Friday, April 4, 2014

Feeling Nostalgic

Today, I've decided that I would hang up some of my trillium quilts in the house.  Each month, I hang new quilts in my living room; it gives my largest room a different look; I cycle through my quilts to limit their exposure to light and dust.  I have to say that I am enjoying living with my work so much more than in the past; I guess because I'm not producing as much work at this point in my life.
Sewn Together, original quilt by Ann Fahl  33 x 26 inches.
I happened to unroll a pile of smaller quilts, and out comes my quilt titled Sewn Together. This piece features a featherweight machine that was used by 3 generations of Harvey women.  The first was my Aunt Nelda Vibrans who first purchased the machine.  She grew up in Indiana and spent quite a bit of her life in Chicago. Nelda was the only fiber artist in my family; painting, knitting, sewing and making quilt tops.  Color was what she loved; the two of us used many of the same colors: blue, rose, red, turquoise and purple.
Nelda with her husband Frank Vibrans Sr. in about 1949. She was still sewing with the Featherweight.
Some time later, Nelda gave the machine to her niece Mary Edith Jones.  Mary Edith was a young mother that also liked to sew. Years later, when I was 12 years old, I visited her for a whole month, in Forsyth Georgia; my first time away from my family.  Mary Edith let me sew on this machine, the first time I had ever sat down at one in my life.  I have no idea what I stitched, but it started me down a path of a lifetime of sewing.
Mary Edith with Jasmine the dog in 2005 at age 84.
She exposed me to sewing, and I loved it.  My mother was a pianist who didn't like sewing.  I owe so much to these two women in my family.  They gave me the gift of sewing. This has given me so much creativity and the sense of accomplishment and purpose in my life. One never knows what little idea or craft might spark a child to the extent of changing their life. It certainly was a skill of a lifetime for me!

Teach someone to quilt.

Ann Fahl

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Another Book Finished!

My great grandmother Nannie Harvey, 1950s, standing in the garden which is still beautiful today.

There isn't any quilting in my life at the moment.  I've finished writing The History of the Harvey Cottage. It has 85 pages and over 100 photographs and maps.This particular adventure began in 2005, and the completed manuscript is now in the hands of a friend who will proofread it for me.  Soon it will go to the printer and become a real book for the members of my family to read.

The cottage property was purchased by my great grandparents in 1927 and has been in the family ever since. It is a place that has much influence on who I have become; and inspired many quilts along the way.

In my research, I found this photo of my great grandmother standing in the garden that adjoined the cottage. Her name was Nancy Jane Culbertson 1870-1959.  She was very gentle with her great grandchildren, but she never smiled!  I will always treasure this picture of her. Oh yes, she possibly is the maker of the red and green tulip quilt which I am still restoring.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Order of Stitching

After all the pieces are fused into position, I work on the embroidery and applique next.  First I begin the with layer that appears to be on the bottom.  So I'll begin with the edges of the blue ginkgo leaf first.  Why?  Because I'm lazy, and don't like to spend lots of time back tacking and pulling threads to the back and tying them! If I do the bottom layer first, then another layer of stitching will eventually cross the ends, and hold them in place.  When I get to the top layer, then I'll have to do a minimum of stitching in place or pulling threads to the back.

Choose your thread carefully. I always use shiny polyester embroidery threads usually variegated ones. Remember that my name is Ann Variegated Fahl.  I love color change.  Unreel an arm's length of thread and let it puddle on the fabric.  Do you like it? If you aren't sure, do a little test stitching first on a scrap to avoid having to tear out lots of embroidery.

Note*  The photos below were taken after the quilt was finished.  However the the embroidery and applique were actually stitched only on the quilt top.

Closeup of Ginkgo Leaf, Florentine Edge Applique
The Florentine Edge Applique is a technique I have created using a free-motion zigzag stitch and a hoop. It gives a versatile wide edge treatment that I just love.  I have written a booklet on the subject of Applique, which gives complete instructions on this technique.  Or you may also refer to a 2013 article that I wrote in the American Quilter magazine fall issue.

Also in a hoop I stitch the veins in the lily pads. I've used a blue variegated thread for this.
Next, while I still had my embroidery hoop close by, I covered the cattails, ducks heads and bills with straight free motion embroidery. Then I basted the layers together, and will finish the rest of the details in the quilting phase of the quilt. Before I do more decorative quilting, I outline every shape in the center of the quilt with mono filament thread.

Here is Ethel. I've quilted her with a brown variegated thread. She has so many different fabrics, one thread choice acts as a unifying device. I've tried to quilt near the edge of almost every feather.
I had to use two different threads to quilt Norman.
I used a shiny white thread on the wings and slender white detail on his neck. Then I used the same variegated brown that I used on Ethel's wings.

Quilting in the pond.
I chose a light blue variegated thread to quilt the pond.  It is the same thread used for the Florentine edge applique. I love adding a little spiral here and there.  Once the middle is completely quilted then I stitch around the inner edge of the border and then quilt the edge.
Detail of the top edge of quilt
I used lots of curls and coils in the green background, using a blue variegated thread.  Then on the edge I stitched using a dark variegated combination thread on the border. 

I blocked the quilt, trimmed the edges and bound the edges.  You can see the finished quilt on my website.  On Ginkgo Pond.

Next time I'll talk about another ginkgo quilt.

Ann Fahl

Friday, March 7, 2014

Working on the Pond

The ducks, cattails and water lilies were all floating on the pond in my last blog. I was happy with its appearance.
I fused everything in place, while still pinned to my design wall covered with white flannel.  Then decided, I needed a little more green to spill out into the border.  So I added two leaves in the lower right corner, you'll see that they are still pinned in place.

This last addition will be fused and the composition will be complete.

I've been thinking about a title for this quilt, and so far nothing great has come to mind.  Then it came to me:  On Ginkgo Pond.  The ducks will be Ethel and Norman, the main characters from the movie On Golden Pond.  I loved that movie. 

If I complete my thread work well, Ethel and her buddy should float around in their beautiful pond forever.  Now what should I quilt, embroider or applique?  After I have spent my entire career writing and teaching machine embroidery and quilting, I am over saturated with heavy thread work. I'm going to leave more open spaces so there will be texture changes across the surface of the finished quilt.

Ann's opinion:  I just visited a small show of art quilts, and we are over stitching everything.  Why?  I guess because we can; and historically the judges have always awarded more prizes to those quilts that are heavily quilted.  From my point of view, we're not allowing the batting to add dimension to the surface because everything is quilted too closely. Or maybe I'm just tired and grouchy!

Next time I'll show you some closeups of the thread work.

Ann Fahl

Friday, February 28, 2014

In the Middle there were Ginkgoes

The designing continues for this quilt. Over the last year or two I have been trying to use the ginkgo leaf in different ways. We last left the quilt with 2 ducks and some cattails and things were looking up.  The design phase wasn't complete, I just needed to tweak it a little more.
A few lily pads would fill the space without competing too much with the ducks.

I cut the lily pads from a hand painted green that I had painted several years ago.  There is a soft contrast between the cattails and the green pads.  I like the way it is looking.  And in the meantime, I've moved the lily pads here and there at least 10 times.
The pads cried out for a lily, so I made one out of white fabric and fused a bright yellow center. Oh yes, this is good.  Well, maybe one more flower is needed.
One more tiny lily has been placed in the upper left corner.  It will be moved around many times before it ends up in the right place.

Is it done?

Ann Fahl