An Artist's Quest

Modern Quilting Bee + Creative Sweatshop = A Great Week!

Banner of Bishop's Ranch birds using ipad drawings printed on fabric

I spent the week at The Bishop’s Ranch Quilt Retreat.  I have watched the myriad of quilting groups that come through, wandering the rows of tables piled high with colorful fabrics and tools of the trade; sewing machines, scissors, rolling cutters, rulers, on and on and on.  Along with all the stuff and stash at these retreats there is an abundance of accumulated wisdom, practiced advice, and a flowing fount of ideas.  I have been threatening to attend one of these bursting, bustling events myself for a few years and this week I finally did.  I have a lot of sewing experience and have even done a bit of quilting but never seriously and never with all the tools and information.  I tend to launch into things with a lot of enthusiasm but little knowledge and muddle my way through, with mixed results.  This retreat provided me with two things I don’t usually have: 1. a wealth of shared tools and space, 2. more importantly, a generous community of experience and encouragement.  Almost everything I do these days I do alone, my graphics work is just me and the computer and the rest of the time I am stashed away in my tiny bursting at the seams studio.  I am something of an introvert so mostly I don’t mind the alone time, but this week I got to experience the joy of the sewing circle, the draw of the modern quilting bee.  Back in the day when quilting bees were a part of life, church ladies and neighbors would get together to work on quilts, each in turn helping the other with wedding quilts, and baby quilts, anniversary quilts and quilts for the county fair.  Women would chat and share, gossip and support.  It was a productive excuse to take a break from the hard isolated work of keeping a household running back in those days.  And today the needs are different but the draw is the same.  We all are running full tilt in our own little worlds, getting snippets of friends on facebook, learning new things off of  youtube.  Don’t get me wrong I use those resources too, and it’s amazing what you can learn out there floating in the world wide web, but you are floating alone. I know we’ve got our “friends” and our “links” and our “bookmarks” and our “pinterest” but we are still sitting alone with our device….or more likely sitting with other people who are all searching their devices (I know because it happens all the time in my house ….myself included).  But this week community was incarnate, we were there in the flesh, ideas, comments, instruction, feedback, sharing, help all happening in real time.  It was invigorating and exhausting all at once.  Although we were all working on our own projects, unlike the quilting bees of old, there was still a strong sense of collective effort.  I went in with an idea of what I wanted to accomplish and managed to achieve that but gained much more from the passion and practice and patience of this modern sewing circle.

Fellow quilters and stitchery

It was good to get out of my little box, otherwise know as my studio, and try something new.  I made the bird banner (pictured above) members of the sewing circle and stitchery (picture below)  The bird images are ipad drawings that I printed on fabric on my home printer then pieced in a traditional way and machine quilted.  I am going to donate the wall hanging to The Bishop’s Ranch to raffle off for the 2012 annual fund.  When there is a link for raffle tickets I’ll let you know. 


4 responses

  1. Mary Anne

    Your quilted bird banner is beautiful! My first quilting effort was a disaster as I became more impatient as I got to the end of the hand stitching – my “get it done” mood is visible in the stitches.

    My Grandmother was a quilter. When she died she left over 2 dozen quilts, all hand quilted. Her first one, made when a young girl, included embroidery portraits of family members, flowers, etc. but someone told her embroidery was not “allowed” and she never embellished her quilts that way again. Talk about interrupting the creative flow! She was one of the most creative people I have known.

    There was a large quilting frame in her farmhouse used for “quilting bees” that with church formed the basis of her social life. That is until the telephone appeared – that invention really changed her social life!

    February 24, 2012 at 5:09 am

    • wow, I love hearing about your grandma and her quilting. I’ve heard other stories of the quilting bee sometimes being a clucking peckish group, judging in stitches and corners. Fortunately I was using my sewing machine to quilt and I have a kind of Gee’s Bend esthetic that doesn’t mind a few uneven corners. Do you have her embroidered portrait quilt? I hope it is with someone who appreciates her boldness!

      February 24, 2012 at 7:45 am

      • Mary Anne

        Before I had an opportunity to get that quilt, my brother took it to California…it now resides in Sonoma, and I must say his wife truly appreciates the quilt!

        One more great story about my Grandmother: she went to the NC State Fair in the 1930s and saw a group of handmade turtles on exhibit. She came home and created her own turtle group, mother tortoise (20″ longx 14″ wide) with 3 babies, made out of gold and black “oilskin” fabric she stuffed and stitched, and then the embroidered details. Amazing woman with only a 5th grade education.

        February 25, 2012 at 9:22 am

      • Sounds like your grandma was always up for a challenge, and something new… something to aspire too!

        February 27, 2012 at 10:58 am

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