Friday, June 18, 2021

New Quilt-Range Grasses

Early this year I started working on a quilt for the SAQA call for entry called Microscape.  The call was really exciting for me, but I wasn't interested in doing another "here's a picture of something cool under the microscope".  I love making quilts like that (e.g. here and here and here and here) and I'm sure I'll make more in the future, but I was feeling like going in a little different direction. The piece that resulted didn't get into Microscape,  but making it was a wonderful process.

My grandpa Wilbur passed away in the early part of 2020 (right before COVID).  He was a great grandpa, and I shared some of his favorite things in an earlier post about a photo quilt we made for his 80th birthday in 2006.  He had many jobs over the years but I have always known him as a plant man.  He started a nursery business over forty years ago that's still in our family today and for a long time owned and ran a beautiful place with ponds where you could take your kids to fish for trout.  When I bought my first house fifteen years ago, he and my grandma gifted me three trees.  My crabapple tree from him is still very dear to me.  His homes always had beautiful landscaping filled with flowers and trees. I'll never forget calling to wish him happy birthday when he turned 90 and when I asked what he'd been doing that day he said he'd just finished mowing the lawn. 

After service in the second World War, he and my grandma and their kids moved to Las Cruces New Mexico so he could go to college at New Mexico State University.  My grandma tells tons of great stories about their time there.  I've always loved this picture of them from sometime around then.

Anyway, after my grandpa died, my grandma and my aunt asked if I would like to have his college lab notebook from his favorite class.  I had no idea he'd even saved something like that and of course I said yes.  It was just amazing,  the class was called AH 107, Range Grasses, and the book is remarkable.  It's filled with typewritten class assignments from the instructor, my grandfather's beautifully handwritten lab reports, his botanical drawings, and pages and pages of collected grass specimens.  It was amazingly well preserved, the scotch tape had yellowed a bit but almost everything was intact.  As a scientist this was a really special thing to add to my collection.  My grandpa still remembered the scientific names of all these grasses decades later, and would point them out when driving or hiking.

I knew I wanted to somehow use the lab notebook for a quilt, and I wasn't sure exactly how, but I started by taking the notebook to my lab and taking a bunch of pictures of Grandpa's grasses under the microscope.  I'm not a botanist so I'm not sure exactly what all the structures are that I could see, but they all looked really cool.  I'm still amazed that these 70 yr old specimens are so well preserved. I picked a few favorites and then started working on collaging them digitally, with pictures of the specimens, the drawings, the microscopy images, the handwritten reports, and the assignments. 

Bouteloua hirsuta (Hairy Grama)

Just look at that handwriting (!)

This is the digital collaged panel I made from the Hairy Grama assignment.

Koeleria cristata (June Grass)

And here's the digital collage from Koeleria cristata

The final one I selected was Andropogon scoparius (prairie beardgrass)

Here's the digital collage I made for this one.

After making the collages, I sent them to spoonflower to be printed onto fabric.  I'll share more about the making of the quilt later this week!



  1. Thank you for sharing this amazing piece(s) of your family history. Truly fascinating to me...what a keepsake for you. The handwriting itself is lovely; my father also wrote beautifully...a skill I fear is going to be lost with cursive instruction on longer being taught.

  2. What a treasure for you! I like the collages - great idea! Will be fun to read more about this. His handwriting is beautiful.