|Anna Grossnickle Hines Home Guide|
|The Story Behind...
Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts
|I remember owning a small version of Robert Louis Stevenson's A Child's Garden of Verses as a child. I read and enjoyed lots of other
poems, too, but it wasn't until my early adulthood that I really fell in
love with children's poetry. My mother gave me A. A. Milne's When We Were Very Young and Now We Are Six. I read them aloud to my
newborn daughter, and then went on to Favorite Poems Old and New (Helen
Ferris, editor). I loved the simplicity, humor, and freshness of the
child's point of view.
Some of my earliest writings were poems, a few of which are in this book. Over the years most of my efforts have gone into stories, but every now and then I'd write another poem or two, most of them about nature. A poem is such a great way to capture a moment or image in the ever changing natural world. Each season has it's own special magic.
|Reading through my poems in 1993 I found I had nearly enough
nature poems for a book. I organized them, wrote a few new ones to fill
in the gaps, and started thinking about the illustrations. I wanted
to do something special, something that would really make the book stand
out, but I didn't know what. I set the poems aside and worked on other projects.
About that same time my mother began making quilts . I admired her work, and enjoyed looking through her books and magazines at all the beautiful designs, a lot of them scenes from nature.
The thought of illustrating my poems with quilts came to me, but seemed to crazy to even think about. It would take so many and they'd have to be so small. I pushed the idea aside, but it didn't go away.
My mom with the quilt we made for her.
(Story of Mom's Quilt )
|In 1995 the family decided to make a quilt as a surprise for Mom. Each of her siblings, children, grandchildren and friends made a square to add to it. I made several squares, coming to the assistance of family members who were too busy or unable to make one themselves. As I worked on them I had questions to ask Mom. To keep her from being suspicious, I told her I was thinking of making quilts to illustrate my poems. Mom seemed surprised, but she didn't look at me like I was crazy. Instead, she got out more books for me to look at, and collected scraps of fabrics for me to experiment with.|
|The following summer at Mom's dining room table, I created my first quilt for the book, "Good Heavens". I drew the design with crayons on manila paper, traced it onto freezer paper which Mom recommended as a foundation , and began sewing. I sewed each strip and then sewed the strips together. Yellow suns and white moons and stars appeared on a background that changed from deep greens to blues. It worked! I could do it!|
|| I sketched more designs, put them together into a dummy
and took them to Susan Hirschman, my editor
at Greenwillow Books. She thought the fabric picture was beautiful,
but far too much work for a book of poetry. Poetry doesn't usually sell very
well and Susan was afraid I'd spend hours and hours and not be very well
I showed the fabric piece and dummy to a couple other editors. They weren't terribly enthusiastic either. I decided none of them could see my vision unless I made more quilts.
|Over the next two years, in between other projects, I created five more quilts using a variety of techniques. For "Ballet" I used paper-piecing . "Take-Out" is done with appliqué . The "Winter Trees" pair are done with colorwash and appliqué. And for "Do You Know Green?" is used strip piecing . For the latter I also tried my first designing on the computer, using a simple program called Corel Photo Paint.|
|| I took my poems and the six quilts and went back to Greenwillow Books. This time, Susan said, "I still think you are crazy to do so much work, but I want to publish the book."
She and Virginia Duncan, Senior Editor, weeded out a few of the poems. Virginia suggested showing, on the poetry pages, how the pieces of fabric go together to make the images. She also suggested adding a couple pages at the back to describe the processes of piecing and quilting. I liked both ideas, wrote four new poems and and set to work on the quilts.
|In April of 1999 Pieces became my first priority. By that time I had purchased more than two hundred pieces of fabric, mostly in 1/8 yard strips. I organized them by color and spread them out on my studio floor.|
|Some designs I simply sketched, others I worked up on the computer, learning the rudiments of Photoshop as I went. I found it helpful to try some color possibilities before cutting hundreds of tiny squares of fabric.|
|For the colorwash quilts, such as all three autumn leaf quilts, and florals of spring and summer, I laid out the little squares of fabric on sheets of foam rubber, trading one color for another until I got the hues and lights and darks to move through each piece the way I wanted. It was a bit like working a puzzle, trying different pieces until I found what worked. Often I had to cut new squares, or even go shopping for more fabric with the right shades.|
|Each square starts out 1 and 1/8 inch on a side. When the squares were sewn together one quarter inch of each side disappears into the seam, leaving only the 5/8 inch center showing, so I had to pay careful attention to what was in the center of each little square. I made a little template with a 5/8 inch hole in the center so I could choose just where to cut.|
|See what a big difference in size after the squares are sewn together? Each of these has 21 rows of 17 squares, a total of 357 squares for each quilt. The hummingbird is cut from printed fabric.|
|Using a twenty-five year old Singer sewing machine I sewed the little squares together in strips and soon learned that I needed to be very precise. Working that small, sewing a seam even the tiniest bit off could create bigger problems later on. I made a lot of use of my seam ripper--a handy little devise my Aunt Esther calls the "frog tool"...."Rip it. Rip it. Rip it." I took seams apart and sewed them over again, sometimes two, three, or even four times.|
|That summer I made another visit to my mother. I was hand-quilting many of the quilts, but some I wanted to quilt on the sewing machine. Mom showed me how and I had great fun using her nice Husqvarna machine, stippling the centers of Winter Tree pair and, sewing through tracing paper to quilt a pattern of leaves on the autumn pair.|
|Back home I tried quilting on my old Singer, but it was impossible. Now I had the excuse I needed to buy a new machine...one that would not only quilt, but would hold it's tension and not eat the corners of the fabric. I chose a Husqvarna and happily finished piecing and quilting the remaining quilts.|
|Once the machine sewing was done I still had hand-work to do on many of the quilts. Some were quilted by hand, and some had appliqué to add.|
|On April 1st I had six quilts pieced, two quilted. On December second
I delivered nineteen finished quilts to Greenwillow Books.
Everyone was delighted. The art director , Ava Weiss, had already sent one of the quilts for a test and learned that they could be scanned directly, the same as an illustration done on paper. That meant we did not have to have the quilts photographed. Great news!
|Virginia is holding the final dummy I made to show just how I wanted the book laid out. Ava is to Virginia's right and Susan to her left. After they admired the quilts they took me out to a very nice lunch.|
|In March I went in to work with designer Sylvie Le Floc'h to cut and paste the designs for the poetry pages. Here, Sylvie and Ava are working on the type layout.|
|We still needed a jacket and I had several sketches but none was deemed
just right. Ava felt confident that they could come up with a composite
for the jacket using elements from the interior quilts. We all knew it had
to be beautiful, appeal to children, show all the seasons and catch your
eye from across the room.
Sylvie hadn't come up with a jacket design yet, and though they
told me to wait, I had an idea I was eager to try. I told them I was
going to do it and if they used it fine, if not that would be all right,
too. I spent three days designing, and eight days cutting and
sewing the 500 or so tiny bits of fabric to make the quilt top. When I took
it in everyone was pleased.
Computer design for cover.
Pieced fabric cover.
|Ava and Virginia helped me select the photos and decide what to put
on the last three pages. It seemed like a lot of material, but, like
magic, Sylvie and Ava made it fit beautifully.
Except for looking at proofs my work was done, but the book still had a ways to go. Proofs were made, changes ordered, and more proofs made until Ava and all were happy with the results. Then the book was printed in Hong Kong, with Ava on site to make sure it was done just right.
Here, printers in Hong Kong are checking the prints against the final proofs made earlier.
Hurrah! All is well!
Now we just have to wait for binding and shipping and marketing and the publication date!
|Whistling: My second book to be illustrated with fabric!
Winter Lights: A Season in Poems and Quilts: My third quilt book, 2005.
Reviews, Honors and Awards for PIECES:
Lee Bennett Hopkins Award for Children's Poetry 2002
Starred Review Hines raises the bar considerably for illustrators working in fabric,
pairing 20 new or previously published seasonal poems with spectacular quilted
and appliquéd piecework scenes. Reproduced in roughly actual size,
each piece features combinations of printed and patchwork flowers in glorious
profusion, sturdy trees with and without leaves, sunbeams, starry skies, falling
rain, and stylized but recognizable animals, all demonstrating dazzling mastery
of color and pattern. Though it seems almost unfair, the poetry is brilliant
too, evolving the "patchwork pattern / making up a year," from the freshness
of early Spring--"Brand new baby yellow green / bright bold biting busy green
/ until it seems/ everywhere one goes / green grows" through a summer lawn
"astronomical / with dandelion blooms," to Autumn's falling leaves--some
float / lazily / wavily / and taking all / daysily..." The quilts each
have unique individual characters, but there is a strong overall consistency
of style too, and since they were designed as illustrations, the unity of
text and picture is (paradoxically) seamless. And they are so exquisitely
reproduced that the temptation is to touch the page to feel the fabric.
Hines explains in a postscript how the quilts came to be, and provides sources
of information for novice quilters--but even readers with no interest in
the craft will stop in their tracks to admire this tour de force.
Starred ReviewThis lovely book combines the intricacies of quilting with the wonders
of the changing seasons. Though it is older readers and adults who will appreciate
the skill that has gone into the artwork, children will simply revel in the
colorful pictures that make up Hines's quilted squares. For the spring, a
rippled quilt in melting snow shades of white and blue captures the watery
beauty of the season. In autumn, reds, golds and browns show leaves "as pretty
as snowflakes." Perhaps the most powerful spread is a winter scene in which
naked limbs of trees and dark flowered underbrush are set against a background
of white. With such impressive pictures, it's easy to lose sight of the poems,
but they are quite nice in their simplicity: "Sometimes in winter / while
I'm sleeping / through the night / inside the house / all snug and tight
/ outside / the world is turning white." A two page spread at the book's
conclusion tells "the story behind the quilts," detailing in words and photos
how they were made. A bibliography is appended. A thoughtful, lovely offering.
Starred Review In a series of designs worthy of exhibition, Hines illustrates the theme of deceptively simple, unique collection of poems; "Pieces of the seasons/ appear and disappear/ in a patchwork pattern/ making up a year." Her language, both playful and adroit, allows readers to see familiar seasonal changes anew. "Good Heavens," for instance, depicts a spring lawn as "astronomical / with dandelion blooms" that fill the green sky with "a thousand suns / and then / a thousand moons." Hines varies her quilt designs as often as she varies her poems' rhythm and rhyme schemes. On one of the longer poems, "Do You Know Green?," the words trickle down the page, much like the light that filters through the trees in the accompanying quilt; both the poem's construction and the long vertical tree trunks emphasize the forest's height and grandeur. Meanwhile, abstract quilts like the one featuring hundreds of flowered squares in "Misplaced?" stress frivolity'in this case, a joke involving a flowerbed where "bloomers are not sleepy heads." An appendix explains Hines's meticulous quilting process. Wearing two hats, Hines takes her quilter's stash of fabric swatches and her wordsmith's metaphors for memories of the seasons, and pieces together a unified, artistic whole. An outstanding book for aspiring quilters or anyone at all. Ages 5-up.
Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts is another gem of a book
with sewn illustrations. It illuminates the seasons with simple poems and
striking quilted pictures. The book has been handsomely designed, with the
poems well integrated into the quilts and borders on each page. Poetry has
been described as another way of seeing the world, and Hines' short poems
give the reader new glimpses into the beauty of the changing seasons. What
really took my breath away, though, are her intricate quilts, pieced together
over several years. Each hand-sewn piece beautifully interprets nature and
conveys the essence of its companion poem.
Anna Grossnickle Hines was daunted by the idea of illustrating an
entire picture book with quilts. But she had gotten hooked on quilting and
wanted to give it a try. So Hines, author and artist of numerous picture
books, did the book in pieces, making the quilts one at a time over four
years. The result was well worth her lengthy labor. The quilts are
spectacular in their design and colors, while the poems range from playful
The publisher aptly calls this book "a happy blend of stitches and
stanzas." In it the author-quiltmaker relies on carefully observing and appreciating
the seasons and on her mother's example of designing beautiful quilts. The
result is a unique and delightful children's book. The quilts are not in
traditional patterns, but instead depict freestyle scenes or moments from
nature's annual cycle. A combination of white, gray and mud colors characterizes
March. But the master touch is that the quilt strips are long and narrow,
running from upper left to lower right -- like slashing rain. Between the
brightening clouds curved above and the slush of puddles and waves horizontally
below, there is enough grayish room to overlay the text of a poem about squishing
mud, or another, on the opposite page, about a "great day for clouds." The
quilts are wonderful, the poetry is good, and the combination is unique and
in the tradition of good picture books, very well integrated. An appendix
tells the story behind the quilts and briefly (with illustrations) explains
the basics of quilt making. A short bibliography - including a Web site -
offers an introduction to the craft and a start for would-be quilters. For
readers 3 to adult.
As summer ends and fall begins, these poems invite readers to embrace
the last of this season and look forward to those that follow by reading through
this book. Each poem is accompanied by a quilt of Hines' design and creation,
and she provides "The Story Behind the Quilts" in the concluding pages of
the book. For readers who might want to try quilting, she provides a Web
site to begin their research, as well as some books to consult. Of course,
some readers might just want to return to the poems again and again and appreciate
the beautiful marriage of word and image, as in "Mirage": "Oh, phlox, I like/the
way you make/the garden floor/a purple lake."
A feast for the senses lies between the covers of this book. Eye-catching
handmade quilts, created by Hines herself, are the backdrops for twenty of
her poems about the seasons. The first poem, "Pieces of the seasons/ appear
and disappear/ in a patchwork pattern/ making up a year" sets the stage for
what is to come. The poems present the sights, sounds and smells of the seasons,
beginning in early spring with a crow alighting on a cedar branch. In subsequent
quilts, pastels give way to multi-hued flower beds of summer, followed by
the orange and yellows of fall, that give way to shadows and the ice blue
shading of a winter night. The poems beg to be read aloud, with strong rhythms,
strong images, delightful use of language and onomatopoeia. Hines presents
the story behind the quilts and discusses her process at the end of the book.
She dedicates the book to her mother who gave her the sage advice: "If that's
what you want to do, that's what you should do."
Anna Grossnickle Hines has sewn a book of poems. Actually, the poems,
which she wrote, are printed on top of quilted backgrounds, which she made.
The effect is that of something fixed yet lively, flat yet soft.
If you aren't a quilter, you will be when you read Pieces: A Year in Poems and Quilts. The art of quilting has never been more
exquisitely displayed than in this book. 20 original poems celebrate the seasons
joyously, evoking in words what we feel as we admire each quilt. In "Ballet"
the crow dances from one page to the next in slow motion. A most stunning
page is that showing vertical tree trunks of varying shades of brown and
green. Titled, "Do You Know Green?" you can feel the "Psst! Ping!, Pop! and
Pow!" as "green tickles the tips of twiggy tree fingers,". To encourage you
to try quilting, Hines tells the story behind the quilts accompanied by photos
of the process. Her mom is her inspiration.
Hines has illustrated her mostly free-verse poems about the seasons
with quilts. The selections, which describe weather, gardens, and animals,
are set against her patchwork designs. The fabric art, done in a broad range
of colors, are mostly representational, picturing animals and landscapes.
While a few are striking, those that depend on a fabric's print or the quilting
pattern come across flatly in reproduction. The poems are nicely descriptive,
but not distinguished. The most interesting part for readers may be the two
pages at the end that describe the quilting process, with a short bibliography.
The quilts in the book are Hines first, and took her several years to complete.
They will certainly inspire young quilters or artists to try something similar,
but as a collection of illustrated poems, Pieces fails to stand out.
This collection of brief seasonal poems and accompanying quilted
illustrations traces the progression of the year from spring to winter. Shorter
poems, such as the poem about autumn foliage called "Pageantry" ("The trees
are wearing/ scarlet gowns/ and golden crowns/ and bits of them/ are falling
down"), tend to be more successful than the longer pieces, which sound somewhat
forced. For most of these poems Hines has created cloth designs that frame
the words, although a few of the quilt blocks appear to have been digitally
altered to create uncluttered background space for the text. In the poem
"Encore," about a hummingbird, the poem nestles in a quilted garden where
hummingbirds feed, and several stitched outlines of hummingbirds on the white
fabric background suggest their rapid motion in an almost cartoon-like fashion,
showing the outline of where the bird was moments ago. Hines also cleverly
arranges the quilted art, as in a two-page spread of poems about autumn,
wherein the left-hand page shows the leaves streaming down from the trees
while the facing page uses a similar quilt block upside down, so that the
leaves appear to be falling into piles at the bottom of the page. Despite
some unevenness in the poetry, the visual appeal and detail of the quilt
work will engage young viewers. Notes about the quilt-making process are
presented at the end of the book.