Two years ago, I was attending my first QuiltFest. I had not yet purchased a rotary cutter or a quilting ruler. I had been a member of Birmingham Quilters Guild for a few weeks and had signed up to volunteer at the quilt show. When I arrived to the school gym for my shift, I was blown away by all of the talent and creativity collected in one room. The women I met were kind, spoke with me at length and several took me under their wings. Fast forward two years and not only do I have a quilt in the show, but seven of the women I sew with in Bib & Tucker are also going to see their first entry in a quilt show hanging for all to see. This is such a big moment for our little organization.
We were able to collect almost all of the women who entered a quilt in the show. We met at DISCO and made our way down highway 280 in three cars. We took a right at 119 and four and a half miles later we were at the school. Ms. Annie brought her grandchildren – ages 4 and 5 and once we had our lime green bracelets on, we were ready to go. The ladies looked at the program and found their names. Ms. Joyce was not listed but when we got into the gym, we were able to find all nine of our entries. I took photos of the ladies with their quilts and we spent an hour or more going up and down the rows, taking in all of the talent and technique. I would pass a Bib & Tucker member from time to time and she would ask, “How’d they do this?” or say, “My mind is racing with ideas”. I spent most of my time with Ms. Annie’s grandchildren. The guild, in its infinite wisdom (of course! with such a collection of grandmothers), has created a scavenger hunt game for children that involves a laminated page with images of birds, flowers and animals taken from quilts for children to find as they walk with their parents through the show. Ms. Annie’s little ones were sort of confused at first, but when they found their first image, it was all over. They were ecstatic with each new discovery. This kept me quite occupied. I also ran into all of my old guild friends and had lots of catching up to do.
When the ladies had over-saturated themselves with quilts, they went into the vendor rooms and tried out the long-arm machines selling for $8,000 to $10,000 dollars. These are the machines I first tried two years ago and fell in love with. Our machine is a good deal more modest (without the computer attachment) but it suits as perfectly, especially for where we are in our learning process. It was a full day and I noticed more than once a look of reflection passing over each B&T member’s face. We finished at Ms. Gloria’s house with a delicious meal of sandwiches and salad and homemade caramel cake and coffee.
A journey begun in February and with the help of our Kickstarter family, we were able to make it to the finish line. On the drive home, Ms. Joyce said, “Well, I better start working on my quilt for QuiltFest 2015”.
Did we finish our quilts with weeks to spare? Days? Hours? Yes, perhaps hours. Wednesday night, a mere ten hours before the quilts were due, Theresa and I were sitting at the Sew-Op putting the last touches on our own quilts. We turned in nine registrations and by golly, I was going to turn in nine be-pillowcased quilts. Ms. Joyce was at the stage of quilting and binding when we submitted her registration. Jeraldine, Naomi and I chose to enter already made quilts and had only to put labels and sleeves on them at the time of registration. Michelle’s quilt needed binding when we registered her quilt. Sharon’s quilt blocks weren’t yet sewn together and Theresa’s second entry was a photograph in a book! So who was really the very last to finish? Well, it was me. But we got it done and I was so proud of these Bib & Tucker members.
Theresa finished her quilt in time to start working on another quilt for QuiltFest so we started looking for a design that she would be interested in making. We are both fans of M.C. Escher and I had found a book of tessellation quilt designs that imitate the artwork of Escher and had even picked out my next project for myself. The day that our entries were due for QuiltFest, Theresa committed to a design from this book. We submitted a photo from the book as a guideline because she had not even chosen her fabric, let alone cut it and sewn it into a quilt top!
We came up with the name “Endless Possibilities” sort of hurriedly and didn’t think much of it until Theresa brought her 63 sewn quilt blocks to Craft Club tonight. As we started to lay out the various options of how her quilt top could be designed, it became harder and harder to choose a final design.
The process of creating this quilt has been such a labor of love from beginning to end. Theresa had several fat quarters already chosen for this design, but after we consulted, it seemed she would need a different variety of fabrics to create the 3-D effect she was looking for. Then, we spent an entire Saturday cutting and listening to music, only to realize later that we had been using the wrong measurement for our pieces.
With QuiltFest fast approaching, I am very happy to announce that the top is sewn and Theresa has chosen a backing fabric and decided to use tie-quilting as her finishing technique. This quilt will be ready for QuiltFest! Endless possibilities and all!
May 15th and guess what? We missed the deadline for submitting our QuiltFest entries! Ah, but we are a lucky sew-op because we were given a 12 hr extension and we’ve been so busy trying to get our entries in order. Titles, dimensions (which is quite challenging if you haven’t finished piecing the top!), blurbs about our quilts…and then there were nine. We managed to collect nine entries, which is spectacular because our Kickstarter campaign estimated that we’d enter eight quilts in the show. Now that they’ve been entered…I guess we have to finish making them!
Sometimes when we get together at the sew-op, everyone is working and the only sounds you’ll hear are whirring sewing machines and Mingus, Miles, Coltrane or Dizzy. Other times, the talking is so intense that a machine won’t even get plugged in. With more than six weeks before we have to turn in our quilts for the big show, the sew-op is a’buzz with chatter. Folks know what they are going to submit, but reality still hasn’t quite set in and so we like our piecing and cutting and measuring with a heavy dose of conversation.
Always a cut-up, Ms. Annie was telling me that I need to get some starch in my britches because otherwise, I’ll let people walk all over me and I won’t get anything done. Ms. Annie is often helping me navigate the new role of being director of an organization. I seem to upset at least someone at every turn and she gently tells me the straight truth so I can get back on track sooner than later. Having considered myself a multicultural-savvy woman of the 21st century, it is a shock to realize how little I know about the African American community. The sew-op often gets heated discussing topics such as religion and politics, but we’ve all become such a close-knit family that we can discuss these topics without becoming offended. Or if someone does get offended, the heat happens all in the open and the steam fizzles out of the argument as soon as Ms. Annie cracks a joke. She is our great diplomat.
Theresa recently became interested in quilting because we attend a weekly Craft Club together and I was working on a project and she thought, “I bet I could do that and it would be fun!” So she did some research and found a scrappy star pattern that excited her. We went in search of fabrics for the pattern and next thing I know, she’s ready to quilt the thing! This will be her first quilt ever and it will definitely be one of our submissions for QuiltFest.
Goodness but I love this woman. Our diplomat, our true leader – there isn’t a situation that can withstand Ms. Annie’s humor and her kindness.
Bib & Tucker has plans to participate as a vendor at festivals and markets around town, but our timeline is a bit too slow for a few members. Sharon and Michelle, when they aren’t working on quilts, have been steadily producing bags and pillows and other little items. Wanting to support the women, Bib & Tucker is doing a bit of micro-financing and we’re excited to watch these women grow as artisans selling their wares.
Because I have a bit of experience as an artist on the festival circuit, I’ve offered advice to Sharon as she signs up for festivals and looks at the cost of doing business. She’s come up with a name for herself, created a logo and printed up price sheets and informational flyers. We’ve discussed pricing your products and the pros and cons of various markets around town.
The duo’s first show was held at a church bazaar a few blocks from DISCO in Woodlawn and I stopped by the morning of the bazaar to help out. Sharon was a bit nervous, a bit excited and completely in her element. I always enjoy discussing religion with her and appreciate her openness. I was curious if it was uncomfortable for her to be in a church, but she said she didn’t mind, which is probably due to her original upbringing in the Christian faith. She did say that when the church members got together to pray before the opening of the bazaar she tried to respectfully stand apart.
The day was a smashing success and some of the concerns that Sharon initially had were soon swept away while new, more realistic ones took their place. Ah, the price of running your own business. I can’t wait to look back a few years from now and say, “Sharon, you CEO, you – look where you’ve been!”