Tag Archives: Crazy Quilts

Feeling Blue…Red, White & Blue!

On a quick trip to the store to buy some graduation cards, I noticed an early display of July 4th holiday-ware. How could I not? Colorful clothing, picnic items, streamers, banners & bunting, all featuring the Stars & Stripes. A cornucopia of creative whatnots reaching out to rev up my patriotic heart.

Of course, I began to plan. Now where was that recipe for Barbara Bush’s Red, White and Blue Cobbler? The one I – shhhh – shortcutted & made with canned cherry & blueberry pie filling? But the dish had scored at every potluck, served up warm with vanilla-bean ice cream. Made one’s taste buds stand at attention & salute. For the next bake, perhaps I’d tap my inner chef’s shoulder & use fresh ingredients. A longer process, but the effort ought to result in a higher-ranking of deliciousness. Right?

BERRY COBBLER

I remembered our town’s tradition to set off our own fireworks. The night before the big 4th celebration in a nearby city, locals pack the stands at the fairgrounds in anticipation. The light show never fails to fill the sky with glory & uplift our spirits. As a bonus, the spectacle is easily seen from my own back yard. Just one requirement – a lawn chair.

Fireworks Many

A Navy brat, my heart has always swelled at anything that highlights our nation’s history & fight for freedom here & abroad. Knowing of my military connection & pride in my dad’s service, my friend Georgina (Geo) & I had swapped stories of our father’s military service records. Her father – an Army veteran of WWII, Korea, & Vietnam & a Bronze Star recipient. My dad also served in WWII (a Pearl Harbor survivor) & the Korean War, & as a career Naval officer for twenty-seven years.

Geo, a master seamstress & crafter, had already created an exquisite heart with a simple anchor embroidered on one side, cut from an antique crazy-quilt. After the heart was sewn, she set it aside for a while. But once we’d chatted about our personal heroes, Geo finished it up & sent it my way. A surprise gift.

Geo's Anchor Heart2

When I unwrapped the beautiful heart, tied with wide, lavender ribbon, I didn’t think of the Navy link first. Instead, I thought of Jesus as the Anchor of our hearts. Touched, I did a little research of its meaning during Victorian times – when the quilt was made – and learned the anchor symbolized hope. According to the scripture referenced:

“This hope we have as an anchor of the soul, both sure and steadfast, and which enters the Presence behind the veil…,” Hebrews 6:19 (NKJV)

Not until I received an email from Geo, “When I saw it (the heart) again the other day, it just spoke to me of your father being in the Navy…,” did I see the rest of the significance.

On this 4th of July, I shall not only celebrate Independence Day, but also honor my dad by hanging the anchor heart in a prominent place as a tribute to those who have gone before. And as reminder to never give up hope.

Thanks, Geo. Let freedom ring!

Sparker w-little flag.2

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Crazed for Crazy Quilts

I don’t own a crazy quilt. Though I admire them a great deal. So far, quilts that interest me also exceed my spending limit. I justify NOT buying them by asking myself pithy questions, like:

  • How much craziness is too much in a house with an overabundance of fancy teacups & saucers & feminine frills?
  • Should I purchase this expensive crazy quilt that doesn’t mix with my décor? Or give the money to missions? (A smashing alternative, no?)

There’s simply something so charming about crazy quilts. Consider their antiquity:

Think 1876 – the Philadelphia Centennial Exposition – & an exhibit in the Japanese Pavilion that stunned the Victorians. It featured crazed ceramics & asymmetrical art, unseen before. It wasn’t long before society-seamstresses mimicked the design with their crazy quilt technique. Every house displayed one (or more) as a status symbol. The quilts continued in popularity until about 1910. A perfect opportunity for ladies to show off their expensive, luxury fabrics & needlework skills. The exquisite designs were only limited by the fabric stashes & ability of their makers.

Some years ago, my dear friend, Nancy Boyd, crafted a heritage project for each of her granddaughters – to be given on their wedding days. Instead of a full-size quilt, she made “crazy” shadow boxes. Artwork with a crazy quilt piece made out of fabrics that meant something to their family: a button from a wedding dress, a part of grandpa’s tie, and so on. She included other precious mementos for each piece. The one pictured below shows some military service medals. I loved the idea so much, I “sewed” similar memorabilia into the crazy quilt in my cozy mystery, A Stitch in Crime.

Nancy's Crazy Quilt Creation

Nancy’s Crazy Artwork featured at A Stitch in Crime’s Book Launch.

In addition, a lovely crazy design by Angela McInnis was chosen for the book’s cover. After my precise descriptions of my vision of the legacy quilt in the story, I never expected the publishing house to search & find Angela’s framed crazy square, & travel miles across the nation to photograph it. But they did! The colors were exactly right, the “bling” pushed the stitching up a notch, & she’d even added a spider web for interest. I’d mentioned it to Abingdon Press & how they were considered good luck in the Victorian age. And…there it was! A spider web. Perfect.

I loved looking at A Stitch in Crime’s beautiful cover decorated with Angela’s crazy quilt. Made me want a real quilt of my own. Soon, I saw a gorgeous crazy quilt pillow on eBay & bid hard to win it. The cost was higher than I’d hoped, but the embroidery – flawless. I had to have it. My rationale? To use it as a prop at book signings & draw curious readers to my table with its striking beauty.

Crazy Quilt Pillow

Beautiful antique crazy quilt pillow created by Georgina Diehl Kosa. I love it!

The colorful, crazy part is cut from an antique quilt, while the backing is black velveteen cut from an ancient opera cloak. Isn’t that romantic? I can almost see a story when I gaze upon its design….

Since then, I’ve restrained my crazy quilt lust. To a point. While I’ve decided a quilt will not work for me, some crazy hearts have found themselves welcomed into my home. Some were gifted from pillow-maker & artist extraordinaire, Georgina, mentioned above. The rest arrived after a few little eBay excursions. I only need another twenty or so to deck out a Victorian (crazy heart) Christmas tree! In my world, that’s a shopping opportunity. And, when opportunity knocks?

Well, you know!

Crazy Quilt Hearts

 

 

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The Mystery is Solved!

For an author, the receipt of a box of one’s books, delivered right before release time, is a long-anticipated joy. I got mine the other day, ripped open the cardboard, and held the just-birthed book in my hands, proud as a new momma. At last. A Stitch in Crime was ready for the shelves and it was gorgeous!

A Stitch in Crime Cover

Assault, larceny, anonymous threats. Who knew quilt shows could be this dangerous?

Inspecting my new, cozy mystery cover, I marveled at the crazy quilt adorning the upper two-thirds of the design. How did my publishing company get it so right? Sure, I’d had input…lots. Perhaps, a bit too much. But at the time, I’d been guided by James 4:2 – “You do not have because you do not ask.”

Not wanting to make that mistake, I asked. Then surfed the net for good examples of an appropriate quilt. Though I didn’t find the one, I came up with some (okay…a bunch of) guidelines for the cover designers:

  • It must look antique, but elegant;
  • The stitching should be exquisite and some beading would be nice;
  • Nothing too modern looking;
  • Nothing too busy (it shouldn’t look like a map of the USA);
  • No polyester or lace;
  • And BTW, a spider web signified good luck in Victorian times. Just sayin’.

The result was an engaging cover from Abingdon Press, achieving elegance with overtones of suspense. I loved it. But where did they find that quilt? It was a mystery.

Sooner than expected, the mystery was solved. The maker of the original quilt, Angela McInnis, left a comment on my blog, telling me how excited she was to have her design chosen for my cover. What??? I quickly found her email and wrote back, asking questions about how the design came to be. (There’s that asking part again!) And she poured out the story behind the cover quilt. Angela and her son own/run an antiques & collectibles shop called Dwellings just outside Florence, Mississippi on Hwy 49 South. And it all started with a treasure-hunting trip.

“My husband and I traveled from Mississippi to Lancaster, PA so I could purchase  some redware, salt glaze pottery, and an Amish quilt. Long story

Amish Crazy Quilt piece all framed!

Amish Crazy Quilt piece – a $2 find – all framed!

short, I purchased the pottery, but the price of the quilt was way out of my pocketbook range. On our way home, we made one last stop and deep in a basket of linens I found a very plain Amish quilt piece. When the lady said $2…I asked if she meant $200 – since all the real Amish quilts were so high. She assured me it was $2! I brought it home, framed it and admire it to this day.

“However,” Angela continued, “as I admired the stitching, I decided to try my hand at doing a little crazy quilting of my own. The result was a wall hanging that I eventually had framed and it still resides in my hallway.” She used Amish colors but says it was “not Amish at all because I blinged it up.” Angela added the spider web for interest and for good luck.

Original crazy quilt crafted by Angela McInnis & used in A Stitch in Crime's cover.

Original crazy quilt crafted by Angela McInnis & used in A Stitch in Crime‘s  stunning cover.

I wondered what fabric she used in her original crazy quilt…wool? Flannel? Old or new? Angela said the fabric was felt. A good choice in my opinion; it gives the look of wool, but fresh and new and clean. Her handwork is lovely, the finest craftsmanship.

 What if Angela hadn’t found that $2 Amish crazy quilt piece, the inspiration for her own version? A charming, beaded beauty that attracted the cover designers at Abingdon Press? And caused them to contact her for permission to use the image for my book?
That’s a mystery I don’t even want to solve. I cannot imagine “our” cover any other way.
To see more about Angela and her crazy-quilty-ways, visit her at:  A. McInnis: Crazy for Crazy Quilts  And for more information about A Stitch in Crime and to read the first chapter, click on BOOKS.

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