Monday, February 22, 2010

The Applique Academy 2010

I have been home for a little more than a week now. I have finished unpacking, the laundry is finished and I have moved on to the more mundane details of life. I caught up with the bills, had an interview with the Housing Authority representing our disabled son, justified his expenses with Social Security. Now I have time to think about my week at the Applique Academy. My sixth year, it was a time bittersweet in its implications for me. But first, my classes. I taught hand quilting for the first time in perhaps ten years. I was nervous, but unnecessarily. The day was a great success from my perspective. Everyone of the twelve students was devoted to learning to quilt or polishing what they already knew. As the day progressed so did they. My main conference class was so much fun. Twenty one students minus one who could not get to the conference due to bad weather. I missed her though we have yet to meet. The dedication of the remaining students was amazing. Many of them were already at work when I arrived each morning. They came early and stayed late. The name badge above contains a pin with 6 bars attached representing the six years I have taught in Williamsburg. I will not be back next year as the faculty has been chosen and I am not on the list. This is in a sense my choice. The new contract contains a clause I cannot sign off on. Was I angry? Absolutely! Hurt feelings? Oh yes. However, for all of that, this was the right decision for me personally, based on my own sense of what is the right thing for me to do. For all the support and all the hugs and expressions of disbelief, I say thank you from the bottom of my heart! This whole thing made me feel lonely and I was so honored to find out I was far from alone. If minds are changed and I am asked back will I go? You bet! This is a wonderful venue for applique.

I thought you would enjoy seeing the above pin. "Friends stitching the past to the future" Each person who made a block for the following project has or will receive one. I think they are for sale as well. Some of the attendees felt this was wrong, that we should be the only ones to have one as they represent our work on these quilts. I am undecided. There is going to be a wonderful exhibit at Quilt Festival in Houston, Texas this fall. I hope to see you there. Stitchers from all over the US and Canada came together in small groups and made album quilts. My TAS group made a special quilt dedicated to Elly Sienkievicz and her history. I made the four applique setting triangles on the left side of that one. I also made a pretty cool 8 inch block for the Williamsburg quilt. I believe there are 12 of these quilts. I hope you trust me on this when I say that each and every one of these quilts is unique and wonderfully created. In addition, there will be many other albums. How can you even consider not going?

The honored quilter at the Academy this year is Kathryn Tennyson. The above quilt is the first of six, yes six album quilts she has created!! It reflects in the color scheme the years in which she made it. Mauve and green. I believe all the blocks are designs from Elly's books, but think she may have designed her own border. Lovely don't you think. The following pictures speak for themselves, though I will comment when I have something to say, which will be most of the time.

This one is so pretty. Subtle colors, but beginning to look more traditional in the color scheme. I love the change in the border with that great small container at the top and oh so many flowers and vines spilling out. So typical of the ladies of Baltimore.

Okay, so which ones of you are going to applique a feathered vine border next? I want to, but am a little afraid. Those background fabrics tend to fray a lot and if I decided to do this reverse applique? Hmmmmmm.

There were so many bodies around this quilt all evening I thought I would never, ever get a picture, let alone a good picture. So from the side and still a shoulder on the right. This is absolutely gorgeous. Once again I am a little obsessed with the border. Almost every inch covered with leaves and flowers. I have seen this border in at least two vintage quilts and think I will have to try this for sure. You definitely want to check out the loops that edge this wonderful quilt. The blocks, wow. I love every one of them form the Goose girl to the eagle to the basket, well you get the idea.

This one is simply a confection. great traditional blocks, beautiful fabric choices.

This a special personal quilt with family silouettes in the heart centers.great borders too. The vine and flowers provide space for initials and chronicle the year of completion. That is a very traditional addition to album quilts.

This is just a closer look at the bottom border and the pretty amazing applique numbers. They definitely look flawless.

And finally a close up of the center and a reminder that even when we are re-creating images of the past, it is important to tie our designs to the now as well. Just in case you want to use sillouettes in your work but think you do not have the expertise to draw them, let me just say. Go to Disney World/ Disney Land! Seriously, my own attempt at this in my album quilt has it's roots in just such sillouette. Kathryn also shared with us that her first quilt took over three years to complete. She wanted to make one and was intimidated about the possibility of not being able to finish. her husband suggested that she not put a time limit on the quilt, that she simply enjoy the journey. Great advice. My own quilt took three years, nine months and eleven days, yikes! So I am hoping this will encourage all of you to enjoy your journey, no matter the destination.

Friday, February 19, 2010

Happy Birthday Lizzy

Well, I know this is not your birthday cake, but it does seem appropriate to show you this way. You are twelve today and while I can count most of your many talents, I will confine myself to these few. Pastry chef, artist, cheerleader, seamstress and so much more. One of the things I like the best about you sweet girl is the way you notice when a bunch of small children have trouble catching fire flies on a hot summer night. I watch you catching them and tucking them into the tiny hands so gently. I love the way you hold and play with your new baby niece. Lucy trusts you and that says a lot for your character. Uncle Dan thinks you walk on water. As for Papa and I, well our hearts were gone when we saw that first ultra-sound picture and we have never looked back. We are so proud of you darling girl. My gift to you this last year was to allow you to grow taller than me! Now stop! Sorry about the shoe thing. No more hand me downs from me. Happy Birthday. I wish you chocolate (Godiva of course ) sour gummies and lots of goldfish! Love always, Mimi.

Wednesday, February 10, 2010

Baltimore Applique and Williamsburg

As I prepared for my trip to The Applique Academy in Williamsburg VA, I began to think once again of the book by Dena Katzenburg, more a catalog really for an exhibit of beautiful quilts in the early 1980's. I have not seen any pictures of what's inside and do not for a moment think I have not tried. However if the block we have here is any indication of what is to come, I really want to own this book. It is called Baltimore Album Quilts by Dena Katzenburg. Soooo... if you don't care much for yours? Just kidding, I think I will eventually pony up the money it will take to be a proud owner of this wonderful publication. I would like to say that the reason I love my work for the Academy is that every student is there for the same reason. That is to share the love of the craft, see what others are doing, and seriously, every student listens to the teacher, does what she tells them to do when she tells them to do it and still likes the teacher. You laugh, but things can totally go in the opposite direction. You will have to trust me on this one. because the Academy is only a few blocks from Colonial Williamsburg, I also take the time every year to visit the Abby Aldridge Rockefeller Folk Art Museum which is in the Dewitt Wallace, a museum which is for the most part underground. There is almost always at least one album quilt on display and oh so much more. year before last, there was a beautiful display of eloborately quilted petticoats. Yum!
The quilt above is part of the collection of album quilts at the Maryland Historical Society. if you are reading this post with interest, I would suggest that you investigate their link. They have a wonderful collection of album quilts. In 1994, I entered my album quilt in The Baltimore Album Revival contest at The Quilter's Heritage Celebration in Lancaster PA. One of the activities was a trip to the Maryland Historical Society. They had on display 16 exquisite Baltimore Album quilts and when the exhibit was due to change a couple of months later, they displayed 16 more! I spent a lot of time trying to figure out how I might get myself back there in the fall of that year. Just did not happen. However the web sight has a great representation of their quilt collections in a kind of interactive slide show. I am happy to be able to tell you that my quilt won Best In Class and went on the win Best In Show at Pacific International Quilt Festival.

This is the best picture I could find of this monumental quilt. My own quilt a 25 block quilt with a border. As a top it was 102 inches square, and quilted down to ninety eight and one half inches. I haven't found information on how large this one but think it is safe to say that it is more than a bit larger than my own. There is an awesome 42 blocks in addition to a complex vine border. You might want to visit for another look at great quilts and articles.

This another Maryland Historical Society quilt which I selected for you to see because of the border. Many album quilts had no border at all, or perhaps several inches of a gorgeous chintz. This quilt indeed has an applique border. It is totally amazing to see this border where almost every square inch is occupied by flowers, stems and or leaves. I have seen this border on a couple of other quilts of the period and so am guessing the designer shared her patterns, or perhaps the design was perhaps the work of a professional quilt designer and maker. I especially like it that the block arrangement is definitely planned with corner placement consisting of similar designs, corner blocks in the row around the center eagle block are wreaths and the blocks in between are all baskets. This artist had a plan and followed it. It has an air of elegance, with a hint of folk art whimsey. I hope you enjoy this post and I will be thinking of you all while I am slogging through the snow in Williamsburg, given I even get to Williamsburg! Think of me.

Friday, February 5, 2010

Back to applique

I first need to explain the color of the background fabric. I am auditioning a sashing fabric called Rich Red, a Kona cotton. Kona is really great quality solid fabric. However, you have probably already noticed that the block background fabric looks kind of pink. Sorry about that, the red shows through. The background is actually a lovely soft ivory. These blocks have been made over the course of several years, the oldest being on the far right and dates back to 1990. Yikes, time flies when you are having a good time!

This is one of the newer blocks. I love the elegance combined with the whimsy of the star flower. The rose buds are made of french wire edge ribbon.

This block is a design of mine. I do like it but feel it lacks the grace of the vintage designs. Nevertheless, there are some really fun and challenging elements. The blue blower at the bottom is composed of individual petals that are reverse applique with touches of embroidery.The center wreath feathers a base of embroidery floss with details of silk ribbon embroidery. The pink rose on the left is made of silk char-meuse filled with batting.

I made this compote filled with fruit in a workshop with Elly Sienkiewicz. This was probably one of the first times I got my courage up enough to ink tendrils and write my name on a finished block. It was a time when using oil paste sticks was foreign to me/ but I gave it a try to shade the pears and watermelon. Don't you love that this vintage design includes a design element which involves a glass tray floating above the base.

Another design with fruit, but also a couple of serious birds. I love these birds because they are proof of the sharing these artists were involved in. I have seen several versions of these haughty
avians over the years. I would guess the focal point of this design would be the woven basket. I often correct mistakes made by the earlier designer in my own work. This time it somehow didn't seem the right way to go, so if you look closely, you might be able to see clues to her influence on my own work. I used the oil sticks again, mostly on the fruit.

Don't you love this block? I know I do. I always welcome the opportunity to recreate great work and this block is a wonderful design. Just look at how many circles I was able to make. Yes! My favorite. For sometime now I have been fascinated with designers not content with even a complex wreath such as this. but compelled to fill the center with almost as much work as the outside. The birds are so animated and appear to be having a lovely conversation. I made the bow parts from the last bit of a fabric I had, which has a hand dyed look, but that is not the case. When finished, it didn't stand out the way I wanted so I used a darker blue floss to outline all the elements and the look I was after was there. More inking and just so you know, the birds eyes are needle turn applique.

This time we have not only fruit but flowers, a bird, a butterfly, and a gorgeous basket! Seriously, despite the naive tone of this design, there are some complex ideas going on. A small ruched rose on the left, the solid quality to the base of the basket contrasted with the graceful almost delicate look of the rest of the basket tells me she was talented and aware of what was going on in the quilt world around her. Even a knife to cut the fruit nestled in the arrangement suggests a desire to have a well rounded design.

This block to me, well represents much of the Baltimore style I have come to know and love. Upon examination, I am struck with the elements that are representative of so much that was going on in these designs. Looking closely, one sees first the openness of the layout. The wreath is not spare but at the same time reveals background spaces. There are flowers with no apparent stems to connect them to the whole, but we know somehow the stems are there. The rose buds are ready to open and exhibit a pretty good attempt at shading to represent a realism
we try for in today's work. The bird in the center is great. This whole block offers opportunities for reverse applique, layered in the hand applique, and embroidery. Lovely

This last block is a slightly new take on a design interpretation of a vintage block by Elly Sienkiewicz. I, in turn made a few changes for my take on this beautiful, airy confection. Don't you just love the vase? This older Ginny Beyer fabric was perfect for this use. I especially like the base and the fluted look to the main part of the vase. The red roses are silk scraps from a dress made by husband's mother thirty years ago. I hope you noticed the shading done with oil pastel sticks on the rose nearest the center. The buds are folded silk ribbon. The pink flowers on the left are my own hand dyed rick-rack. The half-ruched roses in the center are accomplished by half-ruching a ribbon on one side, joining the ends and then gathering the other side and drawing it up to form the center. Add a few French knots, a little ink, a little embroidery, well, you get the idea. I will be assembling this quilt over the next few months, designing a border and dreaming of the quilting designs. I will share again when there is something to share. I hope some of you will show me what you are doing.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Congratulations Karen

It is my great pleasure to encourage you to have a look at this magazine. I have loved every issue, but this time I have a personal interest. My friend Karen Burns has submitted and had published an apron she created. She also wrote the article accompanying the pictures.

This is Karen's work apron. This is what she wears when she is soldering something like the wonderful jewelry she makes. Now I have to ask, does this look like a work apron? Beautiful. If you like this and I am sure you do, check out Karen' s blog at vintage findings in the column to your left. Many congratulations Karen. See you at quilt festival!

A Snow Day Birthday

Friday began with a decision to delay Kelly's birthday for at least one day because serious snow was predicted. We still had snow on the ground from the last storm and having filled the bird feeders, I was prepared to enjoy the day's visitors.

By Saturday morning, our world looked like this, but the snow had stopped. We had at least five inches and it was lovely. So we made a plan to celebrate the next day. I ramped up the preparation for dinner on Sunday. I baked cupcakes and a giant cup cake. Dinner menu was to include pot roast, (her favorite ), roast potatoes and carrots, broccoli, Aunt Bee's salad, a salad with romaine, blueberries, candied almonds, mandarin oranges and a tangy dressing. I was good to go.

An emergency trip to the grocery store by my husband turned out to be a boon for me. In addition to the unsalted butter, I was the recipient of beautiful roses in the middle of winter. Dale has always been generous with flowers, particularly white roses. My wedding bouquet was white roses and so it means a great deal.

So, in the afternoon was filled with adults and children having a great time! Snow was flying everywhere and laughter filled the air. I spent time taking pictures from the porch and checking on the progress in the kitchen. The above picture is of Libby who had been sledding in the ditch. The rest of the crowd discovered her and began lobbing snow balls. So, off the sled and position it to repel and protect. Pretty funny and pretty resourceful, I think!

Danny, John, Aubrey, and kelly, the birthday girl. John is in the middle of throwing a snowball at Miss Libby. Danny, where is your coat??

Kelly, Danny, and Dale, AKA known as Honey, Dad, and Papa. Okay Danny, when you left the house you had a coat, hat and gloves!

Libby and Danny. Is he acting as a shield? Maybe he just threw a snowball at John? I don't know, but it is a nice picture.

The yard looks a lot different her don't you think? I did tell the girls they would have to return the yard to it's pristine condition. I don't think that was too much to ask! A day of fun, good food, and a loving Mimi? Just kidding. The end of the snow day part of the celebration turned out to be the creation of this lovely lady. She has hair, a cupcake in her hand, a waist, yay, and glasses. I love it that Libby, Grace and Aubrey created a Snow Mimi! Now she does have a big nose and a small pointy chin and is also short. Since Libby recently grew taller than me and has mentioned that I am kind of short........ What do you think?

So, after dinner, it was time to sing, light candles and give hugs. I know the cake looks odd. I don't always take the best pictures. What you are seeing is the top of the cup-cake, cake. The circles on top were made from fondant. It started out white. It took me over and hour to knead enough red food color into the fondant to make it red. it was worth it because kelly really loved her cup cake.

I include this picture because it was kind of a surprise to see the smoke from the candles lingering in the air. Family, it does not get any better.