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Inspiring Quilting: Elly's blog to boost your creative IQ

Archive for the ‘Antique & Vintage’ Category

Defending Democracy…with an Art Quilt

Thursday, December 21st, 2017

Not many people I know are aware of the “blue slip process,” a 100-year-old tradition in which home-state senators can indicate approval or disapproval, on a form printed on blue paper, of a President’s nominee for a lifetime seat on the federal courts, and advance or halt the nomination from moving forward. So I wanted to make a fabric illustration. But not with lingerie…that is, until my friend Carole queried, “Why not lingerie?”

So when I found a blue slip in a Montreal vintage clothing store, and the price was right, I had my beginning. Was about to combine it in a patchwork of blue rectangles, but the outcome would have lacked color contrast and aesthetic interest. I couldn’t reconcile the actual undergarment with a geometric abstract. Next Eureka moment happened when my friend Barbara said, “Why not have Lady Liberty wearing the blue slip?” Which coalesced with my subject matter as my friend Sammie remarked that, “If anyone would wear a blue slip, it would be Lady Justice.” Bingo. I happened to have made a figurative block, and I sliced into the face to insert a blind-fold, and made the bowls for her scales of justice.

I probably could have (should have?) stopped there, but I felt the viewer would need some more visual clues. To integrate various areas into the piece, I did some painting, dabbing, and printing on vintage doilies and lace. I used applique and piecing to collage various fabrics into a cohesive background.

Next, I got to work with my new midarm machine, quilting each area down. That was a steep, but enriching learning curve…with days spent futzing with the machine, adjusting the tension with each new thread, and coming up with different quilting patterns for each section.

Note the blue slips swirling in the background. I intended to crop the top of the quilt, but couldn’t bear to do that, so I filled the extra space with a bird, like so many that perch on statues. It’s a mourning dove, which symbolizes both the desired peace of a fair, bipartisan process, and also the grieving that came when judiciary committee chairman Grassley abandoned the blue slip process, to move ahead with the nomination of two men who were unacceptable to their home-state senators.

Another vintage item, a sliver of a silver tie that my grandfather wore, became Lady Justice’s sword.

I expected the piece to end at the hem of the slip, but the effect was truncated, off-balance. Earlier, I had auditioned feet emerging from the slip, but they just didn’t stand up to the rest.

 

I wanted to suggest a pedestal base, and after auditioning multiple fabrics, I settled on an early choice–see my first draft second photo from the top. I altered this batik look-alike, quilting suggestive lines of type on all squares except for two: One sports a doily, it’s S-shape center motif alluding to the serpent at Justice’s heels. And one provides a space for my signature and date.

The finished piece is larger than I intended…As tall as I am.

And less expressionistic than I wanted. Yup, that actual blue slip gave abstraction the slip.

But it’s done!…which is always better than perfect.

Expanding on History, Part 2!

Saturday, July 29th, 2017

You gotta love the direct hit to the heart that this Square Bulleye quilt top delivers. I sure did, when I bought it for not very much money about 10 years ago. I think it was on the table of a very reputable dealer at a quilt show.

For a long time, it was part of my trunk show for Quilters Who Dared. And daring it is, with all that precision piecing. Waaay beyond my patience level.

Now, however, my presentations feature more wonky and imprecise performances in patchwork. Inspiration for quilting out of the box, and daring to break the rules.

And now this beauty is the perfect target for remaking our home, our bedroom, and yes, our bed!

I was gonna do this the easy way.

Our bed is a queen, so step #1 was adding borders to make it overhang the edges generously. Finding a timeless, black pin-dot was easy. And a repro extra-wide quilt back–E-Quilter has a great selection. After washing to pre-shrink these new fabrics, I cut same size lengths from the black pin-dot, and stitched them to the edges of the quilt top all around.

Then took the expanded quilt top and backing fabric right over to a wonderful long-armer.

I know a lot of great long-armers in my area, but chose Donna Laing of North Star Quality Quilting because of her experience with traditional, antique quilts.

I just adored working with Donna to choose a quilting design for this beauty. I thought that a traditional Clamshell, or Baptist Fan would be true to the era of the fabrics. The coolest thing was how Donna lay a window of Plexiglass over the quilt, and used a washable marker to audition continuous line quilting patterns. Wish I’d taken a picture of that.

Also wish I hadn’t left Donna with a lot of extra work. See all those triangles in the patchwork design? The outer edges are all bias. Stretchy bias. I should have stay-stitched these edges; even sewn a fabric ribbon tape along them to keep them in gear. Instead, my borders followed these edges, and were a hot mess of ripply distortion. Donna saved the day, making tucks in each border by hand. Next time, I promise she won’t be biased against this customer.

I picked up the quilt but alas, it was another few months before I got to the binding and this Bullseye made a beeline for our bed.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Makes a real statement, right? Nice overhang, yes? So the husband and I don’t fight for the covers.

Expanding on History

Friday, July 14th, 2017

It’s called a Summer Quilt because it has no batting. Just an appliqued top with a backing; quilting in the ditch to hold the layers together. I bought it for a song many, many years ago, and I’m guessing it’s not quite as old as I am. Circa 1950s or 60s.  I’ve always loved its retro style: Dresden Plate patches include corduroy, flannel, homespun, and wacky prints. Best of all, that on-point setting with stripped lattice is fresh and kicky.

 

 

 

Because it’s so light, it makes a wonderful summer bed-cover. All except for one thing. You guessed it. Old quilts were not made for queen-size beds. So in order to enjoy having my vintage find on the bed, the husband and I are always fighting for covers, pulling the quilt to his side, or mine. And when the bed is made? The effect loudly proclaims: SKIMPY and CHEAP.

But not anymore. I added borders–or rather, panels that break for the bed posters, to the sides and foot of the quilt. Shopped all over for a fabric that would work, and found it in Kaffe Fassett’s Millefiori print, which had all the colors in the Dresden Plate motifs and striped lattice. While contemporary, it felt in keeping with the era and mood and the small scale meant it didn’t fight the vintage piece for attention. I backed this fabric with strips cut from an old mint-green cotton tablecloth, which probably dates back to the same time as the Summer Quilt.

The husband and I sleep well at night now.

Tradition with a (Muley) Twist

Saturday, June 10th, 2017

Just when I least expected it, a most relaxing, wonderful haven that is the Muley Twist Inn gave me an unexpected quilt fix.

The husband and I arrived here after a long day hiking in Capitol Reef National Park. The inn Carl picked out is off the beaten track, outside Teasdale, Utah. The vistas are better than the guide books promise, and I began writing this post on the front porch overlooking a stunning view of low mountains and Ponderosa pines, the natural colors I’d been seeing for days. Innkeeper Penny, upon learning of my interest in quilts, let me into an adjacent bedroom where quilts were spread and stacked.

I was instantly charmed by this simple Square-in-Square, with alternating plain blocks:

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Nine Patch may be the quintessential plain patchwork pattern, but the bubble-gum pink lattice and jazzy prints provide kicky refreshment.

  

Experts will look at those prints and help me date this charmer…1950s?

Made me think of how Southwest artists translate the landscape into vibrant vistas. Like my favorite local artist, Paula Swain. Ran into her at Gallery 24, in Torrey, UT–right after I’d purchased one of her works. The husband and I had a really hard time picking the one we wanted! Here it is hanging on our wall so I can enjoy “Capitol Reefs Color” as I eat breakfast. Paula told me that she was raised in a family that went out to do plein air painting at every opportunity. Her father pushed her to use a realistic palette, and she resisted. It’s only since he passed away that she’s felt liberated to take artistic license and go wild with color, putting her own twist on the tradition of landscape painting.