Jan 20, 2020

one for the bed, one for the wall

This project has been on my mind for a long time. I finally made a "whole cloth" quilt using fabric designed by Japanese artist Yoshiko Jinzenji. The fabric is a very soft white linen speckled with her minimalist design elements. And this new quilt sparked a whole master bedroom redo.

I love her fabric and for this particular design, I felt that keeping the whole design in tact was a better option than cutting it up. So I used two long uncut sections and pieced them together down the middle. This linen is very soft and thin, so it was a bit hard to work with because it moves easily... plus king size is just so big that it has it own set of challenes.

To keep the white color looking white, I used Warm & White batting and I think it was a great choice. And because this was going on the bed, I used a second layer of Warm  & Natural batting underneath... wanted the quilt to have more weight.

I added a border on all 4 sides in order to get the quilt the right size. The border print is very simple, clean white and black thin stripes. It seemed to go well with the minimalist, abstract design without detracting.

I quilted this on my longarm, a Bernina Q24, using straight edge to edge lines.

The new quilt on the wall is one I finished a couple months ago... and is currently one of my favorites! It is an orignal design... made with African waxed fabrics and black Kona cotton. I also quilted this one in straight, edge to edge quilting in a gold cotton Aurifil thread. Even though this quilt is a bit busy, I think these two quilts somehow go together really well. Both are very special fabrics gathered from my trips around the world... and the black and gold wall quilt is striking against the nearly all white quilt on the bed.

Dec 28, 2019

PBS "Craft in America: Quilts" - a thoughtful review

It is always great to see a credible media outlet such as PBS pay attention to quilts, and their most recent documentary, "Craft in America: Quilts" is a worthy effort.

However, in the same breath its hard to see why quilts and quilters are not featured more often given how prevelant the art form is and frankly, how many millions of people make quilts. But I think all fine arts and performing arts could say the same thing --- it is hard to get people to pay attention!

So how did PBS do? Well, given how few minutes we quilters get on the national stage, I will have to say that this show is recommended. There are quite a few highlights that make it watchable. First of all, the decision to feature Victoria Findlay Wolfe and Judith Content were good choices. Victoria is on the East Coast, Judith the West.

And before either of these well-known artists appear, the show spends a good deal of time on Native American quilts. In particular, they interview and feature the work of Navajo/Dine artist Susan Hudson who was unknown to me and I assume unknown to many in the quilt community. She lives in New Mexico and she looks like someone I would love to spend the day with! She was knowledgeable and passionate I liked her approach. Her quilts were beautiful and she seems like a wonderful storyteller.

Susan Hudson
After Susan's interview, the documentary team spends way too many minutes featuring a Native American weaver. I get that this is a critically important part of Native culture, but in a short tv show about quilts, every minute is precious. I feel strongly that this time could have been better spent showing other diverse quilters and quilting groups in America.

For example, there was no mention of the modern quilt movement and/or the attraction of younger quilters to the art form and I feel it was a mis-step to overlook this new and important contribution.

In between the quilter sections, the show returned repeatedly to the International Quilt Musuem in Lincoln, Nebraska, as well they should. Leslie Levy, Executive Director, and Carolyn Ducey, Curator, did a fabulous job - as they always do. The Ken Burns Collection exhibition was featured several times and Ken was interviewed as well. His words added significant weight to the meaning of quilts and why we make them.

Outside of Lincoln, other important milestones that were overlooked are the number of dedicated, non-profit quilt museums in the U.S. They mentioned San Jose, but some time spent on this could have added more meat to the story. The fact that there are unique, decicated museums all over the country backs up the data on the importance of quilting and its economic and artistic contributions.

Another data point that was overlooked - but one that would have been fascinating - is how prevelant quilting is on social media. Again, this popularity speaks to its sustainablity as a hobby, art form, and profession.

Micheal Cummings

Of course "Craft in America" featured men as well as women. Michael Cummings is an artist who I have heard of, but I never really knew much about him. His quilts are very unconventional and I would love the chance to see them in person one day.

Victoria Findlay Wolfe
The section on Victoria Findlay Wolfe shows her in her studio and is a good illustration of how a quilter works much like a painter. They also followed her to one of her lectures and showed how people responded to her work, and they showed her longarm machine. The backstory of her family and her grandmother were precious.

Judith Content's section was equally well done. Judith makes strikingly original art quilts from silk fabric she hand dyes using a shibori method. Be sure to watch her interview and studio shots! You will be amazed.

Judith Content

The documentary has a very strange ending. It just kind of ends and then goes to a commercial. I wasn't sure it it was over or not... maybe this was a local edit? If not, then PBS, I think you could have wrapped this story up a bit better than that.

Overall though, here's what I have to say to PBS. Thanks for making this show and spending time and effort on this art form we all love. While we quilters already know and live the things you said and showed, it was wonderful to see you share our story with the rest of the PBS audience.

Here is the link to the show's website which has much more information, links and even some tutorials.

Images coutesy of Craft in America website.

Dec 27, 2019

a modern, classic quilt for Christmas

I made this queen-size patchwork red and black quilt for my son for Christmas. These are his favorite colors and I am super happy about the way it turned out. I found this perfect red and black plaid while shopping (see link) from Jilly Studio at the International Quilt Festival and I love how the design it is set on the diaganol. I think it made a good border. The fabric collection is called Berries. I also used the black ticking from this same collection. 

I alternated solid black blocks (Kona cotton) with Half Square Triangles. I think it looks kind of modern traditional... but until I learn a better method, I don't think I will be doing any more HSTs! Ugh, they are a pain. 

For the solid black blocks I quilted a free-motion design I learned from Angela Walters using rulers on my longarm. All the thread is a red, 40 wt. Aurifil.

The batting is 2 layers of Warm & Plush, an extra thick all cotton batting made by Warm Company. I love, love this batting!

And the backing is a Buffalo plaid from Windham Fabrics - and it is just lovely.

I think this one will last... might even be passed on someday.

Here is the photo from Christmas morning! Plus a few more shots....

Nov 26, 2019

plenty of panels to practice

A few years ago, if you had told me that I would enjoy quilting pre-printed panels, I would have told you that you were crazy. But here I am... done with my 2nd Dream Big panel and I really did enjoy quilting this.

You see, two big changes have taken place recently that have changed my perspective. First, the quality of digital printing, as well as the graphic design, of these panels has improved drastically. Its been interesting to watch this change in textile printing... we are seeing big changes in digital in just the last year or two. In my humble opinion, this is a good thing... good for the industry and only natural that technology improves.

The second thing that has changed for me is that I have a new longarm and I need to practice. So the act of loading up one of these panels and starting to quilt in a matter of minutes is very satisfying. 

I only quilt using free motion and rulers. No computers. I have a Bernina Q24 longarm that was installed in July.

I used 4 colors of 50 wt. Aurifil thread on this one, 2 blues and 2 purples. I am very happy with the way it turned out.

Below is my first one. For this one I used all 2 colors of silk thread from Superior. The silk thread is really beautiful. I hope to find another project soon and use this thread again. It sewed beautifully. And Superior offers it in a mini cone which is great for longarm quilting. 

For the purple panel, I used Warm & Plush batting. This is all cotton (made by Warm Company) and it has extra loft. This was my first time to use this batting and I love it! The orange panel below I used one layer of Warm & Natural and a layer of wool batting on top of it to get extra loft. It worked really well, but it was so much easier to sew with the Warm & Plush and the results were similar.

The panels are manufactured by Hoffman Fabrics, titled Dream Big. They have sold tons of these and they are available in lots of colors. The size is about 42 inches square. In the spring, Hoffman is coming out with an even bigger panel... 57 inches wide I think. I have one on pre-order.

I think Hoffman, and the others, are catching on to something big here. There are lots of people like me with longarm machines sitting idle while we piece or applique our quilts. So why not invest a few $ in a beautiful panel and quilt it while you continue to working on your "real" quilts. I for one am really enjoying doing just that.

Nov 13, 2019

a male Army Veteran who quilts

Andrew Lee. "Shock and Awe." Based on the photo of the WWII flag raising at Iwo Jima. Pieced, one inch squares.
On view at the International Quilt Festival, Houston, 2019.
Veteran's Day has come and gone, but its never too late for a moving story about our veterans.

Andrew Lee speaking at the Tennessee Valley Quilters Association annual meeting in Smyrna, Tennessee. July 20, 2019.
On July 20, 2019, I was invited to give the keynote speech at the Tennessee Valley Quilters Association. The day-long event was held at a local school just outside of Nashville, in Smyrna. TVQA is a group of several guilds from the region that get together once a year to hear educational presentations, shop and celebrate quilts.

The theme this year was All American Quilts. So my presentation on American Cotton fit right in. In the afternoon, there was another speaker whose story fit even better.

Andrew Lee is an Army veteran who served three tours in Iraq and one in Afghanistan. He currently serves in the Tennessee National Guard, where he recently re-enlisted for another term. Andrew's decisions to serve our country are honorable, and to be honest, for most of us, very difficult to fully relate to. My father and uncles and grandfathers served in the military, and I know people who are just a bit older than me who served in Vietnam. But for the most part, people like me are far removed from the individuals who choose to serve in this day and age. These people are very special.

Andrew Lee and Teresa Duryea Wong, July 20, 2019.
So, during this event I had time to visit with Andrew and we started up a conversation which continued over email and phone calls. We got to know each other a bit and it was easy to talk because we both share a passion for quilts. I am now proud to call Andrew and Kristy my friends.

Three years ago, Andrew and his darling wife Kristy, needed something to do together. So, they signed up for a class at Joann's to make a quilted table runner. Andrew was hooked and has been quilting ever since, and so has Kristy. They share a studio!!! And Andrew recently got a brand new longarm.

Like a lot of veterans today and in the past, Andrew suffers from PTSD from having been in combat. He is uncomfortable in large crowds, never goes to fireworks shows, and needs to make sure he is in control of his environment. Quilting offered him an escape from the constant stress and kept his mind and hands fully engaged. Andrew is now an advocate for quilting as therapy for PTSD and he regularly speaks to veterans and anyone who will listen about how quilting has changed his life.

Andrew is also an advocate for Quilts of Valor and is constantly making exquisite, pieced quilts to donate to his fellow veterans. When possible, he even makes the QOV presentations in person.

But, this stunning 110 inch quilt titled "Shock and Awe" is not the work of the average dude who just decides to start quilting. This kind of talent and eye for art does not just pop up one day and manifest itself in a beautiful, quilted work of art. No, this kind of talent comes from a deeper gene.

Before he joined the Army, Andrew was an art student. At that time, he had never even heard of quilts. But clearly, he was passionate about the creative process and learned, or possibly just honed, his innate skills of color, line and balance.

While he was making Quilts of Valor and recovering mentally, he began thinking of making something bigger, something monumental. The problem was that Andrew worked full-time as a long-haul truck driver. He would be gone from home for days at a time driving across the country. For most of us, that would be a deal breaker as far as quilting is concerned. But not for Andrew.

Andrew Lee with his trusty sewing machine rigged up inside his truck.
He found a way to combine sewing and driving. And while on his mandated rest stops, Andrew would bring out his sewing machine, AND his ironing board, and piece his quilts. And once he got this system working smoothly... he devised a way to make his true art form inside his truck --- and most of the quilt top for "Shock and Awe" was made while he was on the road.

The photo of the flag raising at Iwo Jima is among the most recognizable images in American history. And for Andrew, converting this photo to a quilt offered a challenge, and also a way to distinguish himself as an artist. He turned to his mom for help and together they figured out how to 'pixelate' the image so it could be converted to fabric squares. One inch squares to be exact. Andrew planned out each row of the quilt. He bought all his fabric at one time and he placed the pre-cut squares into bags and sewed one section at a time - not in his studio - but inside his truck!

Once he finished the quilt, he partnered with Angie Lamoree to quilt it. Angie quilted a repetitive stitching pattern of military dog tags on chains to finish the quilt.

This quilt has been displayed in lots of places and it will continue to be shown for the next year. Andrew has been featured in television stories, newspaper articles, social media, and was recently interviewed for The Quilt Show by Alex Anderson.
Check this link to see the interview with Andrew and Kristy.

He takes the quilt with him as he talks to veterans. And in 2020, around this same date, Andrew's quilt will become part of the permanent collection of the International Quilt Museum. This is a fantastic tribute for this beautiful quilt and for the story of the maker, and both the quilt and the story will now be forever preserved at this important institution. It is very poignant that the International Quilt Museum will acquire this important part of our shared quilt history. Way to go Lincoln!

International Quilt Museum, Lincoln, Nebraska.
This photo from my first visit in 2013 - before the renovations and new addition.

Nov 5, 2019

Quilt Festival hoopla

Every year, Int Quilt Festival seems more fun and more exhausting than the year before. Today is Tuesday. Festival ended on Sunday. I am just now starting to relax again... but man, those days are just filled with friends and quilts and ideas and memories.

For starters.... My reproduction quilt of an 1880s quilt was juried into the IQA competition! This was the first time I have entered IQA and I was so honored to have this quilt chosen.

Next, I launched a new book!!!! This book is a journey through 45 years of Festival, but more importantly it is the bio of the two women who founded Festival, Market and much more.

On Friday, Nov. 1, 2019 I presented the lunch lecture on the book. We had 250 attendees and it was a wonderful group of people... some who had been coming to Festival since the early days.

Center is Nancy O'Bryant and next to her is Karey Bresenhan. The three of us hosted a panel discussion and book signing. I was so appreciative of the long line! People waited patiently and it was great to hear so many stories about quilters attending Festival over the years.

On the cover of this book is a stunning quilt made by Cynthia England. The quilt is titled "Show Time" and it was made as a commision for the cover. Cynthia bases her pieced technique on photos and the photo for this image was taken by my dear husband, Jimmy Wong. Here is The Quilter and The Photographer!

Oct 13, 2019

piecing strips of African gold

Calling this one "African Gold." It is all pieced from very small scraps of African fabric, set against Kona black. Plus a few whole African prints from my collection.

This is an original design. It is 60 x 72 inches. Not quilted yet... Below is what I started with. These scraps actually came from my friend who made a quilt first and was going to toss all these small strips. I rescued them and sewed them together in large rectangle block shapes. At the time, I had no idea what I would make with them.

I held on to these scraps and the blocks I sewed together for more than 6 months (maybe a year???)... Then a entire pieced quilt idea came to me and I sketched it out. I ended up moving some of the blocks around ... so my quilt does not look exactly like the original sketch. Plus, I opted for a 6 x 5 block scheme, instead of 6 x 6. The blocks finish at 12 inches.

Tom the Dog waiting patiently for something interesting to happen!