Member Spotlight: Vickie Rooks and her quilt “Picnic in the Garden part two”
Picnic in the Garden part two (75″ x 91″), 2013.
Photo courtesy of Bill Volckening
The quilt shown here is Picnic in the Gardenpart two, designed and pieced by MPS member Vickie Rooks and quilted by Nancy Stovall.
Vickie completed the quilt in 2013 and displayed it for the first time in March at the Metropolitan Patchwork Society’s 2015 quilt show, where it caught the eye of local quilt historian and author Bill Volckening.
Writing on his blog Wonkyworld, Bill declared Vickie’s quilt one of his favorites at the show, commenting: “The thing about this quilt that surprised me the most was its fabrics and the style of quilt it was. The design was modern, but the fabrics were more like the 1930s Depression Era in color and style. This quilt was made of scraps left over from her mother’s quilt, also in the show.
“Seeing a modern quilt in these fabrics really stopped me in my tracks, and there was something really fresh and new about it. I loved Nancy’s quilting, too.”
Vickie’s quilt excited even more interest in July when Bill posted a picture of it on his Facebook page in reference to a panel discussion on modern quilts held at the July meeting of the Portland Modern Quilt Guild. Vickie’s quilt, he said, is “an example of quiltmakers thinking outside the box and coming up with completely fresh ideas.” Over 200 viewers “liked” his post, indicating they agreed with his assessment, and dozens wrote comments praising Vickie’s quilt and the quilting that enhanced it.
MPS Blog Editor Dawn White asked Vickie to walk blog readers through the creation of this quilt.
Dawn: Your quilt is called Picnic in the Garden part two. So there is a part one?
Vickie: Yes, it’s called simply Picnic in the Garden. Part two is a companion quilt to the one that my mother, Rita Rooks, started and I finished.
DW: Tell us more about your mother and the first quilt.
VR: My mother [Rita Rooks, a founding mother of MPS] was a quilter, or more precisely, a piecer. She was very precise in her workmanship and excelled at needle turn appliqué, piecing, and embroidery work.
I have been working since 2012 on turning her unfinished tops and blocks into quilts. At this point, I have 15 finished quilts made from her tops and blocks. I think this is about half of the projects I “rescued” from her sewing room.
One of the tops was a Dresden Plate pattern with a needle turned appliqué border. I named that quilt Picnic in the Garden. I finished the quilt by adding a solid blue 5½” border and finishing the edge with prairie points. It was quilted by Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting. This is a very traditional quilt and was exhibited in this year’s MPS show.
DW: Here’s a photo of Picnic in the Garden, taken at the 2015 MPS Quilt Show . . .
Photo by Jan Shipman
. . . and a closeup:
Did you set out to make a modern version of Picnic in the Garden?
VR: Not at all. When Picnic in the Garden was complete, I had a collection of leftover 30s fabric. Some pieces were reproductions and some might have been in my mother’s collection left over from her grandmother’s fabric stash. Along with the 30s fabric, there was a significant amount of yellow and some extra blue fabric. I wanted to turn the collection of fabric into a quilt.
I would love to say that I had a plan, a vision or a sketch, but this quilt was really an accident. I just took all the really small pieces and sewed them together to create new fabric. Then I would add blue, white or yellow to a section to make it larger and to give the 30s fabric breathing space.DW: What came next?
VR: I had a few pieces that were closer to the size of a six-inch square and I used them for inset circles using a technique I learned in an MPS workshop last year.
DW: How did you determine the layout?VR: When I finished making three inset circle blocks, I started laying the various pieces out on my bed. I don’t have a design wall so I use my bed as a staging area.
DW: So your approach was improvisational, very different from making a traditional quilt.
VR: Yes, although I didn’t really set out to make an improv quilt. My goal was to use up all the 30s fabrics and to use only what I had on hand. I have a great deal of trouble “throwing out” fabrics –- even small pieces. Those little bits and pieces united to make enough fabric to make a top and a back.
DW: This photo shows you how Vickie “created” fabric by sewing small pieces together:
Photo courtesy of Bill Volckening.
I see that Picnic in the Garden part two was quilted with a traditional Baptist fan motif. What was the thinking behind that choice?
VR: Because the fabric was very old fashioned, I asked Nancy Stovall of Just Quilting to quilt it with an all-over design that mimicked a hand quilting design. This is the design that Nancy thought would represent the past and work on a non-traditional quilt.
DW: A brilliant choice, I must say! Here’s a closer look at that motif . . .
Photo courtesy of Bill Volckening
. . . and here is the quiltmaker herself:
Were you surprised by all the attention your quilt has received?
VR: Surprised and humbled. I really appreciate that this particular quilt caught the eye of my friend Bill Volckening. Through his shoutouts at the Portland Modern Quilt Guild, in his blog, and in a Facebook post, this quilt has had a moment of fame.
DW: Is there anything else that influenced the making of this quilt?
VR: Yes. I am a member of MPS and the Portland Modern Quilt Guild. Each guild has a portion of the meeting set aside for members to share their work. Each quilt that has been shared — along with years of reading quilt magazines and now blogs — has left footprints all over my brain. This quilt was a result of some of those footprints taking a trek without a map.
DW: I loved learning the back stories about Picnic in the Garden and Picnic in the Garden part two. Thank you, Vickie!