Memorable Quilt Collections and Connections – Giveaway Today!

Starburst (variant) Made by Amanda Dubois (for Andrew Dubois) 1878. Asheville, NC. Wools.
Starburst (variant) Made by Amanda Dubois (for Andrew Dubois) 1878. Asheville, NC. Wools.

As a newbie quilter in the early 80s, I clearly remember attending an exhibit at the Oakland Museum titled American Quilts: a Handmade Legacy. The exhibit was outstanding, but what stands out in my memory is the film Quilts in Women’s Lives by Pat Ferrero. This thoughtful and inspiring film features the stories of seven quiltmakers who share their passion for making quilts.

Shortly thereafter, I had the good fortune to work at Empty Spools, a quilt shop owned by Diana McClun, a woman who would go on to have a huge impact on my quilting life as my creative partner. Quilts! Quilts!! Quilts!!! , our first book collaboration, was published by Michael Kile, an editor/publisher who had published a series called Quilt Digests. quiltdigestEach volume included articles written by experts in a variety of quiltmaking fields.  One of those experts was Julie Silber, whom I mentioned in a previous post, a woman renowned for her knowledge of the history of our quilting craft.  Julie was also one of the coordinators of that Oakland Museum exhibit that so captured my attention.

L: Julie SilberAs a long-time admirer of Julie’s work, I wanted to take the opportunity of this post to tell her story to our readers. Even though I was armed with a long list of questions, Julie and I never made it past the first two because she had so much to share, and I was a transfixed listener. I’m sure she’s told her tale many a time, but her enthusiasm and passion for her work would lead any listener to believe that this time was the first.

Julie was born in Detroit into a family of first-generation Americans. Her Jewish upper-middle-class parents were both art collectors, and she was exposed to a wealth of beautiful paintings and sculpture as a child, but quilts had never crossed her path.

After graduating with an art degree from the University of Michigan in Ann Arbor, Julie headed to California where she met up with two friends, Pat Ferrero and Linda Reuther, who would prove to be major influencers on her career direction. Both friends displayed quilts as artwork on the walls of their homes. Linda’s was a simple country-style quilt that had been made by her grandmother, while Pat’s was a late-Victorian Log Cabin Barn Raising design circa 1880. It was purchased in a San Francisco thrift store where Pat found it balled up in a corner of the shop.

"Glad Day" Crazy Quilt. Initialed (EFB) and dated (Nov. 11, 1918) Cottons.
“Glad Day” Crazy Quilt. Initialed (EFB) and dated (Nov. 11, 1918) Cottons.

The combination of Linda’s emotional attachment to her grandmother’s quilt and Pat’s stunningly beautiful quilt helped to “seal the deal” on Julie’s passion for quilts. She was touched on both a visual and emotional level. Julie says she made this realization only later in looking back and trying to understand why quilts hit her so powerfully.

Julie immediately jumped into collecting and buying/selling antique quilts. When asked what it is about a quilt that compels a purchase for her personal collection, she reveals that the quilt has to speak to her in a memorable way. Her reaction to the quilt might be emotional, or what she calls a “gut” reaction: visually stunning in color or design, or both.

String Star Circa 1880. Cottons Who knows why a woman might organize her color this way: So many old quilts come to us without any history attached. Don't we wish we could ask her?
String Star Circa 1880. Cottons Who knows why a woman might organize her color this way: So many old quilts come to us without any history attached. Don’t we wish we could ask her?

She continues to buy and sell quilts, hold exhibitions, lecture, and curate gallery shows across the country. One of her current shows–Off the Wall: Maverick Quilts–is on display at the National Cowgirl Museum and Hall of Fame, Fort Worth, TX, through March 31, 2013.

Here are a few more of Julie’s memorable quilts from her private collection.

Appliqué Sampler Circa 1890. Collected in Penobscot, ME. Wools.
Appliqué Sampler Circa 1890. Collected in Penobscot, ME. Wools.
Zig Zag Circa 1900. Cotton Flannels.
Zig Zag Circa 1900. Cotton Flannels.
Log Cabin/Sawtooth (variant) Circa 1880. Cottons
Log Cabin/Sawtooth (variant) Circa 1880. Cottons

Giveaway-GoldJulie is generously donating an out-of-print copy of Volume 1 of The Quilt Digest (cover shown above) to one lucky reader. Please leave a comment by end of day February 15 telling us what makes a quilt memorable to you. I will announce the winner in my post later that month.

Julie Silber is a lecturer, author and curator with more than forty years’ experience collecting and studying quilts.  She is the curator of the former Esprit Quilt Collection in San Francisco, and is currently the curator of the Susie Tompkins Buell Quilt Collection and the Douglas R. Tompkins Quilt Collection.  Julie is the associate producer of the film, Hearts and Hands.  She was the curator of several major quilt exhibitions including American Quilts: A Handmade Legacy at the Oakland Museum and Amish: The Art of the Quilt, at the Fine Arts Museums of San Francisco. With her partner Jean Demeter, Julie owns her own business, The Quilt Complex, which offers quilt-related services including appraisals, consulting, and brokerage to individuals, institutions, and corporations. The Quilt Complex and Julie Silber’s Blog.

10 Things I’ve Learned From Hanging Out With Candace Kling, Ribbon Worker Extraordinaire

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's Studio
How wonderful are these pretty blossoms? I absolutely love the satiny texture of the ribbons and their colors.

1.  Candace Kling, the subject of my Tuesday post, has a wonderful studio with plenty of room to spread out works-in-progress and storage for supplies, tools, and everything else. It’s a shared warehouse space with a surface design artist/art professor, a print maker, and a fashion designer.

Candace's main work center with the super-cool map drawer set.
Candace’s main work center with the super-cool map drawer set.

2.  Candace is wonderfully organized in the best-possible, non-anal way. Shelves display labeled boxes filled with wondrous flowery and ribbony treasures; a re-purposed set of map drawers in her primary work area holds her most useful supplies and tools; and file drawers stock class curricula and other material for her life as a working artist. The atmosphere is hip-creative and yet not precious or overwrought with “studio” design.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's Studio

3.  She’s well connected. After 30 years in pursuit of her craft, she’s got ties with a huge community of artists, collectors, crafters, collaborators, curators, peers, students, suppliers, and so forth. There’s a lot of activity in her orbit–a vintage hat discovery by a friend in an L.A. resale shop could be the start of a new exploration.

Straight from her worktable--a pretty blossom with handmade stamens and a center with cording hand dyed by a student and sculpted by Candace
Straight from her worktable–a pretty blossom with handmade stamens and a center with cording hand dyed by a student and sculpted by Candace

4.  Relatedly, Candace knows her way through private and museum costume collections.  Much of her work and teaching derives from close-up study of these garments. Her detailed analysis and documentation preserves our understanding of historic clothing and our appreciation of antique workmanship.

A mid-20th century cashmere sweater with wonderful ribbon work and embroidered details.
A mid-20th century cashmere sweater with wonderful ribbon work and embroidered details.

5.  Speaking of learning from vintage goods, she has an incredibly precise eye when she examines these fragile wares and has developed a variety of hands-off techniques for measurement. Often all she can use is a piece of thread for determining the dimensions of each element she’s studying. Her academic background in figure drawing and garment design/construction certainly honed her skills and raised her comfort level, and gave her the confidence to tackle even an 18th-century gown at the Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City.

Precision? These perfect tiny blossoms are probably 1/2" in diameter
Precision? These perfect tiny blossoms are probably 1/2″ in diameter.

6.  Candace has a sublime resource library of ribbon, stamens, leaves, etc. A good portion of her stock is vintage goods culled from her finds and purchases from collectors. The new materials come from specialty shops and online stores. Everything is sorted, categorized, and labeled. And she’ll also custom make some of the elements, like stamens, when she needs a particular color or shape.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's ribbon collectionInspiration-J:  Candace Kling's StudioInspiration-J:  Candace Kling's Studio

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's ribbon drawer7.  All told, she takes a fine-arts approach to her work, which is very thoughtfully composed, almost as though she’s painting a portrait or still life. There’s great deliberation in placement, proportion, size, depth, and shadowing.

This still life is a casual sketch combining old and new flowers--the vase is a re-purposed vintage handbag
This still life is a casual sketch combining old and new flowers–the vase is a re-purposed vintage handbag.

8.  Candace goes to extremes. Really? Yes! Most of her work can fit in the palm of a hand, but she’s been known to blow the roof off fine-art installations. Her sculpture, Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls, is 17 feet tall. Countless yards of hand-pleated and pressed sateen wrap a constructed plinth and cascade across the floor in sculpted, undulating waves.

"Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls" by Candace Kling
“Massacre at Bridal Veil Falls” by Candace Kling
Close-up view of the hand-folded and pressed pleats, and sculpted into undulating liquid-like shapes.
Close-up view of the hand-folded and pressed pleats that have been sculpted into undulating liquid-like shapes.

9.  She has all the material, research, and images for a new book . . .

What's on Candace's work table? Trippy Japanese lanterns, rosebuds, and other fanciful flowers.
What’s on Candace’s work table? Trippy Japanese lanterns, rosebuds, and other fanciful flowers.

10.  Meeting her changed me. (No, I’m not a vampire now, Twilight fans.) I’m about to turn my dimensional applique process on its head by paying much more attention to how I use fabric on the bias and straight of grain when building my flowers. Using a bias-cut pattern piece on the back side and a straight-grained piece on the front will enhance my ability to sculpt my flowers–I guess I should’ve paid more attention in Home Ec.

Oh yes, the giveaway of a copy of The Artful Ribbon . . . did you read my reply to yesterday’s comments? Candace Kling has bestowed 2 autographed copies on me for the giveaway. And so, without further ado the winners are Pam S. and Laura Tawney! Congratulations, you’ve won a fantastic book!

I will now repair to my small, uncool studio/laundry room to work on flowers ala Candace Kling . . . later crafters, quilters, and sewists!

J-Signature

 

Candace Kling, Masterful Manipulator of Fabric & Ribbon–Giveaway Today!

Good enough to eat? Candace Kling's delicious "Eye Candy" may fool you, but the confections are made of fabric!
Good enough to eat? Candace Kling’s delicious “Eye Candy” may fool you, but the confections are made of fabric!

I don’t think it’s a secret here at the blog that I’ve got a case of floral love. I’ve a habit of posting flower photos when I blog and dancing around blossomy themes and colors in much of my work. Which makes me think you’re not going to be shocked when I reveal that my fave crafting book is about flowers.Giveaway-Gold

Do you know The Artful Ribbon by Candace Kling from C&T Publishing? Not only do I have an update on Candace’s further flower adventures here, but she gave me an autographed copy of The Artful Ribbon as a giveaway to one of our readers! (See details below.)

Book-J:  The Artful Ribbon by Candace Kling

Isn’t that book cover spectacular?

Lucky for me, Candace lives in the San Francisco Bay Area. She joined me for lunch last Friday and, even better, she invited me to her studio so I could see her handiwork LIVE!

Pansies and fuchsia
Pansies and fuchsia made with fabric and ribbon

Reading The Artful Ribbon was transformative to me. I poured over its pages and experimented here and there with her flower-building instructions. Did I become a fabulous hat or dressmaker as a result? Nah, I just had a heck of a great time playing with ribbon and embellishing handmade decor. Nonetheless, apprenticing to Candace via her book taught me much about translating the natural world into sewn form.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's flowers
The rosy nosegay shows her incredible skill with “sculpting” floral shapes, the tiny flowers show her dexterity.

Meeting her turned out to be somewhat life changing as well. I set out to interview a renowned craftswoman, but I walked away with incalculable insight into creating floral artwork. A long-time teacher, imparting know-how is as natural as breathing to her—even her hands speak as she describes sculpting petal-like shapes from ribbons and fabric.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling's flowersCandace is a child of the Sixties; actually, she’s a true flower child who is Bay Area born and raised. While she has formal training from leading art schools in drawing, fashion design, and costuming, what she knows about embellishments she gained first by working in an East Bay vintage clothing store called Bizarre Bazaar (Facebook link) as a seamstress and then by studying the collections of leading museums and private collectors.

At that time, BizBaz was the locus of heavy trading in garments of all 20th century decades, some even earlier. The shop was hands-on learning of the best sort because Candace tailored and fit the vintage garments for the buyers who wore them out into the world. The museum wares she studies even now are handled very gently and worn only by mannequins on the rare occasion of a public exhibit and are otherwise strictly hands-off.

Inspiration-J: Candace Kling's cockades etc.
Intricately folded cockades perfect for finely tailored clothing

Her renown as a resource about vintage clothing and embellishment, and her growing skill at ribbon work, helped her build a very busy schedule of teaching and lecturing opportunities that continues today. It turns out that ribbon work is a skill that crosses many disciplines so Candace can bring her expertise to the widest range crafters from milliners to interior designers and costumers. She teaches actively in Northern California at guilds and shops like The Ribbonerie and The Sewing Workshop in San Francisco and travels outside of California to other venues as well. Visit her website for her teaching schedule.

I was so dazzled by our visit that I realized I couldn’t possibly fit everything I wanted to cover in one post. On Friday we’ll visit Candace’s studio to see recent work and other wonders. That means the turnaround for the giveaway will be super quick. Leave me a comment by this Thursday, January 24 and I’ll announce a winner in my Friday post.

Inspiration-J:  Candace Kling box of confections
“Eye Candy” by Candace Kling–visually appetizing and easy on the waistline

FYI: Visit Candace’s website and/or find the resource page at the back of The Artful Ribbon if you have questions about resources for ribbons and embellishments.

See you Friday!

J-Signature

Housing Projects, Part 2: A FREE Block Pattern…and More Wonderful Quilts!

It Takes a Village; 32 1/2" x 38 1/2", designed and pieced by Darra, machine quilted by Chris Porter
It Takes a Village; 32 1/2″ x 38 1/2″, designed and pieced by Darra, machine quilted by Chris Porter

If you read Part 1 of my post earlier this week, you know today’s post–Part 2–features instructions for the House block from my quilt, “It Takes a Village,” from Cuddle Me Quick. At the end of the instructions, you’ll find a few more examples of fun, funky, and fabulous house-themed quilts.

For one 4″ x 6″ finished block, you’ll need:

Door: One 2″ x 3 1/4″ piece

House: Two 1 3/4″ x 3 1/4″ pieces; one 1 3/4″ x 4 1/2″ piece

Background: Two 2 1/2″ squares

Roof: One 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ piece

From left: door, house, background, and roof pieces
From left: door, house, background, and roof pieces

To make the block:

1. Sew the 2″ x 3 1/4″ door piece between the two 1 3/4″ x 3 1/4″ house pieces; press away from the door piece.House_step 1

2. Sew the 1 3/4″ x 4 1/2″ house piece to the top edge; press toward the newly added piece.

House_step 2

3. Draw a line from corner to corner on the back of each 2 1/2″ background square. Pin one marked square right sides together with the 2 1/2″ x 4 1/2″ roof piece. Sew directly on the sewn line. Trim, leaving a 1/4″ seam allowance. Press open, toward the corner.

House_step 3

4. Pin and sew the remaining marked  square to the unit from step 3. Trim and press.

House_step 4

5. Sew the roof unit to the top edge of the house unit; press toward the house unit.

House_step 5_finished block

In their book, Fresh Perspectives, Carol Gilham Jones and Bobbi Finley reinterpret 18 classic quilts from the collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum in Lincoln, NE.

Fresh Perspectives cover One of those quilts just happened to be a circa 1890 -1910 Schoolhouse quilt.

Schoolhouse, circa 1890 - 1910, probably Oklahoma, maker unknown, 78" x 72", International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1997.007.0314
Schoolhouse, circa 1890 – 1910, probably Oklahoma, maker unknown, 78″ x 72″, International Quilt Study Center, University of Nebraska-Lincoln, 1997.007.0314

Look how Bobbi “reinvented” this old favorite:

Happy Houses, 70 1/2" x 70 1/2", pieced by Bobbi Finley, machine quilted by Holly Casey
Happy Houses, 70 1/2″ x 70 1/2″, pieced by Bobbi Finley, machine quilted by Holly Casey

Bobbi says: “For the record, Barbara (Brackman) provided me with the pattern for Happy Houses, which she designed on BlockBase as I recall.  It was a fun quilt to make, and she watched me make it at the Point Bonita (CA) retreat one year.”

Artist Adrienne Yorinks works in a variety of media, but specializes in fabric. Her unique, house-based quilt, Woman to Woman, appears in Episode 1: Quilts 101 – Antique & Contemporary Quilts of the documentary series Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics. Very different from the blue-and-white Schoolhouse quilt I showed from that series in Part 1 of this post!

Woman to Woman, designed and made by Adrienne Yorinks, 2009, 80" x 60", photo by D. James Dee, appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter
Woman to Woman, designed and made by Adrienne Yorinks, 2009, 80″ x 60″, photo by D. James Dee, appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter

In speaking about this quilt, Adrienne says, “I was commissioned to do the piece by the UJA (United Jewish Appeal)…(it) was presented to a woman’s shelter in Jerusalem and hangs there permanently. The photographs of the women on the quilt support the UJA and wanted to share a part of themselves with the women in the shelter that they help fund. I created a house image to encompass the photographs, anchoring the work as well as to hopefully bring comfort to the women and children who are living in the shelter.”

Ricky Tims is another versatile quilter who has put a unique spin on the traditional House block. He designed his quilt, Sunset Strip, for the August 2010 issue of The Quilt Life magazine (which includes instructions), and made it using his own hand-dyed fabric.

Sunset Strip, 42" x 36", designed and made by Ricky Tims
Sunset Strip, 42″ x 36″, designed and made by Ricky Tims

Ricky says about this quilt: “I love seeing what happens to one multi-colored fabric when it is cut up and slightly shifted. The technique used in the sky is one of my Convergence variations–Blended Convergence–which is one of the projects in my book, Convergence Quilts. By adding the paper-pieced houses, I was able to have a focal point. I really like making easy quilts that look sort of complicated. This one is a piece of cake!”

I hope you’ve enjoyed this two-part post. It was fun to write, and more than fun to track down so many wonderful quilts.

‘Til next time, happy stitching!

Darra-signatureP.S. For those of you who’d like a full view of Mary Stori’s quilt from my previous post, here goes. Don’t you just love the pieced sashing and cornerstones? (Thank you, Mary!)

Little Red Schoolhouses, made and quilted by Mary Stori, 56 1/2" x 71 1/4"
Little Red Schoolhouses, made and quilted by Mary Stori, 56 1/2″ x 71 1/4″

Housing Projects: Schoolhouse Quilts, Then and Now (Part 1)

While visiting my mother-in-law in Florida last week, I took advantage of the beautiful weather to enjoy a seaside stroll, and happened upon an adorable 8-year-old girl drawing in the sand. I was quite taken with her, and asked if she would allow me to photograph her artwork. She graciously assented.

Artwork in the Sand

Her inspiration?

Beach hut

Later on, when I viewed the photos I had taken that afternoon, something struck me as oddly familiar. Then it hit me: the simple lines of that drawing in the sand (and the inspiration for it) reminded me of the super-easy House block I had used in “It Takes a Village,” one of the quilts from my latest book, Cuddle Me Quick, co-authored with Chris Porter.

It Takes a Village; 32 1/2" x 38 1/2", designed and pieced by Darra Williamson, machine quilted by Christine Porter, from our book, "Cuddle Me Quick"
It Takes a Village; 32 1/2″ x 38 1/2″, designed and pieced by Darra Williamson, machine quilted by Christine Porter, from our book, “Cuddle Me Quick”

Cuddle Me Quick cover

I’ve always loved the Schoolhouse block (and its many variations). Back in the day, I even collaborated with editor Karen Soltys to produce the Schoolhouse volume of The Classic American Quilt Collection series produced by Rodale Press. This 122-page, hardcover book included photos and instructions for 11 wonderful quilts made by quilters from around the country, including well-known teachers and authors Sharyn Craig and Mary Stori.

The Classic American Quilt Collection_Schoolhouse_cover_2

Mary Stori's Little Red Schoolhouses, as it appeared in Rodale's Classic American Quilt Collection: Schoolhouses
Mary Stori’s Little Red Schoolhouses, as it appeared in Rodale’s Classic American Quilt Collection: Schoolhouses

All this got me thinking about the many wonderful Schoolhouse and other house-themed quilts I’ve seen over the years, both vintage and newly made. For example, I’ve always loved the colorful and quirky House quilt detailed on the cover of Laura’s (and Diana McClun’s) book, Quilts, Quilts, and More Quilts!

Quilts Quilts and more Quilts cover

Here’s a view of the entire quilt. Can’t you just picture it over a sofa or buffet?

Rowhouse, 75" x 38", designed and pieced by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes, hand quilted by Anna Venti
Rowhouse, 75″ x 38″, designed and pieced by Diana McClun and Laura Nownes, hand quilted by Anna Venti

In the traditional vein, it’s hard to top this lovely blue-and-white beauty that appears in Episode 2: Quilts Bring History Alive of the landmark documentary series Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics.

Schoolhouse or House in a Garden Maze, 1890 - 1892, maker unknown, photo by Sharon Risedorph, photo courtesy Rod Kiracofe, appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter
Schoolhouse or House in a Garden Maze, 1890 – 1892, maker unknown, photo by Sharon Risedorph, photo courtesy Rod Kiracofe, appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter

Quilt history has always fascinated me, and I typically begin my search for good, solid info with quilt historian, Barbara Brackman. Her classic book, Clues in the Calico, has been my Number 1 “go-to” resource since it landed on my shelf in the late 1980s, and once again it proved to be just the ticket. (NOTE: Although the hardcopy version of Clues in the Calico has been out of print for some time, you can find it via Barbara’s wonderful blog, Material Culture. Click on the link and scroll down the page until the book appears in the left-hand column. You’ll find a link there for the eBook version as well.)

clues in the calico_2

From Barbara’s book, I learned that the pieced block we call Schoolhouse appeared rather late in the nineteenth century (c. 1880 – 1890), and was known by a variety of names (including Old Kentucky Home, Old Folks at Home, and Lincoln’s Log Cabin) until Ruth Finley gave it the familiar moniker, Little Red Schoolhouse, in 1929. Barbara featured the block in her “Quilt Block of the Week” series last November. Click here to view her post, which includes directions for making this 8″ finished block.

Little Red Schoolhouse block, made by Becky Brown, appears in Barbara Brackman's Quilt Block of the Week series, 11/20/12
Little Red Schoolhouse block, made by Becky Brown, appears in Barbara Brackman’s Quilt Block of the Week series, 11/20/12

I asked Barbara if she had photos of any special Schoolhouse quilts that she might share. She came up with this great interpretation, made in 1987 by her sewing group, Seamsters’ Union Local #500. Read more about it on her blog by clicking  here.

The Douglas County Bank Quilt, made by The Seamsters' Union Local #500, Lawrence, KS, 1987, collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum
The Douglas County Bank Quilt, made by The Seamsters’ Union Local #500, Lawrence, KS, 1987, collection of the International Quilt Study Center & Museum

Don’t forget to check back for Part 2 of this post on Friday, January 18. It will include instructions for making the 4″ x 6″ finished House block that appears in my quilt “It Takes a Village” (shown above), along with photos of some other wonderful house-themed quilts, old and new.

‘Til then, happy stitching!Darra-signature

Chairs, Prayers, and Blossoming Creativity: Our Favorite Completed Projects of 2012

Nelly Schrager captures a "busy" bee at work--here's to many bee-you-ti-ful projects accomplished in 2013!
Nelly Schrager captures a “busy” bee at work–here’s to many bee-you-ti-ful projects accomplished in 2013!

As we transition from one year of projects to another, we’re taking this opportunity to look back at some of those we finished in 2012. Perhaps there are quilts in the mix that please us or maybe even something stitch-less that brought us extra pleasure. Here’s a look at what tickled our fancy:

Darra Blooms With Creativity

From the standpoint of creativity (and productivity), 2012 was a unique year for me. Rather than keeping my primary New Year’s resolution private, I announced it right here in a December 2011 group post: the commitment to spend a minimum of 30 minutes a day, every day, doing something creative. For the most part, I was pretty faithful to my resolution. Yes, I hit a few bumps along the road–more about the challenges (and how I overcame them) in an upcoming post–but by and large, 2012 was perhaps my most creatively adventurous and fruitful year ever.

Bloom_detail 2

“…and then the day came when the risk to remain tight in a bud was more painful than the risk it took to blossom.” I’ve always loved this quote from French author/diarist Anais Nin. Never, however, have I felt the connection more strongly than I have this past year. And so I took that joy of self-discovery and expressed it in fabric.

Bloom, 13 1/2" x 9", made by Darra Williamson, 2012.
Bloom, 13 1/2″ x 9″, made by Darra Williamson, 2012.

It may not be the best piece I created all year, but it is–without doubt–the most meaningful to me.

Laura is Hopelessly Devoted to Chairs

I’m a sucker for old chairs, and over the years, I’ve learned to both re-upholster and add new caning to furniture that probably would have been tossed had I not wanted to breathe new life into them. Keeping my hands busy and learning new skills is at the top of my list when choosing how to spend my free time.

Here’s one of two matching wing back chairs I recently finished. Believe me, deconstruction was far worse than re-construction. I’m practicing and gaining confidence to tackle a patchwork chair. Just think how much fun that would be.

L: chair1

Here’s one of a pair of old chairs I’ve had in my garage for over 20 years. I just couldn’t bear to part with them so I decided to tackle the repair myself. Caning is a tedious job, but oh so rewarding. I love how they turned out.

L: chair2

Friends who are aware of my interest often “gift” me with old treasures. Here’s one I recently acquired. It’s a perfect candidate for a new needlepoint cover. I’ve always wanted to learn this art form and Kaffe Fassett’s stunning needlepoint designs have been speaking to me. I hope I can share the new look in a 2014 post.

L: chair3

Soon I’ll be known as Laura Nownes, quilt and chair maker.

Jennifer Sends Out a Quilt and a Prayer

Quilt-J:  Close-up of Jennifer's version of Christie's BOM

I don’t often have a surplus of quilts to give away as gifts, but after I made two of Christie’s block of the month projects in 2012, I ended up with a couple of finished quilts with no particular destinations. Well, that’s until I bestowed one as a wedding gift for the daughter of very dear family friends, leaving me with the other one which, I admit, I was eyeing possessively. You’ve got a detailed view above–Elaine Beattie quilted it for me with lovely feathery details.

It’s probably one of my favorite completed projects for the year. The white background fabric delivers a crisp and clean feeling, while the citrusy and jungle/sea colors call to my tropical alter ego. I actually gave you a sneak peak earlier last year after a trip to my Florida home town. Clearly, I didn’t follow Christie’s layout–well hey, I’ve gotta do my own thing.

What I didn’t mention then was that I visited with a high school friend in Florida and had a chance to catch up on our lives, children, and aging parents. Turns out her eldest child was amidst a freakishly awful year that was culminating in major surgery at year’s end. If ever a person deserved and needed the healing touch of a quilt, it was she. So much for coveting my own handiwork; that quilt had a job to do. I attached a special heart label, sealed the shipping box with a prayer, and sent the quilt on its way. It arrived just in time for surgery. She’s mending now and rebuilding her life. I’ve got the iPhone photo her mother sent from the hospital where she’s wrapped in the quilt. Of course I got misty eyed, but I also smiled because I know handmade quilts are healers. (Although I do think her mother is due for a quilted embrace too.)

Quilt-J:  Jennifer's version of Christie's BOM

Here’s to a new year with exciting creative opportunities! While Darra quotes Anais Nin, I turn to the immortal words of Anne Shirley, the heroine of Lucy Maud Montgomery’s  Anne of Green Gables books:  “Isn’t it nice to think that tomorrow is a new day with no mistakes in it yet?” 

p.s  Thanks to Nelly for her stunning bee photograph!

p.p.s.  I just spoke to my Florida friend for an update on her daughter. She’ll be recovering for a long time, but it turns out the quilt is evolving into a communal hug. Her mom (my friend) collected 80 fabric hearts with personalized messages from her daughter’s kindergarten students and family/friends to add to my heart label and her (my friend’s) 90-year-old mother is going to sew them all onto the quilt back. Isn’t that the coolest thing ever? Makes me weepy in the best-possible way!

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From All of Us: Photographic Inspiration for a “Creative” New Year

At the end of 2011, we ran a post in which we each shared a few photos that we found inspirational for our quilting and other creative pursuits. That post turned out to be surprisingly popular, as visitors–both regular readers and new–continue to seek it out in our archives for repeated viewings. As 2013 begins, we thought it would be fun to reprise this popular idea with new photographic inspiration for a creative new year.

Wishing you a year of productivity and creativity in 2013. Sidewalk art spotted by Darra in Mendocino, CA
Wishing you a year of productivity and creativity in 2013. Sidewalk art spotted by Darra in Mendocino, CA

Jennifer’s Modest Obsession

I’ve just been on a browse through my 2012 iPhoto collection and, perhaps, my sons are right:  I’m weirdly lunatic about some things. Do you know what makes me happy these days? Fruit and flowers, it’s really pretty simple. Perhaps when those sons of mine grow up enough to have offspring I’ll vary my subject matter, but for now, I’m sticking to Mother Nature. So, when asked to pull images for our collective post, these are the ones that fuel my creativity. I think they’re delicious—okay, amend that:  the steamy blue geothermal in Yellowstone National Park isn’t tasty. It’s malodorous.  I offer it here just because Nature delivers the most incredible pellucid blues.

Inspiration-J:  A passion for purpleBlue-violet anemones–wow!

Inspiration-J: Cherry bowlsFruits of the cherry harvest from Brentwood, California.

Inspiration-J:  Citrus fruit plateCitrusy deliciousness!

Inspiration-J:  Mineral pool Yellowstone National ParkI’ve never seen such incredible aqua blues outside of tropical waters–Yellowstone National Park is a wonder of wonders.

Inspiration-J:  Flowers from FloraliSeasonal flowers from Florali in Walnut Creek, California (click Florali’s sidebar to start the incredible seasonal flower show.)

Laura’s Musings

When I’m out and about and remember to bring my camera along, I find that I am most attracted to the variety of shapes I see in nature, architecture, flooring, and so on. I’m always looking to see if I might be able to translate what I see into a new quilt design, never knowing where I might find my next pattern opportunity. I might find it in a museum, while out hiking, or even strolling around my local shopping mall. Here are a few photos I have taken over the years and added to my “Inspiration” folder. The flower at the end was taken by my friend, Nelly Shrager. I had to include it because it is so rich in color inspiration.

wateringcanThis would make such a cute pieced and appliqued block.

smallrugI can see all kinds of inspiration in this colorful hooked rug.

wallartThis is inspiration for my “someday” applique project.

NeimanI can see a quilt design here–without the logo, of course!

L: Inspiration - Nelly4Simply gorgeous colors!

Darra’s Eclectic Album

My inspiration comes from so many sources. Here are just a few.

Hotel California, San Francisco

Architecture: interesting facades, doors, windows, and rooflines. This is the front of a hotel in downtown San Francisco called–no lie!–the Hotel California.

Chris's gold foliage

Autumn: One of nature’s most amazing palettes. This photo was taken last fall by my friend and co-author, Christine Porter, near her home in Bristol, UK.

Mendo found art_2“Serendipidous” art: I love to stumble upon art where I least expect it. Here, a crazy “quilt” mosaic tucked on the fringes of a garden in Mendocino, California.

Chimney Rock Trail_Pt Reyes_May 2010The sea: whether the open water or a quiet cove, always inspirational. Looking back on Drake’s Beach, Point Reyes National Seashore, California.

fabric_2Fabric: of course!

closer gate_cottage_mendoGateways: arches, garden gates, and other artful (and sometimes mysterious) forms of egress. I shot this passage to the sea on a foggy November morning on the Northern California coast.

We hope you’ve enjoyed this little bit of photographic inspiration. We’d love to know what inspires you. Please do leave a comment and let us know.

May your new year be happy, healthy…and creative!

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A Classic Revisited With A Virtual Log Cabin Quilt Show

In 1979, I took my first quilting class at Poppy Fabrics in Berkeley, CA. Little did I know how this class would change my life! Sharing my passion for quilts through teaching has been the icing on the cake. The Log Cabin block, shown in upper left corner of the sampler quilt below, was my very first piecing experience. My colors weren’t great and my fabrics were limited but I immediately fell in love with the process.

My first quilt. Made in a class at Poppy Fabrics in Berkeley, CA in 1979.
My first quilt. Made in a class at Poppy Fabrics in Berkeley, CA in 1979.

Since I started my online Craftsy class with a Log Cabin block, I thought it would be appropriate to share some history and images of some wonderful Log Cabin quilts.

I’ve always loved the traditional patterns as they are often my go-to for inspiration when I am looking to start a new quilt. Antique quilts are the ones that make my heart sing. I am fortunate enough to share the following images provided by Julie Silber of The Quilt Complex. I couldn’t agree more with Julie when she says “I have long believed that quilts, the work of hands, are among our richest tools in uncovering the lives and experiences of everyday women in an earlier America.” Please enjoy the following examples of antique American Log Cabin quilts.

Double Light and Dark Log Cabin, Unknown Maker, Probably Pennsylvania, Circa 1890. Made of wools.
Double Light and Dark Log Cabin, Unknown Maker, Probably Pennsylvania, Circa 1890. Made of wools.
Double LIght and Dark Log Cabin, 75" x 75". Unknown Maker, probably Pennsylvania, Circa 1880. Made of cottons and silks.
Double LIght and Dark Log Cabin, 75″ x 75″. Unknown Maker, probably Pennsylvania, Circa 1880. Made of cottons and silks.
Log Cabin, Light and Dark, 86" x 86". Pennsylvania circa 1880. Made of wool challis.
Log Cabin, Light and Dark, 86″ x 86″. Pennsylvania circa 1880. Made of wool challis.
Log Cabin, 40" x 40".  Unknown Maker, Pennsylvania Circa 1880. Made from wool challis.
Log Cabin, 40″ x 40″. Unknown Maker, Pennsylvania Circa 1880. Made from wool challis.
Log Cabin, Zig Zag or Lightening Streak. Found in Michigan, circa 1880. Made of cottons.
Log Cabin, Zig Zag or Lightening Streak. Found in Michigan, circa 1880. Made of cottons.
Log Cabin, Light and Dark, 35" x 35". Unknown Amish Quiltmaker. Holmes County, Ohio circa 1930. Made of cottons.
Log Cabin, Light and Dark, 35″ x 35″. Unknown Amish Quiltmaker. Holmes County, Ohio circa 1930. Made of cottons.

You can see that this easy-to-piece pattern translates into so many beautiful setting variations. It can be as simple or scrappy, traditional or contemporary as you like. Here is a quilt I made using the Offset Log Cabin block that I am demonstrating on Craftsy this month. I used one jelly roll of Terrain fabrics designed by Kate Spain for Moda fabrics. Because the strip widths vary, the blocks form a circular design when joined together. I named this pattern “Sweet Rolls” as it can be made from one 2-1/2″ wide jelly roll and one 1-1/2″ wide honey bun set. It is available on my website at www.lauranownes.com.

SweetRolls

Thank you to Julie for graciously allowing me to share the images of antique Log Cabins. Julie is one of the world’s most respected quilt experts and has been selling and lecturing on antique quilts since 1968. Please visit her website to learn more about her lectures, workshops and exhibits.

One final note: On Saturday, January 5, at 2 p.m., Shelly Zegart, Exec Producer and host of the series Why Quilts Matter: History, Art & Politics, and an expert at the forefront of quilt study for over three decades, will present a special program at the San Jose Museum of Quilts & Textiles, located at 520 South First Street, San Jose. Following a conversation with SJMQT Executive Director Christine Jeffers about the “Art of Collecting,” attendees will be treated to a viewing of WQM Episode 4: “What is Art?” A reception follows at 4 p.m., providing the perfect opportunity to “continue the conversation.” Tickets (including the reception) are $20 for museum members, $30 for non-members, and $15 for seniors and students. For more info, and to purchase your ticket(s) in advance, click here. To read Darra’s August 17 post about Why Quilts Matter, click here.

Kentucky Quilt #2, 64" x 76", made by Tom Pfannerstill, 1998, found cigarette packages on canvas. This unique interpretation of the traditional Log Cabin appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter: History, Art, and Politics.
Kentucky Quilt #2, 64″ x 76″, made by Tom Pfannerstill, 1998, found cigarette packages on canvas. This unique interpretation of the traditional Log Cabin appears in the documentary Why Quilts Matter: History, Art, and Politics.

Happy January everyone!

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Welcome 2013!

All of us at See How We Sew are excited to wish each of you a Joyous New Year. As we change our calendars, and put away the holiday decorations, we look ahead to a new year of creating and sharing with you.  Thank you for being such a supportive and caring audience.

L:craftsycardThe long-awaited day has finally arrived! What better way to kick off the new year than with a FREE block-of-the-month project? If you have never tried a block-of-the-month project, this is your opportunity to work along with me for the next several months to create a unique quilt top with a variety of blocks covering many of my favorite techniques, including y-seam construction, drafting, 45 and 60-degree angles, applique, and much more.

If you have been following my posts, you know that a few months ago I was asked to teach the 2013 Block of the Month class for Craftsy. Remember these wonderful dots from my last post?

I love these dots by Robert Kaufman fabrics.
I love these dots by Robert Kaufman fabrics.

Here is what I did with them.

BOMQuilt

My January lesson on making the Offset Log Cabin blocks is now available for viewing. Simply go to www.craftsy.com/2013bom and follow the steps to sign up. Remember, it is FREE. You can enjoy the lesson as many times as you want, whenever you want. Your access will never expire. There are also course materials available that include photos, diagrams, fabric requirements, and a supply list. Be sure to print your copies for easy reference while watching the first lesson.

I hope you will join me in the Craftsy classroom. If you decide to follow along, please be sure to post photos of your blocks so that everyone can enjoy seeing what you are working on.

I love the traditional Log Cabin block pattern and will share a few variations with you in my Friday post. Be sure to check back. In the meantime, thank you to so many of you for the kind words of encouragement.

Congratulations to Kathie L., the winner of a Free class on Craftsy.

Happy New Year everyone!

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