Monday, March 31, 2008

An Acknowledgement

McIrish Annie just sent me this link, which solves the mystery of where the image for my March TIF challenge came from. I knew it had a Jane "feel" but didn't realize I had been that much of a borrower. That's how plagiarism happens; as a former English teacher, I should know that. But anyway, I did know it's a great design. Thanks, Annie, and Jane.
I've been away for a week, staying at my sister's and doing spring cleaning and yard work at my mother's house before she comes back from her "winter quarters." We accomplished quite a bit, and had a good time doing it. Now if someone would do the same here-- Anyway, I've been catching up on people's blogs, and after I do some cleaning, I will hit the sewing machine. It's definitely calling me, and I have a list of things that need to be done. Why is that? I seem to have a tendency to stress out, even about something that is supposed to be fun.

One bit of quilty news: I discovered a shop called Corner Quilt Fabrics. It's in an outlet mall in Warrenton, Missouri, where no one would find it unless they knew it was there. I just happened to stop for the Liz Claiborne outlet and enjoyed a short browse in this lovely little shop. Anyone who has the misfortune to drive Interstate 70 between St. Louis and Columbia, Missouri, might want to stop. It's a good place for a break, just before or after the St. Louis traffic.

Sunday, March 23, 2008

TIF Challenge March

"Grass" 12" x 7" Hand dyed fabrics, machine applique and quilting

For the theme " the little things", I've depicted grass. Grass is definitely a ubiquitous little thing. Sometimes, like at the end of the summer, I'm pretty tired of it, but without it the landscape is certainly drab, as it is here now. For some reason, several quotations about grass, mostly morbid, came floating up from the subconscious. There's the Biblical one: "All flesh is grass," and Carl Sandburg's "Shovel them under and let me work--I am the grass; I cover all." But on a lighter note (I guess) there's Gertrude Stein: "Pigeons on the grass; alas."

I made this by fusible applique. It went together fast; it took longer to pick out the quilting stitches of a bad thread choice than to do all the rest combined. I like it; it gave me a chance to use some of the run of fabric dyed at a guild workshop a year ago and some of Laura Wasilowski's wonderful ArtFabrik thread. The only thing that bothers me is the nagging certainty that I've seen this somewhere, not just in the little grass seed advertisement, so I think I'm borrowing someone else's idea. If so, it was a good one, and I hope I'm forgiven.

Wednesday, March 19, 2008

TIF March

March is marching on, and this is what I have to show for it as far as the Take It Further challenge is concerned: grass blades are the small things I have noticed. They're still brown and crushed looking as the snow melts here, but in a few days they should be turning green. I have mixed feelings about that since I'm not a yard work lover, but the first green is always lovely. Some people show artistic sketch book/note books, but here's mine. AFTER, I swear after, I made my sketch I found this design in the ad for grass seed. I knew mine wasn't very original, but I didn't see it in this ad. We both picked up a rather generic image, I think. But anyway I will do this if I can find the time. It will have to be soon because next week I'll be at my sister's, and then March is over!

And what is keeping me from making a grass picture? Slow, tedious progress on the quilting shown here:

It's at the "I hate this thing!" stage, but there is light at the end of the tunnel, I think.

Saturday, March 15, 2008


Several bloggers, including Paula Hewitt and Sharon B, have been discussing the question of art versus craft, and what the definition of each is. In one of those synchronicity experiences, I heard a discussion of a new book called The Craftsman, which adds another dimension to the discussion. The author, Richard Sennett, is interested both in the craftsman as a maker of handwork in a mechanized culture and as someone who does fine work for its own sake and believes in the importance of continued growth, education, and experience to master the craft. This focus sets the craftsman apart from a society that values monetary rewards and immediate gratification. Sennett also broadens the definition of craftsman to include people who do fine work in a non-concrete field, such as teaching or computer programming. Although no one in the blogs I read was belittling craft as opposed to art, Sennett's ideas might remind us again that craft in itself is a fine thing, whether it becomes art or not.

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Simple and Cute

After my sewing machine came back from its trip to the spa, I felt like I had to get acquainted with it again before I started working on a serious project. To I dug out some orphan blocks and put together this charity quilt. I thought the blocks were hopeless and actually stuck them back in the drawer, but when combined with this bright, soft blue, they worked. I'm happy with the way this turned out: cheerful and bright and suitable for a boy. (Boy quilts seem hard to come by.)

I also liked the quilting. It's something I've done before, but not recently, and was glad to rediscover in the memory banks. It's fast and simple. I just used washable Crayola markers to mark a few curved lines dividing the top into sections, and then quilted more parallel lines in each section using the guide on the walking foot. Faster than quilting in the ditch and more interesting. I don't usually use muslin backs because they don't hide any knots or add interest, but this was a totally stash project. Good thing I did this too, because the new, presumably correct tension calibration on the machine is much tighter, and I had to relearn some things.

Monday, March 10, 2008

A Great Quilt Show

The Krasl Art Center in St. Joseph, Michigan has a wonderful exhibit of art quilts from the Rocky Mountain Quilt Museum. The exhibit lasts until April 6, and is worth a drive. Any one within several hours might well consider going. There are works by Ann Johnston, Carol Bryer Fallert, Mary Mashuta, Michael James, Yvonne Porcella, and others less familiar to me. There's a range of technique also, although they lean toward the traditional, with lots of piecing and applique, but there's some photo transfer, contact printing, non-traditional materials. Sorry no photos for the post, but photography is not allowed. The Krasl's web site does give you a taste though. St. Joseph is a charming little town on the hill above Lake Michigan, with a pedestrian downtown area. Other attractions include The Box Factory for the Arts, a former factory which now contains a display area and artists workshops, and area quiltshops, which you can find here.

Since I was feeling sour after my last quilt show visit, the quilts in this exhibit were a breath of fresh air, and also brought about one of the more memorable comments from my husband, the quilt critic. Not "Why don't you make quilts that are works of art like those?" which I could understand, but "Those quilts have lots of little pieces. When are you going to make one with lots of little pieces?" I didn't hit him because I was driving at the time.

Wednesday, March 05, 2008

More Quilts, Less Talk

Just a few quilts I liked from IHQS with very little commentary. These are not big winners; winners should be posted on the IQHS web site soon.

V Spot Target Attack by Connie Brown. I like the softness of this color scheme; the complementary orange/blue is bright but doesn't jump at you, and the whole arrangement is somehow restful.

Peace and Harmony by Terry Benzo. The title says it all.

Enticement Klonda Holt. Honorable Mention, Pieced Amateur. This is a Karen Stone pattern done with beautiful color, and the striped fabric making the secondary design was her original touch which sets this apart.

She finally reached her ideal weight by Sandee Winrow Milhouse. Another honorable mention, in Art Quilt. I like humor in quilts, even when it's black humor.

Redaction by Loretta Painter. Not my usual thing at all. I don't usually care for chocolate brown and blue, and the design is rather static. But it's interesting to examine how she put it together, and the quilting was done on a home machine, and very well too.

Monday, March 03, 2008

The Soapbox

Here are a few observations I made and opinions I formed from the attending the Indiana Heritage Quilt Show.

1. The quality of machine quilting now is truly extraordinary. In fact, the quilting on the winning quilts was better than the teachers' quilts, two of whom were teaching machine quilting. I'm talking about long arm quilting, I think, although this show doesn't make a distinction in categories, and so unless the quilt maker stated in her description how the quilt was done, it's hard to know. I do know that one excellent quilt was quilted on a standard machine.

2. Shows face a challenge in clarifying categories. Distinguishing different types of machine quilting is one area that is changing so fast that categories need to change to keep up. It doesn't seem fair for a hand guided home machine to have to compete with a long arm, particularly a computer guided long arm. Then there's the professional vs. amateur category. One thing I noticed at this show was how many more professional entries there are now. That's not surprising, considering how many people have long arm quilting businesses. But again, can a competent, small business long arm quilter compete with someone who is not just a professional quilter, but a professional competitive quilter? That's clearly what is happening.

Then there is a question of what makes an "art quilt." At this show the same person won in Wall Quilt and Art Quilt (amateur). The two entries were hanging side by side, identical in technique as far as I could see, and similar in subject matter (both raw edge applique/collage landscapes). The only apparent difference was size. "Art Quilt" or "Fabric Art" needs some definition--a tall order, I know.

3. And finally, I've noticed in the last few years an increasing emphasis on what I heard described as the "Wow factor." Of course a winning quilt has to have something special about it. But does special have to mean oversized, brightly colored, high contrast motifs? Does it have to mean fully saturated complementary colors used in equal amounts? Does it have to mean glue on crystals that don't necessarily enhance the design? Does it have to mean cloying sentimentality? Can't special mean a subtly beautiful color scheme, a well-balanced design, an interesting play of geometric shapes, or wit, originality, and taste? Is it a good thing for a quilt to "look just like a painting"?

If I go too far with this, it sounds like I'm criticizing the quilters, whose technical skills are breath-taking, deserving the highest admiration. I'm not. I'm criticizing a current trend, fad, whatever you might call it, that quilters are responding to. I don't think it's necessarily a healthy trend. If 80 years ago women were creating kitsch in their spare time with needle and thread and calicos, and they're now creating kitsch with $5000+ sewing machines, $10 a yard fabric, and $8 a spool thread, have we progressed? I don't think so. A few years ago, non-quilters began to look at quilting with respect. We're going to lose that respect and become just a marketing opportunity unless design becomes as important as workmanship.

Finally, since this sounds a bit negative, I just want to clarify that the IHQS is a very well organized, well run show, with a broad range of quilt styles and levels, and first class teachers. I've always enjoyed going to it, and will continue to make it part of my quilting plan. If you made it through all this, thanks for persevering!

Saturday, March 01, 2008

Indiana Heritage Quilt Show

I spent a day and a half at this show. It caused me to do lots of thinking about quilting styles, not all of it pleasant or positive. I'm mulling over how or if to post some of these thoughts, but in the meantime here are a couple of big winners. As a White Glove Lady posted in their area, I examined them in detail. Both are a text book in detail and intricate workmanship.

Best of Show: String of Pearls by Mary Buvia

Excellence in Workmanship Hand quilted: Irish Cream by Linda Roy

And here are a couple of detail shots:

Most of the raised areas on Linda Roy's quilt are not trapunto, but applique. It's an exquisite piece of work.