With Heart and Hands: A Quilting Journey


  WITH HEART and HANDS: BLOGGER INTERVIEW

1. Name of blog

With Heart and Hands

2. Url
http://www.with-heart-and-hands.com/
originally:
http://with-heart-and-hands.blogspot.com/

3. How did you choose your blog's title?

Having done volunteer transpersonal lay therapies involving healing touch energy work for many years with over 200 people directed to visit me by others in the healing arts, I understood the power of combining the work of the heart, with the work of my hands. It was a logical transition for me to extend that same energetic fusion into my journey in the art of quilting, and those experiences created the title for my blog.

4. What was your purpose in beginning your blog and has the purpose changed over the years? If so, how?

In the fall of 2005, I was one of 200 quilters who gathered together in a downtown Salem (OR) Convention Center, to make quilts for the survivors of Hurricane Katrina. In just two days, 200 of us created an amazing 200 quilts. That experience was so energizing, and so fulfilling, that I wanted to further my goals of both creating quilts for charitable causes, and finding ways to share that quilting process. Once I became aware of quilt blogs and blogging, and learned how to create a blog......I did!

5. How long have you been blogging?

I officially began blogging in October of 2006.



 6. Do you have special features on your blog? If so, what are they?

My blog is most recognized by search engines for my sharing of well over 2,500 free quilting and quilt pattern links. And I am recognized for my charitable quilting and most often known for my posting, and quilting for the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative, and my passion for making and sharing my love of prayer flags as a visible form of caring and sharing with others and now for the making of Alzheimer's Fidget Quilts and for making and donating dozens of comfort quilts and blankets each year to charitable causes.   For me, this is the essence of my blog, my work, and my quilting journey.








Alzheimer's Illustrated:From Heartbreak to Hope


Making an Alaskan Kuspuk

Currently, I have been 'trending' for both the creation of prayer flags and for my making of Alzheimer's Fidget Quilts!   and for helping others..primarily first and second graders in my childhood elementary school on Douglas Island, Alaska, make kuspuks and teaching others online and in real life, how to make them as well!




But I am almost as well known for my ability to share from my heart and with my hands and to have found that blogging allowed me to inspire others to do the same (and use my college degree in English and love of the written word at the same time!)



7. How did you get started with quilting? and 8. What style of quilting do you prefer?

I began sewing as a very young girl, growing up on Douglas Island near Juneau, Alaska. I taught myself to sew by watching others, first by hand, then on my grandmother's treadle sewing machine at age 12. I progressed to making all of my own clothes by the time I was 17 or 18.

When I left for college in the late '60s, I learned very quickly that if I wanted any new clothes.... I would need to make them myself. Money was very tight.... and I used anything I had, or my mother had at home, to make clothing. (I made the blouse I am wearing above from a remnant altering my mother's pattern in her size, to fit me and creating the jabot from the collar.) So, of course, I did the same when I needed something to wear for a social occasion in college!

Many of my pieces were my own design, some even from my own home made patterns, and quite original. I had made my own clothing from lingerie, to wool dresses, to even my own coats, while living at home in Alaska. But, I learned rather quickly when I arrived in Oregon in September of 1968, that wool was not 'in' at 85º while walking on the hot pavement of a college campus...oh yes, I was probably wearing my brand new leather boots, that day, as well!

Remember this is when Oregon State had one computer and it took up one very large room. My knowledge of the world was limited to geography books, and the weather reports on our only two TV stations out of Seattle! And all of our TV shows were mailed up to the stations and arrived two weeks to three months later than their original airing in 'the states'!

I was gifted with my first sewing machine for Christmas in 1968, brought it back to school in Oregon after the holidays. I sewed every single day from that day forward....without stopping!

Once I figured out I could piece fabrics together to make 'hippie' vests or wide legged pants...my artistic side was really unleashed! I came from a large family of artists and sketched, painted, decoupaged, did macrame', simple hand loom weaving, made jewelry...many different arts and crafts. It was 'the' era for all of this, and boy, I had fun sewing and crafting and no matter how unusual my color combinations might have seemed before that time. This was during the 'flower power' generation..... and the saying was 'anything goes' and we were vivid to say the least!

After meeting and marrying Larry at Oregon State..he in the sciences and myself in the arts, we married in 1972. A combination of  pioneer families with mine from France and Finland and his from France and Germany.

Larry and Michele Bilyeu raising three wonderful children all filled with the same independent, creative ,  and hard working standards instilled in us by our parents and lives based on overcomibg challenges.

Raised to believe there was nothing that I couldn't do, teach myself, or become  I forged ahead into marriage and motherhood  using my teaching skills and artistic background  and always .  


In the 70's, I discovered the fun of 'patchwork' quilting and began making simple patchwork pillows and quilts (and lots of curtains!) for our home and later baby quilts for my children. By the later 1980's when the groundbreaking book "Quilts, Quilts, Quilts" came out, I taught myself all of the traditional patterns in that book by simply starting with the simplest pattern, and progressing my way through the book. I used the traditional patterns... but always with a twist.

I went into costume and theatre design for my children's schools and a children's theatre program. Theatre costuming took away the last of my perfectionism and taught me to be creative on the spot, make do with what I had, and always wing everything even under great pressure, and multiple emergencies. In theatre we learn that it's good enough and not considered a sewing mistake.... as long as 'it' can't be seen from the back of a moving horse from 35' away.

Not only a liberated costumer was born, but also the beginning of an improvisational, and liberated quilter!

Rather than making an album quilt, which I might still have to this day...I made pillows. So, one pattern per pillow creating dozens of pillows. One by one, they were all given away and many were used on reading couches in elementary classrooms, here in Salem.

Sadly, I have nothing of my own making until about 1989 when I made my first queen sized quilt using a variation of the 'Buttons and Bows' pattern. Made in dark browns and coral tones, the bright sun coming into our bedroom window faded that within six months. I was reminded of the transient nature of all things and to appreciate and treasure that which we have...while we still have it.

I am now having a great deal of fun with what we are called "Liberated" or "Improvisational" free piece quilt making, With Gwen Marston. and her quilting partner, Freddy Moran as my muses. I was so lucky to meet them in real life...and long before they became 'famous!'. The freedom from not having to match points and to focus on fun, and creativity...rather than precision....has been very freeing, and a great deal of fun.

I also delight in the making of creative 'art' quilts in a variety of styles learning and using many design techniques that I have learned over the years from many other art and craft forms. And that organically led me to combine my love of arts as well as crafts to the beginning of my love affair with all forms of art quilting. An intensely creative form of working in the flow and going into another world and dimensional aspect of quilting in entirely different ways.


9. Is there any one project that you are particularly proud of? Please describe.

I have been a passionate supporter of the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative With 15 members of my own extended family now having, or have had, some form of Alzheimer's Disease or a related dementia, this charity means the world to me! Spending as much as 5 1/2 months a year in Alaska, in my childhood island home caring for my parents over the past 8 years, I have made and donated 75 small format art quilts and earned close to $5,000 for Alzheimer's research funding.


I am very proud to still be able to make at least 25 quilts a year. While a few are given as gifts, the overwhelming majority are given to charitable organizations. I have made and donated quilts to Wounded Veterans (both locally here in Oregon, and at Fort Madigan in the State of Washington) to hospice, foster children programs, abused women and children organizations, the local hospitals neo-natal center, cardiac patients, disaster relief organizations, and through a number of interfaith/local church groups, and of course Alzheimer's organizations.

With so many serious and life threatening illnesses in my family, friends, and those that I care about, it was inevitable that I would increase my focus on making and sharing my over of  'Prayer Flags". Since the early 70's, I have felt such a connection with this ancient art form that seeks to reach out and do good, through the natural world, with others.




I became aware of The Prayer Flag Project started by Vivika Hansen DeNegre, joined and began to share some of the flags that I was creating in the online group. While I don't always share every flag that I create, I have shared a number of them and it's a wonderful contact and connection with like minded individuals who choose to share their artistic endeavors for a larger community connection.

10. Have you participated in online classes, quilt-alongs, etc... If so, what was your favorite and why?

Besides, being a member of  The Prayer Flag Project, I am the creator of the Liberated Quilting Challenge for creating and donating small format art quilts to the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative  (AAQI). Composed originally of members of the Liberated Quilting Webring and the Liberated Quilting Message Board, we became a group of online quilters or quilt bloggers who wished to challenge ourselves (in any art quilt form) and to learn to think 'outside the box' by trying new quilting or art quilting techniques for creating and donating AAQI art quilts.

Our challenge group made and donated about 650 small format art quilts to this cause. I tracked about 35 quilt makers from the group from around the world, including one wonderful quilter who lives as a practicing Buddhist high up in the Himalayan mountains of Nepal.

I encouraged the creation of quilts, through private emails, and blogging, found new members, made sure that all of our creations were listed, photographed,and published in three different locations..the AAQI webpage for our group, the Yahoo Liberated Message Board Photos, my own online photo albums for the group (both Picasa and Flickr accounts) and on a blog that I created just for this purpose, Liberated (Challenge) Quilting  I believe in transparency as an attitude of gratitude and  want visibility for all of us!


And as I also volunteered for AAQI by keeping a database of websites, bloggers etc. that blogged about AAQI and our cause, for Ami Simms and the Board of Directors of the Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative, it helped remind me to check repeatedly during each and every day for new online Internet search listings for my ongoing monthly list for Ami, as well as the list of emails addresses of bloggers and supporters of AAQI for database records.

This all kept me very busy on top of my own blogging, my daily quilting, and all of the family care giving, but it also made me feel...each and every single day..that I was doing all that I could for my own family and for our selves and futures family members who were at higher risk for developing dementia or Alzheimer's Disease.



11. Have you entered a quilt is a contest or show? If so, which show or contest and did you win any special honors?

The Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative traveling exhibit described above. I felt extremely honored to have had my quilt selected from among so many truly lovely and creative quilts. Other than that, I believe that quilts are meant to be loved and appreciated.....and if they hang in public, to be viewed with admiration and not judgment.


So, I have chosen to show my quilts only in non-judged venues and most often that means they are given away and honored in other people's hearts and homes, rather than in a public venues.


And I have been delighted to have one of my quilts shown in American Patchwork & Quilting Magazine...August 2011, issue 111, page 1 as part of a 'Quilter's Give Back' series...loved being part of that message/`And even more, to learn that they grace the entry ways of children's centers and hospice and nursing homes as well as a local Veteran's Center and show for a while at our local library and other venues.




I have entered challenge quilts into various venues, where I know they will be seen at fairgrounds, libraries, quilts shops etc. and hopefully inspire others to give art quilting a try.  That's great fun!




 I also have a quilt in a private collection, and a small book about that collection, that was privately published in 2012 by The Volkening Collection. Here are the quilts that Bill Volkening put on display of the AAQI quilts in his collection. Thanks for the quilt, the book, and the purchase of our quilts, Bill!




Three of my prayer flags flew in the lobby of the Oceanside Museum of art and three more in the Shapiro Center for the Arts in Boston,


And 3 more of my prayer flags are featured in an e-book available through Quilting Arts Magazine (Quilting Daily free download) at Page 5 first set at the top, made of burlap, ink jet printing, raw edge surfaces and beading.  Fly Your Flag" Prayer Flags Reader Challenge results




And one of my 13 "Breast Pockets" for Melanie Testa appeared in Quilting Arts magazine. And another in an e-book online...with double buttons, bottom center.




"Mama’s Brain’s Got Tangles…But Mama’s Still Inside"
 Michele (Savikko) Bilyeu 
“Like my mother's memory, this art quilt consists of many layers, tangles, and threads...with spots of clarity and light hidden amidst the colorful (but often chaotic) surface layer.”

 https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1985https://www.workingpreacher.org/preaching.aspx?commentary_id=1985

[PDF]Narrative Lectionary- Blind Man March 2, 2014 Michele Bilyeu is a ...
Mar 2, 2014 - Michele Bilyeu is a textile artist, a quilter from Salem, who uses her medium to try to help us understand those who have Alzheimer's disease.
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And I accidentally discovered that my AAQI Quilt and my words about it, were used by Working Preacher, an online site for providing direction for Sunday sermons, appeared and was used all over the world by preachers in their own Sunday sermons. My quilt was featured in slide shows, on church programs etc. An usual surprise, but an honor.


12. What style of fabrics are you most drawn to? What are your favorite tools? What type of sewing, quilting or other machines do you use in your quilting projects?

As a primarily charitable quilter, I am very proud of using donated, scavenged, cast off, and re-purposed fabrics that others throw, or give away.  And yes, of course I do love 'beautiful' fabric as well but I loved the idea of 'green' sewing and not wasting anything. What few scraps I have that can't be used for sewing, are donated as 'bale' to a local mission that earns money through a fabric salvage process that creates new fabric in Japan.

I own several sewing machines including my grandmother's treadle from the early 1900's that survived our house fire in 1971, my first and second Vikings, my lovely Viking Sapphire 870 Quilt, and my precious 'green' 1964 Singer Featherweight.


13. Is there another kind of online presence that you would like to have in the future?

I am delighted to have my current blog do as well as it has. And by doing well, I do not necessarily mean my having had almost  EIGHT MILLION people visit and read my blog....... but making new friends from all over the United States, as well as all over the world.

 My" best" presence is that which goes unseen but lives in the gratitude and hearts of others. Whether that is in the appreciate comments that I receive for all of the free tutorials that I create, or the links that I offer for free patterns and tutorials

14. What type of posts seem to get the most attention from your readers?

When I made the decision to drop anonymity and open myself and my life experiences to my readers, I found that the hearts I touched more often touched mine, in return. The journey through the heart and the connection with others is far more meaningful that I ever expected of a simple quilting blog and I am grateful for those openings, and those connections.

15. What is the content of your posts? Are they instructional, informative, reviews, interviews, link posts, rants, research, memes, and/or projects?

I find ways to fit just about anything that catches my own interest into my blog and somehow they end up relating to my life, and my quilting, as well!

16. Concerning advertising, do you have affiliate programs, your own online store, etc. ?

I link up to literally thousands of other quilting sites, blogs, and quilters, but I do not currently use advertising of any kind. I am not anti-advertising, I love all of my favorite products and sewing and quilting sites, I don't currently have any on site except in individual blog posts as I write about my sewing experiences or gifts that I have received.As far as linking to any online store..I give away thousands of free patterns, gifts, and links here on my blog.

17. Do you have goals for your blog and how do you measure your success at meeting. these goals?

When I first began blogging, I wanted to feel like I had friends that shared the same interests and passions that I did. Later, as I began to feel true connections with others, I wanted to reach out and touch the lives and the hearts of as many other quilters as I could, and learn, and share from that process.  In that sense, I have surpassed any, and all goals.

I am in constant communication with quilters from all over the world and from all walks of life. When I blog about things that connect heart to heart with another, that person will often contact me privately, and we exchange emails back and forth. Knowing that I have been able, in any way, to ease the suffering of another human being through my sharing and caring, means the world to me.

Life is full of amazing and miraculous synchronicities and events, if one is simply open and receptive to discovering them. And it never fails to amaze me, just how often these opportunities or events occur.


18. Is there a future direction that you would like your blog to take?

I am open to the whatever the Universe has in store for me, and for my blog. And with the interesting challenges that my life has taken on so far, I'm sure it will be an adventure!

19. Is there some point when you will stop blogging? How will you make that determination?

I am a hope filled realist. If at any point, my own life, my family, or my own feelings on blogging should change, I would very simply go with that flow. Right now, I am happy with, and love the process, as well as the wonderful connections with others.

 


*Questions posed are a variation of ones that I have been presented with and answered in the past on other sites for intervies. My answers are completely different as theirs were only about quilting!

Michele Savikko Bilyeu
www.with-heart-and-hands.com

"Chronicling my healing hearts journey from Douglas Island, Alaska to Salem, Oregon and back again"