A Beautiful Faraway Place I'll Never Go

in progress

in progress

When I made this quilt it didn’t have any special meaning. I was having fun playing with colors, remembering the color theory and technique I had learned in a workshop with Tara Faughnan. I crowd sourced for title ideas because nothing immediately came to mind. A friend said it reminded her of photos she had seen of Cinque Terra Italy at sunset. After looking at the images myself, I had to agree.

The idea of the world’s most beautiful places is tinged with sadness for me at the moment. I used to think I’d reach the age of retirement and then happily go traveling the globe with Nate. Now that we know more about how severely climate change will affect our lives in the next decades, I’m realizing that will probably always remain a dream. Not only will flying become an extravagance beyond the reach (and outside the moral code) of most people, but many beautiful coasts and places around the world will simply be gone. I think it’s important to put people first and I am hoping (and voting) that our leaders will make choices that minimize the damage already done and prioritize human survival. I know it’s a selfish impulse to grieve my lost leisure travel, but I’m taking a minute to be sad about all the places I’ll never get to see with my own eyes.

in progress

in progress

completed top

completed top

A Beautiful Faraway Place I’ll Never Go

A Beautiful Faraway Place I’ll Never Go

A Beautiful Faraway Place I’ll Never Go, back

A Beautiful Faraway Place I’ll Never Go, back

label detail

label detail

quilting detail

quilting detail

This quilt is good for a twin size bed, measuring 65” x 80”. I quilted it on my domestic Juki. Mitch Hopper took final pictures for me.

Two Mini Quilts

This quilt was made for a swap between my guild and the Ann Arbor Modern Quilt Guild. My partner didn’t give me any requests, just told me to make whatever my heart desired. So I used scraps from a previous project (my Good Bones mini quilts from my drawing final) and the design was loosely inspired by the Arne Quilt by Rossie Crafts. I did my own quilting on this one and was pretty happy with the outcome.

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And another mini for a swap. This time it was a swap within my own guild. Again, my partner left it pretty wide open in terms of what she likes, so I tried to make something that reflects what I see in her: bright, vibrant, energetic. I had fun improving my way through this mini. My partner liked it and it turned out to be a parting gift, as she soon after moved from Chicago to Milwaukee.

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Train Track Pennies

My last living grandparent passed away in early 2016. My dad's mom lived to be 90, and lived independently very nearly until the end. She was wonderful in many ways. She was sweet and funny, crafty and thrifty, made THE BEST scrambled eggs, popcorn, and lasagna, and had the greatest stories about her life as a young woman.

When I was a little girl (around 6 years old, I think), I spent 3 weeks at her house during the summer. It was much too long for a kid that age, and I was a homesick wreck by the end. Still, I have a lot of great memories from that trip. We took walks, put coins on the train tracks, picked Queen Anne's lace which we then put in a cup of food colored water. We made seed bead bracelets and I repeatedly spilled the bowl of beads we were working from. We would patiently pick them up together. Once I spilled an entire bottle of Calamine lotion on her carpet. Again she surprised me with her calm reaction. Coming back from one of our walks one evening, I ran ahead and locked the back door and the front door and then ran out again. I had locked us out of the house. I think I thought it would be funny, but I was soon in tears realizing it was not actually a good joke at all. Grandma took it all in stride, again, and calmly found a neighbor to help us pick one of the locks and get back into the house. 

Grandma and me, 2001

Grandma and me, 2001

I think because of the good experience of staying with her that summer, I always felt close to her. When I graduated high school, instead of staying home and enrolling in community college, I decided to move in with her and attend one near her. I was a terrible roommate, self centered and inconsiderate. I know she must have been irritated with me much of the time but once again I felt so close to her because of the time we spent together. We watched the first season of The Bachelor together and had to hide our eyes and giggle when things got too sexy in the last few episodes (same thing when we watched Coming Home with Jane Fonda). I was vegetarian at the time and she went out of her way to cook things completely foreign to her so that I could eat. We spent countless hours chatting in the kitchen as she washed dishes and I dried. She beat me at Scrabble many times. She was still playing with and beating my parents until a few weeks before she died. I wish I had recorded some of her stories somehow, and I wish I hadn't waited so long to make her a quilt. She only got to use the one I made her for a few weeks. 

One of grandma's garments I included in the quilt

One of grandma's garments I included in the quilt

Stack of clothes, waiting to be cut

Stack of clothes, waiting to be cut

My parents and sister did most of the work of cleaning out her house after she was gone. I asked them to set aside some things I could use to make a quilt. They delivered a large box full of clothes and bed linens, and also lots of my grandma's own craft projects, like doilies, or table runners she had embroidered. These items sat in my house for over a year before I was ready to cut into them and make this quilt. They carried the smell of my grandma's house so strongly. It was an emotional experience just to open the box. After a couple false starts, I finally got going. 

Ovals in progress

Ovals in progress

Ovals cut in half

Ovals cut in half

I decided to make these oval shapes to represent the pennies we used to smoosh on the train tracks behind Grandma's house. I used the six-minute circle method to piece them, and was happy to discover the technique also works for shapes that aren't perfect circles. Once the ovals were made I cut some into halves and some into quarters and mixed them all up. I felt inspired to include another design element... I had always been fascinated by notebooks full of Gregg shorthand that my Grandma used for practice during her time in secretarial school. The secret-codedness of it all was intriguing to me and I thought the lines were beautiful. I decided to applique shorthand symbols over the top of the flattened penny shapes, and I chose words that describe the attributes I most admired in my Grandma. Patience, generosity, love, curiosity, humor, service, fortitude, and neatness.

shorthand symbols applied with a bias tape machine applique technique

shorthand symbols applied with a bias tape machine applique technique

This quilt was emotionally challenging at first. Then it developed into a technical challenge. I've never worked with so many different types of fabrics before. There are silks and polyesters in here, along with cottons of all different weights. There are thick fuzzy blankets, and nubby hobnail bedspreads. I put interfacing behind the stretchy fabrics and forged ahead. It's extremely thick in some spots but my Juki handled all the different fabrics beautifully. I quilted this one myself. I was proud to have it hang in the juried show at QuiltCon 2018. Thanks to Mitch Hopper for taking final photos for me, the last four images here are by him.

Final quilt, measures 51" x 63"

Final quilt, measures 51" x 63"

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quilting detail

back of quilt. I used a flannel sheet found in my grandma's house, new in its packaging.

back of quilt. I used a flannel sheet found in my grandma's house, new in its packaging.

Label and key for shorthand symbols 

Label and key for shorthand symbols 

Naive

Naive Melody by the Talking Heads has been a favorite song for years. I wanted to make another quilt using the Drunkard's Path alphabet I designed, and this lyric, "Never for money / always for love,"  emerged as a phrase I love enough to put on a quilt. I think of it as an unofficial, cheeky motto for my quilt-making. When you're a quilter, people are constantly asking you if you sell your quilts. And, well, here is my answer. 

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pieces cut

pieces cut

sketchbook and palette, inspired by a notebook cover

sketchbook and palette, inspired by a notebook cover

binding, pieced with leftover squares

binding, pieced with leftover squares

drunkard's path progress

drunkard's path progress

pieced top in progress

pieced top in progress

pieced top in progress

pieced top in progress

I decided to attempt matchstick quilting for the first time on this quilt. I had.... issues. In an attempt to hide, yes, I'll admit it, the puckers created by botched matchstick quilting, I decided to add lots of big stitch hand-quilting. That was two years ago. I'm still working on this quilt, slowly adding hand stitches in beautiful variagated embroidery floss. I love the look and the texture, but it's taking stinking forever. I've probably logged over 60 hours in hand stitching on this, and no end in sight. I don't know if I'll ever be officially *done* with this quilt. If I do ever finish it, I'll post updated final photos. 

matchstick quilting detail

matchstick quilting detail

After investing many hours and much thread into the matchstick quilting on this piece, I decided to add some hand stitching. This added about three more years onto the completion date… once I started adding hand stitching, I just wanted to add more and more, and, well, it took a very long time. I think the texture is so unique and lovely but I will never do this finish on a quilt again. Somebody please slap me if I ever consider it.

This piece measures about 57”x72”. Mitch Hopper took the following 4 photos of the completed work.

Naive, measures 57”x72”

Naive, measures 57”x72”

Here is the quilt’s back.

Here is the quilt’s back.

Naive, detail

Naive, detail

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2014 Goal Visualization Quilt

This quilt is a document of my list of measureable goals for 2014.

 

The wheels started turning for this quilt when my husband Nate asked me one day, "Has anyone ever used quilts as data visualization tools? Like infographic quilts?" I said I didn't know, but it sounded like an interesting idea. I thought about what data I'd like to document in a quilt, and settled on something very personal, my New Year's goals. I have always been a person who makes New Year's Resolutions, despite repeatedly reading that they don't work, no one every keeps them, etc. I didn't care, I made them anyway, always hopeful for the self improvement they might bring.

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A few years ago I noticed an Instagram friend talking about her measurable goals for the year. More specific than the hazy concept of New Year's Resolutions, measurable goals have a number attached to them. I decided to adapt her approach. For 2014, I had 14 measurable goals. I assigned a traditional quilt block to each goal. (I picked 14 different blocks that were made from half-square triangles, just blocks that I visually liked). The idea was to make a block for each of the times I was supposed to do each task. So if my goal was to host friends for dinner 4 times in the course of the year, I'd make 4 blocks. If I met my goal, those 4 blocks would go on the front of the quilt. For goals that I didn't meet, I'd break it down into a ratio. For instance, I only listened to 6 audiobooks, when my goal was 20 (too much tv). So 6 of those blocks went on the front of the quilt. The remaining 14 blocks were pieced into the back of the quilt. And if I exceeded my goal, I made the extra blocks in a different colorway (red/orange/yellow). There is a key on the label of the quilt, so viewers can understand it, and also so I can remember everything. 

 

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This quilt has a lot of tiny piecing and a lot of piecing in general. While I started it in 2014 when I was actively trying to accomplish all these measurable goals, it took until 2017 to finally finish it. Nikki Maroon quilted it for me, and Mitch Hopper helped me design the label, which I then printed on Spoonflower. Mitch Hopper also helped me take pictures of the final product. This quilt measures 53"x78". I was happy to have it accepted into the juried show at QuiltCon 2018.

The finished top

The finished top

Completed quilt

Completed quilt

Quilt label and key

Quilt label and key

Quilting detail

Quilting detail

Complete back

Complete back