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Documenting

Historians and conservators of textiles admonish those of us who quilt to label our quilts with our names, dates, and place. I try to do this, making the label for the quilt when I finish the top—using up bits and pieces of the quilt top to frame the label. Since my hand-writing is not so neat, I use the word processor in a nice font (Lucida Hand-writing is my favorite), print it, and then trace the information on the prepared label.

But then there are the photographs and in this digital age, documenting virtually.

Here is a vintage spiderweb I quilted this past month during quarantine. It has a huge variety of types of fabrics, precisely pieced but so lumpy and bumpy it was hard to quilt in any sort of pattern and so it has wavy lines. But it is now finished and bound.

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I have no information about the original stitcher; she had an incredible amount of scraps, perhaps she was a professional seamstress like one of my great-grandmothers.

Here is one I pieced many years ago and this past year quilted it. The older fabrics are so soft.

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the pattern is more or less a snowball with rail fence blocks. I think I started it in a guild workshop many years ago.

And finally here is a Bonnie Hunter mystery quilt from a couple years ago called Good Fortune. Her quilts are all scrappy but I used a controlled palette as my life at the time was too unsettled to hunt for the proper colors. All of these fabrics are related to birds.

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Yesterday I spent my afternoon piecing backs for the remaining tops. there are three more backings ready. It does feel like a real job these days, but a job that I can look back on and see progress.

It seems like a real job

With all of this quarantine and flattening the curve activities, I have worked on reducing the pile of quilt tops to just needing binding. The stack was huge as one of the hardest things was basting. That involved clearing the dining room table, pulling out binder clips and popsicle sticks to mark the center of the table and stabbing myself with the safety pins or trying to reach the center of the table to stitch—–or finding a gym floor, taping the back to the floor and crawling around the floor with a spoon in one hand and a needle and thread in the other.

But then I was lucky enough to get a Gammill quilting machine. Basting is no longer much of a chore.

That machine lives about five miles away from me; my garden in raised beds is there as well along with a thriving apiary of five hives, and maybe four more from splits we took this spring.

Each morning I drive out to the shop; do a bit of house/yard maintenance and then work on the quilt in the frame. I mostly do pantographs…patterns I follow with a laser light from the back of the machine; but I have also tried doing some ruler work–just to see if I could.

I can do one of these in a morning; and then home for lunch and a bit of sewing and Netflix and maybe a walk in the neighborhood and a phone call or two.

It has begun to feel like a real job. But that stack is steadily diminishing and the binding stack is threatening to topple over.

Here is one of the Quilts of Valor

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and another one

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And because I seem to never be able to read all the instructions for an exchange in a group I am in—I make them the first week or so but then more rules emerge and I end up keeping all of my exchange— this was two—those triangles and some four patches

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Sorry for the lighting; I have not figured out a way to photo them except hanging over the rails of the quilting machine frame; there is a large window overlooking a huge field behind me–where I can sometimes see egrets flying over head and the neighbor’s helicopter.

Gardenias and fences

gardenia-mLast night one of our neighbors called to discuss a common fence line between us and an apartment complex behind us. They have dogs—as do we—and we are grateful they are not upset when our dogs find an opossum in our yard and feel they must alert us. And then they also feel obligated to notify us of bicyclists, joggers, walkers, other dogs, and the UPS truck and so forth.

I was thinking of neighbors and some of the neighbors we have had in the past; there was the strange woman who created huge sculptures out of paper in their converted garage studio, the ones who shared a fenceline and thought our evening meal of fried rice/leftovers smelled wonderful, the neighbor who wanted us to save him the Sunday paper for the coupon for cigarettes, and the neighbors who greeted us with a pot of coffee, orange juice, and doughnuts on our first day in our current home.

Although I had read about gardenias, I had never seen one in real life and had no lidea what the plant/bush/shrub/tree looked like.

But in Augusta Georgia that claimed to be a garden city (not many gardens there like there are in Wisconsin), there were a lot of plants around our house. One huge bush was by the corner of a small screened in porch that I claimed as my sewing room. The porch was unheated and not cooled but I still left the doors open so the scent of that jasmine/gardenia could flow through the house.

The house we live in now has many plantings from the original owner. Remnants of a green house attached to the garage indicated an active gardener and every spring we enjoy snowdrops and jonquils along with azaleas and later on crepe myrtles. A few have died out, but there was no gardenia. I planted a miniature variety in the front yard several years ago. It has weathered hurricanes, snow, and freezing temperatures.

The scent is not as strong as that of the one in Georgia but it is enough to give delight.

Flattening the hill (curve)

buttercu5b-mThe Dukes of Hazzard was a popular television serial while I was in my residency in Augusta Georgia.   Georgia was a very different place than the Midwest; I quickly learned to ask if alcohol was government label or not. And the little rural hospital I moon-lighted in lent its ambulance to the movie producers for one of the Smokey and the Bandit movies.

We lived outside the city limits in a lovely suburb named Vineland. It was bordered by the highway, the Masters Golf Course, Forest Hills Golf Course and a huge cemetery. Masters Week was always a nightmare with traffic and people from out of state who all left their diabetes and blood pressure medications at home. Tickets were at a premium and were something named in wills. The golf course is as lovely as it looks on television; the only thing the course cannot control is sunlight.

Now that we are all admonished to stay home so we can ‘flatten the curve’, I am reminded of those Dukes of Hazzard; well-intentioned but making up their own rules as to what is right.The internet is flooded by ‘hints’ about how to make masks….people thinking the masks will protect them against the virus—masks are designed to protect OTHERS from the wearer.

While I am very much limiting social contact…no shopping…no travel… a few walks in the neighborhood, I see grocery store parking lots as full as if it was Black Friday shopping days; liquor stores and comic stores considering themselves ‘essential’. but then we can all read about the 50 years since Apollo 13 and be amazed at the ingenuity of NASA engineers.

peach-mToday is Easter Sunday; a day celebrated with joy and family and friends and special meals. While all of us wonder when all of this will be over and we can return to ‘normal’ with work and play and museums and movies and family gatherings, perhaps we can take courage from nature—male cardinals whistle for mates in the trees outside our front door, the crepe myrtles have fully leafed out, the peach tree that turned out to be an apricot tree has two small apricots, the satsuma is covered with tiny fruits, the tomato plant  is growing taller, all in ignorance of the pandemic. Next year they will do the same.

Stitching Away

As a person of exceptionally high risk, I’ve been very much confined to house; a few outdoor walks around the neighborhood, and some time at what my husband calls my playhouse—an old rice farmer’s house in the country that has not had other people inside for over two years—so I think I’m okay there. Most of my artwork is stored there along with some art supplies and my Gammill quilting machine. I’ve been working away at reducing the number of tops to be quilted…..basting was one of the hardest parts until that Gammill—now even small pieces are basted on that wonderful piece of machinery.

But I digress.

Evenings are spent watching some sort of movie (if the internet is down) or Netflix or Amazon prime. I usually do some handwork, putting on bindings and labels or prepping hexies (done with that for awhile) or hand-piecing. But this past month I’ve been working on some hand stitched portraits in a class with Sue Stone.

Here they are:

img_3684-mThis is on walnut dyed hemp. Husband took this photo of me perched on the side of the fireplace in the cabin where we lived when first married. One nice thing about doing these stitched portraits is that wrinkles disappear–not that I had any at 22.

img_3685-m She was the ward clerk in a small rural hospital

img_3686-m husband’s cousin, a nurse, working the virus; photo lifted from the internet

img_3687-mbaby picture of me at one year of age

I haven’t watched the videos for the next assignment; the other students in the class have been posting some quite spectacular stuff. Although hand-work is not my forte; this has stretched me—first in looking for suitable subjects and the backgrounds and then in the renderings. It has been a fun adventure. I’m planning to mount all of these on stretcher bars.

 

Bunnies and ducks and a bear

One of the things my mother did well was embroider. She spent many hours in the backyard of her girlhood home embroidering with her best friend from next door. Somehow I ended up with these embroidered little creatures. I scanned the embroideries, resized and printed on some cardstock to send to my grandchildren.

The  cards were definitely not perfectly printed but then this is an experiment and a learning curve for me.

Those embroidered creatures were in an old enveloped marked Mautz paint; Dad was a painter and used their paints preferentially for his work in painting houses and barns. He far preferred barns and one year he painted the fairground buildings and the Catholic church; he didn’t like houses because ladies always had their pretty flowers planted around the sides and he was supposed to move his ladders so as to not disturb the plantings.

Here are the three embroideries I chose for Easter cards for my grands.

 

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I did learn a few things with this project; rotate the pieces before uploading; smugmug has a nice editor but photoshop elements is far more robust. I also learned I needed to change to print size to much large to keep all the image on the print-out. The cards are printed; waiting for me to write a little note to each grand=child and then to pop them in our mailbox to send on their way.

 

Twelve Tricks

While doing this quarantine thing, I have been spending a great deal of time with Vivian.

Not to worry, though. Vivian is a Vision 2.0 Gammill quilting machine named after my grandmother. She and I have been working together for a couple of years now and I have learned a lot and picked up a few ideas along the way.

Most of what I am doing now would be classified as utilitarian in nature and mostly pantographs (quilting patterns), I also will do some basting–no more bending over the dining room table or crawling around on the floor; and a few art quilts.

  1. Stencil Brush and regular paint brush. I use the stencil brush to clean the lint from the bobbin carrier; the regular paint brush to clean the rollers and the track (although the air compressor my sweet husband bought me works better and faster except for the bobbin carrier–too hard to hold onto it in that blast of air)stencil20brush-m
  2. a white index card or a sheet of typing paper folded in fourths held behind the needle is helpful in threading dark thread against a dark quiltwhite20paper-m
  3. I pin to the top roller, roll slowly and carefully while standing in the middle of the bar and straightening the wrinkles as I go. I then roll slowly back onto the bottom bar. I was taught to pin to bottom, roll up on bottom, then pin to top but I ended up rolling it back and forth several times to be sure it was wrinkle free. This method works much better.
  4. I leave the backing under tension; drape the batting over the backing along with the top all over night. This takes a bit more time but I have not had any wrinkles in the backing using this method. And I am not ironing a backing that might have a few wrinkles in it from being folded.batting20draped20over20backing20and20top-m
  5. I make a small clip in the backing’s mid points to assist in pinning to the leaders. In the past I used a pin but then had to figure out what to do with that small sewing pin–the ones used to pin to the leaders would fall out.
  6. I measure each top and pin the measurements to the top; I can measure my pieces of backing and know which piece I can use and how to orient the top on the frame.
  7. I leave a four to five inch length of top thread when I invariably run out of bobbin thread in the middle or worse–only three inches away from the end of a row. That thread is easier to find when restarting.
  8. I mark the end of the pantograph with a piece of white plastic–it could be a piece of paper; I use a long straight edge to mark the top of the pantograph when filling in a partial row at the end of the quilt—that long straight edge is the top covering for window blinds but a regular yardstick would also work.end20of20pantograph-m
  9. Vivian does not mind jogging in place or even just standing still while I figure out where I am in the pantograph; she is incredibly patient.
  10. It is okay to write notes on the pantograph–some do not have top of the pattern marked, some start in odd places. That pattern is a piece of paper—write on it!
  11. Practice good posture while working; stand up straight; take breaks–Vivian will wait for you—and still smile at you when you come back.
  12. Don’t step on the electrical cord; it’s like putting your foot on the brake while revving the engine (if that can be done). you are just not going any where.

That’s all I can think of right now. Like a lot of things, there are things you do automatically and don’t even consider but make your tasks much easier.

I have been steadily whittling down the backload of quilt tops while under quarantine. I work on quilting nearly every day; while I am mostly doing pantographs, I think any time spent with a tool to be totally comfortable with its use makes future projects easier. While I have completed some art pieces with Vivian, the majority have been bed covers—but that is okay. I am having fun—my only limitation was backing and batting—but thanks to my wonderful long arm shop, I got in two cases of batting—….it’s easier for me to manage pieces of batting instead of cutting off hunks from a huge roll…yes, I know it is more expensive but I save on frustration and not crawling on the floor to cut off a piece.

If those of you who have long arms and more experience than me—are there things you do that improve your work or make things easier? I’d enjoy hearing!

And here is yesterday’s completed quilt—ready to join the binding queue.

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yes, nearly all music themed fabrics; about 74 by 86 with a black backing covered with white musical notes.

Yellow flowers and Tomatoes

yellow20flower-mWe live in an old house that is now over 100 years old. It was built to withstand hurricanes and so far with the exception of a few roof tiles being blown off, has done just fine. It was also the home of a gardener.

There were the remains of a green house built onto the side of the garage but the grounds are filled with jonquils and snowdrops and crepe myrtles.

Then there are these little yellow trumpet flowers. They litter the front sidewalk like petals strewn in front of a bride—now days that is Dora happily doing her daily job of fetching the newspaper. We always looked to see where those flowers came from.

Now we have found another location for those flowers–the backyard where the vine has taken over one crepe myrtle and is vying for space with the wisteria.wisteria-m

And in other news, I ventured out …cautiously….to Tractor Supply to get some tomato plants and one bell pepper plant. Hopefully the plants are what the outside sign said they were, people tend to pick up things and put them back in the closest spot rather than the proper one—but they are indeed tomato and pepper plants—and if successful we’ll be quite happy.

No photo of them–they are hiding on the front porch in the shade awaiting transplant later today.

 

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Peas and Lettuce and a Lemon Tree

Being of Midwestern stock and of the rural variety, a garden was a regular part of life. Each January the seed catalogs would appear, brightening up the dull gray, white and black of the outdoors to visions of summer with outdoor activities not associated with loads of extra clothing. We tended to forget the mud season otherwise known as mud season and of seasonal floods with wagers about whether or not Stark’s Sporting store would flood again this year.

Everyone planned their garden about the same way, a row of zinnias (they grew fast) and marigolds (to keep away the rabbits and deer) and then tomatoes and carrots and lettuce and peas and sweet corn and green beans and squash or pumpkins. Maybe one or two experimental vegetables that looked so fun in the catalog

Now on the Gulf Coast of Texas it has taken me awhile to adjust to our four season gardening. Lettuce was planted in December and was slow to sprout but now I have it in abundance. lettuce-m

Peas were planted in January–had to plant twice, the seeds kept coming to the top of the soil. There isn’t enough to make a meal but as garnishes and as dippers for the spinach dip I made the other day, perfect

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And then there is the lemon tree

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This little tree produced a dozen lemons the first year and we were delighted; the next year triple that and since then so many lemons.

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The blossoms this year are plentiful and fill the air with a delightful scent—the bees are working that tree along with the clover—plenty of honey to process in the near future.

 

Cherries and a Pear

Two months ago (seems like a lifetime ago) I did some monoprinting with paint to make several small pieces of cherries and pears. I embellished these pieces with embroidery and applique. They are now all mounted, photographed, and ready for purchase. I was thrilled to sell one of the pears at the recent quilt show.

So here they are. If you are interested–these are in a 10 by 12 mat in a cellophane sleeve. (I took them out of the sleeve to avoid glare)

It was a fun project and a technique I’d like to re-visit.

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