Sunday, February 24, 2013

One Down, Eleven to Go


I finished one block in my 30s quilt block kit.  I completed the embroidery on the one block that had the applique already finished and buttonhole stitched down.


An 80 year-old UFO can be a bit grimy.  I soaked it for several hours in detergent and oxyclean.  Toward the end, I treated the spots with some Fels Naptha, which is my stain remover of last resort.


The spotting on the block has faded, but it's still there.  I have resolved that I won't let that bother me.  This piece has earned its age spots.  I think the darkest stain on the middle left may be a rust stain from a needle that was left in the fabric, since it's near where the previously embroidered section ended and the green embroidery thread was left hanging.


I'm going to adjust my thread colors for the next block.  I want a darker yellow and I found a couple of darker greens in my stash.  These blocks are 17 x 17 inches, so there's some room for trimming when it comes time to set them in a quilt top. 

Sunday, February 17, 2013

And You Thought Your UFOs Were Old


I've pulled out a UFO to finish.  This project has been in my stash for several years, I bought 12 of these waterlily applique and embroidery blocks for $6.00, maybe ten years ago.  A couple of the blocks have some of the stamped applique pieces basted down, but most of the stamped blocks are bare and I have the corresponding stamped applique pieces for all of the blocks.


The appliques have a stamp that says the kit was copyrighted by the Rainbow Quilt Block Co. in 1932, 81 years ago.


On one block the applique has been completed, and a meticulous buttonhole stitch has been applied to the edges.

The green thread from the outline embroidery has been left hanging in a tantalizing way.  Who started this kit, and why was it abandoned?  Maybe finishing this kit will lead me to some clues as to the story of this project.  Maybe completing this old UFO will allow some needle worker's spirit to rest a bit more peacefully.


I began with the important task of getting the right supplies.  All the pieces are in good shape, though some of the blocks have "beauty spots," stains of unknown origin.  At one point I washed one of the stamped blocks in oxyclean to see how much of the staining will come out with a good wash, and it came out nice and white, if not totally spotless.

When the blocks are done, I've got a drawer full of 30s fabrics I want to use to make complimentary pieced blocks for the finished quilt.  That's my plan anyway. 

Saturday, February 16, 2013

Super Good News


I recently heard that I have won the Philip Levine Book Prize for my manuscript Mexican Jenny and Other Poems.  The book will be published this year by Anhinga Press, a respected independent literary publisher.  

I have been overwhelmed by this good news. I deeply respect and admire the work of both Philip Levine, in whose honor the contest was established, and of Cornelius Eady, the contest judge, so this recognition is especially meaningful to me.   

The title poem of this collection is a biographical poem about a woman who, legend has it, made a crazy quilt while she was incarcerated for murdering her violent partner, a man who was also her pimp.  Although "Mexican Jenny" is based on the slim outline of the story of a real woman, I have filled in the gaps of history with my own fiction making.  Since Jenny was a quilter, what I have learned over the last 13 years as a quilt maker myself, showed me the way to tell her story.  

The pen and the needle are powerful tools that allow us to speak about human experience.

Sunday, February 10, 2013

St. Francis Preaches to the Birds (32 x 33")


I finished this wall hanging, remarkably close to on-time, thanks to the peer pressure encouragement of the talented participants in the Tuesday Stitchers group.  Most of us did some version of the Crazy Quilt Journal Project and the Take a Stitch Tuesday challenges.  It's not typical for me to work on a schedule, but I am very happy to see the project come to fruition. 

Here are several close-ups. 


The blocks, sashing and binding were joined by hand because I felt it gave me the most control when working with the shape-shifting sizes of these blocks.


I used an assortment of buttons, beads and some quilting stitches to bind the top  layer to the backing.









There are the medals of St. Francis (with birds swirling around his head) and St. Clare, who I've been told is the patron saint of embroiderers.  These, and the lace panel of the Virgin Mary, were brought back from Italy by my friend Cathrine.





For the backing, I used this vintage upholstery panel.


Here's what the finished quilt back looks like.  I still have to attach the hangings sleeve at the top, and add the label, which will go into the space below the tree.

With this project done, the rest of the year is wide open for new projects.  We'll see what jumps onto the design wall from here.