Documenting Your Work

For years I’ve been an advocate for documenting you work. I’m always sadden to see an antique quilt and  find nothing on it that tells me anything about the maker. Who was she? Where did she live? Why was the quilt made? When was it made?

Sometimes we’re fortunate enough to have a quilt that has been passed down in a family or by caretakers who have kept the history alive. But, in so many cases that isn’t so.

I began documenting my quilts early on by placing a label on the back of the quilt. You can even quilt information into the quilt – make that part of the quilting design. When I was president of a local quilt guild, I tried to make quilt documentation a program every so often.

Over at All People Quilt they have some great ideas to get you started. I’m sure you can take some inspiration and go from there. The options are only limited by imagination.

For this quilt that my husband and I made, South by Southwest:


I made this label:

South by Southwest Label

Not one of the best pictures but you get an idea.

For this baby quilt named Addi’s Ark,


I made this label:

Addi's Ark label A

I’ve made many others including cross stitched ones, but these and the ideas over at All People Quilt should start the creative juices flowing.

© 2016 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.


Bettye Kimbrell and Indian Leaf Pounding

Many years ago when I first took up quilting I met a quilter who unknown to her became a mentor of such to me. Her name is Bettye Kimbrell.

Bettye was the president of the North Jefferson Quilters Guild that met at Mount Olive, Alabama at that time in the old community center that was the big old white school house. It has since been demolished. Bettye is a no nonsense type person, but will help anyone. That’s my kind of person. As the Good Book puts it, she’s no respecter of person – in other words everyone is treated with the same respect.

At the time I was kind of a rarity. I had taught my ex to quilt and he was a rare bird – a man that quilt. Today, that’s not so rare – many men quilt, including my current husband, who yes, I taught, but, he was very eager to learn. He had been an art student in college, so you can see why quilting appealed to him.

So, here I was this half of a quilting couple with a “qubby” that tagged along. Bettye wasn’t phased by that unlike some of the other little ladies who did adjust over time. Bettye incorporated a “men that quilt” exhibit into one of the quilt shows because eventually more men began to trickle to the surface and admit they quilted.

Bettye is an exceptional quilter in her own right. Her quilts have been exhibited at home and abroad. In 1995 she was awarded the Alabama Folk Heritage Award and in 2008 she received the National Heritage Fellowship from the National Endowment of the Arts. 

A few years back I took a class a class of Bettye’s called Indian Leaf Pounding. Every once and a while you can catch her demonstrating it on Alabama Public Television. Here’s a YouTube video of Bettye and her grandson doing a little leaf pounding.


Bettye made a whole quilt using this technique and it is stunning. I thought you might enjoy seeing that today. Also, if you get a chance, read the book Out of Whole Cloth: The Life of Bettye Kimbrell, by Joyce H. Cauthen. It’s a great little book and Bettye’s leaf pounding quilt is on the cover.

Enjoy the videos!

And, by the way, Bettye, I’m still a hand quilter!

© 2016 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.


Quilting in the Digital Age

Recently we had a double water whammy downstairs. First, the newly installed water filter for the refrigerator failed and leaked –unknown to us until I walked into the kitchen hours later and saw water puddled under the fridge.

Long story short, I discovered the problem, took the filter out and mopped up the water I could until T & H could get home and pull the fridge out and reach the rest of the water.

What we didn’t know was water had seeped down below into – *drum roll* – the quilting studio! Well, isn’t that just peachy?

Unfortunately, there was a was wet spot in the middle of the floor that we had to dry up and my first edition of Quilts, Quilts, Quilts was water-logged.

After a Shop Vac, hours of fan power and dehumidifier AND some really excellent carpet deodorizer, all was well with the world again.

Until…about three days later when T & H went downstairs and discovered the condenser on the AC had run over and we had a rather large damp area. This time one box of vintage quilting magazine was soaked.

So for about a week, I walked down quilting memory lane – one that spanned 20+ years of quilting. It was amazing – sometimes stunning to see how much and how far quilting has evolved during that time. One of the most obvious evolutions was the use of computers and the digital age in quilting.

I went through each of those soggy magazines and saved articles I thought might be useful resources. My process was to tear the pages out, lay them out on a dry towel, the iron them – yes, I said iron them, punch holes in the pages and curate them in binders.

What I ended up with was a ton of inspiration…much I which I’ll be able to convert to my digital addiction/library.

Speaking of which, I’m always on the lookout for anything quilt related for my tablet, smartphone or computer. Today as I was browsing Amazon I happened upon this Kindle edition quilt book I thought I might share with yall. The title is Cornish Hedge Patchwork Quilt Design, by Jo Colwill. What’s one of the best things about this little eBook? It’s free!

I love this digital age of ours – freebies and instant access!

A damaged stack copy

Waiting to be salvaged

waiting for rehab copy

Waiting for rehab

salvaged pages copy

Salvaged Pages

the old and the new

The Old & the New  – 1st edition and 3rd edition

© 2014 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

Chapter 7: The BamaSteelMagnolia’s Diaries: My Sew – Sew Life or The Spool Block

Well, it’s a new year. It’s so very hard to believe yet another year has rolled around and I’m a year older – a year I wasn’t particularly looking forward “turning”. But, then again, there’s a lot of thing worse than the birthday I just had – like being forced to watch a marathon of Honey Boo Boo. Perish the thought…

I’m not one to make resolutions, but one thing I do want to do is move forward on my diary quilt, so I thought I’d start the new year off with a new block.

This chapter is dedicated to the spool block. Look for the piecing diagram and rotary cutting directions below. The block in a 6 inch machine pieced block. All the blocks in the quilt are 6 inches.

Spool Block

My Spool Block

I come from a long line of women who were handy with the needle. They were seamstresses if you would like to call them that.

When doing genealogy research I came upon a census from the early 1900s that had enumerated my great-grand aunt, my grandfather’s sister. In the census her occupation was enumerated as “seamstress”.

I knew Aunt Eliza made quilts, I have a couple of her quilts and an unfinished quilt top we would call “scappy”. My take away from the census discovery was Aunt Eliza was proud enough of her work to list it on a federal census record as her occupation.

Who says women couldn’t or didn’t feel empowered “back then”?

I remember my Aunt Eliza. She and my Aunt Ruth, her sister, were both forces to be reckoned with, and they both adored my daddy, their nephew. They were strong, God fearing mountain women – and, excellent role models for a young lass who was about to grow up in a brave new world. They were a bridge from my past to my future – a reminder of where I come from.

Aunt Eliza was also an example one shouldn’t become too self conscience of “body image”. She was almost as round as she was tall when she was older, but she had a spark plug personality and men loved her. I can’t tell you how many husbands she outlived.

My momma’s side of the family had their fair share of “seamstresses”, also. It was actually my great-grandmother Becky Shafer McGee who was the driving inspiration who lead me down my quilting road.

Becky was part German and part Irish or Scotch-Irish. I don’t know if there was anything she couldn’t do good. She could cook, make homemade sauerkraut – the REAL way – in a barrel in the ground, garden, she was the midwife of her county, and she raise a passel of kids who in turn had a passel of kids.

Becky made a quilt for each one of those grandkids and it was my Momma’s quilt that made me vow to myself years ago when I saw it, “I’m going to do that someday when I grow up”.

And, I did.

Becky lived to be almost 100 and sometimes I wonder if she knew what kind of an influence she was on her family.

Another strong woman giving love and empowering her family.

My maternal grandmother sewed some – mostly she did alterations in the family’s clothing business. My beloved Aunt Larue sewed and of course my Momma sewed. Somewhere I have enough Sun Bonnet Sues to start a small city and most of them are clothed with the scraps left over from dresses Mom made me or my sister when we were girls.

So, it comes down to me…

I’ll have to admit when I was a teen I didn’t know if the “sewing” thing would catch on. When I was in Junior High or middle school as they called it now, I took home ec. One section was built around sewing. It wasn’t the most inspired lesson in the world and didn’t leave me with a burning desire to become the next tailor extraordinaire.

But, it did get me familiar with sewing. Over the ensuing years I made an A-line skirt here, a vest there and so on. And then, my sewing fell into the Dark Ages of nothingness.

Finally something came along that sparked that interest again. It might have been the bicentennial in 1976. That was the year quilting saw a revival in the USA. It might have been the fact we moved next door to an older couple who would become surrogate grandparents to me – Herman and Lola Lovelady were their names.

Mrs. Lovelady lived to sew and through her gentle tutelage I began doing fun stuff like making pillows with the counted cross stitch I was creating. Lovelady had sparkly blues and she was quick in a quiet way. She had you doing things before you knew what hit you. She was a refugee of human kindness and encouragement. Everyone should have a Lovelady in their life.

By 1986 I took the plunge and made my first quilt. Ever since, quilting has been in my life. Some times it’s been quiet, sometimes its been eventful, other times it’s been crazy. I’ve been a quilt show judge, started a quilt guild, published a guild newsletter, sat on the board of a state at-large guild, won ribbons, taught quilting, taught my ex-husband to quilt and taught my current husband to quilt – which I have to say has been one of my biggest joys. This is a man who started college as an art major before switching majors and he needed an artistic outlet.

Quilting has given me comfort, entertainment, challenge and fulfillment. I have branched out and tried other things – using my serger for table linens, something I would have never done if I’d never quilted. Quilting has meant a lot of things to me – it is part of who I am, maybe even my DNA which shouldn’t be surprising given the women in  my life.

So, I guess you could say quilting has given me a sew – sew life in the very best of ways – and the spool block represents that in my diary quilt.

spool block piecing diagram

Piecing Diagram for 6” Spool Block


Rotary Cutting Diagram for spool block

Rotary Cutting Directions for 6” Spool Block – 1/4” seam allowance is included

© 2014 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.


Men and Astronauts in Quilting, Oh My, by Beverly Hicks Burch

The other day I wrote a piece about men in quilting over at HubPages. I was mostly writing about my experience in teaching my ex-husband and current husband how to quilt.

But, in doing the article I came upon some neat information like:

  • The CFO of Accuquilt is a Harley riding he man who quilts – and loves his Accuquilt GO!. Video is provided in the article.
  • And, recently Astronaut Karen Nyberg made a quilt block while on the space station. The block will be in a quilt exhibited at the International Quilt Market in Houston and will have blocks made by earth bound quilters like you and me. Now, that’s high – tech quilting! There’s also a video provided in my article of Ms Nyberg in space discussing the “perils” of space quilting.

I also write about what actually drove me to teach both guys to quilt (yes, there is some humor involved), but, there’s many benefits, too. Equal opportunity quilting 😉

And, I refer to how Tall & Handsome and I used EQ7 to make South by Southwest when he began quilting.

South by Southwest

South by Southwest – EQ7 image

There’s a lot of goodies packed into the article, so if you have a chance, check out The Benefits of Teaching Men How to Quilt.

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch

Regrouping for the Diary Quilt in 2014, by Beverly Hicks Burch

I’ve been writing about the diary quilt I started some time ago. I’ve name it The BamaSteelMagnolia’s Diares.

The concept is based on a book called A Quilter’s Diary: Written in Stitches Master Quilter Mimi Dietrich wrote a few years ago. I was mesmerized be the idea and decided to make a combined written and textile art project out of it. I would make a block and then write a chapter in the diary/book and explain why the block was important. That way I was killing several birds with the proverbial stone – block, check; diary quilt, check; write book about life every one says you need to write, check.

Now, I will admit it’s been a while since I’ve written a new chapter. I’ve made some blocks, but life has been a little hectic with illness, moving, class and a bunch of other junk –that probably will work its way into the the diary quilt.

I don’t make New Year’s resolutions, but a goal I would like to accomplish in 2014 is to move forward on this project and make strides in the progress of the quilt.

You’ll be able to catch back chapters and the introduction here at Around the Block.

I’ve written about the project over at HubPages and given the link there to the blog post that contains all the links to the chapters and introduction.

To give you a small taste of what’s in the quilt, here’s a picture of the block in the first chapter Happy Birthday to Me – the Cupcake Block.


The Cupcake Block

Is a diary quilt is your future? Take a look at my HubPage article. I was able to find a video of Mimi talking about her quilts and in the video she shows her diary quilt and explains the meaning. It was exciting to hear her talk about it. Catch up on the past chapters of mine here at Around the Block and who knows – you just might get the bug in 2014, too.

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

The Quilt Room Update, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Over the last few months Tall & Handsome and I have been making some changes to the quilt room. The other day I was inspired by a post on organizing your space, so I thought I’d share our latest adventures in organization.

quilt studio B

The room is long (18+’) and has two doorways. This is the view from one door.

quilt studio E

View from the other door. You can see in front of the Hoosier cabinet T & H’s new pride and joy. That’s an “ironing table” not an ironing board. He wanted it for his birthday, and I have to admit, it’s nice. There’s so much surface!

quilt studio F

Our cutting table. We like this because it’s portable and we can move it out of the way when we set up the basting frames. The legs are also adjustable.

quilt studio G

Sewing machine row – well, one sewing machine and one serger. And, a better look at T & H’s ironing table. The bed to rest the iron in when not in use is a great idea and T & H added the cord manager – another fantastic idea. No more cord dragging over the fabric and getting in the way when we iron. It really is awesome when you share the same hobby with your gadget loving husband.

quilt studio H

The other sewing machine, design wall, and Sweet 16. Baby Girl wanted to make her debut in the quilt room, but, she didn’t have time to pose, thus the gray blur in the bottom center of the picture. T & H loves the Sweet 16 and is getting pretty good at it. I’m not surprised because he started college as an art major and has a lot of sketching under his belt. That comes in handy with free motion quilting.

quilt studio A

The Sweet 16, T & H’s pride and joy. He also loves the purple fabric grippers you can see on the table. They help maneuver the quilt as you free motion quilt. Also, please, get a good comfortable chair when you sit down to free motion quilt or sew. We plan on eventually getting another chair for the sewing machine station.

I’m sure over time the room will change again. I’ve learned that organizing can be an ever changing process. It’s usually spurred by a better idea or imagination.

For now, we’re happy and enjoying it…

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

Land of Enchantment, by Beverly Hicks Burch

It has been way too long since I have posted anything here at Around the Block. I do sincerely apologize. Life just sometimes has a way of inserting itself with rather nasty and inconvenient events that seem to engulf you at times.

But, regardless, even during those times – maybe I should say in spite of those times, I always try to find time to devote to quilting. It is during those times when quilting seems to soothe, comfort and normalize my life. It has now been over a year since a treasure family member passed away, and many times when I’m working I sit and think of the goods time we had.

Let’s talk about today’s project!

First the name. It’s a clue as to the theme of the quilt. Once again I’m working in the color palette southwest. Land of Enchantment is the state logo of New Mexico, the home state of my Tall & Handsome, so yet another quilt influence by him. He certainly is my muse many times.

The emblem on the state flag of New Mexico is called a zia and I have wanted to make a quilt with a zia for some time. The block I will show you today will translate nicely into a zia.

The colors: The gold represents the southwestern sun and the blue represents the ever present turquoise found so predominately in southwestern jewelry. The small bit of black found in the border fabric represents the small bit of black found marbled in turquoise.

The border design is yet to come and I’ll share that in a later post.

Land of Enchantment block

Individual Block for Land of Enchantment

Screen shot land of enchantment pull apart with text

Cutting and Piecing directions for Land of Enchantment block

1. Cut 2 A’s 10 1/2 ins. x 2 1/2 ins. – one blue and one gold

2. Cut 1 B 12 1/2 ins. x 2 1/2 ins. – one gold

3. Cut 2 C’s 8 1/2 ins. by 2 1/2 ins. – one blue and one gold

4. Cut 2 D’s 6 1/2 ins x 2 1/2 ins. – one blue and one gold

5. Cut 1 E 4 1/2 ins. x 2 1/2 ins. – one blue

6. Cut 8 squares 2 7/8 ins. x 2 7/8 ins. – 4 white and 4 gold and cut in half to form triangles to make pinwheels.

Land of Enchantment B

Building a zia

Land of Enchantment border fabric

Border fabric

© 2013 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved.

Quilts at Arlington House in Birmingham, by Beverly Hicks Burch

Last week I had the pleasure of going on an outing with my mom and one of our dearest friends, Betty Wittmeier. Mom has been really sick lately, so the chance for her to get out for a pleasure excursion was really great. Betty and I like to sneak off whenever we can and get into what ever trouble we can Smile

A few weeks ago Betty alerted me to the fact there was a special quilt exhibit at the Arlington House here in the Birmingham area. The quilt exhibit is running at Arlington until the end of August and if you go on Thursday like we did you can make a reservation for the luncheon served at 12 noon and at 1:00 PM.

The yummy menu for our luncheon was a marinated vegetable salad, seared beef tenderloin over hoe cakes, braised cabbage and choice of Oreo cheesecake or vanilla ice cream with praline sauce. Can you guess which one I picked? A hint? Well, I’m Southern and it was hot as Hades outside! Yes, nice cold yummy vanilla ice cream and that heavenly praline sauce. Chef Jason was gracious and came out and visited each table as the luncheon was winding down.

Arlington House is the only Antebellum house in the Birmingham area and is now part of the Birmingham Museum system. The house was built before the Civil War (1845 – 1850) by Judge William S. Mudd one of the founding fathers of the Birmingham area. At the time of its building the area was called Elyton. Arlington House is all that is left of that area now because Birmingham grew up around Elyton and absorbed it as part of Birmingham.

Arlington itself has a colorful history including a period of occupation by Union troops who used it as a headquarters as they made plans to burn the University of Alabama (oh, no they didn’t, but oh, yes they did!). Union General James Wilson entered the Elyton area and met Judge Mudd at his home in the Mudd Sitting Room. Since they were both Masons, Gen. Wilson spared Arlington, but using it for quarters, his troops did destroy Confederate barracks at the University in Tuscaloosa and in nearby Irondale, Tannehill and the Selma furnaces.

After the war Judge Mudd sold the house in 1884 to Henry F. DeBardeleben for $10,000, but the new owner never lived in the house choosing instead to live near the iron furnace he owned in West Birmingham. He sold the house two years later to Franklin H Whitney for $36,000. Whitney, a former Union soldier who never lived in the house used it as a boarding house. Whitney then sold the house in 1902 for about $12,ooo to Continental Gin president Robert S Munger who took the run down home and repaired and updated it.

The home is furnished with wonderful, beautiful period furniture and antiques. It’s two stories with four large bedrooms upstairs. The day we visited it was stifling hot with a heat index close to 100 degrees. It was a reminder that back in the “good old days” there was no such thing as air conditioning! There were lovely Birmingham Belles serving as hostesses and I couldn’t help but feel for them in their beautiful hoop skirted dresses. I was dressed in jeans, lightweight summer top and fashionable sandals…and I was drenched to the bone. I can only imagine had I lived in the era of Scarlett, I might have been a rebel of a different kind…

Even with the heat, the house was packed with visitors and our luncheon was sold out. Everyone really seemed to be enjoying themselves…that is except for some visitors from up North who went from room to room and very loudly and pointedly in  Northern accent made sure everyone else knew…”this is all just fiction…it never happened…” I’m sure Judge Mudd would be quite relieved to know those Yankee soldiers never commandeered his home and wrecked havoc on the area. It was kind of like that dream Pam Ewing had, don’t you know? Oh, yeah and the house those “informed” visitors from up North was standing in…it was just a figment of your imagination…

Well, one thing is for certain…the quilts are very real, so lets take a look at some of them…I made a really big boo boo and forgot to load up my SD card in my camera so I wasn’t able to get as many pictures as I would have liked…

Traditional Log cabin at Arlington

This is a traditional log cabin quilt set in the Barn Raising design. It is seen in the Mudd Sitting Room where Union General Wilson didn’t took over the Arlington House.

Pineapple Log Cabin at Arlington

Here we see another type of log cabin quilt. This setting is call the Pineapple Log Cabin. This piece is made with silk, velvet and embellished with embroidery feather stitching. The quilt doesn’t have batting. It would almost qualify as a “crazy quilt”. It’s also on display in the Mudd Sitting Room.

Soke quilts at Arlington

You may be unable to see the date on these quilts, but they date from the 1930s…about 1936. The pattern is called “Spokes” and it’s a type of album block/quilt. Album quilts are usually made up of blocks that are signed and dated by the makers. These types of quilts were used for fundraisers and people would pay a nickel or dime for their block and their spot in the quilt. Album quilts were also used for commemorative occasions. The quilts see here are displayed in the dining room.

Lone Star at Arlington

This was probably my favorite quilt. A large Lone Star with exquisite workmanship. With a closer look you can see the narrow stripe border, something you don’t normally associated from this time period. The stripe border fabric was imported from India and was a rarity for it’s time. The colors, the piecing, the hand quilting, the unexpected corner checked blocks…everything about this quilt is pure delight. It is truly a work of art.

Sewing Machine at Arlington

And, we’ll end our tour with a delightful discovery! Can you guess what this is? Yes, it is an early sewing machine! Look closely at the very bottom and you can see the pedals. There are two shaped like the bottom of shoes. There has long been a misconception our ancestors hand pieced and sewed everything. Wrong!!

Several years ago I did research on that very topic and was surprised myself to learn that just like us, our ancestors were glad to find tools of efficiency and economy. Just because they lived generations ago, doesn’t mean our ancestors were stupid! They weren’t that different from us in many ways.Our grandmothers had a lot on their list of “household chores” to do and if they could find anything that gave them a few more minutes of time, or a better way of doing something, they were open to it. It was the evolution of life from the pre-industrial era to the modern era where people began to have what is known as leisure time. Without that evolution many of us today would be minus many of our hobbies and would be chained to tedious tasks.

The other surprise was the discovery of machine piecing on antique Amish quilts that were on exhibit in a museum. Of course the machines used by Amish were human peddle powered since the Amish avoid use of electricity.

Another factor that played into our ancestors use of sewing machines to makes their quilts was the “status” factor. You see if you could afford to own a sewing machine there was a certain cache in that and you wanted to be able to show that off. Hence the growing use of sewing machines in quilting. (Look at sewing machines as the iPhones, iPads or tablets of their day and then asked yourself: “Would I deny myself the use of these tools and just use a rotary dial phone because that’s what my grandmother used?”)

Somewhere down the line the fable that all good worthy quilts are totally hand made came into being. Many times I found it was held more by uneducated non-quilters than by quilters. But, when I started quilting in 1986 I will admit there were still many quilters who hand pieced and they tended to look down on quilters who machine pieced. That gradually began to change and I personally saw the change accelerate after a machine pieced and machine quilted quilt won Best of Show at the AQS show in Paducah, KY. Now, that conversion seems upside down and the majority seems to be everything is done mostly by machine. Myself? Well, I am almost a dinosaur because I machine piece, hand applique and hand quilt although I will say there is a growing interest in my house towards machine quilting…especially since Tall & Handsome has taken up quilting.

So, if you use a machine for any part of your quilting, you really do have great-granny and her new fangled contraption like the one above to thank!

© 2012 Beverly Hicks Burch All Rights Reserved