Monday, August 17, 2015

Nothing Gold

This is a mini wall hanging I worked on last week for a musician friend who is moving across the country. The kind of friend who gives way more than you could ever repay. The kind of friend who is at your doorstep with boxes of food and diapers the morning after your car accident. The kind whom your baby reaches for in a crowd of people. This little project was the least I could do for someone who has given my family so much. I will miss you (you know who you are!), and this is just a little piece of my soul to go with you to your new home. I hope we can come visit you!

Among my thrifty finds of late, here are two new-to-me quilt books in my collection. The first attracted my attention since I have been curious about quilt history lately. This book has about 50 introductory pages about the history of American patchwork quiltmaking, and the rest of the book is photographs and descriptions of antique patchwork quilts in the author's collection. The most unusual thing about the book is that it is a history written in 1935. What a lot of water has flowed under the quilting bridge since then! There is not much text in the book, and the photos are black and white, which leaves plenty of room in the imagination for different color combinations. I am always fascinated by looking at the work others have done with much less than we have today.

The second book I recently found is already one of my favorites, the next thing on my to-do list. The book was still shrink-wrapped, so I wasn't sure what I was getting (looked a little outdated at first), but it just sang itself right off that shelf and into my cart! I shy away from 90's era froofy styles, but this book's timeless sort of contents is delightful. The author highlights 40 antique doll or crib quilts, and she also gives patterns for each one. I have a yen to get into more hand-quilting, and this book is perfect for that. I also like how "imperfect" those antique quilts look. The corners aren't always perfectly square, and the block arrangements are sometimes pleasantly askew. I find that very charming and authentic, filled with whimsy and child-like playfulness.

Speaking of child-like simplicity, I had heard of the Gee's Bend Quilters before, but I wasn't exactly sure what they were all about until I watched this short documentary. 15 minutes of soul! It really struck a chord with me, especially in light of this "slow-sewing" movement that has piqued my interest lately. The segment that highlights the Gee's Bend ladies' quilting bee made my own soul sing along with them. They sit around the quilt and quietly sing their songs, mournful, reflective, heavenly songs. Their friendship, simplicity, and earthy community lacks any pretense or competitive desire. It's not just about the quilt. It's about slow living, community, memories, and friends, not necessarily perfection.

All this brings me to question a few things about myself and the culture around me. How much should we and do we hold perfection up as our ultimate trophy of success? Have our modern machines and desire for "quick and easy" stolen a bit of soul out of our work? Can we walk away from mistakes? I see the thirst for perfection glaring at me in my own attitude. As one of my friends recently said, "Perfection is really hard work." Now there are surely times where perfection is the goal--obedience, for one. Our musical offerings. Our love for God and others. Those are things that will stay and grow forever, and we should strive for perfection there. But when it comes to things that won't stay--our clean houses, new clothes, shiny cars, making sure every stitch is in the perfectly right spot--maybe we should just slow down and enjoy the imperfections. Swim in forgiveness for things that need to be perfected, and enjoy the work of our hands, however flawed it may be.

Nature’s first green is gold, 
Her hardest hue to hold. 
Her early leaf’s a flower; 
But only so an hour. 
Then leaf subsides to leaf. 
So Eden sank to grief, 
So dawn goes down to day. 
Nothing gold can stay.
--Robert Frost 

Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Farmer's Wife 1930's, Sewing Along, and Slow Sewing

 Product Details  Product Details  I splurged a little yesterday and bought the recently published Farmer's Wife 1930's Sampler Quilt to add to my shelf. Then this morning one of the first things I saw on Instagram was a new sew along to go with the book! I will say that sew alongs keep me going. They provide such inspiration and connection with the sewing community, as well as the drive I need to keep sewing a little at a time. I also own the previous book Farmer's Wife 1920's Sampler Quilt and have had fun with it, especially reading the letters that these farmers' wives wrote about what it is like to be married to such men. What a different life they lived compared to ours with all our fast-paced modern-day demands. They had demands too, and I admire their creativity and use of what they had to work with.

Image result for farm girl vintage  I have also been sewing through Lori Holt's (Bee In My BonnetFarm Girl Vintage, a series of easier blocks than Farmer's Wife, all based on the stitch-and-flip method. Some argue that there is more waste with this technique, but because I make extra blocks out of the unused but useable pieces, there hasn't been a whole lot relegated to the scrap jar. I am so happy with the blocks, and I am almost done sewing through the patterns. My color scheme is different than what is in the book: pastels and linen. Who says chicks can't be pink? Here are some of the recent blocks I have finished:

 Spring Star and Summer Star

 Simple Star

 Scrappy Maple Leaf

 Pie Cherries


My jumping off fabrics were Lulu Roses by Tanya Whelan, with linen as my background. I love that I can then use white tone on tones as part of my color scheme! I added other pieces from my scrap collection, some thrifted and some purchased new. The linen is a bit shifty to work with, but not too bad. It is actually pretty forgiving.

I recently came across some articles on the Slow Sewing movement. Here's a blog: The Slow Stitching Movement. There are actual books and lecture tours on this phenomenon, I believe. It is intriguing me. I love the idea of just sitting down a few minutes a day and stitching something, maybe by machine, maybe by hand, but with no deadline in mind. Ahhh, I like that! So sew along to get motivated, sit and stitch with no deadline--two ways to do it. Both good!