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 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

Sunday, October 5, 2014

Petticoat Junction

My weekend with Zenia is almost over.  We've had a great time. She stitched a diaper bag for her expecting daughter (I added the PUL wet bag),

stitched an apron for herself,

and quilted two quilt tops for a friend on my longarm (which I must say, did not behave that well). She graciously adopted about 24 pounds of unwanted fabric and used my fabric in her creations! My fabric room is breathing a sigh of relief. Also a sigh because things are feeling more organized. Zenia has helped with that, too, giving me incentive to look for things and not give up.

I found a box of pins that has been in deep hiding. We needed those pins! I also found the Anna Maria Horner cotton voile (French for "veil" or fine, light-sheer fabric), and stitched up this tiered skirt for my niece.

It has a fitted yoke with zipper / button closure

and a petticoat!

To match the cream color of the lining and the fabric, I dyed the eyelet with tea.

I've been drinking a lot of tea with Zenia. So nice to share small things with a friend.

Friday, October 3, 2014

AQS Quilt Show with Zenia!

My friend Zenia has arrived from Phoenix for a weekend of sewing and quilting. We have known each other one year, ever since we started our quilt blogs and started commenting on each other's logs . We went straight from the airport to the AQS quilt show in Des Moines.

Here she is with the first quilt that caught our eye (a blue ribbon winner):

Here's a close up of the dots making up the quilt's aboriginal feel. All appliqued (whew).

There were a lot of photo-transfer collages. My mom, Deborah Melton Anderson (her website), pioneered this technique (so why don't I use it more? I love these quilts).

The one below had a political message. It was about children of the canneries, and integrated quotes from historical sources. Why not a quilt about today's sweatshops!?? (I'm on it!)

This next one is not a photo transfer. It is simply an amazing quilt, called "Prairie Song" by someone from Wisconsin. Lots of plaids in the bird (my husband says this is a meadowlark).

A detail of "Prairie Song":

Photo-like representation using values was very "hot". Here's a closeup of some piggies from a barnyard montage. See the Kaffe Fassett fabrics? (Note also that these are happy pigs, not like the ones going into a hog concentration camp 1 mile from me.)

The author was selling patterns for all of the barnyard animals (chickens, cats, dogs, lambs, etc.) for $89.99. Can you imagine? You can find values to any picture simply by using the "Posterize" function on your phone. Here's Zenia, posterized:

I could make a quilt of Zenia. Or of my dog Teddy. Here's someone else's dog, a detail from a beautiful Japanese quilt.

Poppies were also popp-ular:

(Have some goldfish with your poppies).

My friend Doris Brunnette from the Des Moines Area Modern Quilters Guild won the first place for modern quilts. Way to go, Doris!

Many more quilts were seen and loved. A good time was had by all. And yes, I did buy something. More about that in the next post.

Wednesday, October 1, 2014

Baby girl fever

I sent off the baby girl quilt yesterday, but I have caught baby girl fever.

I finally took down from its hook this dress...

which had hung on the hook for about a year and a half, needing only 20 minutes of handwork to complete. Finally, I had a destination in mind. A few weeks ago I ran into a friend who works as a teacher at Head Start, and discussed the possibility of volunteering there. So I finished the dress at the library and gave it to her partner to take home with a follow-up note. Some little girl will get a special surprise tomorrow. And maybe I'll get to meet her one day!


Meanwhile, the most special baby girl in my life--my niece--is turning 8 in two weeks. Ahem! No longer a baby! I looked through my stash for the purple Anna Maria Horner challis I bought a while back. But my stash is in utter disarray and the Anna Maria has gone missing! I did find this lively, light-weight Indian cotton:

(That would look great in a below-the-knees tiered skirt...but is she old enough to appreciate black and white?) I also found this pinkish challis from Kaffe Fassett:

(I have enough for a dress, and it really should be a dress, but I've heard my niece is into skirts.)

Will she find the Anna Maria Horner? Will she make a skirt of each fabric? Tune in next time as this blogger solves (or doesn't solve) the mystery of the disappearing purple fabric! Or completes (or doesn't complete) the endless work-in-progress of straightening out and sewing up the fabric in her sewing room.