Tuesday, March 31, 2009

new orange flowers

orange on the dresser 

This past week got some orange flowers that are just so beautiful and the florist chose all orange just for the woodcutter. He is such a thoughtful guy. 

Saturday, March 28, 2009

quilters room

embroidery of crazy quilt panel
this shows the work on the panel I brought home from Manassas last Sunday. Slow but steady progress. You also see the gray damask in the center which came from Richard's fancy Italian shorts mom dissected for me to include a memento. 
I saw these bottles in an old Italian grocery  found hidden in the DC Wholesale Market district after Dan Vera's poetry reading earlier this week while on my way home with some long time residents who gave me a ride home to Brookland from the reading. I can't drink this sort of stuff because it is to acidic but it does have a great orange color to enjoy. 
crazy quilt set up

Last weekend I made a trip to Manassas Virginia for a couple nights. 
Mother offered to let me bring my crazy quilt parts back out to her house and use one room to spread it out and get back to work putting the whole thing together. What a boon this room is to my quilt project. I do not have room in Washington DC in our apartment to work on anything bigger than a single panel. Last weekend at Mom's suggestion before we left to go see the big quilt show we set up the equipment in the room for my project so it would be ready when we got home. I opened up the box that has been stored in a closet floor for several years which is full of materials. It had a number of pieces I had forgotten about making. These are extra blocks of crazy patched  background fabric, almost ready to embroidery and add to the quilt top. I include some photos of my work room and panels on the bed once it was all laid out and set up. I am using the old Singer treadle  sewing machine my Grandmother Nunley left me as a table for my mother's more modern electric 1960 portable Singer. I have an ironing board to press seams and connect parts from Great Aunt Mary Ellen with my mother's vintage steam iron. After attending the big quilt show, where we saw nothing quite like my project, we went to lunch and rested our dogs after two hours of standing on hard concrete floors. Then first thing after breakfast Sunday I got to work using the great light that fills this room with a north east exposure. I spent about 5 hours working on two panels. Mom offered plenty of team spirit and encouragement and she ripped seams of some fancy Italian damask shorts I wanted to use in the new panels. That was a pair of shorts that belonged to one of my friends from Pratt Institute who died of AIDS in 1992 Richard Hoffman. Before dark  I packed up one panel with muslin backing brought it and my embroidery kit  home to DC where I am slowly filling in the embroidery of the center. This new panel will in turn will be connected to the side or top of the panels you see laid out on the bed in my photos. Then all those edges of panels will have areas of connections that still need to be embroidered to finish off the top. I expect that will take most of this year to complete if my arthritis in my spine doesn't kick up requiring me to take another break. I began this crazy quilt in 1999 and took a few years off due to spinal arthritis three times over these past ten years. I hope this year to put it all to bed now that I have a place to spread out and work when I visit Manassas and Mom. 

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

orange tulips

This past week Keith got a bunch of Orange Dutch tulips for mom. I delivered them and spent a few days with her enjoying them and quilts at a show at the Prince William County Fair Grounds. I have lots of pictures to share. The quilts I liked I took photos of and tried to get some detail shots. Those  are on my flickr.com photo pages in a set titled Quilt Show

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

quilting- in my life

this is a family portrait that includes my paternal grandfather as a 5 or 6 year old boy center who was a champion speller and rode horse over the mountains to visit his sweetheart and deliver US Postals. His nick name was Judge and his father there on the left was nicknamed Squire. This was a German/Irish Appalachian family that ended up with 9 kids by the time they finished growing.  

It was made when she was a teenager for use once she was married, then it was passed down to great aunt MaryEllen then my mother Phyllis.

Since I was a young boy, I was interested in sewing and my grandmother Sallie Smith Nunley was the first to let me do some sewing on a machine after showing me how to do simple work by hand. I recall Grandma often asked me to thread her needles due to poor eyesight.  She used  a cast iron black Singer treadle machine the family bought her years before to do repairs on clothes back when patches were an everyday backstop from running around with holes in your pants. I was fascinated by that foot peddle which I could sit and pump as long as it was detached from the machine. I found no end of  fun pretending to sew. She first allowed me to use that dangerous machine to help sew together striped blue/white and pink /white sections of  seersucker fabric for a quilt to fit on my small twin bunk bed. The story of how she sewed her index finger right through with that machine was my warning to be very careful around it every time. The index finger extended to show her scar as proof this was no wives tale made only to scare me. I think I was about nine years old when we sewed up that pink and blue quilt top and I had to wait a couple years before the church ladies finished adding the backing and quilting it all together before I got it as a highly cherished Christmas gift. 
My parents slept under a beautiful quilt  made my Great Grand Mother Shannon Cassell when she was just a teenager back in the 1880's whom I never met. As a kid there were quilts and comforters a plenty down at Grand mother Sallie's in Narrows Virginia and other homes we visited in Appalachian where my family is from. At home in Northern Virginia we didn't have any but this one that my mother protected carefully on her bed. I can remember as a boy laying on top of it admiring the little patches of colorful antique fabric trying to imagine what the dresses looked like that these small samples came from and who wore them and where they went before they ended up on our quilt. It was a comforting to imagine all those people I never met but I knew had been thinking of their family of the future when they made these quilts to share with us. I can still get lost in those swatches of fabric and I was delighted when visiting home recently to find it added to cover my bed. This quilt is lined with lambs wool instead of cotton for batting for extra warmth and perhaps that gives it the special perfume of it's own that makes those memories of childhood naps come back today.
It is with all this in mind that about ten years ago I began discussing with my sister Jenny Leigh the idea of making a crazy quilt. The crazy quilt is different from our family quilts, in that it is usually made of more fancy fabrics and is asymmetric in design with elegant embroidery to decorate the top. Crazy quilt was less often used as a layer for warmth but more to show off intricate stitching and to emulate the Japanese asymmetric designs that swept the nation first when shown at the 1876 Bicentennial Exposition in Philadelphia. I didn't know very much about embroidery in 1999 but I knew that Jenny did and sought out her help and advice. Jenny is also a fashion merchandiser and I wanted her to help me with some fabrics to make the quilt together or as it worked out on my own. She was great offering me her embroidery floss and fabric samples and a box which houses the floss. I visited her in Houston Texas Feb. 2000 for some first hand advice on French knots and found I was pretty good at the rest. There I was embroidering  small patches of black fabric with flowers of all different varieties that I invented to reflect my love of gardens and flowers. I got a book on the crazy quilt "The Magic of Crazy Quilting" by J. Marsha Michler which I discovered has pictures of a few quilts that were on display in last weekend's antique show. In the book, which is in partly online in Google books: I found many great examples of the old crazy quilts and the history and all the various types of stitches used on crazy quilts and a long section on embroidery stitches that were developed to edge the crazy quilt panels. The Smithsonian helped me a lot as well by displaying a crazy quilt at the Renwick American Crafts Collection early on where I did some sketching of stitches I liked and got a good close look at a really beautiful work of art done in fifteen years from 1895-1910 by one woman Georgia Maltbie and given to them in 1999. It was very delicate and this quilt was made of small squares that were only about 10 inches square and all stitched together to make a large bed sized quilt. It had fine cotton velvet and silk satin and all sorts of lovely animals and flowers. Once I saw that I was hyper motivated to get to work and make a "turn of the next century crazy quilt" with all the family fabrics I could find and any other fabrics that I could fill in to give my quilt colors and stories of my life. I had some set backs but after ten years I think I am ready to begin finishing up the Frederick Crazy Quilt. It is home in a room of it's own now ready to work on in Manassas. I have most of the top ready to piece together, it is large enough to cover a double bed and some areas of extra embroidery to tie them all together then it will need a backing and the edges and that will be my millennium quilt by a gay man of the 20th-21st century. 
There are a couple other quilts I wanted to mention. There is the yo yo quilt I began when I was about 11 or 12. This one is simple circles of multi colored fabric sewn into little gathered up pouches that then flatten out. These are sewn together to create a overall random pattern. I discovered this quilt on a trip to Connecticut where we visited some college friends of my parents who had one on the bed I got to sleep in for a night or two. I fell in love with it and because I figured out how to make the circle pieces I began my own version soon after our visit. The think I liked about the antique one on my bed was that it was incomplete with no backing. It is just a simple lacework of little circles stitched together to decorate the bed. I have a bag full of circles but not yet enough to cover my big bed. Last but not last is the quilt my partner's mom had made for his bed. It is a sort of simple Appalachian design of rectangles joined by long strips of yellow and the backing is red and tied with bits of navy blue yarn. A simple quilt still keeps the bed warm as does a fancy one. What do you sleep under? 

Saturday, March 7, 2009

antiques, prints & orange tulips

red tiffany lamp 

my morning pages 
a lot of art glass 
tiffany lamps 

Just got home from the first DC Spring Antiques Show at the Convention Center. It was a grand affair with exhibitors from all over the world but mostly from the USA. I was dazzled by two print dealers who had great woodcuts. These prints aren't easy to find on display in our museums in DC. So I was in heaven looking through the bins and at a few that were framed on the walls. many were made in the early 1900s and were nicely framed in quarter split oak that goes with the furniture of the Arts and Crafts movement which was strong back then. 
We also admired glass and pottery and lots of paintings jewelry and furniture. Keith found and fell in love with an ox blood red glass cut vase by Lalique that was about $27,000 we think or maybe it was 10,000 but either way too expensive for us to consider buying. We did see some nice things as low as $195 but even so nothing we had to bring home. I really enjoyed looking and thanked all the vendors but we could see they were disappointed that we and most of the visitors were not buyers... My mom got the free pass  and gave it to me to use  but we noted that  no one seemed to be paying at the door when we came in. While I was there looking at the prints I was invited to a Capitol Art Fair on April 4& 5th so I am looking forward to that show! More prints to admire. Wish I had some print pals here in DC to go with me. Keith likes block prints and was asking me to make some more of my own today.   I was wowed by prints by Arthur Wesley Dow, Bertha Lum, Gustave Baumann, Rockwell Kent, Milton Avery and many others! I saw full color woodcuts a plenty in this show but one that sticks in my mind. It was a Rockwell Kent wood engraving of a "tree feller" or a lumber jack with an axe,  that was a wood engraving in three colors: black, white and a light brown for the middle tones. I don't know why it stuck in my head except his designs and technique is really worth  $4,000 a copy for an original wood engraving of that 8x10 inch size. 

I was in Manassas last week for a visit and got some photos of my morning journaling with the big orange parrot tulips Keith sent out this week. I got home and had a long dentist appointment on Friday then rested for the remainder of the day. Tonight we have the clocks turn back so I may try to go to bed early. I find it is so hard to get adjusted to the change in time when it springs forward.