Thursday, January 28, 2010

Gee's Bend

Ok, so it's a good thing that I did not set a goal about blogging. It turns out that I don't really have that much to say on a daily basis.

Last Saturday, I visited the Flint institute of Arts to see the Gee's Bend quilts. Very interesting from a cultural perspective. These 4 generations of African American women quilted at night after working in fields and taking care of families in order to keep their families warm in houses without heat. They used what they had, recycling old work clothes, dresses, whatever, into quilts in what is now called a liberated quilting style. The community was geographically very isolated for a long time and some of these quilts were done in the days before they had TV, so there was little else to do in the evening, so they sang hymns and quilted. Some of the quilts are very striking patterns with strong color differences, like abstract paintings. The quilting is fairly large stitches and not terribly even. They looked like the quilts that I remember as a kid in Ohio when I went to visit my grandparents. There was always an old quilt on the bed that I slept in. I'm not an artist of course, and I'm still trying to decide exactly why they are art, hmmm, not sure, but they are memorable. And as I said, the quilts and accompanying video were very interesting from a cultural and social perspective, so I was glad that I went. The stories were intriguing and seemed indicative of the 30s and 40s in a small community. I'm not sure what makes these quilts different from other utilitarian quilts that were made from recycled clothes and fabric. Here's a link to some of the quilts if you are interested.
My quilt guild is going as a group next month to see the exhibit. I'll be interested in their comments.

I've started another quilt, using red, golds, and cream fabrics, some with apples and apple blossoms on them, others with the names of apple varieties. I'm trying some free form pieced lettering to go with it in the borders, which I haven't done before, and I think it's going to look pretty cool. I love the idea of being able to personalize quilts with words. I'm also going to try a new way of machine quilting that I recently read about in a magazine. When I tried to machine quilt before, I couldn't keep the different layers of fabric together evenly and the sewing always puckered at the end of the seams and where I crossed other seams. The new way calls for using a spray basting product to layer the top, batting, and backing together, so the fabric layer acts as a single piece and won't slip. This will be a good quilt to try it out on.

I've also got the ideas together, and most of the fabric purchased, for 2 new quilts, both applique and large. I'm not going to show photos of these as they are intended to be surprises, but I am going to start on them very soon.

Also thanks to R, P, and K, for joining me a couple weeks ago for a long quilting weekend at R's cabin up north. It was wonderful to have K cook, and to be able to just quilt for 3 days. We bought fabric on the way up, compared notes, debated color and placement, ripped out seams, had 3 machines going, did some hand applique, read some quilt books, and in general, had a blast. We are thinking of making it at least an annual event. So in retrospect, I guess it was a fairly productive January.

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