River Middens

I’ve been a keen studier of rivers all of my life.  Ever since I was a kid, my favourite natural setting has been the woods with a stream running through it.  Maybe this predilection harkens back to my Muscogee ancestors, who made their towns and settlements along the waterways of the South Eastern part of North America.  The first European settlers called my people Creeks, because of where they lived.

The River Teign

There are places on a river where the water runs shallow and flat and wide.

You can squat at the edge or wade out ankle deep and sift through the river smoothed stones and slate, river washed driftwood and twigs, and sometimes broken pieces of discarded pottery.


I found my cleaved pieces of slate in a river middens.

The very ones I used in our wedding quilt, Cleaved.

Cleaved, 2010

Sometimes I find fragments of pottery.

Piece of a Blue Willow plate

I put a river middens into my River of Dreams.  After all, we can collect the river washed fragments our dreams bring us and put them into our pocket and carry them into our waking world, to finger and mull over.

I got my collection of river treasures out, including a paper coaster and napkin with the Blue Willow pattern on them.

River treasures

My mother had sent a set of these to her sister Ruth sometime ago.  When I visited my Aunt Ruth in 2002, she gave them to me and said they were too pretty to use, so she’d kept them all these years!  I scanned and printed them onto cotton organdy, so I could use them in my River of Dreams quilt.

A Blue Willow plate

I screened some of our handwritten love letters to one another onto some of the grey silk to make the slate stones of ‘cleaved’ and cut out some other silk pieces of slate.

Then arranged them into a pleasing pattern.

When I felt happy with my middens, I fused the pieces of fabric to my river.


I mixed some silver and black fabric paint and stippled in some texture around the stones and slate.   Then I  pinned blue tulle on top of everything and stitched around the pieces and the edges of the tulle, trimming the raw edges when I’d finished.

Ready to stitch the tulle down

I  like the slightly rough and textured surface of the tulle and once I’d stitched some long flowing currents of metallic blue thread onto the surface, it looks as though you could reach right into the water to collect the treasures there.

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4 thoughts on “River Middens

  1. Hi Melinda,

    I discovered your blog by chance a few years ago, while image searching for Japanese obi, and came across your obi belt. As an artist starting to work with textiles myself, I have read your blog regularly to follow the progress of your fiber art and photography. I am inspired by the personal symbolism you imbue in your work. I loved the “winter trees wept” and “cleaved” quilts. I just had to comment because I found the river middens section of your current quilt absolutely beautiful. The pottery shards, the cleaved slate, the 2 fish, the tulle…it is all so lovely. Thanks for sharing so much of yourself through your work and blog.

    • Janice,
      What a beautiful comment from you, today, the day of My Open Studio. It feels like a risk to reveal my art, my deeply personal expression of me, and it HEARTens me to hear that it falls on hearing ears.
      Namaste,
      Melinda
      XX

  2. Hi Melinda
    thank you SO much for showing us your quilts today, they are just beautiful. I’ve put a link to your blog from mine (not that I have a huge following!). Looking forward to meeting you again

    Nina x

    • Nina,
      It was wonderfull to meet you today!
      Don’t be a stranger!!
      Melinda XX
      PS It’s quality, not quantity on blog followers. I love my silent witnesses (each and every one of you) who come and have a look and silently cheer me on!

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