After my parents died, I put off sorting through all their old photos that were in boxes in my basement.  Last year I finally went through the boxes  and found some amazing things that I didn’t expect, including a couple journals that my mother kept when she was a girl.  Here are two pages from her 1937 journal, written when she was 14 years old (I’ve included a typed transcript below each entry since I could never read my mother’s handwriting).

Sunday, July 4, 1937 (185th Day—180 Days to Follow)
Independence Day
Shot fireworks all day long. Had one swell time.  Following were at picnic at lake: momma, daddy, Esther, Carl, Lill S, Gladys, Alvin, Lilly H, Dolores, Aunts Lue, Lena, Anna, Minnie’s M. and W., Uncles Otto and Fred, Aunt Carie of Libertyville,  Walter, Laura Hinty and Dick, Willard and Armela also.  Laura and Dickee are staying over till tomorrow.  When it was dark we shot off a lot of fireworks which we had a lot of.  Got ice cream after all was done.

Monday, July 5, 1937 (186th Day—179 Days to Follow)
Laura went home today but Dick is going to stay till  Saturday.  After supper went to Crystal Lake to see the fireworks display. There also was a carnival there.  Dick, Dolores, and I went on a lot of rides at the carnival.  The fireworks were swell. Everyone says they were the best they had ever seen. For the finale there were 50 rockets in air at once. Got to bed at 1:00 o’clock A.M.

These journal entries were the inspiration for my latest donation quilt for the Alzheimer’s Art Quilt Initiative — Fireworks.

I had fun playing with metallic threads to try to capture the sparkle of fireworks.  I haven’t used metallic threads very much, and I learned a few things with this quilt.  I used two different types of thread–a flat glitter hologram thread (such as the gold on the right side), and a metallic thread (such as the blue on the right).  Both of these threads are from Superior Threads.  Superior recommends using a size 90 topstitch needle for both threads, but I found that a smaller size 80 topstitch needle worked best for the flat glitter thread, and a larger size 100 topstitch worked best for the metallic thread.  I had no trouble quilting with the metallic thread, but I found that the flat glitter thread behaved much better when not stitching over other threads.  I ran into a lot of thread breakage when I tried to stitch the flat glitter thread over the metallic thread.  When using these types of specialty threads, I found that a bit of patience and experimentation leads to better results.

You can look up at the stars and every night they’re going to be in the same place, but you can launch a six inch shell and you don’t really know what it’s going to look like until it actually performs.
James Sousa

Fireworks are an art form that uses the night sky as the canvas.
Larry Crump

Two New Small Quilts for AAQI

I was away at a quilt retreat for a few days this week with some amazing quilters.  A few of them have web sites, and they’re worth a look — Wendy’s art quilts, Stephanie’s wearable art, and Lois who’s known for rust dyeing.  We had a great time and all got a lot of work done.  I spent my time quilting/thread painting a number a small quilts and finished quilting six, but I left the binding/finishing work for after the retreat.

I’ve now completed the first two which I’ll donate to AAQI.  Both of these quilts started as photos that I took, edited in Photoshop and then printed on fabric.  I don’t particularly like binding quilts, especially small ones, so I thought I’d try some different techniques to see which I liked best.  For this first quilt, I took 1.25 inch strips of the purple fabric with fusible on the back (I used Steam a Seam since that’s what was handy).  I fused about a half inch to the front of the quilt and then turned it to the back and fused the rest.  (You can see more complete directions at Laura Wasilowski’s web site.)  I finished the binding with a double blanket stitch along the fused border.  Here’s Dahlia.

For the second quilt, I thought I’d give it a bit of a frame.  For this I used some Pellon Peltex 72 which is a very thick, stiff, ultra-firm stabilizer with fusible on both sides.  I started with a 9 by 12 inch piece of the Peltex and wrapped the orange fabric around it.  I then cut another piece of Peltex a half-inch smaller than the quilt and I used it to fuse the quilt to the orange ‘frame’.  I then satin stitched around the quilt.  I really like the end result — it’s stiff enough to hang on the wall, and the extra layer of Peltex behind the quilt gives it more dimension.  Here’s Daylily #2.

I hate flowers – I paint them because they’re cheaper than models and they don’t move.
Georgia O’Keeffe

Weeds are flowers too, once you get to know them.
A. A. Milne

Project Selvage – My Entry

Spoonflower and Michael Miller Fabrics got together to sponsor a fabric design contest, called Project Selvage.  The challenge was to design a fabric for baby boys.  The winner of the contest will earn a contract with Michael Miller to produce a collection.  The designs were due to Spoonflower by March 24.  I’m not sure, but it seems that there may have been over 1000 designs submitted (you can look through all these designs here.)  From these many designs Spoonflower and Michael Miller will select 75 semifinalists, which will be announced March 31, and then voting will start in order to narrow the field to 10 finalists.

I wanted to design something for this contest, but though I came up with dozens of possibilities, none seemed the least bit unique.  I was toying with the idea of blocks, and I remembered a couple quilts I made with an Escher-like pattern of blocks, which create an optical illusion.  Here’s one of the small quilts.

I thought this might be an idea I could work with, so I went to Adobe Illustrator and started drawing the shapes for the blocks.  I came up with this repeat pattern pretty quickly.

I liked the pattern, but thought it needed more, so I went into Photoshop and started adding letters on the blocks to make words, and then more words…I wanted to make sure I used all the letters in the alphabet.  I made a few other changes–changed the green block face to red and added a background.  Here’s the final entry, shown as a fat quarter.

This was a lot of fun to play with, but I’m not sure how this will do in the contest–this is definitely a large-scale design so it works for some things, but not for others, such as baby clothing.

I figured out how to make it more sell-able through Spoonflower if it doesn’t do well in the contest.  Since there are so many blocks in the pattern, it’s easy enough for me to personalize the fabric design by adding a name into the pattern.  The example below shows the pattern for “Michael” (white letters on red blocks).

Good luck to everyone who entered the contest–there are a lot of amazing “baby boy” designs.

My father used to play with my brother and me in the yard. Mother would come out and say, “You’re tearing up the grass”; “We’re not raising grass,” Dad would reply. “We’re raising boys”.
Harmon Killebrew

Diaper backward spells repaid. Think about it.
Marshall McLuhan

My Quilt is Going to AQS – Paducah

One of my latest quilts, Oil and Water Don’t Mix, was juried into the AQS quilt show in Paducah (April 27 – 30).  Here’s a full view of the quilt.

I started working on this quilt last summer, after the oil company that I used to work for caused the largest oil spill in US history.  This quilt is my attempt to highlight some of the animals impacted by this oil spill (brown pelicans, loggerhead turtles, dolphins, shrimp, blue crabs, coral, and migratory songbirds like the oriole).  Here’s a good article from the National Wildlife Federation on the impact of the oil spill on animals.

I designed the piecing of the quilt in a vector graphics program (Corel Draw) and then sewed it together using blue gradations of my hand-dyed cottons for the water and rust-dyed cotton/silk for the oil.  Here’s a picture after it’s all been pieced.  At about this point, I decided that I wanted to enter this into the Paducah AQS contest.  However, when I looked up the rules, I found that the quilt would need to be at least 40 inches wide and 40 inches high, and this quilt top was only 36 inches square–I was in a bit of a panic.  It was a lot of work to piece the top and I certainly didn’t want to start all over.  I took a photo of the top and started playing with options in Photoshop.  Below are some of the options — a black border (too stark), a dark blue border (better, but not great, and I wasn’t sure if I could get the right color blue), and a border of the rust fabric (OK, but still not great).

I finally decided that it would be best to extend the original piecing design to enlarge the quilt.  So, I went back to Corel Draw and added in a 1 inch border for the dark blue, and then I extended most of the original design elements into the enlarged border area.  It would have been impossible (and too obvious) to try to match everything without the added blue border around the original design.  Here’s the pieced top with the new border, and before the quilting.

To finish the quilt, I added tons of thread painting–partly to disguise the imperfections of the new border.

A New Fabric Contest Entry

The theme for this week’s fabric design contest at is Paisley.

Paisleys aren’t my usual area of design, so I did a bit of background research and learned that the paisley design dates back many centuries to India and the Middle East.  It’s still popular in Iran and in South and Central Asian countries, which explains the Azerbaijani pants at the 2010 Winter Olympics. The western name comes from the town of Paisley in Scotland.

Here’s my modern take on Paisley (believe it or not, this is simplified from my original versions).  You can see all the entries and vote for your favorites here.