I wiped away the weeds & foam. / I fetched my sea-born treasures home... Ralph Waldo Emerson

Sunday, November 1, 2009

Indigo with a Silver Lining

Most days, I'll admit to being an optimist...a relentless finder of silver linings in the clouds of woe we call daily life. My current cloud and its lining, you ask? My computer crashed bigtime, big bucks, BIG loss of time, work and memories---majorly big crash. If we want to play some creepy music we can do the conspiracy theory thing: it crashed the day before Windows 7 came out, the cause of the crash was a Windows glitch! Hmmmm.
But cut off from my computer, I found I suddenly had LOTS of extra time and finally finsihed a number of current projects including two quilt tops. Yay! I am very happy to report that the second quilt was sent to the quilter this morning, the other went last week.
I have my quilts machine quilted by Jen Wagner at Wagner Quilting:
http://www.wagnerquilting.com/ . Jen also has a very cool blog, the link is on her website. And her conpany does exquisite quiting always, with very fast service.
Below is Quilt #1, an original quilt by me, in indigo. This quilt represents at least 3 1/2 years of planning and sewing; the fabrics are almost entirely ethnic or antique hand-dyed, &/or homespun cottons. Many are Japanese farmers' cloth, called kasuri, c.1870-1910. They often utilised ikat dying along with the indigo dye. Ikat is an ancient technique---almost like tie-dying the warp threads of a fabric. Many other fabrics are hand-blocked batiks [wax-resist/handblocked] from exotic places like Bali, Tonga, and Indonesia. There are also hand-block printed fabrics from Africa and Japan and a few bits of kimono silks. An antique textiles dealer who is a good friend donated antique American indigo fabrics too. Often these treasured scraps are recycled from the backings of antique American quilts that have shredded into hopelessness.

I also used a seashell motif American cotton toile that I tea-dyed for a softer color. My "block" was freeform using the shell fabric as a unifier. The shell blocks are divided by scrappy "bars" of Chinese Coins" pattern strips. The backing is a chocolate toile with a turquoise tropical Palms motif and the binding will also be the Chinese Coins strips, if it goes as planned. The quilting pattern is a palm leaf motif called "Tropical Palms".

Not only did I collect the indigo fabrics for 3 or 4 years, I have been collecting small seashells with holes in them for a long time too. Family and friends who visit beaches far far away---Hawaii! Jamaica! Costa Rica! are tasked by me to bring more shells. These shells will be embroidered or beaded onto the completed top, entirely by hand...so I guess this baby is maybe halfway done.
Below: a view of my beach and ocean, the inspiration for the indigo quilt's design.
The indigo quilt and the following quilt both are, in many ways, remembrances of my mother who passed away this past January. The day I finally got out my scissors and actually cut all that blue fabric was the day my mother died. And the following quilt, Quilt # 2, is an antique top completed by me.
This top belonged to my mother and was one of the few antiques she actually bought for herself, as opposed to being with my dad and shopping for his interests...she bought it in Illinois years ago. My estimate is that it dates to about 1875-1895 and is Mennonite, judging from the unusual dark colors. This top was one of two---the less completed one she gave to me and I hope to someday have it finished too. The colors glow almost as if they were made by an Amish quilter, but the use of patterned fabric makes me attribute it to the Mennonites.
My mother loved this top and always dreamed of preserving its beauty by adding the border and having it quilted. In the years that my mother owned the top, she used it every fall as a table cover, display only of course. I'll never forget the first time I saw it, glowing in her Illinois greatroom, a beloved crock from Colorado full of dried hyrdrageas at its center.
her Colorado stoneware crock, now mine---with new hydrangeas

I had arrived home from college, and compared to my small off-campus apartment, her house looked so warm and welcoming---the colors, the flowers, a fire in the fireplace. The welcome home snack that night was tiny pumpernickel bread rounds with rare roast beef and very hot mustard, homemade pickles and pickled red onions on the side, her ubiquitous beer or wine on offer. It was such a perfect homecoming, a glowing gem of memory. No one does Welcome! like my mother did. And so, I am preserving her quilt---and that weekend, I hope. forever.....