memory pillow project

Sunday, December 30, 2012

A dear friend asked me to help her out with some pillows she wanted to make for her nephews for Christmas. Their grandfather had passed away and she wanted to use some of his old clothes to make mementos for them. She and I went to RISD together, so we are on the same wave-length aesthetically. She said she wanted pillows pieced in the"Gee's Bend" style.
"Blocks and Strips" by Mary Lee Bendolph (photo Tinwood Media)
If you're not familiar with Gee's Bend, the name refers to the rural town in Alabama, a mostly black community with a history of economic struggles, but a strong sense of community. The tradition of quilting carried on there through the civil war, various economic upheavals including the Great Depression, floods of the Alabama River, and on to the present day.
"Housetop" by Lillie Mae Pettway (photo by Tinwood Media)
The quilts were made with available scraps of worn-out clothes with the freedom and innocence of "outsider art" although they were created for strictly practical purposes much like Amish quilts were. A collector discovered them in the late '90's, bought up hundreds of them and began exhibiting them. When viewed out of context in museums like the Whitney, they are bold, striking modern art. The book about them is wonderful. Auburn University has a wealth of information on them as well as a nice catalog.
The pile of items my friend sent looked random at first glance, but that's what you want if you're emulating the Gee's Bend style.
Many of the Gee's Bend Quilts are variations on the "Log Cabin" quilt pattern. I find this pattern lends itself to creating a spontaneous effect, as long as you don't measure anything, that is. Starting with a squarish shape, strips can be added on the outside edges, working in succession around it until you have the size you're after. True things as you go, or not. It's better if there is some unevenness to it.

I decided to keep the shirt pockets intact, because I think boys find them fun and it is more of a reminder that this was Grandpa's shirt. I also added a few of my own scraps of chambray to help make everything hang together more. But what you definitely don't want is to get matchy-matchy with it.
I also keep the button plackets intact for the backs for the perfect way to get the insert in & out for washing.
I tried not to be as anal as I usually am and just go with it. It actually goes very quickly when you're not trying to be precise. At the end, I trued it all up to the dimension of the pillow.
I hope they like them!

a swedish christmas

Friday, December 7, 2012

I'm not Swedish, I've never been to Sweden, but I love the idea of a Swedish Christmas. I imagine clean, bright colors + rustic straw ornaments all popping off of a whitewashed background filled with a mix of chippy Gustavian antiques and IKEA furniture. I imagine modest but well-designed handmade gifts, simply wrapped and the smell of gingerbread in the air. I imagine clomping around in some red clogs, wearing a ragg wool sweater. I have no idea if I am accurate in my fantasy, but I found a few things on the internets that fit my vision...

vintage red & white wallpaper-from smilemercantile
illustration of Stockholm- by annasee
traditional pepparkakor cookie recipe (thinner, crispier version of gingersnaps)- by The Wandering Cook
dala horse pillow- by LittleputtStudio
dala horse appliqué onesie-by chirp & bloom
Swedish clogs by Troentorp- from shoebuy
traditional Swedish straw ornament- similar on ebay
vintage dala horse- similar on Etsy

I find the dala horse especially charming, so I made up an appliquéd onesie for the shop. I always like an excuse to use my floral ribbons.

God Jul!