Sunday, July 20, 2014

Two mini art quilts

These two quilts are both approximately 8x10.  I'm sorry the shiny stars don't show up well.  They are for two swaps; one requested "crazy cats" and the other "ditzy dogs".  I adhered to the crazy cat idea but not the latter.  The little cat quilt is made from my precious stash of discontinued Laurel Birch fabrics.  She was an artist and quilt fabric designer who mostly did animals. Unfortunately, she died a few years ago.  The cat quilt is called "catatonic cats paralyzed by their fearful astral dreams."  I love the "scaridy cat" fabric. The calm cats actually do look catatonic to me.

The dog quilt is a second attempt at this theme.  I did a larger one, about 18x28 a few years ago for my daughter, Leslie, who I believe has it hanging in her apartment.  I attempt to illustrate a few lines from a poem by Mark Strand which I really love. In fact I love the poem so much I may yet make a third one for myself.

And I stood in the moonlight valley                
  Watching the great starfields
   Flash and glower in the wished for
    Reaches of heaven
   That’s when I, the dog they call Spot,
    Began to sing.

Wednesday, July 16, 2014

More is More

For nearly a year I have been, off and on, embroidering circle designs on white fabric with a layer of bating and muslin backing and quilting in circles around the finished design.  I was inspired by a quilt Rachel and I saw two years ago in Mancusco International Quilt Exhibit in Manchester, Vermont. I beleive that quilt had 70 some embroidered circles.  It was simple and very fascinating to look at each unique design. I began creating a similar one and Rachel was enthused enough to do five of the circle designs although she is a painter and not a sewer.

The work was slow so I put it aside frequently and made other, more conventional quilts.  Now I've a total of 42 circles  which I put together into a quilt to show at next month's Bayberry Quilt Show.  I like them together without extras -- the inspirational quilt had white designs at the corners of the blocks, either embroidered or crocheted. They did not distract from the embroidery design. But I have a collection of felt and bright plastic flower shaped buttons and decided to see what happened when I put them in the corners between blocks -- not one, but two layers, one top of the other.

I laid it out on the sewing room floor and took photos to help me decide what I thought. I asked Rachel to come over and tell me what she thought. We decided more is more -- more interesting, more exciting although possibly more distracting from the seriously creative circular designs.  So today's job is to sew them on and then the quilt will be finished -- after nearly two years.  It seems amazingly small to have taken so long.

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Now the Hydrangias ...

Flowers, flowers, everywhere in all the colors you love.  The roses, bright pink (like these), red, pale pink are still blooming beautifully. Now the hydrangias have begun to open -- blue like these, white, purple, pink.  We have bright yellow day lilies and orange tiger lilies.  There are big clumps of white daisies.  The kousa dogwoods are just starting to flower, and the shorter, smaller flowers: geraniums, begonias, impatiens, on and on, are all blooming. 

Twice this week I drove 10 miles on lovely old winding two-lane Rte. 6A past the wonderful variety of houses, large, small, old, recent almost all with flowers in the yard. What a visual delight!  These are every bit as enticing on Cape Cod as the wonderful beaches.

Wednesday, July 09, 2014

Changes are Obvious

Quilters Newsletter Magazine began publishing in 1969 (I believe). I discovered it, about five years later; it was a grayed b&w format, the paper was more tabloid than magazine.  But it was the only one around, as far as I knew. Over the years it has grown and prospered along with the quilting industry in American which is now estimated at about $3.5 billion a year.  This month's issue says that quilters (on average) spend $2442 per year on supplies. That is not a cheap hobby.  Quilters who are more than hobbyists spend much more than that. 

Today I had a urge to stop at Tumbleweed Quilts which is the quilt store nearest me (not counting JoAnne's which is more of a hobbyist store with much besides quilting).  I didn't need anything but I know I can always go into Tumbleweed, see some of the newest designs, resist temptation, check out their rock bottom selection of often hurt fabrics that they sell for 99 cents a yard (very few today),  look through the nice array of books, and come home with one of their scrap bags, end cuttings, mostly which are ideal for scrap quilting. I spent (after my senior discount) a little over $24.  I won't be doing that 100 times this year.

Back to QNW, as can be seen from the cover of a recent issue they show spectacular quilts. They also are aware of recent trends. They show art quilts, "modern" quilts, and prize winning quilts from various shows. They have a how-to section which has gotten smaller lately as they've added more subtantive editoral. The latter is what I especially appreciate. A very good article on how people who sell their quilts can figure fair prices bemoans two big factors: many people charge too little , essentially nothing for their labor, and everyone is at a disadvantage thanks to the cheap quilts that pour into downmarket outlets (Wal-Mart, etc) from Asia where they are made of inferior materials by people who are paid pitifully little. 

I am paying attention, too, to bits of historical and factual writing in the magazines and a few others, because I am doing serious research this summer as I plan to teach a course at the Academy for Lifelong Learning called "History of American Quilts."  Emphasis on history -- how quilting paralleled the economic ups and downs of America, how women used their quilts to make political statements, and how the ever increasing technology from the cotton gin and the sewing machine in the mid-1800s to today's computer design programs, have changed quilting.  It's a big subject and I'm feeling staggered by possibly having bitten off more than I can handle gracefully.  For that reason I appreciate, all the more, the increasingly solid information in Quilters Newsletter Magazine.

Sunday, July 06, 2014

Camillas, I think

My daughter told me when we visited Heritage Plantation, a botanical garden in Sandwich, here on Cape Cod, that the flowers in the header and this one above are camillas.  I am not aware of having seen camillas before.  I take her word for it but if someone knows them by another name, please tell me.  I was enchanted by their milky whiteness and the centers with touches of deep purple.  I think I read somewhere that they come in other colors too.  I can't imagine them being more beautiful than they are when white.

My only association is with the Dumas novel, title in English, "The lady of the camillas" which became the opera La Traviata, my favorite of favorite operas, where the heroine is called Violetta.  In any case, being a "fallen" woman, one kept by a wealthy man and living a life of flirtatious freedom, she is certainly not "pure"in the sense it was  used in the last 1800s. But times have changed. I just read an article in today's Times that says over 50% of couples chose to live together without being married. Poor Verdi would be up a creek today if he were looking for a credible plot without all that "honor" that so ruined the lives of most of his heroines. His music might not be so wonderful without all that angst.

Wednesday, July 02, 2014

MIdpoint, 2014

Everyone talks about time flying  faster and faster as we get older.  It's a cliche because it's true.  I just realized its the midpoint of 2014 for the simple reason that my calendar tells me so.  I use a calendar from the Metropolitan Museum of Art  with a different photograph of one of it's fine pieces of art each day -- well, actually six days a week, as Saturday and Sunday are a combined page.  Actually, since I'm trying to be entirely honest and clear, these are not pages but individual sort of cards with a photograph on each side.  I've just finished side A, as it were, and a card said, "time to turn your calendar pages over."  The masterpiece for tomorrow is a Rembrandt self-portait-- much like the one here which is in broken pixels because it was tiny and I enlarged it.  But you know what his self-portraits look like.

It's nice to have a changing art exhibit on the table when I'm having quiet meals.  I've been using the calendars four or five years.  They repeat themselves to an extent but the Met has so many non-painting artifacts that they'll never entirely run out of things to show on a page. 

So another year is half over.  Now that I'm in my mid-70s I am very aware that I never thought at all about reaching this age. Both my mother and her mother were about the age I am now when they died. To me they were OLD, very, very old.  I say to myself, they were much, much older than I am at the same age.  That is not  purely self-deception.  Mary Katherine Bateson wrote an excellent essay about the way modern medicine and lifestyle in our counrty has given many of us twenty "bonus years."  I believe that is true ... clearly not for everyone, of course.  But I feel I may well have another twenty years, so the marking of another half year gone does not fill me with dread.  But it is worth paying attention to.  I think it's healthy to keep tabs on were we seem to be in the process of one's life. The picture of Rembrandt probably shows a man in his later 50s. I will study it and think of all he had accomplished when he painted this self-portrait and I will look again, as I did a few minutes ago at the group of his self-portraits.

Saturday, June 28, 2014

Under the Bed

It's a great idea to look under the bed once in a while and go through the bags of quilts stashed there.  I found this quilt yesterday -- along with others that, at least, I remembered.  This one is recognizable by the fabrics I know I had, especially the batiks on the side that is squares  But I have no memory of making the strip-pieced squares or the quilt as a whole. I know I did. I love making reversible quilts. This is a small one, just for laps or maybe for somewhat sophisticated youngsters.  I suppose I'll return it to where it was and try to remember that I have it in case a time arises when I meet someone who might like to have it.  There are other bags of quilts under another bed and on the top shelves of three closets and there may be other surprises.  It's a nice surprise and maybe others will be too. Oh, and one bag under the bed is UFOs -- unfinished objects/quilts -- I didn't open it.  I've got enough quilting to do to keep me quite busy all summer so I'm not in the mood for finishing these tops that, for one reason or another, I didn't manage to layer and quilt.  From talking to other quilters and reading magazines, I know that this is not a unique situation.  No red face here.