Friday, April 4, 2014

Feeling Nostalgic

Today, I've decided that I would hang up some of my trillium quilts in the house.  Each month, I hang new quilts in my living room; it gives my largest room a different look; I cycle through my quilts to limit their exposure to light and dust.  I have to say that I am enjoying living with my work so much more than in the past; I guess because I'm not producing as much work at this point in my life.
Sewn Together, original quilt by Ann Fahl  33 x 26 inches.
I happened to unroll a pile of smaller quilts, and out comes my quilt titled Sewn Together. This piece features a featherweight machine that was used by 3 generations of Harvey women.  The first was my Aunt Nelda Vibrans who first purchased the machine.  She grew up in Indiana and spent quite a bit of her life in Chicago. Nelda was the only fiber artist in my family; painting, knitting, sewing and making quilt tops.  Color was what she loved; the two of us used many of the same colors: blue, rose, red, turquoise and purple.
Nelda with her husband Frank Vibrans Sr. in about 1949. She was still sewing with the Featherweight.
Some time later, Nelda gave the machine to her niece Mary Edith Jones.  Mary Edith was a young mother that also liked to sew. Years later, when I was 12 years old, I visited her for a whole month, in Forsyth Georgia; my first time away from my family.  Mary Edith let me sew on this machine, the first time I had ever sat down at one in my life.  I have no idea what I stitched, but it started me down a path of a lifetime of sewing.
Mary Edith with Jasmine the dog in 2005 at age 84.
She exposed me to sewing, and I loved it.  My mother was a pianist who didn't like sewing.  I owe so much to these two women in my family.  They gave me the gift of sewing. This has given me so much creativity and the sense of accomplishment and purpose in my life. One never knows what little idea or craft might spark a child to the extent of changing their life. It certainly was a skill of a lifetime for me!

Teach someone to quilt.

Ann Fahl

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Another Book Finished!

My great grandmother Nannie Harvey, 1950s, standing in the garden which is still beautiful today.

There isn't any quilting in my life at the moment.  I've finished writing The History of the Harvey Cottage. It has 85 pages and over 100 photographs and maps.This particular adventure began in 2005, and the completed manuscript is now in the hands of a friend who will proofread it for me.  Soon it will go to the printer and become a real book for the members of my family to read.

The cottage property was purchased by my great grandparents in 1927 and has been in the family ever since. It is a place that has much influence on who I have become; and inspired many quilts along the way.

In my research, I found this photo of my great grandmother standing in the garden that adjoined the cottage. Her name was Nancy Jane Culbertson 1870-1959.  She was very gentle with her great grandchildren, but she never smiled!  I will always treasure this picture of her. Oh yes, she possibly is the maker of the red and green tulip quilt which I am still restoring.

Friday, March 14, 2014

The Order of Stitching

After all the pieces are fused into position, I work on the embroidery and applique next.  First I begin the with layer that appears to be on the bottom.  So I'll begin with the edges of the blue ginkgo leaf first.  Why?  Because I'm lazy, and don't like to spend lots of time back tacking and pulling threads to the back and tying them! If I do the bottom layer first, then another layer of stitching will eventually cross the ends, and hold them in place.  When I get to the top layer, then I'll have to do a minimum of stitching in place or pulling threads to the back.

Choose your thread carefully. I always use shiny polyester embroidery threads usually variegated ones. Remember that my name is Ann Variegated Fahl.  I love color change.  Unreel an arm's length of thread and let it puddle on the fabric.  Do you like it? If you aren't sure, do a little test stitching first on a scrap to avoid having to tear out lots of embroidery.

Note*  The photos below were taken after the quilt was finished.  However the the embroidery and applique were actually stitched only on the quilt top.

Closeup of Ginkgo Leaf, Florentine Edge Applique
The Florentine Edge Applique is a technique I have created using a free-motion zigzag stitch and a hoop. It gives a versatile wide edge treatment that I just love.  I have written a booklet on the subject of Applique, which gives complete instructions on this technique.  Or you may also refer to a 2013 article that I wrote in the American Quilter magazine fall issue.

Also in a hoop I stitch the veins in the lily pads. I've used a blue variegated thread for this.
Next, while I still had my embroidery hoop close by, I covered the cattails, ducks heads and bills with straight free motion embroidery. Then I basted the layers together, and will finish the rest of the details in the quilting phase of the quilt. Before I do more decorative quilting, I outline every shape in the center of the quilt with mono filament thread.

Here is Ethel. I've quilted her with a brown variegated thread. She has so many different fabrics, one thread choice acts as a unifying device. I've tried to quilt near the edge of almost every feather.
I had to use two different threads to quilt Norman.
I used a shiny white thread on the wings and slender white detail on his neck. Then I used the same variegated brown that I used on Ethel's wings.

Quilting in the pond.
I chose a light blue variegated thread to quilt the pond.  It is the same thread used for the Florentine edge applique. I love adding a little spiral here and there.  Once the middle is completely quilted then I stitch around the inner edge of the border and then quilt the edge.
Detail of the top edge of quilt
I used lots of curls and coils in the green background, using a blue variegated thread.  Then on the edge I stitched using a dark variegated combination thread on the border. 

I blocked the quilt, trimmed the edges and bound the edges.  You can see the finished quilt on my website.  On Ginkgo Pond.

Next time I'll talk about another ginkgo quilt.

Ann Fahl

Friday, March 7, 2014

Working on the Pond

The ducks, cattails and water lilies were all floating on the pond in my last blog. I was happy with its appearance.
I fused everything in place, while still pinned to my design wall covered with white flannel.  Then decided, I needed a little more green to spill out into the border.  So I added two leaves in the lower right corner, you'll see that they are still pinned in place.

This last addition will be fused and the composition will be complete.

I've been thinking about a title for this quilt, and so far nothing great has come to mind.  Then it came to me:  On Ginkgo Pond.  The ducks will be Ethel and Norman, the main characters from the movie On Golden Pond.  I loved that movie. 

If I complete my thread work well, Ethel and her buddy should float around in their beautiful pond forever.  Now what should I quilt, embroider or applique?  After I have spent my entire career writing and teaching machine embroidery and quilting, I am over saturated with heavy thread work. I'm going to leave more open spaces so there will be texture changes across the surface of the finished quilt.

Ann's opinion:  I just visited a small show of art quilts, and we are over stitching everything.  Why?  I guess because we can; and historically the judges have always awarded more prizes to those quilts that are heavily quilted.  From my point of view, we're not allowing the batting to add dimension to the surface because everything is quilted too closely. Or maybe I'm just tired and grouchy!

Next time I'll show you some closeups of the thread work.

Ann Fahl

Friday, February 28, 2014

In the Middle there were Ginkgoes

The designing continues for this quilt. Over the last year or two I have been trying to use the ginkgo leaf in different ways. We last left the quilt with 2 ducks and some cattails and things were looking up.  The design phase wasn't complete, I just needed to tweak it a little more.
A few lily pads would fill the space without competing too much with the ducks.

I cut the lily pads from a hand painted green that I had painted several years ago.  There is a soft contrast between the cattails and the green pads.  I like the way it is looking.  And in the meantime, I've moved the lily pads here and there at least 10 times.
The pads cried out for a lily, so I made one out of white fabric and fused a bright yellow center. Oh yes, this is good.  Well, maybe one more flower is needed.
One more tiny lily has been placed in the upper left corner.  It will be moved around many times before it ends up in the right place.

Is it done?

Ann Fahl

Friday, February 21, 2014

In the Beginning there were Ginkgoes

Isn't this amazing?  Here is the background for my most recent piece, the above masterpiece was about 25 x 25 inches. 

Here's my vision for this small piece: a blue ginkgo leaf would become a pond for several mallard ducks. I thought the green would make a soft background for the blue leaf, with a simple pieced rectangle border added. The border would add some interest but not conflict with the central scene.

So I cut a large leaf 18 inches wide and placed it in the center of the background.
So far, so good, there is nothing to dislike about what I had done, so I painstakingly fabricated the two ducks out of multiple brown fabrics.
But I'm not happy with the relationship of the leaf to the background, it looks to small.  So I removed two edges of the border and made it smaller. It is now 22 x 22 inches.  I wanted the blue piece to overlap the border.
Then I decided I didn't like the first blue leaf, and cut a new one out of Frieda Anderson's hand dyed fabric.  I like this better because of the subtle shifts of color.
Now with the ducks resting in their new pond, I like the relationship of all the parts.  But it looks very empty.  What do I add next?
Cattails seemed to be a good addition and would work with my watery theme.  I cut them out of a piece of paper to decide on size and scale.  Their verticality was a nice contrast to the horizontal feeling of the large leaf and ducks.
Using a bright green for the leaves and tan for the cattails, I carefully cut out 3 clumps of cattails.  And I think this is good.  At this point, all the elements are only pinned in place.  I never fuse until the entire quilt top is all laid out, and I am sure it is good. I'm not sure what will happen next. It's not quite complete.

Tune in next week to learn more about this wall quilt.

Ann Fahl

Friday, February 14, 2014

A Little Ginkgo History

Photo of ginkgo leaves from wikipedia

My love of the ginkgo leaf comes from my long history with Winona Lake IN.  But the tree itself has a much looonger history.  The tree has been in existence since the Cretaceous and Jurassic periods, or 270 million years.  They have lived to see the dinosaurs live and die, and watched the evolution of plant and animal life up to the present day. There is no other plant like the ginkgo in existence today

It is the only tree that gets its water and sends it through one waterway up the trunk, instead of many small xylem and phloem inside the bark that modern trees use to deliver water and nutrients.  This is one reason why the leaf has such an interesting shape, different than all the others.

It is admired for its beauty, perhaps beginning in ancient China; used for medicinal purposes and as a food source. For a plant that is so old it has characteristics that have repopularized it today. It can be found in many urban settings, not just pampered gardens.  It can be very adaptive and disease resistant, which makes it perfect for roadside planting.
Everything is a little different with the ginkgo tree, even the way the leaves are attached to the limbs.

Here is an actual photo of one of my special trees.
These trees are very slow growers. I can only imagine the joy that people must feel if they have one growing near them.  The 2 ginkgoes at the swan pond were most likely planted about 1890, which would make them about 120 years old. This is the only photo I have of them.   

Another interesting fact is that in the fall, the leaves turn bright yellow, and most of them drop off the tree within 24 hours. So provide yourself with a lifetime of joy and plant a ginkgo tree.  Make sure you get a male variety because the females produce a very stinky fruit about the size of a cherry!

Or better yet, find a leaf and put it in one of your quilts!

Ginkgoes Galore, a quilt by Ann Fahl
 Ann Fahl

Monday, February 10, 2014

Ginkgo Leaves, the Symbol of my Quilting Spirit

Winona Lake Commemorative,  quilt by Ann Fahl  22 x 18 inches

I'm still working on my red and green tulip quilt, only one block remains to be re-appliqued. As I've been finishing this huge project,  I've been thinking about what I should blog about next.  One of my favorite images is that of a ginkgo leaf, perhaps one of the most beautiful in nature.

Leaves and trees are very special in my life.  My grandmother planted a maple tree at the cottage, about the time I was born, this tree and I have grown up together, I won't tell you how big the tree is today!  My husband and I live in the woods and we enjoy all the wonderful benefits of living among the trees.  One of my favorite spots in the word is the swan pond at Winona Lake IN.
A view of the swan pond at Winona Lake

A young man once pointed out to me, the 2 huge old ginkgo trees on one side of that swan pond. I was amazed at the lovely shape of the leaves as I had never seen them before.  I took some leaves home that were lying on the ground; and the rest is history.  I've tried to use a ginkgo leaf in as many quilts as possible.  Without realizing it, I had chosen the shape as one of my personal symbols of my life.

Class sample of embroidered leaves
It didn't take long for me to realize that adding free-motion embroidery to a fused leaf, made it come to life in such a beautiful realistic way.  So I'll be writing about ginkgoes for awhile.

Right now, I am completing the quilting on a small ginkgo leaf piece.  It's too early to show it to you, but stick with me, I'll be talking more about ginkgoes, embroidery, design and quilting.  It feels good to be back talking to you. 

I feel like I'm writing in a vacuum. Please take the time to comment on my blogs, its the only way I know you've come to visit.

Ann Fahl

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Sunset over Winona Lake

January 8 is my aunt's birthday. She is not just any aunt, we are rather close in age, and over the years we have become good friends. We both love Winona Lake.

As a family historian, I've written about and photographed most of my relatives, so I know lots about them. One of the things Nancy loves is her aprons.  When at the cottage, she'll have her apron on, and you know she is ready for anything. She raised 4 children and has quite a few grandchildren, so she has experienced a lot in her life!

Nancy Harvey at the cottage
When at the cottage, life is very informal. During the summer,  people are dressed in anything from bathing suits dripping wet to their Sunday best. Most likely Nancy is wearing her apron.

Over the last several days I've designed and sewn a new apron for Nancy. This one is called Sunset over Winona. There will only be one of these.  I pieced together fabrics from my stash that look like the sunset.
Sunset over Winona Lake, the apron.
I love it when I can go into my stash and just pull all kinds of stuff out, and make a complete project without having to go to the store.  When I was in 7th grade and took my first Home Economics class we made an apron using just one yard of fabric. I've always kept the diagram we used to cut the pieces.  The only difference is that the body of the apron uses 5 strips of color sewn to a wide band of blue at the bottom.  I couldn't stop here, I had to add a water lily to it.
Here is the hem detail
Since an apron is used and washed frequently, I chose to fuse the the lily and pad, then machine applique it in place.  I zigzagged the seam allowances and top stitched them. It should hold up for a long time.
Pocket detail
The yellow needed to be repeated somewhere, so I added a water lily bud to the pocket. I used variegated threads for the applique, both a yellow variegated and my favorite green variegated rainbow #809.

This is kind of a wild splashy apron, I'm certain that all the spots and spatters from cooking won't ever be noticed.  I know she'll like it.

Happy Birthday Nancy!

Ann Fahl