Improv Quilt-Making is Magical ~ to me !

The sewing room is in a shamble, but that's okay....lots of good stuff being made.  OR, at least the good stuff is a work in progress....and, yes, that's progress. 

We, the HuMAn and I, got a bit of garden pruning done yesterday.  The shears are now dull and oh, what a back ache I have.  There's more to trim but thankfully, we are having a rain day to give us some recovery time. 

Here's what's on the design wall.....inspired by a Tonya Alexander pattern in the March/April 2014 issue of Fons and Porter's Love of Quilting magazine.  Tonya calls this her fruit bowl bulls eye as seen on her Pinterest Board..... where she mixes up the log cabin and snowball blocks for interest. 

Her design interested me anyway.  I started out with a precut layer cake I had on hand and not enough background fabric (so, what else is new?) so am having to do a little improvisational block-making now.

The first few blocks came out as instructed by Tonya.......I really liked this one

and this one was okay with a solid background ~

and then the improv fun started with what fabric I had on hand~

Who knows how I will construct the alternate blocks, given the lack of the sameness of fabric!!

Well, BLAST IT ~

My grandmother had a potty mouth!  As kids, we new when Grandma shouted out "Well, Blast it all!", we better make ourselves scarce.  Grandma was mad when she started with her bad words.  Her other favorite potty mouth word was "Blame It"   I smile every time I think of my grandmother.

Grandma was a quilter and lived in near-poverty conditions in rural Louisiana.  Yet, she had a quality of life that most folks today do not understand. She was happy, knowing all her needs were fulfilled.  She laughed out loud and sang a lot. 

I watched Grandma gather her scraps and sew them together all summer on her Singer treadle machine humming a tune as she treadled along.  In the fall, she would order yards of flannel  from the Sear's catalog and when it arrived, would make backs for her accumulation of quilt tops.   The quilting now began.  If the quilt top was made with wool or denim or corduroy (as it usually was), then she would tie the quilt, then bind it.   I grew up aspiring to be a quilter just like Grandma.  A grandmother filled with pride at being able to provide warmth for her family for the upcoming winter months.

Yesterday, while with quilters who sit and sew together, I silently formed a few potty mouth words. 
Linda (last name omitted to protect the condescending)  marched in proclaiming how ugly the quilts of Gee's Bend are.  And Dorothy seconded the motion.  I saw fire!  How dare seasoned quilters mock or condescend the quilts of others. 

Quilts of Gee's Bend - photo by Marty Mason
Quilts of Gee's Bend

When Linda repeated how ugly those quilts are, I could no longer sit quietly.  You  see,  in my head, she was declaring that  my quilts and the quilts my grandmother made,  to be ugly.  My style is (by choice) improvisational as to design and improvisational as to use of fabric. Grandma didn't have much choice in her was determined by the size feed sacks and remnants she had on hand. 

Dorothy kept quiet on the subject,  but Linda just couldn't stop.  She declared that to mix fabric or to cut up old blue jeans and other clothing for fabric was just plain ugly.  By this time, I was near tears since she was describing my quilts to a T. 

Quilts of Gee's Bend - photo by Marty Mason
Quilts of Gee's Bend

I reminded Linda that since we are in the same quilt guild, we were bound to adhere to The Guild's purpose,  copied directly from the North Louisiana Quilt Guild bylaws: 

Section 1 - Purpose:
The purpose of this organization shall be to promote good fellowship among persons interested
in the art of quilting; to preserve its tradition, culture and history; to further promote the knowledge and understanding of all aspects of quilting; and to enjoy and appreciate the work of others."
I'm no longer in tears, but am incensed at Linda's  insensitivity.  Perhaps if she educated herself about these quilt makers.....that even though impoverished and cut off from mainstream America, the quilters of Gee's Bend were able to keep joy and hope and faith and warmth in their lives through their quilt making.   As blemished as the quilts were with old blue jeans and polyester, cut with scissors, laid out on a bed or floor as the design wall, pieced by hand, layered with worn out quilts or unusable fabric pieces, quilted or tied with thread on hand, they were a work to be cherished. 
I had the wonderful opportunity to visit some of the quilters of Gee's Bend last year when a group of 30 of us traveled through Louisiana, Mississippi and into Alabama to Boykin, Alabama, to  The Bend in the river.  We, of course traveled the road.....not having to ferry over to the island. 

We were greeted with warmth and left with a spiritual melody still resounding in our ears. 
Linda, here is one link to their story of how the government tried to stop the  civil rights movement, how the community was further isolated when funds were cut, eliminating the ferry across the river, thus eliminating their privilege of voting or getting back and forth to work.  They shopped in nothing more than the property owner's country store.   Yet, while doing without the freedom  or money to motor out to the local quilt shop or JoAnn's or Hobby Lobby for pure cotton quilter's cotton, they found a way to enjoy an aspect of quilting with the commodity on hand:  SCRAPS.  Our scraps, Linda.  
I ask you....if  you didn't have a rotary cutter, 24" acrylic ruler, cutting mat, electric iron or computerized sewing machine....if you didn't have quilter's cotton batting or yard after yard of lush designer cotton fabric, would you be the quilter you are today?  Would you have the fortitude to enjoy the art of quilting just using left-overs and hand-me-downs?   Or would you be more apt to languish in your self-pity.   The quilters of Gee's Bend take great pride in their work and workmanship.  While the style might not please you, it is a style much admired by others and has a quality worth preserving.  
Quilts of Gee's Bend - photo by Marty Mason
Quilts of Gee's Bend
Linda, if you had only said that the improvisational style quilt is not a style you enjoy making, or that you did not understand the artistic style,   I could have and would have appreciated your point of view.    But you took it a step too far when you referred to the ugliness of the Quilts of Gee's Bend. 
I left the group yesterday.....I came home and I cried.    I cried not because I am ashamed of my quilts, but because of the bigoted attitude and lack of understanding of the art form that surrounds some quilt makers in my quilting community.
Peace be with you

Puzzling Over Borders ~

sewing in circles quilt sampler - marty mason

There are reasons my quilts don't often have borders.  First and foremost, my quilt style doesn't require borders.  I've heard quilt makers say they add borders to enlarge the quilt, but oftentimes I find a border takes away from the beauty of what's within. 

Secondly, a very definite reason I don't always add borders, is that I agonize over what fabric might make just the right in point:

I volunteered to do a table technique (one of five)  for our July guild meeting and decided to demonstrate cutting and sewing circles.  Since I always like to have a quilt sampler ready to show, I made this little ditty out of some orphan blocks that were on hand.....but it just needed more.  It wasn't talking to me:  not much, anyway. 

I started pulling fabric for borders late one afternoon and finally made my final decision late the next day.  My head hurts just from thinking about how much I agonized over what should have been a minor addition to my quilt sampler. 

sewing in circles quilt sampler - marty mason
While I loved this indigo blue (designer unknown) with the aqua inner border, it came across just a tad too dark and detracted from my circles which are suppose to be the focal point. 
sewing in circles quilt sampler - marty mason
and the same was true for this Kaffe Fassett from his
Striped Heraldic collection.   Brilliant design that enhanced my quirky little sampler perfectly....
but the surround sound came in too loud. 
sewing in circles quilt sampler - marty mason
This Rifle Paper Co. with peach inner border lightened the look up slightly,
 but I'm still hedging for less.
sewing in circles quilt sampler - marty mason

Cotton and Steel is always my go-to-fabric, but this one is in the wrong shade of gray.  I  continue to dig in my fabric bin.

sewing in circles quilt sampler - marty mason

This Heather Bailey floral would make a great border, but not on this quilt!
sewing in circles quilt sampler - marty mason

Oh my goodness, oh my gosh....I'm so excited to have this Rifle Paper Co. in my stash and will use it soon.....but now I'm going too light.  Is there a happy medium somewhere?

Now, we're cooking.  Let's find a lighter inner border.
sewing in circles quilt sampler - marty mason

The perfect orange inner border to compliment this Brandon Mably 'Pebble Mosaic'.   Yes and Yea!

sewing in circles quilt sampler - marty mason

It finished at 50" by 62" 
Life is good
so is my little circle sampler



Happy Mother's Day

 strength, happiness and success 

Sunday morning ~

I've been in an absolutely fabulous workshop for the past two days.....Nadine Cain, a member of Quilters' Guild Acadienne,  drove up from South Louisiana and led a "confetti" art quilt workshop for our group.  What a delight she is and what fun we all had; however, that will have to wait.  Perhaps a post tomorrow.

Today, Sunday, Mother's Day, is a simple review of the community service quilts I've quilted in the past few weeks.

I make 12" blocks in an improv log cabin style as time permits, using fabric that I love in little pieces that are left over.   When there's an accumulation, then I'll piece them together - usually in a 4 block by 5 block quilt setting. 
improv log cabin for community service - Marty Mason
improv log cabin, a quilt for community service - Marty Mason
They are simple, yet to me, simply beautiful.  The random use of color and design in the fabric always makes me smile. 

 These two got a little out of hand in the design because I didn't have the number of log cabin blocks to get the size I needed.  What's a quilter to do when she wants to get it done?  I thought these interesting fabrics set off-center was an idea to fill the space. 

improv log cabin, a quilt for community service - Marty Mason

improv log cabin, a quilt for community service - Marty Mason

All  three are quilted  and have been given that final wash and now ready to be gifted to someone wonderful who might be in need of warmth. 

May your day be filled with love and happiness. 


Catching Up With My Thoughts ~

Do you remember how folks once had conversations?  

My eyes popped open at the crack of dawn and my mind was racing.  It took me a few minutes to catch up with my thoughts.   I was thinking about how folks once talked to each other and the grapevine song popped into my head, then my thoughts went directly to my blog and viola....the morning topic of conversation began:  Fabric that I don't want to live without in shades of orange and green. 

Building a fabric stash with fabric you love - Marty Mason

Do you remember when gossip was once word of mouth - as in "I Heard It Through The Grapevine."

In the new age, it's  "I saw it on a Pinterest Board."  Instead of sharing our ideas verbally, we forward them in a message.   Not such a bad idea now is it.  Lost in translation is not a problem when sharing a picture or idea electronically. 

Solid Cherrywood Hand Dyes in my collection - Marty Mason

I did find a great idea for a quilt guild program this morning as I scanned my favorite of which is "A Quilting Life"  and saved that idea for future inspiration on
my Pinterest idea board.... Look out quilt guild, you'll hear about this one come next spring.  Yes, you'll have to wait 'til then.  You see,  I'm scheduled this year for a September program and I don't want you to get tired of seeing my smiling face. 

I think I'll title the September program "Be Careful Which Quilt Book You Buy!"  Why?  You may just want to make every quilt in the book. 




I hear it often:  "He is my soulmate."  I seldom hear "she is my soulmate!"  And that in itself is a revelation.....that men or more realistic when it comes to a relationship.   Men know right up front that they would rather be fishing or golfing (in other words, moving on) rather than doing the hand touching or partner  pleasing thing that might define them as the perfect soulmate in the couples peer group. 



 Similar, but not two-of-a-kind:  

Anyway, since I really don't know who a soulmate might be, I checked out the definition today and came away even more confused and in many ways saddened at what I read.   There is seldom a black or white to anything and almost never is there agreement on something so deep in stuff as being a soulmate. 

 One author indicated that a soulmate is one who completes their mate.   Well, hold on there podnah!  I have all my fingers and toes as well as my heart and brain.  While the HuMan of the house is a major part of my life, his being doesn't make me a complete person, nor I him. 

We enjoy each other's company most of the time. 

We disagree on things, sometimes vehemently.  I don't complete his sentences nor he mine as was suggested by one author on the topic of soulmates.

One author says that soulmates tend to make eye contact more often when in a conversation.  HuMan and I might do that if the TV isn't on or a bird or jet plane isn't flying by at the perfect moment that we should be making eye contact.     It's pretty difficult to make eye contact in our back garden as we stroll  the path, he leading the way and I following along behind.    Or sometimes, I  lead the way and he follows.  We often take different paths because our interests are so different. 

One soulmate defining group says that soulmates see all things on all levels and are in total agreement.  Whoever heard!!!   How boring a relationship with not even a reason to modulate one's voice or have facial expressions or body language.   No sassing out a hip to get his finger pointing or arm waving to get a point across.  There can be nothing real or alive in such an unreal state of dis-harmony.   

Another bummer side of  having a soulmate is that when you aren't in sync, one might tend to compensate (lie to self) about the relationship.  In other words hide the fact that they might have to insert foot in mouth once they realize that this whodunit isn't a soulmate after all.

One author even suggested that the soulmate relationship might allow a partner to be more critical of his or her mate to bring the relationship into the harmony the disgruntled partner is seeking.  Now, this leads me to believe right off that there has been a soulmate mistake. 

One author suggests that it is perfectly natural in  soulmating for one partner to challenge the other to continuously seek perfection in oneself and in the world surrounding.  I'm already exhausted.

And another brilliant author suggests that you will never be the same person you were before meeting your soulmate.   Hmmmmmmmm:   I'm not the same person I was yesterday, with or without a soulmate union. 

patched pinwheels pieced and quilted by marty mason

Okay, I get it....I'm not a people pleaser and have obviously never had a soulmate. 

I'm not a person who takes written words at face value.  I question the sense or nonsense of the words.  

Admitting that, I'll just have a bite of lunch and get myself back to the sewing machine.  Now I'm happy and when I'm happy, my notta soulmate is usually happy too. 

No eye contact required to know we've reached an agreement:  Having a soulmate relationship isn't the end all.

Down the Rabbit Hole ~

Yes,  it's only four months into the Sarah Fielke - "Down The Rabbit Hole" BOM and I'm already way behind the game.........but, a girl can dream, can't she.

Down The Rabbit Hole - A Sarah Fielke 2017 BOM

Month one and two almost complete!  Just five more flowers to applique onto the background.  .  YES!  I CAN DO THIS.

Down The Rabbit Hole - A Sarah Fielke 2017 BOM

I have auditioned the fabric to make the 1/2" bias tape to surround the center wedges. 

I'm sure it's here somewhere!  Fabric for just  the right Rabbit Hole cover piece is surely somewhere on these shelves. 

fabric stash - a partial showing in the marty mason collection

Month Three:  Add 58 or so little bitty leaves.  I am woman, hear me roar.  You certainly will  if and when I get that far along.

(no picture available)

I'm excited about month four:   My kind of quilt-making:  Yikes - 40 paper-pieced roof tops and 40 little houses for each roof.  And I just thought I could catch up this month.   But I have auditioned the fabric for the above mentioned 40......thinking these shot cottons will be perfect....a little gingerbread-style neighborhood. 

shot cotton in the collection of marty mason

shot cotton in the collection of marty mason

A brief share ~

this morning:  I awoke refreshed after
yesterday afternoon being on the road for a few hours

stopping at even another fabric shop for respite
from Saturday and Sunday:
from two full days of fabric shop-hopping

A Patchwork Tours shop hop in and around the east of Texas.  There were 50 happy shoppers on our bus that started at Stitchin' Heaven in Mineola and stopped along the way at seven more fabric shops, ending again for more shopping at Stitchin' Heaven.   There were 8 buses in total, each filled with 50.  The shops were happy!  Imagine having 400 customers, pockets filled with credit cards, coming through your shop in two days.  That's a lot of green! 

One of my favorite finds - "hipster hare" from The Alexander Henry Fabric Collections.  I saw this umbrella at Quilt Con Savannah and have been searching for this fabric......I'm sure I didn't buy enough yardage for the umbrella, but I know good things will come from it. 

Ginger and I joined eight of our Lafayette quilting friends and enjoyed a weekend of shopping and sharing.  It goes without saying that our pocketbooks were lighter as our bags got heavier.

Now I'm recovered and ready to start sewing up some of that fresh new fabric.

Before I left home Friday, I finished hand quilting my improv half-rectangle triangles.   Big and bold stitches just tie this one down beautifully and fits right in with the improv style. 

hand quilted improv half-rectangle triangles by Marty Mason

hand quilted improv half-rectangle triangles by Marty Mason

hand quilted improv half-rectangle triangles by Marty Mason

What's your 'Go-To" music channel?

Wheels Turning

When I'm alone in the car, my go to music channel is usually classical or Broadway or even light opera.  Often times it's the blues or big band....even bluegrass.  I always enjoy light rock from the 70's and 80's - Rod Stewart, The Eagles, Bob Seger, Eric Clapton.... but never do I listen to hard rock and very seldom do I land on a country station for very long. 

So, as I flipped channels the other day, I hit upon some country stations  and lingered on one  playing classic country from the past century and a little bit forward.  The uniqueness of her voice held my attention..... Gillian Welch singing "Elvis Presley Blues",  written by Gillian and David Rawlings and released in 2001, goes something like this: 

"I was thinking that night about Elvis....
Day that he died, day that he died. 
I was thinking that night about Elvis...
Day that he died, day that he died."

A simple story about  a country boy who combed his hair and took to the air, wearing a shirt made by his mother.  A song about Elvis Presley  who got his musical start  pouring out his  soul in words and body moves.  In Gillian's words,

"He shook it like a chorus girl
He shook it like a Harlem queen
He shook it like a midnight rambler, baby
like you never seen.
Like you never seen." 
Gillian  sung on verse after verse, in her melodic style with partner Dave in the background.    I listened intently to every word.  It was not your ordinary song nor your ordinary songstress....not a song to dance to or be relaxed by.  It was a song that with every word, drew me in.  It was a sad song about a man in a sad life that faked it until his death that night. 
Gillian and Dave have been honored and awarded through the years and will be remembered as great song writers and musicians.


And then, I'll leave you with this thought from The Last Pharaoh.....'I don't need a chicken, a chicken in the pot or a woman in my own backyard.........." again, a Gillian Welch - Dave Rawlings classic. 
Chickens, not in the pot but
 in Shannon's back yard

Thursday, April 20

Pat Sloan workshop sampler - Trash Bag Quilts
Pat Sloan applique - improv flower petals
 sampler quilt on display at her
Trash Bag Quilts workshop
I drove over to Ruston yesterday to be a part of Pat Sloan's "Trash Bag Quilts" workshop.  This workshop is totally about making yardage out of scraps and reusing that yardage in a quilt project.  This workshop is totally about improvisational quilt-making......I loved every minute of it. 

She put me in a comfort zone when I spotted this improvisational use of fabric in one of her quilt blocks.  A stripe with a stripe!  Yikes.

Pat Sloan workshop sampler - Trash Bag Quilts

While not all of the workshop was new to me, I learned so much from Pat Sloan.    Pat is an experienced teacher and loves what she does.  Very warm and personable and the improv style of the workshop just put me on top of the world.  I learned how she makes great sashing and borders for her quilts and how she makes curves the easy way!!!!  

Pat Sloan workshop sampler - Trash Bag Quilts

Pat demonstrated how she  cuts wedges to tilt her quilt blocks to get them off-center when the quilt design calls for that little bit of an edge. 

And, don't you just love the sampler column quilt.  I do too.  Pat calls it her calendar quilt, very simply because she worked on it every calendar day for a year.  Adding a strip or a bit of applique or other embellishment every day in the year of its origin  That, of course, is dragging out the  agony of 'getting it done', but is definitely  an example of patience and tenacity. 

Oh, and a highlight of the she patched and pieced, sliced and diced to make a lot of her own striped fabric.  Oh, what fun seeing her stripes in her sample quilts. 

Pat Sloan workshop sampler - Trash Bag Quilts

I especially enjoyed how Pat made fabric for this large scale floral quilt.  She patched and pieced both the background and the flower petals.'s not applique !  Each petal is curved pieced into the quilt.  Not for the improv feint of heart! 

Pat Sloan workshop sampler - Trash Bag Quilts
Improv pieced large scale floral sampler by quilter maker
 fabric designer
 author of books:
Pat Sloan

Yes, I drove over to Ruston yesterday and would do it again in a heartbeat if I knew Pat Sloan would be at the other end of the drive.  A fun day filled with sunshine. 

And while at the computer this morning, the urge to play with loose ends just hit me.  I took a picture of one of Pat's quilts to photoshop and made a frame out of it......Let the fun never end.  Be improv ~