This quilt was made as the fires raged from September 3 through the first rains of the season on November 8, 2020. Each 4 inch square was created from screen shots captured on PurpleAir.com of the outdoor Air Quality Index of San Francisco.
For weeks, millions of Californians were smothered by smoke from a record explosion of wildfires burning through grass, shrubs, conifer forests, homes and businesses. Eyes watered. Lungs burned. Skies glowed orange. People suffered sore throats, headaches and chest pains. Many cloistered themselves indoors as pollution spiked to “hazardous” levels, or worse. Smoke transported health dangers to nearly every corner of the state. State air quality officials are aware of no precedent for so many people breathing such high levels of wildfire smoke for so long. Even as air quality begins to improve, many remain worried about long-term health impacts. Wildfire smoke is poisoning California kids, and some pay a higher price than others.
In many ways, the blazes were unprecedented. But experts say these kinds of wildfires will also become very normal and routine if we do not take significant action to adapt to climate change and reduce greenhouse-gas emissions.
On September 9, 2020 we awoke to an apocalyptic dark orange sky with smoke blowing at high altitudes across the California coastline from wildfires throughout the northern part of the state. At midday the sky was still so dark headlights were required to drive and with no daylight penetrating homes, interior lights were required to function indoors as if it were night. While hard to believe, the smoke only got worse in later days as it moved from high altitude to ground level, making it even more hazardous to breathe outdoors.
The higher the AQI value, the greater the level of air pollution and the greater the health concern. Air quality ranged from purple/red (hazardous/unhealthy), to orange/yellow (unhealthy for sensitive groups/moderate) to green (good/satisfactory.) San Francisco’s microclimates and hilly terrain causes a great deal of variety in the small 7 by 7 mile city, as indicated by the varied confetti and bar colors at any one point in time. Here are examples of blocks created from the associated PurpleAir.com screen shots.
To keep the blocks in chronological order (marked on masking tape on the back of each block) I sewed the entire quilt by chain piecing it. The completed quilt measures 60″ x 60″.
So often in these past 4-5 years something has happened in our country or in the world that makes me want to create things as a response to feelings of outrage. I’ve scrapped so many ideas that focused on negative quotes and statements in the news – the thought of intensely stewing in bile for the 20-40 hours it takes to make a quilt is simply toxic.
With this in mind, I focused on imagining what I wanted to happen. Inspired by a giant “blue wave” sign made from thousands of blue Post-It notes at the March for Women, I set out to create my own blue wave.
The background is various blue/violet Kona cotton fabrics and was pieced using a variation of the “Disappearing Nine-Patch” design. I cut it up further and pieced it back together to create a more jumbled background. It finished as a wall hanging at 36″ x 36″.
I knew I wanted to make the waves by quilting, but was worried the busy-ness of the background would make the quilting get lost. My first attempt at this was to create and sew three bias tape waves that I’d fill in with big-stitch hand-quilting using various white and blue colors of pearl cotton. Once I did this, however, I thought it looked cartoony and silly.
I was disappointed as it really didn’t have the feel I was going for. So – there’s always the seam ripper! I sewed around the bias tape, pulled it out and added a lot more quilting and, while still subtle, am very happy with the end result.
This quilt invites you to take a closer look. From farther away, you see the patch of blue, and a few shadows swirling across it. Closer up, the eye wanders around and through the stitching like a labyrinth.
I take such joy in repurposing fabric from clothing. I’ve used my downtime during the pandemic to clean out closets, “get real” about what I really like to wear and will be wearing in the future, and donating clothing to Goodwill for better purposes. I set aside a set of linen dresses that I’d worn out, or just didn’t fit or look right on me, and cut them into various long strips and pieces and began to put back together as a quilt. The result is the Five Dresses quilt (56″x79″). Once pieced, it was quite saggy and droopy. Before quilting, I heavily spray basted it (in my backyard – why haven’t I been doing this back there all these years and instead cramming myself in my enclosed garage?) and then densely quilted it. I love the process of just sewing strips and pieces together without much though except for trying to get light/dark variation, and using up as much of the fabric as possible. Using what I had on hand, the colors just turned out to work together. It definitely has the feelings of Gees Bend and Rose Lee Tompkins. I’m looking around our closets to see what else I might repurpose – nothing is safe!
I just completed an art swap with a longtime friend of mine, Dan Gremminger. He admired an earlier version I made of this quilt design, and I been enjoying his Pop Portraits pixelated art series. We’ve mentioned it a few times over the years, but finally agreed at our last reunion (University of Texas Longhorn Alumni Band! Hook Em Horns!) to do an art swap. This is my completed quilt for him with a few detail photos of the echo quilting below.
I was delighted to use this fabric for the back – I’ve been looking for the perfect project to use it!
In return, Danny painted this wonderful portrait of our beloved family dog, Sparky, whom we lost earlier in the year after 16 years. I wrote about him here. It is our new family treasure and heirloom.
I’m finally creating a project that’s been on my mind for years – making a crocheted rug from the leftover T-shirts from my kids’ memory quilts. I collected their favorite outgrown shirts for years and for each kid made a T-shirt memory quilt of the images printed on the front. This still leaves a lot of leftover fabric from the shirt – the back, the bottom and often the long sleeves. I made “T-yarn” from the bigger scrap pieces (there are lots of tutorials on how to do this – just Google it.) From this yarn, I’ve learned to crochet in-the-round and am making a large, colorful crocheted area rug (took a great class at ImagiKnit here in San Francisco.) I’m still going at it, but it’s getting pretty big!
…to make this!
I’ve been sticking to my 2018 New Year’s resolution to use repurposed materials, or to only use what I have in my stash and on hand. This project, thankfully, has helped me use up several bags of stored items. Also, it prompted me to go through my own wardrobe and repurpose shirts that no longer fit, are stained or that I simply have not been wearing. I have a lot of balls of T-yarn to use – this could get pretty darn big.
A recent trip with family yielded much inspiration for quilting. I couldn’t wait to get back home to start ripping up fabric strips from my stash to make something! My husband, kids (both home from college for the weekend) and my brother, sister-in-law and nephews had a wonderful weekend hiking around Monterey Bay as well as making a quick trip to the Monterey Aquarium. The colors in the water around the coast are mesmerizing. This is what I’ve started the first afternoon. We’ll see where it goes….
Looking for something to put over the fireplace, I recently created this quilt from my vast collection of batik fabrics. I have a soft spot in my heart for those batiks. After I finished it I learned that Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg claimed to be a “flaming feminist.” I like the sound of that. Here’s to the Notorious RBG.
My New Year’s Resolution for 2018 was not to buy any new fabric and to focus on creating with only what I have on hand. I’ve mostly kept to that – and one that fills the bill is this one made from my husband’s shirts. As we were cleaning out our garage he found a bunch of shirts that he planned to give away. I intercepted (note I didn’t BUY anything new) and used them to make this shirt quilt. It’s been quite a project, however! It took a long time to cut up the shirts (lots of good videos on how to dissemble a shirt to get the maximum fabric for reuse.) Then, cutting and piecing to make the best use of the stripes took a long time as well. And this quilt in HUUUUGE – the biggest I’ve made yet (a comfortable king bed size – what was I thinking?) I have enough squares leftover for a twin size, I believe. Finally, I started quilting it on the machine outlining the seams, but it looked a mess. Sooo – I decided to hand-quilt the entire thing. I adore the look, but here we are in July and I’m still only about 1/3 of the way done, despite lots of marathon TV series watching while doing it. In the end, it’ll be worth it and a family treasure, I’m sure.
Keeping with my New Years Resolution to sew only what I have and NOT add more fabric to my hoard…I pulled out my technicolor scrap pile and created this quilt using foundation piecing. Not really having an overall plan or any idea how it would turn out, I must admit I LOVE it! The oblong bricks create an exciting energy. It practically screams at you! I’m quilting it now. #scrapquilting
I’ve had this beautiful panel of a Japanese print hanging around for a while and finally sat down to tackle the “one block wonder” technique. I’m happy with how it turned out but have no idea what to do with it. I only wish I had more of this fabric as it’s a weird size that it’s not useful for much. Ideas? #oneblockwonder