Monday, August 31, 2009

On the Road Again

Hi there - it's me again... back with more quilts to show!

"Heart and Lyre" block

I'm still "on the road" to Baltimore. Here is the finished heart and lyre block -- and the fourth block of my new Baltimore pattern, the glorious eagle. While I have always loved Baltimore quilts, I have not been a huge fan of bulky beaked, thick-tongued eagles, which are often found in old Baltimore album quilts and the replica patterns. Part of what drove me to design my own patterns - albeit, my designs are inspired by the old Baltimore quilts - was creating reproduction blocks that are more "my" style. Don't get me wrong: I absolutely love the old quilts - but I like to move the designs beyond the mid-1800s.

The Eagle block

Last month I said I was too busy to photo and post everything I have been working on. But here are two of the quilts that I did earlier this year. The first one, "Autumn Dreams," was made when Quiltmaker magazine invited me to design a Fall-oriented pattern for their August issue. I love Quiltmaker -- their quilts are never the overdone slash-and-slap-together quilts. I finished the quilt for Quiltmaker earlier this year - but could not post pictures of it until after the magazine issue was published. Now that the magazine is out on the stands... here is my quilt!

"Autumn Dreams"

The next quilt is "Dream." A story goes with this quilt. Carol Schillios is an energetic woman who develops projects aimed at improving the quality of life for women and their families around the world. Her self-help programs take incredibly destitute women and teach them life skills that build self-esteem and independence. For example, the Here Je Cooperative Center in Mali, West Africa, teaches women to earn a living by working with textiles and making jewelry. These programs are life-saving in scope.

Alex Anderson, Carol Schillios, Sue Garman, and Ricky Tims

So what does that have to do with my wall hanging? I was invited by Alex Anderson and Ricky Tims of The Quilt Show to be part of a challenge group; we were all given two fat quarters of the Fabric for Life textiles designed by the young women of Mali. The challenge was to make a wall-hanging with a perimeter no larger than 100 inches and a theme of "helping hands." Here was my challenge quilt:

Dream: Side A
(24" square)

My wall hanging started with a compass: you can't help someone if you don't know where you're headed. And the center of the compass has a heart: you can't succeed if you aren't led by your own heart, your own passion. "Helping hands" that address systemic problems such as hunger and poverty involves crossing many boundaries: geographic, political, educational, etc. And so my quilt has many borders in it. I believe that helping requires me to reach as far as I can, so my outer border is a border of stars: I believe in reaching for them. And finally, it is too easy to throw simple solutions at complex problems and think that will solve them: send money, feed people, provide education, send soldiers... but complex problems have a thousand dimensions. And so my little 24" square quilt has over a thousand pieces in it. Okay - so you thought that was all I had to say about this quilt? Actually... no! The front of the quilt addresses the complexity of helping others. But it fails to capture the imagination, the dreams, the creativity that the girls in Mali need.

The Here Je bead doll

When I received my challenge fabric, it was accompanied by a tiny little bead doll that one of the Mali girls had made; it represented the "spirit" of success that the girls felt. You have to understand: these young women are so poor that they do not sense that they can even dream. And so the back of my quilt is a totally separate quilt -- which captures the doll in pictoral fashion and represents the girls dancing on their dreams.

Dream - Side B

The front and the back of the quilt were separately made and separately hand-quilted; the front is outline quilted, while the back is quilted, appropriately, with the "dinner plate" pattern. The two quilts were invisibly tacked and bound as a single quilt. Nifty, eh?! If you want to see more about these challenge quilts, you will have to join Alex and Ricky's "The Quilt Show" ( The Quilt Show is an online web community with thousands of members. It is literally an online quilt guild - and it's a bargain. Joining gets you a lot of topnotch quilters demonstrating their techniques and processes, regular information on what's new in the quilting world, a world of quilting tips, online quilt shows, a helpful forum, a gallery of thousands of quilts, and plenty of inspiration from Alex and Ricky. You can't beat it!

Last but not least, below is a quilt that I just loved when I saw it. I bought the quilt top on eBay for a song - and then quilted it and donated it to my guild's annual auction. For me, giving brings a thousand-fold return - and although keeping the guild finances healthy is one of my missions, it's totally selfish: I want to be inspired by great speakers each month! Take a look at the quilt: don't you just love the sashing in it? Who, today, would take the time to make 1-inch double half-square triangle sashings on a 100" square quilt?! Gotta love it!

I need to answer a few questions that have come to me via comments on this blog. Here are some short answers:

  • How do I hand applique on Kona? I needle turn all of my applique - practice, practice, practice makes all the difference when it comes to applique.
  • Do I prewash fabrics or use fabric softener? I ALWAYS prewash - to remove excess dyes and processing chemicals, and to preshrink my fabrics. I NEVER use fabric softener, starch, fabric finish, washout markers, or disappearing ink markers on my fabric; they can be quick recipes for disaster if not handled right - so I choose to avoid the issue.
  • Did I jump into applique or start by practicing something? I learned to applique back when dinosaurs roamed the earth. But seriously... when I decided to really "learn" applique, I started by making 23 of 25 Baltimore Album Quilt blocks from Elly Sienkiewicz's "Baltimore Beauties and Beyond" book (1989). The book is out of print but it can be found on Amazon for $40-50, and is well worth the money -- it contains a set of lessons that taught me, step-by-step, the ins and outs of applique. What ever happened to those 23 blocks? They were for learning - and so when I was done with them, I put them in my guild's annual auction and I no longer own them.
  • Do I prep my applique? I assume that means: do I pre-turn the seam allowances under on the individual pieces (using glue, freezer paper, starch, stitching, back-stitching, or whatever...). And the answer is... I don't have time to do double duty. I am a hard core needle-turn fan; I can dive right into any project and start appliqueing pieces down in short order if I don't have to do all the mish-mash of gluing, pressing, turning, etc. involved in pre-basting applique. Once you learn to do needle turn, it's hard to leave it! Having said that... not everyone finds needle turn to be easy. Ah... but I never said it was all easy... it's just more efficient once the technique is mastered!
Okay - it's time for me to get back to sewing. Time is flying and my Baltimore border awaits!

Sue Garman
(c)2009 Susan H. Garman
All rights reserved

Sunday, August 2, 2009

Going to Baltimore... Continued

I am trying to faithfully post at least once a month - usually by the first of the month. I'm a little late in August because I've been so BUSY! I have not even had time to take pictures of the things I've been working on -- but here are a couple to look at. First, I designed another block for my Baltimore quilt: a lyre with a rose intertwined in it, surrounded by a heart-shaped wreath. I still have a little left to do on this block -- the centers of a couple flowers are missing, and there is a bit of embroidery that remains to be done.

Heart and Lyre Block

I have also made a Flag and Eagle block; I'll post a picture of that block as soon as I take one. As I make this Baltimore quilt, I am designing a set of killer borders reminiscent of my Ladies of the Sea quilt's borders. These Baltimore borders will be ten inches wide and 85 inches long. Each border will have a center vase with flowers issuing forth, as well as corner vases with vines and flowers. I have half of the first border basted; below is a drawing of the finished product. Yes, I think I'm nuts when it comes to quilting, but sometimes a quilt just whispers in my ear that it wants to be special. This one has been screaming at me.

A quilt I made earlier this year, Autumn Dreams, was just published in the latest issue of Quiltmaker magazine. I will post a photo of it, too - as soon as I find a hole in my schedule so that I can take pictures. Until then...

Happy quilting!

(c)2009 Susan H. Garman