For years as a child I slept under a soft quilt with a green backing. The patchwork was done in little squares of either white fabric or striped fabric -- the design of which was like someone's old shirts or pajamas. Recently I made a new version of the quilt using bright batik materials -- vaguely in stripes. It is backed in a coral fabric. I was taken with the way in which the old quilt was forced into symmetry. Obviously the quilter had only enough of some colors to scatter them judiciously in the center panels. I mimicked that by choosing slightly more colorful squares for the center rows and being carefully symmetrical as well. These quilts hang in our study in our Annapolis, Maryland home.
The Creativity of Quilting
The Old and the New
We have friends - a couple - who are real pals. We go to movies, have dinner together, share career highs and lows. They also have a boat and love to be on the water, and we join them often.
Recently my husband collapsed and was hospitalized with West Nile Virus Encaphalitis. Bob and Chris were effectively his advocates - he's a doc and she's an EMT. As a thank you for their friendship and support I made them this quilt.
The design is a stained glass (the black "lead" borders are actually deep blue). They chose the batiks and I clustered the ones with more pink and yellow highlights in the center section. The quilt is named Sea Glass. Many of the patterns are watery marsh designs, fish, and turtles. The Sea and the Glass. This quilt has a home in Annapolis.
It's Complicated - Our Own Quilt
The Ampersand Wedding Quilt
This quilt is for my brother and his wife. It is not much of a surprise to know that I named it Jennifer Ampersand Ted.
The nine-square blocks are made up of about a dozen blues and another eight variations of white. I learned about an Ampersand wedding quilt from friends in North Dakota but they tend to aplique the symbol. I decided to block it into the design. It is done with two colors of yellow.
The quilter used white thread but threw in the occasional yellow threaded feather so close up you an see a hint of yellow here and there in the blue nine-squares.
The size of the quilt required me to fold over the top in order to hang it properly. The yellow border extends all the way around, even though the top isn't shown in the picture.
This quilt lives now in California (San Francisco).
Four quilts for four nieces - #1
Four quilts for four nieces - #2
This one is beautifully subdued and is in grays and greens.
It resides in California.
Four quilts for four nieces - #3
Four quilts for four nieces - #4
The Blue and White Wedding Quilt
Two young people whom I dearly love were getting married. They are fashionable, witty, and smart. I wanted to make them something beautiful and geometric and I liked these wintery icicles which remind us of the blessings of a warm quilt on the bed.
I actually followed a prescribed pattern and the fabrics were both calico and batik. The pattern glistened with silvers for the "icicles" but I decided white was the ticket.
The fun part is the back which is a light salmon color with a lovely white ginko leaf scattered on it. Icicles on one side; leaves on the other. The seasons.
This quilt now lives in the District of Columbia.
The Proverbial T-Shirt Quilt
I have always thought that T-shirt quilts were pretty appalling. I disliked the bland look and tired components.
However, I bumped into the idea of a stained glass window quilt in which the variety of T-shirt emblems could be scattered. I tried out the idea -- along with the techniques of reinforcing the T-shirts so they aren't lumpy or stretched -- and it all worked. The colors pop, the design draws in your attention, and the blanket feels sturdy and almost crisp to the touch.
I gave it the name T-Accounts as the owner is in business school.
The backing is a simple Japanese print in brown and black, giving the owner the option of flipping it over, moving away from childhood memories, and turning a bedroom into a place of quiet beauty. Each side is precious.
This quilt now lives in Connecticut.
The Jigsaw Painting Quilt
I had scraps of fabric. Mountains of them. Carloads. Plus, I inherited boxes of material from my mother when she died.
I decided to use them up (hah!) by making a big quilt. My starting idea wasn't much more developed than that. Oh, and I thought about a typical jigsawnature scene: a tree canopy, a water wheel on the right, a cabin on the left, and a stream of water in between.
Each patch has the colors of the four other patches that are on its borders. To work a jigsaw puzzle quilt requires laying the entire thing out ahead of time so that you can figure the adjacencies for the nine-squares. That was beyond fun -- moving pieces around, playing with colors, avoiding doubles and so forth. As a result, it seemed obvious that the name should be A Better Jigsaw.
This quilt now lives in Colorado.
The Turtle Wedding Quilt
This is the second time I've made a wedding quilt for the daughter of a college friend. I guess it is that time of life when the kids are all moving forward.
I have fallen in love with this pattern which is a Boston Commons variation. I call it Nine-Square Boston Commons and it has the effect of a complex Persian or Oriental carpet.
The fabric is entirely batik in every imagineable blue combination expressed in water and marsh motifs such as turtles, swamp grasses, and waves. When the bride and groom can escape the big city, they are often found near an ocean, river, or lake. Thus, I named it Turtle Love.
This quilt now lives in Illinois.
This is the second friendship quilt project with Deb, my high school friend from North Dakota. When I visit, we take over her quilt studio and become so focused we forget to eat!
We had planned to make a large wedding styled quilt for a friend who had married a wonderful man who had patiently waited for years (like... over 20...) for her to be in his life. As we worked with the colors, they seemed to work much better as two quilts. So, companion quilts emerged for Karla and Dave who curl up with their cats and love to read.
The style is log cabin. Each block has a small red center, a typical Amish quilt detail. Thus, the names are: Logs of Love #1 and Logs of Love #2. The backing is also an adventure (see below). We saved some of the blocks and sewed them into beautiful marbled material that reminds us of the geography of the Badlands (Theodore Roosevelt National Park) which is near town.
These quilts now live in Minnesota.
A Wedding Quilt for the Guys
The friendship project (making quilts with my high school friend, Deb) began when we wanted to mark, celebrate, lift a glass, hug the world when our classmate was finally able to marry his partner of many years.
We figured out our plan in the car as we drove across the high plains of North Dakota after a visit with them in their cottage on the very northern and winding banks of the Mississippi. We chose to make a white quilt with shades of gold and we decided on a pattern that was essentially many long strips of fabric. As our project evolved, it was almost eerie that we were creating a pattern that referenced the multiple and many lanes the guys had traveled to get to this moment of marriage.
Deb is a very skilled seamstress who can make her seams flawlessly even. I cut the fabric and laid out the design. We did it in a little over two days. And we named it Lanes of Love.
This quilt now lives in Minnesota.
The Soothing Wedding Quilt
I made this quilt for a young couple: a doctor and a journalist. They have very stressful lives and I believe the gentle swooping (or sagging) of this Round The World pattern will lull them to rest.
The way to achieve the gentleness of the pattern is to widen the blocks for the botton of the curve and narrow them for the connection points.
The colors seem more blue in the picture than they really are -- they are mostly teal with one medium block of a soft purple that allows the colors to POP.
I made and gave this quilt before I was naming quilts. So, it is only inscribed with the date.
This quilt now lives in Pennsylvania.
A Quilt Rescue
Years ago I had made a duvet cover for my daughter in colors and design that she chose: black and white squares with the occasional pink on for an accent. Evenutally the cover was beginning to show signs of wear; seams were separating, the "wrong side" was a mass of threads getting balled up together, and the pink was fading.
I took the quilt on a car trip. When I wasn't driving I patiently trimmed each seam and carefully removed some of the most worn squares.
My daughter chose a new backing - a wonderful, crisp black and white design that looked like etchings. I put the blocks back together, pressed it carefully, had it quilted and finished it with a hot pink border.
This quilt now lives in Iowa.
The Nostalgic Wedding Quilt
This wedding quilt is loaded with nostalgia.
It is a patch quilt of many fabrics that I had accumulated including contributions from my mother's sewing stash which I inherited when she died.
The pattern is a log cabin style with a crazy quilt at the center. Isn't that what marriage is: a cabin with crazy love in the center.
My daughter embroidered edges in the crazy center to add to its texture. (She is a friend of the bride.) The crazy center's border is green velvet from the skirt I wore in the bride's mother's wedding 35-40 years ago.
Again, this was an early quilt for me and I was not in the habit of naming quilts. (I am now and that's easily half the fun!)
The quilt now lives in Kansas.
The "They Met Because Of Me" Wedding Quilt
This couple had met on the phone in the high stress work of a presidential campaign. It was, however, when interviewing to work with me that they met face to face.
Their quilt is packed with the story of our lives together. It is an "Around the World" pattern in honor of their respective and quite different heritages. It is the colors of his law school. It is also intricate -- really intricate -- and very big. That tells you something of our massive and complex work together and the overall beauty of our vision and aspirations for it.
Sorry to sound somewhat slurpy about all that. In a more practical tone, let me add that it is a jumble of fabric - batik mostly but with some other syles thrown in. It was also a challenge to keep the squares in the right order. When I sewed the four quadrants together I did so - initially - backwards. The diamond was more Picasso at that point and I had a big do-over on my hands.
This quilt now lives in Maryland.
Two Roses Baby Quilt
I asked the new mother what colors would she like for the quilt and she knew immediately: "Brown, Pink, Green". It is an unusual trio for a baby quilt but there are wonderful calicos that fit, especially a brown with small pink flowers in it.
I have struggled with triangles and this was ambitious. I am still learning the discipline they require. However, when you step back, the swirl of pinwheels yields two lovely flowers and their accompanying leaves. Abstract but very sweet.
This quilt now lives in Virginia.
Martha Johnson is a strategy and leadership expert who draws on the lessons learned as an executive with a more than 30-year career in business and government.
She was nominated by President Obama and confirmed unanimously by the US Senate to be the Administrator of the General Services Administration, a position she held for two years. She also served eight years with the Clinton Administration. Her private sector career has spanned the information technology, architecture, strategic consulting, and automotive industries.
Johnson writes books. Most recently she published Navigating and Organizational Crisis: When Leadership Matters Most which she co-authored with Harry Hutseon. Her Amazon #1 best selling book, "On My Watch: Leadership, Innovation, and Personal Resilience" was published in 2013. Her novel, In Our Midst, was an quarterfinalist in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition.
Along with novel writing, Johnson's creative life includes gardening, singing, and quilting.
Johnson hold degrees from Oberlin College and Yale University. Raised in California and North Dakota, she is married, has two adult children, and resides in Annapolis, Maryland.
There's Music In The Air
A Song About Martha
Written and performed by her son
When your mom walks the plank in a public scandal, what do you learn?
Martha is Also a Novelist
It is 1990 and Stanton, Indiana is a typical town with a busy mayor, active churches, and a Wood Carving Festival. But, it is not a Norman Rockwell world. Ryan White lives nearby, and AIDS is sweeping the nation.
Despite all that, Stanton doesn’t appear to have any gay or lesbian people, or so it seems to Victor Beck, who is anxious and scared because he isn’t attracted to girls.
As Victor gets acquainted with a new girl in town, a second story unfolds of a gay, Korean War soldier who died the day he returned home to Stanton.
The two stories become entwined and the good people of Stanton have to wrestle with their history, their secrets, and their commitment to the health and welfare of their children.
In Our Midst was a quarterfinalist in the 2013 Amazon Breakthrough Novel Competition. Order a copy of In Our Midst on Amazon by clicking here.