All Is Safely Gathered In–FSF

Okay, before the large picture of the quilt, get a load of this quote:

“Of all cursed places under the sun, where the hungriest soul can hardly pick up a few grains of knowledge, a girls boarding-school is the worst. They are called finishing schools, and the name tells accurately what they are. They finish everything but imbecility and weakness, and that they cultivate. They are nicely adapted machines for experimenting on the question, ”Into how little space a human being can be crushed?” I have seen some souls so compressed that they would have fitted into a small thimble, and found room to move there.” –Olive Shreiner

Hmmm.  By focusing on finishing, am I crushing myself into a small space?  Am I creating a Tyranny of the Done?  That’s the danger in shifting words around in a language as fluid as English is.  I use that term–Finishing School– in an affectionate way, Olive Shreiner’s words notwithstanding.

When I was a young mother I moaned to MY mother about how I never got anything done.  The laundry always piled up;  sometimes as quickly I as I could move it from the dryer, fold it and put it in the drawers, it would be used, dirtied and find its way back to the blue plastic mesh basket in front of the washer.  Meals were a never-ending story and I resorted to “closing the kitchen” just so I could get the breakfast dishes washed and put away before it was time to haul out the peanut butter and jelly for lunch.  The bathrooms always needed to be cleaned, the floor rarely seemed to be free of crumbs or sticky places.  And those sticky places migrated from floor to doorknobs, to car handles, to walls.  If I could have strapped on the 409 in a giant backpack, squirting and wiping as I went I MIGHT have conquered the dirt.  Just maybe.  I began quilting because I wanted a “bedspread” (what we called it then) for my bed, however I soon saw the advantage of quilting: it stayed done.  I didn’t have to resew a seam as it didn’t unpick itself in the night.  The patches would still be there, done, when I was ready to assemble them into a quilt.  And then somewhere this stitching and patching and quilting took a turn and became my art, my way of expressing creativity.

I think I moaned to mother for years and years. Then the children grew up, the bathrooms needed cleaning only once a week, then the children left.  Dishes rarely pile up and sticky places don’t spring up like mushrooms overnight.  The dust and dirt of housework and I have made our peace with each other, leaving lots of room around my job as am adjunct college professor (English) to happily spend time cutting and sewing and creating quilts.

But there’s this healthy strain of ADHD in my family, and I can easily flit from pile of fabric to pile of fabric.  My intention was to take stock each Friday, slow down and commend myself on whatever I had accomplished in order to notice my work, to smile and be aware that I completed that which I set out to do.  To reap a little harvest from the sowing (sewing, too) that I had done earlier.

So, today, here is All Is Safely Gathered In, a quilt about sowing and harvesting.  I began this three years ago, trying to work with an original block I’d drafted–simple in design but it carried a nice big punch with those new large-scale prints that we were all investigating.  How to make them work?  Place them right up against each other in nice big squares and shapes–let that fabric shine. When I was casting about for a name, I talked it over with my husband.  How about something about harvest? he asked, and the phrase from a favorite hymn jumped right out at me.  When I was that young overwhelmed mother, I could think of nothing more satisfying than walking around the house at night, the last child in bed, the open book fallen to the floor, the night-light casting its golden glow on the cheeks and hair of these children who kept me so busy during the day.  I fell in love with them all over again, storing up these feelings of satisfaction every night against the onslaught of the day.  And now, many many years later those children walk their houses at night, picking up the books, bending over to plant a kiss on their children’s soft cheeks.

I sowed children and stitches and tasks uncompleted and time and more time and I am now reaping grandchildren and quilts and houses that don’t get quite as dirty.  While I’m not done, I feel like I have some sense of the law of the harvest.  And it is immensely satisfying, I must say.

I was drawn to not only the Kaffe Fassett fabrics (rich in coloration and detail) but also those of designer Martha Negley and Phillip Jacobs (who designed that border).  I loved making this quilt, but it did take me three and a half years from inception to this stage–awaiting its label on the back.

I’m actually doing two labels–this one and the dotty quilt label.  Hopefully that one will be next FSF–in the best sense of the term.

But few have spoken of the actual pleasure derived from giving to someone, from creating something, from finishing a task, from offering unexpected help almost invisibly and anonymously.” –Paul Wiener

Happy Sowing.  Happy Finishing School Friday.

FSF–Quilts Galore

Finishing School Friday, and I’m beat!

This week I finished the quilting on the Still-To-Be-Named Quilt (I have some ideas, though), put the binding on that one in a straight bind, not a running mitered bind, added the binding to another quilt (which I’ll stitch tonight at our Quilt Night Group), and helped my friend Judy piece together quilts for her two granddaughters’ beds.  We’ve been stitiching for TWO days–like a mini-retreat!  No wonder I’m tired!  Enjoy the slideshow.

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Machine Quilting: WIP

I’m still quilting along on this one, a quilt that seems to go on forever.  Perhaps it’s because I decided to quilt it all very close together.  Generally I don’t like this for a lap or bed quilt, because it makes it too stiff.  But this one’s art–a quilt to hang on the wall–so rigid isn’t necessarily bad.  I sometimes long for ideas in quilting, so have taken to hunting up pictures taken at quilt shows showing interesting patterns.  Other times, I just lay my translucent paper of the patch being quilted and draw until I’m happy.

Our local quilt show is fixated on heavy machine quilting, so much so that it’s skewed the typed of quilts that are displayed.  One year they gave several longarm quilters the same mini-quilt and let them go to town on the quilting. Here’s a sampling:

The lighting was bad on this side of the hall unless a flash was used.  But then the quilting would have been blanked out by the light, so hope you don’t mind the slightly blurry (but can see the quilting) photo.

So I liked some of these, but I have to admit to some discouragement, as a non-longarm-owner, in terms of how I could finish my quilts.  And while I love being inspired by some of these squares, some are just completely out of reach.  Like the next one.

It looks like those old Spirograph toys I used to have as a girl, where you do overlapping circles in a controlled design.

But, can I just say that this is a bit over the top?  That the machine quilting obscures the piecing design?  I get that it’s supposed to–I’m not that dense (well, at least not this morning).  But I always think a fine piece of art should harmonize on some level, and in cases where there isn’t enough quilting (I’ve done those quilts) or too much quilting (like the sample above), I think the quilt is not balanced.

Here’s another example.  This to me, is just thread-painting, a type of quilting art by itself (reference some of Hollis Chatelein’s work).

I thought the flames here were interesting and highlighted the yellow/blue piecework.

I’ve tried quilting feathers. . . and have mostly failed. Lots of picking out of stitches when I try them.

Don’t like this one at all, but it’s probably like that old line: “You say tomato, I say tomahto.”
In other words: “To each his own,” said the old lady as she kissed the cow.
(That’s an old bromide my father used to say.  I grew up in a family of seven children and you can bet that there were lots of differences of opinion!)

The quilting in this blue corner reminds me of the block Storm at Sea for some reason.

Check out the checkerboard in the blue corner.  A (mostly) blank square alternating with a square with the teensiest stippling stitch which creates a relief, almost like trapunto, to “pop” those squares out.  Sometimes what we don’t quilt adds to a design.

I have to say I walked away from this just wondering about the direction of quilts in this day of machine-machine-machine, quilts stitched to within an inch of their lives.  And sometimes killed in the name of “surface embellishment/machine quilting.”  One of the more beautiful quilts I have seen on this theme, was a whole-cloth quilt, where the machine stitching WAS the point.  It’s when we try to balance it with the piecing that I think we can run into trouble.  I had that experience sewing on my WIP.  Sometimes I wonder if I quilted it too heavily for the fabric, and in some blocks I stitched a design and ripped it right out again (which is one reason why it’s taking me sooo long!).

Here’s a couple of quilts that show varied stitches for inspiration.  Fabulous ferny feather to the left of the lower flower.

I liked this photo because it shows that even echo quilting can be effective.

I remember listening to an elderly speaker once who held up a three page letter someone had written him, all done on the computer.  He made some reference to if it were written by hand, the wandering prose might have been reigned in and the letter’s author might have gotten to the point more quickly. I sometimes wonder if we don’t suffer from the same sort of lack of editing with our swift and powerful machines these days.  I can admire a heavily stitched quilt and can emulate what I can on my smaller, regular machine, in order to get my quilts made.  But when I look at what Suzanne Marshall has done on her quilt (below), The Legend of Guimar, I often wonder if we might need to reign it in a bit.

Her hand-done quilting enhances the design, augments her beautiful applique.  I realize by writing this post, I sound very much like that Granny character in Toy Story, who drives an old Model-T.  We type-cast those older folks as out of step and unable to adapt and change.  But perhaps they see things we can’t, as in love as we are with our technology.

I guess I want it both ways: I want a quilt to be well-quilted and hope that the quilting harmonizes, augments and enhances the design, instead of running over it in a flurry of stitches.

Thanks to Lee, for hosting WIP Wednesday!!