Sunday, January 13, 2013

Goin' Global

Quilt No. 88
January 2013

I always feel that a sort of collaboration has taken place when I take a quilt class or learn a new technique from another quilter. Any kind of inspiration that starts me off on a new quilt gives me that wondrous feeling.  Usually, the source of my inspiration is pretty elusive – I don’t get many calls from Fred Turner or Randy Bachman (Blue Collar) or Tommy James (Crystal Blue Persuasion). 

The “collaboration” that resulted in Goin’ Global was entirely different.  The Timmins Quilters’ Guild was lucky enough to host Kathy Wylie for one of her dynamic and interesting talks last fall.  Goin’ Gobal began in a workshop she taught at Lori’s Sewing Place

But first, let’s move back in time a little. I credit my unabated lust for quilting to my Grandmother.  When I was four or five years old she would sit me down with a jar of buttons, a piece of cotton, and a needle and thread. I would be spellbound for hours.  At times both the buttons and the cloth would be sewn to my pants or the sofa, but she pretended not to notice.  Shortly after I mastered button sewing, I graduated to embroidering my name on every tea towel that wasn't nailed down. I've loved needlework in any form since then.

It was the same with paper snowflakes.  I don’t remember the teacher who first taught me how to take those painfully blunt school scissors and cut out paper snowflakes. It’s something I still do now and then for the sheer joy of cutting paper and seeing what will be revealed. 

Kathy Wylie’s creative adaptation of the paper snowflake technique has resulted in her striking and award winning quilts.   For me, her “sewflake” technique has an irresistible pull.  It’s a wonderful example of what makes quilting not just good, but great – the willingness of quilters to share their knowledge.  When so many activities have been reduced to mere acts of competitiveness, quilting culture still fosters camaraderie with the sharing of “secrets” and discoveries.

And it’s no big secret that I have a fondness for penguins.  Who doesn't adore those stoic, waddling, black and white birds that have cast aside flight in favour of swimming?  So when Kathy encouraged us to choose favourite objects or shapes to launch our in-class creations, I chose penguins.  After a bit of happy trial and error, I ended up with twelve penguins holding wingtips and dancing in a circle .

My next task was to figure out what twelve penguins might encircle.  In the wild it would most likely be twelve other penguins, but one could easily end up with way too many penguins trapped on a quilt.  Maybe…a globe of the Earth?  A lovely idea, but one I’d used too many times already.  A snow globe?  It provided whimsy and magic with a quiet snowfall sifting down on a tiny village.  I printed out the village portion of a snow globe image I purchased on the internet, but used my own dyed background and foregrounds for the globe.  To create the illusion that it was snowing, I painted a piece of cotton with my beloved Setacolor dyes and sprinkled ground up oatmeal flakes on it while it was still wet.  Success in only two tries!
The penguins were hand appliqu├ęd onto the background over the snow globe.  The white portions of their bodies were fused to the dark part and outlined with hand embroidery. It was definitely more fun than adding my name to a tea towel.  When the piece was finished I trapunto’d (stuffed) the snow globe to give it the nice rounded shape.  

I added some radiating dark “flame” shapes.  It was kind of dull looking until I found the intense blue swirly star fabric in my stash. The penguins seemed to approve of that.  The quilt began to look like Southern Lights or perhaps a giant splash-down.  I like to have a quilt that remains open to interpretation.  It allows others to come up with their own idea of what the quilt might have to say.  I was thrilled by interpretive comments from friends.  One, a poet, wrote to me that this quilt was “almost like a fresh dahlia growing and sending life into the universe. The circle village seems enveloped by comforting leaves of hope and life. Radiant stars encourage sparkling appreciation of living in today's world”.  For her, the penguins were “holding hands as they encircle the world with love and helping hands. ... If humankind did this - what an amazing healing world we could share.” I was humbled by her interpretation of the blue rays “of light suggesting that we need to keep our hearts and minds open to one another - to try to be non-judgmental - to share and improve what we can in a world of incredible beauty and yet so much suffering.”

Another friend viewed the quilt as an expression of environmental concern.  “I see this as a reminder from our vulnerable friends, that even though they are supposed to be living in a cool blue world, things are heating up everywhere, and although the "flames" have just recently manifested in their environment, and are still weak (blue), they will be progressing in our lifetime to hot yellows and reds. Then where will our little friends be?”

Yet again I am elated at the power of fabric to speak to us in so many unexpected ways.

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