Friday, February 17, 2017

Home

Is home a place or a feeling? Both, neither...I don't know. Maybe it's a memory so deep that it becomes an integral part of who you are and how you process the world. That's how it is for me, anyway.

In December when Pantone announced that the color of the year for 2017 was Greenery, I wasn't thinking any deep thoughts. My only thought was that it might be fun to try a quilt in a limited palette, and that it might be even funner still to use the new green. I had a vague idea of doing a crib-sized quilt with different sized quarter log cabin blocks, so I sketched out a quick picture, pulled out three shot cottons in Blue Jean, Sprout and Ice and started piecing. (Actually, for the sake of complete honesty, I had the doors to my solids cupboard open, auditioning different combinations when yardage of Blue Jean fell out and landed on my feet. I decided not to argue with the universe and use it with two other shot cotton friends.) I had such a good time piecing that I finished all the blocks before I put them up on the design wall. That turned out to be a momentous decision because when I finally laid out the quilt I got to see the whole hot mess in its entirety. 

%&$#@!!! 

Quilting has taught me a lot about myself. For one, that my instincts are far better than my plans and also that I am apparently incapable of walking away from a project that I've spent a lot of time/fabric on. I ended up with at least six 10.5" blocks in my first attempt, so I used those to start playing with different configurations on the design wall to try to "save" this quilt. When I placed them in alternating orientations, on point, all the tension eased. I knew why, too. I'd made the mountains of my home in Idaho.

There are no mountains in Iowa, so a harvested soybean field sufficed.
 This is the view from my mother's sewing room. I took this picture while I was doing some early morning quilting during our vacation two years ago. It's a little greener than usual because they'd had a wet spring. The similarities between the two pictures are really uncanny.


I ended up ripping out and expanding the blocks that were too small and cutting down the blocks that were too big (and naturally, I saved the pieces that I trimmed off...more on those later). I was able to reuse all of the original blocks and only needed to piece two more quarter log cabins to finish this quilt top.

I chose to quilt this with simple horizontal lines. I felt quite a bit of angst about it, too, since I am the queen of straight-ish quilting. Last year I entered a quilt in the state fair and had feedback from a judge that my quilting lines really needed to be straight. I disagreed then and still do. I just don't get how military precision with perfectly straight quilting lines marries with a care-free, liberated, wonky, improvisational top. This quilt may have improvisational elements, but it definitely wasn't whimsical and straight-ish lines just weren't going to cut it. It was then that I discovered a large cut of striped fabric in my stash. I totally used the stripes as my backing and quilted the whole thing using my pre-marked cheater lines. I will be buying a large quantity of striped fabric in the near future because this. Worked. Out. Great.

"Home" finished at 47" x 72." It was made using Quilter's Dream Request batting. I quilted it with Aurifil invisible thread (I even had that in the bobbin since I quilted it from the back) and some 50 wt. Aurifil thread that perfectly matched my striped backing fabric.


Making "Home" was a nostalgic process for me and I felt like I wanted to keep going with the story. Holding the green fabric one day, the thought popped into my head that I should do a rattlesnake quilt. Rattlesnakes are not a joyful memory for me, but they are a powerful one. I sketched out several versions of the block until I found a design that replicated the diamond pattern of rattlesnake skin. I pieced the blocks improvisationally and then cut them down to the size I needed. I really like the look of natural variation. I emphasized the scales by using a dark blue thread with a lot of contrast. The pattern is not exact, the colors are not exact, but the FEELING of this quilt (especially once I'd quilted in the scale texture) was enough to give me full body shivers more than once.

"Rattlesnake" finished at 39" x 45." It was made using Quilter's Dream Request batting. I used Aurifil thread and my new favorite trick of echo quilting my backing fabric. Can you believe I had a diamond patterned fabric in my stash? I finished this quilt with a facing.

And this is the ONLY time I'd like to see a rattlesnake hanging from a tree.





 My mother has intense feelings of fear about rattlesnakes, so I guess I come by it honestly. In the mountains it is easy to avoid them by making some noise and staying aware, but all bets are off when the snakes come down off the mountain into yards and neighborhoods. Our farm is largely protected from this because we are just below a natural barrier (there is a canal that separates us from the foothills). In all my life, I only remember two rattlesnakes on our property. My mom still worried about it, though. She worried enough that my dad promised her that if she was ever in a position that she had to take care of a rattlesnake by herself, that he would give her $100. I don't mean to offend anyone's sensibilities with this story, but to be clear, "take care of" is not a euphemism for rehoming.

About 4 years after my father's passing, that day arrived. Mom was home by herself enjoying a new batch of Mama Kitty's babies on the porch when she spotted the rattlesnake in the grass. There was no one to call and some kittens to spare. Putting her personal feelings aside and almost choking on the fear and revulsion, she did what she needed to do. She was still nervy and shaking, trying to catch her breath in the easy chair inside, when the doorbell rang. Though no relation to us, there is a business in town that shares our name. As it turned out, my mother had just bought new windows from them and had inadvertently overpaid. The owner had decided to personally return her overpayment, and handed over a check for a little over one hundred dollars with an unknowing smile. He was invited in for a drink and the story and left shaking his head at his role in it. You gotta give my dad points for style.

I just couldn't stop at "Rattlesnake." I had to tell the rest of it and make "Dispatched" as a companion piece. I used up all the bits and pieces I had produced in making the first two quilts, including the strips I cut off of the pieced blocks when I standardized their size. Piecing improvisationally, I tried to replicate the feeling of the event. I think I got a pretty accurate representation.

This quilt with a sunset backdrop was a visual metaphor I just couldn't resist.
 "Dispatched" finishes at 25"x 24." It was made using Quilter's Dream Request batting and quilted with Aurifil invisible thread. To avoid even a whisper of a bobbin thread peeking out in the light blocks, I used it in the bobbin as well. I finished this quilt with a facing.

I'm still thinking about what it takes to make a home. I do know that I never intended to sew the hills of my childhood home into a quilt, but when the fabric tumbled out at my feet, I took it, and then the quilts took me. I am surrounded by corn, by prairie, by my little family in Iowa--but my home will always be in the mountains.

Thanks for sharing the trip with me.


Linking up with Finish it Up Friday at Crazy Mom Quilts.



67 comments:

  1. Wow - these three quilts are so graphic.
    Great photos and stories too!

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    1. Thanks, Barb! I think it was the only using 3 fabrics part. Usually I try to throw the kitchen sink in too! πŸ˜€

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  2. Well, I love every single one of these! Beautiful from color, design to quilting! I'm glad I'm not the only one who makes one quilt and takes all the leftovers to make something else until every scrap is gone!

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    1. Thanks, Jayne. It's a good plan to always take care of the scraps sooner rather than later. I am organizing my awful solids scrap heap/wad of strings right now!

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  3. Well hearing your stories and seeing your quilts was an awesome start to my day! I love how much meaning is sewn into these three. They are all lovely and striking, and I so appreciate your sharing them!

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    1. Thanks, Debbie. I love the challenge in being forced to use a certain color.I think we first "met" back in the radiant orchid challenge!

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  4. You dad definitely gets points for style. As always, beautiful quilts and enchanting and powerful memories and stories to go along with them.

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    1. Thanks, Yvonne! Long live blogs, right? It's definitely the only medium where we could do this.

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  5. p.s. also shared your post on my AQT facebook page...

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  6. Amazing stories behind these quilts! The quilts themselves are stunning and you Dad is amazing! I'm sure he'd get a great laugh out of the timing of his "gift", Thank you for sharing

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    1. Thanks, Pamela. The strongest memories I have of my dad are of him telling funny stories and laughing. My mom was/is so phobic of snakes that there was NO WAY he'd let that one go.

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  7. AMazing story and quilts...love them all!!

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    1. Thanks, Kris! I love stories and quilts. I so enjoy putting them together here.

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  8. That was an amazing and funny story about your Mom and the rattlesnake and the $100! The quilts are wonderful! Your idea about using stripes for the backing and following the lines to stitch the quilting is intriguing me. I've got to get some striped fabric and give that a try!

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    1. Thanks, Joan! I hope the stripes work out for you. I know I'm a believer!

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  9. Your quilts are beautiful and you are also a wonderful story teller! Please blog more often. I will be following you on bloglovin'
    pugs and kisses,
    Nancy

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    1. Thanks, Nancy! I started two new quilts last night if that helps. You can always follow me on Instagram (@pieladyquilts) to see some progress shots in between blog posts.

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  10. I love how you used up your leftovers for more projects. Are they all gone now?

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    1. Yes!! I had a couple of tiny pieces of blue to throw in my snippets bin and one partial strip of green that went in my strings bin. I'm counting that as all used up!

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  11. A germ of an idea - in a fertile mind takes a life of its own. What is awe-inspiring is that you nurtured it captured it in all stages of growth, each more beautiful than the previous one. Kudos to you!!!

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    1. Thank you so much, Preeti. What a lovely thing to say and a lovely way of saying it!

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  12. Loved the $100 story! Will wonders never cease?! I have been wanting to make a blue and green quilt.....yours are beautiful! Your idea to use striped backing fabric is genius! I really like straight quilting, probably because that's what my great aunts used on their quilts. Do you start in the middle or work right to left or back and forth? I am wondering how you kept your fabric so flat with no signs of fabric ripples like you often see when someone quilts straight lines to the right and then turns around and goes to the left, then to the right, etc.

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    1. Thank you Sally! We all have certain things that we are quilt snobs about, and you've found mine. I am a pressing junkie. I press and starch the quilt tops and backs. After I spray baste (505 is my favorite) I press it again. Every time I change the bobbin while I am quilting, I stand up and press the area that I'm about to quilt. I bought an ironing board a year or so ago that I love. It is extra wide and has adjustable height, which is great because I am extra tall. I think it was a Better Homes and Gardens one, but I know for sure that I bought it at Walmart. I also start quilting on an edge and don't turn the quilt unless the bulk is getting just a little too much. I hope this helps!

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    2. Jill. Thank you so much for your reply! It is very helpful. I have not tried spray basting. I use duct tape to tape my quilt back to a tiled floor, lay batting then quilt top, and then pin all together. Hmmm. I would like to try the spray basting. I will keep an eye out for an extra wide ironing board. I am working on a chevron quilt top and I look forward to trying your (extreme!πŸ˜€) method of starching and ironing. I make my own starch and love the way it smells, so that will add even more pleasure to the process!

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  13. I love all three of the quilts you made! They are stunning and so is the photo of the mountains with the rainbow. Congratulations on persevering and making beautiful art!

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    1. Thank you, Kristin! That rainbow shot is such a favorite of mine, too. Even more so because it only lasted for about 60 seconds. It's such a good reminder to look for beauty. Too often it's fleeting.

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  14. All three of them are simply stunning!

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  15. Loved the rattlesnake story - how strange that the shop owner arrived at that time with $100 for your Mum.

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    1. Thanks, Jenny! I am really glad he arrived when he did, too. It's the little things like that that make you feel as if you aren't forgotten.

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  16. Wow! Lovely story and beautiful quilts.

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    1. Thanks, Lisa. I appreciate your comment.

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  17. All three quilts are gorgeous! What a story about the snake...your dad definitely gets points for style :) And kudos to your mom for taking care of the snake!

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    1. Thank you, Leanne! Yes, I do have some awesome parents. I've often wondered if I'd be as gutsy as my mom is, and all I can say is that I hope I never find out!!!

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  18. Great quilts, fantastic stories. And I'm loving your striped fabric plan.

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    1. Thanks, Robby! I hope you try it! I can tell you no striped fabric is going to be safe from me again...especially if it's on the sale rack!

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  19. I love your approach to quilting. You always tell a good story as well.

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    1. Thanks, Janet. Tim Gunn may have coined the phrase, "Make it work," but I definitely learned the concept well growing up on a farm.

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  20. As pugmom said, you should blog more often. Great stories, great quilts.

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    1. Thanks, Pat. I'll try to blog more. In a case like this, though, the three quilts are definitely better together.

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  21. Whawww! Jou are a real artist! The are amazing!

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    1. Thank you, Marie! I appreciate your kind comment.

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  22. Oh my, love your Mom and Dad rattle snake story. I am always waiting for your next post. Your blog with story telling and quilt creativity is my favorite.

    The quilt police that you ran into should take a lesson from you!
    Also, sorry but I can't help this, that field does not look like a corn field, maybe a bean field?

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    1. Thanks Scarlett! I will change the caption on that picture right away! Of course you are completely right. I walked on so many corn cobs to get those pictures that I just got it into my head that it was a corn field. Yeesh. The Iowans are totally not going to claim me now!!!

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  23. I love sharing your creative journey on these pages, the stories, the quilts. You quilt with your heart.

    In camaraderie with your mom, I too have an excessive fear of snakes. In my dreams though I am always able to conquer them with my hatchet. I keep it sharpened for sure. :)

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    1. Thank you! I think you are wise to have a sharp hatchet handy. Being prepared is a proactive way to channel fear. Also, I have to say that I just finished reading the book Hatchet to my boys and can vouch for just how useful they are.

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  24. Isn't it just wonderful how the universe "tells" us what we need? In your case and in your Mom's, the universe was definitely paying attention!
    I loved your tales of home and your Mom, and I am absolutely in love with your quilts!

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    1. Thanks, Claudia! The real trick is listening or going with the flow. Both are really hard.

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  25. You really have the best stories; I love how the quilts have a whole extra layer of meaning after I've read your post. And, of course, they are all gorgeous.

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    1. Thanks Kaja. I always seem to like the quilts best that are saying something.

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  26. I loved reading these stories this morning and those quilts! They are gorgeous. What a beautiful journey you took us on - thank you so much for sharing.

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    1. Thanks, Izzy. I'm always good for a trip down memory lane. I'm glad you came with me!

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  27. Love, love this post! The rattlesnake story with your mom is precious. Very impressed with your improvisational ease in designing these three quilts. Beautiful!

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    1. Thanks, Kathy! I think of it as making shapes. It helps keep the piecing fun. These fabrics worked very well in highlighting the shapes.

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  28. I haven't run across you before, but this was an amazing post and those quilts! I will be following your travels from now on :)

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    1. Thank you! I am glad our paths crossed. The next stop? My solids scrap bin. πŸ˜€

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  29. Like other commentators I just love your quilts and the story telling behind them. They are fresh, original and always speak from the heart.

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    1. Thank you very much, Jenny. I never knew I had so much to say until I started quilting.❤

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  30. Im a little late reading this journey of yours but can say that I enjoyed all of it,- amazing quilts, I also like lines to be a little off afterall who wants dead straight lines when you can do other things with quilting, I can only do quilting with a walking foot so a little limited.
    Thanks for your lovely stories how it all came about.
    Happy days
    GayleZ

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    1. Thank you, Gayle. I agree, there is definitely beauty in imperfection. And, when it's time for straight, there are stripes for that! πŸ˜‰

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  31. Jill,you made my day with your poignant story and the lovely eye candy!
    FABULOUS!!!(as usual)

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    1. Awesome! I am glad to hear it. A great comment made my day too. πŸ˜ƒ

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