Collage winner!

Random.org chose number 21 from the 80 comments received!

“Coochmom” – look for an email from me!

And just for grins, I had Random.org choose a second number for a free Chunky Wee Bag pattern – number 72!

So Doris… look for an email from me too!

Thank you all for playing along – and don’t forget to ask your local quilt store for this fabric!

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La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum – and Collage giveaway reminder!

In case you missed it over the weekend, Carrie Bloomston’s brand new Collage fabric blog-hopped here on Saturday. The comments are still open if you’d like a chance to win a layer cake of this pretty fabric line!

And on to today’s post – a visit to the La Conner Quilt & Textile Museum. It’s located north of Seattle and west of Mount Vernon in a town of quaint shops. We also had a great lunch there!

The museum is housed in the historic Gaches Mansion, an impressive Victorian built in the 1890’s. All three floors of the manse house the museum, with the top floor built out in gallery-white spaces (currently filled with art quilts, but alas no photos of them allowed). The rest of the building is restored and decorated to suit its architecture, and was filled with mostly antique quilts.

While I seldom make anything that approaches traditional, I have an appreciation of our quilt history. Quilt museums quilts are often fascinating because they have quilts that have notable stories or design elements, and I found a few such quilts at La Conner!

First up, a two-fabric Texas Star:

Texas Star, by Martha Logan Hall, 1853. Donated by Bromleigh and Mary Lamb. Courtesy Latimer Quilt & Textile Center

Texas Star, by Martha Logan Hall, 1853. Donated by Bromleigh and Mary Louise Lamb. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

What I liked best about this quilt was the asymmetrical border – what a mystery! Perhaps the quilt was on a bed that was tucked into the corner of a room, and the maker decided to only border the parts that were seen. Or perhaps that’s as far as the fabric stretched?

Next, some happy bluebirds:

Applique Blue Birds, Mary Hammer Faulders, circa 1930. Donated by Bromleigh and Mary Louise Lamb. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

Applique Blue Birds, Mary Hammer Faulders, circa 1930. Donated by Bromleigh and Mary Louise Lamb. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

I must admit, I didn’t notice the birds on first look… I saw the abstract shapes forming the circles. The next images is for my embroidery loving friends – check out the dense French knots that make up the flowers:

Detail of Applique Blue Birds, by Mary Hammer Faulders. Donated by Bromleigh and Mary Louise Lamb. Courtest the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

Detail of Applique Blue Birds, by Mary Hammer Faulders. Donated by Bromleigh and Mary Louise Lamb. Courtest the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

Next, the Balloon Quilt, probably my favorite of the day. I’m generally not a fan of quilts from the 1930’s – I want more depth out of my colors. But this quilt wowed me with the insane amount of perfectly appliqued 1″ circles (that I believe might have also been puffed up with trapunto). I don’t do applique, but I sure appreciate it when I see it done well. This is such a sweet, cheerful quilt:

The Balloon Quilt, maker unknown, circa 1930. Donated by Olga Keesling. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

The Balloon Quilt, maker unknown, circa 1930. Donated by Olga Keesling. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

More detail:

Detail, The Balloon Quilt, maker unknown, circa 1930. Donated by Olga Keesling. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

Detail, The Balloon Quilt, maker unknown, circa 1930. Donated by Olga Keesling. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

And more detail:

Detail, The Balloon Quilt, maker unknown, circa 1930. Donated by Olga Keesling. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

Detail, The Balloon Quilt, maker unknown, circa 1930. Donated by Olga Keesling. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

And finally… check out the rabbit!

Detail, The Balloon Quilt, maker unknown, circa 1930. Donated by Olga Keesling. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

Detail, The Balloon Quilt, maker unknown, circa 1930. Donated by Olga Keesling. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

I think the maker of this quilt not only had a great fabric stash, but a delightful sense of humor too! FYI – a pattern for it is available in the museum gift shop. And no… I won’t be making one!

Last quilt for the day, a contemporary one by Cathy Favret, titled Petroglyphs:

Petrogylphs, by Cathy Favret, 2001. Donated by Cathy Favret. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center.

Petroglyphs, by Cathy Favret, 2001. Donated by Cathy Favret. Courtesy the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center.

The redwork patterns were adapted from petroglyphs along the rock walls of the Columbia River. The creation of the Dalles Dam in the 1950’s flooded these carvings, but not before Cecile Terry Colcord captured rubbings of them. I thought they were unlike any other petroglyph drawings I’d ever seen.

Some details:

Detail, Petroglyphs, by Cathy Favret, 2001. Donated by Cathy Favret. Courtest the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

Detail, Petroglyphs, by Cathy Favret, 2001. Donated by Cathy Favret. Courtest the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

Detail, Petroglyphs, by Cathy Favret, 2001. Donated by Cathy Favret. Courtest the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

Detail, Petroglyphs, by Cathy Favret, 2001. Donated by Cathy Favret. Courtest the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

Detail, Petroglyphs, by Cathy Favret, 2001. Donated by Cathy Favret. Courtest the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

Detail, Petroglyphs, by Cathy Favret, 2001. Donated by Cathy Favret. Courtest the Latimer Quilt & Textile Center.

So that’s your dose of quilt history for today!

Introducing Collage!

My friend Carrie Bloomston of SUCH Designs has just sent her first fabric collection, Collage (for Windham Fabrics), out into the world, and lucky me, I get to share it with you!

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I met Carrie at the Long Beach Quilt Festival in 2011. Her debut booth was a spark of bright and cheerful in an otherwise black-draped sea of business-as-usual. I was immediately drawn to her Wonky Little Houses pattern, and she and I ended up having a wonderful gab.

At the time, I was barely a year out of grad school, and still utterly exhausted and somewhat shell-shocked by the experience of surviving an MFA program. Carrie shared that she was still recovering from a demanding program at RISD, but that playing with fabric was moving her back into her old skin, and that painting was once again calling to her. We ended up bonding over being refugees from art school.

Fast forward to last year… Carrie and I ended up in adjacent booths at Long Beach 2012. It was my first big show as Hunter’s Design Studio, and we again shared a bunch of important conversations about navigating this crazy quilt world. She left me with a story about the danger of wearing layers of other people’s coats (as in allowing yourself to be weighed down with other people’s ideas of how your business should be run) and truly, it was just the conversation I needed to hear that day! So that’s the story of how we met – like many quilting stories… two women find a common thread, and as we pass it back and forth, we weave a friendship. I can’t think of a better way to make new friends.

Anyhow – back to the important task at hand… introducing the fabric! Collage is sweet evidence that Carrie made it back to her paints, and obviously had some fun. Carrie sent fabric to all her blog tour folks, and asked us to just make something from it. If you’ve been following the tour, you’ll see that we all found something in the line that spoke to our own way of seeing the world, and some great projects have ensued.

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For me, the fabrics have a sense of wonder, play and delight – all things I know that Carrie (and I) have worked hard to regain after formal education. Being a Word Girl, I love the text fabrics the best, and adore the many encouraging sayings that Carrie purposely built into them.

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I really enjoy using spots and stripes in things, and Collage offers a bunch of both. The border Birdie print is spectacular, and really usable. The “solids” have subtle tone variations and lines that create depth beyond a flat, monochromatic field. There really isn’t a piece in the group that can’t stand on its own, or play well with others.

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I chose to make one of my latest patterns with the fabric, a chunky little messenger-style bag (the pattern is making its debut here!). While the text fabrics called to me the most, I thought the Birdies made for a better lead role on the flap, with the teal cups and scrappy newspaper stripes as wonderful supporting players. Because I couldn’t find a comfortable way to put ORANGE on the bag, I instead used the deep orange-red scrappy stripes to whip up a little tissue holder to go with it. I had to get my ORANGE in there somehow!

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The lovely folks at Windham Fabrics have offered each blog host a layer-cake pack of all the Collage fabrics as a giveaway! So leave me (and Carrie!) a comment below to enter in the drawing for the layer cake, and I’ll use the random number site to choose a winner. I’ll leave the comments on for a couple of days (let’s say the end of my Tuesday), but don’t wait too long to throw your hat in the ring!

And in case you’ve missed them, here’s the blog tour roster – stop in and see all the things Collage can do:

April 9 – Julie Goldin 
April 11 – April Rhodes
April 12 – Tia Curtis
April 14 – Ramona Burke
April 15 – Sally Keller
April 16 – Angela Walters
April 19 – Jenny Kelly

April 22 –Karen Le Page (One Girl Circus)

Trolling

I’m currently in Seattle, visiting with dear friends for a few days. The slower, kinder change of pace is a welcome respite from the go-Go-GO of my usual routine in southern California. And the weather is even playing nice. It’s all good.

Yesterday, Karen and I went on a tour of Theo Chocolate in the Fremont area of Seattle. These people take their chocolate making seriously, and have put together an accessible and informative hour of education, liberally punctuated with tasting moments. They make some lovely hand-crafted chocolates that don’t quite make it to my neighborhood, so we purchased extra treats to savor after this week’s dinners as a compliment to the great conversations we get into in the evenings.

After the chocolate tour (and to justify the fabulous desserts we had for lunch at The Whale Wins), Karen and I decided to wander about in Fremont for a bit, in the hopes that some exercise would perhaps balance out the gastronomic debauchery of the day. Ha! Fat chance! I doubt we achieved anything close to balance, but our meanderings took us under Fremont’s bridge to visit the Fremont Troll.

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What a fun piece of sculpture! While neither high art nor rendered with any great finesse, this guy has delightful character and was created with obvious care and humor. Karen told me he’s usually mobbed, and that getting a clear picture of him is rare. People leave their marks behind, most recently with a box of chalk. I thought his lipstick was downright funny, and it was sweet to see his big, thug knuckles tattooed with “L O V E.”

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I love public art, especially the kind that encourages some involvement or interaction from its viewers. I do like a lot of challenging or academic art, but I also like art that has a sense of humor about itself. The cultural touchstone of the idea that trolls live under bridges has been part of story-time lore for generations. To see it manifested in concrete and rebar is not only fun, but a smart use of space that seems to otherwise be a perfect breeding ground for urban blight and shady happenings.

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Not all art has to be A Serious Matter. Same goes for quilts. They can be high art or provocateurs of social debate. Or sometimes they are just a bundle of fun with no intent outside of making beauty and inspiring love. It’s all good.

 

Tool crush – Moleskines… in COLOR!

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Like a lot of folks in the arts (fine arts, writing arts, or otherwise) at one point in my career I discovered Moleskine notebooks. They are discrete little black numbers, made in several sizes, and once I knew about them I swear I saw them everywhere. In contrast to the pretty journals I found next to the checkout of every bookstore, these slender black books seemed to telegraph a certain dedication for the pursuit of creativity, not to mention an air of mystery.

Considering myself appropriately dedicated to my art career, I bought one and soon became a devotee. It was the first sketchbook I owned that felt good to carry. There were several features that wowed me, starting with the lack of spiral wire to get caught up in everything. It had an elastic band to keep it closed, and a lovely little pocket in the back for ephemera and various scraps of paper bearing treasured scribbles. Best of all, when opened, it laid flat at the center seam. Heaven. I chose the Large size – 5.4 x 0.6 x 8.2 inches (they are available both bigger and smaller). It fit perfectly in my handbag at the time, and I’ve bought or designed every other bag I’ve owned since based on whether or not the Moleskine fit. It is no longer a curiosity or affectation – it is a necessary tool in my everyday creative practice.

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My paper of choice is Plain – no lines, no grids. I am very much a Word Girl – my drawings are built of words rather then traditional lines. And despite my passion for words, I find lined paper very confining when I want to capture ideas… their very linear-ness makes me feel like they will corral my non-linear thoughts and turn them into dull monotony. I want to write large and small, straight and slanted – and when I do actually draw, I don’t want my ideas straightened out by lines.

(And a huge shout out to my beloved MFA mentor Mark Rooker for assuring me that it was fine that I write rather than draw during grad school, as long as I had a way that worked for me to capture my ideas. Some of the other profs gave me a heck of time about not liking to express myself in drawing. And all I can say to that is we don’t all make art the same way, folks!)

As I’ve moved from one tattered journal into a crispy new counterpart, I have imagined that this stack of little black books might one day become part of my “papers” – a cache of my ideas deemed worthy of collection, or perhaps even study. I like to think that some paper might survive the digital age! So there they sit on the shelf, lined up like Rockettes, with only their dated spines to tell them apart in their dark beauty.

But the line-up might get a new member soon. Black, for once, might fall out of fashion, at least in my studio. There are some new dancers in town, and one of them is wearing ORANGE.

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Oh my. I do love ORANGE. It’s not the deeper ORANGE of my Tangerine Tango dreams, but it’s cheerful and sunny. And that might be a nice vibe to telegraph when I’m out drawing my words, while still keeping my secrets.

Right now I have a relatively new black one on the go, and yet another in its plastic as backup. I would hate to waste it, but hmm… it could be given as a gift… so that I could make a date with the ORANGE one sooner. We’ll have to see if I continue my tradition, or accept the invitation of a new dance partner.

How do you capture your ideas, and which color might be yours?

What’s it worth? Part 2 – A Bigger Picture

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Last November I dashed off a blog post about calculating the value of a handmade quilt. At the time, it got modest attention, but in January the post saw a flurry of views, most of them coming from Pinterest, and a week later, Ravelry (it seems that this question applies to more than just quilting in the world of the handcrafted item). And then a week or so ago, it exploded across Facebook, resulting in a landslide of comments coming to my inbox.

Thank you! I loved reading what you had to say.

This is something I’ve thought about deeply over the years I’ve been making quilts, and by the responses from so many people, I’m far from the only one. Many of you wrote to tell stories of the times you were offered a pittance for the beauties you’ve made.

We have some obvious passion here, so let’s have a dialog about this. I’m really interested in your thoughts, and I want to use this social group-think to advance my perceptions, and so that I can be part of what turns the tide to a higher regard for what we do.

So first of all – a couple of ground rules. By DIALOG, I mean a well-reasoned conversation of give and take, where we address the concepts rather than nit-pick people’s grammatical prowess (or how homely their dog is). I am, after all, inviting you into my house for a chat, and in my house we play nice in disagreement. I find myself wanting to say up front that OF COURSE I don’t speak for everyone (how on earth could I?) and OF COURSE my generalizations don’t apply to everyone (how on earth could they?) And for the record, OF COURSE I’m a feminist – as in a person who will fight for the rights of women (aren’t you?) and OF COURSE I’m not uptight about profanity! And that said, if you hate what I write, please just quit reading and unsubscribe – no fanfare needed. Please don’t be the person who keeps watching porn so they can keep protesting how terrible it is!

So let’s begin!

I recently read a wonderful quote about complaining… don’t complain – either fix it or let it go. I’m not willing to let go of the idea that we can elevate the perception of the value of a quilt (and for the sake of ease I’m going to use “quilt” instead of “handcrafted item” but feel free to substitute what works for you – my intent is inclusive). So how do we fix this?

I think we have several perceptions to work on – external and internal – and by that I mean what others think of what we do, and what we think about it ourselves. 

So in the world of external perceptions, it seems that people think what we make does not have the value of a living wage. And when we try to claim that wage, there is outrage and disbelief, and even smack-down – like we have no right to even ask for payment. How did we get to place where we will pay a plumber $40 an hour, and deny a quilt-maker $5 an hour?

I think part of it is good old fashioned patriarchy: the guys got to set the rules about men’s work having a higher value a while back and the mostly female craft world is still playing by them. Some of us willingly, the rest of us because that’s often still the playing field available. Men in general don’t seem to have an issue with monetizing things – for example: a friend told me about the time she got into jewelry making. She made some beautiful earrings, and showed them to her husband, saying wouldn’t this be a cool gift for so-and-so? Her husband immediately asked where she was going to sell them. Women in general have not been cultured to think this way, and many of us still need to drop-kick the idea that earning good money is a sordid affair.

Another part is the availability of cheaply made goods – stuff that comes from overseas, made for barely subsistence wages in developing countries. We’ve become used to a $6 T-shirt, and a $100 bed-in-a-bag (sheets, pillowcases and comforter, all Martha-matchy-matchy). The general public is so removed from a truly handmade item that they have no frame of reference. A quilt is a quilt is a quilt, right? While we were getting used to the low prices, we got used to the lack of quality – the T-shirt lasts only a season, the bedding maybe two or three before the colors are out of fashion and the fraying begins. And thus spins the wheel of planned obsolescence and consumerism (and this is such a huge topic that I’ll just poke it and move on rather than disappearing down that particular rabbit-hole today!)

These factors also weigh on our internal perceptions. In a culture that has bred a disregard for the work made by women, we’ve adapted to the discomfort of this particular pot of boiling water like the proverbial frog.  And in a lot of cases, we’re not being held down by the old rulebook as much as we’re pushing our own heads under the bubbles. How many times have you seen a woman give away something too cheaply? How many times have you been told by a woman that what you made isn’t worth what should be charged? How many times have you thought “She’s asking WHAT for that?” and walked on to the next booth?

I’m treading carefully here because, like many of you, I’ve given my time and fabric to some wonderfully worthy causes. I believe in the karmic value of these gifts, and I can’t imagine how the world would look without the thousands of quilts (pillowcases/knitted hats/etc) made by the big hearts and nimble hands of We Who Make Stuff. These are specifically not the quilts I’m talking about, though I do wonder if the fact that we give these so freely doesn’t hurt our cause.

I am talking about the fact that many women don’t value the work of other women. We secretly roll our eyes at prices we feel are uppity, rather than honestly calculate what it took to make it. We don’t support other makers by paying a fair price for what they make – instead we think, hell, I can make that at home, forgetting that it’s not just the materials in the price tag but the creativity and hours of construction too. Of course you can make it cheaper – you’re not charging yourself for the time. We guilt trip our friends who skip the charity sewing day into feeling like they grew horns and a tail for choosing to sew on something of their own instead. We photocopy patterns to distribute amongst our group, rather than honor the effort it took to get it into our hands by buying a second copy. We cave when someone barters us down, not because the barter is fair, but because we’ve been told that looking like we have a spine is unattractive. We hush our friends into caving too. As guild program chairs, we grumble that the speaker who would like to stay in a hotel (rather than a member’s home) is a bit big for her pantyhose. Just last week I got asked to lower my teaching price for a guild I’m told can well afford me (and I know from research that my price is hardly out of line).

On my original post, quilt appraiser Bill Volckening commented “Quiltmakers are intelligent enough to know how to produce cost-effective quilts for the realm of commerce, should they wish to do that, but they don’t seem to wish to do that.”

I concur that we women are incredibly smart and creative in our business endeavors. But I would argue that making the quilts cost effective is the only part of the equation (and before you pillory Bill, it was not the only point he made – go read up before your fingers leap to the keyboard). There’s only so much money to be saved on materials and only so much time to be efficiently squeezed unless we think that creating a different breed of sweatshop is a good thing. The root of it is a bigger game… we have to UP our own perception of worth, and we have to UP our support of others that are doing the same, and BE SUPPORTED in this by ALL, men and women both. That cost-effective price that Bill speaks of needs to go UP, up far enough to support the making of the quilt, and it can’t all be done on the shoulders of efficiency and sale fabric.

So I go back to my original call of action… keep records to accurately calculate your price. State and own your worth. Make sure your under-informed customer gets some the education as part of the transaction. And even if you have to settle for less, do it less often, and never without the lesson. I get that we can’t change this all in a weekend, but I bet we can up the game together.

And I really, really would love to read your thoughts!

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Image credits here and here.

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