The Sew-Op’s first partnership: Molly Green Boutique!

Brittany Hartwell, owner of Molly Green Boutique and honorary member of the Sew-Op (those of you who’ve seen our Kickstarter video may have spied Miss Britt), arrived this past Tuesday to a veritable playground of plaid. Having requested some garments from a few members the week before, she was delighted to find three members working like Santa’s elves on her samples. I thought she was going to shout for joy when she saw our newest member Wani working away on an up-cycled flannel shirt. 

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The ladies worked on their samples and Brittany offered suggestions and feedback. Aside from this bit of business, the Sew-Op entertained a large number of new visitors and friends. It was a lively day and we’re looking forward to growing the relationship with Molly Green Boutique. And who could contain themselves when the client looks this cute in a first draft? (Wani managed to whip the shirt into shape in the last half of the afternoon!)

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Stay tuned for more details on the items that will be for sale at Molly Green!

 

Bib & Tucker in WELD

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Bib & Tucker Sew-Op, along with co-founder Lillis Taylor, was written up in WELD for Birmingham, a weekly publication. The word is getting out about the Sew-Op and our members continue their great work. Sooner than you know it, we’ll have our very own cottage industry here in Woodlawn. 

DISCO recently welcomed Red Mountain Makers to the neighborhood. RMMakers is a group of technology and gadgetry enthusiasts who mix crafting with high-end circuitry to create all sorts of enticing projects for children and adults alike. It’s nice having makers next door – they seem a very likely addition to the neighborhood.

For the full text of the WELD story, visit: http://weldbham.com/blog/2013/09/25/sew-oping/

Kindred Spirits

Lillis and Marilyn Henrion, sporting a Tré Lilli scarf and standing in front of one of her wall hangings, which is made from digitally printed silk Marilyn runs through her printer after manipulating photos she has taken of buildings in her native NYC or in cities she has visited. Each wall hanging is then hand-quilted with tiny, even stitches.

It’s summer in Alabama, which means it’s hot. It’s so hot that people’s brains melt and their energy drops to low. It’s all you can do to get from point A to point B without falling out from the heat and the humidity. And it’s times like these that folks keep real still. So still you’d think we were all dead or asleep and most of us are dead asleep. We’ll be this way until the months start taking on a “-ber” or a Brrrrrrrr, if you like.

Needless to say, the Sew-Op is quite still this month. We worked so hard to get ready for QuiltFest and were so successful that folks are very happy to sit around and just talk each Tuesday. There are a few die-hards who arrive each week with sewing machine and quilt project in hand, but overall we are definitely taking a break. It is a time for contemplation of the next big project. With this in mind, I sought out a kindred spirit up in NYC on a recent jaunt up to the city from Birmingham.

Bless the Internet! One of our donors from Kickstarter introduced me to Marilyn Henrion and her totally awesome Kickstarter campaign from last year, “Send Grandma to Poland!” From the music she plays in the video to the connection with Poland to her literary interests and her prolific nature, I immediately fell in love with Mrs. Henrion. I noticed she was from New York and wrote to her immediately on the off chance that A. she was in the city and B. would be willing to meet a nut from Alabama. She wrote back just before I headed out of town and told me she’d be in the city for a day, which happened to be the same day I, myself, planned on being in New York! Kismet! Already!

On the appointed day, I tucked a Tré Lilli scarf in my dyed-grass basket and made my way through the village, in search of Mrs. Henrion’s high-rise. I found it easily and scooted up to her door, where I was embraced and taken into an apartment full of Mr. and Mrs. Henrion’s artwork. Prolific she is, and modest too! I only found out upon returning to Birmingham and watching a DVD Mrs. Henrion gave me, that she and her husband were friends with Joseph Cornell, who was my all-time favorite artist in high school.

Mrs. Henrion listened to me gushing about Bib & Tucker and told me that in the 70’s or 80’s, she started a similar group at a women’s homeless shelter near her home in Greenwich Village. The women made quilts for their beds and when people came into the shelter and saw the rows of beds, they were covered in colorful, glorious hand-made quilts. She introduced me to the controversy of Eli Leon and to the unconventional “textile” creations of El Anatsui. Hopefully, oh hopefully, my conversation with Mrs. Henrion has just begun.

Roll call (and drum roll, please!)

Ms. Viola's quilt: "Stitch & Sew"
Ms. Viola’s quilt: “Stitch & Sew”
Theresa's quilt: "Endless Possibilities"
Theresa’s quilt: “Endless Possibilities”
Theresa's quilt: "Striped Star"
Theresa’s quilt: “Striped Star”
Sharon's quilt: "Summer Breeze"
Sharon’s quilt: “Summer Breeze”
Naomi's quilt: "Butterflies for Gram"
Naomi’s quilt: “Butterflies for Gram”
Michelle's quilt: "I QUI(L)T!"
Michelle’s quilt: “I QUI(L)T!”
Ms. Joyce's quilt: "Bits & Pieces"
Ms. Joyce’s quilt: “Bits & Pieces”
Ms. Jeraldine's quilt: "Bread & Butter Nine-Patch"
Ms. Jeraldine’s quilt: “Bread & Butter Nine-Patch”
Ms. Annie and her grandchildren came for moral support
Ms. Annie and her grandchildren came for moral support
Lillis' quilt: "Scheherazade's Cloak"
Lillis’ quilt: “Scheherazade’s Cloak”

QuiltFest 2013

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.

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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”.

Down to the wire

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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.

Endless Possibilities

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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.

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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.

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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!