Thursday, October 30, 2008

The Infamous Button Box






"My mother, father, younger sister, and I lived with my mother's parents until I was seven years old. Some of my earliest memories are of being nudged downstairs to go visit with my grandmother, who would almost immediately set me to work at some sort of domestic play. Grandma would pull her sewing box down from the top of the refrigerator. It was an old black, metal cookie tin that never seemed to lose its oily metallic cookie smell. The bottom of the box was filled with all sorts of buttons from years of cutting buttons off of old shirts and blouses. I would sit down on the itchy wool floral carpet in the front parlor and sort those buttons for what seemed like hours. I'd sort them into piles of color, size, and matching shapes and in that time I would always dig out the few rhinestone treasures that excited me so. They were diamonds for sure, I thought." Ellen Zahorec, from The Button Craft Book, by Dawn Cusick, published by Sterling /Lark.

I love that. My whole life I have loved stories about quiltmaking, embroidery and buttons. I have no clue why, as no one in my family sewed. One of my aunts on my Dad's side of the family once told me I had my "grandmother's hands." She died in 1918, in Philadelphia, and I wasn't born until 1944, in Louisiana, then raised in Texas, so needless to say - I never knew her. My grandmother on my mother's side of the family never sewed that I knew of, neither did my mother (except for one little baby gown she made for me, which I still have)....so where did I get this wish to sew and collect sewing "stuff"???

I've always had it, so I won't go into a long story about how I learned to quilt, etc., just let me say that along the way I developed this urge to hunt down old things pertaining to sewing......like buttons. One hot Saturday, earlier this year, my husband and grandson decided to go to one of the local flea markets. It's one I only associate with having things "men want." But, my grandson asked his girlfriend and I to go too. So we did. I didn't have much hope of seeing anything I would want...but, it was something to do "with the guys" so, why not? Wouldn't you know...I was the only one to buy something!

There, under a table with lots of junk, I saw something GREEN. Green is my favorite color. So, I got under the table and pulled the green thing out to take a look. It was a green "box" with three drawers. Did I mention that I have a "thing" for most anything with shelves OR drawers? When I opened it...it had lots of little plastic letters that you make signs with..many of which were broken or missing. I wasn't the least interested in those letters, but had an immediate idea for the drawers.
How much? I asked the booth owner....$15, he said. Too much, I said. My husband said "what in the world would you want with that?" Button storage, I proudly said. The guy said he'd take $8 for it. Sold, I said.

The box is 12" x 17" and has three drawers. Each drawer has 40 little segments. I could just see buttons sorted by color in it and imagined how wonderful it would look. Naturally, the men thought me a nutcase. My grandson's girlfriend just grinned at me. We tend to like the same kind of things....sort of. Well, let me say this....she seems to be a "collector" also.

After we got home, the first thing I did was empty out the plastic letters. Cleaned the box. It's not wood, it's just really heavy cardboard with a green painted finish on it. There's a label inside that says it was made by Gaylord Bros, Inc. Syracuse, NY and Stockton, California. I'm sure I paid too much for the old thing....but boy, do I like it. After I spent a day sorting buttons in it.....my grandson stopped by to take a look. "Well, who would have thought?" he said.

In the first drawer, green, red and pink buttons. In the middle drawer are blue, purple and yellow buttons. And, in the bottom drawer are pearl, white, clear glass and black buttons. They ARE diamonds to me!!!

There are many other buttons here, both in the Nest and in my house. But, the ones in the green box are special....I could spend hours just going through them and looking at them...like the girl in the story. Since I didn't get to do that as a child, I am making up for it now. Let's see...diamonds, rubies, emeralds, pearls....

Take care. Pat

Friday, October 24, 2008

A Different Kind of Stitched Sampler






In early 2006, I was working on a project for a class I was set to teach in March at the Ozark Folk Center. I had it in my head that I wanted to make a sampler quilt.

To that point, I had only seen cross-stitch samplers or quilted sampler quilts. Cross-stitched samplers being framed samplers both vintage and new, done completely in cross-stitch, and sampler quilts being quilts made with a certain number of blocks set into a quilt with each block being a different pattern.

To my way of thinking, a sampler designed to "look" like a cross-stitched sampler but made with appliqued and embroidered motifs, then handquilted sounded really different. At least to me. So, I set out to make such a quilt.

As it turns out, time ran out on me...so in order to teach the class I only had a finished top to show. That worked out well as my students could look at the front as well as the back of the work, which was really helpful. This little quilt is 27" x 27" and has a simple border. I kind of wanted it to resemble that framed cross-stitched sampler I was used to seeing.

The background is rather a dark ecru, solid color fabric...all the rest of the fabrics used are prints. Of course, this is supposed to be "folk art" so proportion doesn't count...hence, a too small calf, too large cat, etc. There are appliqued birds, hearts, flowers, a house, several animals, a tree, my last name, numbers, and a complete alphabet written in my handwriting.

The flowers are made from fabric yo-yo's, stitched with a loop to make what appears to be five petals and sewn onto the quilt top backwards. I just happened to like the backs of the yo-yo's better than the fronts for this application. The leaves, stems, vine, birds, hearts, house, animals and the land were done in needleturned applique, my method of choice.

Because I couldn't find the alphabet I wanted......I decided to write the letters in my own hand, no matter that they weren't perfect. Besides, I think it just adds to the fact that this quilt is a work done completely by ME.

The legs on the calf and cat were not so easy to applique, but I managed. I guess I should say that the cat is there because we have a cat and have had several other cats over the years. The calf is there because we had a farm where we raised cows for seventeen years. The chickens are there because I thought they would be cute there, although I never want to be around chickens. I was attacked by a huge, white rooster when I was three and have scars to prove it. I never got over it. I can be around chickens as long as they are in front of me.....those behind me...well, I don't trust 'em!! I guess adding them to the quilt was, in a weird way, facing my fears!!! Well, not so much. I just needed some kind of animal in that space and thought chickens would be good (and they look really cute too). Strange what we decide to do, isn't it?

Oh, yes, the birds are there because this IS the Bird Nest on the Ground Studio! The hearts are there because I put hearts on just about everything. The flowers are there because I LOVE flowers and have a real talent for killing them, but I can sew flowers that last many years!!!

My favorite part of the quilt has to be the tree. I LOVE trees. I have terrible vision and couldn't see a thing as a small child. When I was in the third grade, my teacher realized I couldn't see a thing and told my parents. There followed big, thick glasses. The first thing I saw with the new glasses was a tree. Til that moment, I did not know that leaves were individual things....I thought a tree was one big green thing. So, to this day....I am partial to trees. I call them Nature's answer to lace. So, there had to be a big tree here.

I used DMC floss for all the embroidery. The tree leaves were done with one strand of three different colors of green. I think they look pretty good. The trunk of the tree is appliqued and part of the branches are embroidered with satin stitches, the thinner parts done in outline stitch. I love the tree!!!

Early 2006....to last week...that's how long it took me to get this little quilt finished. That shows you that sometimes I "take my time" getting things done. What it really means is that while I tend to procrastinate, other times I just have to put things on the back burner. Eventually ALL things get done, however.

I don't know what else you might want to know about this little quilt. Suffice it to say that I did manage to create a small sampler quilt using applique and embroidery and somehow it does resemble an old-fashioned cross-stitched sampler. I even had fun doing it and my students loved it. A very good thing. Pat

Tuesday, October 21, 2008

Friday, October 17, 2008

My Best Crazy Quilt on My Birthday











Earlier this year, not long after I started this blog, I decided that I would post my BEST crazy quilt on my birthday. October 18th is my birthday!!!!! So, I'm sticking to my decision and showing the quilt. It's not everyday a person turns 64, so to inspire myself to "keep going" and hopefully show you something pretty...here is my best crazy quilt.

I made this quilt several years ago as the subject of a Leisure Arts, Inc. book. (The Big Book of Crazy Quilt Stitches) It took me nine months to design, make and write the instructions for this quilt. The colors were chosen by Leisure Arts, as my own would have been quite different, but the designs are all mine and it was made totally by me. Took me as long to make this as it did each of my kids....I suppose that's one way to look at it. I like my kids better, to tell the truth, but this quilt comes in pretty close after.

The blocks are six inches square and done using the paper piecing method. I don't usually use paper piecing, but Leisure Arts wanted it that way...so there you are. Actually, there really is only one background block....made twenty-five times and then turned one turn each block across and embroidered with a selection of my embroidery motifs. I chose to piece the whole quilt together before doing the embroidery, but it can also be embroidered one block at a time, then sewn together.

At some point, this book became not a book on silk ribbon embroidery, but one using the motifs to embroider using DMC floss. Not a bad idea, but not what I had envisioned, so with the exception of this quilt, the models in the book were not made by me. They were done by Leisure Arts employees using my designs. To this day, I still think silk ribbon does these designs more justice than the floss, but, at some point, I intend to make that very kind of quilt.....so I can have both examples to go along with the book. I have a top pieced, yet to be embroidered, in my UFO drawer.

All the seams are embroidered, as it is with most crazy quilts. This quilt is also hand quilted. There is not a lot of quilting on it, just enough to keep the patches in place. Except for the border. I quilted the border in diagonal lines and every now and again added pastel beads in the stitching to give it a tiny bit of shine when the light hits it just so. I do so love to have something in my quilts that won't be seen unless you look carefully. Some people make quilts that will be noticed the instant you walk into the room...I like to make a quilt that nobody notices until someone stands patiently in front of it and really looks. Then, I think they deserve a treat! That's kind of warped, if you ask me, but true nonetheless.

I used a darker pink for the roses in one basket......I wanted one of the baskets to "stand out" more than the others. As it turns out, when I show this quilt, someone usually points and says "Oh, look at that basket of roses!" I love that. But, if you spend any time looking at the quilt, you will see four other baskets. Each embroidery design is repeated four times in the quilt in different colors.

One of the motifs I really enjoy adding is the bows. They are stitched in the middle, tied into a bow with the "tails" folded this way and that, held in place with French Knots.

And, of course, another of my favorite motifs to stitch is a leaf and there are many here. Click on the photos for a close-up and you can see the different leaves. So much fun!

This really is my BEST crazy quilt. I'm 64 years old today but I feel like a forty year old trapped in a sixty-four year old body....where did the time go? I must get busy....so much to do...so little time! Another quilt is calling! Maybe I'll show it on my next birthday......Pat

Monday, October 13, 2008

Five on a Monday








It's Monday....and it might rain today. I'm hoping so anyway. Rainy days are my favorite. It's a mood thing. I have the door open and the birds are singing....so already the day is improving....well, except for that laundry I also have to do. (Don't you get tired of seeing the same old things in that washing machine? I'd love to open it one day and magically see new clothes, just for a change in the wash-day landscape!)

Today, I thought I would choose five items from my studio to highlight....just for fun. Now, bear in mind that I love my Nest/Studio, so I think every little tiny item in it is just great....but I don't expect others to feel the same way...in fact, sometime I expect someone to say, "Well, what's the big deal anyway?" There really isn't a big deal except that this is my sanctuary and in it is the "stuff" that keeps me going. So, today I'm sharing a tiny part of it with you.

Five items...and this is the first: Last night, late, I finished quilting a very small quilt that I had been trying to quilt for a whole year! It isn't bound and washed yet, so I am only going to show you a snippet of it until it's completely finished. (Well, a little bird just flew in here...so I've turned off the lights so he can see the doorway and fly back out...this happens frequently in the Nest! Oh..there he goes! Just a visit from a feathered friend on a Monday morning!! Ooops, how funny -- he's back and he's brought a friend! Now there are two birds INSIDE my Bird Nest on the Ground. A first!!!)

Back to the quilt "snippet." It's an appliqued and embroidered "sampler," made to resemble a cross-stitched sampler. I'll show it to you when it's all done...probably next week. Here you can see the tiny appliqued chickens. I think they are "cute."

#2 You've seen this item before if you read my post when I did the studio "tour." This is the cutest toy pickup truck. Naturally, I found it at the flea market. It was originally red, but has faded into a red leaning toward pink. I love the cute thing.....filled with buttons, a heart container with beads given to me by a friend, and a vintage button card that says "Mermaid Pearls." The two little vintage dolls are so cute. The taller one is wearing a red bathing suit and I thought the Mermaid button card "went" with her. Isn't this just too much!

#3 These are doll pins. Actually, they are kind of on the large side if you plan on wearing them...but I have actually worn the smaller of the two....either of them look really sweet pinned on a totebag too. The small one was made from a vintage embroidered dinner napkin and the larger one is dressed with some painted lace. They are six and eight inches tall. Both have vintage buttons and "jewelry" on....the smaller one is wearing a crown that I just happened to find in a bag of "junk" from the flea market. How fun is that?

#4 I learned to make these beaded flowers from a blog (inthefold.blogspot.com). I have certainly enjoyed making them. Using different sized beads determines their size and it's fun to see how they turn out. You can make one in a very few minutes...just another one of those little sideline adventures we crafty people like to go on!! And, oh yes, the tiny ones are somewhat tedious....but my favorite! (Does it mean I'm a "tedious" person if I love doing "tedious" things??? Don't answer that!)

#5 Having finished the quilting on "that chicken quilt" last night, I immediately went to the UFO drawer and brought out another quilt to start the quilting on....(I certainly hope this one goes faster). I'm only showing you a "snippet" though...you'll see the rest later. Just let me tell you that it is definitely out of my comfort zone as it is, without a doubt, the busiest quilt I have ever made....yellow flowers, butterflies and all!

So, now you have a peek into the Nest for a Monday morning with a visit from birds to boot! I hope you enjoyed the visit!

**I've added photos of the bird visitors to the Nest....hope they had a good time too! Try to come back on Saturday, that's my birthday, so I will be showing you one of my very best quilts!

Thursday, October 9, 2008

New, But Old: A Quilt






Once again, I feel it's time to include a quilt in a post on this blog, so I've had to take a look around and say..which one? Today I am showing you a little wall quilt I made. It's approximately twenty-seven and a half inches square.

It's a new quilt...meaning, it has been made within the last couple of years. And, as you can tell, the coloration of the quilt certainly isn't traditional, nor is the pattern in the fabric. That's the "new" part.

The old part....well, I designed this quilt around five "Nine Patch" blocks...certainly a traditional pattern. The blocks are six inches square. Four of the blocks, which traditionally would be filled with a quilting design, are filled with a hand-embroidered design...of my own making.

I knew before I made this quilt that I would use embroidery as a design element and do it in the traditional way...by hand. Because I wanted an original design to embroider on the "plain" block.....I cut a "snowflake" pattern from paper and used that as the embroidery design...so much fun! There is a quilting line all around the embroidery on that block...hard to see, but it's there. (I used freezer paper to make the snowflake, that way when the pattern is cut out, you can iron it to your fabric, and it will stay in place while you mark. Much easier that holding it down to mark around. If making a more complicated snowflake, however, freezer paper is a bit too heavy, but still usable if you fold carefully.)

Over the center block of the Nine Patch, I also drew a little vine pattern and embroidered it. I just thought the center of that Nine Patch needed a "little bit more." It's simple and I love it.

Surrounding the Nine Patches, is a black border. Of course, you've already figured out that I just "had" to embroider it too.
And, I chose the same color of DMC floss to do that as the background of the blocks...with a little touch of pink. A little touch of checked fabric tickled me also...so I used it in the center square of the blocks and the corner squares of the black border.

I loved the dotted fabric used in those embroidered squares...the way it changes from green to pink. As I was cutting the fabric for the outside border, I decided those corners should use the darkest part of the dotted fabric. What makes us choose the things we do?

In a traditional style quilt, I would have quilted that black vine on the outside border, but instead, I chose to embroider again. I embroidered the vine in black DMC #12 Perle Cotton. So much fun to do. The quilting in the border is a straight line quilted on the diagonal. I had never used perle cotton to quilt with before and boy, was it neat! I didn't worry about making the stitches tiny either, which made the work go a little faster.

Well, it's not my most favorite quilt, but one I enjoyed making. Different for me because of the colors...not really my cup of tea. I still think I should make an identical one only in a different colorway...and with a fabric print I truly love...such as roses. Maybe someday...oh, I'd better write that one down...I'd love to make it! You can visit this quilt in my etsy shop.....it's for sale. But, if I make the rose one...gosh...I think I might have to keep that one. I thought about selling this one for quite a while...I do love all that black embroidery!

Something "new"...made like something "old." A quilt. Just love making them. Pat

**I notice the color on these photographs isn't "true." The one of the whole quilt is the most accurate. The others look washed out.....I don't know why...just life, I suppose.

Saturday, October 4, 2008

Some People I Never Knew & How I Remember Them






Yeah, with a post title like that, I bet you are wondering what in the heck I'm talking about now. It all started long ago when I began to 'rescue' photos I found at the flea market. I would find a great old photo and feel terrible that the person or persons pictured in the photos were now relegated to sitting in a box in a place where no one knew their names...or even cared. So I bought them. Well, not ALL of them...I can't do that..there's not enough space in my house. However, I have managed to bring home some of them and still do when I find one that 'speaks' to me. I call them my "new old relatives."

A few years ago we had a mirror in a frame over the buffet in the dining room. One night, very late, we heard a loud crash. Well, I was concerned, Richard wasn't, so I got out of bed and looked the house over trying to find out what had caused that sound. Eventually, I stepped into the dining room and turned on the light......that mirror had fallen down onto the buffet, bounced off, hit the dining table, bounced off..then crashed into a zillion pieces onto the floor. It took hours to get up all the glass, with me wondering the whole time what I would do with that empty frame as buying another mirror was out of the question. Of course throwing it away wasn't an option. You know I had to find another use for it.

Eventually, I decided to cover some foam core with fabric, put it into the frame and I would add "something" to fill it up. So, I did that and left it for a while...only to come back later with the idea of putting old photos in it. By then, something else had taken up space over the buffet, so I had to find a place for the photos. Not so easy in a small house already filled to the brim. I had a quilt hanging in the entry way.....it wasn't too hard to figure out that the photos COULD go there if I so desired. I did. There they are today. And, there they will stay until I get the urge to move them somewhere else. I do so love to move things from "here to there and back again" depending on my mood. I love these people. I always love finding new ones too, but these have lived here long enough to "belong."

There are two photos that are REAL relatives, so they do truly belong here. There is a photo of a lady in a long dress with a little boy...that little boy is my husband's Dad when he was a kid and the lady is his grandmother...who would be my husband's great grandmother. There is also a little oval photo button picturing Richard's Dad, Vincent, and his brother (Bob). This is really a neat thing and I have since found out this type button is quite collectible. I just like having it. Richard lost his Dad when he was nine years old, so any thing like this we get...well, it's special.

One of my favorites of the old photos shows two little girls with their dogs. It makes me smile every time I look at it. Underneath the picture, someone has written: "Your grand daughters and sons - Sport and Ted." The smallest little girl is standing on a box.....so cute!

On the far left of the frame is a beautiful woman in an oval frame.......it was given to me by my friend, Jim. She was just so pretty I pinned frame and all to my collection of new old relatives. There is a family of girls...can you imagine how much time it took to get them ready to have their photo taken? There are a couple of guys in the service...love them! One of an older lady (given to me by friend, Keri). She has such a sad look on her face I wish I could make her laugh. I wonder if she ever did? There are several that include houses...love finding those and I imagine walking through the houses. If you click on the full photo of my frame, you can probably see all the pictures.

I chose to use buttons and straight pins to attach the photos to the fabric/foam core. That method seemed to fit "in" with the type photos I had....what do you think?

The big oval picture over top of the frame was given to me by Richard's cousin, Jr. He's in his eighties now and tells me this lady was a cousin or aunt or something to his late wife, Nell. I thought a lot of Nell and he gave me this picture, saying, "well, it's about to fall apart and I knew you'd be the only want to want it." Yes, sir. So, I hung it right up where it is now.

I always look for photos when I am out hunting and gathering. I look for photos that picture people with their quilts, but have never found one of those....at least not yet.

You might be wondering why I am so interested in these old photos. Truly, I do not know. It might be because I never had many photos of relatives......other than my parents. Actually, I never laid eyes on a photo of my Dad's mother until 2004 and she died in 1918! Having never seen her before, I was shocked at how much my Dad resembled her. And me also.

I love these old photos.....just as I love so many of the old things I run across at the flea market. And, even though I don't know who these people were......I bet I would have liked them very much!

I'll share some more new old relatives at another time. I just received two more very interesting photos from my friend, Brenda. She discovered them on a trip to Columbus, Ohio....yeah...must be my Ohio side of the family!! Pat

The Bird Nest on the Ground Studio

The Bird Nest on the Ground Studio
Right in My Backyard

A Bit of Heaven

A Bit of Heaven
An original designed wall quilt with my vision of heaven on earth.