January 30, 2013

Big Box Drop

What would you do with approximately 40 lbs. of Honey Honey scraps to make the world a little sweeter? Leave a comment (only one, please) and this giant box might land on your doorstep! Lucky winner will be announced on February 1st.

January 29, 2013

Ice Clock

Every morning, Pete goes outside and flips the birdbath over to empty the ice block that forms in it overnight. I looked out the window today and realized it has been below freezing here for this many days...
...oh spring, you can't get here soon enough!

January 25, 2013

Quilting Crossroads: Gee's Bend, Alabama

Early on a Sunday morning now almost two weeks ago (but seems like yesterday!), Pete and i drove from Atlanta to Gee’s Bend, Alabama – a rural community on an oxbow in the Alabama River, about 30 miles southwest of Selma and the famous Edmund Pettus Bridge. Gee’s Bend is also known as Boykin, Alabama. The land stretches out far and wide in every direction. We turned off Route 5 and headed along County Road 29 for a ways...
...and then we could tell we were getting close because these colorful hand-painted murals of Gee's Bend quilts started popping up in people's yards. The gray of the day set the colors off so beautifully.
We learned that these were built and hand painted by Reverend McCloud (himself a resident quilter) in 2006, when ten Gee’s Bend quilts were featured on U.S. postage stamps. There’s also a sign that harkens to the Civil Rights Movement in the 1960s:
Gee's Bend became an important part of the mid-1960s Freedom Quilting Bee, which grew out of the Civil Rights movement and was designed to boost family income and foster community development by selling crafts. When not sewing in their homes, many of the quilters can be found here at the Quilter's Collective...
...which is where we met with the gracious, talented, and infectiously upbeat Mary Ann Pettway, who heads the Gee’s Bend Quilters Collective. She learned to sew at a young age at her mother’s side. Here she is showing us a quilt she made using her favorite colors, red and black ...
...and another she made from scraps of old U.S. Postal Service shirts sent by a friend in California.
Here's another quilt Mary Ann made using old denim bluejeans and corduroy pant legs...
While quilting in Gee's Bend spans from slavery to today, it seems that it is not so much the longevity of the quilting tradition here, as it is the quilts themselves (most of them entirely handmade) that draw people to this remote place to learn more about the people who make them. The quilts' exuberant colors and convergent harmonies are like something out of a Matisse collage or Rothko painting. The people and the quilts are remarkable, and inseparable.

Then Mary Ann pulled these out of a plastic bag she had carried in with her...
WOW, huh? Look at all those beautiful blocks! They were all created and hand sewn by Mary Ann. She mentioned that she likes to sew these in the car on long rides … as a passenger. Yes, we were also relieved to hear she wasn't DWS (Driving While Sewing). I sure was surprised to see how small some of the pieces were. Look really carefully and you'll see what i mean! I asked Mary Ann if she ever has a quilt design in mind when she begins to sew. Her reply was that she does not. She sews when the spirit moves her and she picks colors she likes to see next to each other. Pete was quick to pull out his iphone to record a little of our chat-and-giggle...
I know the quality is not so great and the sound is a little hard to hear, but i'm sure you caught the most important part...Mary Ann loves making quilts! She loves it so much she can't stop. I have a hunch that some of you might know that feeling too. Just a hunch. I could have listened to her stories all day. As it was, we sat together side-by-side for almost two hours...talking (and mostly laughing)...
A terrific article in Smithsonian Magazine explains the background and how Gee’s Bend quilts gained international attention; and for a visual treat, check out Auburn University’s Gee’s Bend Quilts site.

As it was Sunday, Mary Ann kindly invited us to her church, the Pleasant Grove Baptist Church in Gee’s Bend. It was photographed in the 1930s by Arthur Rothstein for the U.S. Resettlement Department and visited by Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. in January 1965. There were about 80 people of all ages in the church and another 20 in the choir. We will always remember the inspiring music and sermon we heard that day, and how welcomed we were by everyone. After church, we joined Mary Ann, Pastor Lockett, Reverend McCloud, and the Pleasant Grove community for their semi-annual fellowship dinner in the adjacent hall. We had a great time and made some good friends – many of whom had visited or once lived in our town, Bridgeport, Connecticut. Small world!

On our way to catch the ferry from Gee’s Bend, MaryAnn took us to say a quick hello to her cousin and Gee’s Bend quilting legend, Mary Lee Bendolph.
Even while feeling a bit unworthy as a novice quilter, i was so happy to be in the company of these special ladies.
MaryAnn Pettway, me, and Mary Lee Bendolph at Mary Lee’s house
One of the quilts Mary Lee created (an image of this particular quilt can be found here on the Auburn site) has a pretty funny story behind it. As explained on that site:

In the early 1990s, a former Bend resident living in Bridgeport, Connecticut, sent some garments –double-knit leisure suits – to Gee's Bend. Mary Lee Bendolph remembers: "My sister-in-law's daughter sent those clothes down here and told me to give them away, but didn't nobody want them. That knit stuff, clothes from way back yonder, don't nobody wear no more, and the pants was all bellbottom. We ain't that out-of-style down here. I was going to take them to the Salvation Army but didn't have no way to get there, so I just made quilts out of them."

Although Mary Lee has been recovering from a stroke, she was full of good cheer and so hospitable the day we met her. I came away deeply moved and humbled by all the goodness and talents in Gee’s Bend, despite the various challenges they face. If you’ve got some extra fabric — other than double-knit leisure suits! — or sewing materials looking for a good home, by all means keep these women in mind.

Gee’s Bend Quilters
Attn. MaryAnn Pettway
14570 County Rd 29
Boykin, AL 36723

As the evening ferry pulled away from the shores of Gee's Bend, we left with uplifted spirits after spending a day with our new friends. If you’ve got a chance to visit, go (and give everyone a big hug for me).

January 10, 2013

happy new year

Hello, hello! I hope you enjoyed a wonderful holiday season with family and friends. We're only 10 days in and i'm happy to say that 2013 has already gotten off to a good start here. There is something exhilarating about starting fresh and standing with your toes curled around the edge of a brand new year ready to push off and dive in with all your heart and soul. Do you get that feeling too? For me, part of life's adventure involves welcoming and accepting the uncertainty of how the year's events will unfold — and living with the awareness that each day is truly, truly a gift. Another part is a big bundle of pure excitement about all the things you set out to do intentionally with a determination that's guided by your dreams, ambitions and hopes. So let's dive off and go for it!

One of my favorite blogs is called the improvised life, ideas that inspire. If you are looking for a little lift to your spirits, you may find something there...i always seem to, and just when i need it. It's kind of like a candy store of zany links, beautiful images, food for thought, and lots of eclectic gems. One of the recent entries included this poster by Singapore design firm, Pupilpeople. I loved it so much, and thought you might enjoy taking its messages into your life too.
© Pupilpeople
I also love Leo Babauta's blog, zenhabits, and found some tidbits in this post that resonated with me —especially at the onset of this new year. But don't stop there...there's a whole archive of wonderful topics to poke around in if you'd like.

This weekend, we are so excited to be heading off to Atlanta to attend the Gift Show and to meet with some collaborators about new products and projects. We'll also be visiting with some wonderful and hugely talented people outside the show including:

Cathy, Lisa, Lawrence, Melissa, and the talented team at International Greetings USA
Aubrey and Ellen at Southern Fabric
Deborah at Whipstitch Fabrics 

After Atlanta, we’ll be road-tripping it southwest to Gee’s Bend, Alabama – famous for the stunning quilts that 5 generations of artisans have created and continue to create there. Photographs in the Gee’s Bend quilt catalog at Auburn University begin to tell the story. A moving article by Amei Wallach in the October 2006 Smithsonian magazine provides essential context and history – and some beautiful photos. We are so deeply grateful to Mary Ann Pettway and members of the Gee’s Bend Quilting Cooperative for letting us stop by for a visit.

After Gee’s Bend, we’ll continue on to Louisiana to visit with the wonderful Janet and Jennifer at Lola Pink Fabrics, Christine at Sew This, and Pearl at Bright Hopes. Can't wait!!

And, other exciting news...Honey Honey yardage should be shipping any. minute. now!
**Newsflash: I just hit "publish" on this post and then found out that Honey Honey yardage has indeed SHIPPED! It's already landed at Fat Quarter Shop! Woot!)
There have been some sweet (pun intended) projects on the Moda Bake Shop recently that you might like to have a peek  at. Check out the lovely "Prairie Traditions Quilt" by Karen Ackva or the adorable "Sleepy Jean Crib Quilt" by Dawn Stewart. You can also download a free quilt pattern i designed for Moda, called Apiary, or purchase a printed hard-copy of it from Fat Quarter Shop when it's available.
**Another newsflash: I almost forgot my favorite Jaybird Quilts! Julie has a very cool hexy quilt pattern called Science Fair that you also might want to try your hand at making.**

To celebrate a new year and a new fabric collection, we'll be doing a giveaway! Be sure you’re signed up for my newsletter and you’ll be automatically entered to win some Honey Honey. We will randomly select a reader in the next 2 weeks and announce the winner in our next newsletter.

Here's hoping for good health, much happiness (lots of fabric) and a year filled with new adventures for all of us! Off to start packing..