The Queen of Fecundity

We interrupt this blog for some unrestrained admiration…

Yes, that would be for Anna Maria Horner, fertile in both the familial sense and in her work. If you’re not familiar with her first book Seams to Me, then you’ve probably drooled over (or better yet, stitched something with) her fabrics for Westminster.

Her blog just noted that her new book, Handmade Beginnings, is out. I haven’t had the chance to see it yet, but between the peeks provided on various sites (Anna Maria’s shop offers signed copies and Amazon has a video of her with her brood and various projects) it looks like there are some great projects. Her blog contains an excerpt from the book’s intro that gives you a heartfelt idea of the thought behind the publication.

I mention this because I’ve been a major fan of Anna Maria’s since I had the opportunity to interview her for Quilts and More back in October of 2007. She was so kind and funny, but what really struck me is how thoughtful she is about her art and art in general. I enjoyed our conversation so much that I wanted to chat with her again and pitched a story to the University of Tennessee alumni magazine, the place she studied art and met her husband. If you’re interested in reading that, here’s the link to “Home is Where the Art Is.”

Last October, I got a chance to meet her eldest daughter, Juliana, who is a chip off the old block (and a frequent model of Anna Maria’s fashions). She’s a smart, savvy young woman who was looking at colleges and we shared some talk about writing for magazines…hope you’ve got the school of your dreams lined up, Juliana!

Okay, this unrestrained blathering is an indication that I’ve got not just a girl-crush on Anna Maria, but on her entire family…a fam-crush, a brood-crush. Oh, so embarrassing for a woman of my age…

New camera and a newly green world

I can’t help myself. I try not to resort to pictures of my garden, but right now it’s impossible to ignore. The daffodils are done and the redbuds are nearly so, but it’s still an amazing sight. I just love early spring, when the plants in their beds are so tidy, compact, and perfectly colored and formed. No insects have had a chance to lay waste to the foliage and even the rabbits have yet to wreak their usual havoc. I decided it was time to move beyond my point and shoot and bought myself a new camera last week, and between that and the scenery, I couldn’t resist. Please forgive me. 

Skin applique?

I’ve not been sewing at all, lately. Lots of freelance projects, plus a few medical issues have kept me from operating at full steam ahead. But I’m sure I’ll be up and at ’em again, soon.

In lieu of actually using my sewing machine, I’ve taken a photo of something that DID require a needle: Molly’s tattoo. I’m not a fan of tattoos (just ask my daughters), but when I met Molly four or five years ago I admit that I was drawn to the sewing machine tattooed on her forearm. If someone held me down and told me I HAD to be tattooed or they would take Pearl away, this is the tattoo I’d get. But only if…

Molly tells me that she got it after a break-up with a boyfriend, as a way to remind herself to remember to do the things that were important to her. She’s got a very nice beau now (Donny) and a very nice dog (Oliver the beagle) and I’m quite lucky to have them as my neighbors. Molly still sews often, altering vintage clothes to give them a more modern fit. If you want to check out her stuff, visit her Etsy shop. If you’re in Iowa City you can also check out Molly’s “altered vintage clothing” and handmade skirts at White Rabbit

Anyone else have a sewing related tattoo? I’d love to see it/share it. Send links!

Are you a designing women (or man)?

My etsy post resulted not only in many kind comments, but an interesting email correspondence with a quilter whose work I included in the post. As we’ve chatted back and forth, we’ve realized we have much in common: we both love asiatic/oriental rugs, we both work in academia, we both love Kaffe Fasset’s designs, and we both adore fabric (that last one might be a given with ANY quilter).

One of the interesting things we’ve talked about is designing one’s own quilts vs. sewing the designs of others and how some people come down hard on one side of that line or the other.

People often complain that they feel uncomfortable in traditional quilt guilds because of the “quilt police”: those who bristle at quilts if the points of stars disappear under an adjoining seam, if a binding doesn’t lie completely flat, or if squares don’t line up perfectly. Those kinds of judgements go a long way toward taking the joy out of creation for me. And yet, those “keepers of the quilting flame” also help ensure that there is a standard for quality craftsmanship, and that, too, is important.

I’m a sewer who most often uses the patterns of others. I’ve designed very few quilts—the one on this page is one of them. I admit that I’m probably most proud of those I designed myself, but I certainly take pleasure in sewing quilts designed by others and feel that I make them mine by my choice of color, fabric, and the occasional design tweak. (I also learn a lot each time I use someone else’s instructions. I’m always delighted by the number of ways there are to create a block and some designers are exceptionally talented at simplifying a complicated design.)

I believe there is a place for both kinds of quilting, as well as sewing things aren’t quilts. There’s real satisfaction that comes from whipping up a bag or even a pillow case when you need a quick project (I love a lot of the Quilts and More projects for this reason.) I also feel great when I finish a simple quilt for a baby gift, as well as a larger, more complicated one. And when I have the time to design a quilt, that’s fabulous, too. But I hate to feel constricted in what I sew, feeling guilty because I’m using someone else’s pattern, and certainly hate to feel judged for doing so.

The pleasures of having my hands on all those fabulous fabrics and threads and combining colors soothes and stimulates me. The process of sewing itself can put me in the zone and seeing the completion of something tangible, in a world where so much work is seemingly never done, brings deep satisfaction. Sewing the patterns of others confers a respect on those pattern-designers who do it well: there’s a real art to designing something beautiful and then putting together accurate and clear instructions. (I know, because I’ve felt the frustration of sewing poorly described and/or inaccurate patterns.) I’d love to live in a world where quilters respected the many ways to achieve those feelings: traditional quilting, modern quilting, hand quilting, machine piecing and quilting.

Certainly anyone using patterns from another designer should make sure the designer doesn’t prohibit the sale of such items, and give credit to the designer. And the creators of items that are one-off or custom-designed should be compensated accordingly. But when it comes to making gifts for loved ones or just sewing for fun, to paraphrase Rodney King, “Can’t we all just get along?”

How about you? Where do you stand? What do you enjoy sewing?