Thursday, March 28, 2019

Mimi Dietrich: Honoring Baltimore's "Hometown Girl"

This past weekend, I (Teri) had the privilege of attending the opening of the special exhibit, Hometown Girl: Contemporary Quilts of Mimi Dietrich, at the Maryland Historical Society Museum in Baltimore, Maryland. What a thrill it was to share this day with Mimi—along with hundreds of her family, friends, and students. Mimi has inspired countless quilters over the course of her career, and her character has touched everyone who has been fortunate to know her. 

Mimi began her opening lecture with the story of a friend who had given her a file of papers—all the entries for a quilt contest. Mimi decided to give the quilt that she had entered in that contest (and the papers) to the Maryland Historical Society Museum. Thus, the exhibit honoring Mimi and her quilts was born. "The staff made a dream come true that I didn't even know I had," she stated. 

The reception following the lecture provided opportunities to
meet and reconnect with fellow quilters, family, and friends.

Mimi related the tale of a small girl, who slept under this Dresden plate quilt made by her great-grandmother, who she had never met. The idea that her great-grandmother had actually touched this quilt had a profound effect on Mimi. She decided that she wanted to make quilts.

The exhibit included quilts made by students in Mimi's first year-long Baltimore Album class. While "Baltimores" were typically primarily red and green, she says that when she teaches, she encourages her students to make the quilt in whatever colors they love. "It's your quilt. Make it your own. You can do anything you want."

The model quilt for Mimi's Year-long Baltimore Album Class, which she still teaches locally. 

The three-looped bow is typical in Baltimore Album Quilts, and Mimi often incorporates it into a Baltimore-style block she designs. Here, you can even see it in the quilting of the center medallion of the above quilt.

Mimi's own Baltimore quilt, along with her monogram in the middle. This quilt only took her fifteen years to complete!

"Thirty-five years ago I started teaching quilting and appliqué classes. Amazingly, at that same time, there was a revival of Baltimore Album Quilts. In 1989, Elly Sienkiewicz wrote a book about these quilts, Baltimore Beauties and Beyond: Studies in Classic Album Quilt Appliqué, Vol. I, blending her historical background with patterns to make these traditional designs. I loved this! I loved hand appliqué. That is when I discovered that my place in the quilting world was right here in my hometown.   
"In my classes, students start with traditional techniques and designs, but each quilter has an individual personality. I give my students permission to use their favorite colors and fabrics, adapt the patterns, and make the quilt their own. I believe it is important to know the tradition, but it's creative to be inspired by the original quilts, rather than copy them. I've followed this philosophy for twenty-five years.

"My favorite classes to teach are year-long classes. It is awesome to spend a year with students, watching them learn, grow, and stitch their heirloom quilts. I am always awestruck by their creativity and their success.  Every class makes me feel like we are recreating the tradition and heritage of these amazing quilts that were made in my hometown more than 125 years ago." [emphasis mine]

I'm not sure how I missed getting a close-up shot of the strawberry block that Mimi mentions here. I think when I saw that block with the bright blue, it surprised me so much that I stopped studying the rest of the individual blocks. It made me smile. Did they run out of red, or did they make a repair, or did someone just have a fun sense of humor?

A couple of experts studying this exquisite Baltimore Album Quilt top.

It's unusual that the purple hasn't faded. Note the inking on the flowers.

One can never have too much inspiration from the traditional quilts, right?

Mimi shared her inspiration in the first hall, and her connection to the tradition of the Baltimore quilts in the second. Her contemporary quilts, completing the exhibit, are as fun as Mimi herself! 

Baltimore Hon

Mimi explained that her Baltimore Hon quilt includes elements of the Baltimore Album Quilts: birds, flowers, and embellishments. Above, you can see the three-looped bow, dimensional flowers (black-eyed Susans are the Maryland state flower), real earrings, and ruby slippers—because "There's no place like home [Baltimore], Hon!"
Of course, the Baltimore birds have to be the Oriole (baseball team and MD state bird) and the Raven (football team)! 
And it's not Baltimore without a crab cake!

I may be partial, but I think Maryland has the coolest flag!


I loved this little quilt of Mimi's. As it was in a case, I could only get a shot of it with the light behind me, hence, my shadow. I trust that doesn't mean I am looking at the gutter; I choose to enjoy the irony, as I believe my sights are set on those stars!!  

In her talk, Mimi shared that she wants to pass on the love of quilting to the next generation. She told stories of teaching nieces, neighbors, and her grandchildren how to sew quilting projects. I think it would be difficult to be a part of Mimi's life and NOT feel her passion for the art and want to join in the fun. Because if Mimi is teaching you, I guarantee that you are having fun. And her encouraging nature will convince you in no time that you are, indeed, a quilter. In fact, I imagine that she has touched many of you reading this in some way. Do you have any Mimi memories you'd like to share? Please put them in the comments below! If you are reading this in email, you can follow this link to post your comment.

Congratulations, Mimi, for this well-deserved honor!

Mimi closes: "I am honored, humbled, blessed, and full of gratitude."

Thursday, March 21, 2019

A "Twisted" Exhibit!

As Teri mentioned last week, we had a great time down in Williamsburg, Virginia, at the Academy of Appliqué. Not only did we teach, but we were able to take a little time beforehand to go to the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival in Hampton, Virginia. It's a great show with various exhibits and some stunning quilts. 

One exhibit that caught our attention was the Twisted exhibit, by Mary Kerr. We love anything vintage and these quilts were vintage with a twist, thus the name. All the quilts in the exhibit were created by combining pieces of vintage textiles with modern quilting and design. The result was a wonderful collection of quilts that embraced the new but honored the old. We were able to chat with Mary at the show and hear how her love for vintage textiles and modern quilting inspired her to design the quilts in the collection. Her book, Twisted—Modern Quilts With a Vintage Twist tells more about how these beautiful quilt were created. The book is definitely well worth reading, as Mary explains how she came up with the design for the top, and then each quilter tells how they created the quilting designs. We of course had to have it for our library!

Mary explaining how the quilt was created.

A great read!

There are more quilts to be discovered in the book but here are a just a few from the exhibit.

Dahlias in the Snow
Created and quilted by JoAnne Blade and Kim Diamond

Flower Power
Created by Mary Kerr and quilted by Linda Thielfoldt

Detail: Flower Power

A Moment in Time
Created by Mary Kerr and quilted by Deb Levy

Pumpkin Harvest
Created by Mary Kerr and quilted by Gina Perkes

Z is for Zoey
Created by Mary Kerr and quilted by Karen McTavish

Detail: Z is for Zoey

Charlie Brown
Created by Mary Kerr and quilted by Pam Clarke

Ojo de DiosCreated by Mary Kerr and quilted by Candace West

Pretty in Pink
Created by Mary Kerr and quilted by Brandy Rayburn

Detail: Pretty in Pink

Stirring the Coffee
Created by Mary Kerr and quilted by Kelly Cline

Wild Goose Chase
Created by Mary Kerr and quilted by Cathy Franks

Detail: Wild Goose Chase

Blueberry Bars
Created by Mary Kerr and quilted by Sue Patten

Detail: Blueberry Bars

Let Me Count the Ways
Created by Mary Kerr and quilted by Debbie Kauffman

Detail: Let Me Count the Ways

Created by Mary Kerr and quilted by Donna Ferrill James

Detail: Homespun

At the end of the book, Mary shares some tips and tricks for working with vintage textiles. I (Kara) was very happy to read about working with old blocks, as I have collected quite a few. I have only added to my collection since the post, A Collection of Antique BlocksWith Mary's book, I now have a little more inspiration to do something with my blocks. If only there were more time in a day...

Double T Quilt Blocks

Hand-pieced hexagon diamonds.

Antique Ocean Waves blocks.

 Hopefully these quilts will inspire you as they have inspired us!