Tuesday, February 28, 2017

back to front

Do you ever find that re-reading something that inspired you some time back is just as rejuvenating the second time around? Such is the case for me when I spent some time perusing my collection of Jane Brocket titles - most specifically, The Gentle Art of Quilting, where she goes into some detail about how she picks out fabrics for her quilts. 

I started reading Yarnstorm, Jane's blog, back in 2007 when I really got into knitting. Through her, I discovered another quilting icon of mine, Anna Maria Horner. Now, I work with Anna Maria through her shop, Craft South, where I occasionally teach classes or work a weekend shift, but mostly where I end up reviving my love of sewing and interest in quilting. There's something really soothing for me about quilting, and I'm lucky in that Andrew finds homemade quilts incredibly comforting as well, so there's a lot of encouragement to pursue the art of it. 

Working at Craft South often means working with and encountering people who REALLY know a lot about quilting and various hand-sewing crafts. Applique, paper piecing... it's all entered my life lately and I find myself absorbed and enjoying the details of hand-stitching thousands of tiny connecting threads. I enjoy the simplicity of the action and the immensity of the end product. I found myself very inspired, for instance, by Carolyn Friedlander's amazing applique work, and I have plans to make at least one very epic hand-stitch applique using her techniques. 

That said, it was very refreshing for me to go back to Jane Brocket's book and revisit how she feels about quilting. Jane's philosophy is all about the combination of fabrics that bring you joy, simple shapes, and large-scale appreciation of color. This resonates with me deeply, as it reminds me a bit of being a painter. Quilting this way is a lot like pulling out paints and mixing them, with the fabric as medium, and I find a lot of happiness in that. It reminded me of this particular quilt that has been hanging on the wall of my studio, waiting for a backing.

You see, probably due to the way I taught myself to do quilt pulls, based on Jane Brocket's methods, I always think of my quilts a little bit like stories about things that inspired me at the time I made them. This quilt top is based off of a classic style of block - nothing special about it - but it's a little inspired by her Green Grass of Home quilt, which is inspired by well-manicured lawns and neat hedges. I adapted this in my own way while living in Iowa, where there were rolling hills and neat little corn rows. These reminded me a bit of the Rail Fence style quilt that Jane features earlier in the book, so I followed the directions for the 'Ice Cream' quilt, but built it in pale greens with pops of pink, bright blue, and goldenrod. Kind of like Iowa wildflowers that sometimes show up in fields: goldenrod, thistle, cornflowers.

This story I told myself made it much harder than it should have been to find just the right quilting back. I thought of the top as a story: looking at Iowa fields from the sky, a macro-view of grass and plains. I thought maybe something blue, like a sky, or another floral might work. I finally found the unexpectedly perfect back in the form of Heather Ross' new collection, Sleeping Porch, which featured this lovely cotton lawn adorned with the sweetest snails. I love that it's almost like you're looking at the macro on one side, and the 'micro' on the other. It's as if you got right up close to the grass itself and saw what was living in it. Perfect! I love how unexpected it is and yet it matches so perfectly - the snails have the same pinks and yellows and greens as in the main quilt.

Now, if I could only figure out *how* to quilt it. Do I want to do neat little rows, as on the front? Or a swirly pattern to mimic the snail's travels on the back? Do I want to hand-quilt, or machine quilt? Do I want to tie it?