Monday, December 20, 2010

Winding New Ways Deja Vu

Just when I thought we were dealing with old news (in last Monday's blog), it turns out that the block Bobbi and I designed for Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks from Today's Top Designers, which was on the newsstands at the beginning of 2010, has taken on new life.  The Quiltmaker issue for January/February 2011 comes with a complimentary CD that contains 10 of the blocks from 2010's 100 Blocks.  Winding New Ways is one of the 10.  The block is pictured, instructions and a pattern given, and there is a little bit of information about our book, Tile Quilt Revival.  So, if you missed Winding New Ways in 2010's 100 Blocks, it is available again on newsstands.  

Also of interest in the current issue of Quiltmaker is a quilt created by Carolyn Beam from a fabric line called, A Morris Tapestry, which was designed by Barbara Brackman for Moda.  It's a really pretty blue-and-cream quilt, page 47.  

Monday, December 13, 2010

Winding New Ways

With snow on the ground and the end of the year fast approaching, I think I can be excused for taking a little mental stroll down memory lane.  Especially because this year with the publication of Tile Quilt Revival has been so eventful and memorable. I was thinking about a block that Bobbi and I designed for Quiltmaker's 100 Blocks from Today's Top Designers, which was on the newsstands at the beginning of 2010.  

The block is a simple modification of the traditional Winding Ways block.  We called it Winding New Ways--what else?  It makes up beautifully in a tile quilt.  Here is a small quilt that Bobbi made with the block:

Her choice of a polka dot for the background fabric is such a happy one.  It just adds to all the wonderful movement of curves.  

Happy strolling.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Ukulele Fever

My sweetheart loves to play the ukulele and sing.

The picture of a happy man.  Our friend Brownie took it.  

This weekend we watched a documentary called, The Mighty Uke, about ukuleles and people who love to play them.  It is delightful and infectious, says the person who up 'til now has managed to be fairly immune to the ukulele bug.  

The closest I've come to catching the fever was to make a tile quilt of Carlos playing his uke and singing.  

Looks just like him, doesn't it?  It's titled Carlos and Some of His Favorite Things, which include, in addition to his ukulele, a gigantic trout he's dreaming of catching, a Vespa button on his collar, a photo of a long-gone dog, and on the table a photo of me with the current crop of mutts.  

I fused the tile pieces on a blue batik background, which extends a couple of inches beyond the tiles to form a border.  Then I secured the raw edges of the fused tile pieces with a machine blanket stitch.  By blanket stitching through all three layers, the top, batt, and back, I accomplished the quilting and raw-edge securing in one step.  Sweet.

Happy strumming.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Seamstresses Unite!

Seams (I know, I know) that there is an activist thread (I know, I know) that runs through the stitching community.

From today's The Writer's Almanac (

It was on this day in 1955, in Montgomery, Alabama, that Rosa Parks refused to give up her seat in the front of a bus to a white passenger. She was unknown, a seamstress, the secretary of her local chapter of the NAACP. She was arrested and fined, but she appealed her case, and another relatively unknown person, a young pastor, Martin Luther King Jr., took up her cause. He founded the Montgomery Improvement Association and called for a boycott of the city-owned bus company. For 382 days, boycotters walked, biked, carpooled, or even rode horses to get to work. Across the country, black churches started campaigns to donate money or shoes to the boycotters, because they wore out their shoes by walking so much. Finally, the Supreme Court ruled that segregation of buses was unconstitutional, a major victory for the Civil Rights movement.
Rosa Parks died in 2005, at age 92.  
And now there is a movie, Made in Dagenham, about the seamstresses who brought us equal pay for women.  They were mightily underpaid upholstery sewers at the English Ford plant in Dagenham whose walkout led to England's equal pay legislation, the wellspring for similar legislation in many countries.  
Keep on stitching...

Monday, November 29, 2010

Through African Eyes

If you will be in the heartland between now and January 9, 2011, you can see a remarkable special exhibit at The Nelson-Atkins Museum of Art in Kansas City called Through African Eyes: The European in African Art, 1500-Present.  It packs a powerful emotional punch AND is visually dazzling.  You really couldn't ask for more.

Here is a link to a New York Times slideshow of a few objects in the exhibit:

Several of my favorite pieces are non-functional representations of functional items of Western culture--function transformed into status.  The beautiful lensless glasses featured in the New York Times slideshow are one example.  For you stitchers who are wondering what this blog entry has to do with quilting, a carved stone sewing machine is another...

I hope you get a chance to see this brilliant show.

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

A visit from Bobbi

My friend and co-author, Bobbi Finley, visited last week from California.  We got SO MUCH SEWING done--yahoo!  And we managed to get in quite a bit of socializing, too.  It was a very good week.  This week my sewing room is pretty quiet--a couple of dogs underfoot, but no one to exchange ideas with or check math with or ask to admire what's just come out from under the presser foot.

We're working on a proposal for another book.  We've been sewing for the proposal separately for months, but while Bobbi was here we worked together on our piece de resistance.  Which, of course, is the unpronounceable way of saying, our Killer Quilt (KQ).  It's not in a state to be photographed yet, so this is just a tease.  But I can say that we really like it--how's that?

In designing the KQ, we were inspired by and then substantially departed from a classic quilt.  We love using classic quilts as inspirational springboards.  It's always an adventure to see how little or how much we'll stray from the classic quilt's design.  

With Bobbi here, we designed our quilt, did a lot of math (sometimes more accurately than other times), made multiple trips to Sarah's Fabrics, wielded the rotary cutter, cranked up several sewing machines, and got enough stitched to know that we were definitely on the right track.  Dividing up the remaining parts as Bobbi packed was the sad part.  So, once again, we're sewing separately, looking forward to another stitching rendezvous in a couple of months.  

I hope you have good stitching friends and that you get to work with them often.  That's one of the things I'm thankful for this year.  Happy Thanksgiving.  Carol

                                Stitching friends visiting Colonial Williamsburg.

Saturday, November 6, 2010

A Heck of a Collaborative Quilt

An ad hoc group of stitchers, calling itself by the memorable name, City Sewers, got together on a Sunday afternoon earlier this fall to make a quilt.  Our intent was to donate the quilt to the art auction that raises money for our local Douglas County AIDS Project (DCAP).  Which meant we were aiming to be more arty than traditional.

Georgann Eglinski established our palette by contributing a couple of beautiful fabrics.  I added to our fabrics and cut squares and rectangles in several sizes.  Then when the group, which also included Linda Frost, Deb Rowden, Kathe Dougherty, Barbara Brackman, and Jerrye VanLeer, got together, we stacked like sizes and shapes face up to rotary-cut freehand.  

Intuitive piecing is what Linda called the process of joining our free-cut pieces.  She also provided the name for our quilt, Vuvuzela, by making a block with the shape of that instrument of torture.  In her wonderful machine-quilting, Kris Barlow created sound waves emanating from the vuvuzela.  

Here's our finished quilt--

We hope its sale contributes a nice amount to DCAP's coffers.  

Thursday, October 14, 2010

Terrific Lincoln trip

I had the pleasure of teaching a workshop and giving a talk on tile quilts for the Lincoln (NE) Quilters Guild this past Sunday and Monday.

Workshop participants made a tile quilt block from their choice of several patterns that I supplied or from a drawing of their own.  Here's a photo of one of the original designs...

All the tile pieces are arranged on the gold background fabric, ready to be basted.

Another original design included a heart and used the table runner from a niece's wedding for background fabric.  It's already stitched and ready to be quilted.

I always love to see stitchers using exciting background fabrics, which in the tile applique process become visually interesting grout lines.  The maker of this block chose jazzy fabrics for both tiles and grout.  I hope she sends me a photo of the completed block--I'll bet it's going to be glorious.  

Monday during the day I visited the International Quilt Study Center, a truly great destination.  A member of the Lincoln Quilters Guild, who volunteers at IQSC, gave me the best tour of the current exhibits.  She really brought the quilts from South Asia to life for me.

And Monday evening at the guild meeting, I saw some wonderful quilts and met interesting people.  I've got my fingers crossed that several folks who thought they might be able to unearth information about a tile quilt with a possible Nebraska connection are able to do so.  That would be so exciting.....

Stay tuned.

Tuesday, October 5, 2010

More about tile quilts

Traditional tile quilts date from approximately the last third of the nineteenth century.  They typically are constructed of cotton pieces appliqued close to one another on a white background so that a narrow line of background fabric shows between appliqued pieces.  That line of white background looks like grout between the appliqued pieces, which look like tiles.  Other names for tile quilts are Stonewall and Boston Pavement, which allude to stones and mortar or the narrow spaces between stones.  

Just where tile quilts fit into the history of quilts is a matter of speculation.  One suggestion is that they are precursors of crazy quilts; another idea is that they represent an offshoot of broderie perse (cut-out chintz images appliqued onto another background).  I would guess there is some truth to both theories.  

For more information on traditional tile quilts, see the first chapter of Tile Quilt Revival: Reinventing a Forgotten Form by Bobbi Finley and me.  It is "A Brief History of Tile Quilts," which pictures and describes tile quilts from several private collections as well as the collections of the Shelburne Museum, International Quilt Study Center, The Abby Aldrich Rockefeller Folk Art Museum, and The New England Quilt Museum.

Saturday, September 25, 2010


Welcome to Free to Bee, and thank you for checking in.

I'm Carol Gilham Jones, long-time quilter and newly minted blogger. Here's my quilted Self Portrait with Rose-Colored Glasses.

My friend Bobbi Finley and I have a new book out, Tile Quilt Revival: Reinventing a Forgotten Form, C&T Publishing, 2010. Here's a hauntingly familiar picture of me and Bobbi.

Deb Rowden took this picture of us in a glorious garden in Columbus, Ohio where we were attending the American Quilt Study Group's 2008 Seminar.    When we read in our publisher's guidelines for author photos that plain backgrounds were preferred, we knew that this man-eating coleus backdrop was perfect.

Bobbi and I have enjoyed a terrific collaborative quilting relationship since having the good fortune to meet several decades ago at a quilting retreat in the San Francisco Bay Area. We love working together on quilts. Our book on tile quilts grew out of our mutual fascination with 19th-century tile quilts and our working together to develop a simple method for making contemporary tile quilts. The first tile quilt we made is called Starry Orange Peel, for obvious reasons.

It is one of the patterned projects in Tile Quilt Revival.  

Among the hopes I have in posting Free to Bee is to acquaint folks with tile quilts--19th-century and contemporary--, with tessellating quilt designs, and with free-form cut-and-pieced quilts.  And I'm hoping to encourage you to have a go at quilt collaboration with a friend or friends.  More on tile quilts next time.  Carol