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AROUND THE FRAME:

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“Oh! Christmas Tree!” where spiritual inspiration, engineering and quilting meet!Who would have thought when I put out a call in my previous column for readers to share special Christmas quilts with me that I would discover a quilting friend of mine designed and created "Oh! Christmas Tree!"

Casey Drudge shares his quilting journey and how his Christmas tree came to be. The tree will be on display at Born Again Quilts, 4005 South Wayne Avenue through mid-January. Monday-Thursday evenings and Saturdays 9 a.m.-4 p.m.
I have just begun my eighth year of quilting, having gotten started soon after I attended my first big quilt show in Nashville, Tennessee. My wife had been quilting for seven or eight years at that time, but I successfully avoided starting the hobby myself. I knew that I would enjoy it as a hobby, but I didn't need another hobby that I didn't have enough time for. But when I saw all those quilts at Nashville I realized that modern quilts weren't what I remembered my mother making years ago. Those were ok, and they are still popular, but the art quilts were what caught my eye. Those free-form, do what you want, examples of artistic creativity.

Sure, there are those people who think that the only quilt that is a 'real quilt' is one that you can snuggle up with on cold winter's night, but not me. I don't do plain. I don't do ordinary. And I don't do traditional. And I have won four quilt shows to date, with the intentions of winning a few more in the future.

I have ventured in the area of three-dimensional quilts, mostly due to the fascination that I have with geometric shapes that combine to make interesting shapes. For me, a 3-D quilt is much, much more than simply putting something on the surface of a quilt that 'sticks up, above the surface'. Last spring I finished a quilt that is a Mobius Strip, a 3-D mathematical wonderment that has only one surface and only one edge. You can make a similar shape by giving a flat belt a half-twist before fastening it together. Now trace your finger along its surface. Eventually, you will return to where you started, after having traveled around the entire surface without going around an edge. That's my quilt, titled "Forty-Two", that is the famous answer to the question posed in "A Hitchhiker's Guide to the Universe".

"Oh! Christmas Tree!" was almost an "accidental" quilt inasmuch as it was not made as a part of a small series. When I completed "A Star was Born" a year earlier, I realized that with a star like that I needed a tree to put under it. Thus was born "Oh! Christmas Tree!" It proved to be a good choice even though the finished product barely fits in a room whose ceiling is only 8 feet above the floor.

Each of the tree's six points around the base has a unique fabric for the first few inches. That fabric then divides into three separate ribbons that criss-cross around the surface of the tree as they make their way to the top. When they arrive at the top, the 18 ribbons, each of which further divided into two, come to an end in a triangular shape. Those shapes then combine to form three more small Christmas trees around the circumference of the top, just below the star. Each of those trees has twelve branches, two of each of the fabrics. If you think it sounds complicated, you're right. But then take note that it was made from a scale model that was only six inches tall.

To give the tree the necessary rigidity needed to support its seven-pound weight there are six tall, skinny triangles of quarter-inch paneling inside. They, in turn, are held in place by a heavy plywood base whose weight keeps the whole assembly upright.

For those people who wonder if it is actually a quilt or not you can rest assured that it is. There is the front, which features all curved piecing with no appliqué. Then there is the foundation fabric and the batting, and finally, the backing. It was quilted with Robison-Anton bright gold rayon thread. It is stitched permanently in its cone shape, rather that leaving one entire seam open for assembly. In this way, it looks the same from all sides, with no gaping seams to be concerned with. Assembly is admittedly a bit more of a hassle, but then who cares? It only takes about 30 minutes to set it up.

My most recent quilt is a bit more subdued in nature, but no less attractive. My niece and her husband own and operate a Bed and Breakfast called "The Olde Buffalo Inn" in Nappanee, Indiana. After taking many photographs of the entire place, I used a computer to assemble an accurate landscape picture of the house, windmill, and barn. After making a line drawing out of that picture, I used it as a pattern to create a thread-painted version of whole place. Thread painting is where a sewing machine is used to stitch various colors of thread in much the same way that an oil painter uses different colors of paint. The finished product is 11 inches high and 42 inches long. I don't have any idea of how many stitches comprise the finished picture, but I used somewhere between eight and ten miles (that's right, miles, 40 to 50 thousand feet!) of thread.

My next quilts are planned several projects into the future. The next one needs to be 'engineered' a bit before I can start stitching. But I can guarantee before I even start. You've never seen one like it before!

Rest assured "Around the frame" will feature Casey's upcoming works.
Until then, a Merry and Blessed Christmas and Happy New Year to all!

Lois Eubank owner of Born Again Quilts, restoration studio and gallery can be reached through her column or calling 515-9446. Contact her for January class information.

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Lois Eubank
About This Author
She is the author of the "Around the Frame" quilting column. She is a graduate of Wayne HS. Quilts have always been important to her, she loves the stories surrounding them, the techniques used in making them, & restoring them.
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