Friday, 30 May 2008

sun dappled tulips

Dear Lene,

I'm sorry it's been such a long while. While I know that we're not in any kind of race here, I was feeling for a while like you were getting so far ahead of me (I'm still on my first block!). This month is just crazy all around, and these one yard square blocks are not very portable, or good for working on except when I can give the work my full attention.

The good news is that I feel like I finally got back into the swing of the project. I spent yesterday morning basting down a half dozen tulips, and just seeing them laid out there on the background made the whole pattern really come together for me. I spent a good part of the afternoon sitting outside (it was a truly gorgeous spring day here) and peacefully appliquéing.

I now have seven of the twelve tulips appliquéd. It turns out that it's really only possible for me to place them on the background nicely when there's a mirror-image one to place as well (at least for the side tulips - the ones on the long straight stems are pretty easy). I had mentioned earlier that the side tulips create a bit of a mirror image - I'm not sure if you can see it from this angle, but this is what I mean:

In the past, when I've done this type of appliqué pattern, I've used a vinyl overlay - tracing the full pattern onto vinyl, putting it over my background, and slipping the pieces into place using that as a guide. That method can create perfect symmetry, but in this quilt, I'm not interested in perfect symmetry. I love the old quilt, the sometimes crooked tulips, and all the quirks that give it some life. So I'm just placing the pieces down by eye here. I think (hope!) that it will all work out in the end. While it may have some small imperfections or a bit of imbalance, I think it will stay true to the spirit of the old quilt.

This last picture has some shadows, but I think gives a good sense of the overall block. I took it late yesterday afternoon, on my porch, so you can see the shadow of the wrought iron fence on the quilt.

I managed to wash the second piece of background fabric (for some reason I can't explain, I'm handwashing it as I go along), and I'm going to get down the last set of stems and leaves today, hopefully I'll also get a chance to baste the big yellow piece for the second block as well.

Did I ever tell you how I got interested in appliqué in the first place? It wasn't something that immediately interested me when I started quilting. Years ago, before the American Folk Art Museum moved to it's new location, they had a smaller gallery where they'd have an annual show of antique quilts. One year, the show included an absolutely amazing Baltimore Album quilt. (That link is to the Maryland Historical Society, and years ago I was lucky enough to travel there to see a large part of their amazing quilt collection in person.) The first time I saw the quilt at the AFAM, I was stunned - speechless. I just stood there and examined it from every angle, captivated by the intricate work and incredibly tiny stitches. I thought, "I want to do that" and set out to get my appliqué skills up to par (I'm still not sure they're there yet...). For a few years I did a lot of papercut appliqué, a few repro's of Baltimore blocks, and then my tastes changed a bit and I became more interested in less intricate patterns, bigger pieces, and eventually the 4-block bug bit me.

[One funny thing? One of the things that made me lose a bit of interest in the intricate blocks was when I realized that the definitive books with the old patterns had shrunken the designs down to a modern 12" size. A lot of the antique blocks are about 16", and I felt somehow cheated, being tricked into doing such complicated work on a smaller scale than was necessary. While I could have enlarged them, the damage was done, and it was sort of like the end to a relationship that was wrong from the very beginning.]

One of these days I'll find some of those older blocks that I made and take some pictures for you. It's hard having you so far away - if you were closer we could just spend days pulling things off of shelves and out of boxes and playing with them.



suzanne said...

Dear Cassie,

It's great to see your block come together as a whole.

Your remark about pulling things out of the closet for Lene? What about us, your blog readers??? We're still waiting to see the photos of old aip's (appliques in progress) you promised in your previous post, so maybe it's good that Lene is not that close.

Both of your continues to be so interesting!

Leila said...

I love the photo with the shadows. It seems extra lifelike. And the blocks are coming together very nicely! I really enjoyed getting an overall view, with large pieces of all of the great colors.