Sunday, November 20, 2016

Old Fashion

Facebook just reminded me that I posted these little girls on my page about six years ago. This is one of my favorite quilts and it was more than 40 years ago when my sister and I ran after butterflies in some similar dresses.

That is just a good a place as any to began reminiscing about the good old days. I was telling a friend how we buy the concentrated liquid of starch, mix it with water and put it in a spray bottle. She said, "oh you do it the old fashioned way."

People are saying that to me more and more these days. My children are constantly telling me that I should watch TV in HD (High Definition). I ask why. They say because it looks better plus you are paying for it and you have a Hi Def TV. I realized that I watch TV like it is a radio with a picture. I mostly listen because I am doing something else while it is on and every now and then I look up to see what is happening. So at this point HD doesn't matter at all to me. I tell them that I can see the future of TV. It is going to be like a hologram where the people in the show you are watching step off the screen and you have the option to interact in the story. My daughter's eyes lit up with delight at the thought.

I first noticed that I was sinking into the world of "Old Fashion" when one of my daughters informed me that an ink pen is now just called a pen. Really? How do you differentiate between an ink pen and a sticking pin? She says you just have to know. So I started calling them pens. Who cares which one? You only know the difference in writing or when someone sticks you with it.

My fate as an old fashioned lady was sealed when I was asked, "how do you store your quilts?" I answered quickly without thinking, in a chifforoll (really a chifferobe). One lady said, "oh Aisha, I haven't heard that word in a long time." Yes I know they are called Armoires now.

My latest reality check is the ability to talk to the whole world on social media in the matter of minutes. Who knew? Everywhere I go my work and my pictures proceed me. I have friends that I have yet to meet and I think that is an awesome thing.

It's a lot of little things that add up to show you that life and the world around you is changing. So for the rest of my old fashioned day, I am going to retire to my studio, listen to some down home blues and make old fashioned quilts. I like that old fashioned slow moving retreat that heals my soul.

Sunday, November 6, 2016


Have you ever been lost inside a task? Have you been lost inside a good book, lost inside your latest painting project or lost while writing? I don't know why we say "lost" because I don't feel lost when I drift away in a project. I know exactly where I am but maybe it is because we are lost to the world.

I often slip away into an art project. Ms. K told me that her mother said everybody should have a hobby as her mother taught her to quilt. Her mother also said, "your husband needs to get his own hobby as well." I think she knew something about having something in your life that lets you drift away to that place that we call "Lost".

When I am lost in my work, it feels like being cuddled in my mother's arms. It is like sitting by a rippling creek listening to the birds sing. I have tuned out the physical world, even the white noise. It all fades away and even the work becomes part of the experience. I have heard absent from the body is present with the Lord. Can I say when I slip into this peaceful place that I have left my body for some divine experience?

I know some artists who have stayed in that grove way too long. Some artist tell me that when they get in that zone, they don't want to come out. They skip meals, don't sleep for days and work until they just have to stop. I have waited too long to eat a few times but never went too long without eating and I can't imagine not sleeping but I do know what it is like to be there and not want to come out until the book ends or the art is finished or the work is done or until all the numbers add up.

I started out putting a few sequins on the R.E.S.P.E.C.T. quilt. Eight months later the hat was covered with sequins and it was exhilarating.

I started by making French knots one at a time until I covered President Obama's head. I don't remember how long it took but I do remember sticking my fingers with the needle a lot.

People have told me that it looks like crazy to them. Who does that? Who spends untold hours making something? Those people just don't know the secret of slipping away into the clouds, doing that repetitive thing that puts your body functions on automatic and lets your mind soar. I guess that is why so many artists say that what they do is therapeutic. Like the time that I spent stitching up and down about a million times to create the wings on "Only Women Have Wings". 
And Now This!!!!
I can say for sure that when I am in that space and it is clicking, some awesome stuff comes out of it. I have spent months working on that one little part of a quilt, only to have that be the sole factor that makes the quilt outstanding. I love it when I can go to that place and make MAGIC!

Sunday, October 30, 2016

Whole Cloth

Whole cloth quilts are made from one piece as opposed to quilts pieced together with many colored pieces. The beauty of the whole cloth quilt is usually the intricate quilting stitches that make up for lack of piecing design.

I had the pleasure of helping the talented quilting artist and teacher Marquetta Johnson with a class for teenage art students. We all worked on a whole cloth that started out as a blank canvas. The students were so creative. They drew fantastic art onto the cloth with fabric markers by Crayola Crayons. I didn't have time to work on mine during the class because it was an example piece. I taught the young adults how to quilt by hand on the cloth. I started mine by showing them a little design of stitches.

I brought my cloth home and did not have the heart to throw it away. It got added to the pile of "I'll get back to someday." One day it called out to me. I haven't figured out why but I picked it up and started doodling with shapes and stitches. I had no idea where it was going but it felt good. It felt real good to just relax and sew by hand.

I added a woman with wings in the center of the quilt and finished quilting the entire top. I put some brown cloth on for the woman. At that point I didn't know where I would go next. I knew I wanted to color with the Crayola Fabric markers. I also knew that I didn't have any, so I ordered some. In a few days they came in the mail and I was on my way. Painting on the colors was equally as enjoyable and relaxing as it was to quilt by hand.

First down was blue, next the center started out red.  Light green seemed like a good idea, but when I finished it I wasn't sure what I was going to do with the last space. More light green of course.  I put some yellow highlights on the center and that tinted it orange. Dark green rounded it out. I can't say that orange tint was where I wanted to go. I wanted more of a gold glow. I have one more thing to try for the effect.

The next thing was the wings. That was virgin territory. I learned a new technique from Tony Williams. He made some beautiful feathers on a quilt. Tony's feathers were so impressive that I thought they were real feathers. I don't think I quite mastered it but I can say I tried it anyway. And I should do better next time I do it.

I still have to put hair on her and bind the edges but I love the way it is turning out. My final goal is to find a nice frame for this one.

Thanks for taking this little journey with me from a blank canvas to a work of art.

Sunday, October 9, 2016

My Style

Every artist has an unmistakable style. I am not sure when and how I got one but people tell me all the time that when they saw that one-they knew instantly that it was me. All I can say is that it has been developing over time. When I started on this journey my variety of fabrics were limited. Two things effected it: 1) was our income status and 2) was the kind of fabric I could afford to buy. Ooops that is the same thing. :-)

My first quilt project was made from scraps that my father salvaged from his job. I don't think anyone that I knew made quilts from brand new fabric. Perish the thought. Everyone scrapped and saved to have enough dribbles to make a quilt. So I followed suit. I had a small bundle because I didn't know how much fabric it would take to make a quilt. My ambition was to make a full bed quilt but with my skill level and know how I should have went for something a lot smaller. So when my father brought in scraps from the making of hospital scrubs and nurses smocks, I picked a lovely pattern that I had seen other women make. My father called it "the Fly in the Buttermilk" pattern. I had seen it in a book and they called it "the Jack in the Box". My dad never played with a jack in the box when he was growing up but I am certain he drank a lot of buttermilk. As a matter of fact, he liked buttermilk until his death, especially with cornbread in it. So I suspect he knew more about a fly in the buttermilk than a jack in a box. Needless to say, I was not prepared for the undertaking I had embarked on but my father was so proud that I thought I could do it. It would be about twenty years later when I finished it. That is my regret and that was in the 70's.

Quilt World magazine became popular in the 80's just in time for the reawakening of my latent quilt talent. I decided to try my hand at a quilt that I saw in a book. I loved making blocks and stacking them up. It became a meditation before I knew what meditation was all about. I tried almost every kind of block imaginable. I liked the Star pattern the best. I made a lot of stars. Simply loved them.

My next leap didn't happen until the end of the 90's into 2000. I saw a picture of a landscape quilt and a picture of a person on a quilt. I am not sure which one I saw first but decided that I could do that. I tried my hand at the landscape first. I was so pleased with it I figured I would do a lot more of them. It didn't quite happen like that. I tried my hand at a person next. The first one was alright and the second one got better. Next thing I knew I was about twenty portrait quilts in, doing an exhibit and publishing a gallery book about the exhibit. The book is called Gifted: Art Quilts Featuring African American History Makers.

Which brings me to 2016, and the project that is taking my breath away. I said I would make 20 quilts for the National African American Quilt Convention. The Convention is 2017 in Lawrence, Kansas. It is the first ever of it's kind. I guess you can hear my excitement. Check it out at This morning I woke up realizing that 20 quilts is a lot of quilts. I have been working and designing away. And still need two more. They will come. I just need to step back and wait on more inspiration. This project has moved me to yet another level. I want this exhibit to be outstanding, fabulous, noteworthy....

We'll all see. 

Sunday, October 2, 2016

Day Trip to Paducah

I had a wonderful time!!!! First let me tell you how it all happened. Earlier this year a friend called and said, "do you want to go to the Quilt Museum in Paducah? We could go up one day and come back the next." I jumped at the idea and then put it on the back burner. I almost forgot about it. Fast forward past several months, she called again and said, "Aisha let's set a time right now. How about October 1?"

So the air is fresh in Paducah this morning. The first stop yesterday was the Hancock's of Paducah. I failed to take a picture when I walked in. I should have but I was so overwhelmed and euphoric that all I could think of was where do we start. So we went to the farthest end and walked up and down each aisle. Ou uuuu uu... Fabric Heaven. Seriously fabric heaven. We filled the shopping cart with as many bolts of fabric as it could hold and that we thought we could afford. Next we went to the cutting table. After we got all that fabric cut, the workers told us of another room in the back with pre-cut packages. Off we went. More wonder was waiting in that room but I decided to pass and order later online. The last stop for me was the remnant table. Found about five more pieces. Since I forgot to take a picture at the store, I decided to take a picture of the fabric I bought.
After walking around the store for a couple of hours and not to mention the 6 hour drive, we were ready to eat something. I brought some salad from home because I was so sure there would not be anything I could eat at the restaurant. That is usually the case, so I ate the salad I brought in the car on the way to the restaurant. Boy was I wrong. We went to JP's Bar and Grill.

The atmosphere was nice and the food was wonderful. The waiter was very knowledgeable and seemed to know that we were people who wanted some healthy food. To my surprise the food was fresh cut, fresh cooked with olive oil as opposed to butter. Just what I needed. I passed on the asparagus and went for hummus and waffle fries. The portion was so large that I had to stuff it in past the salad I had already eaten.

Some how I managed to get all of the fries down by dipping them in the hummus. I had to pack the pita bread to go. I have to give my friend all the credit for doing a fantastic job of finding us a wonderful place to eat. I do have to say that the asparagus looked really good on the other ladies plates but I had no more room in my stomach. One more thing- I have a thing for sweet tea, especially if it is good. This one was good (not as good as the sweet tea in Charleston, SC or at my house) and the waiter kept my glass refilled. I drank way too much tea.

We passed by several shops on our walk back up the street. One lady ducked into a boutique and ended up buying some jewelry. I waited on the sidewalk while the other ladies disappeared into a shop ahead. The next store was a Trump supporters store. They seemed to be selling t-shirts, bumper stickers and other Trump paraphernalia. They looked at us as we passed as if they were not welcome there. I could be wrong- I was wrong once back in 1929. ha ha ha. Then we passed one more shop that was going out of business. Passed it by. The other ladies emerged from the chocolate shop with goodies in bags. I missed that. A two hour walk around the Quilt Museum would be just what the doctor ordered. I had to walk that food down.

The anticipation swelled as we approached the building. We just knew we would see something exquisite. 
Once inside we found that no photographing was allowed. We took pictures in the lobby and memorized the rest. The quilts were awesome but we were sorely aware that there were no quilts that reflected us. I wondered if I were an alien from outer space, would I think that African American people failed to participate in this craft. The Gift Shop did not have even one (1) book by an African American person. I guess that thought was in my mind since the Smithsonian National African American Museum just opened. I could see those people in the Trump store probably asking why would you need another Quilt museum for African American people. Everybody wants their achievements and accomplishments to be acknowledged. We are no different.

The docent met us at the door and welcomed us in. We went right away to a reversible quilt hanging to the right. We could see a beautiful landscape quilt in the distance. She explained the layout of the place and told us how a few of the quilts were created. I rushed ahead since we only had two hours to see everything in the exhibit. I saw some beautiful log cabins, some horses and other art quilts. We saw abstract and traditional. Once I had seen them all, I realized that I had time to go back through and study some techniques. Some quilts had reverse applique' while others were painted on, one was thread painted and many had exquisite quilting designs. (Quilting is the stitching that is done to hold all three pieces of the quilt together). Another docent asked me had I settled on a favorite. I don't know if I found a favorite but I couldn't get the landscape  quilt and the scallops on the bright colored log cabin quilt out of my head.

I left the museum excited about the quilts I had seen along with the inspiration that I had garnered and some deep thoughts about our needs.

I swear I fell asleep with visions of new quilts in my head.

Monday, September 19, 2016

Sunday Turned Into Monday

I don't know how it happens. I wake up on Sunday morning with all of the good intentions- exercise, meditate, market, cook, Sunday things, write on blog, etc... The next thing I know -the sun rises again and it's Monday!
So here is the real deal. I spent the whole week cleaning my studio. For some strange reason (unknown to myself), I just work and put things in a pile that I plan to come back to at a later time. One day I look around and I have umpteen piles that I don't want to get rid of nor do I want to take the time to sort through them. I made a promise to myself that I am not going to do that anymore. Not sure how that promise is going to work but I think I have a plan along with the fantastic organizing system my daughter has put in place. 

When we first started this organizing project, I proudly proclaimed to my daughter that I did not need a lot of space for yardage. "I don't keep much yardage," I boasted. I guess quilters (aka fabric hoarders) don't realize how much fabric they actually have. I obviously had no idea. We started folding it and putting it on the shelf. The shelf started filling up but I could see that I had a lot of room for growth. Almost as if the Universe were listening, a friend gave me three large bags of yardage. Our next door neighbor cleaned out her mother's things and I inherited another boost to my yardage shelf. Then Cousin Leola, who had been a seamstress all her life, was moved to a nursing home and more sewing goodies poured in. I started finding fabric that I forgot I had stuffed into some totes in my rough past attempts at organizing. I found that out of sight meant out of mind. The more totes, bins and boxes that we opened, the more I realized that my sense of how much fabric I really had was totally off.

The button display turned out to be more a work of art than a storage system. I never turn down buttons. We always salvaged buttons from old clothes before discarding them. So I had a wonderful collection of old buttons that my oldest daughter spend her childhood enjoying. Buttons are the one thing that I inherit the most when people are cleaning out their mother's belongings. I love collecting those buttons.

When did I buy all these beads? When I first started making quilts, all one needed was fabric and thread. Then quilting warped into the arena of fine art and embellishments became the rule of the day. I kept the beads in a container, then I added another container and a box. They became another thing that was out of sight/out of mind. This beautiful display makes adding embellishments playful.

My favorite organized spot is the thread shelf. It makes my work so easy. I used to dread changing the thread because I kept the thread in another room. I would have to stop what I was doing if a change was required. So I compensated by doing as many things with one color thread before I changed. I would have several different projects going at one time because they all used the same color thread. Now all I have to do is stand up from my sewing chair, grab the next color and keep it moving.
This wonderful organization did not happen over one week but a big push this week make it just beautiful. And all in all, I finished the Crown Royal art quilt. I named it "Friday Night." And the owner of both the art quilt and the bed quilt was super super happy. 

Sunday, September 11, 2016


Last Sunday was garbled up in the holiday. I thought I would come back on Monday and write but it slipped away as well. I finished three things that I had been working on. So happy to say that the Crown Royal bed quilt is finished. I can't wait to see what the owner thinks about it. 
I originally thought I could get away with leaving the crowns off the back of the bag. That didn't work. My niece looked at it and said, "what happened to the crowns on the bags?" I told her I was trying to leave them off. She said, "well maybe you can make some kind of design with them. Like just putting a few to a make a design like a diamond shape." I am sure that was her kind and silent way of saying, "are you crazy. That looks a hot mess." LOL. Making a design with the crowns proved to be more work than to just add the crowns to each bag. If I had known I was going to add the crowns, I surely would have done it before I started sewing all of that together. She was right. It was not the same without them.

I also finished a couple of other quilts. It would seem that since I finished those two plus the crown royal quilt that I would be down to two open projects left. That is not how it goes. My brain starts ticking away at the next quilt before I can finish the one I am working on. So I am back up to five on-going projects. Whoopi!

My workshop at The National African American Quilt Conference is Scrap Easy. I've been working on a smaller version of the quilt for the workshop. It turned out the same as the big one.
The time went by so fast when I was working on it that I was able to do two of them. I am going to try and get the technique and time down so that we can have some finished products when the class is over. It is going to be a fun filled class. Check out the website for more info on the conference at

I still did not finish the Crown Royal art quilt yet but I am in the home stretch. I am putting the binding on. I'll show you next week.