Thursday, May 24, 2007

Somebody's Out There!

Wow, this blogging thing really works! I sent a bit of myself into cyberspace and someone answered back. Dawn at Quilts and Pieces asked me for more detail about the quilt pictured in my first post. 

These little Four Patches were 
made with scraps left over from another project. When I saw the colorful snippets in my trash can, I couldn’t bear to throw them out. They're Milly Churbuck’s hand dyed fabrics from Country House Cottons.

The Four Patch blocks measure 1½“ and the quilt itself is 12“ x 14½“. It is hand quilted in brown thread with my favorite fan design.

CLICK to enlarge

And here's the back.

I love traditional antique quilts, especially doll quilts. Here are some favorite resources for inspiration: 

A Child’s Comfort: Baby and Doll Quilts in American Folk Art by Bruce Johnson, 1977.

Crib Quilts and Other Small Wonders by Woodard & Greenstein, 1988.

Small Endearments: 19th Century Quilts for Children and Dolls by Sandi Fox, 1985, 1994.

Wednesday, May 23, 2007

How Much Is Too Much?

Every now and then, we get a chance to see ourselves as others see us. It's not always flattering, as in this exchange between my son and me.

One day, I asked James to run up to my sewing room and bring me a particular group of solid colored fabrics.

Me: They’re neatly folded on a closet shelf, right at your eye level.
Son: (calling from upstairs) Are they bright?
Me: They’re brightish. Think of a muted rainbow.
Son: (handing me a wrinkled wad of bright colors) Is this them?
Me: No, those are hand dyed solids. I wanted regular solids.
Son: (from upstairs again) Are they in a bin?
Me: No.
Son: Are they all rolled up in a bundle?
Me: No.
Son: Are they cut into strips?
Me: No.
Son: Would they be folded up with coordinating fabric?
Me: No!
Son: There’s a neat stack with some other stuff in a shopping bag.
Me: NO!

Finally, out of exasperation, he brought down all the solid colored fabrics he could find--piles and stacks, bins and bags, scraps and kits. He never did find the exact set of fabrics I had been thinking of and we laughed at the absurdity of the situation.

He asked, “Mom, why do you have so much of the same thing?” Is there any point in explaining to him about subtle variances in color or how a hand dyed cotton is softer and needles better than a Kona cotton? No, in his eyes, I am an unabashed fabric hoarder. After seeing my entire stash of solid colored fabrics laid before me, I think he may be right!

Monday, May 21, 2007

Colorful Language

From my very first box of 64 crayons with exotic sounding names like bittersweet, periwinkle, and burnt sienna, I’ve been in love with color. From the first books read to me as a child--Mother Goose, Beatrix Potter and Dr. Seuss, I’ve loved words. No one should be surprised then that I especially love words that describe color.

The new spring growth on our boxwood hedge reminds me of Robert Frost’s poem, “Nothing Gold Can Stay” ~

"Nature's first green is gold,
Her hardest hue to hold."

A sunrise viewed from my kitchen window makes me think of a line from Shakespeare’s Hamlet ~

"But, look, the morn, in russet mantle clad,
Walks o'er the dew of yon high eastern hill."

Even descriptions of ugly things fascinate me, like Twain’s repulsive image of the dead, bloated body of Pap in Huckleberry Finn ~

"There warn't no color in his face, where his face showed--it was white; not like another man's white, but a white to make a body sick, a white to make a body's flesh crawl--a tree-toad white, a fish-belly white."

Mmmm, there aren’t many opportunities to quote that one! But it got me thinking about colors we never look for at the quilt shop ~ words we’d never use to describe a prom dress ~ colors we’d never paint a room; like the greenish gray snow pants my boys refused to wear when they were little because they were “booger” colored!

Several years ago, I read an article about the British paint company, Farrow and Ball, successfully marketing colors with curious names like Dead Salmon, Elepant Breath and Ointment Pink. I sent for a swatch chart, only to find their colors rich and lovely. Even so, can you imagine marching into the paint store, asking for 2 gallons of Smoked Trout?

I wrote them this poem, suggesting other colors they might want to consider, but it must have gotten lost in the mail because I never heard back!

Dear Farrow and Ball,
You’ve got Dead Salmon and Ointment Pink.
How ‘bout Scum Around My Kitchen Sink?
Or Mucus from the Common Cold.
If that’s too gross, try Blue Cheese Mold.
A nasty green, you could call Bile,
For earthy brown, maybe Compost Pile,
Hypothermia, for an icy blue,
A dingy gray, Old Tennis Shoe.
Here’s one to cause a great sensation--
A deep, dark red called Menstruation!
Jaundice for a sickly yellow
Ear wax for a brown that’s mellow,
A murky, muddy, Earthworm gray
A faded beige called Dried Bouquet
Toxic Sludge or perhaps Gangrene-
All vivid hues, see what I mean?
To paraphrase what Shakespeare said,
“A rose by any other name” would still be red
If you like the color, tint, or hue,
No one need know its name but you!
(C) Diane Burdin, 2004

all the colors the world has to offer!

Friday, May 18, 2007

Gotta Start Somewhere

My family didn’t have quilts when we were growing up, so I’m not sure when my fascination with them began. I was probably in high school before I saw a quilt first hand and got to examine it closely. Once it captured my imagination, I couldn't wait to make one myself.

Keep in mind, this was the early 1970’s, before the Bicentennial created a resurgence of interest in the craft. Quilting was still the realm of folklore, an art passed down from one generation to the next. There were few books or other resources available on how to make a quilt.

I decided to figure things out for myself. How hard could it be? After all, I had sewing skills from 8th grade home economics class!

I chose a simple Four Patch block as my pattern, although at the time, I didn't even know it had a name. Fabrics were scavenged from the oddest of sources, because traditionally, quilts were made from "scraps" and I thought it was cheating to buy anything new. I painstakingly marked each square with a pencil and flimsy cardboard template, then cut them out individually with scissors. My seam allowances measured 5/8” and all seams were pressed open, just like I'd been taught in 8th grade home ec.

I felt such pride when my quilt top was finished, but had no idea what to do next. I knew nothing about batting or the running stitch that held the three layers of a quilt together. A friend's mother and grandmother finished it for me, charging only $20 for their hand quilting!

This poor quilt is in tatters now, but imagine it back in 1974, fresh and new. Making it started my love for quilting, so it will always be special to me.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Perfect From The Start

Remember the awkwardness of learning a new skill as a child, like struggling with clumsy fingers to tie a shoelace, or write in flowing cursive, or use both hands to play a simple tune on the piano? For years, I was convinced I had a klutz gene, when what I really lacked was the patience to practice. Why couldn't I just be perfect from the start?

As a novice quilter, I often felt “all thumbs.” In fact, the first time I tried a thimble, it refused to stay on my finger, let alone push the needle through all three layers of quilt. And what about those impossibly tiny, even stitches I’d read about—twelve to the inch! REALLY? Perhaps this wasn't the hobby for me, because I still wanted to be perfect from the start. 

Now, I'm a seasoned quilt maker and my thimble feels like a second skin. I've made many quilts over the years, all with small, even stitches. The handcraft has brought me nothing but joy. Unfortunately, Multiple Sclerosis has sapped the energy, strength and dexterity I need to continue quilting.

My advice to anyone coping with an impairment like MS is to continue doing what you’re passionate about in any way you can. Stay creative! Since I can’t sew with needle and thread any more, I’m going to try stitching words and pictures together, to chronicle the quilts I've made and collected through the years.

While I’m at it, I might as well give blogging a try. It feels a bit awkward, writing for an audience that may not even exist. So, if you stumble across Persnickety Quilts, why not leave a comment and let me know you're out there? I'd love to hear from you. Together, we can make this perfect from the start!