Wednesday, April 19, 2017

A Little AWOL From the Studio

Spring is coming at me so fast here in Northeast Ohio -- a bit alarming in some respects!
I hate to miss any of my favorite spring sights, so have been out birding and walking for a couple hours everyday for the past two weeks.
My studio might be missing me?
Yesterday, I headed out to survey an area for birds that I have been visiting and keeping data for 7 years.  It is about 25 miles from home and in the end, it became a spontaneous almost all-day explore around with visits to a favorite perennial nursery and stops at several parks on my way home looking for FOY (first of year) birds and wildflowers.  If you follow me on Instagram (@hueymary), I apologize for the over-gramming of wildflower photos. 
Virginia Bluebells is one of our most beautiful wildflowers.  It is native and ephemeral (only apparent during the spring), blooming on forested flood plains.  The buds are lavender but the blossoms open blue and gradually "fade" to pink.  Typically, they bloom in May but they are quite early this year and since everything seems to be rushing along, it was important to take advantage of being near an acre-size patch along the Grand River.
Trout lilies are challenging to photograph since their flowers face down so I thought I'd try a "selfie" -- not so successful, but you can see what a beautiful day it was here.
They often tuck themselves up against the base of a tree which is the best photo op in my opinion!
 I found this yellow buckeye sapling starting to bloom -- perhaps two to three weeks earlier than typical.
The casual observer who enjoys pleasant weather will revel in it's beauty but a birder who is struggling to live with global warming is concerned about the hummingbirds returning in a couple weeks to find one of their early food sources out of bloom is alarmed.
Insects and plants respond to temperature as their signal to grow and produce. 
Birds are more keyed into length of day to migrate and breed.
So the insects can stay in cycle with flower bloom but migrating birds especially are struggling with early insect emergences which traditionally sustain them as they travel north.
And then I found this unusual toothwart -- leaves aren't typical -- so I took photos to take home and look up in one of my wildflower guides -- that didn't work.  Aunt Emma always scolded me about not "collecting" the right information to identify a plant -- it's not just about the flower, Mary!?!
Might have to go back there with the book in hand!
But I have spent my evenings in the studio and stayed on task with the Long Time Gone Sewalong.
I'm following Marti Michell's instructions and using her templates when they apply! 
I auditioned several layouts for this block before stitching the units together. 
This is my final block -- so much fun to be finally using the pile of (mostly) text prints I've collected over the past couple years.  It would be a shame to have all of them and not use them myself!! 
For the Trip Around the World block, I focused on some "veggie" prints -- another biggish pile that I love using!!  The turnips around the outside edge are a new addition.  There wasn't enough of the peas or zucchini for the last green band, so I used both and alternated them.
I have put all the blocks up on the design wall to inspire progress and future fabric pulls for this project. 
I've also finished the bird blocks for Lorna at Sew Fresh Quilts' Jolly Christmas sampler.
I survived an attack of being temporarily (I hope) "diagram challenged" while making the cardinals.  I made a male (for my grandson) and a female (for my granddaughter) cardinal.
Here are the blocks so far -- there is another identical set.   
I'll probably sneak out again today once I've packed for my trip over to Westfield, NY tomorrow afternoon to speak to the local guild.  This puzzling picture is a reminder of where to find that red-head woodpecker nest hole and I MUST keep track of their progress!!
And migrating birds are arriving every night and must not be missed!!
And another wildflower will pop up . . . .
I hope you are loving the change of seasons in your part of the world -- it never ceases to engage my interest -- no matter how many times I've experienced it, there is always something I've not seen before. 
To the woods!!

Thursday, April 13, 2017

A Visit to the MQX Quilt Festival - New England

Last weekend a family wedding north of Boston coincided with the MQX Quilt Festival in Manchester, New Hampshire.  My oldest daughter and I made a mini vacation of it.  We took two days to drive over from Northeast Ohio allowing us time to visit the Montezuma National Wildlife Refuge in upstate New York for some birding and An Unlikely Story, the bookstore of children's author, Jeff Kinney (Diary of a Wimpy Kid) in Plainville, Massachusetts.
The birding was good (30 species and good looks at migrating ducks) and the bookstore is delightful! 
The Ohio cousins all met up in Boston on Friday and did the "pub crawl" method of the history trail.  That left me free to spend a long morning at the MQX Quilt Festival.  It was my first visit to the show and very enjoyable.
The main target for me was to see an exhibit of Victoria Findlay Wolfe's double wedding ring quilts!
I have the book but to see them in person is always the best!
It's so interesting to know the back story of each quilt.
Do you follow her on Instagram?  I enjoy the sunny little videos she posts every so often so what a delight to turn a corner and there she was, in the booth, on her lunch break from teaching.
So of course, I went into the booth for a closer look at some of her current work and to purchase the pattern for that big star in the background!
I even left my wallet in the booth, so she had to come find me!!
(Sought out by VFW!!)
The judged quilts were stunning!  All machine quilted of course and divided into 14 categories including "emerging entrants" -- I like that category option!
This is the Best of Show by Margaret Solomon Gunn.  She was also on the faculty for the weekend.
Every detail was perfect.
This piece by Molly Hamilton-McNally was just around the corner.  The applique on this one was the standout aspect! 
Until I saw the back -- if you look at the lower left section, you'll notice that she used a gold thread in the bobbin for the large feathered motif which made it stand out on the back. 
I really enjoyed that many of the quilts were hung so that the back could also be seen.
I don't do this sort of detailed quilting -- no patience, but it's stunning to see! 
These next three were my favorites in the show.  I loved the color palette and print style of this piece by Sheila Dameron who was inspired by the natural color palette of Sedona, Arizona -- right up my alley! 
This close-up of a rhododendron blossom was a stunning combination of applique and stitching. 
I forgot to take a photo of the tag so don't know the maker's name. 
I loved this little piece by Libby Williamson who was inspired by the "for sale" notices on community bulletin boards.  Her attention to detail (look at the left edge where the "paper" was torn out of a notebook).  Of course it's really fabric and whimsy! 
One of the elements of the show I appreciated was that all the pieces were hanging in "their category" so this is the view down the row of "edge-to-edge, hand guided".  This is the first, second, and third and it must have been a challenging category for the judging.
One of the details that caught my eye on the middle quilt by Linda Thielfoldt was the slightly wavy binding!!
There was lots of machine quilting inspiration and I was paying attention to simpler motifs that I might be able to modify (make simpler) in my own work.
Here's a little gallery of my favorites.
Using bubbles (but not too many) as filler
and to add some interest in spots.
I was struck by this blend of a motif and the use of the slightly wonky parallel lines. 
It's good to see this dense easy way to create dimension -- I always shy away from it fearing that I'll "ruin" what I've already done.
Just a cute motif here 
and here! 
And maybe saving this picture will remind me that an "empty" space can be dressed up a bit!
Another area where I'm always shy. 
I'm quite fascinated by simple and large circular quilting -- this works so well but it's so hard for me to visualize therefore I never just try it! 
Must just try it!! 
And finally, it was so much fun to stumble onto quilts that I recognized from my Instagram world!
Those spiders and the bats are from @lillyellasworld -- I was on the testing team for the spiders and you can buy it HERE!
And here's a New Hexagon piece based on Katja Marek's book and follow-along she did in 2015 via Facebook -- pieced and quilted by Arvilla Mederios -- love her name for the quilt -- Never Say Never! 
I'm a little disappointed that I didn't take a picture of the front of this quilt, Sanderson's Apprentice by Karen Terrens of Australia (this is the back) -- it's a reproduction of an English pre-marked Sanderson quilt from the late 1800's.  I've seen some of the original ones on the Facebook page of Antique Textiles in London, England -- lots of antique quilt eye candy there so expect to be distracted! 
Soon it was time to get down to the business of the trip -- the wedding! 
And a mini reunion with my two sisters -- me on the left, mother of the bride on the right,
and my crew -- younger daughter on the left, only son, older daughter on the right. 
Sunday morning saw all of us saying farewell until the next wedding. 
Good to be back home and back in the studio!
If you're celebrating Easter or Passover this weekend, hope it's a good one!!


Monday, April 10, 2017

An Eye Candy Quilt

Last month, during the #IGquiltfest powered by Amy at Amy's Creative Side, one of the daily photo prompts was "quilt labels".  I have to admit, I'm haphazard about this on my own quilts so I shared the "label" on this charm quilt made by my great-grandmother.
The photo generated lots of "hearts" and comments so I thought perhaps some would enjoy a closer look at the quilt.
First, the "label".  She quilted her name "Lillie A. Fox" into these two triangles.
And her initials "L.A.F." into this one.
Fox was her maiden name and so I know that she made the quilt before she married on January 1, 1883.  I also have her "autograph" book where I found a verse penned to her by my great-grandfather several months before they wed. His verse seems to indicate that he knew what he wanted at that point even if she didn't.
I also know that the quilt was made after 1876 as there are two pieces of fabric from the American Centennial.  Isn't that cool??  The horizontal lines say "1776 1876" and the vertical lines say "centennial".
The triangles measure 5" on a side and there are 660 different prints -- no, I didn't count them.  She stitched that number into the quilt (plain diamond upper edge).   I believe she made the quilt for her parents -- their names are also stitched into the quilt (plain diamond in lower edge).  Lewis and Annis Fox were married in 1856 and would have celebrated their 25th wedding anniversary in 1881.
I've had the quilt appraised a couple times.  During the first appraisal, Darwin Bearley pointed out there were fabrics from the 1830's and 1840's and this diamond cluster is a good representation of that.
The tradition of charm quilts revolves around collecting as many prints as possible and not repeating one in a quilt top.  Lillie's autograph book indicates that she was a popular young woman and my aunt remembers her as a "bubbly" person so I'm sure it would have been easy for her to gather or trade pieces for the quilt from friends and relatives.  I like this diamond because it's a color we aren't apt to see in quilts from the late 1800's -- aqua! 
Of course there are lots of the double pinks represented in the diamonds.
Overall the quilt is in very good condition.  There are one or two shredded spots and a couple faded spots.   
  It is completely hand stitched -- even the backing (muslin) and the binding!
 Lillie's mother died in 1896 and so the quilt would have come back to her at that time.
Lillie passed in 1935 and the quilt would have gone to my grandmother.
My grandmother passed in 1970 and the quilt surfaced when my parents were closing up her home.
My grandmother never used the quilt -- in fact, I don't think any of us knew it existed. 
I have had the quilt since the mid-1970's as the only quiltmaker in the family.  I wished I had known her.  She was no doubt a strong and cheerful woman -- you can see it in her eyes.
My Dad had those same eyes! 
I love holding something Lillie stitched and looking at fabric from the scrap bags of her family and friends going back two generations!
What a treasure!
I hope you've enjoyed a closer look at this delightful scrap quilt!
Happy day!