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Month: February 2018

Presidents Message March 2017

Presidents Message March 2017

What do you see when you see a quilt? I see many things. First, there is the obvious, the fabrics used. Maybe they are unused fabrics, bought off a bolt or flat fold, something that caught the eye of the quilter in a shop somewhere. Maybe it is unused but it has been around awhile and previously owned. Maybe it’s scraps from another project, pieces of old clothes, memories of special events. In any case, it was auditioned and made it into the quilt. Why? For the color, the tone, the hue, the joy of the fabric or maybe it just needed a home and the quilter decided this was it. What catches your eye first in the fabric? Is it the pattern, or lack thereof? Is it the color and how it matches or contrasts to the surrounding fabric? If you don’t like it, does it matter? Does it work in the quilt?

After the fabrics, I tend to look at the overall pattern of the quilt. What grabs my attention? Maybe I see the quilt as a whole or maybe specific parts draw me in? I’ve seen quilts that are balanced; symmetrical and smooth. Some are unsymmetrical; cockeyed and a little edgy. I’ve seen quilts that are pictures, maps, animals, people, designs, pure color, and most everything in between. I’ve seen old quilts, new quilts, pristine quilts and ragged quilts.

I also note the craftsmanship.   Is the quilt made by a master or a novice? Do seams line up, do points match? Are the borders flat? How is the quilting? I think we can all tell the work of a champion.

These things make a quilt a quilt; the fabric, the design, the work. But then I look for the quilter in the quilt. To me, that is what matters. I want to imagine the heart of the quilter. Rarely do we make quilts because we have to. Mostly we make quilts out of love or compassion, friendship or family, happiness or sorrow. We make quilts to comfort those who need it. We make quilts to add joy to others lives. We give quilts to others to tell them how much we care. We give quilts to strangers to let them know they are not alone. We make quilts to be plain and colorful or show quality. We make quilts for walls, beds, couches, tables, cars, campers and pretty much everywhere else you can imagine. I like to look at a quilt and try to ‘feel’ the story of it.

Just like everyone else, I see some quilts I like more than others. There have been a few that were sort of homely and many that were unbelievably beautiful. Some quilts evoke strong emotions. For instance, our last speaker showed a quilt replicating a flyer for a slave sale. That made me incredibly sad. Some quilts are eye candy, luscious visions of something. Some make me laugh, wince or want to fly. I like to visualize the quilter, thread-covered, hair in all directions, possibly in a bathrobe striving to make the quilt. I have a tendency to see that quilter in a nice quiet room with no distraction even though I know that is highly unlikely. It would probably be more realistic to place the quilter in the middle of screaming children, boiling water and general havoc. Whatever I see, though, is in my mind (such as it is). I will probably never know the real story.

There is one thing I know for sure though. Quilting is more than craft, it is art. Every quilt is special to someone. As for me, I have never seen a quilt I didn’t love.

See you at the meeting.

Presidents Message February 2017

Presidents Message February 2017

Politics. I just can’t seem to get away from them and I am truly fed up! So, this morning, sitting in my shower where I do my best thinking, I started cogitating quilting politics. There just have to be some. The rest of life is about them. So, let’s call the traditional quilters ‘conservatives’. That makes the more progressive quilter the ‘liberal’, I guess. Can’t you just see it, hundreds of years ago? The conservative quilters lived out on the working farms and ranches and hand pieced quilts from dresses, pants and maybe even boot scraps. These quilts were used thoroughly, washed often and very function-driven. The liberal quilters in the cities would buy fabric (horrors!) and make both functional and show quilts. Wow, I’m surprised that didn’t start its’ own revolution! And then came sewing machines. What a war that must have been. The conservative probably didn’t believe that was ‘real’ piecing or applique. The liberal was probably just happy to crank out those tops.

What could come next? Oh yes, machine quilting. Woe is me, what a loss of craft that must have been. In the 1980’s when I started quilting, the machine quilting process was still looked down on (you know, right down the nose to the ground). And then we actually started buying home-use longarm machines. And you would send your quilt out for someone else to do the work! Surely, quilting had lost its way.

With all of the changes to the quilting world, it is not lost on me that remnants and treasures for all of the variations in quilting are highly sought after. We still cherish a quilt made of scraps from a farmhouse, the fancy Baltimore Album quilts from the same era, the hand pieced, machine pieced, hand quilted or machine quilted samples of past artists.

We have watched the interest in quilting ebb and flow right up to the present day where it is an art form in all senses of the phrase. Current techniques include modern fabrics, abstract forms, thread painting, detailed quilt portraits, masterpieces. A quilt show is more a display of art than craft. The current quilters include conservative and liberal beliefs and we still appreciate all of the forms. A quilter that ooh’s and ah’s over a traditional log cabin quilt will also appreciate a modern painted, dyed, thread filled chimpanzee quilt. Today’s quilter supports every segment of the craft (or art, as the case may be). We still hand piece, hand quilt, machine piece, machine or hand applique or machine quilt. We make patterns from very old blocks and very new blocks. We don’t always use blocks. We haven’t let go of the past to cherish the present. As far as I know, blood has never been shed over a quilting technique. Well, except for the blood from needle accidents and modern day rotary cutters! What does this tell me?

Quilters should govern this country, and probably the world…

See you at the meeting.

Presidents Message November 2016

Presidents Message November 2016

This is the time of year where holidays take over and it messes with my quilting. I’m sure you understand. Now, don’t get me wrong, I love the holidays. I get excited about all of it, BUT…

Halloween comes first. It’s all about costumes, candy and kids. I feel more like I have to work on themed items; carved pumpkins, costumes to scare the kids, etc. The whole family must have placemats, table runners and small quilts to fit the season (probably this is more important to me than them). And it’s not just Halloween; I have to get ready for the rest of the year too.

After trick-or-treating, it’s time for Thanksgiving preparations. Family is the biggest part of life. I have to get all the food ready, clean the house for company (translate that as watching my husband clean) and all that nonsense. I might have to dust the sewing table or even put it away. Horrors! Oh, wait a minute; that was Halloween. When am I supposed to have time for thinking, much less sewing? Never mind that I eat way too much.

Next it’s Christmas time. More family. Presents. More food. More thematic stuff. Shopping. That’s the hardest. What do I get for so-and-so. Everyone wants to know what I want. Gosh, I know what I want even less than what to get for others. Oh wait; I know. I want to sew!

Keep in mind that once I get through the holidays, I get to reset. New Year’s brings in hopes for a quiet and sane year. I want everyone I know to be safe, happy and healthy. I want the kids to stop aging, for crying out loud. I want to make goals: Twelve quilts binding, Eleven quilts quilting, Ten borders adding, Nine blocks making, Eight HST trimming, Seven flowers stitching, Six rulers ruling, Five spools of thread, Four bobbins wound, Three 2” strips, Two yards of cotton and One sewing machine.   Yeah, that sounds about right. I have at least eight months before next holiday season.

See you at the meeting.

Presidents Message October 2016

Presidents Message October 2016

I contend that quilting is a sport and quilters are athletes. Let me explain.

I can still see Kobe Bryant when he was a young basketball player, loping and flying around a court like a young gazelle, bounding over other players heads, bouncing off obstacles and swishing the ball into the net. I can see a young Terry Simon, stumbling up the court, getting turned around at the 50 yard line and bouncing her nose off her own goal post. Oops, wrong sport and I sort of lost my train of thought. Anyway, the same enthusiasm and joy of young Kobe is present in a new quilter. They bound around a quilt store, bouncing off obstacles trying to select the perfect fabric and maybe it even matches. They surge their way thru hand or machine stitching to meet the goal; a finished block and, at end of the game, a finished quilt.

As time goes on, maybe some of the raw enthusiasm fades and the quilter and the basketball player settle into the workmanship of the game, learning to focus on details, coordinating with others and fighting off the effects of gravity and time. We slow down a little bit and, as we get older, maybe we lose some of the crispness in our work. It takes a bit more time to do things, but we are more interested in getting it right than just getting it done.

An athlete goes to the gym to keep in shape. A quilter goes to the fabric store to keep their stash in shape. An athlete has team meetings for inspiration. A quilter has guild meetings. An athlete has the playoffs to fight towards. Many quilters shoot for the big shows. So, see, you can hardly tell the difference.

As with athletes, the degree of expertise is all over the place. Some quilters are like Kobe, born to sew perfectly. They look at a piece of fabric, see what it will make, twitch their hands a couple of times and the quilt is done, perfect and a winner at Paducah. I know some of these types, they know who they are and they know we love them even though they are flawed. Then there are the bulk of players (quilters); the ones who work hard to be good at their craft, making quilts that are beautiful, making quilts that are useful, making family traditions. These are the players who keep the team together, keep the game moving forward, the ones whose names aren’t remembered by the rest of the world and, I propose, the soul of the sport. Then, there are a few of us who make pointless quilts. I don’t mean quilts that have no purpose, I mean quilts whose points don’t necessarily point. Anyway, the quilt is still beautiful and we are still members of the team.

Someday, I hope to see my husband and his friends, sitting on a couch, beer and popcorn in hand, cheering on the WFQG team in the World Series of Quilting. There will be jumping and hollering, high-fiving and chest bumping when we win.

See you at the meeting.

Presidents Message September 2016

Presidents Message September 2016

From our earliest times, we are aware of our senses: sight, touch, hearing, smelling and tasting. We probably know or know of a person who has lost one or more of these senses. I know I am not the only person to wonder how it would be to lose a sense. Most all of us experience some loss or diminishment as we age. How does sense affect our quilting?

Well, the most obvious to discuss is sight. We use sight for the color palette, of course. We also want to see to do the piecework, applique, quilting and most every other function. Surprisingly, it’s not mandatory. I have a friend who has one fake eye and super low vision in the other. Her husband picks her fabric, cuts it and explains the pattern to her if she can’t make it out. She sits at the sewing machine and sews. She has guides and magnifiers and strong lights. Ironing is possible but he helps with that too. When she needs to un-sew, she does it by feel. It’s amazing really. She loves to sew and she has a husband who helps!

Touch is pretty easy to understand. Fabric has texture. Thread has texture. We use touch to nestle seams, to feel if the pin is all the way through, to feel the ridges on our rulers. The vibrations of a sewing machine are soothing (or irritating if you are on a wobbly table). Without touch, we would probably burn ourselves on a hot iron regularly. Touch guides our scissors and rotary cutters. Touch guides a seam ripper if you can’t see the seam. And the list goes on.

Hearing is probably not necessary, but certainly helpful. I can hear when my machine runs out of thread, if something is unbalanced in the mechanism. I can certainly hear the snap of the needle breaking. The swish of a rotary cutter tells me I’ve cut all the way thru. Of course, there are the sounds of speakers, teachers and fellow quilters. Then there are the sounds that I sew to; the birds, the music on the radio, the cats playing, baseball, football, whatever.

Smelling is a little harder to explain, but here it is. Can you smell the crud on the bottom of your iron burning? Don’t you just love that smell? Once, I had a Pfaff motor catch fire; I certainly smelled that. I can tell if a fabric is a batik by smell. I had a new cutting board once that was truly impressive; so bad it had to live in the garage. I can smell dinner on the stove or the cookies in the oven when I am trying to sew and cook at the same time.

Taste, that’s the best of all. Quilting, to me, is about companionship. Classes, quilt stores, guild meetings and all other places you go to quilt or talk about quilting have food. Think about it. Then go grab a snack and enjoy the meeting with me.

See you at the meeting.

Presidents Message August 2016

Presidents Message August 2016

Wow, the challenge is finished for the year and, just Wow! Wasn’t that a great show of our guilds talent and imagination? Now that it’s over, I have been trying to think of all the things I learned.

First, I CAN make a quilt entirely from my stash! This is a really good thing to know if the world as we know it ends. Please do not tell my husband. If you tell mine, I will tell yours. If you don’t have one, I will leave pieces of stash on your door on an unknown schedule, but probably forever. I guess it’s okay to tell Manny.

I also learned that I cannot see, draw or sew a straight line. This is not a surprise, but still, kind of disappointing. The solution for the problem did finally come to me. I will do the best I can and you will look at my quilt as follows: close one eye and squint with the other. Now see, isn’t that line straight?

Third, I can quilt the thing myself and enjoy it. It isn’t beautiful (see previous tip), but it is okay. And I got a lot of exercise in the process. Between shoving the quilt into and out of a 4” space and chasing my machine across the table as it was trying to get away from me, I’ll bet I burned off 10 or 20 calories. I also had the opportunity to explore new words for my vocabulary, ones I bet you won’t find in the dictionary.

You know, accidents can be right inspirational. I made the center of my quilt in sections and then sewed the sections together. Then did I sew a long flower ‘stem’ to each section. I even used a fancy stitch on my machine. Only then did I discover I sewed the wrong sections together. Phooey. It took me a while but I determined to fix the problem with butterflies (yeah, you thought they were planned). A few butterflies do a good job of covering boo boos. I’ll remember that for the future.

Finally, I discovered that my machine is much more stubborn than I am. I can think of something I want it to do, but it has to want to do it! I may even say unkind words to it and it responds with unkind sounds in return. Very humbling and it knows I will love it anyway.

See you at the meeting.

Presidents Message July 2016

Presidents Message July 2016

I made my first quilt in the 80’s (the 1980’s, not in my 80’s), about the time I finished college and started my first professional job. It was the beginning of my quest for the perfect ¼” seam. Sounded easy, after all, I had been making my own clothes for 20 plus years. First problem, I was used to a 5/8” seam for dressmaking. Isn’t that a stupid measurement? Why not a ½”, it’s much easier to do the math. Anyway, the ¼” seam. I had a Singer I bought from Cloth World (that should take you back), one of the cheap ones. It had a great mark for the 5/8” seam, but the ¼” mark was under the presser foot right in the middle of the tractor feed. I mean, really, how was I supposed to see that? The class teacher told us all about mismatched seams, dropped points, points pointing in the wrong direction, waffled quilts, quilts in weird shapes; all the woes of inaccuracy! That’s when I learned a cool new use for masking tape. Three or four layers to see the ¼” and let you ‘feel’ the edge. It worked pretty well. I could sew a straight line and, more or less, hit my mark. The results weren’t bad and got better with time and experience. The biggest problem was frayed edges and having to remove tape goo from my machine. I tried magnetic markers and all kinds of other gadgets. Mixed results. In time, I had the money to buy a Bernina, which came with a ¼” foot. Wow, was that cool. My seam was good, my quilts were flat; life was good, sort of. I also worked 60 hours a week, got called all night for problems and was generally too tired to quilt much. In these years, I managed to make a few quilt tops, parts of quilt tops and a lot of blocks. I had a big stash and a big UFO pile. That’s when the eyes went. For a couple of years, I was just happy to see the food on my plate, much less the sewing machine. I was very relieved when they stabilized a bit, mostly because I retired on disability during this period. Now, I had lots of time on my hands and moderately useful vision. Back to the machine and new lessons. I couldn’t see the edge of my foot, so out came the masking tape. Not bad. My seams were a bit off, but I pretended they were fine and sewed like crazy. All of those UFO’s were completed and I started some new ones. And, just the other day, I sat in my sewing area. Squirrels and birds play in the back yard. It’s bright and hot outside, cool inside. One cat sits on my ironing mat, keeping it warm. One sits on my cutting board, ready to help. Hubby is watching baseball in the other room. I just ran a seam. It might be a bit wobbly, but it’s the perfect ¼” seam. And the next one will be too.

See you at the meeting. Challenge time!