Sunday, April 24, 2011

Finished Quilt--"Final Separation"

I have had a recurring dream since I was a little girl. We lived in a small house (with silver aluminum siding) right across from a railroad track. In my dream, I was separated from my Mom by the track. I was always trying desperately to get to her but I couldn't. In 2009 my Mom became ill with Alzheimer's, and the dream started occurring more frequently. I figured the track represented Alzheimer's--I couldn't reach her.

I started work on a quilt that would be a physical rendition of my dream. Then, my Mom passed away last June. Now, the track on my quilt represents death; I truly can't reach her. Working on this quilt helped me work through the grief I was feeling.

"Final Separation"

The "heart" at the top left of the quilt represents me. It is stretched and pulled out of shape and has embroidered Xs on it to represent mending. It is made from fabric I dyed after a flour-paste resist treatment.  Here is a close up.
I hand quilted the piece with a pale yellow quilting thread. The quilting on "my" side of the tracks represents my reaching out to her...trying to get to her. The quilting on "her" side of the tracks represents the obstacles blocking my way.

I hand embroidered a Washington Irving quote (in black) on the quilt. It reads, "There is a sadness in tears. They are not the mark of weakness but of power. They are the messengers of overwhelming grief and unspeakable love." We read this quote at my Mom's funeral. I wanted the viewer to have to "work" at reading the quote. You can see some of the words here, but you have a lot more trouble seeing them when viewing the whole quilt.
You can click on any of the pictures to get a closer look if you'd like.

I found that working on this quilt brought me some peace during a very difficult time. The handling of the cloth and the time it took to make the quilt (because of the hand quilting and hand embroidery) make me feel very "connected" to it. There can be healing in making art.

Friday, April 22, 2011

New Bird Pics--(Surprise!)/Zentagles/A Book

After my last robin update, there was one egg in the nest. I checked later and this is what I found.
FOUR eggs! I am really looking forward to watching these hatch.

I found this in my other bedroom window. I've never been able to take a picture of the eggs, because I have never been in the bedroom when she hasn't been on the nest. My husband says this is a dove of some sort. 
I feel very blessed to be able to share in these small miracles. Isn't life grand?

I haven't gotten much sewing done; I have had SO much company lately. I have certainly enjoyed the visits, but I have gotten behind in my studio work. While my company was here, though, I did get to do a bit of "Zentangling." Wow, that is something that really calms me down--very meditative and "Zen-like." These are some in-progress pieces.
If you would like to find out about Zentangles, there are lots of videos on YouTube and information at

I'm also reading a book I'm really enjoying--"The Forgotten Garden" by Kate Morton. Check out my new bookmark.

Friday, April 15, 2011

Parfait Dyeing--Check It Out

This is just one piece from my parfait dyeing session yesterday. If you are interested in seeing more and/or learning how to do it, check out And Then We Set It On Fire. You can either click on the link or click on the "And Then We Set It On Fire" logo to the right of this blog entry.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

It Really Is Spring--Look What I Found

It has started again! The robins have build nests around my house again this year. I was blessed last year with four nests right around my house. I got to see the nest building, beautiful blue eggs, baby robins, and young birds leaving the nest. I truly felt it was a blessing to get to see this "circle of life." Look what I found earlier this week (on the ledge of my bedroom window)...
There were no eggs yet. I have checked the nest each morning to see if any eggs had appeared...none. I checked this eggs. Then, I went to my bedroom to get dressed after eating breakfast and checked again. To my surprise, the mother robin was on the nest. I scared her, and she flew to a nearby tree. I figured I might see those beautiful blue eggs before too long...
 ...but to my surprise...look what I found... 
You think there will be more eggs to come or will this be an only child/bird?

Monday, April 11, 2011

"Year of the Quilt" at the American Folk Art Museum (Installment 3)

These pictures are of quilts from Part I of the Quilts--Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. The exhibit is available until April 24, 2011. I hope you enjoy this quick look at some of the quilts in the exhibit. (Remember, you can click the picture to get a better look.)

Log Cabin quilt designs are among the most popular and easily recognized of all quilt patterns. Beginning with a center shape, usually a square, the traditional design is made by sewing strips in sequence around the sides of the square, varying the values between light and dark. (Information from Jane Hall at
This "log cabin quilt" is made of silk and satin material. It was made between 1890 and 1900. This is considered a "show" quilt intended for decorative use only and was removed from the bed before sleeping.
"Barn Raising" was made by Sarah Olmstead King between 1875-1885. It is made of silk, velvet, satin, and ribbon. I really liked the striped brown fabric used in the border.
This is an example of a "pineapple" block. It may also be called a "windmill" block because of the placement of color. This quilt was made between 1885-1920 from cotton, wool, and silks including satin and velvet. I have always loved pineapple blocks. I remember taking a class where we drafted and made a pineapple block. I don't remember exactly how many hours it took to do one block, but it took the better part of a day! I have a real respect for these early quiltmakers--no rotary cutters, acrylic templates, or pre-printed foundation sheets.

"Everything old is new again"...I've heard that saying. I hear people talking about painting on quilts and acting like that is a new concept--it isn't. This "Stenciled Quilt" was made by Olivia Dunham Barnes (1807-1887) between 1825 and 1835. These old stenciled quilts were primarily from New England and New York State.
 Close up of stenciled quilt.
I just loved this quilt. "Slashed Star Quilt" was made by Sara Maartz in 1872. It is a variation on a Mariner's Compass quilt. I can't imagine making this quilt without modern quilting conveniences.
Here is a closeup of one of the blocks. The quilt was very closely hand quilted.
Check back. I have more pictures of the exhibit to share with you.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

What a Great Deal!

Interweave Press has a great deal right now on Lyric Kinard's "Surface Design Sampler Platter" video download. The cost until (maybe through--not sure) Tuesday is 10 cents. You read that correctly 10 cents. This is just too good not to pass along! Hurry on over to Lyric's website to get the details.

Saturday, April 9, 2011

"Year of the Quilt" at the American Folk Art Museum (Installment 2)

These pictures are of quilts from Part I of the Quilts--Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. The exhibit is available until April 24, 2011. I hope you enjoy this quick look at some of the quilts in the exhibit. (Remember, you can click the picture to get a better look.)

Show quilts were not meant to be functional bedcovers. These quilts were usually never slept under; they demonstrated the maker's good taste and knowledge of popular decorating trends.
"Appliqued and Embroidered Pictorial Bedcover"--Probably New York State, 1825-1845. It is made of wool, silk, cotton, and beads with silk and cotton embroidery. It is not quilted; wool is used for the body. (I apologize for the quality of this picture. I really wasn't feeling well that day and was a bit shaky.) 

These closeups are a little better. I really liked this bedcover.

The "Star of Bethlehem Quilt" was made between 1880 and 1900. It is made of silk. The ownership of this quilt has been traced to the family of Jeremiah Sullivan Black. He was the Attorney General of the United States from 1857-1860 under President James Buchanan and an advisor to President Andrew Johnson. 
The "Crazy Quilt Era" is generally dated from 1876, the year of the Philadelphia Centennial Expo, to the beginning of the 20th century. 1884 was the peak for "Crazies" according to contemporary periodicals.
 "Map Quilt"--Possibly came from Virginia (1886). Map quilts are very unusual as is the right-angle piecing and Y-shaped pattern.
"Crazy Quilt" was made by Rachel Blair Greene (1846-1909). It is made of silk and has painted and silk embroidered motifs. Some makers of "Crazies" would purchase pre-embroidered appliques. 
You can see some of the embroidery and the painted blocks. I don't think I have ever seen painted blocks on a crazy quilt. These paintings were very detailed. You can see that better if you click in the picture to get a closer look.

The "Dunn Album Quilt" was made by the Sewing Society of the Fulton St. United Methodist Episcopal Church in Elizabethport, New Jersey, in 1852. The church block (third row from the top toward the middle of the quilt) is believed to be the only existing visual reference of the original 1852 building of the Fulton St. congregation, as it was rebuild in 1859. 
It is hard to see the signatures on the quilt, but I can attest to the fact that they are there!

There are more quilts to come. Check back soon. Oh, I just got back from the International Quilt Festival in Cincinnati. I'll have picture from that as soon as I get them edited.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

The Year of the Quilt--American Folk Art Museum

I recently had the opportunity to view exhibits for "The Year of the Quilt" at the American Folk Art Museum in New York City. The museum has a twelve-month series of exhibitions, educational programs, and special events "to highlight the creative contributions of three centuries of talented women through spectacular textile masterworks."

I got to see both the "Quilts--Masterworks from the American Folk Art Museum, Part I" and "Super Stars--Quilts from the American Folk Art Museum." The "Masterworks, Part I" exhibit is available for viewing at the museum on West 53rd Street until April 24, 2011. The "Super Stars" exhibit is available for viewing at the branch location of the museum at 2 Lincoln Square till September 25, 2011. I just missed the "Infinite Variety--Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts" exhibit. It started a few days after I was in New York.
I got lots of pictures from both exhibits. (Remember, you can click on the picture to get a better look at it.) I'll start with the "Masterworks" exhibit. I was interested to see what type of quilts they would have on display, and I have to say that I don't think they had enough representation of contemporary quiltmaking. They only had two quilts they labeled "contemporary." Hmmmm.

I was excited to see this next quilt top in person. It is a piece I have admired for quite some time. Actually, I had purchased a book ("The Flowering of American Folk Art (1776-1876)" by Jean Lipman and Alice Winchester) with this textile on the cover many years ago. It was that quilt top that prompted my purchase. It is called the "Bird of Paradise" quilt top. The artist hasn't been identified, but they think it came from the vicinity of Albany, New York. It is made of cotton, wool, and silk with ink and silk embroidery between 1858 and 1863. The quilt top is in pristine shape--amazing as old as it is. Don't you just love a quilt with a story? I thought the story of this quilt was very interesting.

The templates for this quilt top included the figure of a man, however he does not appear anywhere on the quilt top. (The woman is located towards the top right of the quilt. Traditionally, the figure of the man would appear next to the woman.) What do you think happened? Was this quilt top made for a wedding that never took place? Is that why it was never quilted? 
The figures on this quilt top were made using templates cut from newsprint and other papers dating from 1858-1863 that were handed down with the textile. The many symbols of union and fertility on the quilt top--the pairs of animals, the nesting birds, the fruits and flowers--add weight to the supposition that it was made either by or for a bride-to-be. The elephant identified here as "Hanible" was part of a number of traveling circuses, but from 1860 to 1863 local ads advertised Hannibal as performing in the Van Amburgh traveling circuses in New York City and throughout the Hudson Valley, reinforcing the quilt top's association with that area.

I included a close up, so you could get a better idea of the detail on this piece. It was behind glass (a lot of the quilts weren't), so it was hard to get a great picture. 
Another quilt on display was the Indian Wedding Ring or Pickle Dish Quilt. The artist is unidentified. The machine quilted cotton quilt was made in the United States between 1935 and 1945. I was interested to find that the quilt was machine quilted.
There was only one wholecloth quilt in the exhibit. The "Tree of Life Whitework Quilt" was made by an unidentified artist in the United States around 1796. It is made of cotton and linen with cotton fringe. I thought the fringe was an interesting addition. The raised patterns on this bedcover were created by stuffing and cording, a technique that is sometimes called "trapunto work"--a reference to a possible Italian origin for the tradition. In order to create the elaborate motifs seen here, the seamstress could add the extra padding either before or after her regular quilting. The designs on elegant whitework bedcovers such as this are usually based on a central medallion format and include motifs that may be derived from Indian palampores and/or Jacobean embroidery, such as Tree of Life and other fruit and floral designs. The hand quilting on this piece was beautiful.
The appliqued "Sunflower Quilt" was made by an unknown artist and is believed to have been made in Pennsylvania between 1860 and 1880.
This is a close up of the "Sunflower Quilt." The hand quilting was fabulous.
I have lots of other pictures to share. I'll be posting those as soon as I can.

I'm heading to the International Quilt Festival in Cincinnati, Ohio, this week. The first quilt show of the season is always VERY exciting. Anyone else going? I'll be posting about that too. Check back.

Sunday, April 3, 2011

Do I Actually Have Something to Say?

I’m in quite a quandary, and I guess I’m trying to work my way through a period of self-doubt. I’m at a point in my “artistic” endeavors that I want to do something different—something more personally meaningful. After many, many years of making quilt tops and machine and hand quilting quilts, I can pretty much make any quilt I want to--from a pattern. (I have a WHOLE LOT more trouble coming up with something on my own.) It is really difficult (and scary) for me to branch out and make something that it truly original. Maybe I'm afraid of what I will find if I'm "quiet" enough to get in touch with that something deeper within myself. Maybe it is that I’m scared I wont find anything I "need" to say—maybe I just don’t have it in me.

Since I’ve started trying to “do my own thing,” I haven’t gotten much done. I have completed only one project. Maybe I’m overthinking it…maybe I’m putting too much pressure on myself to make something “meaningful.” Everyone says, “Just do it.” I AM TRYING! It just seems like it is taking me forever even to get an idea for a project to work on—much less to actually complete a project.

With that said, I feel like I need to grow—to step outside my comfort zone. To that end, I have signed up to work with a group of serious and focused fiber and textile artists in an Independent Study format class with Jane Dunnewold. I’M TERRIFIED! That is all I’ve thought about since I signed up. I let Jane know how I was feeling before I actually signed up for the class. She was kind enough to reassure me with these words, “I think it is mainly about attitude. If you want to move from playing to more thoughtful work, you can do it and I think within the group.” She has been so encouraging…to the point where I feel like I might actually be able to do this. She sent me exercises from her Personal Imagery class to help me get started because I don’t have a “body of work” to critique (which is part of the class). She said “you could share where you were in that process of seeking out the visual language part of your future body of work. And that would be completely in keeping with the tenor of the Independent Study - I don't expect everyone to be in exactly the same place. I just expect everyone to have a commitment to regular working and moving forward.” Thank you Jane!

I am hopeful this independent study work will put me on the road to finding my artistic voice. I’ll be sharing this experience with you all. I’m hoping I don’t find that I’m so far inside the box that I can’t work my way out!