The Lily Pad: The Journal of White Lotus Quilting


Vintage… sort of

Posted in Atomic quilting,Quilts,vintage by whitelotusquilting on March 6, 2009
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Here’s another quilt story.  This one is about a vintage quilt top that my cousin Kris and I found in an antique store in Silverdale, Washington.  She admired this pretty little red and white top, which was in very good shape, and for a good price, too.  We didn’t buy it that day, but after she went home to the East Coast, I went back to the store and picked it up, intending it to be a birthday present in November 2008 — as a finished quilt for her newly redecorated home. Well it turned into a late Christmas present for 2008.  Not exactly on time but that hardly matters.  Any finished quilt is a good quilt!  (I feel that way about stories and writing too).

My cousin loves vintage textiles of all kinds but also favors the bright bold contemporary prints that I love as well.  So I turned her vintage beauty into two quilts.  One side has the vintage top; the other, 10 inch squares of everything red, white and black I could find in my studio.  Well, there were a few new fabrics in there as well. 🙂  If she gets tired of one side, she can flip it over and use the second side.

Vintage top paired with contemporary backing fabrics

Vintage top paired with contemporary backing fabrics

Then it got a low-loft cotton batting, and bowing to tradition, an all-over feather pattern with a sort of modern meander.  The thread is a pale pink; something that wouldn’t show up as too much contrast on the red, and not pop out on the white, either.  And of course, I had to add a black and white polka dot binding.  Just because. Kris has it on her purple velvet couch and promises to send a picture.  I can’t wait to see it in its home environment!

Kris red and white vintage quilt

Kris' red and white vintage quilt

If you look at the top closely you’ll see that some of the nine-patches have 5 red squares, and some have 4, though there doesn’t appear to be any particular pattern to it.  One theory is that the quiltmaker ran out of red fabric before she finished.  That makes me even happier to think that the quilt wound up being finished, and being used and cherished in a loving home.  A dream come true for any quiltmaker.

close-up of feather quilting

close-up of feather quilting

contemporary backing out of 10 inch squares

contemporary backing out of 10 inch squares

So there’s lots of ways to make a quilt, or even to finish one.  You can stay within certain fabric categories (Civil War repros, 1930’s repros, Asian, batiks, contemporary, blenders, kids’ prints, etc.) or whirl them all together if that pleases you.  Personally I like the term ‘riotously scrappy’ from Bonnie Hunter; why use 3 fabrics when you can use 30?  Or 300?

That said, there is a certain appeal to this sort of vintage top, worked in only two colors.  Simple and plain as they come.  An austere beauty in its simplicity.  I might never make this kind of quilt top, but I can certainly appreciate it.  If nothing else for its ability to be a backdrop for bolder fabrics!

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Pineapple Blossom

Posted in Quilts,White Lotus Quilting studio by whitelotusquilting on January 23, 2009
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In one of our last guild meetings (Kitsap Quilters Guild), the speaker said that every quilt has a story, a reason for its existence.  I couldn’t agree more.  Sometimes it is the story that is the most compelling part of the quilt .  Maybe that’s why I love vintage tops so much.  I always wonder about who made the quilt and why, who they had in mind to give it to, and whether I can quilt it the way they pictured it finished.

So this is the story behind one of my recent quilts.  I quilt a lot for clients so it doesn’t give me much opportunity to finish my own quilts, and then it’s even rarer for one of my quilts to stay in the studio long enough for me to take pictures and post it to the flickr gallery.

But this one I did take pictures of.  It’s a birthday quilt I did for my dad, who has always held a special place in my heart.  When he visited a few years ago, he got to see my studio and all the sewing machines (he even fixed the lights on my longarm, which no one else had been able to do!).  He also saw my fabric collection, which is at its best eclectic.  I favor wild contemporary prints, the larger scale the better, the bolder, deeper colors the better.  But I also love black and whites, polka dots, stripes, great geometrics, and love love love those gorgeous Kona Bay Asian prints.  And of course batiks.  There aren’t a lot of solids in my stash (but there is a bucket labeled ‘solidish’).  Not a lot of fabrics to rest your eyes on and compose yourself before wildly dashing off to the next jolt of color.

My dad has more conservative tastes.  When I asked him about a quilt for his room, he said he would just like it to be blue.  Blue as it turns out is one of my very favorites (okay it’s the colors between green and blue that really float my boat, gotta love those turquoises!) so I have three buckets of blue, so we were good to go on that front.  But I thought blue by itself might be boring so it needed some yellow.  Yellow and blue is a classic quilt color choice, yes?  It could look kind of traditional if I tried.  Hard enough.

I went off to collect some yellow (not having even a quarter bucket full) and picked a pattern by Bonnie Hunter at Quiltville.com.  Her Pineapple Blossom is lovely and she has some fantastic stitching shortcuts that make the sewing fun and breezy (plus you get bonus triangles!!!).  It’s a sort of half-pineapple, and if you don’t know what that is, it’s a lopped off log cabin with triangles on the corners (in this case, on opposing corners only, not all four corners).  Those triangles get you a secondary diagonal pattern which just plain old rocks!  I left off the sashing to let the diagonals meet.

Instead of just using any old blues, I used lights and darks, alternating on either side of the block.  So then there are pronounced diamonds of light and dark blues set off by the yellow diagonals.  It came out a bit brighter than I intended, but it felt like the quilt was infused with liquid sunshine, and it made me smile.

Dads birthday quilt 2008

Quiltville's Pineapple Blossom pattern done in blue and yellow

For the back I picked 10 inch squares of alternating lights and darks in blues.  I didn’t have enough of the one fabric I wanted to use for the back so piecing it out of the three buckets of blue worked a lot better.  One of my favorite fabric designers is Martha Negley and her cone flower print (in yellow flowers on a blue background) I just loved, but only had a yard and half, so I matched the colors of that for the other fabrics.  Cone flowers are known for their healing abilities and since my dad had been struggling with his health, I thought this might be a nice thing to add to his quilt.  Plus I figured if the front was too bold and graphic for his tastes, he could turn the quilt over on the back and use that side instead :).  My stepmother I knew would love both sides so she’d be happy with whatever I made.

10 inch squares on back of pineapple blossom quilt

10 inch squares on back of pineapple blossom quilt

The bonus triangles you get from this pattern are a blast and I used them in the border, and still have a stash for my next Frankenquilt (quilts made of cast off spare parts from other quilts).  I found a New York print with the Statue of Liberty and bound the quilt with that (and use it for a narrow border as well).  I quilted it with a celestial moon and sun pantograph pattern on my longarm (pattern is Celestial Stitches by Kim Darwin, available here from Longarm University) and then showed it off at the guild meeting.  Even though it was past my dad’s birthday, I felt an urgency to finish and send it to him that I hadn’t expected.

Celestial stitches pantograph (from Longarm University)

quilting close up of pineapple blossom front

Before I could even get it in the mail, I got the call.  My dad’s brother had died quite suddenly, by suicide.  He had a construction company and the economy had killed off his business, and he couldn’t face the consequences.  My dad was devastated and from across the country there was very little I could do to comfort him.  So I sent him his quilt.

When he received it, he just loved it, wild fabrics and all.  He loves the colors and pattern, and especially loves the fact that I made it for him.  He said that it makes him feel much closer to me, to have the quilt in his house, and that he really appreciate the time and care, especially when things were so difficult for him at that time.

So one quilt.  One story.  Many families.  It’s why we do what we do.

Kendra Allen’s ‘Global Warming’ quilt

Posted in news,Quilts,White Lotus Quilting studio by whitelotusquilting on April 10, 2007
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Kendras global warming quilt

Kendra's global warming quilt

 

 

It might not be news to any of you local quilters but I thought I’d pass along the good news to our farther-flung friends.  Kendra Allen’s ‘Global Warming’ quilt, about the plight of drowning polar bears, won the blue ribbon for its category, group art quilt, in the Kitsap Quilter’s Guild show this past February.
I feel like a proud parent because Kendra laid this quilt top out in my studio before she pieced it together; and I had the privilege of quilting it when she was done.  To me this is a wonderful confirmation of the value of collaboration.  As artists we inspire and reanimate each other with excitement for our medium and perhaps even encourage each other to try new mediums of expression.
If you haven’t discovered Gwen Marston or Freddy Moran yet, why not try their joint book, called ‘Collaborative Quilting’?  It’s a great exploration of how quilt artists influence each other and a great reference book for Gwen’s and Freddy’s designs.  And of course it’s a great coffee table book, a book of bright colorful designs to leaf through on a rainy day.  Not that we have many of those in the Northwest or anything. 🙂

 

 

Kwan Yin and the White Lotus name

Posted in Quilts,White Lotus Quilting studio by whitelotusquilting on February 21, 2007
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Kwan Yin quilt

A lot of people have asked me where the White Lotus name comes from and what it means.  To explain I’ll have to tell you a little about my Kwan Yin quilt project I did for a recent art show.

The Kwan Yin quilt hangs in my office now and I look at it every day, and a small portion of its center section is shown above.  (You can see the rest of it in the OH MY GODDESS! virtual tour). Kwan Yin is the Chinese goddess of compassion, and her image through several cultures is reflected in the center of the quilt, which I constructed to look like a meditation pond.  Serene koi float in the pond, behind leafy green fantasy leaves that sprout three-dimensional water lilies or lotuses.  Miniature prayer flags drape over the still silent water, and you can almost hear their fluttering in the breeze.

Her Chinese image is shown above, and there is also an image from Japan (Kannon) and from Tibet (Green Tara).  She is known as the ‘one who hears the cries of the world,’ and it is said that she has vowed to stay outside of heaven, tending to the mortals of this world, until there is no more suffering to alleviate.  Likewise she sees the good in all, even in those things and people that we have a hard time seeing beauty in.  On my quilt there is a giant eye at the top, complete with center mirror, to signify the eye that sees the good in all.

At the bottom is a section that represents the story of the shattered sword.  Kwan Yin’s compassion is said to be so deep that if one were about to be executed, and cried out to Kwan Yin in sincerity, the executioner’s blade would fall shattered to the ground.

I respect and admire this deity because she embodies so much of who I strive to be.  In my work, I want to see the best in every quilt, honor each and every creative impulse of my clients, and make their pieces shine.  In my personal life I want to open my heart to the suffering of others and alleviate it, even if in some small tiny way.

Kwan Yin is often associated with the white lotus and is sometimes depicted carrying one.  It is a symbol of enlightenment and healing.  When I went to choose a name for my business it seemed the obvious choice.

Patriotic colors for Presidents’ Day

Posted in Quilting tips and techniques,Quilts by whitelotusquilting on February 19, 2007
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Carden quilt in process

One of the best investments I’ve made in my studio so far is the 8’ by 10’ design wall.  Made of insulation foam board, affixed to the wall and covered with batting, it provides a sticky surface for pieced cotton blocks, and an opportunity to stand back from your work and notice how it works at a distance.

Above is a composition in progress designed by the homeschoolers I teach.  They’re studying quilting as both an art and a mathematics class and if you’re a quilter you know you use both in everything you make.

The curvy striped blocks made by the homeschoolers look plain by themselves but when laid out with the funky stack-and-shuffle stars they sewed, a whole new energy emerges.  When seen close-up the stripes don’t match, but from far away the center blocks take on a kind of pinwheel effect that you can’t really see up close.  The stars almost look as if they’re being flung away from the center, or maybe being spun by a sharp wind, shimmering like salmon scales as they twirl.

It’s said that sometimes we can’t see the forest for the trees in our own lives.  Maybe all we need is a design wall to get a little distance, and see things in perspective.

Powerless in Seattle

Posted in Quilts,Sheltie staff by whitelotusquilting on December 19, 2006
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Snow Frosted Penny
Okay so this isn’t really a story about a snow-flecked dog returning to the warmth from the cold outside — but it’s not so different.  I’m about as graceful as my dog without the heat and light (and hot water) that power provides.  And that’s an uncomfortable if not inconvenient truth.

The recent wind storm knocked out a feeder line to our island, and the whole place, even our little downtown district, went dark.  And cold, very cold.  The first night was a little romantic, and even though I wasn’t able to work on my sewing machines, I was able to knit by warm yellow candlelight.

By the next day I was missing hot water and followed my husband to work like the proverbial lamb that followed Mary to school.  I took a shower and felt human (ewe-man?) again.  The second night was more difficult.  We have only a fireplace for heat and frankly more of the heat goes up the chimney than in the house.  So we shivered under piles of wool blankets, got very little sleep, and went back into my husband’s work on the weekend for heat and hot showers.

And found a hotel for the third night.  One that would take four dogs and had power.  I never thought a warm room would feel so good (or that there could be so much dog breath in such a small enclosed space).  Or that so many other power-less people would be our companions in the other rooms of the very full hotel.

I became, suddenly, uncomfortably aware of the dependency we have as a family on our power, our heat, our light, our Internet provider (they were out of power too), our cell phones.  You can’t charge what you can’t plug in, eh?  And my heart opened for the people who suffer day in and out on the streets, homeless, their warm rooms and hot showers rare occurrences to be treasured.

Maybe it’s because of the coincidence of working on Kendra’s “Global Warming” quilt , but it also made me more determined to become carbon emissions neutral as a family, and to find a way to wean us off the power grid, one appliance (or sewing machine?) at a time, so there is more for everyone to share.  Hope you’re feeling power-ful, warm, safe, healthy, happy and at ease this holiday season.  And make sure you have enough batteries, flashlights, and well, of course, dog kibble.

The invisible woman

Posted in Quilts,vintage by whitelotusquilting on December 4, 2006
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Anne Chinnery Brady & Frank Brady ca. 1934

There’s a current TV commercial that captures how I have sometimes felt as a wife and a mother: invisible.  In the commercial, an invisible force moves a child back away from the television; it changes a diaper, it moves folded clean wash upstairs; it magically finds a sock that a husband can’t seem to place.  The invisible, all-knowing, all-powerful force.

For what an amazing and powerful influence mothers and grandmothers have over our lives, it is astonishing that more of us don’t know their names.  For artist Kendra Allen, this became particularly poignant as she worked on gathering information for her grandmother’s names quilt.  The quilt top itself she won at a raffle at a local quilting guild; perfect in its imperfections she wanted the quilting to capture a forgotten era.  So she quizzed people for their grandmother’s names, surprised and saddened by the number of people who could not answer her question.  After she commissioned me to quilt the top I joined her in the quest for names of our older generation, names that helped build a nation.  I, too, was shocked by how many people simply don’t know who their grandmothers were.

So how is it that we don’t know?  How can we forget, or worse yet, not notice, the contributions of women without whom we would not — could not — be here?  That seems a tragedy of the worst kind.

Since my own grandmother Anne Chinnery Brady recently died in September, I’ve been thinking about ways to remember her and honor the impact she had on me.  Her photo above, taken with her husband to be around 1934, reminds me of the optimism and innocence each of us begins with on the path of marriage and motherhood, before she had five children, two of which died before she did, and before her husband could die young, before seeing any of his grandchildren.  Anne (born Anna) taught me to sew and knit and passed on her love of the textile arts, and I am deeply grateful for that.  Every time I teach someone else, I am passing her gift forward.

Glance at Kendra’s quilt in the finished quilts gallery on this web site.  Think about your own grandmothers and what an impact they had on you.  And leave your mark on your family and friends — don’t be content to remain invisible.

It must be something viral

Posted in Arts n Crafts,Quilts,Sheltie staff by whitelotusquilting on November 6, 2006
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Tidepool quilt 2

I’ve been a voracious (okay compulsive) knitter for a dozen years now, and have taught hundreds of people how to knit.  So it may not be obvious why I’m quilting so much at the moment.  But there is a direct connection.  Sort of.

One of my knitting students, Leslie, happily took her skills to her quilting group in Seattle and slowly but surely turned the group into a knitting group with her passion for the craft.  I was a regular member when I traveled into the city several times a week.  They call themselves ‘Fiber Fiends.’  Of course.  I’ve also been a member of a group called ‘Fiber Fairies,’ and I suppose ‘Fiber Fanatics’ would describe the group I’m currently in.

Yes.  The key word is FIBER.

It could easily be suggested that the Fiber Fiends turned me into a quilter — just by association.  Leslie pursed her lips when glancing at the Tidepool quilt on my bed.  “It must be something viral,” she said with a sly grin.  She was of course relieved that I wouldn’t be pursuing quilting with the same compulsiveness that I have approached all the other fiber arts with.  Ha ha.

If it’s fiber, it’s in our house.  Thread, yarn, fabric, raw wool and alpaca for spinning, batting, felt, and so forth, with of course the enticing embellishments like beads, sequins, buttons, angelina (fusible iridescent fiber, yum!) and of course glitter.

Ooooh, shiny.