Friday, January 26, 2018

Sunbonnet Sue Says "Me Too"

Just finished:
A little closer: 

I've always enjoyed looking at other peoples' Sunbonnet Sue quilts, yet was never tempted to make my own - the motif, which dates back to the 1800s, is too sweet for my style. But when the #MeToo movement swept through the US, I couldn't get her out of my head.

I have experienced a few, minor episodes of molestation. But when #MeToo exploded, I was astounded to discover that virtually all my female friends and acquaintances have also been molested - many experiencing far worse than I did - regardless of how strong, confident, and ferocious I knew them to be.

And if that's the case in my relatively privileged circles - imagine how much more for girls, women, and some men, living in more challenging circumstances?

And what about our mothers?  I can remember when the phrase "date rape" and "sexual harassment" didn't exist. What did they think about when it happened? Did they blame themselves? Did they tell anyone? And what about their mothers?

And then....what about the women who stitched all the quilts and embroidered all the textiles in my vintage collection?

"#MeToo" also coincided with a new tv series based on Margaret Atwood's novel "The Handmaid's Tale." The handmaids are concubines who bear children for the infertile rich, and wear voluminous red garb, with white bonnets.

So it wasn't much of a mental leap over to Sunbonnet Sue. To acknowledge the endurance of our foremothers, I wanted to use vintage linens.

My collection included this set of delightful antimacassars - stiff linen pieces that I am pretty sure were intended for chair and couch armrests and backs, to keep them clean. There were five of these long narrow ones (why 5?),

And 5 more of these slightly bigger units, which I am guessing are the head rests.
The hand stitchery is gorgeous.

I also have several pillowcases with embroidered and/or crocheted full-skirted women along the hem. I chose the following pillowcase, in which the belles have inexpert torsos and arms:
One of the consequences of sexual abuse is lasting damage to body image. Hiding - with clothing, with fear of going out, with eating disorders - is not uncommon among people who have been severely abused.
To make the appliqued figures, I first looked at pictures of Sunbonnet Sue quilts on the web. The minimum is a bonnet, dress, and feet. Some are armless, helpless, like Pez. So I sketched and cut out freezer paper patterns, one for right-facing girls, one for left,
...and used those to cut feedsack fabrics from the 1930s - plus a smattering of other vintage fabrics. I fused them to four armrest antimacassars, and did a zigzag around each shape to hold it down.
The resonance of feminine biology in the flower in the next figure was serendipitous - I didn't even notice until it was cut out.

Below, the bright red bonnet was probably a mistake - it stands out too much, and is newer than the other fabrics - but I couldn't resist the needlework print, wanting to emphasize the point that perhaps one reason our foremothers enjoyed sewing, embroidery and quiltmaking so much was because it reduced their stress and anxiety.

The most challenging aspect of this quilt was cross-stitching the words. I don't have a much cross-stitch experience, but fortunately I have this thrift shop find: 
The book is copyrighted 1967, to Doris Drake in Thomasville, Georgia, If you find a copy, (they sometimes appear on ebay and etsy), grab it - it has a bunch of vintage fonts. I more-or-less used the lower one on this page. 
I embroidered "Me Too" on an old grey handkerchief. The line of letters seemed straight when I stitched them (in a hoop); but the underlying grey hankie was so flimsy that it got away from me and the O's are rising. 
...which gives me even more respect for the women who did the original, perfect, stitching along the hankie's bottom edge. 
The line of red stitching on the left side of the quilt is a rip in the pillowcase. A little bit of batting shows through. 
The buttons that run down the sides represent more people; they also represent garments undone.

I can't possibly be the only quilter who has connected "#MeToo" with Sunbonnet Sue. I hope this inspires more quilted responses, and would welcome seeing other peoples' interpretations. 

UPDATE: A very nice, brief history of Sunbonnet Sue is at Also, a commenter below noted other examples that have unusual/quirky themes. 

UPDATE: Another history of Sunbonnet Sue, with some irreverent examples in questionable taste. 

Sunday, January 21, 2018

More QuiltCon Rejects, and One that Squeaked In!

I am still excited about being a QuiltCon reject! Last week, I showed one of my favorite quilts (that I  made) which was turned down by QuiltCon, the country's preeminent modern quilt show, which will be held in Pasadena (the city next to me) in late February.

I was, of course, sad, until I found all the other fabulous losers on Instagram, using the search term #QuiltConReject. If you were turned down too, head over there and you'll feel mostly much better (you're in great company!), and maybe only a teensy bit worse on one count ("if the judges didn't accept THAT genius quilt made by XYZ, how are they going to accept one of mine?")

That thought can drive one mad, so breathe it away. Quilt show acceptance - like applying for colleges, jobs, and/or romantic love - is neither explicable nor under our control. One should certainly research the show before applying, but at a certain point, grasshopper, one must let go.

Just for fun - here are the three more quilts I submitted to this year's QuiltCon - one of the four made it in. Is it quilt #1, "Altered Squares"?

Or quilt #2, Rainbow Refugees?
(It started out as an abstract batik scrap project, but wound up looking like slumped figures, escaping oppression, each filled with complexity, color, life, and great contributions to make to the lucky country that takes them in.)

Or maybe Quilt#3,  "Blue Cross, Blue Shield," which I blogged about a while back.
It's all blue jeans, even the binding. It was featured in an issue of SAQA magazine, so I knew at least someone beside me liked it!
And you already saw submission #4 last week, "Eyeshadow", which I already explained was rejected:
Which one did the QuiltCon judges select?
If you guessed the first one, "Altered Squares", you're right. What was scary was that among the QuiltCon rejects on Instagram were quilts very much like "Altered Squares"...and quilts SO much more innovative. But what the heck!? There is NO WAY OF PREDICTING! At $15 per entry for QuiltCon, it's one of the cheapest forms of gambling. And even if you don't get in, you will have earned the prestigious #QuiltConReject hashtag, plus an intangible award from the universe for chutzpah, courage! Maybe next year?!
(More consolation is in my last blog post, here.)

Sunday, January 14, 2018

Quilt Show Rejection? Win Your Own Awards!

I love other people's quilts, but can be very hard on my own. I haven't made many quilts that I look back on and think,  "Dang, I like it!"

This one, finished last year, comes close. I call it "Eyeshadow," because the blocks look like eyes wide open, with rainbow mascara, an invention which, now that I think about it, could earn someone much more money than making quilts and submitting them to juried shows.
It's just been rejected by QuiltCon 2018, and I was sad until I perused the hashtag "#QuiltConreject" on Instagram, here.  OMG, I am in great company! People are sharing absolutely fantastic, brilliant works of art. You can't help but conclude that being a QuiltCon reject is as much of an honor as getting in, though the latter is emotionally much simpler. 

(Two more consoling articles about QuiltCon rejections are at the end of this blog post. I submitted four quilts, and one made it in, which I will show in a future post.) 

Let's face it, there is no way of predicting what judges will like. So give it a shot. But meanwhile, maybe the key to appreciating one's own quilts is creating one's own personal awards. I'm giving the quilt above my lifetime award for "Most Block Rotations to Arrive at a Satisfactory Resolution," and potentially even the "It's All Downhill From Here" award. Here are some more categories in which I have pinned invisible ribbons to my sweatshirt:

- Vastest Distance Between Where You Started, and Where You Wound Up - I was determined to make an ethereal, dignified quilt commemorating the August lunar eclipse - but it turned into this piece, remniscent of fruit cocktail:
- Most Psychotherapeutic -Sewing 100 tiny squares together - then sewing tiny toys into each square - was pure psychiatric massage. Which project(s) got you through a hard time?
-Most Unexpected - In which you dared to created something in a genre that was new to you. My passionate hotel room love affair with English Paper piecing  topped this category in 2017. (Since I am the judge and sole contestant, it didn't disqualify me that one could drive a small truck through some of those intersections. I later took it apart and started over.)
Best Stash Reduction - The largest quilt(s) that you didn't buy new fabric for. Expecting to make one quilt from my 30-year stash of Japanese fabrics, I made three, and there's another one pending. (I haven't taken any pictures yet.)

- Most Crazy-Making - There's a quilt on my design wall right now, involving aqua and yellow stars, that 's been sitting there for months, and I still can't figure out the colors or background. (I don't want to show you the pictures.) 

- Project Most Likely to Piss Off _______ [politicians, relatives, etc.]
- The Hue & Cry Award - Does the hue make you cry? Tears of joy or regret - those are separate ribbons.)

- Viewer's Choices - Did someone walk through your sewing area, see a quilt, and ask for it? Both my DD and DH did, and that always makes me abnormally happy. Here's one my daughter claimed:
What's your favorite quilt or other creation of the recent past? That YOU made? Pick some personal winners! I'd love to hear about your awards categories! 

And if a QuiltCon rejection still stings, I understand - I hope you find these articles as soothing as I did: 
- A candid article by Christa Watson, who explains that only 25% of submissions get in.
- An article by Jayne of the Twiggy and Opal blog, which showed off her quilts that made it into the show, and those that didn't - and the results are absolutely flummoxing to me!

Sunday, January 7, 2018

Creative Time Bomb: Sort your Stash

How do you organize your quilting fabric? Creating categories not only makes fabrics easier to find, but can also jumpstart future creations. Here are my categories, jammed into 8 small shelves plus 3 plastic boxes:

1. Human and human-like entities (including cyborgs, smiley faces, plus the occasional human underwear):
2. Food and beverages:
3. Animals, real, extinct and imagined:
4. Mostly inedible, inanimate objects, including florals and geometrics:
5. Blue and green solids and monochrome prints, not including skies, but including lakes, rivers and oceans...
...and green leaves (Unless the leaves are edible - the fabric on the lower right looks like collard greens to me, so sometimes it travels to category 1):
6. Yellow, orange, red and gold solids and monochrome prints:
7. Purples, lavenders:
8. Black, whites, greys & brown prints and solids, and black-and-white prints
9. Batiks, all colors, all patterns, plus all sky prints.
10. Patriotic and American history
11. Judaic prints:
12. Miscellaneous, and polka dots The huge pieces of the fabrics below - vintage housewives and pre-Obama US presidents - that don't fit in my packed "human" shelf, so they're in miscellaneous:
Quite often, when going through my stash, I will fling a fabric to a different category. Take fish, for example: Animal or food?
If it looks like it would be tasty broiled with butter and garlic, it goes into food, but if it could be in an aquarium or a deep sea, it usually goes with the animals. Same problem with cows:
Just looking at their yearning faces and thinking about where they're headed makes me want to become a vegetarian (at those moments, it goes to animals.) When craving a burger, it travels to food. And what about this print with dog astronauts - animals or humans?
This fabric has been commuting back and forth between categories for decades.

Jack-o-lantern fabric is even more elusive. Edible, human, animal, or inanimate? I should just sew it into a trick-or-treat bag and donate it to a thrift shop, so I don't have to agonize over it anymore.
The best reason to sort your stash is that you find unexpected relationships, and group  fabrics with common traits together. Even if you don't do something with the groupings and subgroupings at the moment, they can serve as messages to your future self - creative time-bombs - that will save you time and spark ideas.

Like a month ago, when I was looking through my stash for holiday gift ideas. I found the following fabrics grouped together in the "Prints: Non-Human, Non-Animal, Inedible" box.
(I know, that on the upper right looks a bit like hard-boiled eggs, but not enough.) They were piled on top of these, which you saw above:
The fabric on the far left was cut from a beautiful Swiss dress that a friend gave me after her baby outgrew it. The two on the right are fat quarters that my well-trained DH bought me for a birthday.

Plus there was this heavyweight Japanese print:
...which sent me running to the "food" shelf, where I knew I had another piece of heavy fabric purchased from the same quilt show vendor: a pastry fabric that says "petite gateau," which means "little cake" in French, even though the fabric is Japanese:
Now I had an extended family of fabrics, near-pastels with a lot of pink and a happy, air-tossed mood. I did a little improvisational cutting, sewing, and slicing, and wound up with four of these: 
Vintage rick rack made a nice punctuation. The music fabric went on the back.
I used Insul-Bright batting inside. so they can function as real potholders. For hanging loops, I found the following embroidered ribbon in my parents' tablecloth drawer. I am guessing my paternal grandmother, my beloved Bubby, bought it, maybe planning to embellish aprons? She died in 1974, which makes this ribbon over 40 years old. It's in perfect shape, perhaps because it was encased in a long narrow plastic viewing sleeve:
The plastic sleeve says "Shrinkage CONTROLLED" and "Perma-Trim". They were right, 40 years is pretty Perma!

Along with four potholders, I made a couple of table mats:
To the table runner, I added borders of a pastel Liberty of London print (also from "Prints: Inanimate"). 
I like to take a group picture of related creations, so here they are, four potholders, two table runners jammed together. If I squinch my eyes, I can imagine what it might look like if I'd made them into one quilt: 
Meh, it would have been a low-contrast quilt. (Speaking of contrast, can you find Waldo's sock in the picture?) Once photographed, I put my shoe back on, broke up the set, wrapped each in festive holographic  cellophane, and distributed them to friends for holiday presents - my daughter asked for one, too - leaving me with the good memories and a little bit more space in my stash! 

Yes, I really would love to hear about how you categorize your quilting fabrics!