Tuesday, December 16, 2014

Two quilts for KHOI

KHOI Community Radio is where I've put a lot of energy in the past couple of years. You could say my radio reporting has kept me out of trouble--or almost, anyway. Last month we had a fund drive with two matching donors providing $2500 each. Today, I presented quilts for them to the station. I wanted to make sure they felt the love.

Sharing the love is what our community radio station does best (KHOI = "Heart of Iowa").

Here is the blue quilt, unfurled. I made it out of an assortment of scrappy antique blocks a friend bought at an auction decades ago. Most of the fabrics were from old work clothes. Some were a little stained.

My design wall--such as it is--was in use, so there was very little "designing" going on when I stitched the outer border. "It is what it was"--?

Here is the back, made of "Silver Lining" and "Rich Navy" (almost a charcoal) from Connecting Threads.

Here is the blue quilt with its new owner (note there is a quilt--not mine--on the wall in the background. We are a quilt-loving community!)

Here is the Temperance-block quilt unfurled (you may recall I had quite a spat with this quilt).

Lessons: I like working "crazy" with premade blocks. I like the indigo palette. I like the effect of embroidery on a quilt. Sometimes it's not so bad just piecing and patching without thought of the "final composition". Sometimes those quilts turn out better than the ones you fuss over.

Now, on to my "Christmas projects". Gee whiz, I have a whole 9 days! (good planning, Greta).

Monday, December 8, 2014

100 blocks

I learned the week before Thanksgiving that my cousin has cancer. He is 10 years older than me and has a loving family of five kids and five little grandkids. Besides that he is the kind of guy who spends his early retirement (he was successful) visiting prisoners. The concurrent chemo-radiation therapy he will be undergoing starting tomorrow is said to be a knockout punch but potentially effective. So I've been sewing him a quilt to hang around the house with.

Today I finished it.

I totally cribbed the design from a Pinterest pin that traces back to Dr. Linda at Sew E. T.

I loved the simplicity, rhythm, and use of different solids in her quilt. I went cool with my neutrals, using a parchment white (has everyone been reading the wonderful discussion of neutrals by Freshly Pieced here and here?) and grays more than tan. I thought the cools would set off the primary colors I was using better (including Connecting Threads' beautiful "Patriot blue").

The idea behind the quilt is: 100 blocks for 100% recovery. And, while Linda called her quilt "Which Direction?" I interpreted the design as sorting out the good cells from the bad. Out with the bad, in with the good.

The quilt contains a bunch of patches from my husband's Hawaiian camp-style shirts. My cousin, who lives far away in California, also loves to sport a good Hawaiian print.

The back is simple. There will be good days and bad.

It's in the mail now. If only a person could do more.

UPDATE: My cousin is cancer free! The family celebrated his complete recovery with a big bash. I could not go, but my brother and family, who lives a couple of hours from them in California, did. Yay!

Wednesday, November 26, 2014

Quilt top makeover!

My quilt has gone from *blah*

to *bedazzled*!

I love how the centerpiece imparts a kind of tribal look. This quilt is intended for a large matching donor for our recent KHOI Community Radio fund drive (who is also a composer / musician).

I've also been working with this mystery antique block. Anyone know its name? (Update: thank you CJ, it is "Album Block" or "Chimney Sweep".)

Since I have 12 of them, I thought they'd make a good centerpiece, but I changed my mind: too white, too uneventful. The other blocks I am mixing them with are so rich and storied--some person more than 50 years ago pieced together these triangles as the fabric became available, from old clothes. So I'm using the crazy blues, grays, and blacks as the centerpiece and outer border, and the uneventful light-toned mystery blocks will make an inner border. This is what I've got so far. A work in progress (and another KHOI donor thank-you quilt)!
I always say green is my favorite color, but there's nothing quite so satisfying to me as working with blue.

Monday, November 24, 2014

Distract. Distract.

My antique Temperance block rescue is on the long-arm. I quilted about a foot before the thread ran out. Tension is so tricky that I wanted to use the same brand, but when my order arrived, it looked awfully different. What color did I use to begin with anyway? Cream? White? (I had thought Antique.) So I'm in for another round of wait-for-the-postman.

In the meantime, I decided I hate the quilt. Look at it from a distance. Ugh. Dead on arrival. I fell into a puling funk... (ask my husband)

To distract myself, I made some holiday gifts (hotpads? mug rugs?) out of other antique blocks.

I added a few ideas to my crazy quilt.

And I started a second antique block rescue quilt. This one will have a wide, crazy-patched inner border, mostly in darks:

At the end of the night, I decided I could applique more geese (antique scraps) to the front of my Temperance block quilt.

...and add some red here and there. It's not going to be easy with the quilt on the frame, but (I tell myself) it will be worth it. Wish me luck.

(Update here)

Sunday, November 9, 2014

Another antique block rescue UPDATE

Anyone know the name of this block?
I "inherited" 21 of them, from the same source as the antique Dresden blocks. They are hand-stitched, under who knows what conditions; the puckering in the piece above was common to pretty much all the blocks. The shapes and the French blue color somehow remind me of war, peace, and Europe.
However, the stitcher had another weighty issue on her mind: drunkenness and the damage it did to women's lives. According to librarian/quilter Nann, who left a comment below, and verified in this article by Barbara Brackman, this is the 4-T or "Capital T" block standing for temperance. The recipient of the quilt will love it! The only aesthetic preferences he gave were "not too much of anything." How perfect!
How to make them into a quilt? My first priority is to combine the blocks with this very sweet Dianthus print I picked up at Joann's at a steep discount. I bought 5 yards at less than $4 a yard (using a 25%-off-my-entire-purchase coupon, on top of a 30% discount on calicos! If you sewists out there missed that deal, you were sleeping!)
But how to match the "outspoken" block with the rather delicate print? Here's a layout I've come up with. I have an idea for the central cross section (more flying geese?) and for the five remaining blocks, but I'm letting it rest for the moment (for one thing, I need a source for antique white fabric!--I'm about to use up the old pillowcase I've been using). Do you think I need something more, an applique, in the white space around the peach center squares--or will fancy quilting fill the role?

Meanwhile, on my design wall (as opposed to my design floor), I have this crazy quilt beginning, measuring about 40" by 40"
My mom thinks it looks like a story quilt, as it has "narrative" elements like this toile lovers' scene
and this Japanese scene (my mom once had a dress made of this fabric):
but as for the story itself, I'm happy to let others' imaginations fill the gap.

Saturday, October 18, 2014

"It is what it is": antique Dresden plate finish!

"It is what it is." Not my favorite saying, especially since my favorite uncle, who I always considered wise, started using this phrase glibly in relation to just about everything around the time of my father's death 7 years ago.

But, sometimes, the saying fits. This antique Dresden plate rescue is what it is.

First, I ran out of indigo fabric. Then, I ran out of blue. Then, I ran out of blocks. I had 19. Nineteen is divisible by nothing. So I made a ghost block with 19 petals, just like the 19 other blocks had:

The blocks as I received them were not well behaved. They did not lay flat. I had to redo most of the seams before appliqueing them onto my background. Some of the original fabric was even stained:

You might ask: Why put so much effort into something that is irredeemably damaged?

You might ask: If you are going to put so much effort into a quilt, why not plan ahead or at least search for fabrics that match to make your background uniform?

You might well ask.

But I would answer, "It is what it is." And I would be right.

The beautiful art of old children's books

I'm in Columbus, Ohio, at my childhood home, helping my mom "detach" from some of her material possessions in preparation to move to a retirement condo downtown next year.

In the basement I ran across some musty old children's books that I had to scan and share! These are beautifully illustrated and conceived books. I hope to make quilts based on them some day. There's the amazing "Dinosaur Comes to Town" (1963), illustrated by Art Seiden:

(All the woodland animals panic about the arrival of the "meat-eating dinosaur", who proceeds through town to the local diner and orders up 60 million hamburgers.)
And then there's the beautiful art of Virginia Parsons, from the out-of-copyright book, Snow (1962). I would love to make a crib quilt of these 4 joyful images!
(Here's a nice blog post about Virginia Parson's companion book, Rain.)
Finally, there was the book Little Peewee, or "Now Open the Box", illustrated by one J. P. Miller in 1948. Here's Peewee with the kind-hearted circus impresario:
The book features all the characters at the circus. This is the one I remember from childhood (surely I identified with the little bruiser!)
Peewee the tiny dalmation grows... and grows... and eventually gets kicked out of the circus because he's no longer unusual (nobody's happy about that. This is the nadir in the classic comic storyline):
But... Peewee continues growing... and then...

I just love these pictures and their color palettes and wonder how I could incorporate them into my quilting.
I've worked on the Dresden plate quilt here at home. Stay tuned for a finish!

Monday, October 13, 2014

Security blankets

Who remembers their baby blanket? I remember mine. Like Linus, I dragged it around til it was tattered. It had a satin edge I would slide deliciously against my cheek. By the time I was 3, that ratty "blankie" was receiving a lot of scorn from my parents. One day I announced that I was done with it, and my mother and I ritualistically stuffed it in the aluminum trash can together.

A kaleidoscope "baby blanket" that I made for myself in my mid-thirties when my decision not to have children felt like an abstract, yet poignant sacrifice.

A baby blanket can serve as a transitional object for kids (or adults!), helping them to cope when they are separated from their primary attachments. This past weekend my husband and I did respite for a foster family raising two toddlers, age 2 and 3. The baby girl really needed her red blanket at night. As a blanket, it was nothing special, but it was hers.

There's something about The Familiar that informs our notion of The Beautiful. Perhaps that's why quilts of our own old clothes are so appealing. Early in the weekend I decided to lay down the beautiful (and perfectly seasonal!) lap quilt Zenia gave me

as a diaper-changing pad for the kids. They took right to it. It became part of the new ritual. It certainly sheltered their bottoms from the cold, hard linoleum floor of our kitchen.

Hosting these kids increased my resolve to sew up the blocks my previous foster daughter, B., had stitched. I planned the layout on the fly--I had a 2-year-old sitting on my lap and a 3-year-old shoving blocks into my hands--but I like how it turned out.

B. had chosen such bright, fun fabrics. I chose another bright pattern for the back, by Jennifer Paganelli (I have no idea why this beautiful paisley was retailing for $4.95 on fabric.com. What a steal!). It features royal blue, B's favorite color and the color I used for the binding.

I mailed the quilt off to B.'s social worker today. B. has been in several homes since ours, followed by her many tubs of junk mementoes that serve as her transitional objects. I hope she enjoys having these familiar fabrics back in her life. Wherever her difficult journey takes her, she will have the pleasure of having made her own, bright, beautiful security blanket.

stitch by stitch

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Around the World Blog Hop

Hi! My name is Greta. I was tagged for the Around the World Blog Hop by Zenia at A Quilted Passion. Thanks for the tag Zenia--and thanks for making the trip across two time zones to come visit me here in Iowa this past weekend! If you haven't already visited her blog spot, be sure to do so.

The Around the World Blog Hop is kind of like a chain letter except it's w/blogs on the internet.  It's a great opportunity to meet and learn about other bloggers.  When tagged, the tag-ee has to acknowledge who tagged them, answer 4 questions and then tag 1-3 different bloggers. 

So here goes...

What am I working on?
The biggest excitement around here is last week's purchase of a Go! Baby Accuquilt Cutter. The dies I chose were an equilateral triangle and a diamond, which I thought would be a star quilt (45-degree) diamond, but which turned out to be a tumbling block (60-degree) diamond. Three-way hexie seams, here we come!

Instead of tumbling blocks and hexies, however, I decided to start off by using the diamond shapes in an Arkansas Traveler's block. This one is 17 x 17". Imagine dozens of these pieced together into a large bed quilt.

The other excitement is getting back in touch with my niece in California. Her 8th birthday is approaching, and while our families have been on a 2-yr planned hiatus to repair wounded feelings (is your family this way?), I am thrilled to celebrate her October 14 birthday with a creation from my sewing room.

Of course, no girly outfit is complete without one for her doll, so today I will be sewing up this pattern in the same fabric. (As I type, I am tea-dying the eyelet to match the cream petticoat, as I did for my niece's skirt.)

How could you characterize my work?
I'm mostly inspired by nature and color; for instance, the "Arkansas Traveler" block above reminds me of the beautiful blues, browns and grays of an Iowa winter. I've inherited a lot of my fabrics from my mother or for projects like the 9/11 Quilt-In (In 2002 and 2003 we sent quilts to war refugees in Afghanistan as a kind of protest of the militant patriotism that developed around that date.) My mom is a fabric artist, so I have the built-in imperative to be original and not follow the trends too closely. Then again, I love the new "maker" movements as expressed in both fabrics and foods and have contributed to it by making double-sided aprons for my local natural foods coop, under my Locally Stitched label:

Why do I write/create what I do?
I call my blog "Material Detachment" because I had tons of fabric in my sewing room that I wanted to detach from / create with in a mindful way. Part of these were scraps from apron-making, part other people's "white elephants". So I got started a year ago. I enjoy the attention I get from blogging, since my regular paid work (editing scientific manuscripts) as well as most of my hobbies are solitary. Last year I was also foster parenting, and it was great to have a way to share that journey with readers.

How does my writing/creative process work?
I typically load up my eyeballs on Pinterest (you can follow my Patchwork board here), keeping in mind where my quilts are destined and what fabrics I will use, then choose a pattern or idea and figure out how to make it, either from other blogs or just by looking. I like to meditate on the person for whom I am making something as I plan and design. Then, during the long middle of making, I listen to books on tape (my latest is Lawrence in Arabia, whew!). Some of my quilts have interesting stories, like this one:

I hope you enjoy your visit to my blog and find inspiration for your own creative process.

Now, hop on over to visit this quilter in Great Britain!

Lisa at The Quilting Bird

Fresh Poppy Design