Saturday, December 8, 2012

My Crazy Christmas Oldie, but Goodie!

      So, what have I been up to all these past months? Can't believe I haven't posted since the end of August, but I had the best intentions...does that count in any way?! Well, a few highlights...A trip to North Carolina, the release of my new book Simply Successful Applique (published by C&T), a trip to Seattle, ten days at Quilt Market & Quilt Festival (for the book release and teaching) and now home working feverishly to reclaim the bits of my life that were overlooked for the two years I concentrated mostly on the book. I'm happy to report that I've made good progress in conducting a mega reorganization of my two guest rooms and studio space which had been designated as "book command central". They're now deemed safe again for human occupation at large, and just in time for the holidays...phew!
     During my cleanup effort, I spotted this Christmas stocking I had made in 2002. 

       I was so happy to come across it in a dresser drawer, carefully wrapped in archival tissue, as it remains one of a very few holiday things that survived a flood we experienced. It brings with it a rush of memories and I wonder if those wonderful images would have been triggered had I not had the stocking to spark them. For this, I am so grateful that I stitch. This one small project represents so much of what is me. I'm reminded of the many contented and happy hours I spent playing with small bits of fancy fabrics and threads to try my hand at making something that was Crazy Quilted...which always makes me smile since there's no quilting :) 
     The stocking project idea was sparked by Patty Shreiner, a member of a small embroidery group I belonged to when I lived in Pennsylvania. Group members took turns volunteering to present a project. The original stocking was quite large and I didn't want mine to end up as a UFO given the time it would take for something more ambitious. I redrafted the stocking shape and set about drawing up the fractured maze that would become the background. Then I was off and running! Keep in mind that the stocking is only 11" x 6" when measured at its widest parts. Here's a closeup view of the top:

     I was in my glory! I absolutely loved selecting a shape and then decorating it for all it was worth. The best part for me was the ''anything goes'' mindset and ''more is more" and "enough is never enough" charisma that is Crazy Quilting. I love my camera for its macro's an even closer look of the top right. I worked in thin gold thread to create the embroidered snowflakes on the red background:

     The top left area of the stocking gave me an opportunity to attach a small motif I found in my trinket box. I had made it back when I was learning to do tatting, using thicker thread that helps a beginner see the knots more clearly. It was perfect for this! A few touches of crazy embroidery and Voila! I then couched down some baubles that I found at JoAnn fabrics in the bead aisle. I teased the wire vine to suit my design. You can see I added embroidery stitch sequences along the background seam lines in a variety of threads... 

     Next up is the top center area. I had such fun with the mittens, though they still look very much to me like boxing gloves! They're made of felted wool. Don't you just love the look of buttonhole stitches? This photo gives you an opportunity to peek at the hand crochet lace edging (to the right of the mittens). I found this in my trinket box, was just a short length of the handmade lace left over from one of my other projects. need to save every little scrap! (This is how I justify my hoarding tendencies...)

     Now, onto the mid-section...

    ...followed by the zoom shots! Here's the detail of the white area seen in the above photo peeking out at the top center. Gold embroidery thread with gold beading does the trick!

     Now, let's take a peek at the green band. You can see some purchased gold trim on top. I used lazy daisy stitches to attach it to the background. The bottom edge sports an embellished red ribbon which has been decorated with various stitch sequences and french knots. The center of the band is accomplished with a pattern of gold thread fly stitches, green floss straight stitches and clusters of red french knots. I love embroidery for its  simplicity of execution. It always amazes me how much mileage you can get with just a few basic stitches, working them in different combinations and changing out the threads.

  The present was great fun to make! Of course, this gives you a glimpse of my applique skills at the time. I went from rolling over and basting the edges, to using needleturn. My less than crisp corners and edges tell the tale! At least most of it is covered by embroidery...

     But, here's the worst of it. Check out my applique holly leaves! Yikes...cute enough (and fine for this project) but they are nearly non-descript on their own. The only thing in my defense is that they're only 1/4" x 1/2" each. I did keep at it, though, and eventually got the hang of needleturn. But, thank goodness I worked out my Simply Successful Applique method! I can do the tiniest pieces now...quickly and perfectly. Look far to the right, here, and notice that I trimmed the stocking edges with twisted ropes of embroidery thread couched in the seam where the front and back of the stocking were sewn together. This technique makes a nice edge finish.

      I've saved the toe part for last. This little guy's dressed to kill! Yo-yos make a fine snowman body and embroidered details create the face (although his features do look a bit smushed...I needed to fit  them inside the tiny yo-yo center!)... His carrot nose is made of a one thread bullion knot.  I made his hat and scarf with crochet. The holly on top of the hat is made of snips of felted wool and tiny red seed beads.

      Thanks so much for accompanying me on my walk down memory lane! My little project invited me back to a specific time and place in my life. Like visiting with an old friend, I'm left with all those warm and fuzzy feelings.

      During the past months, my camera was always with me, so although I've been knee deep in other things demanding my attention, I'll have the photos and associated tales to share later on, as time permits.

      Wishing you the happiest of holidays and a wonderful New Year!  
Until next time,

c/ 2012 Jeanne Sullivan

Wednesday, August 29, 2012

DAR Baltimore Quilt Exhibit Dates

     Good news for BAQ lovers! I just got off the phone with the museum person at the DAR and got the following clarification concerning their current Baltimore Album Quilts on display which I covered in my previous post. Here's what I was told: The Sampler exhibit (located in front of the current Quilt exhibit) is ending this Friday, so on Saturday, Sept. 2, 2012 and through the following 30 days, the Quilt exhibit will be inaccessible while the museum works on a new special exhibit to replace the Samplers. When the museum hall reopens in October, the current Quilts will continue to be on display until October 2013. Phew! You've got plenty of time now to plan a visit!

     While you're in the area, why not visit nearby Georgetown. The shopping is diverse and upscale. Maybe plan lunch at J.Paul's dining saloon. Enjoy open front dining so you can catch the breeze and a view. Fresh pretzels are served with mustard when you're seated. Mmmmm. The tilapia with a side of cucumber salad is divine. Or, maybe you'd like their lobster quesadillas! Delicious and value priced.

    Me: Back to cutting fabric kits...

Cheers, Jeanne

c/ 2012 Jeanne Sullivan

Baltimore Applique Quilt Exhibits

     After spending much of the summer indoors because of the record-breaking heat and humidity here in Annapolis, I think I've come down with a major case of wanderlust! With William out on the west coast for an antique tool event, I decided to go adventuring on my own.

     I set off to visit with my friend Jean Clemens who lives in Williamsburg, VA. We met a few years ago while I was teaching at Applique Academy and she volunteered to be my classroom assistant. What a pair! She's a wizard at organization and kept me on the straight and narrow :) 
    With well over fifty quilts to her credit (among them 3 king-sized), it's no surprise that she's one of the most prolific quilters I know. Whether hand appliqueing or piecing or quilting, her work is just beautiful. She's no stranger to machine work, either. But her hand quilting is most enviable with perfect stitches on top and bottom!
    Here's Jean sharing some of her creations with me. Jim, Jean's sweetheart for 57 years (in a few weeks), kept discovering and delivering more and more quilts for us to fawn over.

    I had the extreme pleasure of meeting some of Jean's lovely quilting friends, "The Glory Bees"! Jane Bergstrahl, Elaine Miller, Lee Wallingford, Barbara Carper, Cindy Garmen Squire and Martha Bjick were there. What a fun and talented group! I was so inspired as they shared their works in progress, finished pieces and mounds of newly acquired fabric! I'm sorry I didn't take more photos this time around but I'm hoping they'll adopt me so I can join them again sometime.
    I did get Lee (on the right) showing her newly completed log cabin quilt arranged in a unique setting which she said was called "Perkiomen" (pronounced Perk-ee-omen). I believe she said it was an older traditional Pennsylvania design.

     Jean, Jim and I made plans to visit the Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum in Colonial Williamsburg. There's a new exhibit there featuring some stellar examples of Baltimore Applique Quilts. The good news is that the exhibit will remain until May 11, 2014 so there's lots of time to plan for this not-to-be-missed display.  
    I'm finding that most museums are now encasing their textiles behind a new type of glass which protects them from the harmful effects of light, which is a good thing. However, it's really difficult to get good photos because of the shaded glass and glare from overhead lighting (and off-kilter photographer). If you have a digital camera I suggest you set it on P (Program setting), but you'll still be challenged to get satisfactory images. Apologies aside, here are some photos to whet your appetite for an in-person visit with the collection...

        Here's a closeup of block D5 (bottom right corner).

And, who can resist this red and green beauty...
The quilt has two alternating blocks. Here's one of them...
This spectacular block from another quilt sports spectacular stuffed work and quilting. I was breathless.
     I'm so grateful to be able to experience these amazing exemplars of fine needleart first hand. I could move right into the museum and live there for months ogling every detail over and over.
     In addition to exhibits featuring every type of folk art imagineable, the museum also houses an expansive collection of antique textiles and needleart. Here's a woman's ''pocket'' with decorative surface stitching known as crewel embroidery.

          The following example of whitework is shown against a lighted background to accentuate the multitude of filled and drawn thread stitches. The photo shows only a small portion of the piece which takes up the entire display case.

     If you haven't ever been to the Abby Aldrich Museum, you really need to put it near the top of your bucket list.

    Next up...Bassett Hall...  Rockefeller played a major role in financing and planning for the restoration of Colonial Williamsburg. John and Abby made Bassett Hall their home for several months each year during the 1930's and 40's. The story of them and their extraordinary vision, appreciation for the arts, their generosity and accomplishments is highlighted in a movie and guided tour at the house. You'll be fascinated! 

     It seemed every square inch of the well-appointed rooms were covered with eclectic mix of modern and folk art (hers), with classic fine art representations (his).
    My eyes locked in on anything stitched or hooked! Here's a beautiful example of a hand hooked rug found in an upstairs hallway...

And, a large primitive piece covering the bedroom floor...
Lovely hand crocheted spreads covered each of the twin beds. They caught my eye because I have a tablecloth made by my grandmother in the exact same design. It must have been all the rage in the 30's!
OK. Time out for lunch! Jean and Jim introduced me to Firehouse Subs. Great food, great service and great prices! I gained five pounds.  
     I said goodbye to my gracious hosts, gased up and was on my way to Wilmington, NC to see my son and daughter-in-law (at least that's what I told them)...but, I really needed a grandbaby fix.
     I got home a week later just in time to pick William up from the airport.
     No rest for the weary! Today we piled into the car and headed for the DAR Museum in Washington DC, about 45 minutes away. Can't seem to get my fill of wandering these days, especially when there are luscious quilts to be enjoyed.
     The DAR exhibit has been up for a while but I had to move quickly now since the exhibit is coming down at the end of this week. It features 8 Baltimore Album Quilts from the DAR collection and rumor has it they won't be displayed again for quite some time (some say ten years...) and I didn't want to miss out.
Among the most recognizable (for me) was the Mary Simon Quilt Top. I know this one well because of Nancy Kern's quilt (see previous post). I was weak in the knees being inches away from this stunning original grande dame. You can see all the pertinent information about it on the Quilt Index web site.

     Another distinctive BAQ is the Mary Mannakee Quilt. I've seen more than a dozen reproductions of this popular and appealing quilt. Visiting with her today in all her glory was indeed a thrill. Here's one of the blocks...

     I could hardly drag myself away. Then I spied the Mary Simon block that I had stitched for the Dear Friends Remembered Quilt now in the Elly Sienkiewicz Beloved Baltimore Album Quilts collection. Here's the orginal block:

And, here's my reproduction block #G4 in the Elly quilt:
     If you're close enough to make a last-minute trip to the DAR this week, definitely do it! If not, don't despair because the museum usually has a number of fine quilts on display at any given time. They just may not include a BAQ in the mix. I'd recommend you call first, just to make sure they're not between exhibits. My first love, of course, is applique and quilting, but the museum has so much else to offer. Their library, for example, is worth the trip on its own merits. And, don't forget to stop by the gift shop for books and patterns and more!
     Well, that's about it for now. I'm sequestered...knee deep in fabric kits, templates, patterns and lesson plans for the Baltimore on the Prairie Applique Conference scheduled to begin on Sept. 12th.
     Thanks for stopping by. Stitch up a storm!
Best, Jeanne
c/ 2012 Jeanne Sullivan   

Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Fabric Finding Field Trip

     Hi! I had the best day, yesterday! I never need an excuse to go fabric shopping, but I'm in the process of making up kits for applique projects. I'll be  teaching at Baltimore on the Prairie in a few weeks and at the Houston Quilt Festival in November and I wanted to match up some leaf and flower prints in specific colorways. I was also looking to match up a red fabric which I'd like to use for a vase in another project. So, I made a plan to go adventuring with Nancy Kerns (friend, fabric enthusiast and winner of the Founders Award at Houston two years ago for her amazing Mary Simon Baltimore Album Quilt). Here's her quilt. It's pretty spectacular! But a photo can never do it justice.

Living in Maryland, there are lots of choices for a day trip.
     First stop, the Jinny Beyer Studio in Great Falls, VA...  

      What a treat! I wanted to move right in! You get an instant jolt of creative juices flowing as soon as you walk in the door. Linda (teacher and knowledgeable staff member extraordinaire) was there to greet us. She's a delight...vivacious, friendly and helpful.

 I had brought along a small swatch of the vase print I was trying to match. It was a Jinny print which I knew to be extinct (Linda dated it from about 15 years ago...Lampas Rose), but then managed to help me find a perfect color and print choice for my vase. That alone made my day. Then Linda made me buy a lot of other fabric. You can see by the bolts stacking up on the table...and lots more that you can't see, behind the table.

 There's much more than fabric to browse at the Studio. Nancy hadn't been there before and enjoyed all the displays and offerings. Your eyes don't know where to go first!

     Linda suggested a tour of the rooms upstairs which are used for classrooms and more displays of Jinny's quilts. Eye-popping gorgeous! Here are a few:

This beauty is called Moon Glow...

Here's a closeup...

    Back on the main floor I spied this sweet little quilt done in wool applique. I can never resist the look and feel of textured plaids and hand dyed wool fabric .

                                  Here's a close up glimpse...

     I easily made my fabric quota and Linda gave me a Jinny green bag. I love it. Lime is the new neutral and will go with all my outfits :)

     Onward...Nancy and I drove to Purcellville, VA, enjoyed a quick lunch at Market Burger & Fries and then went to visit Web Fabrics.

     Once inside, I was in such a search frenzy I forgot entirely about taking pictures! Well, I guess that means we'll just need to make another trip back. In a nutshell: It was glorious.

Thanks for stopping by!

copyright August 15, 2012 Jeanne Sullivan 

Friday, August 3, 2012

Selecting Fabric for Flower Centers

      Selecting fabric for an applique design is one of my favorite parts of the process. I make it a point to indulge myself with a generous allocation of ''fabric playtime''. It's just so much fun trying out different fabric prints with the same design element. You just never know what you're gonna get! 
      Here, I began with a simple flower design. I knew I wanted a yellow flower so I prepared the petal appliques with a tonal yellow/orange fabric and they are ready to stitch. I placed the petals on top of the printed pattern.

     Next, I began the search for a variety of fabrics which might suggest the look of a flower center. It gave me an opportunity to come up with some creative and unexpected results. First, I pawed through my scrap bin to find possible ''centers'' from past projects and then I raided my stash looking for large florals with appealing centers. After auditioning lots of potential flower centers, I made up appliques for six of the most promising ones. I usually only cut out the fabric bits to try them out, fussy cutting the part of the fabric I think will work, but since this is my first blog I wanted to make them look all nice and fancy for you to see! 


     Here's how the various centers looked when I auditioned them on the flower. I get the biggest kick out of this. It reminds me of playing with Colorforms when I was a child. Anyone remember those? I tried out all the centers before settling on my final choice. Which one would you pick?



C .




          Don't the centers make the flowers come alive?! And, each one is so unique. Guess which one I chose...

         Thanks so much for stopping by. I'd love to see your flowers with jazzy centers. Please share!

All the best,

copyright Aug. 4, 2012 Jeanne Sullivan