I met my friend Kate in 2016 while we were both teaching craft and sewing classes at JoAnn Fabrics and Crafts in the Deer Creek Shopping Center in Maplewood. I was not a quilter when I started teaching there, nor was I an expert seamstress. I had quite a bit of experience with simple hand sewing so I was skilled enough to teach kids’ and adults’ beginner level classes in hand sewing and embroidery. I also taught jewelry, paper crafts, some flower arranging, and general crafts. The JoAnn classroom is on hiatus right now. If they ever start having classes again it might be awhile before I can do it again because of other projects – some of which I can write about on this blog and some that I can’t!
I was given some scraps and pieces of things left over from teaching to practice my skills on. The baby quilt section shown above was a remnant that some other teacher pieced as a demo. This section was cut off and discarded so I took it to practice on. I have three other quilts in progress right now – two experimental art quilts and a repair job on a vintage quilt. When I need to move up a skill level, Kate helps me out by showing me some tips and techniques. I’m working a bit on each quilt to improve my techniques as needed to finish the next steps on each. The baby quilt remnant I was given is long and narrow so I’ve decided that when I’m done quilting it, I’m going to turn it into a sleeping bag for dolls and stuffed toys.
I thought I was finished quilting last week, and I hand washed my quilt to clean any dirt off from my hands and get the blue washable marking pen lines off. Unfortunately, I tend to save up a bucket full of hand washable items to wash all at one time to conserve water, and I carelessly washed the quilt with some old fabric items (more about that later) that were so old I didn’t think they would bleed. Apparently they had never been washed before and they bled a little dye on four panes of this quilt. Fortunately I found some fabric in my stash to applique and re-quilt over those squares, that not only goes well with the colors, but features a terrific motif for a toy sleeping bag because of the camping theme. That gives me some more ideas for how to accessorize the sleeping bag to make it “adventure ready”! Now I’m going to like this project even better – that’s one of the life skills art and crafts are good training for – turning problems into wins!
There are personal, regional and world-wide reasons why the last few weeks of life have been especially difficult. I’m not the only one who seeks solace in art and craft activities, especially ones that bring back warm memories of cozy winter afternoons spent with my family making things. There is nothing better on a cold wintry day.
It’s been nice snuggling under the old family quilt my mother in law gave us recently. It was made in the 1930s by my husband’s grandmother and friends. I was given it in the hope I’d make something from it, since it has a few areas of damage and I’m well known for making new things out of old things – a lifelong pursuit. I decided to repair some of the spots before it gets worse, because most of it still looks good and for now I’d prefer to use it than upcycle it if possible.
I could have purchased fabric for repairing this quilt that matches more closely to the old fabric to disguise the repairs more, but I decided to approach this repair as adding a little of my own history to this quilt instead of trying to do a museum quality restoration. I looked in my extensive fabric stash to see how close I could approximate the colors and patterns with what I have, and decided it still looked good and I would enjoy the little differences and the memories from my fabric scraps. My Mom made me a tablecloth out of that multicolor floral print on the right in the early 1980s, and Kate gave me the blue floral scraps, for example. Every time I see the fabric I will remember them and others, that is one of the best things about quilts and quilting. This repair is very satisfying to work on because I’m adding memories and functionality as I go.
My Dad recently went through some things in his basement, and he had an extra quilt that someone gave him so he passed it on to me to clean and repair. It doesn’t have any holes that go all the way through and very few torn patches so we’re using this one until the other repair is finished, then I’ll swap them out and repair the second one. I really get a kick out of these colors and patterns. They look to me like they are from the late 1940s or early 1950s.
I’ve been putting my toe in the water of learning quilting over the last two or three years. I have two art quilts in progress and one baby quilt. Kate is giving me tips as I need them. Repairing quilts is a great way to increase my skills along the way.
In the above photo are some stuffed animals and little pillows I made in the 1970s when I was around the ages of 8-12. The rooster on the right was made from a commercial pattern that my Mom had in her stash and I think I still have it. The others were made by me from my own patterns – I’m not sure about the frog though. That one seems a lot more advanced than the others. It even has wire in it to make it poseable. Well, it probably is mine – it’s not symmetrical and I cut a hole in the back of the head to insert the wire and sewed it back up again, so that was probably an afterthought. The items on the right were recently extricated from my Dad’s basement and I had completely forgotten about most of them. I pretty much liked a lot of the same animals then as I like now – sea life, fish, invertebrates, birds, frogs! I loved little pillows with pockets, then and now! I felt very satisfied when I made these, and I love looking at them now for the memories of where those fabrics came from and how much fun I had. Maybe I’ll make some of these into patterns for kids – that’s one way to make sure a kid can do it! I know there are people who will make kid’s drawings into things, including softies. That’s a fantastic idea I think! I think I’d enjoy teaching kids how to make patterns from their drawings. I’ve loved making patterns since I was young too, though I enjoy following someone else’s from time to time – it rests the brain a little bit!
In 2019 I made the above softies for a niece and nephews. They were both modified from other designs I saw online. The chickens have a little pocket for hiding things under the wing, that’s one of the things I added because I love pockets so much. The monster bunny has a stomach pocket too though I ran out of time to embroider a stomach and intestines on it. My original vision of the monster rabbit also had some other ideas that got put aside as I was running out of time to get it done, but if I make another one I could give them another try. I made a deliberate choice to use crazy mixes of scrap fabric in order to pass on some of my fabric memories to them – even though they don’t know what most of them are, it feels satisfying somehow! I can still enjoy the memories looking at these pictures!
Perennial is a non-profit community workshop and store with the mission of building a creative culture of sustainability and turning discarded items into valuable resources. As an artist and craftsperson who already is enthusiastic about using recycled materials, I was delighted when my friend Mary (pictured at top left) invited me to meet her there and try out one of the community workshop sessions.
I met Mary at a Creative Arts Fellowship last year and got to know her better at some subsequent events. Mary’s art and mine have a lot in common – we both like upcyling materials and taking apart old jewelry to make new. I enjoyed teaching a class with Mary recently at one of her Women’s Upcycled Jewelry Jams. I’m looking forward to more opportunities for Mary and I to collaborate. A gifted artist and teacher, Mary creates under the name Sanctified Studios.
I knew I’d love Perennial after being in there for about two minutes! Seeing all the nice work space, supplies and tools was exciting but what really sold me was the console stereo! Clearly my retro-loving, thrift-shopping, dumpster-diving self was going to feel comfortable here.
At my first work session I cut up some wood for an upcoming class I’m going to be teaching on building garden pollinator houses. Then I put together a wood tray that I’ll be finishing and writing about later.
You can become a member of Perennial to access the work space and use the tools when they hold open sessions. Different levels of membership also give you discounts on classes and other events. Perennial accepts donations of materials. You can trade or purchase some of the materials for what you think is a fair market value. They also make craft kits that are for sale in the shop.
Art and crafting can often be lonely activities. Working around other artists is really healthy for social interaction and for the stimulation of being around new ideas. I’m looking forward to many happy times while I enjoy my new membership!