Log-Cabin Madness: Gorgeous but Tedious

July was log-cabin madness at my house. It’s been one of the hottest, most unpleasant summers on record here in Tucson. That’s bad enough, but additionally my job has been more difficult and my left shoulder STILL has tendonitis from quilting my ginormous art quilt about the January 8 shooting. Things have not been entirely pleasant in many areas of my non-art life….so for therapy there’s nothing like taking a rotary cutter to hundreds of scraps of fabrics to come up with 1 3/4″ strips for a queen sized log-cabin quilt.

Because of my shoulder injury, my massage table is open in my art room so I can stretch or just crash out in comfy style at a moment’s notice: but when not in a strip-cutting-coma on my massage table, I used the area for flat-space to organize my log-cabin blocks. As any chaotic artist-type knows, flat-space is the most valuable space in any work area….because it’s space to clutter up!

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Early in July, before my trip to D.C., my little blocks were just one layer big; here you see the pink dragonfly centers with 2 strips of light fabric and strips of dark fabric surrounding each pink square:



And after about 3 weeks of sewing, piecing, ironing…..I had 48 10-inch blocks; each block has a pinkish center surrounded by 12 strips of fabric, 6 strips of different light blue/green fabrics and 6 strips of different dark blue/green fabrics; here they are all, arranged on the design wall in my art room. My mom is reading off to the right; she came up from Sonoita for the night, and she helped me start sewing the blocks together.

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It’s really a challenge to keep the blocks organized in their pattern–this is a barn-raising pattern, though log-cabin blocks can be arranged in an infinite variety of patterns to create many different designs, which is why the simple (but tedious) block is popular with artists. I took 2 down off the wall at a time and handed them to my mom, who sewed them together, and then I pressed them and put them back up again and took down the next 2: and even with that system, things got mixed up a few times. It was SO helpful to have my mom at my sewing machine keeping an eye on the design to make sure no blocks got turned about or upside down.

Here’s a closer shot of the design; instead of 48 square blocks I now have 24 rectangular ones, and in another day or two I’ll have all the strips sewn together:

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While I am excited about the way it looks, I’ll admit that traditional quilt-making is definitely not my strong-suit. The final outcome is stunning……but piecing it all is just so much work.

And I’m not done yet!

Sacred Threads Quilt Show, 2013

I just got back from a brief trip to the Washington D.C. area, where I visited with my father’s older sister, my aunt Helen; together we went to see the Sacred Threads quilt show. Sacred Threads is a biennial, juried show featuring quilt artists from North America. The show features art quilts that address issues with spiritual and emotional content.

Here is a shot of me and Helen in front of my piece, Six Windows, about the January 8, 2011 mass shooting in Tucson:

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There were over 200 quilts in the show, and all were amazing; additionally, there was a featured artist:  Dominique Ehrmann. Dominique is an extremely talented and enthusiastic artist from Quebec; her piece was, deservedly, at the center of the show: here we are in front of her stunning 3-D art quilt “Come Follow Me”:

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It’s impossible from this static image to really understand the enchantment of her work. It’s best to think of it as a child’s pop-up book; there are 4 layers of quilting suspended from her custom made frame.Here’s a close-up of the child-shape, and you can get a sense of the depth of the piece if you look up to the left:

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Here’s more detail; it’s just a stunning vision in fabric and thread, so painterly and sculptural at the same time. In fact, she described her work as like sculpture, and I agree. I find that the construction of the art quilt involves a lot of sculptural thinking and technique.

Here’s a close-up of the tree on the left, and a great example of detail…..there’s a mouse down there……

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I stuck my camera inside the center; here you can see the 4 different layers of quilt: for example, you can see that the girl-shape is in a plane in the foreground and that the gate-shape is in a different plane about 3 layers back. Apologies to the artist if I didn’t get this right, but that’s how it appears, or how I remember it:

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There were so many excellent pieces in the show; I photographed a few just to show here, but they are by no means the only excellent works on display.

I liked this very expressive piece called “Hallelujah” by Sandy Curran of Newport News, VA, about recovery from debilitating chronic pain:

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This is a great example of portraiture using fabric and quilting; this is by Cheryl Hurd of Washington, D.C., and is called “Bubba”, one of 2 pieces she had at the show honoring her son who died of cancer:

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This was a very cool quilted interpretation of the Boston Marathon by Rosanne Williamson called “Boston in the Spring”; likely it was finished before the recent bombing attack at the marathon this year, as the artist didn’t mention it. That’s fine with me. That shouldn’t be the first thought that comes to mind with the marathon, anyway. I remember when my dad ran it when I was a kid. It’s a huge human achievement, one that’s been celebrated since ancient times.

“Mourning Doves” is by Betty Busby of Albuquerque, inspired by an exchange student she had in her home from Gaza, and his stories of the effects of war on his family. It’s a superb composition with great color.

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Here’s a close-up:

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Judith Heyward from Hendersonville, NC created this piece, “Hidden Potential”, about the need for women to be pro-active in breast cancer prevention; this was a very technically solid piece:

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I must say, I’m a bit of an introvert, and I had limited time to really view and enjoy the show; I did find myself returning to my piece, only because it looked really good where it was hanging; I’m very thankful to the curator for giving it such a lovely spot with such good lighting!

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I’m very thankful to the Sacred Threads staff, committees, curator, sponsors and all artists who participated; it’s truly a very moving show, and I’m certain those who visit will find it thought provoking and emotionally relevant.