Tuesday, October 25, 2016

Meet Your (quilt) Maker: Felicity Lufkin

Somehow Sew Boston has passed (a raging success), it's almost Halloween, and we're into the season of finishes. After skipping show and tell at the meeting last month, we can't wait to see what you all have been up to - this Sunday, the usual time and place! 

One of the best parts of the CMQG is getting to draw on the expertise of our various members to learn something new. This month we're excited to hear from Felicity Lufkin, a lecturer in Harvard's Folklore and Mythology program about the history of quilting. 

Here's a little more on Felicity:

What’s your favorite podcast/music/audiobook genre to listen to when you quilt?

My podcast rotation is heavy on NPR, and lately I've also been following Seriously from BBC1. My audiobook choices run from classics to cozy mysteries to contemporary literature. Right now I'm listening to Caitlin Moran's How to Build a Girl (read by Louise Brealey) and finding it fabulously funny and moving.

What sewing skill are you most proud of?

I always get a kick out of spiral-cutting bias binding because it feels like a magic trick, but I feel most proud when I can figure out how to explain or show a technique to someone else in a way that works for them.

What skill are you itching to master?

Long arm quilting! I have made a start on this.

Detail of recently completed quilt.

Do you sew for a living?

No, although my sewing skills have turned out to be professionally useful. I am an art historian by training, and a lecturer in Harvard's Folklore and Mythology program. One of the classes I teach is on quilt history, and I include  "lab" sessions on basic quilt-making techniques.

What kind of fabric are you most attracted to?

I just generally like fabric. All kinds of fabric. 

Two quilts currently in use.

Tell us about the quilt that means the most to you and why. This doesn’t have to be one that you made. And we’d love to see a picture!

When I was little, my grandmother showed me a crazy quilt made by my great-grandmother, and I thought it was one of the most beautiful and mysterious things I'd ever encountered. Grandma didn't quilt herself, but she taught me how to do embroidery and talked to me about the importance of needlework in women's lives and history. So, that quilt inspired me on my own crafty-creative path; but equally importantly it (and my grandma) made me start thinking about the place of art in everyday life.
Detail of my great grandmother's crazy quilt with my great grandfather's initials.

Crazy quilt by my great grandmother Marian Giles Betts

How/When did you start quilting?

I started quilting sometime in the mid-1990s, although I haven't made all that many quilts. My first quilt was a very simple one for a new-born nephew, my second was a crazy quilt of my own.

Crazy quit by me.

From designing and picking fabrics to watching a recipient’s face when they see your quilt for the first time, what is your favorite part of the whole process?

I love improvisational piecing, whether based in a traditional block or layout, or on some other set of rules or guidelines. I get excited making choices as I go along, and seeing what happens next.

What do you do get over a hump when you get stuck on a quilt?

I am most likely to get stuck on finishing quilts after piecing them. Sometimes the satisfactory working out of a piecing idea results in a odd-sized top, and I don't know if it should be a pillow or a wall-hanging, or part of a even bigger quilt, or what. I am impatient with hand-quilting but not totally thrilled with what I can do on my home machine, and if I really like the piecing, I am afraid of wrecking it with bad quilting. So I have a few unfinished tops hanging about. I am trying improve my finishing rate in different ways: 1) by reminding myself that imperfectly finished is better than unfinished, and that if I do "wreck" something, I get to try again with new ideas and new fabric; 2) by thinking about quilting while I'm piecing, 3) by learning long arm quilting. One of the things I loved about Amy Friend's presentation last month was seeing how effectively she uses straight line machine-guided quilting, so I am going to take that as an inspiration as well.

Work in progress/workspace

What kind of other crafts are you into besides quilting?

Lately, drawing and baking have been pretty regular things. I also crochet and embroider. I've dabbled in many other crafts, like felting, origami, printing, gilding and pysanky egg decorating. 

Detail of my crazy quilt

Where’s your fave place to eat in Cambridge?

I love trying new restaurants, and different types of food, but also really enjoy the familiar, reliable S&S. City Girl is another Inman favorite, and Punjabi Dhaba for take out. Dumpling House on Mass Ave is Cambridge's best Chinese.

Do you have any favorite blogs/insta accounts we should know about? And where can we find you on the internet?

I keep a low profile on the web and social media.

Anything else you want us to know about you?

Last spring, my book, Folk Art and Modern Life in Republican China, was published by Lexington Books.

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