Q.S.O.S. Spotlight

As much as I love hearing the quilt stories that are told during Q.S.O.S. interviews, sometimes my favorite part is the answer to the very first question, which is often a variation on “tell me about the quilt you brought today and why you chose it”. Choosing among quilts you’ve made can be like choosing among your children (well, maybe not quite that difficult) and it’s often fascinating to hear how a quiltmaker selected the touchstone quilt for their interview. This week’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight features Katharine Brainard, who’s made many deeply personal, cathartic and emotional quilts, such as her ‘Divorce Quilt’. Katharine brought another personal quilt–made with memories of traveling to New York with her sister–to her Q.S.O.S. interview. Read more about that quilt and why she selected it below: “This is called “New York Quilt.” My sister lives in Maine and I live in Maryland near Washington, D.C. Every year we meet halfway in the middle, in New York, leaving husbands and children and whatevers at home, just the two of us sisters, for a sisters’ weekend. We’ve been doing that for many years. We meet in New York for a long weekend, and spend the time together exploring. We often go through little flea markets and through the garment district. One year I came back home afterwards and made this quilt, reflecting our sisters’ weekend together in New York that year. It’s got a black velvet background, sort of soft and night time, but it’s also got sort of frenetic energy. They say New York never sleeps, it just keeps on going. That year I bought these buttons from street vendors. I also bought these really ugly white plaster mermaids off a table at a flea market. I brought them home and painted them and put all kinds of buttons and beads and strings and ribbons in heir hair. And I bought the moon and star buttons in the garment district. These little people that are hanging here. [Katharine points to them on her quilt.] I also found those in New York, in a bead shop. Every year we go and have our palms read and fortunes told. Quite often the palm readers have beaded curtains that you go through and the beads swish to the side. That’s why I have all these little things hanging off the bottom of the quilt like a little beaded curtain. When you move the quilt, they make a swishing bead sound. And these little flowery beaded things were from Japan, bought those in the garment district, too. I just wanted to show the wonderful energy of New York City. The mermaids might look scary but they’re not gruesome, they’re just sort of energy. The whole quilt is supposed to represent energy. And this wave along the bottom is like an energy wave, almost like how the whole ocean is constantly moving and changing. There are lots of embroidery quilting stitches all the way across the quilt, changing from lights to darks. Sometimes I look at this quilt and it changes when I look at it at different times. That’s what I like about it. It’s never the same, it’s always changing. LR: And you chose this particular one why?KB: Well, my daughter and I laid out a lot of quilts this morning and we chose this one because we like it. A lot of the quilts I’ve been known for are more emotional quilts. For example, I associate my “Divorce Quilt” with a part of my life that was a little painful but necessary. Many of the quilts came at the time of the “Divorce Quilt” and afterwards, people talk to me about them and ask wasn’t it a cathartic release, and some people were offended by some of them. Also, I did a “Suicide Quilt.” But I really don’t care to talk about those quilts that much because some people put negative judgments on things, because emotions can scare people. So that’s why I pulled out a non-emotional quilt today. I stopped making the emotional quilts because I couldn’t live with them on the walls of my home.LR: The emotional reason–KB: The emotional quilts were probably cathartic when I made them. I was taking the emotions out of me and putting them into the quilts. But then I really couldn’t live with them around me on the walls. It was too much. I was raising three small children, and I wanted to provide a calm, happy home for them. The quilts could go in a gallery, or in a museum, but living with them day-to-day was difficult. The New York Quilt I can live with day-to-day. It makes me happy to look at it. It’s very positive. It hung in our front hall for the past year. So that’s why I chose this quilt, plus I love the colors, blues and greens. Green has to do with growth. Blue with depth, the sky, the ocean, eternity. I’ve always loved the ocean. I grew up near the water. I have a special thing for mermaids and sea creatures, partly because they are mysterious and sort of hidden in the depths of the ocean, you can’t see what’s down there, but it’s swirling with life and energy. The ocean itself is alive. There’s a lot of life and things you don’t know about down there, and it’s constantly changing and moving, and I just, I like that. I picked this quilt because it’s easy to talk about and I love the colors and all the attachments. My favorite quilts have a lot of attachments, beads and buttons and embroidery threads. More doodads is better as far as I’m concerned. More is always good. I like it when more is more.” You can read more quilt stories on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance website.           Posted by Emma Parker Project Manager, Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories qsos@quiltalliance.org  …

Q.S.O.S. Spotlight

“April showers bring May flowers”, or at least that’s what they say. It’s looking a little overcast here in my my town today, so I set off in search of a rainy-day quilt to share with you for this week’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight. I didn’t make it far into my search when I found this quilt, by Ellie Taesali. Even though it’s seems like a pretty sunny day in the scene the quilt depicts, I was fascinated by the story behind her quilt and how it tied into her family’s heritage: “The quilt I made is called the “Rain Maker.” That is a mountain in Samoa where my dad was born. The quilt came to be because I joined the quilters group here in Boonville. I showed up to a class and I had never quilted before. I was asking Molly, the teacher, what I should do and she said, ‘There are no rules,’ just go and pick out the fabric, let the fabric speak to you, but the most important thing is to tell your story. So, I thought that wasn’t very much for me to go on, but I went and looked at the fabric and I saw some really gorgeous fabric, there was some shiny fabric and there was some soft, and I really always have loved fabric anyway, so I selected some colors and textures that spoke to me, but I had no clue what I was going to do. As I sat down at the table with all of these little pieces of fabric, all these beautiful colors and lush feelings, I started seeing a tropical sunset. So I started laying the fabric out and it came to me that my Dad’s story about how he got to America would be interesting. People might like hearing about that. Well an interesting thing happened as I put the sunset colors together, I thought about the mountain, the Rainmaker, which is what he saw every morning as a boy when he woke up in his village. The Rainmaker is the biggest thing on that small island. I started thinking about all the things that he had told me about his life in Samoa and how different it was when he “came over” to America. He was seventeen at the time he stowed away and the war was already well underway. The South Pacific was crawling with sailors and their families. My Dad saw things at home that he had never seen before. They brought so many new and different things and they wore very different clothes. My whole family was really intrigued with the Americans. They got an American magazine; it was a Good Housekeeping or the New Yorker or something like that. My Dad and his brothers and sisters would go through the book over and over again. My Dad just couldn’t figure out what a skyscraper was. That really intrigued him and it got the best of him. He just had to know what a skyscraper was, because in his imagination, he couldn’t even think of what could scrape the sky. So he and eight other boys stowed away on a cargo ship that was docked in Pango Pango Bay. He was the youngest boy of the family and once he got here, other members of the family started coming over. I am a first generation immigrant. Later on my sisters and my cousins and I would sit around and talk about how we kind of lost our Samoan culture, because our family that came over was searching for the American dream, and when they got here they didn’t want to be Samoan, they wanted to be American and they wanted to drive big cars and have a house and all those things that they thought America should be, so we didn’t even learn how to speak the language. But luckily, our culture is so ingrained in a people that a lot of it did live through, like the way he lived, how he ate, and those kinds of things to this day. So these were all thoughts that were going through my mind as I worked on the quilt, and how different it is now. Now we are trying to go back and rekindle our heritage, and ah, it was really nice to make a quilt directed toward that.” You can read more quilt stories on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance website.           Posted by Emma Parker Project Manager, Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories qsos@quiltalliance.org…

Q.S.O.S. Spotlight

There are many, many Q.S.O.S. interviews that contain stories of quilts being passed down, through families, and traveling across generations along family lines. But this week’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight features a quilt that traveled around a family in a different way, when it was sold in a family auction and then won again by quiltmaker Judy Baxter-Warrington. Her charming story of a family heirloom and its travels is our Q.S.O.S. spotlight this week: “This is a quilt that was made by three generations on my mother’s side of the family. Every year for our family reunion, almost every year, I make some form of a quilt to auction off and it helps pay for the reunion expenses, and other things that the family does throughout the year. This particular one I’d seen in a magazine, and I just fell in love with it, and I decided I would make it for that particular reunion. It was about two thousand and five I believe. I can clarify that when I actually bring the quilt. I worked on it for a long time. It’s got lots of pieces in it. It’s very colorful, but it’s done in eighteen thirties fabrics something that I wanted. I pieced it all and the week before the reunion attempted to quilt it. This quilt is suppose to be queen size but, as most of my projects end up being, it’s closer to a king size. [MM laughs.] So here I am, slinging this big quilt over my shoulder, trying to shove it through the machine, and the machine is giving way to the weight of the quilt. I think I got about six inches attempted to be quilted and decided I was not going to be able to get this one machine quilted. So I said, ‘Okay, I have to come up with another plan here folks.’ I took the quilt with me. I packed it all up and we went to Indiana. On my way there I came up with a plan. I decided rather than just tying the quilt, which is one of the traditional ways of finishing the quilt sandwich, I would tie it with buttons. There are tons of buttons all over this quilt. It’s tied with twill cotton sewn through the buttons. My mother, my daughter, and my granddaughter all helped me work with it. My granddaughter helped pick out the buttons and hand them to us. We were sewing the last buttons on the morning of the reunion. I had a real trauma because one of my cousins was the successful bidder on the quilt, and I hadn’t even had time to really, as most quilters will know that’s themselves in that quilt, and they need to touch it, and look at it, and show it to other people. I never got that opportunity to do that. We packed it up and drove back to Missouri with it. I didn’t get to see the quilt. It just went bye-bye. Just to tell a little bit on the side here, he and his then wife, in the following year I believe it was, they divorced. He took custody of the quilt. He brought it back two years ago, 2007, and put it back up for bid. This ornery cousin likes to bid against me at the family reunions. We’re near the same age. Everybody knew that I that I wanted to get my quit back. I had a budget because I didn’t have a lot of money. I had two hundred dollars that I could pay for it, although I knew it was worth a lot more than two hundred dollars. He kept bidding against me, cause he was maybe going to give it to one of his kids who had liked it. I said, ‘No, I wanted to take my quilt home and enjoy it for a little while before,’ maybe, giving it back and into the reunion kitty. At any rate, it hit two hundred and I was gulping, almost in tears. Another cousin, who understands this little game that gets played at the reunions, bid on it for me and bought it for me. [MM gasps.] So, I have it now on my bed at home.  I love the quilt, although I’ve had it now for a while. Maybe not this year, but possibly next, I will take it back to reunion, let it travel on to another family to enjoy, now that I’ve had time to really absorb the quilt.” You can read more quilt stories on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance website.           Posted by Emma Parker Project Manager, Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories…

Q.S.O.S. Spotlight

One of the most compelling Q.S.O.S. sub-projects is the ‘Alzheimer’s : Forgetting Piece by Piece QSOS’. It’s comprised of interviews with quiltmakers featured in the touring quilt exhibit of the same name, curated by Ami Simms. This week and next weeks’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight will feature two quiltmakers whose mothers were diagnosed with Alzheimer’s, and the quilts they created to help celebrate, memorialize, mourn and support those affected by the disease. Gay Ousley’s quilt, ‘She’s Come Undone’ began with verbs: “My mother had Alzheimer’s disease and at that time we were struggling and sort of at the end of her life, and I began to look back on the things that she had enjoyed. My parents had a wonderful life. They traveled all over the world. They were very active in their community, in their church, they liked to socialize, they had a big network of friends. My mother enjoyed golf and she was in two bridge clubs; all that was taken away when she got Alzheimer’s. I began to think about this, and since she was an English major in college, words were important to her. I decided that I would use words, verbs that would tell the story of what she could no longer do… I cut letters out for these words and fused them down to the background fabric and then I stitched them inside the letters so the edges would fray as the trip went on its journey, because this Alzheimer’s just frays everybody and everything that it comes into contact with.” Linda Cooper’s quilt combines a tribute to her mother and grandmother’s love of gardening with the biological science of Alzheimer’s: “My quilt is rather understated, it is a little subtle, it doesn’t hit you in the face like some of the other quilts do with the horror of the disease. Both my grandmother and my mother were wonderful gardeners and they took great pleasure in getting outside the house and doing something and making something grow. They lived in Ohio and they enjoyed it when the weather finally got good and they could go out and make things grow so I used the daylily. I used a technique that I learned from Phil Beaver. He is from Indiana and he does fabric painting. I used that for the background and I put daylilies on it. I appliquéd first around the daylilies with variegated thread so they didn’t look too abrupt and the edges are raw and some of the stems were a little wacky and they sort of look like the flowers would have grown outside. The background of the painting has some bright spots and some dim spots. The flower inside, it is more of the memory of my mother and grandmother, and in the border I used–I’m a biologist. I trained at Purdue as a neurophysiologist and so I used the brain plaques, the amyloid plaques that they see in Alzheimer’s and I beaded the nerve cells and once in a while there would be a normal nerve cell and then I would stitch in a sort of convoluted one and put some  beads in there, so that is the biological tie of the disease.” You can read more quilt stories, including more stories from the ‘Alzheimer’s: Forgetting Piece by Piece QSOS’ sub-project on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance website. Posted by Emma Parker Project Manager,  Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories…

Q.S.O.S. Spotlight

It’s hard to believe there are only 3 more days left in 2013! As this year winds down and we prepare for 2014, many folks are preparing their new year’s resolutions–those things we plan (or hope!) to do in the new year. Today’s Q.S.O.S. Spotlight is shining on quilter Jan Wildman’s interview, conducted 13 years ago in Houston, Texas. Jan’s touchstone quilt was a “resolution quilt” featuring her wishes for the new year. Jan shared her resolutions and the background of the quilt with interviewer Jana Hawley: “I’ve brought this quilt, because it’s kind of special to me, even though I don’t consider it my best quilt. It’s special to me, because I made this quilt instead of making New Year’s resolutions in 1995. I had decided that every year I was making the same resolutions and then breaking them by, probably the end of January. So I saw this flying pig’s fabric, and it reminded me of the expression ‘when pigs fly.’ So these are all things in my life that I figured would happen when pigs fly. So I have about nine different centers of blocks, that have different sayings of things that I would like to have happen in my life, but probably aren’t very likely… In the top block it says ‘Enjoy exercising.’ The next one is ‘Keep the house clean’ and then the next one is ‘Finish more quilts.’ And those are all kind of self-explanatory. Then in the next row I have ‘Lose weight’ and above it in little letters it says ‘If only it were as easy to lose, as my mind.’ I guess that’s rather self explanatory. In the middle of the quilt there’s a block that says ‘Cherish the miracles,’ and it has sea turtles on it. There’s a story behind that that I can tell a little later. And then there is ‘Remember birthdays and anniversaries’ which I am absolutely horrible about, still. And then on the bottom row there is ‘Use more fabric than I buy,’ another when pigs fly pipe dream there. [chuckles.] ‘”Cook nutritious meals for my family,’ and then the final one is ‘Have more time to rest, relax, think and dream.’ And of all of the nine, that’s the one that I’ve gotten closest to doing. [laughs.] […] I think one thing about doing this for me, when I made it, it was kind of nice to get rid of the guilt of making new year’s resolutions each year, and I’m pleased that I no longer do that, because I did always feel guilt over them and now, I kind of, when everybody else is saying they’re making them, I just kind of laugh about that. I think you can make resolutions any time during the year, you don’t have to wait till New Year’s, and maybe if you just make one at a time you have a better chance of accomplishing them, than making an entire list. I think that’s what it’s done for me.” Check out Jan’s interview on the Q.S.O.S. page to read about the special sea turtle block she made as a reminder to cherish miracles in her interview on the Quilt Alliance site. You can always read more quilt stories on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page, too! Posted by Emma Parker Project Manager,  Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories…

Q.S.O.S. Spotlight

Today’s Q.S.O.S. spotlight is on a fabric I wear every day but rarely sew with: denim. I’m sure most quilters have great genes, but there are a few quilts in the Q.S.O.S. archive that have great jeans, too! First, a video from our Go Tell It at the Quilt Show series from Hollis Chatelain at the 2013 International Quilt Festival. Hollis shares the story of a quilt she made from denim and raw-edge appliqué: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=uc6JyKVkP_0 Natalia Burdanajdze from the Republic of Georgia shared a denim quilt she made from her daughter’s jackets and purses.  “It was the Alabama State Gee’s Bend exhibition and I loved one work very much. [Karen Musgrave brought an exhibit of twelve quilts from Gee’s Bend to Georgia in 2005.] It was a quilt made of jeans. It was for me a good idea to do something from jeans. So I did one of jeans for myself. “Jean’s Generation” is in our theater, it is very good, spectacular performance… Yes, inspiration from Gee’s Bend exhibition because I loved one thing from this exhibition very much; the using of the old clothes. This one is made from my daughter’s jeans… It’s by hand. All of the panel is by hand.Karen Musgrave (interviewer): And you hand quilted it. Was it difficult? Natalia: It was very hard because it was strong material. The pieces are from bags, my bags also. And I sewed little pieces that I had. Karen: You cut away the denim pieces so you could see color underneath. Natalia: Yes. I did that special to be more interesting because it was a mix of jeans and fabric… Pockets… and zippers….  It is Wrangler’s. It’s Levi’s.” Teresa Barkley shares a “patchwork” quilt she finished when she was 15: “Okay, the quilt I have with me today is called “Denim Quilt” and it’s the first quilt that I ever completed that I felt really satisfied with–it was a two year project. I started it in 1970 and finished it in ’72. It got much bigger than I thought it would be when I started, which has been an ongoing problem for me. Things frequently get bigger than originally planned. It is a collection of mostly worn denim squares cut from jeans. They are decorated with embroidery and appliqué that’s hand done as well as with commercial company patches, Army patches, Girl Scout patches, a really wide range of designs. There are 396 squares of denim, each four inches and the designs on them are all different. The idea for the quilt came from a quilt that my great-aunt made. She saw directions for making such a quilt in a Woman’s Day Magazine in the early seventies, I believe. And on a visit to Minnesota, I saw the quilt that she had made, where the designs on each square were much simpler, and I thought that this would be a really fun project. I had always been very interested in quilts and I think I had started some piecework that I had never finished of traditional designs, but the image of this quilt really fascinated me. Every square was different and that collage kind of aesthetic had always interested me. It was an easy project to work on a little bit at a time. I was a high school student at the time. All of the edges of the squares are turned back and crocheted with red crochet cotton and into that crochet is black crochet cotton, and then those edges are sewn together. Over a two year period of time I collected patches from places that I visited. I embroidered things. I appliquéd the whole alphabet. I embroidered the signs of the zodiac. I had long been interested in a collection of Army patches that were my father’s when he was a small boy. And when I began the project I really wanted some of those patches and he was not interested in parting with them. And over the course of the project he came to see how really important this was to me and what a significant thing it was becoming and in the end he was very willing for me to choose as many patches as I wanted of his collection to put into the quilt on the condition that I never sell it. He said, ‘If you ever want to sell that quilt, you have to give me back the patches.’ I reached a point where I realized that it was plenty big, I had plenty of squares and I set out to arrange them on the floor with the alphabet in order and the Army patches evenly spaced, the alphabet evenly spaced. I’m not sure what my goal was in making it actually. I was fourteen when I started it and fifteen when I finished it. I felt very strongly about finishing it before I was sixteen. I had read in quilt history books that by a certain age you should have 12 quilts done or you weren’t going to be ready when you were married, something like this–I knew it wasn’t practical for my life but I liked the idea of it. I liked what few historical stories I had read about quilts. At the time there weren’t very many books to be had about quilts but I had read every one of them that I could find. And I just knew this was something I was going to continue to work at. I had quilts that I was familiar with– there were two or three. My mother had two quilts that her grandmother had made and I loved looking at those. My grandmother on the other side of the family had one quilt that she had made. And the mix of all kinds of things from all over the place put together in something new, fascinated me. I’ve never been very interested in quilts that were two contrasting fabrics put together or a solid color. It’s not the object of the quilt that interests me so much as the process of the assembling things from all over the place into something new that means something different. The juxtaposition of all these things from a different place brought together in a particular theme is what really interests me about quilts that they have some kind of story with them.” You can read more quilt stories on the Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories page on the Quilt Alliance site. Posted by Emma Parker Project Manager,  Quilters’ S.O.S.- Save Our Stories…