Thursday, May 28, 2015

a visit with Gwen Marston

It was a totally unexpected but it happend!

My visit to Ithaca at Tompkins County Quilters was full of happy co-incidences. I was approached by Laurie Buck, a member at the guild and also a follower of this blog. With my new mantra of saying yes to whatever life brings has got me to more places than I ever imagined. Accepting to speak and teach at the guild was a start of many new friendships.

Before the official release of the book in November 2014; as soon as the first box of complimentary copies of my books arrived, I sent a copy to Gwen Marston to share my enthusiasm. Gwen was evenly excited about my happiness and she let me know via email and a snail mail. I was over the moon with her response.

In a little time since then, Gwen and I have corresponded many times via emails. Our common topics of conversations have ranged from quilts of India, visit to my native country as well as our use of inspirations from antique quilts in our modern quilts. Knowing that I have her blessings for everything I believe when it comes to quilting, means a great deal to me. Our meeting in Ithaca was a true ''meant to be'' event. She happened to be in Ithaca during my visit and Laurie made it all possible for me and Gwen to spend an entire day together.

It was an honor sharing my book, quilts and exchange ideas. We talked quilts and more quilts over the coffee, cookies and delicious lunch prepared by Laurie. Ithaca has always had a special place in my heart for all these 29 years for being my first home, but this visit was another important mark in my journey.

I will never forget those moments when we finished each others sentences while speaking the same language.

Picture perfect moments were captured by gracious and sweet Laurie Buck.

Couple of years back, Laurie was in a workshop with Gwen for her Small Studies quilts based on her book, 37 SHETCHES.

Laurie's small study

Gwen and I went on a virtual visit to India through my slide show.

Sitting at a kitchen table with Gwen, I showed her my ways of working with free-form blocks.

I had to share the Organized Chaos quilt with her.

We could have gone on talking but it was time to pack away the quilts and drive back home.

Gwen had a lot to say about my book and our ways of quilting. I am keeping it all in my head for now.. I loved meeting my favorite improv quilter of our time and show her the fire she started in me.

On my way back from Ithaca, I was so high from our visit, I am not sure if it was me or the car that was floating.. My visit through the scenic routes of Tompkins County, NY brought more than natural beauty to me.

It made me believe in endless possibilities.

Laurie, You were a huge part of this day. Thank you for making this memorable experience possible.   Your studio is an amazing and inspiring space, perfect for quilt retreats. 

Gwen, Thank you for being who you are. Since we met, you have been a constant happy energy in my head from the time I wake up to the time I start stitching and all those moments in between.

Feeling grateful,

Friday, May 22, 2015

Mug rugs

They can pack so much punch! They can be framed, or hung on the wall.  They can fill up a sad looking spot in the house with colors and texture.

I made one on Tuesday for an exchange at Philadelphia Modern Quilt Guild's meeting. 

 I would rather call them mini art quilts. 

Fruit Rug?
Little bits and pieces of scraps-confetti found its way into a square. Three design elements - colors, textures and contrast - randomly chosen but mindfully put together.

Machine quilting gave it extra texture and pattern and artsy appearance.  I don't usually participate in exchanges because the deadlines drive me crazy. In spite of having an entire month to work on, I ended up making this one on the day of the meeting. Just goes to show you how unorganized I can be.

I had fun taking pictures though...

A quilt has to have a mug on it to call it a mug rug. Notice those imperfect diamonds on the mug? Do you know I have this thing about imperfections?

 and recycled art..

It was a swap and I could be happier that it has found a new home.

I came home and decided I needed to make more.

So I made two more. For whatever reason I am never running out of scraps and the tiniest ones find their way into something useful. And like that little back and white piece in the bottom right corner, they play the most important role in the piece. Got to love all the unexpected that happens in design.

They are looking pretty happy hanging together reminding me of this salad I had made a while back.

 I wonder if the colors we live with also stay in our heads and factor in when we design a quilt.

What do you think?

Do you find your life spilling into your quilts?

Do you look at your quilts and wonder about all the whys? 

Have a great weekend!

Tuesday, May 19, 2015

To walk in their shoes

Is it even possible? 

It is not easy to walk in someone's shoes. Neither is to think like someone else but in 2005 in my workshop, 'Inspired by the quilts of Gee's bend' my students and I did just that. I challenged them to make something by re-purposing old clothes that no one wanted. While some students had hard time investing their time is something ugly and old, I decided I will stick to the original plan. I made a trip to our local Goodwill store and bought few clothes.

My rules:
  • tear the clothes - not cut
  • sew without a specific seam allowance
  • when needed use scissors instead of rotary cutter 
  • incorporate materials varying in thickness and fabric content
  • stick to a limited number of clothes to mimic the 'make do' ways of quilting to achieve simple, bold and graphic quilts.  

The idea was to experience what women of Gee's bend would while making a quilt. I tried all of the above elements along with my students.. I made the top by using old, overly worn-out corduroy which felt like a card-board and men's shirts made with blend, rayon and cottons. I tossed in strips of my husband's shirts and my dress to emotionally connect with the piece.

We chose to make the housetop blocks to avoid trimming and wasting as little as possible. To waste pieces of fabrics was not an option. I had also set the limit on how much of each garment we could use and use every last piece to make the most out of what we had.

I ended up with this top. I thought I had achieved my goal really well. I made a quilt top that looked similar to the one in the book. I felt pretty proud of myself for attempting to understand them or to be in the similar mindset of the quilters of Gee's bend.

I thought I understood it completely but not quite. I spent last couple of weeks hand quilting this old top. It was part of my slide show presentation in Ithaca but I wanted to carry it with me as a finished quilt to my next presentation.

The process of hand quilting turned out to be phase two of getting in the mindset of the quilters of Alabama.

My thought process went something like this -

What if winter was approaching and I had nothing to keep us warm?
 I would finish that quilt in a hurry!

Would I worry about the perfection in my stitching?
No time to think about that in low light and late in the night after all day's work.

Would I spend time undoing so they all look perfect?
It was going on a bed not in a show or on a wall in a gallery.

Would I have time to find a quilting pattern suitable to the quilt?
I see plenty patterns all around me to follow.

Would I run to the nearest store that was miles away to find the thread I just ran out while I was in the middle of quilting it?
No.. No!

I would just stitch away at the end of the day, every chance I get, with any thread I had in my box.. I would just finish the quilt.

My theory on all this is  - Learn many things by just doing it.

Here is what I experienced.

Having various materials on the same quilt, my stitches varied all through out. It was so hard to hand quilt that beaten up, old cardboard like corduroy material. I could get somewhat perfect stitching on the finer fabrics like my husband's shirt and my dress but some corduroy with spandex was difficult to needle through.

I do understand those quilters now. The feel of the quilt varies from block to block and it is the warmest and heaviest quilt in the stack of wall quilts. 

In spite of tearing the trips on the grain, they stretched every which way according to their fiber contents.I left the edges as they were and used binding on bias to finish the quilt.

The last thing remained was to see what it would look like if it were to hang on the clothesline in one of the southern states. So I went out this morning and took few pictures.

It's rugged and cozy quilt. If I were to machine quilt this one, it would have broken a few needles.

I was pretty happy that the quilt was ready in time for my presentation at Calico Cutters Guild last Wednesday. It was the guild's first event at the new location in West Chester, PA and what a great experience for me as well. Thank you, Calico Cutters Guild members who made it out there to listen to my talk and see the quilts.

Thank you for reading this post! 

Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Workshop in Ithaca

Oh what fun that was!

I truly enjoyed giving the talk/presentation at the Tompkins County Guild in Ithaca, NY.
The guild members were very warm and welcoming. Talk about a full circle! This was my first official talk after being an author which ended up in a town I had called my first home in 1986. 
It was an experience I will never forget.

I have designed this two day workshop so that my students get the most out of their class time. I taught variety of blocks from my book and all the ins and out of making free-form blocks.

Linda had decided she was going to make a little top out of all her blocks.

Tracy was going to go home and figure out what direction these blocks would go. I love her blues!!!

They were busy!

There were some subtle and calm colors and players...and there were some definite wild and funky fabrics.. every one was fun to have in the classroom.

Running out of fabrics was not an option for some :-)

They were willing to try the 'wonky' for the first time and as many times to get it perfectly imperfect!!!

Some of them were not afraid of going their own way! I admired that so much!


At the end of the second day, we were all smiling, making plans to see each other again!

Thank you all for your warm welcome! You made it so much fun and made me realize how much I have missed teaching. I could do this all the time! I am looking forward to my next workshop in July in Maryland at MAQ.

Tomorrow, I will be at the Calico Cutters Guild in West Chester for a presentation and a trunk show. If you are in the area, I hope to see you there.

Meanwhile, every chance I get between here and there, I have been adding some texture to my Square in Square quilt. Already halfway there and loving every stitch!

and, finished this quilt after it was made in 2005!

I will write more about them soon.

Have a wonderful week!

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