Quilts with Attitude

“Does Not Compute,” by Boo Davis

I was doing the mind-numbing thing of sitting at the computer, surfing along after another long week in the classroom.  I stumbled onto a slide show in the New York Times about Quilts with an Attitude.  It’s about Boo Davis, who has just put out a book (Dare to Be Square Quilting) about her quilts: part goth, part old-timey piecing.  As an old quilter, it’s fun when New Young Quilters come on the scene, although I must admit to some amusement when they “appear” to have discovered anew what I’ve been doing for years and years.  Like from when I was a New Young Quilter and discovering anew the art of patchwork and piecework.  Click *here* for the slide show, but here’s a notable quote:

Ms. Davis says she gets upset when she sees quilts and patchwork sold on the Web for “next to nothing.” She believes that “It’s an artistic labor of love that deserves respect.”

Amen.

Why I Have a Quilt Next to My Schoolbooks

It’s to remind me that once–before I was writing syllabi and course calendars and reading student emails too early in the morning–I had a life as a quilter.  I reach out and touch this fabulous quilt, and say to myself, “Soon.  Soon.”

That’s the nice thing about quilts.  They get done, never go away, never have to be re-done.  I’m looking forward to having this beautiful blue quilt at the end of my bed, in order to match my new bathroom.

Thimbles and Threads–Draper, Utah

One of the fun things about being a quilter is knowing that just about wherever you go, you can find a new quilt shop to explore.  Since this last trip to Utah was mainly about visiting family and friends, I didn’t think I’d get a chance to hit a quilt shop.  On our way to see my husband’s aunt and uncle, I checked my iPhone to see if there were any shops near their house.  I scored, when I was able to visit Thimbles and Threads in Draper, Utah.

It is in an old house, repurposed for the shop.  I left my husband in the car, promising to be quick.

They have a cute display on the front porch, including some bolts in this rocking chair.  Everything was on sale.  I grabbed a few and went in to have them cut.


Wow!  I was happily surprised by the variety and colorways of the fabrics they had in their shop.


I also loved a lot of their displays, and was intrigued to see a lot of “dot” fabrics.  I had started seeing them in Long Beach and had picked up a couple, but here, the theme really  continued.  Luckily, the shop also had lots of fat quarter already cut, so it was a quick grab and go.


The “Americana” color section of red, white and blues.

Dots!
I checked on my husband–he was taking a quick nap, so I figured I had a few more minutes.


Their displays really pulled me into their wall of fabrics–giving me lots of ideas as well.  I liked the display of kits, floral branches and patterns that were interspersed.  Someone really has a talent here.


The yellow and black (and orange!) section. Downstairs was their sale section, as well as a classroom.


What did I snag?  Some of Me and My Sister’s Birdie line as well as a few stripes and four prints from Jane Spolar’s Quilt Poetry collection.


And lots and lots of dots!

So, go visit them, next time you’re in Draper! It’s right near the new In and Out Burger, just off the 15 freeway.

Thimbles and Threads Quilts and Gifts
12215 South 900 East
Draper, UT 84020
801-576-0390
www.thimblesandthreads.com

But I won’t leave you there, without showing you a couple of ideas for quilts using circles and dots, from Material Obsession’s quilt shop in Australia:


and


and

Long Beach Quilt Show–New Quilts

First the whine.

Studio Art Quilters Association had a large medium number of studio artists exhibiting their work, but alas, no photographs.  While I understand their need to “protect” their work from Evil Unscrupulous Folks, not allowing photographs is not allowing people to interact with their work in a reflective way.  Many times the lighting is so dim  that I enjoy going home to review my photographs on the computer.  I would have been happier if they’d said, “Photos allowed, but no posting to blogs or commercial uses.”  That would make more sense to me. {Note: in the comments today was an alternative: buying their catalogue (link included).  Okay, a reasonable suggestion, but I still would not have the same enjoyment in looking at their photographs as getting in close to photograph it myself and enjoy.}

Whine over.

Kathleen H. McCrady patterned her Sawtooth X quilt after an old one from 1875, using reproduction fabrics in brighter colorways.

Detail of above

Another quilt that used the old quilts as a springboard was this one, with busy, modern fabric behind a very traditional Rose of Sharon block.

Metropolis in Bloom, detail
by Kathryn Botsford

Again, let me reiterate that this show is not strong (I think) on variety, depth and breadth of their quilt exhibit. One intriguing idea was to contact a guild and have them exhibit works by their members.  While this might be a good idea, if you’ve ever gone to a (non-juried) guild show you know you get the range of quilts from excellent to should-have-stayed-in-the-closet.  The quilt above was the only one to make the cut for this blog, although I enjoyed seeing these quilts from Canada.  Another portion of the exhibit was organized by a well-known quilter, Gyleen Fitzgerald, who worked around the theme of Trash to Treasure.  She encouraged her participants to take those miniature scraps we all toss and make a treasure out of them.  She chose to use the Pineapple Quilt Block as the criteria. I love this block so here are few that were interesting.

Pineapple Salsa, Too by Barbara A. Johnston.
She combined the idea of the pineapple block with her enjoyment of hot peppers for this quilt.


My notes are not as clear as I’d like, but I believe this is titled Chaos and Relief and is by Ann Hein. [Note: Ann has left a comment giving us more information about her quilt–thanks!]

This one is Gyleen’s quilt and is called Picadilly Square, and is quilted by Beth Hanlon-Ridder.  The use of a large-scale print in the borders, and fussy cut for the centers is intriguing.  One of the vendors had this fabric and people were lined up to buy it. {In the comments, Gyleen says she didn’t fussy cut–very cool, then, how it all came out.}

Detail of above.  I like the quilting.


Really Red, by Charlotte Noll
She revealed in her notes that Gyleen had a “Trash to Treasure” Pineapple Tool that she used to make the quilt.  Ah, another way to market something.  I did think this was a stunning quilt.


Blueberries and Pineapples . . . Yum, by Florence Gray.
A bigger pitch in her notes about the tool.  And by the way, after seeing the name of this quilt, I think some of us quilters could stand some tutoring in effective titles. I admit I sometimes struggle too.  I’ve taken to using an old quote book that I found at an estate sale, for it contains lots of bits of old verse, sayings and poetry that have inspired me. Perhaps we quilters get so tired by the end of the quilt, we take the easy way out and just make simple word associations without thinking about how those titles will play out long-term.

Birds Fly Over the Rainbow, by Barbara Polston, quilted by Beth Hanlon-Ridder.
Nice title.  Nice use of the flying geese block in the border.

Harvesting Pineapples. . . Out of Thin Air, by Mary Jo Yackley.


Pineapple Daiquari, by Rellajeanne Cook, quilted by Dottie Bettiker.
What makes this quilt unusual is the quilter’s pun of using a traditional Hawaiian-quilting-style center block in the middle of a pineapple quilt.


Detail of above quilt.


Lunar Pineapple, by Barbara Vedder.  Why the fish border?  She liked it.  Although perhaps it detracts from the quilt with its bold coloration (I would have preferred to focus in on the colorful centers than been distracted by that part of the border), I think the use of black is intriguing in the pineapple block.  Okay, end of Pineapple Block quilts.


Bodil Gardner, from Denmark, memorialized a wedding day in her quilt Show me the road to Timbuktu, Take my hand and let us go.


Units 9, by Benedicte Caneill is one of those quilts I admire, but know I’ll probably never do.  She used a Rail Fence block as a basis for exploring the use of “geometric units. . . [to] create an abstract cityscape composition.”  So then I tried to figure out what the basic Rail Fence unit was.


This one?

Or this one?  She printed her own designs on the fabric.  It was very interesting, quite fascinating.

This woman confronted all her forays to the vendors’ booths in My Stash at 50 (aka Log Cabin with an Attitude). Karen Eckmeier gave herself a challenge to celebrate her 50th birthday by using only fabrics from her “stash;” each block had to contain 24 different fabrics.  She also used her “layered-top stitching technique” in the construction.  This was great!


Detail of above (click to enlarge in order to see her technique).

This work, Duck and Cover by Kathy York, “references the absurd survival strategy from the 1950s for surviving an atomic bomb blast to the current crisis of the failing economy.”  I like it when quilters take on current events, interpreting them in their own fashion.

Here’s another by the same quilter: Red Legged Bird with a Tale to Tell. This is a parable of Wall Street this past year, and she writes in the notes that “the bird is a mockingbird, mocking us as we watch him get away with a suitcase full of money.”  Click to enlarge and see the money fluttering out from the escaping bird’s suitcase.

This last quilt I’ll show you was a small quilt, but a little gem.  Titled Fields of Gold and made by Sarah Ann Smith, it had lovely quilting to carry the motif out into the large border.


Click to enlarge if you wish to see the detail of the waving stalks of wheat or the strata of the sky (below).

All in all, I had a fun day, getting new ideas, escaping the house before I headed up to see family the next week.  Now I guess the challenge to to get all the projects all sewn up!

Long Beach Quilt Show–Old Quilts

First up at the Long Beach Show is wait.  Wait until the show opens.  I’d gotten there about 45 minutes early, and was about 12 from the front.  By the time the show opened at 10:00, the line snaked out behind me, and down the long passageways.

Second up at the Long Beach Quilt Show–go and see the people who sold me the fabric for my Provence quilt, French Connections from the Carolinas.  They also sell fabulous baskets, which I saw many women toting around all morning.  They were kind enough to pose for a photo before all the crowds arrived.

I then wandered around, browsing through vendors, looking at things to buy.  The strength of this gathering is NOT the showing of quilts, although some are interesting.  Road to California, in January, is more varied and has a juried quilt show, so I always spend a lot of time looking at things there.  This show, an off-shoot of Houston, is like all the vendors came, but not too many of the quilts.  And there always seems to be a display where we are not allowed to photograph.  So I spent the bulk of my time looking at the new ideas offered by the multiple vendors, and picked up a few sacks of treasures to bring home.

I ended up buying the kit to this quilt.  I have no idea why, other than it is very very cute and the fabric choices were right on target.  That’s all I’ll say about shopping at the vendors.

One exhibit was a selection of very old quilts.  While I was standing there admiring this vintage piece from the 1800s, a group of quilters passed by.  One said ” I don’t like these colors.” Another said, “And what’s with those borders?  How could she have chosen those?”  At this point I said, “I guess from whatever they had in the 1800s.”  They did a double take, and said, “Oh!  I didn’t know these were old quilts.”  And they moved on.

This quilt was made around 1845, and is titled Star of Stars.  The panel block prints date from 1815, and the quilt includes French and English chintz, Indiennes prints–just like my Provence quilt!

The center star was fussy cut, and really makes this old quilt pop.

So what can we learn from these early quiltmakers?  Symmetry, as found in this one, from 1870.

Pictoral borders?  I liked that each of these blocks in this quilt from around 1870 were slightly different, showing that they are truly handmade.

Cleverly placed corner blocks in the border? Good use of contrasting values?  I happened on a quilt site the other day and the woman’s quilts were very colorful and well done.  But they were all medium tones, so the overall effect was mushy.  This is anything but mushy.

And when I got up close, I think the outer quilted circle around the points might even be trapunto.

How long did it take this skilled needlewoman to applique all these leaves and vines?

Detail of above quilt.

Everything new under the sun is old, or something like that.  The use of lots of stark white in the quilt from 1850 is very much what some of our “modern quilters,” as they like to call themselves, use to bring contrast and pop to their quilts.  There appear to be three parts to the quilt world today: those who do traditional quilts using traditional methods and patterns, those who do art quilts which includes lots of free form and interesting techniques and lots of embellishment, and these modern quilters.  I like this group, thinking that it has rejuvenated quilting.  One study, oft-quoted, says the average age of a quilter now is 60 years old. If you’re striving for longevity in your industry, I’d be worried if that was the number.

However, I’d bet that the average age of the modern quilters is around 30 to 35; they are the new blood of the quilting industry, and some manufacturers are recognizing this, using the blogs these quilters maintain to reach out to new customers.  We need all three kinds of quilters, I think.

A few more of the older quilts.  Barn Raising Log Cabin, from the 1890s.

Courthouse Steps, from 1890, made of silk.  Another variant in the Log Cabin block.

Detail of above quilt.

Wild Goose Chase.  It’s the variations in the center blocks, coupled with the wild goose chase borders and strong colors that make this quilt a standout.  I like that the lower left green border seems to float.

Detail of above block, showing the casual way the quilter “matched” (or didn’t) her borders and blocks.

This center block is pretty unusual.  The value shift on the left side of the block in the geese border, appears to make the direction of the points switch directions.  While I know this is all happenstance, it’s what makes this quilt interesting to look at.  Do you think her friends criticized her borders?  I hope not.

The amount of pieced triangles in this quilt must number in the hundreds.

While I’m not sure, my impression is that the shapes in the borders are flowers and leaves–irises?

More tomorrow.