Sunday, December 18, 2005

letter to Mama (about quilt)

October 15, 1895

Dearest Mama,

I was so pleased to get your letter in the mail this morning. I look so forward to news of you and Papa at home. Some days I wonder how I could have left the East and come to this country called Oklahoma. I guess the promise of a different life with a man I love caused me to pick up my trunk and wave goodbye. But, I do miss you and especially our chats about needlework projects.

I have finished the quilt I mentioned in my last letter. It is so different from the other quilts the ladies make here but I thought it would be a good way to show my love for my new baby boy. I will hang it over his cradle so he can know that he has two mothers who love him. I will explain it to him when he is older. He seems so little to me! Thank you so much for making the long train ride here to help me. The scraps you brought from home are already in the quilt.

I decided to use the brown linen piece for the background. I know you wanted me to have it for a table topper for the living room table but linen is so impractical here on the prairie. I do not have the nice help you have in Boston. The rich brown color is perfect. It is surprising how quickly my white linens discolored here. I love them anyway so I put them in the quilt to preserve them.

Some of my friends found out I was making this special quilt and gave me some pieces to use. It really makes the quilt have so much more meaning. Do you remember Rian, the mayor’s wife? She came by with her cute Schnauzer, Riley, when we were having tea. She is so different from me, Mama! She was throwing out an old quilt. Can you imagine? I begged her for a little piece of the corner. I cut it into a heart for the corner of my quilt. I bought some tiny mother of pearl buttons from the dry goods store when I made the christening gown so I had a few extras to use. The teacher at school, Barbara, gave me a charm I sewed on the heart. She also saw my crazy quilt blocks from that sewing circle in Boston. She encouraged me to use some of the stitches again. She had some metallic thread she shared with me. When you go to town next, would you send me some silver threads, please?

One of the ladies from my stitching bee is very good with crazy quilting too. You should see her work, Mama! The Boston ladies would just swoon over her stitches. She had some pictures of the Virgin Mary and showed me how to glue the pictures to fabric. Her name is Allie and she is so accomplished. I think she will be leading the stitching bee next year. She thought I could probably cut the skirt off my taffeta dress and use strips for the pictures. I saved the buttons and sewed them on the patches too.

My neighbor, Joanne, the one who I read to on Tuesday afternoons gave me a very old piece of beading. She said she saved it from her mother’s ball gown when her mother was at the Governor’s Ball in Virginia. Joanne really wanted me to have the piece. I feel so honored. I am sure it is her way of saving Thank you for reading to her. Her eyes are beginning to fail her and it is a pity since she is young too.

I added the pocket from Wesley’s mother’s dress and a little appliqué from her wedding dress. He is so sentimental to have saved it for me. He knows I cherish these little tidbits of history. Maybe it is his way of helping me adjust to this life that is so different from Boston. He likes it here—he is working on the town’s design so he is happy. He comes home with news of oil in the land near us. I am not sure what we would do with oil but he is sure it would make us rich.

Let’s see. I also used a scrap from the couch in Boston. I still love the leaves on that linen fabric. I had that very old tatted lace from Grandmama and I sewed it down without cutting it. I had a few pieces that I tried to tat too. They are not as good as Grandmama’s piece but I used them anyway. I had some homespun left from my apron and a piece for a smock I didn’t make so I used them for the quilt.

Oh, Mama, you should see how this piece looks! You would be so happy to know I am becoming an accomplished stitcher like you. Those long hours in the parlor practicing my handsewing may become a real nice hobby here in Norman. The ladies do like to get together and sew, have tea and pretend we are back home in the East. Although this is home now, isn’t it?

Give my love to Papa. I will send a picture when Wesley takes me to the capitol in November for the monthly legislative meeting. Oklahoma City has some stores and a nice hotel. He promises I can go with him. He wants a family portrait taken with his new baby boy. I’ll sneak in the quilt too!

Warmest love,


(As you can see, I took some creative license here! Plus, Blogger didn't accept my handwriting font but you get the drift, I hope!)

Pictures of Our Lady of Unconditional Love

Our Lady of Unconditional Love
32 x 47 inches
collage quilt with photo transfer, machine embroidery, hand quilting, dyed and distressed linens & laces, various fabrics
October through December 2005
Debra Spincic

Our Lady of Unconditional Love
Our Lady of Unconditional Love

Lady Transfer
Main Madonna Photo Transfer with Gel Medium

Embroidery Stitches
Smaller Madonna Image with embroidery stitches

Detail of Linens

Heart Detail
Heart Detail with buttons and charm

Pocket Detail
Pocket Detail & Stamped Rose on Taffeta

Thursday, December 15, 2005

House of Gold, Pray for Us

House of Gold Pray for Us
Barbara Curiel

This piece evolved out of a stained silk tunic with elaborate beading that I wanted to find a new life for. I also wanted to make a gold Madonna piece with a lot of beading. The challenge to me in making this quilt was to use recycled elements, but to mask their origin and to integrate them into the piece as a whole.

I attached the beaded silk to a flannel foundation and added elements, including New York Beauty squares pieced from old brocade and metallic printed cotton, and some antique lace. The whole piece was beaded and sequined by hand. It was then sewn to Peltex, and the “roof” is Peltex covered with brocade. I had to think through the construction of the roof and the binding, and ended up attaching the roof and then applying a single-layer binding.

I added phrases taken from the Great Mary Litany, one of the most beautiful pieces of liturgical poetry, with machine embroidery around the edges. The phrases I used are from a series of poetic images which describe the Madonna in architectural terms: Tower of David,
Palace of Ivory,
House of Gold,
Ark of the Covenant,
Gate of Heaven,
Temple of the Divinity,
Throne of the Eternal King,
Sanctuary of the Holy Spirit,
Keeper of the portal. The whole prayer is beautiful, but these images expressed what I was trying to articulate with my work: that Mary is a refuge and a pillar of lasting strength.

Monday, December 05, 2005

Repeating Images

Bright Mary
As I have mentioned before, everything I sew begins with the
Trickle Down Theory. I try some technique out somewhere on something that I plan to use again on some more important project.

Saturday night was a night to experiment. I have an upcoming deadline for the ARTImage Challenge. One of my ideas was to use a new program called Kaleidoscope Kreator 2.0 to design the images for the piece. The ARTImage Challenge piece this month is by the dutch artist, M.C. Escher and it involves repeated background motifs in black and white. My new kaleidoscope software does a great job of capturing images to repeat. For the Escher piece I want to use Victorian women's images. At the tailend of saving those images, I decided to experiment with some Virgin images.

Hours later, I was still entralled. I can definitely see that my Spring Madonna piece will use some of these images. Just a few for your viewing pleasure:

Mary 2

Queen Mary

Friday, November 25, 2005

Choosing Images

I got to the stage with my Gold Madonna where I had to choose an image to put in the middle of all that beading. I have been concerned about copyright issues with some of the images I've looked at because, although most are more than 100 years old, the photographs of the images are not, and may be copyright protected. I decided to look at photographing images I have in my house and using these in my projects.

The first image is my photo of my Virgin of Guadalupe statue, one of those mass-produced popular statues, I bought her at a stall near the border in Tijuana. She has a bit of the Barbie doll look to her, but I changed the photo from color to sepia, and I think this has some possibilities. The second image is a photo of a small plaque I bought when I was pregnant with my daughter. It's a reproduction of an unidentified icon, and it has a lot a personal meaning to me.

It occurred to me Debra, that with your virgin collection, you've got a lot of images around you. Have you thought of using any of those?


Thursday, November 17, 2005

Almost Ready for Quilting

Madonna with pinned borders
My original intent with this wallhanging was to use the paisley border that came on the bottom of this linen fabric. Once the wallhanging was constructed, the border seemed too much. Likewise, I thought about using 2 striped fabrics that I had bought for the project. They didn't have any specialness about them either. So, 3 of the border choices were abandoned. I am going to have a top thin border but it is folded under the bottom rose fabric. I haven't cut it yet.

I thought that I would embellish this piece heavily too. Once the lace fragments (many of them are hand crochetted or tatted) were sewn on, I liked them enough by themselves that I doubt I will do much more embellishing, except to add some buttons in key spots.

I have enjoyed the machine stitching as embellishments. The linen has been a bit of a challenge. It wants to stretch out of shape. But, I like the way the brown gives the lace importance and makes the whole piece look very old fashioned.printed tape

Once I attach the borders, I will begin the handquilting. The stitches on my test sample sunk into the linen due to the coarseness of the fabric but I think I will still be able to get the impression that I love with handquilting. teadyed linen

The overall piece is about 45 x 35 inches. This doily was teadyed because it turned out to be "too white" for the composition.

rubberstamped roserubberstamped rose on taffeta for the border

I have wanted to make something that was reminiscent of an old fashioned dress with apron or lace blouse. I think this recalls that feeling. I envision Mary wearing something like this wallhanging--like a pioneer woman's prairie ensemble.

Tuesday, November 15, 2005

Our Lady of the Flowers (9x11)

I took the plunge a bought a new sewing machine also. Debra is such an inspiration in all things artistic that I couldn't resist. That, and my 30 year old Viking bit the dust. This is a test piece that I made to try out some of the features on my new machine. It's fun having so many possibilities at my disposal. Barbara

Thursday, November 10, 2005

Stitching up Madonna

Examples of the Madonna blocks that I plan to inset into my background piece. I am going to cut a "window" in the background and have these units behind each window.

Having fun trying out the new decorative stiches on my machine. I am leaving plenty of space for beading & even an additional row of stitches. Stitches are on taffeta with the raw edge showing against the edge of the image. ~~~Debra

Monday, November 07, 2005

Our Lady of the Trees

This turned out to be a fun and fulfilling project. I'm still working on the laborious hand work on my Gold Madonna, but this one was spontaneous and I really like the looks of it. My experience is that these accidental compositions are some of the best ones. The question then is, how do we as artists create the conditions for these happy accidents? Perhaps the key is to mess around with our materials a lot so that new things can jump out at us.

I solved the binding issue on this piece by doing a blanket stitch with pearl cotton by hand all around the edge. Then I slip stitched that brocade strip to the back on one side so that it extends over the edge. I'm liking the looks of these unfinished edges. One of my challenges is to not automatically turn every edge under. The larger photo makes it look wavy-edged, but I just need to block it more.

This is a small piece, 11x21. It's really the perfect size for a devotional item that one person will use for meditation.

Saturday, November 05, 2005

Fall Preliminary Madonna

Overall Look
The Main Structure

Detail of Section with Unconditional Love

Main Madonna
Main Madonna

Paisley Border
I plan to cut the bottom paisleys and add the roses as applique in the quilt's body

Tuesday, November 01, 2005

The Best of the Bunch!

Isn't she beautiful?

Hanging Madonna Out to Dry

On my personal blog today, I mentioned that part of the creative process that is difficult for me is experimenting.


I did just that this morning with the transfers.

I feel like I have made enough to tackle the large one that I plan to be the central portion of my upcoming fall piece. And, you know what, if it bombs, I can make another one---what a novel thought for me!

Here a few tips that I learned:

  1. Make sure the transparency is the right one for your printer. My inkjet printer uses a transparency with a smooth and a rough side. The rough side is the one that accepts and releases the ink.
  2. The images with more contrast show better. Some ink colors give off more color than others even though the transfers are consistent.
  3. When applying the transfer medium, put on a consistent layer. It doesn't have to be very thick but it does have to be even.
  4. When applying the transfer medium, any that goes over the edge of the image has to be dealt with in the piecing or appliquing part so keep that in mind. Don't waste alot on the outside margin. By the same token, make sure the edges are well covered so your whole image transfers.
  5. Let the images dry before "testing" them with your finger!
  6. If the image is not coming out on the edge, repress with your spoon or credit card until the medium releases smoothly.
  7. Be sure and reverse any writing. It has been bugging me for weeks that people said it was possible. Today I found out how to do it-----it is an option on the printing layout.

Too much medium--the image ran when pressure was applied

Some of the ink colors didn't transfer as well as others

Although the full image didn't transfer, I can use this on a Fantasy postcard so a "goof" is OK!

Close to Perfect!

Sunday, October 30, 2005

Working Smaller

Debra posted to her blog about Leslie Riley's recommendation to work smaller in order to get more feelings of accomplishment. I have been thinking about his as well, as I hand embellish my Gold Madonna. I bought a couple of fat quarters of metallic fabrics, which I casually pinned to my design wall, with some other things I had at hand, and look what popped out! I let it sit there for a week, and then thought to myself, well, sew it together! So this week I did. I'm still beading the gold piece, but I also zipped out this quickie madonna (no, this will not be her name). My big breakthrough is using unfinished edges. I did seam the two larger background pieces of fabric, but the long brown strip and the picture are raw edged. I'm also going to do an experimental binding, as I know that inside corner is a challenge. I bought a wavy-edged rotary blade, and I'm going to improvise the edge. We'll see what comes of this.


Sunday, October 23, 2005

Treasure Box

I'm beading my Madonna quilt, still not quite sure what the final product is going to look like, but I'm moving ahead on pure faith. I've attached the surface of the quilt to a piece of flannel, and I'm beading through both layers, adding beads to the original beaded bodice, and to the New York Beauty sections I added. I've designated a space for the Madonna image, but I haven't chosen one yet. Here is a look at how I "organize" my supplies. Everything I'm using goes into a box, and I pull things out as I use them.

I found these cute little bottles to hold beads at the thrift store yesterday. You can't tell their size, but they're about 3" tall.

And here's a glimpse at what I'm doing. I'm making it up as I go along, which is the way I like to work best. --Barbara

Sunday, October 16, 2005

Madonna Transfers Again!

Mommy! Mommy! I did it!

Photos of my transparencies for the Fall Madonna piece!!!!

I will do the transfers to fabric tomorrow. I want them to dry & I have tickets to the Astros game today!

Mucho exciting possibilities with the transfers. Why was I so resistent????? It does help to have the right kind of transparencies. .. .

Main Image

Madonna Images

Madonna Images

Friday, October 14, 2005

Plots and twists

I'm working on my Gold Madonna, designing around that beaded bodice. It's so eye-catching that everything else has to work around it. It occurred to me to add some New York Beauty patches.

I really don't know where I'm headed with this, but I've got a beaded bodice and I'm determined to work smaller than I did last time. I also really want to avoid using other people's patterns, so I decided to draft up my own NYB patches, and this turned out to be a very straightforward process. I found a compass in the kitchen junk drawer, and I used a ruler. I drafted one and then reduced its size and made copies on a photocopy machine.

I didn't make whole blocks, but just the spiky middle section, and I like the way they came out. It looks like I'm going to hand sew all this down, and then embellish. As I was making this up, I remembered that one of the things the Virgin of Guadalupe tells Juan Diego is to build her a temple. That's what I feel like I'm doing.