With fabric shops closed during the pandemic, I began looking for alternative sources for fabric. Purchasing fabric online is always an option but there’s something about the feel of fabric that’s missing on the computer screen.
Goodwill proved a great find. I was amazed about the exceptional fabric used in men’s dress shirts, lovely cottons and linen. And the colors! There were the regular dress whites and plaid work shirts. But the pastels really got my creative juices flowing, pink, lilac, baby blues.
I knew I wanted to highlight the pastel, a quilted wall hanging that would embrace a man’s gentle side. As I began cutting the fabric, I couldn’t help notice the tags – all not made in America. For some reason, this made me laugh. All this negative political stuff going on and America can’t even sew her own clothes. What a farce. Really put things into perspective. Hence, the quilt’s title, Not Made In America.
I cut and machine pieced squares, half square triangles, and strips from the men’s shirt fabric and one woman’s blouse. For the border I used purple batik. The quilt back is a mixture of shirts, the batik and other fabric from my stash. The quilt measures approximately 41 ½” and 50” give or take. My quilts are never perfect. Not Made In America is machine pieced and stippled, hand stitched hem, polyester batting.
Not Made In America, 2020, cathleen margaret
Further Detail, and Quilt Back
Happy quilting and other wonderful, creative things.
My latest find from Goodwill. There’s wonderful adult coloring books out now. Beautiful flowers that need doing.
Free style quilting allows the quilter to relax and sew. There are no preconceived notions about block construction. You simply reach into the basket, pull out the next piece of fabric and attach it to another piece of fabric. Before long the design wall is filled with interesting and delightful blocks, colors and textures playing nice.
For this quilt and others like it, after your design wall is filled with your blocks, start to rearrange them. See where the quilt is taking you.
After several weeks of piecing and finally arranging and rearranging quilt blocks, one block emerged as the spokesperson, displayed a window motif, hence this quilt's name, Golden Window.
When I was piecing this quilt, I watched a documentary about the great jazz musician, Sonny Rollins, titled Beyond the Notes. Mr. Rollins said something about horn, without the words and I thought, quilt without fancy technique. Simple movement through color, shape, lines, texture and thread.
In this same documentary, the bassist, Christian McBride, said improvisation is the genius that allows for music composition on the spot, while the thing is going on. He also said, "Learn everything you can about playing jazz and then forget it."
That's how I feel about quilting. Learn everything and then have fun. Those techniques are your foundation, your toolbox to pick, choose or discard as the need arises. We needn't be overburdened by doing something "right," as opposed to doing what feels "right."
The Golden Window
This quilt and it's fabric may look familiar. They were born from the same scrap basket. See Golden Window's sister quilt, Bit of Raspberry.
Thanks for stopping by and happy creating!
This is what you call an old fashioned quilt. It's made from bits of fabric scraps leftover in my stash. You step back, let colors and textures speak among themselves. It’s quilted in sections, so that I wouldn’t have to struggle machine quilting on a machine designed for garment construction.
The middle section came first then I built around that. Once all the pieces were set on the design wall, I noticed a flash of raspberry. Hence the quilt’s name, Bit of Raspberry, which reminded me of raspberry sherbet I loved as a kid.
Bit of Raspberry
This quilt is machine pieced and quilted. Some of the fabric (including the raspberry fabric) functioned as clothes in another life that I purchased from Goodwill. Other material includes polyester, cotton and muslin. Sometimes muslin gets a bad name. It’s an inexpensive fabric that designers use to make a garment before cutting the “good” cloth. I like muslin. It’s sturdy and malleable. It’ll do whatever you want. And it’s great for paints, will accept water color, acrylic and others. I also use it when I want to tea or coffee dye fabric.
Some quilts are for hanging on the wall. Other quilts are for wrapping up in. Bit of Raspberry feels good.
Quilts chat about contradiction; they tolerate harmony. When you get going on a quilt, the sewing machine sings to you. Even an old machine like mine, clunking along in her bass voice. The act of pushing and pulling the quilt, having the feed dogs lead—these things—and the experience becomes meditative, especially during this time of deceit and honesty.
Liars and oppressors are ugly, but beautiful when the whole world notices and isn’t afraid to comment.
Honesty can be ugly. When colors, fabric textures and hand-feel clash and don’t want to work together, but you put aside what you know to be true and push on anyway. In the end, the quilt is not really ugly, as in revolting, but sad, just there, in your house. Maybe a child wraps up in it on the floor as they watch television.
Like if you know the truth, are honest with yourself about truth but feign ignorance about it in conversations, or during your daily rituals and encounters. You lie to the world, but in your heart, you know the truth. God forbid if a child lays on the floor and watches television wrapped in your deceit.
One day though, and suddenly, your silence slips and your honesty, that thing you know but have lied about, exposes itself. Maybe you whispered it to someone who may have been your ally at another time. But during this pandemic-killer cops time, you realize that person is no longer a collaborator. You missed it when they voiced the hidden truth, stood tall and took it, the uncomfortable feeling we all get when our brains shift and we decide on something better. Your collaborator owned up to complicity. Your collaborator changed.
All these thoughts, a meditative approach, as my sewing machine hummed.
The dark fabric is light, like truth found on a blank slate, the blackboard waiting for someone to record thoughts or calculations.
Gangster yellow reminds about care, how much goes in because too much yellow overpowers the quilt’s message, its flow and then not even contradiction can have a say. Use yellow like spice sprinkled from above, sparingly.
The yellow is sun pushing her way though, no matter what, and aligning herself with darkness, the grand plan, the empty slate, the blackboard that reveals our limits too, when we flinch as fingernails dig the slate’s surface and scratch across. That sound. That’s where we are, able to stand the sound, or cowering, our nerves shot to hell under the weight.
The on and on of seasons. The leaving and coming. Straight lines. Crooked lines. Sunflowers alongside camouflage. Slants of green until Spring highjacks and green throws itself everywhere in a pleasing way. There’s gold specks on black and gold specks on red. There's red and gold prairie points jutting answers, recommendations, and healing.
Midnight and Sun
Photos by Natalie Moffitt
Techniques: nine patch, strip piecing, prairie points, reverse appliqué, machine piecing, machine quilting.
Materials: antique quilt pieces, cotton and polyester fabric, threads, batting.
This post is about unfinished projects and imperfections.
In the quilt world, we say there is no such thing as a perfect quilt. Look outside. Nature is crooked, bent and twisted. We also say in the quilt world, when imperfections become too noticeable by the maker, the quilt becomes a “keeper.” It’s perfectly beautiful, just not one you want to offer to paying customers.
It’s probably true about all forms of creativity, that if you are in a middle of a project and, for whatever reason, find yourself being pulled away from its completion, getting back to it can be problematic. You forget your place. Inspiration fueling advancement dries up. Impressions are forgotten. Keys to next steps go away.
While reorganizing fabric, separating cloth into piles of like-minded colors and textures, I stumbled across an unfinished quilt project. We had a sit down, the quilt and me, as I tried to remember what the quilt wanted. I couldn't remember.
Luckily, a new set of inspiration arrived. The quilt and me moved forward. There were shortcuts. I decided not to continue hand embroidering which, now that I think about it, is probably one of the reasons why the quilt remained unfinished. Hand embroidering is time consuming and more than that, our bodies have just so many cycles. Embroidery has become hard on my wrists and fingers. I decided to finish the quilt, try to remain as close to the original plan as possible, but without adding more hand embroidery.
I always preach to my students the importance of hand sewing bindings. You don’t want to see hemming threads from the back on the front of the quilt. Plus, there’s such a calming effect that happens when you hem: the pretty hem stitches, the mesmerizing rocking of the needle. I was all set: tea, audio book, threads, needles. I began hemming, realized how long it would take me to finish, and coupled with the tingles in my fingers as I worked, broke one of my cardinal rules and decided to machine hem.
Here's Redwork In Blue Variation. The word variation is added because the binding fabric is black and gold. A traditional redwork quilt uses only two colors: red and white.
Materials include cotton fabric, West African woven and hand dyed cotton cloth, pearl cotton and embroidery floss. Techniques include hand embroidery, applique, machine piecing and quilting.
Reorganizing? Find an unfinished project? Give it another go. Nothing unfinished? Try something new. What better time.
Thanks for reading. Hope to see you again!
If you follow this blog, you know that in 2017 I visited my niece, Karen, in San Diego, California. Karen had just undergone brain surgery and I wanted to lend my support to her as she recovered. Since that time, I am happy to say, Karen has survived two surgeries and radiation. She is thriving. She is my hero.
Our family is from Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania. Karen left home to join the Marines when she was 18 and never looked back. She traveled extensively, finally settling in San Diego. She’s happy there, and when you go through such a life altering event as she did, home seems so far away.
This is when you find out who your family and friends are, you find out about willing warriors, the ones willing to stick with you during the thick of it.
Karen’s friend, Thomasina, rose to the occasion, let me tell you. She attended every pre-operation doctor visit to help Karen listen to doctor’s instructions, was there for the operations and post-op check-ups, as well as just being there for Karen at home and during her recovery.
I noticed when I was there, the effect Buttons had on Karen. Buttons is Thomasina’s puppy and when Thomasina and Buttons visited, Karen’s spirits soared. She smiled, got on the floor with Buttons and generally enjoyed herself that day. She and I talked about the fact that maybe a puppy would be good for her too. We visited a shelter and she continued to visit shelter websites after my visit was complete.
One day Karen called to tell me about Cookie, the shelter dog she had adopted. What a difference Cookie has made in Karen’s life. Cookie is funny, smart and protective, the kind of puppy you think you have known all your life. She just fits in!
What do you do when you are so far away from a loved one, how do you continue those moments of love and healing. Karen and I talk frequently. She plays upright bass, bass guitar and rhythm guitar. So we talk about music and our family ties to stringed instruments. My paternal grandfather, Boyce Richardson, (who I never met, he died before I was born) played guitar, and his brother-in-law, my great uncle, Jim Bennett, played upright bass. Uncle Jim Bennett was an entrepreneur and died during a shoot-out with Revenuers as he protected his still and other investments, with his silver 45, down there in Spartanburg, South Carolina. We know they are pleased, from heaven, about our love of music and stringed instruments.
But still, I wanted to do something else. I wanted to keep my energy in Karen’s life, from Pittsburgh all the way to San Diego. Then it hit me. I’ll make quilts, one for Cookie and one for Buttons. That way, as I thank Karen for her strength, and thank Thomasina for her friendship, the sentiment has a tangible component.
The quilts are identical, except that Cookie’s quilt incorporates gingerbread cookie fabric.
Here is a slideshow of Karen and Cookie, followed by Thomasina and Buttons and Cookie. Cookie is such a ham, getting in all the pictures.
Thanks for stopping by and good luck to you on whatever you create today!
Cuyahoga Valley National Park, located in Ohio, invites teaching artists to develop arts activities that connect with the Park Association's interdisciplinary environmental education curriculum. Artists live in a cottage in the forest for 6-8 weeks and besides teaching, have time to work on personal art projects. In 2001, I accepted the invitation and enjoyed the end of summer, fall and the beginning of winter.
The children and I created a narrative, mural quilt depicting Ohio environments from the early 1800’s through present time; we wrote theater pieces that documented Harriet Tubman and the Underground Railroad, and created structures in the forest using only material that had fallen to the forest floor. To see more, click images below.
While I was there, the environment inspired me to create a quilt titled "Cuyahoga Forest Spirit." The surface design was created using a technique I call abstract positioning. It is the same technique used in Bebop in the Small of Her Back.
Other techniques include machine quilting, machine embroidery, beadwork, and stamping. Materials include cotton and synthetic fabrics, found objects, wood, paint, glitter, beads, sequins, and threads.
The stick included at the top of the quilt was waiting for me one morning on the steps when I went outside to drink my coffee. A gift.
Our Name Is Memory is a reissue of my collection of poems (first published in 2013 as Wild Howling Woman). The new and improved second edition is available here.
I decided to use Cuyahoga Forest Spirit as the cover, and with a little manipulation with filters came up with the following image.
Purchase Our Name Is Memory here.
Some years ago, I curated a quilt exhibition inspired by former slave, Sarah Wilson, who though elderly, said, "I Can Still Quilt Without My Glasses." Artist and exhibition designer, Elizabeth Asche Douglas, and I installed the exhibition at the Associated Artist Gallery in Pittsburgh, PA. (2000)
Click the newspaper article and exhibition card below for better viewing.
Because of the marketing surrounding the exhibition, a lady in the nearby town of New Alexandria, PA, contacted me wondering if I would like to have a box of quilt squares she inherited from her mother-in-law, Mrs. Hargnett, who’d just passed away. Of course, I said yes, and in a few days a box arrived filled to the brim with Mrs. Hargnett's work!
This post describes Mrs. Hargnett's Nine Patch Blocks. Click the two images below for better viewing. You will see that a nine patch is 3 small squares at the top of the block, 3 in the middle, and 3 at the bottom. The combination of 3x3x3 and alternating color, makes the Nine Patch Block. See Redwork in Black to see another version of the Nine Patch.
During As We Mend, I shared Mrs. Hargnett's quilt blocks with my students. Of course, I was inspired to finally do something with them, but at the same time, remembered a quilt I created sometime after 2000 and before 2008. I forgot to sew a label on the back of the quilt, which is very important. We quilters have learned that we must document our work for future generations.
The quilt I will share with you now combines Mrs. Hargnett's antique quilt blocks with contemporary fabric, technique and surface design.
While I'm writing this I have decided to name the quilt, "Nine Patch in a Nine Patch in a Four Patch." I'll go back and make a label to attach to the back of the quilt later.
Let's start with my reinterpretation of one of Mrs. Hargnett's Nine Patch Blocks (above). The quilting is done with stippling, the overall, rambling, sort of doodling you see throughout. Then I added hand embroidery with pearl cotton threads and glass beads. That's the Nine Patch portion of the quilt title.
Using Mrs. Hargnett's Nine Patch Blocks as alternating color, I created the second part of the quilt title. In the image below, you can see three different blocks at the top, 3 in the middle, and 3 at the bottom which give us the Nine Patch in a Nine Patch.
Below is the final design.
So now, if you look at each section (orange, yellow, green and black) you will see four sections of Nine Patch in a Nine Patch as described above. Here we have our final quilt title explanation -- Nine Patch in a Nine Patch in a Four Patch.
The following images show more detail of quilt blocks. Each using a combination of old and new quilt blocks, acrylic paint, hand and machine quilting and embroidery and beadwork.
Well, that's it for now. Happy Quilting! or whatever creative endeavor you are doing or thinking about doing.
I love this quilt because it taught me several new techniques, and it taught me how to be an artist and business woman.
The first technique the quilt taught me is something I call abstract positioning.
I used green thread because green seemed to play nice with all of the other colors in the quilt.
When you complete a quilt top, I find the best thing to do before adding batting and the back of the quilt, is to hang the quilt top on your design wall and let it sit there. Each day and throughout the day, take a look at it and see what it's saying.
In this case, I saw the outline of a woman's body, a woman's dancing body.
Consider the above detail without the beads and without the raised effect. Think of it as flat and congruent with the rest of the quilt.
One day, as I passed, I saw the curved body of a woman from the back, and she was wearing skimpy bottoms like dancers sometimes wear. The next thought was to push the form out and away from the rest of the quilt so that she would stand out. That meant it was time to make decisions about the quilt back, batting and what to use to stuff the form.
The quilt is machine quilted (stippled); the first green border is pleated, there's hand embroidery and beadwork.
This was a commissioned piece. I contacted the buyer when I completed work on the quilt. The buyer never returned my calls. Bebop taught me to always require a substantial down payment before beginning work.
I published my first collection of poetry, Split Rock / Cracked Cave, in 2013. I think I'm a much better, more confident writer today than I was then. As an independent writer and publisher, you have full ownership and can revise as you will. So I made the decision to refresh some of the poems, make them better and repackage the collection as Bebop in the Small of Her Back, available here.
Read more here
Well, that's it for now. Thanks for stopping by and Happy Quilting!
The Black & White Quilt features several techniques.
The first technique is the traditional nine patch pieced block. Three squares at the top, three squares in the middle and three squares on the bottom. These nine pieced and combined squares make up the nine patch block.
I think it's important to use various textures and values to bring interest to the quilt. But on the other hand, it is equally lovely to use fabric in the same value and texture family. For example, Redwork in white, where the quilt is using only one color fabric and threads. It all depends on what the quilt wants. Here is where we learn how to listen to the needs of the quilt.
The second technique is hand embroidery using simple patterns immediately recognized as patterns for Redwork. In this case, Redwork in black or Redwork using black embroidery threads on white fabric.
The third technique is hand painted fabric, used in this quilt as sashing strips. I painted white cotton fabric in various shades of black, cut the fabric in strips and connected the strips to the pieced blocks. I like using sashing strips because the strips break up the quilt and allow the eye to focus on the entire quilt and individual blocks at the same time.
Well, that's it for now. Hope you enjoyed viewing The Black & White Quilt. Stop back often and Happy Quilting!
In quilting, traditional Redwork is the art of patterning using only red and white fabric. The red fabric is solid red and/or various shades of red within fabrics. The solid white fabric is used to hold hand embroidery sewn with dark red threads, including embroidery floss and pearl cotton.
I was drawn to Redwork because of the beauty in its simplicity. Many Redwork embroidery patterns can be found in books and freely downloaded from the internet. The patterns are usually, children, faces, flowers, birds, animals and fruit. One drawback is that all of the faces reflect one culture. To solve this problem, you can make your own pattern. Make a copy of a photograph and using a lightbox, tape the copy onto the lightbox (to secure it), tape your white fabric over the copy, and then trace using a pencil. If you do not have a lightbox, you can tape everything to a window and use the outside light to trace. You can use a simple stem stitch and add others, such as chain and feather, as the need arises.
The Redwork pillow shown above left is my first Redwork project. Another technique I like is called Stumpwork; it is raised embroidery with threads and wire. I used Stumpwork on the pillow and on The Quilt With Many Names.
The image on the pillow is my great grandmother, Margaret Maynard (1854-1942). Margaret was born a slave in Fitzgerald, Georgia. She told four things of slavery: 1. she had her own drinking cup; 2. she was sitting on a fence when soldiers marched through the plantation where she lived; 3. the soldiers said to her, "You're free, honey;" and 4. she refused to tell other stories, only that whatever bad thing you can imagine happened during that time.
After the Redwork pillow, I wanted to tackle a full sized quilt and next came The Quilt With Many Names because at different times in this quilt's life, it has been called Bitches Brew, Nine Wild Women, Witches Brew, Wise Women Brewing, and Nine Wise Witches.
The Quilt With Many Names began as a scrap quilt, meaning no new fabric, only fabric I had in my stash. But as the quilt progressed, and I saw how big it wanted to become, its size surpassed the amount of red and white fabric in my stash. So, the quilt morphed into what I call a Redwork Variation, meaning that most of the fabric is strictly red and white, but some of the fabrics have other colors. You will see hints of green, yellow and blue. The middle block is traditional Redwork. Its themes are apparent and set the mood for the rest of the quilt.
Then the quilt began to grow around the middle block in a technique called “on point,” where blocks are set on the point of the block instead of its vertical or horizontal side. The wise/witch dolls came next, then the bubbling cauldron and then the Redwork embroidery of the young woman situated next to the magic sticks stirring the cauldron mixture. The young woman is depending on the wisdom of the wise woman to show her, her steady path.
The nine wise/witch dolls represent flora, mother, chef, prosperity, wisdom, mender, divination, artisan and healer. The dolls are made from wooden rods covered with batting and dressed in their particular clothes and tools. Each doll’s face is covered by an antique iron key. My mother, Christine Shefton Richardson (1912-1992), canned vegetables, made pickles, piccalilli and applesauce. She also put white string through red peppers to hang them in her kitchen to dry. The chef doll is holding one of my mother's dried peppers that I rescued after her death.
The Quilt With Many Names was first called Bitches Brew, and I created an artist book to document the process. The Bitches Brew Pensive includes water colors, a miniature quilted nine patch block, calligraphy, machine quilted pages, acrylic paints, threads, buttons, sequins, clay, wood, antique keys and lace. It’s dated 10/18/05. Reading this Pensive again is reminding me of the journey the quilt and I took. I think I might make other artist books to document the journeys of quilts I will make in the future. One humorous thing about the Bitches Brew Pensive is that I used American flag fabric on the back. Not sure what I was thinking about, or perhaps I was just focused on using red fabric from my stash.
Lastly, the quilt takes the shape of a curtained window. Like looking into the next life, the new life, the steady life beyond, our destiny.
Final words about Redwork. You can also do Blackwork, Greenwork or Bluework. Same rules apply. For example, in Blackwork, use black and white fabric and black embroidery floss on the white fabric.
The word Redwork has become a utility word, like pampers means disposable diapers and not necessarily the trademark product, Pampers. In these instances of Black, Green or Blue, you simply say Redwork in Black, etc.
I will share Redwork in Black, Green and Blue (in progress) in later posts. I’m also thinking about Goldwork and Purplework. Who knows? The possibilities are endless.
Whitework, on the other hand, is different. There are no variations, only white on white in white. The quilt on my bed is Whitework. Below is a sneak peek at Redwork in Green in the form of a quilted artist book.
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Well, that's it for this post.
Thanks for stopping by and Happy Quilting in the Key of C!
These are me, with no particular emphasis on any one: music, writing, quilting. The activity of each shares equal importance. They are the things that get me out of bed in the morning, with purpose. They are my good work, connected by environment, words, narrative and beauty. I began quilting in the early 1990’s after visiting the home of artist and writer, Sandra Gould Ford, where for the first time I experienced an artist-made quilt. It was hanging on the wall and I said to Sandra, “What is that?”
Imagine a gut punch, but of happiness. That was my experience with Sandra’s quilt. The need to research quilting, and learn how to do it was immediate. My older sisters were tailors, and they taught me how to sew when I was little, so I had that background, was familiar with fabric and how to handle it. So I jumped right in to this new connection with fabric. It was joyous. I was fearless and made many quilts. My big brother, Sonny, is buried with the quilt I made for him, a spring time fabric Sunshine and Shadow design.
But then, somehow I lost my way, veered away from creating pretty bed quilts and couch cozies to creating political and historical narrative quilts. I didn’t enjoy the process and stopped quilting altogether, for about 10 years.
During the summer of 2016, two women approached me about teaching them how to quilt. I balked at first, remembering my last emotional response to the act of quilting and declined. But then that small voice said, “Why not?” What happened during As We Mend was that those two women reminded me of why I wanted to quilt in the first place and I realized I had somehow placed quilting—the gift given me to play with fabric, shape and color—in the space reserved for writing.
During that class, I was reminded that quilting gives gifts, for example: the love and need to hear crunchy sounds of scissors cutting through fabric; going against or simply throwing away the color wheel to let confidence show up and show out; and that
listening to color in the fabric store, in nature, and in dreams makes me know stuff about subtlety, nuance, aggression (yellow), jealousy (red) and performance.
This is quilting’s foundation—the rendering of whole cloth into pieces and then re-imagining the pieces into whole again. It is the act of tearing down and building up again with pizzazz!
A long time ago, I sang alto and soprano in a clear, soft voice. High “C” didn’t bother me; neither did the “A” below middle “C.” I had a nice, comfortable range. But the voice box is a muscle and if not used, becomes flabby and lazy. Some of my poetry and fiction these days requires music. I’m finding that life, (the way I’d lived it, with alcohol, other drugs and an unused and misused singing voice) is responsible for my flabby and lazy voice box. I have to exercise it, rest it, soothe it, teach it to stretch again and to love the high “C” again as much as the low “A.”
This blog, Quilting in the Key of C, is me learning how to stretch, render whole cloths into many pieces so that I can re-imagine the many into whole again. I am searching for, and find again and again with each new quilt, the pleasant feeling I first felt looking at Sandra’s quilt. I want to re-learn how to easily reach my quilting high “C” voice.
Quilts in this blog may be titled Series One (Quilts made from 1995 – 2006) or Series Two (Quilts made beginning 2016 - ) so that I can differentiate my high “C” quilts from the others I made prior to 2016. You can see some of my first quilts in the Quilt Gallery.
Some quilts in Series Two may fit into other categories. I think. We’ll see. Not sure just yet how everything will work.
The above quilt is from Series One. This quilt is called by many names:
Nine Wild Women
Witches Brew, and
Nine Wise Witches.
I can’t decide on a title, I suppose, because they all work. It is a Redwork Variation, meaning that I used fabric that does not follow strict Redwork directions. It is an entire scrap quilt and some of the red and white fabric had other colors in them. I will write more about this quilt and the technique of Redwork in another post.
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Thanks for reading. Hope you’ll come back often.
Happy Quilting in the Key of "C"!
This is a blog about how we make things.