December 31, 2015

Darn It! - Creative Mending

This post about creative mending is in honor of my personal New Year's tradition of mending everything I can during this week.  (I don't just do sewing mends, but I'm not going to tell you here about the new seat in my bentwood rocker and stuff like that.)  I like the symbolism of starting the year with a clean slate.  Or mostly clean slate.  I'm coming to terms with the reality that Life is never fully mended....

A short while ago, my blog was mentioned on a site called "Sew Mama Sew" - nice name, huh?  The article is called "All About Textile Repair: How to Repair with Stitching".  The theme is about making repairs that add something new - sparks of color, whimsy, a new design element, etc.

The photos in the article show loads of ways to use darning, sashiko stitching, and the like.  It looks really fun!  It makes me reminisce about the good ol' hippie days, when jeans were patched/embellished with colorful fabrics and embroidery.

December 22, 2015

More About Conversation Prints

The previous post is about a 1940s hexagon quilt that has opened my eyes to mid-century conversation prints.  Barbara Brackman in her book Clues in the Calico defines conversation (aka conversational) prints as prints with recognizable objects other than flowers.

There are conversation prints from the late 1800s onward.  Brackman distinguishes the 20th century prints as less detailed and having more colors than the 19th century prints.  I would add that they tend to be very whimsical.

While poking around for info on these fabrics, I discovered a book that I think is going on my wish list:  Conversational Prints: Decorative Fabrics of the 1950s by Joy Shih

Here's a look back at some other blog posts of quilts I've repaired that I now realize have some very fun conversation prints:

December 21, 2015

The Joy of Conversation Prints

I recently repaired a 1940s hexagon quilt.  It was made by the owner's mother when she was a teen.  It's a smallish quilt, quite likely made for a twin bed.  There are cottons, rayons, and also, I think, a couple of silks.  It's what is generally called a summer quilt because it has no batting.  It needed several hexagons patched and a whole new back.

To be honest, this mid-century period is just not my favorite design-wise.  This is true of the fabrics and colors in the quilts as well as furniture design, and so on.  In other words, when an estate sale is full of supposedly exciting mid-century items, I usually don't go.

But this quilt taught me that I actually do like some of the fabrics from this era!  This is a good thing, since quilts of this age are coming to me more and more often for repair.

I am in love with conversation prints!  The most succinct definition of conversation (aka conversational) prints I've found (Barbara Brackman's Clues in the Calico) is that they have renditions of recognizable objects other than flowers.

December 18, 2015

Favorite Quotes #11 - So Many Truths

Musings as we spin from the old year to the new one.....

I've liked this quote for many, many years.  It is from Letters to a Young Poet by Rainer Maria Rilke.

" patience towards everything in your heart that has not been resolved and to try to cherish the questions themselves....  Do not hunt for the answers just now -- they cannot be given to you because you cannot live them.  What matters is to live everything.  And you must now live the questions.  One day perhaps you will gradually and imperceptibly live your way into the answer. "

December 8, 2015

Indigo Baskets

Indigo and white quilts are clear and clean, always eye-catching.  And the basket block always has such a lovely, old-timey feel.

This one, besides having such a lovely look, has the date quietly embroidered in the center block: 1888.

November 23, 2015

Eye-Popping Pickle Dish Quilt

A customer sent me photos of this lovely, lovely Pickle Dish quilt, curious about how to deal with the differential fading of the navy fabric.

November 19, 2015

Renaissance Gown

I made a Renaissance-style gown for myself.  I belong to a little group that plays for English country dancers (as seen at any ball you've seen in movies of Jane Austen novels).  When we play for the Christmas Madrigal feast at one of our member's churches, we go in costume.

When I make costumes, I always start with the internet.  I found some great illustrations for style inspiration.

Then I went resale shopping.  I decided to combine a maroon velvet jumper, a nicely patterned navy tablecloth, and a woven blue decorator fabric scrap for trim.  I much prefer having a base piece of clothing or two to start with than working totally from scratch.

November 12, 2015

Sunburst Quilt


I love this quilt! 

The blocks are c. 1860.  And some of the fabrics were in pretty bad shape.

Then some 120 years later, in 1980, the circles were set into squares and the quilt was backed and quilted.  That event is recorded in embroidery on the back of the quilt:
“Quilted: 1980  Carversville Pa”

November 6, 2015

A Quilt from a Galaxy Far, Far Away

For the past few years, I've been creating a quilt series called Something From Nothing.  These are generally just-for-fun, design experiments.  In addition, I've been making a more major piece, like this one, each year as my entry for the Fine Art of Fiber show.  (More info on Something From Nothing: intro to the series and quilts of 2015.  Previous fiber show entries: Cleopatra's Fan 2014 and What the Birds See 2013.)

The title of the quilt is Gas Giant.  No, this is not Saturn.  This is a planet in a solar system or galaxy that we haven't seen yet.  Gas Giant is probably the largest piece so far in the series (78" x 44").  Being about outer space, it needs to be pretty vast, right?

November 4, 2015

Mending a Large Rip in a 19th Century Tulip Quilt

Sometimes, a quilt with a very sad story comes to me to be repaired.  The sad story here is that this gorgeous c. 1860 tulip quilt was torn during a move.

It had been mounted on the wall with a velcro strip.  It looks like the movers just pulled straight down, and the quilt gave way just under the velcro.  Also, the area marked with a safety pin in the photo suffered many small tears.

October 29, 2015

Crib-size Crazy Quilt, c 1890

Antique crib quilts don't come around often.  For pretty obvious reasons, they were used hard and washed a lot.

This one came to me for repair and sprucing up.  In addition to being well over 100 years old, it has family history and provenance.  This adds up to a quilt whose significance way outstrips its actual size (22" x 35")!

To make this even more fun, the quilt's owner sent me two old family photos to include here.  Here's the family home in Blue Island, IL.

And here's the family photo taken at the wedding of her great-aunt Sadie.

October 26, 2015

A Log Cabin Quilt that Fools the Eye

A few weeks ago, I visited an open house at Harvey Pranian Art & Antiques.  Harvey has decades of experience in the antique/folk art/fine art biz, and finds the most wonderful things.  I highly recommend browsing at his site. 

Here's a small log cabin that really intrigued me.  (Photo by permission.)

From across the room, I thought the quilt was made of log cabin blocks with a pieced black and red vertical sashing.  It's a great visual rhythm.

But actually, the whole quilt is made from square courthouse steps blocks with the same patchwork placement, just rotated 90 degrees in alternate columns.  Brilliant fool-the-eye effect!  Hooray for homespun artists!

You'll note that the black squares are all pieced with their own little logs!  The logs are 1/4-3/8", both wools and cottons, as I recall.  You can kind of get a sense of the scale by looking at the little hang tag on the left edge in the first photo.

October 19, 2015

La Grange Community Quilt

This quilt was made in 1979 to celebrate the 100th anniversary of La Grange, IL, a western suburb of Chicago.  

It hung in the La Grange library for quite a while, and then was in storage during and for a while after the library's move to a new building.  The library is now ready to hang the quilt again, and they contacted me to help spruce it up.

October 12, 2015

Favorite Quotes # 10 - Simple Things

"Some of the greatest poetry is revealing to the reader the beauty in something that was so simple you had taken it for granted."
- Neil deGrasse Tyson
Nature's Perspective - 1989 - 107" x 81"
I heard this line in the midst of a long, rambling interview I was watching online.  I backed up over the spot and wrote it right down.

I would expand the concept to all art, not just poetry!  Certainly for me, this has been a theme to my art making, though I have never realized it or expressed it so clearly.

I love experiencing art as a way to see more clearly.  I think art is truly art at its best when artist and viewer meet at that place of clarity and inner knowing, a place where they recognize and acknowledge each others' humanity and each others' spirits.  That to me is a great definition of beauty.

And these meetings are not predictable.  I like that I will never really know how and which of my quilts will impact which viewers.  Sending a particular message is not the reason I make quilts, that's for sure.

The image for Nature's Perspective came to me while driving home through Wisconsin farmland at dusk.  I felt like I was almost flying over the landscape, and the land was like a billowy quilt, tacked down at the corners by the farm building and the occasional trees.

But the most meaningful comment I had on this quilt was from our friend Jon.  He said it perfectly represents a vision that had always intrigued him - that the sky is so smooth and uniform while the earth below is so varied and dimensional.  Sure 'nough, he's right!  But that concept had never entered my mind while designing the quilt.  That conversation taught me a lot about art.

Actually, I get a bit perturbed about writers who try to define what "Art" is in discussions about whether art needs to be beautiful, or needs to have social commentary, or needs to be shocking and cutting edge, or needs to be created in a perceptible series that experiments around a theme (as I was told in a quilt design workshop years ago), or needs to be in fine art media, and so on and on and on.

In my world, Art is what someone is drawn to create, and Art is what gives someone else a satisfying experience.

Details about how the quilt was made:
The sky is half a Sunburst pattern.
The farms are Prairie Queen and Corn and Beans blocks.
The farm buildings are black felt.  The glowing windows and the trees are embroidered.

Due to the perspective, there are no two templates exactly alike.  My husband the engineer helped with the drawing and figuring.  Every template was numbered and marked for right side and top.  It was quite a serious undertaking!  I have never made such a large and complex art quilt before, and have no plans to do so again!

October 7, 2015

A Room of Her Own

"A Room of Her Own"

I just completed this wall quilt!  It was commissioned by a wonderfully thoughtful husband in honor of his wife's milestone birthday.

It is inspired by a quilt I made 1999, called "Memories of Spring" (21"x19").

He liked the airy, dreamy, and old-fashioned homey look of the quilt.  He asked for a larger piece with personalized references to the things his wife loves and to their family.  The idea grew from there, with both of us making additions to the contents of her "room".  Here's the initial sketch.

September 28, 2015

Antique Grandmother's Flower Garden Blocks

Recently, I received my second fantastic quilt history gift of the year.  A friend's neighbor was moving, had some quilt blocks she didn't want to keep, and they made their way to me.  They are super lovely!  There are 35 of them.  Hexagons are 1 5/8".

(The 5-part story of the first gift, a late 19th century quilt full of names and stories, begins with Part 1.)

What makes the blocks particularly fun is that the outer row of hexagons still has the newspaper patterns.  So I read them all, searching for provenance information - and found it.

September 20, 2015

A House, A Book, Zippers, and Buttons

I popped in to an estate sale at this historic register house near my neighborhood as much to visit the house as to shop.  The house was built in 1860, with a single story addition just visible on the side that was built in the 1950s.

The previous owners had collected wonderful antique furniture and accessories.  Their daughter was there and said her parents had moved there after their children moved along, and lived there for 30 years.  The house is in great condition, small rooms, loads of wood.

September 15, 2015

Missouri Daisy

I received an email query about the name of this quilt block.  I've seen flower blocks with gathered petals before, but usually the gathered pieces are rounded not straight-edged like these.

I did find a block with this shape petals in Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Quilt Patterns.  It's called either Golden Glow (if it's made in gold and white) or Missouri Daisy.  Both were published in the 1930s. 

The similar block with rounded petals has been published as Missouri Daisy, too, and also as Star Flower, Sunflower, or Star Dahlia.

The range of fabrics looks like the blocks were made from the proverbial "deep scrap bag."  I think I see fabrics from the1930s, maybe even a few from the 1920s, through the 1960s!

The stories this woman was telling me during our discussion were so entertaining that I asked her if she'd like to share them on my blog.  These are her words (several e-mails edited together by me for flow) and her photos. 

September 10, 2015

Scavenging Fabric

I accomplished a long overdue task - sorting my filing cabinet and culling out the ancient Stuff!

In amongst it all I found a set of swatches I'd ordered umpteen years ago, late 1980s or early 90s I bet, from a place that sold reproduction or vintage-looking fabrics.  The store's been out of business for years and years now.

So I put 'em all in a net lingerie bag, and put 'em through the wash.  And then ironed them one by one, and sorted into color families.  That part took a bit of time, but hey, I'm still in a summer mindset when everything's supposed to be a bit lazy and laid back, right?

And besides, now I have loads of little bits that one day might be just right to patch a scrappy quilt with small-ish patchwork, a Grandmother's Flower Garden for example. 

One never knows what will come across one's path.  This has always been my reasoning, ever since starting out in the repair biz, for having a roomful of fabric and always saying yes to pretty much all the interesting bits that "show up".  Makes sense, right?

The only problem is contemplating the fact that fabric I actually purchased is now entering the category of "vintage".  I guess it happens to us all eventually!

September 9, 2015

I'm Upping my Social Media Presence

I have recently created a business Facebook page, AnnQuiltsQuilts.  Come join up, and you'll get notices of all my new blog posts.

And just this weekend, I entered the world of Instagram as "ann_quilts".  I've already connected up with some interesting quilt folk and would love to be in touch with more of you.

While I'm here, I'll give a plug for my good ol' website and my Pinterest boards.

I'm finding all these new doo-dads are especially well-suited for someone who thinks and remembers in images.   So many cool things to browse!

(The photo above is a bit of a really wonderful crazy quilt that visited me for repairs.  The little monk with the bell is about an inch wide and 1.75 inches tall.  Incredible needlework on this quilt!  The sprig of violets at the bottom is hand-painted on the fabric. The quilt probably dates to somewhere in or around the 1880s.  The heartwarming story of how the current owner inherited this amazing quilt and lots more photos are in a post from last September.)

September 1, 2015

History Comes to Life on a Quilt - Part 5 - Research Done!

I did it!  I worked my way through researching all the names I could find on the Melrose, MA quilt!

(You can read the story of all the researching from the beginning - Part 1 tells the background of a quilt inscribed with many names, and how I started my search for the details of its history.  Part 2 details some of the interesting family stories.  Part 3 tells a long story about three intertwined families.  Part 4 has general observations on life in the late 1890s.)

August 26, 2015

Photographs, Embroidery, and Everything

Last week I had a great walk-and-talk in the woods with my good friend Rin.  We talked about "life, the universe, and everything" (as we like to say at my house, hearkening back to The Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy). 

And I took pictures.  Lots of pictures.  For the last year I've been keeping what I call a photo diary, taking photos (mostly) every day that are either lovely or meaningful to the day's activities or hopefully both.  It's an exercise in mindfulness, being present.

I love this color combination.  Well, green is my favorite color to begin with.  The addition of yellow and purple is vibrant, even in the shade.

Then later that day, I did some more embroidering on my long-term tablecloth project, and lo and behold, the colors are.......

It's cutwork embroidery, started by my mother-in-law.  My husband thinks she probably made a dozen of these for family and friends.  I brought it home when we closed out my in-laws' apartment, and have been working on it off and on for the last few years.  I wonder if she started making this one with me in mind.  The colors certainly suit my tastes!  In any case, I am very grateful to have it, and to be sewing on it. 

Posts about the progress of the tablecloth are at:  June 2012 and April 2014

And here are a few other woodsy photos.
spring green leaves in late August

caterpillar traversing the leaf litter

reflection alá Monet

the heron, owning it all