Saturday, May 28, 2011

Back to the mountains of Pennsylvania

During the past ten days, instead of working on my many quilting projects, preparing garden beds, or writing a blog post, I have been treating myself to scenes like this:
Pisgah National Forest, North Carolina
or like this:

Atlanta, Georgia
or like this:
Cedar Key, Florida

At the urging of my sister-in-law, who lives in Gainesville, Florida, we decided to see a part of the country neither of us have ever visited--the states from North Carolina to Florida, stopping to see friends along the way. 
Pelican, Cedar Key, Florida
  • So we began in Charlottesville, VA, where friends took us to see Measure for Measure, admirably performed in the Blackfriars Theatre, a re-creation of Shakespeare's original Globe. 
  • Then stopped in Brevard, NC, and hiked in the mountainous Pisgah National Forest, full of waterfalls and long vistas you can lose yourself in. We even survived the narrow road that wound its way up the side of the mountain with its hairpin turns dropping off into I didn't want to look.
  • Went on to the culture shock of big city Atlanta with its hundreds of cars moving seven abreast down the interstate.
  • And finally to Gainesville with its Spanish moss and palm trees and also a memorable Butterfly Rainforest. We also squeezed in a trip to Cedar Key, where we walked in gentle Gulf waves and had the best clam chowder I have ever had.
On the way home we handed the driving over to Amtrak while we ate, read, did some handwork, and slept.
So what does all this have to do with quilting, you may ask? Well, here are three of the many other pictures I took:
Atlas moth, Butterfly Rainforest
Elephant Ear, University of Florida Botanical Gardens

University of Virginia

I saw quilt patterns everywhere and came back with a long list of quilt ideas and an enthusiasm for getting my hands on some fabric. And of course, I couldn't resist making one unplanned stop on our journey:
So, if you are still reading, it's great to have your company again.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Finding Time When There Is None

In the midst of all my busyness during April I made the mistake of looking at the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge. The focus was on the work of Andy Goldsworthy, who may be at the top of my all time favorite artists.  The challenge was to use, as he does, natural elements to create rhythm and pattern against a background that is "exciting and different." I had to do something in honor of Goldsworthy.

For a long time I had had in my mind to try creating a quilt using sticks or twigs of some kind to see, first of all, how I could do it, and then how it held up. As I walked through our fields in the late fall last year, I poked about in the stands of dead goldenrod (and no, it doesn't cause allergies; it's the ragweed that blooms about the same time as the goldenrod that is the culprit. Ragweed flowers are green and low to the ground and hardly visible, but goldenrod is a showoff so it gets blamed even though its pollen is so sticky it doesn't travel much at all)  and was surprised at how sturdy the stems seemed. So I harvested an armload and put it on the back porch. As the weeks passed and I didn't find time to follow my inspiration, the pile was moved to the basement and shifted from spot to spot and forgotten.

The challenge reminded me of that goldenrod, certainly nicely dried now, unlike other twigs that would be oozing spring sap. Much to my surprise I found it, neatly stored on top of a cabinet, and so I began to think about a background.

I decided to try to capture the feeling of frosted leaf litter on the woods floor in late fall so I began to piece a background. I could have fused the pieces and would have been done much more quickly. I could have machine appliqued the pieces, but I decided to machine piece these pointed shapes, which meant set-in seams. The first couple went fast and looked good, so I was encouraged and once I started with this method I was stuck. As time got tighter, the seams seemed to take longer.  Stress changes perspective. But finally it was finished.
I cut the goldenrod and began working out a pattern. Wanting to add a color variation, I rescued some last year's hosta flower stems from my attempts to straighten up the garden and those became the short light pieces. I attached them to the already quilted background with several loops of thin thread near each end, and there it was. Even though it was not yet faced, I posted it on the challenge site before the deadline!  I liked it but somehow felt it wasn't integrated enough.

I left it on my working wall and decided one evening to couch some gold pearl cotton in meandering pattern between the patterns of twigs.

And I like it quite a bit more.  

And if you are still reading, thanks for the company.

Thursday, May 5, 2011


Meant to post earlier this week, but all my word thoughts were taken up with preparing a talk I had been asked to give to the Wellsboro Art Club.  Entitled "Finding Myself in Stitches: A Quilter's Journey," I got to think about how my quilting has changed over the years and what I have learned along the way and how I could present the art of quilting to a nonquilting audience.

All went well, except for a minor glitch on a Power Point slide.  We even had enough break in our perpetual rainy season for me to get my quilts to the car from my house and into the Gmeiner.  The club turned out to be a very welcoming group of women, who took me to lunch and who were a great audience who listened actively and asked great questions.

When I was summing up, mentioning things I had discovered on the course of my journey, I commented that I am convinced more every year that I am focused on making art, that the arts are an essential part of an education, that to eliminate them because they cannot be easily measured like reading comprehension or math skills is to cut out the heart, the part that helps us understand who we are and what life is about.   And I saw nods of agreement in the audience.

So, all in all, a most pleasurable step in my quilting journey.

Now on to enjoying the first spring day all week, getting back to my quilts in progress, and helping launch the Wellsboro Growers Market this afternoon.
And if you are still reading, thanks for the company.