a too-big stone made last year for Jude Hill’s communal quilt — the Magic Feather Project – one of many fun things turning up in my studio cleaning
Rains reached the east coast last night. After two stiflingly hot days. The torrential downpour was met with relief as I went from room to room to lift the window sashes. Opening the house to air and moisture and sound, just in time to crawl into bed was a moment of happiness. I abandoned any attempt to read. Just listened.
It is odd to say this when Boulder is such a mess with flooding, and when I know parts of New Mexico have been pummeled with storms, too. Here, it was just seasonal. Not weird. Not an anomaly. That brings a sense of relief as well.
For my next commission — a wall quilt featuring Noah’s Ark — I purchased some stormy, raining fabric. It’s a beautiful silk chiffon, and I will double it to make the rain going in two directions, and to make the greys tend toward black.
I don’t often specifically buy fabric with a project in mind, but this time, I did. I think it will take a needle nicely, even doubled, so I look forward to quilting this. I will use the technique taught by Jude to secure the layers first — what she calls an ‘invisible baste’. I have learned that securing the layers as an initial matter makes the difference between enjoying all subsequent hand stitching, and not. I have an old plastic place mat from when the boys were little to put under the piece while I baste — this prevents stitching the quilt to one’s skirt and helps steady the layers until they are secured with thread. With hand-stitching in mind, I selected a high quality quilting cotton for the back. Maybe it’s the heat. Maybe it’s growing older (not wanting to stress already achy-thumbs). Maybe it’s a growing appreciation for the ENERGY of a thing. Whatever the reason, I find myself refusing to work with fabric that is icky in any way (I used to stockpile icky (free) fabric for the backs of quilts…). Almost anything that I have purchased at JoAnn’s is going into my give-away bin. The stuff they sell is crap. What do you think of, visually, when you think of Noah’s Ark? I think we tend to see the boat up on stilts, being built, or to imagine the procession of animals, marching two-by-two into the boat. I decided to depict the middle of the storm – think: Day 20 or 22 of the forty days and nights of rain. No cute beasts marching up a plank. No hopeful dove with a sprig of greenery in her beak. Initially, I wanted to surround the ocean/boat scene with animal prints, but no matter how I laid them out, they looked dopey. So I found a woven rectangle with watery colors, split it up and laid it out, and then wove another section to fill in the remaining areas. I am stitching this newly woven section this afternoon, and will cut it up later. I like how the woven sections add depth and complexity – very comparable to how certain spices or oils create depth of flavor in a stew. These sections take a considerable amount of time, but they have a defined beginning, middle, and end, which keeps them from becoming oppressive. And since I am planning this quilt out, no woven section will be laid on top of a section that is already three or four layers thick. Again, my goal is for the hand stitching to be easeful. I will lay some of the sheer silk chiffon on the ocean fabrics, to create a feeling of light or foam.
My hope is to ‘whip this up’ in such a way that I feel good about what I can charge for it. Price can never be the sole consideration, mind you, but it would be nice (for a change) if my aim to pursue an efficient design and construction actually panned out.
I keep going back and forth on this project. Should I complete it as intended (roughly 7′ x 4′), or break it into sections and move the thing along?
This little section (photo above) floated upstairs today and looks complete to me.
But I’m not quite willing to give up the big design yet.
Because I am not a planner, at this stage of production I often find ‘log jams’, or areas where the rectangular pieced sections are not lining up and where I am not willing to chop or add to accommodate completing a rectangle.
Once I pinned up some green grosgrain to divide sections, it suddenly seemed (seamed?) do-able. Note to self: remember that this is a visual process and that you have a visual sensibility (“DOH”).
There have been quilts that undergo enormous changes at this phase… quilts where I find myself swapping out some of the larger chunks. This has been partially in service of making the rectangles fit (think “Tetris”) and partially because it can be fun to see how things look when the design is a little less conscious.
This particular piece, however, has been in formation for well over a year and I am eager to get to the final stretch. And, I am feeling a strange loyalty to the design as I have constructed it.
The edges will pose problems. My plan is to use some of the cool-toned patterns (the Anna Maria Horner large blue floral and a shimmery green near-solid) to fill in and frame the edges where I need another inch or two. I will TRY to avoid the temptation to keep piecing/adding complexity.
What will be fun is to create a slide show of the quilt in its many phases and see how it has changed over four seasons.
For the finish — instead of using a whole cloth back and pinning the entire thing up and shoving it through my Bernina with a great deal of cussing, I think I’ll quilt it in sections. I plan to use some overlays on the back, perhaps even with raw edges, to connect up.
Given that one of the problems with this piece is its scale — I really don’t love working this large — then it is obvious that if I want to continue producing pieces of this size, I have to figure out how to do it in a way that works with my style, studio space, equipment, and temperament.
Which reminds me that my word for 2010 is ‘congruence’.
I am so, so eager to find both the style of working and the subjects & images that really line up with who it is that stands with the needle in her hand, with the scissors at her side, and with her particular demons at her back.
This small piece was composed after an unusually grey June. Here in Eastern Massachusetts, we had one of the least sunny Junes on record — not the wettest, but the greyest. And, it did rain A LOT.
When the sun finally came out, I made this piece. I was eager to get gardening, get outdoors, get digging. The background toile features an antique plow or wheelbarrow. The waterlily has the feel of a summer sun.
I added the strip of vintage lace and the disk of organza after many weeks of following Jude Hill‘s work online. I encourage you to take a peek!
I have been asking myself this lately with renewed desire for clarity…
More on that later, perhaps, as it relates to my craft work, but for now, let me say, I want a couple of days of sunshine. The photos below were taken in my garden at midday, after a grey morning, and before an afternoon filled with thunder and some spattering of rain.
I want to go to the beach. I want to wander into the backyard and not get wet. I want the driveway beds to smell fresh, not like rotting vegetation. I want to be able to dash out the door in short sleeves, unencumbered by umbrella or slicker. I want to use the grill again.
Happy July 4, everyone! I’ll be attending Newton’s fireworks tomorrow, which are always great. And guess what? I hear it’s not going to rain!
What do YOU want?
PS The quilt shot above is from a piece called “Valentine to Iraq” — in the brief spasm of sunshine today I managed to take pictures of a number of quilts. Look tomorrow for images.