Wednesday, 20 February 2019

Using what you have. Making do.

I love receiving fabric scraps from friends.I love little bits of leftovers and do-overs that my friends save for me. They save leftovers from their own projects and give them to me. Sometimes they are just tiny bits, sometimes larger scraps. Most of the time they are fabrics that I would not purchase myself. Someone else's taste. But that really is the special challenge of receiving them. Doing something meaningful--at least for myself-- with something that would otherwise be tossed into the landfill.

Recently a friend gifted me with this lovely kit.
It's a collection of hand dyed cottons and a pattern to make a quilt inspired by the quilt of Gees Bend. All contained in a lovey little screen printed bag.

The quilters of Gees Bend have come into notoriety because of their unique style of quiltmaking. Their quilts were made in isolation from the larger world. Their quilts were made of castoff fabric and worn out clothing. They were made in a very poor community in Alabama. The women are descendants of slaves.

And their work is strikingly beautiful. Graphic. Bold. Original. Unique.

The women didn't buy kits. They didn't buy patterns. They took what they had and made it fit. And in doing so they created their own beauty.

So what am i going to do with this kit?

I have decided to make a quilt with what I have. Make do. I won't follow the pattern. I will make my own pattern.

Many years ago my husband and I bought two quilts at auction. They were new, hand quilted. I loved them. I remember the day we bought them as if it was yesterday. A bold crisp autumn day. A little chilly but I wore my new jean jacket. I think it might have been 1989 or 90.

This is one of them. Its a bit bedraggled. Its been well used. Its been dragged about. Its comforted us. Its seen better days.

This is going to be the backing for my new Gees Bend inspired quilt. Making do.

I am going to put this on the longarm machine because i am going to use what i have. I am going to give this old friend a new coat. i am going to flip and fold strips of new hand dyed fabrics over the old quilt log cabin style and cover it completely. No machine stitching to show.

Now if you think well that"s easy--she has a long arm --how hard can that be? There are some logistical problems that i will have to solve as i go along. The beauty of the longarm is that the quilt will be supported on a frame. This also can be a bit problematic. The seams that run parallel to the frame will be easy to stitch. The seams that run right angle will be harder. there will only be about 18 inches to work on at a time. i will have to roll the quilt a few times to finish these seams--especially as the strips get longer and longer.

I pieced this center strip on my sewing The gold is from my stash.  I laid it onto the quilt following

the lines of the hand
quilting. I didn't measure.or center it. I just picked a spot. and then i started adding strips. Its a little harder to sew straight lines on the longarm. I have tried the channel locks which are just rings that attach to the wheels but don't find them convenient. you have to walk around the machine to adjust them every time and i find it annoying. Some longarms come with a button on the controls--something to investigate when purchasing a machine.

I am almost finished. I am going to make a few strips on my sewing machine before i go any further. I want the strips to be pieced and i can't do this without some machine stitching showing if i just flip and fold.

and them maybe I will do a little bit of hand stitching--maybe--

I will post more pics as the work progresses.
Thanks for stopping by...

Sunday, 23 September 2018

Women's Work

 In Canada May 14. 1918 marked the passage of women's suffrage for most Canadian women.  Asian women were excluded. and Inuit too. One hundred years. Not really a long time but almost  unthinkable is the fact that it is so recent that a woman could have been not considered a citizen with rights and privileges and responsibilities.

Imagine today needing a man's signature in order to get a bank loan, or buy a house or a car. Or hold a job. or a credit card. What if you didn't have a male who would or could sign for you.

In my family it seemed like it was my mother who handled the money. who kept the books . who acted  as treasurer. My father went to work every day but left all of the accounting and bookkeeping in my mothers hands--but it was his signature on the bank books and the mortgage papers.

One of my favourite types of quilts are those that take a political stand.
Throughout history women have announced their political leaning in the work of their hands.

Schoolhouse quilts celebrated universal education. when my eldest went --escaped --ran headfirst--to university I made her a schoolhouse quilt. i don't know where  it is now.  Its been missing for a long time.

I made this quilt to honour my mother. its called Willingly She Works With Her Hands.

And that is what my mother did. She willingly worked. She worked at making a home for her husband and her children. She cared for her aging mother and then her aging aunt. She bore children into her menopausal years. last one at 42 years of age and called her a blessing. She did whatever she needed to do to keep our lives on track. And she did it willingly. And she was a maker. She crocheted doilies . I picture her sitting on the couch with her pattern and ball of cotton, hook in hand, crocheting another doily.

I stitched words from a love letter that my father had written to her from Italy during the war onto a slip that had been hers. It was the most I had ever heard of my father talking.And he was in love. nice.

She was of the generation that wore gloves, went to church and did everything their husband told her to do. She never wore those gloves, never went to church but she did follow directions from her husband. Even though she really was the brains of the family.

She married at the age of 20. She was a war bride; married my father after knowing him for several months. She gave birth to 5 children over 21 years. There was always a baby in the house. They were married for more than 50 years. After my fathers death, mom struggled.

I made this quilt to honor her in her struggles against dementia. She lost her way, her voice, her memory and finally her life to Alzheimers.

Thursday, 6 September 2018

When to Say Uncle

My Grandmother Lila Smith Simpson died in 1969. She was a prolific maker and quilter and she left many uncompleted projects. My mother (Lila's daughter in law)  scooped up several of her unfinished quilt tops. Now Mom was not a quilter. she was a crocheter but i think that she wanted to save grandmas work and maybe she thought that she might become a quilter after all. Who knows. They are both long time passed.
This the only quilt that my mom made. She made it in 1971 to mark the birth of her first granddaughter. my daughter Amy.

When I was born Grandma made this quilt for me. I dragged it around, slept under it, threw it in the washing machine occasionally (gasp) and still cherish it.

When Mom died I took the quilt tops. They had been stored in the cedar chest for some 40 years. I decided that this was going to be the finish Grandma's quilts year. Either finish them or get rid of them. stop carrying them around unfinished and unloved. I have carried them around for almost twenty years. loved, not forgotten but neglected. So I decided that this is the year. Finish them up. or discard them. My children had not shown any signs of wanting to be quilters and they have no attachment to old quilt tops. perhaps they have seen too many in my home.

So i got the tops out. And I started quilting them. Grandma seemed to like the Hole in the Barn Door pattern.
And as I discovered, she was not a perfectionist in her piecing. her blocks are a little crooked. There is a little bit of puckering here and there. Grandma didn't have a rotary cutter and mat. or even a plexiglass ruler. She had a sewing machine and a pair of scissors, cardbooard templates. and black and white thread and a need to make. She did have a fondness for bright colours but she stuck to the three colours one quilt frame of mind. no scrappy look for grandma Simpson.

I did find one block that was put together incorrectly.
Accidental or intentional? Grandma did live in the train station. Grampa was the station master at Dranoel Station in Bethany Ontario. She may have been the person who coined the saying. "If you can't see it from the train, its alright." oh or maybe that was Grampa, he was a poet. but that's another story.

So now I am coming to the last quilt top. its another Grandmothers Fan block. Bright yellow and nice aqua green and the fans are all scraps. I put it on the frame and tried to quilt it. the blocks are so uneven that i was just making a big mess. huge wrinkles--not even wrinkles--pleats in the fabric. So took it off the frame and put it away for a month
So now its Do or Die. Finish it or throw it out.
I have now taken the quilt apart. down to 16 blocks and borders.

And I think that you probably could see the unevenness from the train. The blocks are all like this. Grandma was a little bit scimpy on her seam allowance. sometimes down to there being big gaps with a negative seam allowance. I don't know if that's what created the big wonky unsquare block or what but it's pretty out of square. It looks like its the circle to me. Way too big??? but i don't think I can just take out my beautiful 15 inch plexiglass ruler and square it up. that would cause the fan blades to be distorted. oh boy.
Should I call it a day??  Probably but i don't think today is the day.I think i will just put them away again for a little while. Another reprieve while I think about it some more. Lots of thinking going on here near the five corners.

Wednesday, 21 February 2018

why girls get tattoos

I am an old lady. I am fat. I sag.  I have wrinkles. I have scars.

I do not have any tattoos. never will. And a lot of my friends are very upset when they see a young girl with lots of tattoos.
"What will they do when they start to get fat? How will they look when they are our age? Why do they do that?" they say.

I am not an expert and I really have never asked too many girls why they have done that. But I do know that if you ask her what each tattoo is about, she will tell you a lovely story.

Each tat (I do know a little vernacular) is a mark to commemorate, celebrate, mark an event in her life. Graduation, her dog, her children, her life. Its her scrapbook. And its always with her. she doesn't lug huge volumes of baggage with her. its weightless. no trees were destroyed. no plastic involved. She doesn't have to worry about where it is--or who can see it --or where it will be safe. Its always with her.

Perhaps she was one of the legion of children that lived in more than one home. shuffling from one to the other. trying not to have to many things to carry. maybe she was never sure where she would be or how quickly she would have to move from one home to the next. the tattoos would always be there.

Maybe she had trouble sleeping at night. They were there to comfort her. to wrap her up in their warmth.

Maybe I wouldn't need the big three bedroom home that I use to store all of my worldly possessions in if I had just marked the occasions of my life with art on my body.

Sunday, 18 February 2018

Affirmation Bowl

I recently enrolled in a group project called "The Affirmation Bowl".  It was created by Laura Thompson of Barrie Ontario. She created 100 fabric bowls and sent them out into the world. They each will reside in four homes over the next year. The only instructions are to place the bowl in a prominent spot where you will see it often and think good thoughts.

I received my bowl in January and I will have it until April. Then I get to choose who I will give the bowl to. Then its out of my hands.

                                                       Its a lovely little bowl.

I have placed it on the little table near the window. I pass it often. And when it catches my eye I say a little mantra to myself about how lucky I am.

I am lucky. I have had a lot of happiness in my life. I had a long and loving marriage. I raised two daughters to be successful adults. I have three grandsons who are very special.

The bowl came to me as I was marking the first anniversary of my husband's death. Marking the anniversary--not celebrating. just marking.

He left the same way he lived. quietly, gently with no fanfare and no drama. He did not wake up.

He was not finished. There were a lot of things that he had planned. He was working on a few projects. He had so many more things to do--

I have taken a year off. I think I will find my voice again soon.

Monday, 28 November 2016

I Do Love a Good Binding

A lot of my fibre arts friends have switched over to a faced edge on most of their work--no more bound edges--too quilty for them. They want their work to look like art--not quilt-not craft.

I do use a faced edge once in a while but I usually choose to do a bound edge. I choose a bold, colourful binding. 

When I first started quilting, I sometimes had trouble binding the quilts I made. Some of them languished for year--yes years --before the finality of binding. I realize now that was a bit of a perfectionist tendency. If it wasn't finished-ie bound --there was still room for improvement and therefore not my best work. And then when it came time for me to give it up and bind the thing, a fabric that was either in the quilt or one that matched it , was no longer in the stash.

Fabrics change over the years. Colours come and go. If you don't save enough of the chosen fabric for the binding and wait too long, you might not be able to match up something for the binding.
That's where I started to get creative with my binding choices. I deliberately choose a very high contrast fabric for the binding.

Although it is very difficult to see this in the photo, the binding on this Pears Helene quilt is a bright vivid green. The quilt itself is black on white --very plain. The print frames the quilt, adds a huge pop of colour and is a surprise. I love surprises in my work--not so much in my life-but that's another blog post.

Saturday, 29 October 2016

Coffee Table

The Map as Art by Katharine Harmon with essay by Gayle Clemans
Princeton Architectural Press New York 2009 ISBN978-1-56898-972-3

Spirit Maps by Joanna Arettam
Red Wheel/Weiser, LLC York Beach, ME2001 ISBN 11-59003-001-X

Map Art Lab by Jill K. Berry & Linden McNeilly
Quarry Books Beverly, MA 2014 ISBN 978-1-59253-905-5

art quilt maps by Valerie S. Goodwin
C&T Publishing   2003 Lafayette, CA ISBN 978-1-60705-682-9

In and Out of the Garden by Sara Midda
Workman Publishing NY1981ISBN 13; 978-0-89480-193-8

Sara Midda's South of France by Sara Midda
Workman Publishing NY 1990 ISBN 13; 978-0-89480-763-3

The Trickster's Hat by Nick Bantock
Penguin Group NY 2014 ISBN 978-0-399-16502-3