• The Sublime Heritage of Martha Mood Volume II – Book Review

    I have been quilting first on a hobby level and then professionally since the early 1970’s and why I’d never heard of Martha Mood before is beyond me. Her work is phenomenal. This is the second volume in a two volume set; the first volume is more a biography about her and her career. While I should probably pick that one up as well at some point, I really wanted this book, the one  with the gallery, eye-candy of her spectacular work. The photographs in this large format book are numerous and beautifully reproduced, she was quite prolific so there is a lot to see. The copy I saw in a friend’s possession had a lovely printed hard cover featuring a close up of one of the mural style pieces she made; though there was no image on the listing I found for the book on Amazon, I was delighted to find my copy had the same cover when it arrived.

    I was introduced to this book (and some other lovely ones on embroidery) by a friend that I spent a lovely evening with last fall. I was in Tillamook Oregon where I had been teaching some hand embroidery and hand applique classes at the Latimer Quilt and Textile Center. I was staying at  a friend’s home for a few days and one evening another friend who had been in the embroidery class came by and brought some books she thought I might enjoy looking through. One look at the cover and I knew I had to have this.


    The book cover shows a fine example of Martha's unique style
    The book cover shows a fine example of Martha’s unique style


    Martha was an applique artist who made marvelous fabric tapestries. Most of the work presented in the book is from the 1960’s, the designs are very lyrical express a free spirit. On a certain level, I find her work reminiscent of the art of Charley Harper, she certainly was a contemporary of his even if she worked in a different medium.

    Martha used a wide variety of types of fabrics in her work, many appear to be decorator fabrics and she used a lot of hand stitching/embroidery to add exquisite detail to her work. Her work reminds me of some of my own early work when I felt no hesitance at incorporating whatever fabric caught my fancy with no regard as to fiber content; I also loved to enhance my applique with hand embroidery and perhaps this book will give me the courage to explore this again.

    The pieces she made were largely appliqué, some rendered skillfully by hand with turned edges, some rendered in a primitive raw edge technique. There is no reference to whether she used fusible webs in the raw edged work but given most of the pieces shown are dated from early to late 1960’s, I know the choices of fusible webs were very limited back then (if available at all). The raw edged work does not appear to be fused though; there is a ‘look’ to fused appliqué that I find particularly unpleasant and even the softer webs do not allow the fabric to form true to its nature.


    a close look at Martha's raw edge applique, this amount of hand embroidery would have been very difficult on fused fabric
    a close look at Martha’s raw edge applique, this amount of hand embroidery would have been very difficult on fused fabric


    Due to the large format of the book and the resulting large photos, it is possible to really appreciate the workmanship and the texture of the materials shown in the pieces selected for this book, I think it is a ‘must have’ for any quilter who is interested in pictorial style quilting and appliqué. I found a used copy on Amazon for a very reasonable price, interestingly, my copy is a bit of a collector’s item in my opinion as a stamp on the front faceplate page indicates it was withdrawn from the Smithsonian Institution Library on May 12, 1983, that in itself makes it an interesting addition to my personal library.


  • My New Year’s Resolution

    Well, it’s January 6th and I’m about to embark on my New Year’s resolution. I have several – one is to clean and reorganize my sewing room and office, another is to try and get caught up with several years worth of neglected yard work on my two acres of property (sometimes it feels like Milne’s Hundred Acre Wood) and another resolution is to try and post more on my website (and update the gallery and calendar).

    This morning I’ve decided to ‘review’ some new embroidery needles I’m trying. A shop I teach for – Pioneer Quilts – recently started carrying a new line of hand sewing needles. They are Tulip Hiroshima Needles made in Japan. Apparently, the company started by making beading needles and have expanded into other types of needles, applique, quilting, embroidery, Sashiko… The needles I’m trying out is an assortment of embroidery needles ranging from size #3 – #6. So far, I’m impressed. I’m working with 6-strand cotton DMC floss (all 6 strands) and have found the needles thread more easily than than a comparable sized needle I was using previously. The needles are also quite sharp and have made stitching through the multiple layers of fabric in my project a bit easier. While the needle takes a little more force to penetrate initially (I’m assuming the taper at the tip is more obtuse), I’ve found that once you reach the ‘break point’ the needle glides through with ease and does not get stuck when you reach the threaded eye and requiring a LOT of force to pull it through like the other needles I had been using.

    The only downside is the cost. A package of Clover embroidery needles in assorted sizes will set you back around $3 – $5 depending on the type of needle and where you buy them, and come 16 to a package. The Tulip needles come at a hefty price – around $8.50 for just 8 needles. They are worth the cost however if they continue to work this well in other projects.

    These are the assorted Tulip needles sizes #3, #4, #5 & #6, notice they come in a little corked tube.
    These are the assorted Tulip needles sizes #3, #4, #5 & #6, notice they come in a little corked tube.
    This is the embroidery project I'm working on. It was meant to just be an example of layered and slashed fabric and the 'flaps' were supposed to curl and fray but the new non-agitating washers won't rough up the fabric so I trimmed them back and decided to embellish the resulting (rather boring) piece with hand embroidery
    This is the embroidery project I’m working on. It was meant to just be an example of layered and slashed fabric and the ‘flaps’ were supposed to curl and fray but the new non-agitating washers won’t rough up the fabric so I trimmed them back and decided to embellish the resulting (rather boring) piece with hand embroidery

  • Time Flies…

    I once heard someone say – “Time flies whether you are having fun or not, so you may as well be having fun. This past fall was fun but it was also a brutal schedule. I would be gone on a teaching engagement and return home with just enough time to get a little caught up on other work and prepare for the next trip before I was out the door again. My husband was not a happy camper.

    To make things worse, right before my last trip in November, I discovered my camera missing. I looked everywhere I normally keep it in the house and then in odd nonsensical places (in case the cat batted it under the furniture) and still no luck. Though I was distressed over the loss of the camera, the biggest loss in my mind were the pictures I had been too busy to download to my computer – they were irreplaceable.

    I finally bit the bullet and bought a new camera about a month ago, one ‘smarter’ that I am and I’m still trying to figure out how to download the software to make it able to transfer pictures wirelessly. Then, of all thing, I found my old camera a few days ago and in a place I swear I’d checked several times. It had slipped into a ziploc bag of embroidery supplies in a canvas project bag. I had removed the various ziploc project bags repeatedly to search the main bag for the camera and never noticed that one was a bit heavier than it ought to be. Oh well, I was thinking of upgrading the camera anyway and at least I got my lost photos back.

    So this is what I’ve been up to over the last couple of months: I started in early October with a trip to Pennsylvania to teach at a retreat sponsored by The Quilt Patch Etc. in Mt Pleasant, I taught my Garden Patch Cats & Bloomin’ Dogs class, Thread Painting and Mini Landscapes and have some wonderful photos of student work below.

    Following that, I taught at the Ocean Waves Quilt Camp at Rockaway Beach in Oregon sponsored by Jane’s Fabric Patch in Tillamook OR. I taught my regular standby – Machine Quilting and also my new class on Animal Totems.

    After that, I headed home for a few days then right back to Tillamook, this time to teach at the Latimer Textile Center where I offered a class on Hand Embroidered Folk Ornaments and then a class on Hand Appliqued Molas. While there, I stayed with my good friend and Starbucks Hot Chocolate Buddy, mystery writer, Arlene Sachitano. It was after this trip that I misplaced my camera so I did not get pictures of my next trip to teach for the West Sound Quilters in Port Orchard WA.

    After that, the holidays set in and between preparations for Thanksgiving and Christmas coupled with playing catch-up with patterns and local teaching venues, I haven’t been at all good about keeping up with my blog. Perhaps I should make that my New Year’s resolution.

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