Sunday, September 23, 2007

Healing Quilts come in all styles

When I hear the term 'healing quilt' my memory brings forward a snapshot of the handmade quilts my grandmother and mother made and wrapped me in on sick days. It also reminds me of the various charity quilts that are made for people suffering from various diseases from AIDS to infants born with alcoholism and face withdrawal the first days of their lives.

But, The Society for the Arts in Health Care offer a twist on the healing quilt in the 27 quilts that have traveled in The Healing Gardens Quilt exhibit from 2002 through 2005 and can be viewed at their website. Many other aspects of this website will intrigue you concerning art and healing, take some time to browse. You'll see a variety of 'healing' quilts featured there. The photo featured here is of the quilt made by Judy A. House, "Podophyllum Peltatum," 34" x 37."

The Podophyllum Peltatum that House used for her quilt may be more familiar to you by its other name: May apple. I remember seeing patches of this plant growing for miles along an overgrown Ohio fence row beneath stand of scrubby maples. Other regions may refer to it as Devil's apple, hog apple, Indian apple, umbrella plant, wild lemon and American mandrake. It is not a true mandrake.

The twenty-seven Healing Gardens quilts feature approximately twenty-four varieties of plants that are being scrutinized as sources for potential cancer fighting drugs. These Northern Virginia quilters including Jinny Beyer, Barbara Bockman, and Eileen Cavanagh, chose plants with names like Brucea Antidysenterica or Ochrosla Vitiensis or Catharanthus Roseus and recreated them on their individual quilts using all forms of quilting -- piecing and applique, hand and machine and embroidery.

The quilt speaks of natural healing, drugs found in nature, and plants yet to be explored for their medicinal uses. As a by product of these quilts, thoughts also follow the natural progression to the need to care for and nurture our environment so these plants are not lost and their healing properties forever closed to us.

It is astounding what a small percentage of plants man has actually explored. And yet, twenty-five percent of modern drugs used in the U.S. today derived from plants. Plant medicine is not new.

Animals and man have been using it for all times. Prehistoric cave drawings depict the use of plants.
Wikipedia reports: "There is evidence from the Shanidar Cave in Iraq that suggests Neanderthals living 60,000 years ago used medicinal plants. A body that was unearthed there had been buried with eight species of plants which are still widely used in ethnomedicine around the world.[6]"
Animals have sought out plants for their health. Watch your house cat seek grass to cure fur balls and indigestion. Researchers from Ohio Weslyan University discovered that some birds chose nest materials that are rich in antimicrobials.

Only since industrialization have countries thumbed their noses at natural remedies. Thankfully hearty souls, such as these quilters, continue to demonstrate the potent cures that nature provides. Science is listening. I just hope it isn't too late and we haven't destroyed the plants that will save mankind.

Sunday, September 16, 2007

A few good quilters can change the world

For the past few years I have been happily interviewing quilters for articles that appear in The Quilters World magazine. Tough job, but someone has to do it. :)

The one element that seems to thread its way across the entire quilting community and pops out in each individual is the unselfish sharing. Not just fabric and pins, but caring enough to do that extra something. Many share by expanding their stitching to design and teaching. Whether it is devoting oneself to educating and encouraging beginners like that dynamic duo of Diana McClun and Laura Nownes or giving comfort to women and children, there are quilters stepping up and accepting the challenge to provide information, services and quilts.

Gwyned Trefethen of Sherborn, MA, makes delectable art quilts, but she is also founder and coordinator of The Power of the Quilt Project that provides quilts for women undergoing chemotherapy treatment and children facing hardships.

Of course Trefethen is not alone in her generous use of quilts for those in need. ABC Quilts, Linus Quilts, Amy Simms project to benefit Alzheimer Disease research, even quilts for Kosovo and Heartbeat quilts....the list continues to cover every need. Even quilts for stray cats and dogs housed in shelters. The quilt photographed here comes from the Wrap Them In Love 2007 gallery of donated quilts.

Some -- many -- make quilts in private, donating in secret. Not accepting praise or acknowledgment. Two such women live in my home town. For decades, probably even longer than I've been aware of, Carolyn and Kathleen have bought fabric, gathered scraps from whomever donated, and cut squares, pieced them together into baby quilt tops, added batting and flannel backings, knotted and bound each quilt, added a label and sent them off to missions and missionaries. The women's fellowship of the LaFayette Congregational Christian Church often gathered around these little quilts to knot and pray and maybe even gossip (just a little), but the ones who kept this project alive was always Carolyn and Kathleen. How many quilts have they donated? Don't ask them, they don't know. But if you only estimate 20 per year -- a very low estimate I'm sure -- that's at least 800 quilts. What we could all accomplish if we just decided that each year we'd make 10 quilts for charity.

As we approach the holiday season when we begin casting around for a way to help others and are overcome with the spirit of giving -- perhaps making a charity quilt will fill your need to share a bit of your own heart with those less blessed.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

Silhouette Quilts

I rarely meet a quilt I don't want to take home and cuddle up to. And usually I'm a nut about details. Lately I've fallen under the spell of crazy quilts and the endless possibilities of embroidered embellishments. But my cousin introduced me to silhouette quilts and I'm in awe of what power these images have. Without detail, simply outline, the effect is stunning!

Lee Ann Cimperman's website features a silhouette quilt of sports figures. The martial arts quilt actually reflects the action and strength of the art, with simple silhouettes. And Fran Morgan's book Silhouette Art Quilts demonstrates even more graphically the power of these basic shapes.

I say without detail. But if you think of the art of paper cutting -- scherenschnitte -- detail certainly abounds. In fact, it was paper cutting that led Mary (my cousin) into the silhouette quilt making. Pamela Dalton's gallery of scherenschnitte begs a visit. Amazing detail and she incorporates color into some of her creations. The photo above was copied from the website Suzanne Quilts and details the awards this 78x84-inch quilt has won. But sadly does not tell the full name of the maker.

1990: A booklet by Claudia Hopf called Scherenschnitte: Traditional Papercutting (l977) inspired me to make this quilt. The designs were originally intended for Valentines, New Year's greetings, or book plates. This was my "travel quilt," as I appliqued the squares on trips.


  • The Grand Prize in Applique from Better Homes and Gardens Books awarded at the International Quilt Festival in l990.
  • Scherenschnitte won First Prize in Professional Applique at the American Quilter's Society Show in Paducah, KY, l992.
  • Best Workmanship at Quilter's Heritage Celebration in Lancaster, PA, l99l
  • Featured in America's Heritage Quilts, edited by Pat Wilens, Better Homes and Gardens Books, l99l.

My cousin's love of genealogy, family history and old photographs also play a part. As seen in Louise Handley's book Fabric Silhouettes: Quilted Treasures from the Family Album, family photos make excellent sources for silhouette quilts.

I haven't seen my cousin's work in progress, I hope to post some photos of it here soon. Currently she's caught up in a genealogy search, so quilting has taken back seat to the hunt for hidden ancestors.

And, if you like the detail of crazy quilts or better yet, a Baltimore Album Quilt -- check out Elly Sienkiewicz's Silhouette portraits as seen on Alex Anderson's HGTV program Simply Quilts.

Friday, September 7, 2007

Pink, the new lime green?

Kay Sorensen offered the theory of pink being the new lime green and started several quilters off on a new path of color enlightenment.

A black, white and pink challenge by host Leigh Ann Haygood offers a bouquet of unique responses to her challenge. Featured here is just one, by Jodi-Marie Horne of Leduc, Alberta, Canada. She used 100 percent commercial cotton fabric and rayon thread in her raw-edge fusible applique that is machine quilted.

Jodi-Marie said, "This experiment of transferring a fractal image to cloth was pure joy! It also showed me how little pink I have in my stash!"

I'm in the mood today to just search for examples of what art quilters are producing. Inspiration, perhaps, for all of those quilts I think I want to make, dream of making, but can't seem to get started.

My dear cousin gets an idea, jumps into it and produces the most exquisite creations whether it be crocheted, doll clothes, beading, or quilts. Today she wrote to say she found a new book at the library and is busily creating a quilt based upon the techniques in the book. I tend to look at the book, think 'Wow, what a great idea. I should make one." Then it is time to return the book and I move on to yet another 'what if!' idea.

So, while my cousin is cutting cloth and creating. I'm wandering the Internet finding so much inspiration. One exciting spot is the Art Quilt Network with links to its many members sites as well as galleries of various types of art quilts. Vita Marie Lovett takes us on an excursion of doors in her mixed media fabric creations, not to mention her extensive list of links to other exciting websites.

One of those links to Nancy Billings' Nancy B Designs and her vibrant quilts. They make you smile just to look at them! And the pillows. Her woven pillows inspire me to use up some of those odds and ends of fabric that I can't let go of, but still have not found a use for. Here she has included an embroidered insert.

Of course no surfing for art quilts could ever be complete without a trip to the Bryerpatch, Caryl Bryer Fallert's home page. I don't often understand exactly what the quilt artists attempt to say in their creations. I get bits and pieces of it. But, I think if anyone sees her 2001 quilt pictured here and remembers September 11, 2001, the message touches the viewer right to the heart.

I wonder if Caryl dreams in technicolor -- she certainly knows how to use color in her quilts!

From pink to technicolor, surf away. Of course on the Internet, surfing never ends. I hope you'll take a few moments -- hours -- days -- to check out the links from just this little foray into art quilts online.