As a child, I remember going to the Seminole reservation in Florida, and being fascinated by the style of sewing that they did. Seminole patchwork is made up of strips of various colored fabrics that are sewn together, cut apart into new strips, and then pieced, cut, pieced and cut over and over to make intricate striped patterns. The result is usually several rows of different colored stripes and then a diamond or sawtooth pattern in the middle. Careful cutting and sewing is involved to make the pieces come out straight, and if you read my last blog, you know that I’m not patient enough to do the practice to be successful at piecing. Thus, “Seminole Cloud Quilt” is my last big attempt at doing much piecing.
It all began rather excitingly. In 1982, I drove to a workshop with Nancy Crow, whose advice regarding my art quilts was pivotal in the direction that my work took. While driving through the mountains of West Virginia to get to the event in Columbus, Ohio, I drove through a terrific storm where bolts of lightning were crashing all round my car. At the end of the workshop, when Ms. Crow was reviewing any of our work that we had brought for “show ans tell”, she told me that the applique work that I had been doing was the direction that I needed to go in. As if to emphasize the point, the piece of wallboard to which my work had been pinned fell off the ledge it had been securely sitting on and crashed to the floor, as if to say “Are you paying attention, Nance?” The combination of the two events, lightning bolts all around me and wallboard crashing to the floor, with the high from the workshop was pretty overwhelming. I came back to Maryland and resolved to somehow tie together some of the free-form piecing that I had learned at the workshop and the applique work I had already been doing on clothing.
Then I got into trouble by finding a book on how to do Seminole patchwork, THE SEMINOLE PATCHWORK BOOK, by Cheryl Greider Bradkin; 1980. (Scroll halfway down the linked page to find the version of the book I used.) Instead of starting off with one of the simpler patterns in the front of the book, I chose #46 (out of 61 possibilities) which was a much more complicated design. Seven strips of fabric varying from 3/4″ or 2 cm to 1 .75″ or 4.5 cm are sewn together. From the material made from the stripes sewn together,at least three cuts are made, pieces are turned and then sewn back together. How hard could it be I asked myself? I really wanted the Seminole patchwork stripes to be the lightning bolts in my large cloud quilt.
After many cuts and piecings, and many fits of frustration and tears later, I had enough to make the effect I wanted. The overall height of the piece is 82″ or 208.25 cm, with the width at the widest part being 70″ or 177.75 cm.
The center section, that you see here, was made separately, and is hand appliqued and quilted in the style that I was doing at the time on the clothing line I was making. All of the edges of the motif pieces were turned under and stitched in place by hand. The quilting on the center section and matching side panel were done while the big cloud shape was not attached, as that’s a lot of layers to work through. The Seminole patchwork stripes were turned under and stitched on by hand with minimal quilting around them, as I didn’t want to distract from the patchwork. The piece has hung in place in my dining room since 1982, and it one of the first things that you see as you walk in my home.
The first comment on my last posting about piecing not being my thing was from my on-line quilting buddy, Kathy Schmidt, whose delightful company is called Quirks Ltd. Her blog has gorgeous photos of her intricately pieced art quilts, and her admonition to me in her comment was in effect to “practice, practice, practice”. Yes, I know, as I hang my head sheepishly, I could practice more and get better at it. However, I hate to be tied to my sewing machine, as I haven’t made a permanent home for it, and I have to seriously rearrange things on my work table to get to it. Perhaps in my next house????
What are some triumphs and disappointments that you’ve experienced as you’ve tried out different media? I don’t like clay or dye as they’re really messy? What about you?
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