a couple of minky quilts, some tote bags for hauling quilts, and then pillows, quilts, and more quilts. One project was a cross stitch patchwork angel pillow, the embroidery done by a friend:
I made it to accompany a quilt my aunt asked me to make, using some of the left over fabric. She sent me a Henry Glass flannel quilt kit, and wanted double thick washable wool batting, which made it super fluffy but was like quilting a sleeping bag on my domestic machine, lol.

The individual pictures are very cute.

I then made Mr. Thimblepie a flannel pillow with a pattern from Sew Fresh Quilts. I chose a critter that lives along our Salmon River, a big horn sheep. I used black pleather for the eyes. The pillow fits our cabin home decor perfectly.

And then, I wanted to make something fun to acknowledge the Fiona the hippo craze I have shared with my daughter, Ainsley. Fiona is a baby hippo who was born prematurely at the Cincinnati Zoo last summer to mama Bibi. Fiona is very friendly, having been bottle fed and reared by zoo keepers. When animals interact with people they develop interesting communication skills.

I asked Lorna, of SewFresh Quilts to adapt her hippo pattern to make mama and baby, and she did! Here is my finish, with some tweaks. I added 3-D flannel ears with tiny tucks so that the hippos would have wiggly ears, and again used black pleather to give the eyes shine.

I posed my little Steiff toy hippo with the pillows, and tucked it in the gift bag. That toy is 55 years old and was one of my favorite toys as a child.

This week I am in Seattle. I went to the Seattle Art Museum and spied this hippo mask in the African mask display.

Another fun finish was 2 grizzly bear quilts, each 60"x70" from a Moda Big Sky kit. I had some extra Big Sky fabric, and managed to get both quilts from the combination. I quilted them in wavy lines with my domestic machine. The eyes are appliqued. I gave one to my cousin Marc, as a surprise. He loves to photograph grizzly bears in Yellowstone Park, and has followed one mother bear for years who had 4 cubs a few years ago. The other bear quilt is for my daughter Diane, who chose the name Ursula for her SCA (historical reenactment) persona.
pink and brown minky
NE Patriots, a commission
T shirt quilt, 80"x 90"
 These chintz bags are from an old pattern. I especially like the 2nd bag, with the puppies and kittens on the fabric.

I am still not a wild fan of kits or T shirt quilts, but they each served a purpose, and the recipients were all thrilled. Phew! The holidays are over, and now back to some selfish sewing.

Monday, November 20, 2017

Freya the Amazing

I have a new granddaughter, Freya Jane Elisheva Donald. She was born two weeks ago, mellow amidst the drama of an emergency cesarean, wide eyed and instantly connected to her parents by their voices and their fierce love for her. She was named after a Norwegian goddess who drove a chariot pulled by two cats. What an image!

Her first few days were spent in the NICU, which was stressful for everyone, but especially her mama. Freya had aspirated meconium and that collapsed both of her lungs. So she had a chest tube and was put on a ventilator to assist with breathing. She was able to breathe on her own in less than a day. Progress was quick and she was allowed to nurse after the second day. Happy mama and baby.

Freya didn't appreciate the hospital schedule, or the expert advice of specialists who questioned mama's intuition and worked valiantly to impose structure onto a baby who only wanted to be held and nursed. As soon as she was taken home and the pair were free to do as they wanted, she settled into her blissful life of nursing and gazing at the nipple mandala emanating from her mama's love.

The parents of this adorable little rosebud wanted to give some kind of thank you to the NICU that helped their baby overcome her tough start. My daughter, being sleep deprived and dealing with her own challenge of a hospital acquired wound infection, treated first with the wrong antibiotic, then suffering an abscess and it's sequelae, wasn't up to her usual creative outpouring, so I offered to provide a little quilt to thank the NICU staff. 

I chose this quilt for several reasons. First, the mama with her kittens for a special NICU that cares for so many littles. Second, to give a nod to Freya's story of the chariot and the cats. Third, for some cheerful decor to brighten a place with lots of scary feels. I noticed a number of toddler siblings who could use images that might make them smile. And Fourth, it was completed and ready to deliver. A great reason to keep some extra small quilts on hand. 

Lots of fun fabrics in this quilt. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Me Being Authentic

Looking back, I see that my first blog post was five years ago. Mind boggling. Sticking with the blogging is an accomplishment. I have had lapses, but have really leaned into posting at least once a month. Sharing some of my creating struggles and accomplishments has been a great way for me to have a record of my journey. Plus, I try to be upbeat, kind, and look at the bright side. No kvetching, no politics (well, a little bit of each when it is unavoidable.) I have shared the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have shared projects that I still shake my head at; wondering what I was thinking? I have even annoyed other people along the way. That is the true test of authenticity.

One of my most recent projects is going to counseling to learn to be more assertive, and to get to the bottom of my hang-ups. Today's assigned reading is about Authenticity. I know what it means, Originality,  but just how to do it is sort of ephemeral. I think writing a blog post and sharing it in social media is pretty authentic. While I was writing my morning pages today, defining authenticity and attempting to write some measurable objectives, I realized that I was in my yoga uniform: racerback top and matching tight leggings, definitely conforming. Hmmmm.

Authenticity seems to be a mental thing. An emotional thing. A Be True to Yourself thing.  But don't overthink it! Good luck defining it, that really gets twisted. We are all original inside, but there is nothing new under the sun. I mean, for Pete's Sake, there are over 7 BILLION people in the world right now, and lots more before us, so how can there be any originality? Well, we all have unique fingerprints. How amazing is that? That must mean there have been over 10 BILLION different sets of fingerprints in all. Wow. And every one of those sets of fingerprints belongs to a unique person who smiles and thinks differently. Even identical twins look a little bit different. To me, that says there is hope!

When I look at a book of quilt ideas, I love to analyze the colors and overall effect. I like to read the text, and study the pattern instructions. I look for fabrics that I recognize. And then I dream about how to take the ideas, and make my own quilts. My sister gave me a dreamy book for my birthday, Cultural Fusion Quilts by Sujata Shah. It is a melting pot of piecing and fabrics from different cultures. Her work has lots of contrast, and lovely saturated colors. The instructions are ridiculously simple. Her enthusiasm is contagious. When I look at this book, I want to dump out boxes of fabric and start cutting stuff up and sewing it back together. Which, in case you aren't a sewer, is a good thing!

The little quilt in this blog post is based on her quilt, Sunset. She uses blues and oranges to create a tropical sunset over the Arabian Sea. It almost shimmers with breezes, and ripples of water. Her half square triangles are uneven, and graduate from lighter to darker to cause the effect, which I love.

I have been wanting to use some triangles of pastel left over from a baby quilt, and paired them up with variations of celery green and soft butter yellow. I think the effect is like an English garden, very soft and muted. I chose a lavender Kaffe print for the border, which draws the eyes toward the violets in the middle of the quilt. The binding is plum with a flange of grey and silver. The back of the quilt is yellow gingham, like a picnic cloth.

To make this a Cultural Fusion quilt, I thought of Mary Lennox, in The Secret Garden, a little girl who came from India and was able to become free and authentic in an English garden. This is my original version of a traditional pattern. Me being authentic.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The River of Dreams

I went to a wedding dressed as the Salmon River. Here is the story. My friends are river guides whose theme for their recent wedding was the confluence of rivers. They got married on the bank of the Salmon River, and even arrived and left the ceremony in a drift boat. They served salmon for the wedding dinner. Their wedding cake was the image of the river.

As an artist and seamstress, I thought I should make a dress that reflected the wedding theme. Having just made a salmon quilt, and with leftover fabric strips, I designed this fun dress to wear to the wedding.  It has a big steelhead, and even river rocks at the bottom.

Now back to the quilt. I was asked to make a salmon quilt by an aunt whose nephew is doing salmon research in Alaska. She is unable to sew at this point, and seeing my fish quilt, she thought I could make her dream of a salmon quilt come true. So she sent me her collection of batiks, 15 yards in all, and said I could keep whatever I didn't use... talk about a dream come true!

I color set the fabrics first. Blues like to bleed. I prefer synthropol to set the dyes.

Then I laid out the fabrics in gradations of color, and cut 3" wide strips. I sewed them together, then pressed and cut them into panels which I staggered. I used big pieces of the batiks for the back of the quilt. I had a panel from another project with animals from Alaska. It really added to the overall richness of the Alaska story.

I thought a sockeye salmon would look artsy. Using the pattern I had drawn for my steelhead trout quilt, and an image from the internet, I came up with a big spawning sockeye.

The client asked me to put a label with a photo of her nephew (the researcher) and some sentiments on the back  of the quilt.

I quilted the quilt on my domestic machine. Wavy lines are my current favorite. Then I applied a flanged binding by machine. What a fun way to frame the quilt. Dark blue with a flange of salmon pink.

I tried a new method to photograph the entire quilt, draped in the shade in my yard. I was thrilled with the finish, and so was the client.  Here is what she said: "Jane, the quilt made it here and it is spectacular! I'm so glad you could make it...and it is way beyond anything I envisioned. Max will love it." 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Eating My Hat, One Bite at a Time

   Scoffing at T-shirt quilts is how I roll. They seem so humdrum. Why use T-shirts when there are so many other wonderful fabrics? For that matter, why collect T-shirts when there are other much more wonderful things to hoard? For the memories? Really? This collection of T-shirts from 1995 to 2015 does hold some memories for the mom who commissioned it and her son who is the intended recipient, in honor of his 30th birthday.
   This isn't an especially creative quilt. Sports-mom picked the fabrics. She and the quilt shop owner planned the layout.  I tweaked it a little bit, changing the sashing color from maroon to the chosen lime, and the inner border from lime to celery. There I go, pushing neutrals again.

   To commemorate running marathons.  I suppose as a statement to self torture and testimony to endurance a T-shirt does the job. I didn't think there were many hills in Lewiston, ID or Spokane,WA  but the T-shirts tell a different story. I really love the wheelchair images.

   As a travelogue. Well, it is an alternative to watching a slide show.

   Because T-shirts are so comfy and available. My sister was asked to make a memorial T-shirt quilt with a package of white T-shirts. WTF. Well, it was what the dude wore. And who doesn't like to see a guy in a pair of jeans and a white T-shirt?
  Let's face it, you can only wear so many T-shirts, and you can only wear them for so long before they wear out. Or in this case, you outgrow them. The early T-shirts were small, and now the quiltee is a grown man.  And Sports-mom can only store a son's stuff for so long. She said this freed up a drawer.
   One interesting color theory I learned from Pam Rocco in QNM was about how certain border and binding colors pull our eyes out to the edge of the quilt, and others draw our eyes to the center of the blocks. It is not about the print size or wildness of the fabric, it is about the colors. I auditioned dark green, blues, pink, greys, black and white print, and they all wanted to lead my eyes astray. When I tried a medium orange from Riley Blake, it was that moment when flowers open and angels sing.

I added a teensy bit of celery to make a quick, flanged binding. The quilting thread is lime Glide.

So, that is how you eat a hat, just like an elephant, one bite at a time. Sports-mom loves the quilt.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Very Old and Very Rare

Last week Mr. Thimblepie took me to St. Gertrudes Monastery to visit their museum and historic chapel. It was a beautiful site, on the list of Historic Landmarks. The chapel was built almost 100 years ago from blue porphyry stones quarried nearby.

 The museum is small but well stocked with interesting and choice items. Several of the displayed garments were unusual and rare. The bamboo jacket was especially fascinating. It was made from tiny pieces of bamboo, about 4 mm, like bugle beads, sewn into diamond patterns with linen thread. The garment was worn under fancy silk brocade robes. It allowed for air movement and absorbed perspiration.

Wearing layers of clothing seems unimaginable in present times. Styles and mores of the past were so restrictive. Reasons for wearing lots of clothing varied from modesty to status. Protection from the elements, biting insects and hazardous work conditions made sense. On the other hand, some cultures believed that uncovering the skin could be hazardous to ones' health.

Here is a close-up of hand made button holes on a brocaded wedding dress from the late 1800s. The dress was small, made for a woman of about 5 ft. height. It was before the era of Queen Victoria, when she started a fashion trend by wearing a white wedding gown.

I thought of the Beatrix Potter's story, "The Tailor of Gloucester." The Tailor was ill, so the mice finished his work on a wedding jacket for the Mayor of Gloucester. "The stitches of those button-holes were so small--so small--they looked as if they had been made by little mice."