Thursday, August 27, 2015

Another Baltimore Album Journey

Respect and admiration. That was my feeling the first time I (Teri) saw a Baltimore Album quilt. Unlike Kara, however, I was perfectly satisfied enjoying the beauty of those lovely appliquéd quilts, as long as someone else was making them. I was absolutely certain that skill set would never be mine, not to mention the fact that I was pretty certain I lacked the patience to complete such work. I was happy creating patchwork beauties; my one venture into appliqué had been a bit daunting. (See A Learning Journey to Celebrate Fifty Years.) After finishing that one block, I had happily surrounded it with patchwork. 

So several years ago, when I started working with Elly Sienkiewicz of Baltimore renown, I did not expect to be pulled over to the "dark side" of the quilt world. Imagine my surprise the first day I worked with her, when she asked me if I would make some teaching models for a ruched rose. I just looked at her and told her she was highly overestimating my skills; I didn't even know what a ruched rose was, let alone how to make one. But she said she knew I could do it and proceeded to give me a quick lesson. And I did go home that night and make beautiful ruched roses! I was amazed...and already beginning to feel the tug.

For five years, I was part of the volunteer staff of the The Elly Sienkiewicz Appliqué Academy in Williamsburg, Virginia. Being surrounded by such talent was beyond inspiring. I began to feel like I just might be missing something. So my "sisters" surrounded me and cheered me on, teaching me tips of the trade. Jan Vaine taught me her Perfect Placement method of back basting, and before long, I had fallen in love with appliqué.

Our Stitching Sisterhood, all of whom have taught and inspired me and stirred up my love for Baltimore Appliqué. Working alongside these lovely ladies at the Appliqué Academy was an honor and a blessing. I love these ladies!

At this point, I have completed four entire blocks, three of which are in quilts in faraway states. (One of those quilts will be a future post.) But I have many mini-blocks and partial blocks, where I have learned valuable skills. Someday, I will finish some of them; others will likely remain lessons. But my love for appliqué has deepened with every stitch. The beauty that can be achieved with fabric, ribbon, and thread never ceases to amaze me. Some days I still have to remind myself not to fear the needle and to step beyond my comfort and try new things. I still have to push through that "I can't do it" hurdle and forge ahead, knowing that I can't learn if I don't try. In most cases, I persevere and am pleased with the outcome.

Elly's ruched rose motivated me to learn more about dimensional appliqué. This bouquet and the small flower blocks above are from Jan Vaine's book, Ribboned Bouquet. I can't believe I haven't finished this, with only one flower left to do. When I pulled this one out, I determined to complete this posthaste!

This peahen block was one of Elly's classes. The wreath should be filled with flowers, and perhaps someday it will be. The bird is appliquéd onto a piece of lightweight interfacing for easier handling; it would then be stitched to the block as a unit. I enjoyed creating a peahen to mimic the photo I'd taken in Hawaii.

Another of Elly's classes. I loved learning to make the rolled ribbon roses, but the day Elly taught me how to make them, I think she realized I was a remedial ribbon roller. We both persevered, and once I got the hang of it, I was hooked.  This elegant block I will definitely finish!

My only Baltimore block that is still in my possession. This block, Eight-Pointed Star With Sprigs of Berries (or Divine Guidance), was our first teaching experience at our local quilt shop. The pattern is from Elly's book Spoken Without a Word. Baltimore Album appliqué has most certainly gotten into my blood.

The most important thing I've learned on this journey is never to say never. I didn't know what I could accomplish until I tried. And if I hadn't tried it, I wouldn't have discovered the joy it gives me. We hope you might be inspired to try something new with your needle, too!

Have you ever tried a new stitching venture that took hold of your creative side? Please share your stories with us!

Thursday, August 20, 2015

A Baltimore Album Journey

Jaw-dropping awe. That was what I felt when I (Kara) saw my first Baltimore Album quilt in 2000. My quilting experience at the time consisted of a few Quilt in a Day projects (fyi: mine usually took longer than a day). Although I had done some embroidery in the past, I had never hand-appliquéd before, and the thought of doing just one block seemed daunting.

I had mentioned my interest in Baltimore Album quilts to some friends, and for my birthday they gave me Elly Sienkiewicz's book Baltimore Beauties and Beyond. This book was the perfect starting point for me to try my hand at a Baltimore Album block.

I decided to jump right in and do Lesson One, "Fleur de Lis, Pattern #1." Unfortunately, my knowledge of picking out a good background fabric was limited, so I used muslin for my first block. The fabric I chose for the appliqué was less than stellar as well, but I used what was available.

This block wasn't too intimidating, and I really learned to enjoy the process of appliquéing.  Being an orderly person, I decided to go ahead and do Lesson 2 in the book, which happened to be the "Wreath of Strawberry Leaves." It is a lovely block, but oh those leaves! The good thing is you get a chance to improve on your first leaf because you have so many more to do. The bad thing is you can tell where you were learning and where you finally got the hang of it. This block was not stored well, so it somehow collected a few stains.

Fast forward quite a few years, about thirteen to be exact, and my good friend Teri (Yep! the same Teri) had been working for none other than Elly Sienkiewicz for about three years.  She had related her experiences working at the Appliqué Academy in Williamsburg, and I mentioned to her that if they ever needed more help to let me know. Well, that year they did, and off we went. Being in an environment with so many women who loved Baltimore Album quilts was inspiring and cemented my love for this particular genre of quilts.   

I've learned so much more about appliqué and Baltimore Album quilts since making my first two blocks, and now Teri and I have had the opportunity to prepare and teach two blocks from Elly's latest book, Spoken Without a Word. The first block is "Divine Guidance." I chose to do this sample in batiks and loved the look, even though batiks are a little more challenging for the needle. 

Beautiful batiks
So many berries!
The most recent block that I've completed was "The Rose of Sharon" block. This block was made with silk ribbon and ultra-suede with embroidery accents. I loved doing this block because I used different techniques and materials, and I enjoyed seeing how they gave such dimension to the block.

French ombré ribbon, where have you been all my life?
Ultra-suede can be an appliquér's best friend
So now I have four Baltimore Album blocks completed, two of which will only ever be used as reference. The other two may make it into a quilt someday, or they may just live out the rest of their lives as beautiful blocks. Regardless of their ultimate end, my journey from its start until now has been one of increased love for this genre of quilts. I have become a card carrying member of a great organization, The Baltimore Appliqué Society, and I love spending time with all the wonderful Baltimore Album quilt lovers each month. Hopefully, in the next few months we will be sharing a project that we have been working on that was inspired by our love of the Baltimore Album quilt.
Stay tuned...

Thursday, August 13, 2015

My Grandma Quilt

Several years ago, our local quilt guild held a challenge: we were to make a quilt about something that was an inspiration to us. My grandmother has always been that for me, so I (Teri) instantly knew that my quilt would be about her.

I started by gathering a variety of photographs of her throughout her life. Fabric choices were relatively easy; I had a pile of her old handkerchiefs that I knew I wanted to incorporate, and I had fabric left from the back of my parents' anniversary quilt (See A Learning Journey to Celebrate Fifty Years) that would be perfect to reflect my grandma. The corresponding green and purple for framing the photos were in my stash. I used Printed Treasures to transfer the photos to fabric.

To tell you the story of my grandma, I will take you on a tour of her quilt, block by block.

This is a picture taken of my grandmother as a young mother. She is standing in the backyard of my great grandparents' house in front of their wisteria tree, which was a backdrop for generations of family pictures. 

My grandmother with her four children. My mother, in front, was the youngest. Grandma was a single mother from the time my mom was a baby.

This photo was taken of my grandmother about the time I was born.

A favorite photo of mine: Grandma holding me with my new doll on my third birthday.

One of my fondest memories of spending time with Grandma as a young child was cuddling on her lap and listening to her read. The Little Red Hen was probably my favorite book that she had. When I had my children, I searched for just the right version of the story to buy (the Little Golden Book) so that I could read it to them just as I remembered her reading it to me. When I read the story even now, I can hear her voice in my head saying, "'Then I'll do it myself,' said the Little Ren Hen, 'aaaaand she did.'" 

Grandma always had two things beside her recliner: her Bible and her Upper Room devotional, both of which she read daily.

Grandma, about a year or two before she died. 

Two of the blocks contain poems that I wrote about Grandma. I shared them at a family reunion one year, bringing back many wonderful memories. One thing I learned about printing text on fabric is to be very careful in choosing your font and text size. What looks wonderful on paper may not work quite so well on fabric. Unfortunately, I didn't see that an exclamation point sort of ran together looking like an l until after I had finished the quilt. So if you choose to try something like this, test your fonts carefully!

A reference to The Little Red Hen

Grandma was an inspiration for all of us!

Grandma always carried a pretty handkerchief. As a child, I remember asking to see which hankie she had. It seemed fitting to use one of her handkerchiefs for the cornerstones of her quilt.

This border fabric was perfect to represent Grandma's source of strength.
I always wished my children could have known my grandmother, but I like to think that her legacy has lived on through the stories we tell about her. I know she lives on in my heart, and now generations to come will know something of her story through this quilt, stitched with so much love for a truly special lady.

Thursday, August 6, 2015

Seeing Red...and White

I (Kara) love antique quilts! If I had an unlimited budget, I would fill my house with them and then travel around the country showing them to other people who love antique quilts as much as I do. Alas, I do not have an unlimited budget and currently do not even have a line-item in the home budget for such a thing. However, I do have three antique quilts that have been given to me over the course of my life. The one I'd like to share with you today is the quilt that was always called "The Turkey Red Quilt," for obvious reasons.

This quilt came from my father's side of the family and was given to me by my Grandma Killian. I just learned a little bit more about the quilt from Phyllis Hatcher last week when I took it to her to have it appraised. It was most likely made around 1870 and is a Snowball Variation as per Barbara Brackman's Encyclopedia of Quilt Patterns. This pattern was also called "Octagons." Because it is made with turkey red dyed fabric, it is assumed that the quilter was in a position financially to purchase that more expensive fabric. My Auntie Mike has a little information about it, but we don't know which family member made it. My aunt and I have narrowed the possible quilter down to one of three ancestors: Sarah Foster, who grew flax and had a linen-weaving business as a widow, her daughter Eliza Stratton, or her granddaughter Electa Mae Young. The Stratton and Young families were flour mill owners, which gives credence to the use of a more expensive fabric.

It's not easy to see unless you are looking for it, but there is one block out of the 25 that has the snowball colors reversed. We will probably never know why the quilter made that choice.

A close-up of one of the 25 blocks
The one block that is reversed
The hand-quilting on this quilt is thoughtfully and expertly done.
There is a funny albeit semi-tragic story about this quilt that my aunt tells. When she was about 17, she took the quilt out of the laundry area where it had been stored only to discover that some bleach had been spilled on the quilt. One of the blocks had lost all of its color, so she decided to fix it. With a permanent magic marker. I will be researching the best way to clean it, but there is the issue of what the magic marker will do when it gets wet. My aunt is pretty sure that she used a permanent marker, but who knows how that marker's permanency has broken down over the years.

The back side of the colored in area
A close-up of part of the colored in block
In spite of its "restoration," the quilt is in great shape structurally if not a bit dirty because it was hung on a wall in our house for about 6 years. Which leads me to a write about the choice we have with not just antique quilts but all quilts. Display and Destroy or Pack Away and Preserve. The word "destroy" might be a bit harsh, but had I known how old this quilt was when I was contemplating hanging it, I don't know if I would have put it on our wall.  The consequences of hanging it for all those years are that it has faded in spots and is overall quite dirty, yet we were able to enjoy its beauty and its exquisite craftsmanship. I think the decision to display a quilt or not depends on a lot of factors: age, value (sentimental or monetary), hanging location, and personal preference. I will admit my knowledge base of quilt preservation is at this time very limited, but as I pursue my career as an antique quilt junkie collector, I need to learn more so that these quilts will still be around for future generations. Oh, and I need that unlimited budget, too.