Tuesday, August 7, 2007

Starting small

I'm one of those needlers who started learning the sewing arts as a 4-Her. Every summer I attended meetings in the elementary school home economics room, if I remember right. There we learned how to sew straight seams, circles, and hems from Carolyn and Kathleen McCague and from Clair Schick's Mom. I suffered over that first apron and pincushion more than any project I've made since. But I learned enough to make most of my clothes and those for my children and shirts for my husband. It was the 70s -- sewing and baking and gardening were in style. And they benefited our meager budget. While Mom crocheted afghans and pieced quilts using the patterns she loved from her teen years during the 1930s -- flower gardens, double wedding rings, Star of Bethleham.... I dreamed of making all sorts of things, but never got around to it.

So now I start small with little miniature quilts, a birdhouse wall hanging using directions by Debbie Mumm, and fabric bowls.

The bowl projects was the first time I had tried to make something that wasn't to wear or to cover up with (the birdhouse wall hanging came later). I stumbled across Linda Johansen's "Fast, Fun and Easy Fabric Bowls" book and just had to give it a try. I became totally fascinated by adhering fabric to rigid interfacing with that iron on bondable stuff, like stitch witchery only better. The secret to great success is to iron on the paper side, not on the fusible side -- it could destroy a hot iron in the blink of an eye.

But, it is this use of unusual materials (for me, they're unusual) and new procedures that has drawn me ever closer to making art quilts. Remember my mother is a traditional quilter, a daughter of a long line of traditional quilters whose roots harken back into Pennsylvania Dutch territory. Transitioning away from the tried and true fabric quilts made from traditional patterns for utilitarian purposes, took some doing.

I go to quilt shows and am drawn to the art quilts, trying to figure out the techniques used or the amazing array of fabrics incorporated into quilts. Tulle and organza-- I would never have thought to use it, but it works so beautifully. And the use of dissolving fabrics so that the stitches seem to float, well, they do float and create a new fabric all their own. And the appliques, the use of fabric paints and markers, embellishments, found objects, paper and print and photos....The list is endless.

Now, as soon as I can convince my husband that I can't live without that $5000 Bernina sewing machine that embroiders and quilts with or without me, then maybe I'll be a giant step closer to making my own art quilt. In the meantime, I peruse a variety of websites and drool over the work of such gifted quilters. Quilters I hope to interview and discuss in upcoming blog entries.

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