June 14, 2013

A new exhibit opened at the FACES gallery, this month, featuring the work of a remarkable group of quilters. I was recently privileged to attend a meeting of the African American Quilters of Baltimore. The group has been meeting in the Baltimore area for over twenty years and has succeeded in bringing together talented quilters from around the region. The club’s motto of Each One Teach One is a perfect description of what their aims as a group is, fostering the art of quilting for future generations.

Members of the AAQB show off some of their work.

Members of the AAQB show off some of their work.

We arrived at beautiful church on the outskirts of Baltimore and made our way into the parish house meeting room. After allowing us to speak about FACES and the group’s upcoming show in the gallery, the group’s speakers were ready to dazzle.

First up was Catherine Wooton who talked about piecing techniques that have helped her to resize patterns she finds in the various sources that inspire her work. I was told in confidence that she has elves in her basement to do the amazing work. However, after a very detailed explanation of what she does to make the work easier; it is clear her real secret is experience. Examples of her masterpieces in piecing can be seen at FACES.

Next up was Vera Hall, who gave a history lesson on African American seamstress Elizabeth Keckley.  She made dresses for the elite women of Washington DC, before and during the civil war. Her most famous client was Mary Todd Lincoln, becoming one of her trusted confidants. Vera’s research has inspired her to create a number of quilted pieces that celebrate African American history, several of which can be seen in the FACES gallery. Look for her Harriet Tubman quilt in the show, and a 3D quilt of her grandmother.

If it is possible to believe, I actually had a life changing revelation during the meeting: pool noodles! Yes, those cheap foam tubes you get at the dollar store. If you already knew this secret, then help me to spread the gospel of the pool noodle; the people of the world need to know! Use these amazing little items to store your flat textiles. They are the perfect bases to roll textiles on to, because they are soft, malleable, and you can pin textiles directly to them, for easy storage.

However, the best take away was their nametags. Simple squares of fabric made of two triangles give a place to put your name and to attach pins from quilt conferences.  Many of the members wear several of these, at the same time, creating wonderful swatches of color everywhere I turned.