Published on Sunday July 23rd, 2006

Knit bloggers everywhere are dropping like flies to Log Cabin Fever these days. Of course, Ann and Kay are the original source of infection. But Cara hit upon the source of my first exposure to the madness: the Gee’s Bend Quilters. I went on a whim to see their show at the Whitney in New York. Afterwards I wrote in my diary that it was the single most inspiring collection I’d ever seen. I love museums – I’ve been fortunate enough to visit some of the greatest in the world – and I deeply admire art in many forms. But I’ve yet to come across anything that made me want to rush home and MAKE SOMETHING as badly as that exhibit did. I sat with those quilts and I scribbled, sketching out sections of the women’s work that sang with color or the glory of unexpected composition. The security woman had to warn me that the museum was closing. I bought the giant expensive book in the museum shop, something I’ve never done before or since. Those colors, that raw artistry, that incredible alchemy of ragged work clothes made beautiful – I needed to keep it close to me, to see if it could help me unlock something creative in myself. But here’s the thing: it was early 2003. And I didn’t know how to knit.

But now I do. I realized more than a year ago that this was my avenue of approach to those folk art quilts. Kay and Ann kindly passed the toolbox with their book, and now you can count me among the stricken. Warm up a hospital cot for me, because I’m in the grips of the fever:


The quilts influenced the colors I chose, although I wasn’t conscious of it when I bought the yarn. And what I’m up to is not exactly Log Cabin knitting. It’s more along the lines of Mad Architect with Lincoln Logs. I’m using whatever technique will most efficiently produce the shapes and patterns I want: sometimes it’s Log Cabin, sometimes it’s mitered squares, sometimes it’s just plain striped blocks with regular seaming, and usually it’s some combination of the lot. I’ve begun with some direct representations of Gee’s Bend motifs, just to prime the pumps. There are two or three quilt blocks that work really well in the colors I’ve chosen, and I think the uneven quality of the Manos complements the abandon of the original designs. And then I’ll be off-book, and we’ll see what my imagination can produce. I’ve already got some promising sketches. It’s not the tightly structured design project I’d intended to do this month. But it’s a wedding present for friends, and so different from most of my projects that I’m really enjoying myself.

Of course, the squares you see here were finished before the heat became really oppressive. Not even my intense fascination with this blanket is enough to draw me to work with bulky wool right now. Plus it’s too much material to try to hold out of the cold water in the tub. (The tub is the place for Prairie camisole or similar light cotton knitting, though! Try it today!) But the heat should diminish in the next few days, and then I’ll be right back at it. Two more squares cousin to the blue-and-tans will complete that motif, and I’ve also started a Courthouse Steps section. I’ve set myself an October deadline for completion, since I’m looking at a very busy August and blanket squares don’t seem like quite the right project to take via pack horse up to 12,000 feet… but more on that later.

Meanwhile, cross your fingers for a temperature adjustment so I can get some pictures of the Viennese shrug – she’s rather purty, if I say so myself!

8 Comments to “Diseased”

  1. Virginia Comment Says:

    As one who is also touched by crafts and creativity, your story is so inspiring. The quilts from Gee’s Bend are AMAZING. It no wonder you caught the bug. Your sqares look so beautiful, more more more!

  2. minnie Comment Says:

    i dont know, i think blanket squares are PERFECTLY portable, unless you’re joining as you go. you gonna do socks on horseback (now THAT would be Trekking)? and where you going 12000 feet up? sounds like a cool (get it, cool?) vacation. i’m too busy wedding planning to do much beyond my insanity, as of late. as it is, i should be composing invitations right now, to be mailed asap.

  3. Dave Comment Says:

    The colours in that blanket-to-be are gorgeous.

  4. gleek Comment Says:

    yep, log cabin fever has me in its grips as well! i just started a baby blanket and can’t wait to show it to everybody!

    i love the colors that you’ve chosen and your abandon in just doing whatever pattern comes to mind. it’s an inspiration!

  5. Amanda Comment Says:

    another one falls to the log cabin bug! i always thought it would make a beautiful wedding gift. i am really enjoying Kay and Ann’s book – I am currently hooked on dishcloths!

  6. Nonnahs Comment Says:

    Thanks for turning me on to the Gee’s Bend Quilters – how wonderful! Your quilt-in-progress is looking great! Like you, I’ve been inspired, by both the MDK book and Cara’s log cabins. Only, I haven’t actually started any yet, because I know I will become obsessed once that happens, and I have many other things to knit! 😉

  7. Jessica Comment Says:

    Those Gee’s Bend quilts really are gorgeous. We just pulled out the gigantic, beautiful book last night in quilting class and oohed and ahhed over them. I understand your obsession.

  8. Laurie Comment Says:

    Have you seen the Gee’s Bend stamps from Uncle Sam?
    I ask for them everytime I buy at the P.O. They brighten
    up even the bill paying.