Saturday, January 31, 2009

Scrap Diamonds Workshop Day

Last Sunday was the second workshop I taught for the Piedmont Quilters Guild here in Greensboro. Scrap diamond blocks are an excellent way to use those remains of strips in your scrap box. Here's my original post about the workshop with a picture of my scrap diamonds quilt.

We had a terrific turnout and lots of interesting blocks were produced.

At least two of the participants limited themselves to batik scraps with dazzling results. They used lovely, light tone-on-tone batiks as their foundation block fabrics as well.

Several blocks set together from one of the batik ladies.

Crazy piecing and embroidery are the subject of tomorrow's workshop.

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Traditional Schoolhouse

Back in the spring of 1998, when I first started working in the library at Tuttle Middle School, I was the project director for an after school program. One of the activities I personally shepherded was a hand piecing group. Six middle school girls and one boy each made a block and I made two and connected the blocks and quilted it. I created the fabric for the bias binding from scraps used in the blocks using the Quilter's Bias Ticket. (I did a little mini lesson on this at last Sunday's workshop for the Piedmont Quilters Guild.) They each signed their blocks and I'm still in touch with one of the young women (now a mom herself) on Facebook. When I left Tuttle in the spring of 2007, I left behind the curtains I made out of book fabric, and the banner with the Gustave Flaubert quote, and a sixth grade class quilt, but I couldn't leave the Schoolhouse quilt. It hangs in my office at my school here in North Carolina now.

Back Interest

Last summer, I made a quilt for my daughter who walked the entire 60 miles of the Boston 3-Day Walk for a Cure. I finally downloaded the pictures of the back and label that I'd taken. This is the original post with my son's picture of the front. I compose my labels on the computer, then iron freezer paper to the back of the fabric I want to use, and run it through the printer. Click on the picture to see an enlargement.

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

Large Study from Nancy's class

The large study was also created for one of my one woman shows. I tried a variety of quilting techniques in it. Dealing with all those seams is a challenge when you hand quilt. The constructed fabrics were mostly left over from the wedge exercises. This one hangs in my study right over the Bernina.

Saturday, January 24, 2009

Study from Nancy Crow's class

This is a study from the first Improvisational Piecing class I took from Nancy Crow at Arrowmont. We constructed an incredible amount of fabric in those classes. Not wanting to waste any, I did some small pieces with the scraps. Originally created for one of my one woman shows at the Crawfordsville District Public Library, it now hangs in my office at school.

Thursday, January 22, 2009

Tiwanaku Two-Step

In a continuing effort to get images of older work on the blog, here's one called "Tiwanaku Two-Step" that was inspired by an ancient Peruvian weaving. It was improvisationally pieced and submitted for the QSDS Invitational in '99, but not accepted. It's hanging in my office at school now and I really enjoy catching glimpses of the colors out of the corner of my eye when I'm at my desk. More pictures are on the way now that I've finally been able to replace the camera to computer cord!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009

Home Economics

Photo credit

Along with millions of other Americans, I am very happy and hopeful today because we are inaugurating a compassionate and brilliant man as our new president. As Rachel Maddow just said, "If you're a civics dork, this is bigger than Christmas!" Today is a party, but tomorrow, reality will set in again with a vengence. Our country has so many terrible problems that seem insurmountable, but I feel that Barack Obama feels our pain as individual citizens and will involve us in the solutions to those problems. He has already spoken of the need for all of us to take responsibility for helping to turn our country around. No one can sit back and wait to be rescued, we all have to work very hard.

I've certainly been trying to practice a lot of old-fashioned home economics for the last year--paying down debt, letting the credit cards cool off, cooking at home as often as possible, using the freezer and the pantry more, repairing rather than buying new, repurposing clothes, and, as a quilter, using up the stash. I think we can help each other with this and the Internet and television provide fantastic venues for dispensing information. We need repurposed versions of the homefront efforts during World War II--Victory Gardens, metal drives, grease drives, etc. I feel that people are anxious and willing to do whatever they can to help, but they just need some guidance.

I'm hoping that the bloggers in the quilting community will come up with some great service projects and will serve as conduits for home economic information for all of us. The new year has encouraged many members of the Quilt Art listserv to clean and reorganized their studios and work spaces. Such a clean out and reorganization will produce bags and boxes of things you don't want anymore, and my suggestion is: don't take it to the curb. Make a trip to Goodwill or another charitable organization and donate those things or organize a swap meet at your next quilt guild meeting.

I'm going to enjoy the party today, but also do lots of thinking about the work that is to come. It's nice to be proud to be an American again.

Sunday, January 18, 2009

First Workshop and Quilt Bloggers

Well, the first workshop for Piedmont Quilters Guild is now history. I shared some improvisational piecing techniques with a pleasant and hard-working group of quilters who produced some knockout work.

I'm looking forward to my day off tomorrow when I'll start a baby quilt for two of Jim's graduate students who had a darling little baby boy right before Christmas.

Pictures are on the way as soon as my new cord arrives. Continuing to find old friends amongst the quilters blogs. Elizabeth Barton at
Arts and Quilts, Cogitations Thereon was in one of my Nancy Crow classes at Arrowmont and Caryl Schuetz, at the Woodhaven Studio blog, and I were in a contemporary quilters group in Indiana called Left of Center. It's fascinating to catch up with what everyone's been doing.

Monday, January 12, 2009

Matty's Red Sox Quilt

Our daughter, Anna got engaged this fall to a wonderful man who is also a devoted Red Sox fan. His name is Matthew, but his Irish family calls him Matty. This quilt was his Christmas present. I used Red Sox fan fleece on the back and lots of great baseball conversation prints on the front. The setting is the traditional Boston Common--very appropriate since they live in Boston, too. I tried to use grassy looking fabrics for the center and then either circular or pinstriped fabrics to round out the red areas. Here's a detail of the label and some of the backing fabric. Photos by Danny Fisher.

Scrap Diamonds: A Workshop

One of the workshops that I'm doing for the Piedmont Quilt Guild at the end of January is on this great scrap quilt. It's based on a single square that's turned and joined to form diamonds. It's a fantastic way to use up scraps and can be constructed in all sizes.
The pattern came from one of my friends from Sugar Creek Quilters in Crawfordsville, Indiana called Anita Hardwick. I don't know if she had it from someone else or if it was her original design. The pictured quilt was made in 1997 with lots of scraps from clothes and costumes I'd made for my children. I consciously chose pastel fabrics for the edge blocks and used a large stippling stencil to quilt it.


Our son, Dan is a Buddhist minister. During his first visit to India, he was fortunate enough to have a brief audience with his Holiness, the Dalai Lama in Dharmsala. Several years later, when his Holiness came to Indiana, we both went to hear him speak in Indianapolis. He is a remarkable person who tried to take in all the new sights and sounds of Market Square arena while a large group of dignitaries droned on before he spoke. I had also see Martin Scorsese's film, "Kundun" with Dan when I went to visit him at Denison. The quilt is a means of joining both those experiences. Both these pictures are again courtesy of Dan. Visit his blog for more information about his Holiness.

"For Peanuts and Schroeder"

The only quilt I've fused is called "For Peanuts and Schroeder" and celebrates my lovely mother-in-law and a dear friend of mine who are survivors of breast cancer.  Andrea Dworkin's fabulous quote was my inspiration and I reproduced it on the back of the quilt.  I've blogged previously about the quilt I made for my daughter, Anna, to commemorate her participation in the Boston 3-Day Walk for the Cure.  It's called "Walking for Peanuts" since she dedicated her walk to her grandmother. Thanks to my son, Dan, for the pictures.

From the bookshelf of the Quilted Librarian

Since this blog is called the Quilted Librarian, I feel compelled to talk about books from time to time. As a middle school teacher-librarian, I do a lot of reading in the young adult category. I just finished a great book by Julie Schumacher called Black Box that deals with a depressed teenager and how her depression affects her family. It's exquisitely written and yet manages to mimic the jerky writing style of a 14-year-old. With three to four page chapters, it's appealing to the reluctant reader, but it's compelling nature will keep them reading until the end.

Right now I'm rereading Robert Louis Stevenson's Treasure Island because it's one of our Battle of the Books selections this year. The old Disney movie of the book was one of my favorites as a child. My students are having a hard time getting started. Nineteenth century writers prepared you for the story a bit more (no one gets vaporized on page one) and all the sea-specific vocabulary is tough going for them. I'm trying to gently coax them into reading it.
The book is a very dog-eared copy of the Atheneum edition with the lovely N.C Wyeth illustrations, but it only adds to my enjoyment. Here be pirates, indeed.

I'm looking forward to reading Neil Gaiman's newest, The Graveyard Book. I heard him interviewed on NPR and ordered it right away. He got the idea for it while watching his son ride his tricycle in a cemetary.

At home, I'm reading Barack Obama's first book, Dreams from My Father: A Story of Race and Inheritance. He's a fantastic writer--very aware of place and bringing his readers along on his journeys. Getting this insight into the thoughts of our next president makes me even more hopeful for the fate of our country.

Nancy Crow's new book is a real treat and I find myself just sitting down in a comfortable chair and leafing through it again and again, much as I do with her older book, Quilts and Influences. I can't recommend it enough.

Friday, January 09, 2009

Google Reader: My New Best Cyber Friend

Google Reader is my new best cyber friend. I have been having a wonderful time subscribing to quilters' blogs, librarian and library service blogs, and enjoying the news feeds from the BBC and Guardian sites. It's a wonderful way to stay up to date with the blogosphere of your particular areas of interest in one handy feed. To get started, you might want to go to the Quilting Bloggers portal page that will let you search for blogs in many countries as well as state by state in the US.
I loved catching up with Melody Johnson via her blog, Fibermania. She spoke to the Indiana State Quilt Guild a number of years ago when it met in Crawfordsville. She's a brilliant colorist.
I've been really impressed with the beautiful photography on these blogs and the views into the home lives of these blogging quilters. It's made me resolve to post more often and to upload more pictures. Since I'm going to be teaching some workshops for Piedmont Quilters Guild in the next few weeks, I will try to use the blog to illustrate what we'll be doing.

Piedmont Quilters Guild program

I was the program for the Piedmont Quilters Guild in Greensboro last night. They were so very welcoming and complimentary of my work. This is the text of the talk I gave. With the able assistance of a number of the guild members, I also showed several of my quilts.

“Every good painter paints what he is.” –Jackson Pollock

Art is personal. Quilts are personal. They are inspired by something we see, or someone we know, created from our fabric choices, and formed using our technique. They very often contain minute traces of our blood! “My whole life is in that quilt,” Margaret Ickis’ great grandmother said, “It scares me sometimes when I look at it…when I remember what that quilt knows about me.”
I started quilting back in the early 1970’s while working in the professional theater. Because I could sew, I was able to pick up extra money making costumes and I had a brisk business selling patchwork Western shirts to my fellow actors. One of these fellows I’d made a shirt for asked me if I would make a quilt for him. Not knowing any better, I agreed. Long story short, the most important lessons I learned were never use anything but 100% cotton when piecing with an old Singer and, for heaven sakes, don’t try to quilt it on that same machine with a high-loft polyester batt!
That first quilt got me interested, but I had to work really hard to learn more. These were pre-Bicentennial days and there was very little information out there. I married and we moved to Crawfordsville, Indiana in 1978 where I learned some great lessons from experienced quilters at the local fabric store, my church, and the Wabash College Women’s Sewing Group. Along with these quilting friends, I became a founding member of the Montgomery County guild, Sugar Creek Quilters and later the Indiana State Quilt Guild.
From the beginning I wasn’t content to make reproductions of old quilts or slavishly follow directions in magazines and books. I flexed my creative muscles in small ways and longed for something more. Then in the mid-1980’s, two events intersected to create what Julia Cameron calls synchronicity. Judy Chicago’s art installation, The Dinner Party, went on display in Chicago and I came across Betty Edwards’ book, Drawing on the Right Side of the Brain. The table runners created for The Dinner Party proved to me that quilts could be art. While old quilts were being displayed at major museums, they hadn’t been intended as wall pieces.
Judy Chicago showed us that women’s craft techniques could indeed be used to create art. Before reading Edwards’ book, I was one of those people who said, “I can’t draw.” Working through her book convinced me otherwise and I began taking drawing and design classes at Purdue University—all the time holding quilts in the back of my mind.
Then in 1988, our son, Dan, had a terrible accident. While he was still in the hospital, I started the drawings for the piece that would become my first art quilt, “Danny’s Left Arm.” It was an attempt literally to sew my little boy back together. I was compelled to complete it by Judy Chicago’s words, “The spirit of art is always affirming, even when it deals with painful realities, for the act of making an image transforms that pain into something beautiful.”
Very soon after that, I saw Nancy Crow’s quilts for the first time. In 1991, I took my first class with her at Arrowmont School of the Arts in Gatlinburg, Tennessee. I’ve studied with her three times including her first improvisational piecing class. She and her work have had a profound influence on me.
Thanks in large part to Nancy’s thoughtful criticism, I discovered early that producing art for me was a conflict between images that represented strong emotions but were just too literal and just making designs that had no emotional content. Another area of conflict in my work in general was that I had two distinct types of work—utility or craft items and art quilts. One of my goals with my last one-woman show at the Crawfordsville District Public Library was to try and marry these two distinct types of work into one.
I have always been an avid reader and as a teacher-librarian, it’s not surprising that books have helped me in my journey as an artist. Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and Michael Gelb’s How to Think Like Leonardo da Vinci have been very important to me. Cameron’s book helped me discover my creative process. For example, I learned that I have a very productive period followed by fallow time. Cameron teaches the reader ways to refuel creatively and techniques for working through problems and artistic blocks. Gelb’s book helped me to see that one can be creative in every area of one’s life—cooking, homemaking, personal relationships, and so on.
Finding your voice and images as an artist takes time. The robes of his Holiness, the Dalai Lama inspired this quilt. My son’s photographs of Tibetan prayer flags encouraged me to make my own set.
To feed my creativity I try to spend time with time with myself and by myself. (Julia Cameron calls this an artist date.) I love going to museums and galleries. I look at art books. I try to take a walk every day and look at nature. It is fascinating to watch the plants and trees changing with the seasons. These are great ways to refuel creatively and to train your eye. I try to be reflective and examine and analyze the things that attracted me. I constantly investigate my creative process.
Having a studio space is absolutely necessary to me. I need to be able to focus on my work. The computer is in another room. My work table doesn’t double as a dining space. While I only have about a quarter of the space I had in Indiana, the move forced me to go through everything in my studio and weed out the dross.
I try to be open—to let everything speak to me. Inspiration can come from anywhere. I’ve kept a commonplace book for nearly 40 years in which I write down things I’ve read that I want to remember. Once in a while I will leaf through it and find a quote that really jumps out to me. Andrea Dworkin’s quote inspired me to make “For Peanuts and Schroeder.” “I have no patience with the untorn, anyone who hasn't weathered rough weather, fallen apart, been ripped to pieces, put herself back together, big stitches, jagged cuts, nothing nice. Then something shines out.”
Thank you for inviting me to talk to you and show my work. In summary, I’ll leave you with another quote from Jackson Pollack:
“Art is coming face to face with yourself.”