The Best Christmas Present

This year I was priviledged to finish a very special quilt top …

1940’s Double Wedding Ring scrappy quilt

Amy M’s grandmother pieced this top in the 1930-40’s. And then she died, when Amy’s mom was only 8 years old.

Vintage double wedding ring quilt, fabric detail

It was discovered earlier this year, and Amy decided it would be a very good present for her mom.

Vintage Double Wedding Ring quilt, 1940’s fabric detail

I quilted it using cotton thread, and an organic cotton batting, which gives the soft hand and low loft typical to the 1930’s. I also used a stencil from that period.

Double Wedding Ring quilt with reproduction 1930’s quilting stencil

We’ve left it as we found it, a few rows not finished, with the exception of a few pieces that had to be replaced from my stash of 1930’s fabrics.  We’ve bound it with a piece of pink that was given to me by a very special friend, from a group of shirting fabrics from the 1940’s from a textile mill in New Jersey. It’s perfect!

Double Wedding Ring quilt with vintage pink shirting binding


The miters can be a little tricky, but just a bit of patience and some extra stitching makes them stay down nicely …

Vintage Double Wedding Ring quilt binding detail

I hope Amy’s mom loves this as much as Amy and her daughter did! I know it’s quilts like these that make me absolutely love my job.

Quilt Show and Museum, Paducah KY

Quilt Show and Museum, Paducah KY

Downtown Paducah Kentucky
Downtown Paducah Kentucky

It was time for a big shot of inspiration, time to get away from the unpacking and shifting and sorting and get a new perspective. So it must be time for the big quilt show in Paducah!

My first time here, and I must say I was impressed by some things. First, the town of Paducah is effectively doubled by the influx of quilters and quilt enthusiasts and vendors, and it seemed that every single person from the town rose to the occasion. Seemed that absolutely everyone pitched in and helped. Everyone appeared to be fed, watered and housed in style! And better yet, with good humor. It was impossible not to see how tired the people at Hancock’s of Paducah were, and yet they could still talk and laugh with their customers. And find fabric, no matter how displaced.

The downtown area, which is where the main activities of the show take place, is very much human scale, and very walkable. Like so many of our smaller towns the older buildings had been repurposed with great style and imagination. And of course, quilts everywhere.

The museum was much smaller than I expected, and so, of course, I asked. The museum was designed to be inviting, not intimidating, to beckon people in, not push them away. It is unimposing, unassuming, without grand landscaping but with picnic tables and plenty of parking. This limits the number of quilts that can be displayed at one time, which is actually probably better for the textiles themselves and opens up the possibility of seeing something one might not have noticed if overwhelmed. Many quilts I had wanted to see weren’t displayed, and yet I felt completely satisfied by what I did see. Satiated. I had time to linger and really, really look at them. No photos allowed, and no program that I could find, so I must rely on my not-always-trustworthy memory.

The National Quilt Museum, Paducah KY
The National Quilt Museum, Paducah KY

One special exhibition was titled “The Gala of the Unexpected” and several of the exhibiting artists had certainly risen to the occasion. One “quilt” was made from chicken wire and flattened beer cans, but I can’t remember the artist’s statement. One was made from items from the artist’s house, sparked by the idea of “feedsacks” and using modern flour sacks, trash bags, shopping bags and other interesting materials, items that were on hand. My favorite was a take on a traditional block quilt made entirely from duct tape. Quilts have definitely left the bed and assumed a place on the wall!

The miniatures were amazing. Really amazing.

The antique New York Beauties exhibit was almost emotional as much as visual. There’s just something about antique quilts that grabs me by the heart. Maybe because they are often so imperfect. Maybe the spirit of the maker is embedded in the materials, so touched and handled by human hands. Several of them made me just take a deep breath …

Sylvia Schaeffer and Celestial Orbs, AQS Paducah, 2016
Sylvia Schaeffer and Celestial Orbs, Honorable Mention Modern Category, AQS Paducah 2016

The show was the gargantuan event we have come to expect from the national shows, and the winners were the usual suspects. A notable exception is fellow Athenian and modern quilter Sylvia Schaeffer, who won yet another ribbon in a major show, this time for “Celestial Orbs”. It’s always fun to see what people are doing, and some of it is quite impressive indeed. But none of it warmed my heart like the imperfect old quilts by anonymous makers, and so that’s what I’m going to hold close for this show.


Quilters Take The Art World

Quilters Take the Art World

Ann Loveless, of Loveless PhotoFiber from Frankfort, Michigan, won the $200,000 Public Vote Grand Prize from ArtPrize on October 9, 2015. Her work, Northwood Awakening, is a 60 by 300 inch quilt, made in several panels. This is made especially interesting since she also won in 2013, with ArtPrize 2013 Public Vote Grand Prize winner for Sleeping Bear Dune Lakeshore. 

According to the ArtPrize website, “ArtPrize voters have time and again elevated work that is technically difficult and masterfully created” as the winners of the competition. In another quote from their website:

“Once again, reverence for technical skill in two-dimensional work—this time in a stunning combination of large-scale photography and intricate textile—has captured the imagination of the voting public,” said Christian Gaines, ArtPrize Executive Director. “It’s a surprising and unexpected twist to have Northwood Awakenings represent our first-ever two-time public vote winner. We’re stunned and delighted, but we’re also reflecting on how this affects ArtPrize going forward.”

Now, this doesn’t actually surprise me as much as it seems to the organizers of ArtPrize. Anyone who has ever been to a quilt show knows that feeling one gets upon entering the venue, and hearing the gasps and sighs that seem to escape unnoticed by the viewing public. Anyone with a child knows the intrinsic attraction of a quilt. And anyone with a pet, be it dog or cat or anything else 4-footed, know that a quilt will be the spot-of-choice given any number of alternatives for that pet.

I’ve not posted a photo of Ann Loveless’ quilts, as I don’t have her permission to do so, but would highly recommend a quick trip to her website to see her revolving gallery of work.

Quilts rule.

Filling the Well

Filling the Well

A modern quilt
Sylvia Schaefer and “The Disintegration of the Persistence of Artichokes”

I have just returned from the AQS Chattanooga Quilt Show, only 3 hours away and an overnight stay. I went with a friend, Sylvia Schaefer, who had a quilt in competition. We spent hours (and hours!) at the show. Visited the Tennessee Aquarium. Listened to the pretty wonderful local band entertaining on the square. Ate dinner at a very cute little restaurant beside the city park. Strolled across the Tennessee River on the restored pedestrian bridge. Had some truly inventive ice cream. Watched other people with their dogs, their partners, their babies. Took the electric trolley around town. All in all, a good time.

This year has seen a bit of a turnaround in my thinking about taking these little trips. I’ve been telling myself I have too much to do, I can’t afford it … when in actuality, I can’t afford NOT to go. There is so much inspiration in seeing actual art, not flat art in photos or online. My subsequent work takes off in new and sometimes unexpected directions. My energy levels are replenished. Friendships are made, or strengthened. It’s great to see what products are available. And it never, ever fails that I meet someone who inspires me in an unexpected way.

This year it was Sandi Suggs, the featured quilt artist at the show. I was just walking through, taking a deeper, final look at her quilt chronology, literally minutes before the closing of the show. All by myself, not even really conscious of what, if anything, I was thinking. And then, there she was. She introduced herself and we had a rather deep and surprisingly intimate conversation. Perhaps it was her charming way of being so unassuming. Perhaps I was caught so offguard that my usual defences were not in place.

Finding My Voice: Quilts by Sandi Suggs
Finding My Voice: Quilts by Sandi Suggs

Quilt shows can be tricky places. It’s so easy to get caught up in criticism, what quilters call acting as the “quilt police”. So hanging all of your quilts, from the first to the most recent, probably feels a little like standing in your underwear on stage. (I’ve never been brave enough to do this.) Everyone started somewhere, and I remember reading an article in a quilt magazine where very famous quilt artists shared photos of their first quilts, with the object being to match the quilt to the artist. Some, it was easy. Most, not so much. But the other side of that is that if the only quilts hanging in a show took someone 2 years to make from start to finish, with no indication of beginnings or experiments or trials, many MANY people would be so intimidated they’d never consider trying one. And so, I find that more and more I am drawn to the experiments, the ideas, sometimes the execution of which is less than perfect or spectacular. They give me a bit of an inside view, a window into their thinking and method. They give me the itch to try some things myself! And Sandi’s journey was interesting, and winding, covering many different styles, patterns, and fabrics, and it was so nice to see the progress, both in her choice of styles that seemed to suit her better, and the progression of the skill set necessary to get to the next levels. I suspect many of us are on this path ourselves.

So thank you, Ms. Suggs, for sharing. For smilingly opening up a window into your process, your work, and your heart. I hope your courage is contagious!