May 4, 2008

QUILT SHOW - Louise Chisholm

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The quilt show featuring quilts created by children, with the guidance and expertize of artist Louise Chisholm was a tremendous success.

Pictures of the show are available by clicking HERE

Here is an Essay By Louise Chisholm 2008 detailing this project!


THE QUILT CHILDREN  (in order of making)

Maeve Dixon
Aedan Feiel
Laura Dixon
Adam Desmarais
Lorena Howard
Hannah Welch
Jason Howard
Page Ivens
Jesse Burns
Hannah Allbright
Taylor Barnaby
Kayla Balzer
Jessica Balzer
Kassidy Harris
Claudia Crocker
Alyssa Teed
Megan Wos
Mackenzie Allbright
Charlene Albright
Kelsi Sullivan
Braegha Crocker
Sara Whitenect
Camryn Pyne
Raine Prime

THE MARKS OF HAPPINESS; an Essay by Louise Chisholm, 2008

The title, 'Marks of Happiness' came from the remarks of Alyssa
Teed. The top of her quilt was almost complete. We had embroidered lots of
small marks: spirals, wiggly lines, happy faces and more all over it. These
marks seemed the most important part of her construct. One day I asked if they
had a special meaning?
"Oh yes" she said."Those are the marks of happiness."
Tears came to my eyes at such a beautiful answer. And with her permission, I
chose if for the title. Indeed, my hope for each of the quilt children is that
their quilt also contains marks of happiness for them.

This project began late in 2003 when some of my grandchildren wanted to
make a quilt for their bed. They came to visit once a week for an hour. We
planned, cut, sewed and sewed and made their quilts. But then their friends and
cousins were interested. The project got a little bigger. Now in May of 2008
,24 children have made quilts and about 10 more are on the waiting list. All
this from 2 small villages (total population 800) on an island in the Bay of
Fundy. Both boys and girls have been eager to try. Boys under 12 see a sewing
machine as a machine,. like a car or chain saw, not as a female object. They
enjoy as many aspects of quilt-making as do girls. My expectation was that
interest would be greatest in the early teen group. But I was wrong.--7-12 or
so is the place where children are fierce to do this.

In my childhood (late 40's and 50's) everyone did lots of
sewing-their clothes, kids clothes, tea towels, curtains,mending, endless
sewing. Women of my generation grew up sewing both at home and at school,
where sewing started in grade one or two. Dolls, doll clothes made out of our
mother's scraps was often our starting place. I made my first quilt at 13
with the help of a dear neighbout, Margaret Miller. And only at 22, when I
made my next quilt did I begin to appreciate how much she had helped me. My
Mom wasn't a quilter. Clothes were her passion. I neither realized or
understood how much Margie had done for me with her help to make my first
quilt. I only embroidered the squares and pieced them up, log cabin style.
She squared it off and with fine small stitches quilted it and bound the edges.
I wish we had worked together and she had shown me how, but with 5 girls of her
own she was busy. Perhaps quilting was her quiet peaceful time (as it is for me
now). My grand-daughter has tha quilt now. It was her Mother's baby
blanket. Part of this project is a tribute to Margie and the women of her
generation. Part of it is my endeavour to pass sewing skills and a love of
accomplishment on to another generation.

The next quilt I made was for my own little children: fast, cheap, warm
bedding. With 3 in diapers there was little time for fancy work, little money
for fine cloth. Curtains, old garments, that's the sort of material I
used. Then more quilts for friends, babies, weddings until 1977 when as a
thank-you for my aunt I went to the store and bought brand-new materials for a
quilt for her. I had never done that before. It is easier when you can choose
whatever you want. In 1979 We moved here and I began making quilts to sell.
With this project, the first plan was to go to the school and work with each
class. But we don't get younger and I am an old woman now and not so
mobile, not so able to join things and work for my community, but it seemed
feasible for the children to come to me. We could work, one on one until the
task was complete.

When the first two children asked if they could make a quilt I was
honoured and excited. When we were done and they proudly bore them off home
some of their little friends, cousins, neighbours, wanted to make one too. The
project just grew. now there is a 'want-to' list on my calendar. New
names appear on the bottom as regularly as the completed quilts move off the


The child arrives at my house. We sit in the room and talk about quilts, their
function and history for a few minutes. Then we climb upstairs to the loft
where there are 2 boxes of large pieces of fabric, mostly cottons, found by
myself and others at 2nd hand stores, church and yard sales etc. I have washed
and ironed them all.

"Sort through each box and make a pile of whatever you like" And
when you have done that I say "Push it all off the edge of the loft"
We watch it all tumble down to the floor below. Everyone likes that part.
Back down we climb and put all the fabric you have chosen in a box. You write
your name on the box. "Sit down and the table and draw a picture of how
you want your quilt to look". We talk about things like borders,
backgrounds, solid cloth or pieced. "You can draw whatever you want'.
That is the end of the first session.


My house is built into the side of a hill. The basement has a door to the
outside and 2 big windows facing south-east. Against one of the windows is a
long table and a sewing machine. In the middle of the room is a sheet of
plywood over some up-ended lobster crates. That is our work table for cutting
and lay out. Downstairs we go and working from your drawing begin our
assembly. You make all design choices. I exist as a technical advisor. Our
only parameter is function. If it will work we can do it. Purple sky, green
teeth, speckled hair, it is all o.k. Usually we begin with the background.
'Is it one piece of cloth or several? Show me with your hands how big
that is. Which piece of cloth from your box do you wish to use?"

If you want strips or big squares we tear the cloth-an easy way to get a
straight edge with most fabrics. We each hold a part and tear it into as many
pieces as we need. You love that part. Next we sew pieces together. You want
one strip for sky and one for earth. Working on the big table I show you how to
put the pins in. You do some. We always work together at each task. Then we
carry the cloth over to the sewing table. It is a bit scary for you. I show
you where you will sit, on a chair right beside me and we sit down. "This
is a sewing machine. The needle goes up and down and joins cloth together. We
never put our hands near the needle. It could sew us too. You make it go by
stepping on this pedal" And I show you. "now, you step on the pedal
and make it go. When I say 'stop', please stop."

I have pushed the pedal over beside your chair. You step on it and I push the
cloth through the sewing machine. When we are done I ask"What do you
think? Was that too hard?"

You laugh. "No" you say. "I liked it" The earth and sky
are joined. We iron it and you have an ironing lesson. We lay the sewn parts
out on our work table. "What goes on next?" I ask you. We look at
your drawing. You want a sun or birds or a rainbow or a rocket ship.
"Show me with your hands how big that is" But your sun is only about
2 " big. Your quilt is 55"x85". "Draw it on this piece of
paper". Now cut it out" You cut it out and lay it on the sky part.
It is about as big as a button. "Is that big enough? Would you like to
draw it bigger?" You draw another sun, lots bigger and cut out your paper

"Pick the cloth you want to use for your sun". If the right colour
is not in your box we look in the pile of small scraps in the cupboard. They
are sorted by colour so it is easy to find something you like. "Do you
want it to lie flat or be stuffed and stick out?" Sometimes you have to
explain it to me 2 or 3 times so I understand. "Do you want the edges of
your sun to look lie this? or like this?" and I show you samples of
different techiniques. There are always lots of questions for you. It makes
you think and become more confident about decision making.
We cut out and place the sun. You pick out thread, any colour you want,
to sew around the edge. We start to sew. You are doing the foot part. It is
easier this time. I tell you to go a bit slower, it's not a race-car. You
laugh. Oh, here is your Mama or Daddy come to pick you up. We quickly discuss
do you want to show them or will it be a surprise at the end? You usually want
to surprise the. "Do you want me to finish sewing around the sun for next
week or do you want me to save it for you to do?" Mostly, you will want
me to finish this part. "Next week, when you return, we will begin the
first butterfly'. And off you run upstairs where your parent is waiting.
I tell them it is goint to be a surprise and they can't see it yet. When
you leave I go downstairs, finish sewing your sun and tidy up.


There is a birdfeeder by the basement window. We can see it from our sewing
chairs. Half an hour before you come I put out more seed. The squirrels and
birds will come and eat while you are here. You arrive off the schoolbus and
downstairs we go. Your quilt lies on the table. The sun is all sewn.
"What next?" I ask.

"3 butterflies' you answer. "Like real ones?" I ask.
"or like ones you draw?" You aren't sure. We look at a
butterfly book so you can see the colours, shapes and patterns of butterflies.
"Like ones I draw" you say. We begin the drawing process again. You
are not confident about your drawing skills. I talk about shapes of things and
show you on a scrap several ways to draw butterflies. Then I crumple up my
drawings and tell you to draw your own. If it was summer and there were
butterflies in the garden, we would go outside and look at them. You draw a
butterfly and choose your cloth. Each one will be a different colour and all
will be stuffed.

The noise of bluejays and squirrels interrupts us. We stand at the window and
watch them. We talk about birds and squirrels and their habits. Back we go to
our butterflies. You have drawn the actual size wings and body pattern. We
trace them onto the cloth you have chosen. You try and cut them out. But of
all the skills required for sewing, cutting cloth is the most difficult one for
children to learn. I can show them how I do it, let them try different
scissors, but it is consistently the area of greatest difficulty. I cut them
out for you. We baste a narrow hem on the edges and you pin them on your
quilt. You have chosen a different colour of thread for each one. We zig-zag
around the edges. This time you try the hand part. Sitting right beside you I
do the foot part and help you guide the cloth. It goes well. We talk about
freedon of choice. You tell me that you prefer the foot part of sewing.
"O.K.", I say "just sew to the next pin and we will trade
places." And we do.

It's almost time for your parent to come. We discuss next week's task:
stuffing each butterfly, and off you go. And so the lessons continue until the
front of your quilt is complete. Next, the back or underside. The simplest
and most traditional solution is a single piece of cloth. But it can be
anything. One child made a crazy patchowrk of all sorts of materials, each
overstitched with rayon thread, hundreds of pieces. It was as if the front of
her quilt helped her understand the process. The back was where she ran with
it. Another child cut a heart stencil and we printed coloured hearts on
9" squares of yellow flannellette. Another child brushed textile ink on
her hands and feet and printed them on pieced gingham. It can be anything.
You choose.

Maybe we go upstairs and look in the material box again. Probably by now there
are a few new pieces in there. Then we begin assembling the back. Somewhere,
on your project, I ask you to put your name and the year. We discuss different
ways of doing that. You choose the one you like best. You also choose how you
will write your name, initials, middle name, etc. Now the front and back of
your quilt is complete. You are easy with the foot part of sewing, comfortable
with the hand part of machine sewing and have sewn some of your quilt doing both
hand and foot all by yourself. You are not ready to sew all by yourself yet.
You have made all of the design choices and have done some of every single step
in the assembly. You are excited to seee this big project coming together and
we talk about it. "Was this project easier or more difficult than you

"I think it was easier and it went faster too" is the usual response.

"What was your favorite part?" The answer veries from child to
child. Common responses are:"tearing cloth, drawing patterns, picking
colours, ironing, embroidery and even, feeding the goldfish."

"What was your least favorite part"? Lots of answers here too-many
the same as in the first question: "picking fabric, ironing, drawing, and
at least 8 times- sewing" We both laugh- you are used to me now and you
know I like honesty.


Earlier we discussed knotting vs. quilting."If you wish to quilt your
quilt, it will look like this, be thinner and lie flat." I show you an
example. "It will take us 10 or 20 more sessions. If you wish to knot
your quilt it will be thick and puffy. You can invite your parents or friends,
it will take us about an hour" I show you a knotted example. You think
for a few seconds. "I want to knot it" they all say. (Though l
child out of the 24, quilted a baby quilt we made for her aunt's baby).
So you want to knot your quilt too and we will sew 3 layers of batting into it.
When you come this week your quilt is all laid out on the table. You can see
how great it looks with your name finished. I praise you about your fantastic
design. "Both sides of your quilt are finished. Is there anything you
wish to add?"


"Are you sure?"


And we pin the front a back together and put 3 layers of batting on it. We pin
all together on all 4 sides and machine sew around the edge. You do some (at
least 3 ") of hand and foot sewing together. I am still right beside you
helping you. It is easy for you. We laugh a lot because it is so big and
puffy and almost covers both of us when we sit at the machine. We leave an
opening about 14" long, take out the pins, trim the seams and reverse the
quilt through the hole. You are so excited. We pin and handsew the opening
closed and shake it all out. Your eyes are bright and shining. A project that
seemed almost impossible to you at the beginning is close to completion.
Working together we have surpassed your expectations. Before your parent comes
we run up into the loft and you choose the colour and type of thread or yarn
you want for the knots. You show me with your hands how close the knots will
be and where they will go on your design. This is our last formal class. The
next time you come with a parent, aunt or grandparent and a friend, it will be
to finish your quilt.


And so your guests arrive. Your quilt is all laid out on the table, pinned
with many of the knotting threads in place. Your parents and friends are
pleased and surprised at your amazing work. I show everyone how to tie the
knots. You decide how long the threads will be. You take the big darning
needle and put the last few knots in your quilt. We all tie knots. It goes
quickly. You and your friends run upstairs for juice and cookies. We
grown-ups finish knotting. I call you back down to help take out all the pins.
We flip it over and show the other side. Everyone is speechless again. If if
is a nice day we go outside, pin the quilt on the clothesline and take a photo.
Finally your 5 month project is complete. We fold it up and you carry it off

Next week another child will start. This has been almost as exciting a project
for me-- both as a person and as an artist.Each child's free choice, lack of
inhibition and cultural constraint makes for unusual and innovative ways of
handling cloth. Each child's individuality shows in their work. As the
quilt moves through the many steps from concept to completion the child expands
in confidence, trust, skill and decision making. And then it becomes theirs to
take home and keep. The earlier makers tell me their pleasure only increases
as their quilt becomes part of their daily life and comfort. There are as many
benefits for me..I get to know and work with some fine young people. Their open
attitudes to materials, colour, texture and pattern are radical and liberated.
It strengthens my work, makes me more innovative, experimental and exploratory,
braver and more daring. I hope it is also a way to pass on skills and interests
ot another generation, to instill a feeling of "I can do it" to
promote trust and equality amongst all peoples for even baby steps will

ultimately reach the mountain top.

Louise Chisholm 2008

All of the children were able to give something back to Louise, to Thank her for all her time, patience, and work teaching them the art of quilting. Nadine Tidd came up with the idea and Helen Ivens organized an appreciate quilt in which the 24 children each created a 6x6inch block which was then sewed together to make a mini quilt to present to Louise.
Some of the children that were at the show, gathered together and sang "Rubber Duckie Your The One" to Louise and presented her with the quilt they made for her.
Louise was surprised and delighted! See the mini quilt and presentation to Louise below!

Louise's own quilt designs and other works of her ART are available for purchase online at ARTSY CRAFTSY FOLKS


Artdoll said...

That's such an awesome idea, I'd love to own a quilt made my kids :)

Lorraine Moore ~ Artsy Craftsy Folks said...

Thanks for your comment! Yes, my friend Louise Chisholm is very talented and kids and parents alike loved the concept. After the quilt show, Louise has decided to continue on, as more and more kids have expressed their desire to design a quilt and create it with her. My 10 year old has already made one, but now my 7 year old is going to.... I am so happy she will continue on with the project........