True confession? So, yeah, I ruminate. Not like a cow, of course, but I let thoughts mull around if they seem to want to stick around. This plays out in two ways that are relevant here: (1) events and statements (whether written or spoken) are dissected or abstracted through the process of essentially over-thinking; and (2) when design ideas take hold, assuredly I’ll pursue it feverishly until it’s time to eat or until the fever breaks.
And then sometimes both (1) and (2) occur simultaneously.
What about those log cabins? Well, some might call these iconic quilt structures “irrelevant” or “played-out,” while I currently find them captivating. The duality holds here: (1) what meaning might these shapes express? and (2) why is the process of building these rectangles untiring? I can’t say that I have answers yet. But we’ll just dwell here a while. Okay?
Last October, while wandering through the marketplace at Quilt Festival in Houston, we happened upon an amazing vintage quilt made of about 1000 tiny log cabin blocks. Each log was roughly 1/8″ wide (finished); it was scrappy; the fabrics spanned decades and ranged from silks to velvets to polyester. And it’s stunning. It was in terrible shape but also terribly over-priced, so I just asked permission to snap a photo and then fondled until I had a sense of how it was made. [The seller agreed to the photo, but insisted that I shouldn’t post it online. I’ve honored her limitation.] Anyway, it was foundation pieced by hand on silks and cottons and then tied.
My buddy Jacey triple dog-dared me (…or maybe I dared her to dare me?). Meh. From the moment I saw the thing, I knew I’d be exploring the possibilities. I was an easy mark. Just call me Stinson. Barney Stinson.
Worked up a template and then pieced onto paper, this was my first attempt. The same template on silk formed the basis for this bigger indigo project, though.
With my precious/hoarded indigos that I handdyed on Osnaburg and flour sacks, I slowly built out to a big rippled and maddening square using increasingly wide logs.
Blips of color kept the process interesting. But there was something primal about the improvisation within the traditional construction. The pristine center that I’d manicured carefully quickly became the free-ranging, ramshackle patchwork with personality…and, dare I say, soul.
With aggressive basting and after quilting my guts out the patchwork yielded. Wet blocking further calmed. The metaphor gets too personal here. But I will say that the process of forcing the patchwork to comply with the rules of civil quilt society was not unlike the changes—through both internal and external forces—of the past two generations of my family.
A bit on the nose, but the dirt floor shack my dad was raised in? Well…yeah. But the structures of both are sound. Some of the best human beings I know are associated with that house in the mountains. And this quilt will function well as a quilt…the patchwork, however, was just fine without the struggle to force it to submit to my will.
Anyway, in retrospect, it seems that this one is not about that house in the mountains. This one reminds me more of my grandmother’s house; hence the name. From here, I want to try to capture that other house. But I need to get at the orange clay…the orange veneer that you take home with you…and the presence of the past I feel in my bones when there. We must go deeper. But we can also go shallow and explore the worlds that we encountered after experiencing all that history.
That’s just a buncha rambling, though. Someday I’ll figure out how to discuss this.
Or we could try to make something devoid of meaning, just for the fun of applying logs, spiraling over and over and over and… That fun truly gives it meaning too.
Pattern: precision and improv patchwork
Materials:scraps from the bin: handdyed indigo flour sack and osnaburg; flour sack; muslin; kona snow; osnaburg
Techniques: machined pieced; foundation pieced; machine quilted; and hand-bound
Finished size: 48″ x 60″
Started: November 9, 2013
Finished: June 2, 2014