February 22, 2009

Leave as is or rip out?

Deciding on the quilting of the quilt is one of the most challenging aspects of quilting for me. Here's a small hanging (20 x 27) I worked on last week. I sometimes think that putting more stitching on a top is ruining it. Here's the top before stitching:

When I showed Mary Beth this top along with another one with small rectangles, she suggested trying out some decorative stitching in the black borders. I was putting off trying something out, but then Kay asked if I would donate something for a raffle at her place of work, Brockton Family and Community Services, and I offered this quilt. Knowing now that "Waves" would be in a raffle, and so would go to someone I don't know, I was freed up to experiment. I tried out some hand embroidery with a lovely, heavy silk thread. First I did some a traditional "open cretan" stitch in turquoise and green.

Then I decided to try out something wavy in the borders. I let some thread fall onto the black, and liked the random squiggles it fell into, so I drew along the squiggly lines and embroidered them with backstitch. The combination of the controlled and loose stitches didn't work, so I took out the controlled ones. Then I machine-quilted the waves with various designs, using a small loopy stitch in the black borders. You can see the quilting in the strips here on the back. Hmm, maybe this should be the front:

So, the question is: Looking again at the completed top, with the bright squiggles in the right and left borders, should the squiggles stay, or should I take them out and leave the black borders plain? (I am happy with the four-color binding. I first tried a pieced binding, but that was distracting.)

I welcome your comments! (By the way, if you wonder what to do next after you click "comment," it seems that you have to select a profile. Should you want to comment some other time: To leave your name--which is nicer for me than anonymous--under "Select Profile" choose "Name/URL". In the window that pops up, putting just a name is fine; no URL is needed. Then click "continue.")

I originally made this top to try out curved strip piecing, following instructions by Brenda Gael Smith in her "Ripples" pattern (published in Down Under Quilts, Issue 113, Oct 2007). It was a lovely coincidence that I won some patterns on her blog last week, just when I was working on this quilt again. Here's her quilt—you can see how I adapted it to a smaller piece (image posted with Brenda's consent):

Brenda Gael Smith, "Ripples"

February 10, 2009

Fabric for "Shelter"

I was in Phoenix this past weekend visiting my sister, and we went to three quilt shops, looking for more fabric to fill in the palette for "Shelter." I was able to find a large range of turquoise/aqua fabrics, a fair amount of cobalt/royal blue and rusty red. I found just a couple of black batiks, with the rest silk and polyesters. I've include some non-cotton in each color, looking to add a little shimmer to the curved strip-piecing that I'll be doing for each swath of color.

Here's the thinking behind this quilt, from a description I wrote to Mary Beth in January 2006:

The shelter quilt is a sequel to the "Loss" quilt that I started at Design Camp in 2005. That quilt was about David's and my experience of loss--of the brightness of Jeremy's life in ours and then the stark emptiness of our future without him. (Photo here.) As I worked through this expression of our experience of loss, I found myself thinking something like: Our future is unremitting blackness, but I don't want to think of Jeremy's future--his existence, of whatever possible nature it might be, after death--as this same blackness. I have no sense or understanding or ideas about life after death, nothing that I could possibly articulate in words. If someone asked me "Do you believe in life after death?" and asked for a yes or no answer, the closest answer would be "no." And yet, when David and I had to find words for the stone on Jeremy's grave, we put this epitaph (taken from the Jewish funeral service, with language from the Psalms):

May he find refuge forever
In the shelter of your wings
And may his soul be bound up
In the bond of eternal life.

I couldn't say that I "believe" in these words, but I need their comfort.

So, for the next quilt, I've been thinking of the image of "in the shelter of your wings."

When I first thought of doing this, an image came to mind--a Durer watercolor of a bird's wing.Long ago I had a postcard of this image on my office door, just because I thought it beautiful (despite the fact that it's a wing from a dead bird. . .). Looking at it again now, I think the colors Durer used might also be a guide for me. The image also suggests the feel of the open wing that I want to capture in the image of "shelter."

February 3, 2009

Study to Studio

For many years, this desk was the focal point of my study, the place where I wrote books, where I did my scholarship. The laptop sat on the pull-out typing return, at the perfect height for a short person like me. This desk held current notes and drafts of my research projects. Another skinny desk went off in an "el," to the right of the typing return; this second desk held materials related to the classes I was teaching, as well as bills and letters. The room was filled with books and files connected to my job, to my professional life. It was a good place to work.

After my son's death in 2004, the study no longer pulled me in. The part of my life connected to research fell away. In the midst of a quilting design workshop I took in June 2005, an idea took shape: I could turn my study into a studio. Talking with Amy D. at breakfast, I tentatively told her about this idea. "Penny, that's huge!" I was so grateful for her understanding of what the shift would mean, and her encouragement to go ahead and make the change. Which I did.

It's been three and a half years now since I re-did the room. It's been difficult to say the word "studio"; I more usually call it my "sewing room." Louise and I challenge each other to say/write the word, without hesitating, without putting quotation marks around it. Naming this blog "Studio Notes" was one way to claim the word for myself. "Study" and "Studio" both seem to be derived from the Latin verb "studio"—to pursue eagerly. Yes, I pursued scholarship eagerly for 35 years. Now that same eagerness is going into my work with fabric.

If you're interested in a (longish) account of the FunQuilts Design Workshop and how it transformed my approach to quilting—and my identity—you can read this talk: "From Study to Studio: Meaning and Motivation in Scholarship and Art" (link added in July 2010, replacing an earlier talk referred to here previously).

By the way, the typing return is just the right height for working on needleturn appliqué.

Another view of the studio.