Thursday, July 5, 2018

Magic at the Museum

Magical.  A whirlwind.  Exhausting.  Rewarding.  Eye-opening.  

Three weeks ago, I embarked on something completely new to me.  I was a teacher to kids.  An art teacher.  Yes, I am a teacher normally, but I teach English as a Second Language to adults.  Completely different ball game!  I had waves of confidence prior to the new gig, but most of the time I was scared silly!  I won't keep you in suspense forever - we all survived!  AND I felt like I rocked it!
Let me get into it.  Earlier this year, Philbrook opened up applications for Teaching Artists for their summer Art Camp programs.  I submitted some class ideas and my application, not sure what the response would be.  To my surprise, they hired me for three sessions!  I applied for three consecutive weeks in June, and booked them all.  Each camp had a different theme with a different age group, but they were all based around fabric.  We had an art show at the end of each week, which was the highlight of each camp!  

Each camp had one major project that we continued to work on throughout the week with various smaller projects sprinkled here and there.  As many of you have probably gathered from my work, I love large projects.  Large-scale, long-term, or labor intensive are all right up my alley.  It was important for me to have the kids have a project that wasn't finished in a day; I wanted them to learn the value of committing to a big project, taking small steps to get closer to completion, and to learn along the way.  Who knows if my goal for those projects was internally achieved within each of the kids, but they all did complete each of their big projects!

One of the highlights of art camp at Philbrook is that you have the museum right there!  We are encouraged to explore the galleries, use artwork as inspiration, and spend time in the gardens.  It's a bonus for EVERYONE involved!

Did I mention that I was (and still am) teaching an intensive ESL evening course during these camps?  Long days and nights!

Prepare yourself for a few photos.

My first camp was filled with 10-12 year olds and was based on the deconstruction of existing garments to use for our own sewing projects.  Our big project was to complete a wall hanging that included using salvaged fabrics, machine appliqué, machine stitching, and hand stitching.  In addition to these wall hangings, they also made denim buckets, pinch bowls, t-shirt bags, and buttons from fabric scraps.  I was blown away by all that they mastered and achieved!  

During the art show on the last day, I was so surprised and elated to hear some of the kids showing their parents the machines that they used!  I had negative experiences with my sewing machine as a kid, so hearing them speak so positively about them made me incredibly happy.  They talked about the differences between the machines, which ones they preferred, and how they worked.  I also made sure to bring a seventies machine that I found at the flea market for them to use.  I wanted them to see that they don't need a fancy, new machine to sew with; any machine will do!
My second camp was for 7-9 year olds and was an introduction to sewing course!  This group had 18 kids, which presented a few challenges for a learn to sew class.  We made it, but didn't get as in depth as I had hoped.  They DID become masters at hand-sewing though!  Our big project for this class was a quilted wall hanging.  It was quite a bit more involved than the wall-hanging from the week before. We practiced sewing straight lines, strip piecing, slashing our work and re-sewing it (one of my favorite things to do!), creating appliqués, transferring them to fabric, hand stitching appliqués, inserting hanging tabs, using batting, and top-stitching.  Whew!  Maybe we did accomplish more than I thought!  ha!  We also made a ton of felt creations - those kids were so creative!  
My camps just kept getting younger and younger!  For my last week, I taught 5-6 year olds.  I was the most afraid of this age group of kids, but for whatever reason they turned out to be the group that felt most natural to teach!  It could be due to the fact that I am the mother to a 5 year old or that my 5 year old was in the class.  Who knows!  

This camp was called Look Up and took inspiration from the museum's ceilings!  I had this crazy fort-like project dreamed up in my head, but had no idea if I could actually make it happen until we had them hanging up at the art show!  Ha!  Every piece of their forts had something to do with the museum and we worked on a different aspect of it every day. It was SO cool to see their reactions when we actually put them together.  I am SO, SO PROUD of these forts!  This is the week where everything truly felt magical.  We spent a lot of time lying on the floor or looking at mirrors to see different aspects of what was above.  Magic, I tell ya!

While we did minimal sewing, we did do a lot of fabric play.  They got to 'drive' the sewing machine for me twice, which they thought was the coolest thing EVAH.  We also made little flags (inspired by our classroom ceiling!) for our forts that they LOVED.  One day, I took a photo of each of them from above.  I sent it though a snapchat filter that made it look like a coloring book page.  They got to color those pictures of themselves, then made their own frames, and finished them up sewing the pictures onto their frames!  Fun!

Rio was kind enough to let me raid her bookshelf for art-themed books so we could have a story time each day.  I did not plan for this, but it became such a special, important time for the group each day. I may have even sung some songs with them.  Who am I!?  Ha!

To end, I must mention the unbelievable staff and assistants that we had working with us.  NONE of this would have been possible without their support, help, encouragement, and commitment to creativity!  This was an experience that words and photos really do not do justice.  

I'm so grateful.

Thursday, June 7, 2018

The Jewel Star Quilt

Being a person who sews with older fabrics and reuses items, I seem to inherit a lot of fabric stashes. Sometimes they are from the person who no longer wants the fabric or other times, they are from a family member who has inherited the stash themselves.  Last year, I was given a fantastic stash of fabrics and doodads from a friend.  I've used SO much of that stash already in almost every quilt I've made since then.  Most of the fabrics came from her aunt, but there were a few boxes with items that were passed along to the aunt once upon a time.  One such box contained one of my favorite projects to date.  The Jewel Star Quilt.
A particulary beat up shoe box contained a stack of these hand-sewn stars.  I asked the internet if they knew what the name of this star was, and internet sleuths came back with the jewel star.  There was also a smaller stack of small, white diamonds cut up.  I played with layouts, googled the crap out of sewing y-seams, and tried to find any tips out there about sewing up these specific stars.  I decided that since the stars had been originally hand-sewn, the rest of the quilt needed to be hand-sewn.  No big deal, right?  Except I'd never hand-sewn seams before and I'd certainly never hand-quilted anything.  I'm always up for that challenge though.  
I landed on a layout of grouping trios of stars, simply because three was the common number that all of the fabrics had.  I often wonder what the original maker of this quilt had planned.  How big?  What layout?  To whom would it have been given?  Why did you stop working on it?  How long did you work on it?  Were the fabrics significant to you somehow?
It took me about six months to connect all of the pieces together.  My seams were wonky and my points weren't pointy, but I didn't care.  I definitely improved the more seams I stitched.  Learn as you go, ya know.  Once the top felt done, I went back and forth about cutting off the edges of some stars and having straight edges or keeping the stars in tact and having points everywhere or adding random stars to the edges.  I liked the idea of the trio-grouped, pointy-ness, but was pretty scared of concave angle binding!  I had a while to learn about that though.
I chose a really soft, sweet butterfly vintage bed sheet for the backing and I love it so much.  I basted it a month before I actually started quilting on it.  I just kept the whole thing in a quilting hoop in the back of my car, so I'd have some emergency sewing on hand should the situation arise.  I quilted most of it over three months during my downtime at work.  It was SO much fun.  The movements of stitching would show up in my dreams and I couldn't wait until the next time I could work on it.  That quilting time also meant that I was caught up on everything else, so it was a bit of a reward for that as well.  
Then one day, I was done quilting it.  
I was SO nervous trimming it, worried I'd cut off a vital knot of hand stitching, or cut too far into a seam.  Running my hand across the top of it suddenly became one of my favorite things to do.  I was really amazed that I'd gotten the quilt to that point with just my hands (and the hands of the original maker, of course).
Finally came the binding.  Oh man, talk about nervous.  I knew those crazy angles could be done because I had seen table runners and such with similar angles.  I wasn't even sure what to google, but searching for 'binding concave angles' wielded a few tutorials, thankfully.  Well, I had been worrying for nothing.  Yes, it took a loooooong time to sewing on the first round, but once I got in the groove, it was no big deal.  This was the ONLY part that a machine was used on this quilt.  Then, I hand stitched the backside of the binding on the quilt.  DONE.  
But wait, it needed to be washed.  I had no idea if any of this fabric had ever been washed before.  My best guess is that the stars were made in the 60s?  Maybe earlier?  Some of the fabrics had definitely seen better days, and I was definitely worried about modern day washing for them.  I was also SUPER worried about all of that hand stitching.  You'd think I'd have more faith in the stitching by hands!  
Out of the wash it came, and it looked fine.  Into the dryer.  Nail biting.  Dryer singing.  Quilt done.  Done, done.  It was perfect.  I was elated.  

It spent a few days on the back of the couch, but has since moved onto my side of the bed.  I'm just proud of it, in awe of it, and in love with its history and story, known and unknown.  One year and several decades worth of work, to bring me a little more warmth at night.  Thank you little jewel stars.
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