Tuesday, March 31, 2009

Quilting Arts Magazine,April/May

I have been reading the April/May Quilting Arts Magazine which arrived yesterday. Some issues have little to say to me but this one has a couple of very interesting articles. One is an article by Inge Mardol and Steen Hougs, the Dutch couple who have been making art quilts together for 30 years. Steen paints the pictures which he has photographed in many cases, and Inge then adds depth and great detail with very prescie quilting, often to the point of threat painting. I've seen, I think, three in reality which is the only way to appreciate their real complexity, art and skill. Go to
their website and see a wonderful, lengthy slide slow of their work, just click "quilts" on the home page. Unfortunately there are no close ups so you can see the stitching.

There is also an article by Malka Dubrowsky, "Turn Down the Volume" which is about using quiet, light colored fabrics, albeit with strong graphics. It is time for a reaction against the very busy, very bright, very saturated, very in-you-face quilts that have been increasingly popular the last five years. At the Empire Guild show most were in that bold, bright category. It made for a very exciting visual experience -- and there were enough more traditional quilts mixed in for a sense of relief. But I have been thinking how relaxing it was to make the shirting quilt [posted in February] which is light colors and depends on graphics of simple lines.

Dubrowsky mentions being influenced by Alice Martin which resonated with me. The two or three times I've seen Alice Martin's work I have found a wonderful serenity even though it also contains rigidity in the relentless graph straight pencil lines on canvas. The bright fabrics are appealing and they're not going to go away but art has it's fads and cycles and they change, sometimes slowly. But as historians can tell at a glance, certain colors and combinations define a period and right now there is a strong draw of nostalgia toward "vintage" which may mean the avacados of the 60s or the pastels and small prints of the 30s. When these quiet colors return they will have morphed into something new, appealing and appropriate for a new sensibility. It's fascinating to watch trends come and go.

Monday, March 30, 2009

Working on a UFO

I can't leave well enough alone. Instead of carrying on with my sorting and starting to pack up things, I thought I'd get a UFO finished. Well, I might get the top finished, it's very unlikely to be quilted. However this is it. Frankly I had no idea this was what I was going to do to those paper pieced standing-on-point squares. But I'm okay with this choice and have decided it'll be called "Christmas Cactus" since it's red and green and spiky and there are lighter bits like some of the flowers on Christmas cactus.

The main part of the top is together, although it still has the paper which needs to be torn off and then it needs to be more carefully ironed. It is lying on a sofa in the picture so the colors are picked up differently depending on the angle of the fabric to the camera. -- In the not too distant future I will have a design wall and can take photos of hanging quilts. I will also have much better light. So there should be a noticeable improvement. I sure hope so; I really think I could be a better photographer than I appear to be in many of these photos.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Sorting and Playing with Fabric

A story book I read as a child had a picture of King Midas in a room with piles of gold coins which he was stacking on a table. The look on his face was one of gleeful cupidity [words I didn't know at the time] and he seemed to be chuckling "heh-heh-heh-heh." This is how I felt a couple of hours this morning as I pulled out plastic bags and boxes of fabric scraps -- not my bags of fat quarter and larger pieces. These were scraps that needed to be sorted into strips for string quilts, and usable pieces. I also have baggies full of squares of different sizes, also triangles although the sizes were mixed somewhat carelessly.

So I sorted and arranged by shape and size and color. So many squares -- I need to make several quilts somewhat like the vender's show quilt in the picture above [those are African fabrics, most of mine are not]. Anyway, seeing, touching, arranging, packing up, all those quilt possibilities, all those lovely colors and patterns made me feel like King Midas. What a treasure I feel I've amassed. What dreams of simple and complex quilts danced through my head. Goodness! I love fabric and patterns and colors and I loved being immersed in it.

Those are bagged and boxed. I have many, many other sorting chores to do -- books in particular. I love books, perhaps more than fabric, but in a different way. I have saved books because their contents have delighted me and I've thought I might find someone to whom to give the book. Others I've kept because I can't help feeling a home should have Shakespeare's plays, Joyce's Ulysses ... Oh, I could go on and on and on. I will keep many of the classics but I want to at least decimate these book shelves. I will never reread Sontag's The Volcano Lover or Lessing's Children of Violence books, and so others. In fact there are so many books I want yet to read, that I am unlikely ever to reread the ones I've read once -- I have a good memory for the books I've read. But they seem to be loved friends. It's very hard to pack up a friend and leave it at a thrift shop.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Blessings on Inventor of Seam Rippers

I'm always thinking of simplifying moving. I dig into a box or drawer and life gets complicated. I found a UFO a couple of days ago that I realized I could finish quickly [ha! hope springs eternal]. It needed only a few paper pieced bits and then some plain squares and strips. How long could that take? Well ... I decided on a fabric for the squares and strips and cut it up. The next day I began sewing. Disaster! When I lay several pieced bits together I realized that fabric was very, very wrong. Out with the seam ripper. A long irritating hour or more undoing what I did, casting about in my mind for how to right the situation. What fabric to use? Not one, now but two, changing the concept drastically from the original plan.

The next day I cut new squares and strips -- using two colors, reds and dark blues. That looked better. Today I began sewing things together again. Much, much better than before although this is not going to be a quilt of distinction. It will be in the "all right" category and usable. Of course, the sewing is taking longer than imagined -- it always does, doesn't it. AND I'm left with the other fabric all cut in squares and strips so that eventually -- well down the road, it will become yet another quilt and in the mean time it is a new UFO, wouldn't you knnow?

There's some law, isn't there, about such things? For instance I took a bag of stuff to thrift shop today, some jackets and some books -- I'm truly trying to decimate the books on my shelves. BUT today's special at the thrift shop was all hardbacks for $1 -- well, I got away with only ONE book ... largely because a lot of people were clustered around the book shelves and I took that as a sign that I must not shove closer to look at every single title as is my habit. And so it goes.

Tuesday, March 24, 2009

A couple more quilts

This stunning color study and wonderfully pieced quilt is one I failed to get the name of the maker -- I thought I wrote it down but it was someone else with a quilt I meant to photograph but didn't when the crowd got too thick. This one is an eye-popper. Certainly in this show, many, many people were really into color. The combinations were stunning and gutsy. Many times I thought: I'd never have the nerve to do that. Possibly I couldn't live with them very long either. But they were wonderful and exciting to see on display.

A much quieter one held my attention a long time. Below is A Tree's Nature by Nancy Chan. It hand appliqued and hand quilted and contemplative and serene. This is the kind of art work I would chose to live with. Maybe it's a matter of age, or stage of life or simply that my nature is more contemplative and not very jazzy.

This detail shows the stitching, especially if it is clicked and enlarged. This is a wonderful example of quilt making that I feel was underappreciated by viewers because the venue really wasn't large enough for the number of quilts. Too many were shown too close to one another. But the space was the size it was and every bit of it was used maximally. Quilts were hung sensitively so far as possible. Finally I suppose it was too much of a muchness as some British writer said in a different context.

Certainly it was exciting to listen to viewers truly gushing in excitement And it was lovely to see some quilters basking -- in fact, one could be said to have been radiating -- in satisfaction and happiness as their quilts were admired by others.

Monday, March 23, 2009

More from the quilt show

There were five or six quilts using this particular kind of circular main pattern with interesting fabric around the wheel and often interesting applique on the border. I assume all took classes from the same teacher but each was individual and all were both fun to look at and fascinating studies in color. This one is by Laurinda Liang and was named Prismatic Field. I find myself mildly drawn to possibly finding the pattern and making one of these. Something to add to the "maybe someday" list that runs through my brain every so often.

This string quilt by Karen Griska -- the quilter who wrote the book on selvage quilting -- totally inspired me the minute I saw it to want to make one. And I will, I don't know quite when but definitely will. I have a bag of scraps of which a great, great many are strings -- long strips cut of the too long edge of something. I always feel that scrap quilts are what quilts are all about, even though intellectually, I make room for many, many other kinds of quilting. Using up scraps gives me such a virtuous feeling and when it turns out eye popping and satisfying as Karen's quilt is -- well! What more could anyone want? Karen told me how she gets the kaliidoscope-ish impression, it's not difficult. I'll remember.

Oh my, oh my, I have so many want-to-dos going through my brain. I don't think I'll ever become bored. Of course there are books to read and many, many things to write and walks to take and all kinds of things to see, natural and artistic. 'tis exciting to be alive!

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Emprie Guild show, Urban Inspirations 2009

For the next three posts I will show pictures from Urban Inspirations 2009, the quilt show of the Empire Quilters' Guild. I thought I had made a note of who made this brilliant red quilt but I find I did not. I'm sorry not to give people credit where due. I loved the energy and sheer exuberance of this quilt. I found it very exciting. In fact the show was exciting -- so much color used so fearlessly in quilt after quilt -- and interspersed with quilts in quiet or toned down colors to give balance. The show was truly a visual treat and inspiration.

I'm sorry I decapitated these wonderful ladies but I was so drawn to their sneakers and the soccer ball, as well as the traditional African dresses. This quilt is called "Bling it On" by Pauline Meyers. I loved it!

And this quilt by Mary Butler had a quiet feeling and was unlike any other design in the show [several reflected classes taught by a particularly inspiring teacher -- though each was different the basic design was the same -- a great design but its repetition was distressing. Mary calls this "Notes Ascending". Something about it was very refreshing.

Over 200 quilts were shown, hung as intelligently a space permitted but the space simply wasn't large enough, too many were crowded together, especially the small and middle sized quilts. Some of them would have been stunning seen alone but crowded with another couple their punch was lost. Mine was one that suffered from that problem -- which was unavoidable given the space available.

I'm told a great web site will be put up, in due time, of all the quilts so that each will be presented in it's full glory -- but such a project takes time. I'll be happy when it happens but, as I told the web masters [husband and wife] I wish there could be a book as there was after the last show. I realize a book is a terribly expensive undertaking. But it is books I relate to and I still have the book from the previous show on my coffee table where I browse through it rather often.

Friday, March 20, 2009

UFO Invasion

As I was starting to sort and arrange "stuff" another UFO appeared. It has paper pieced blocks that will alternate with plain ones. I found I had 50 of 64 blocks made and the fabrics all together in a zip bag. They are not very complicated so I made the needed 14 more and was light-=headedly dreaming of how quickly I could finish another UFO Ha! How easy it is to dream and forget reality.

Upon more serious thought I realized that I need 320 or so little squares to finish the quilt and much, much sewing to piece it all. This is not a weekend project! It is not complex but, like all quilt projects, it is going to take longer than my head-in-the-clouds original thoughts projected. I have much else to be busy doing but I am excited, now, about how this might turn out. So between other things I have to do, I'll put in some time on this. And put the bothersome b/w drunkard's path pieces once again on a back burner. Oh my, oh my.

Meanwhile the quickie quilt of a couple weeks ago has been sent to a new owner who sounds happy with it and that makes me happy. Also I believe and older but never used, well loved quilt has found a prospective owner, see above -- a Bethany Reynolds Stack and Whack. The method fascinates me and I've made several using her instructions. This was one of the first with a complex Hoffman fabric that was perfect for making all the one-of-a-kind blocks which are very kalidascope-ish and which I could look at for hours. I hope its potential new owner will feel th same when she gets it in a few weeks

Thursday, March 19, 2009

Another Pillow Cover

AACAw/OqdCL80LN9E/s1600-h/PICT0385.JPG"> Four postcards.

Yet another pillow cover. When I need to make a small-ish quilted piece to send to someone I don't know [as in the Swap-bot swaps] I want to send something potentially usable even though in most cases I don't have many clues as to what the person's tastes are or if the colors are absolutely awful with their decor. But at least if it's useful, like a pillow cover or maybe a table runner, it could be re-gifted or re-swapped without embarrassment. Ergo: the above pillow cover which, it seems to me, is in colors that might well clash in many homes. On the other hand I happen to like the colors and the flowers from a Japanese print and the pillow cover is nicely sewn and lightly quilted, so off it went in them ail.

An alternative is to send a fabric postcard - but that is so small an item, sometimes sending two or three will be sufficient as I'm doing today. Making small projects like these is a quick shot in the arm, a mood lifter, as is making quilt-postcards. I know many people stick to projects that can be quickly done. However I like to balance the quick fix with the long term project, a very complex paper pieced wall quilt [i.e., my 1200+ piece quilt that I will be showing in the quilt show this weekend], or a bed quilt -- some quilt ideas really only work in large scale.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Phooey, I say. Phooey!

I have never made a Drunkard's Path quilt. I found a fascinating variation with a very nice border using the patches as well. Months ago I decided it would work wonderfully in black and white and began sorting and acquiring good contrast b/w fabrics, made careful templates and began cutting. Cutting is boring so I didn't cut all I would need but enough to get a good start.

I started sewing and ran into difficulty. They are only 3-1/2 inch blocks so the curve if pretty tight. But, said I to myself, I have done innumerable sleeves and done them quite well so I can master this. But I wasn't inspired to return to the package of cut pieces very often. I always had other projects to work on. Now and then I'd unearth the baggie of pieces cut and sewn and do a few more. But it didn't call to me even when I looked at the picture for inspiration. Whatever I did to help the sewing didn't really work. I didn't do a neat job and I didn't get better with practice. This has dragged on since last summer.

A few days ago I said to myself, Phooey! Yes, phooey on the drunkard's path. I had sewn most of the cut pieces which, when counted was approximately half the number needed. Why should I continue doing something I wasn't enjoying and was not doing well? Phooey! I said. No one says I have to do this. I'll do something with what I have, starting with ironing which IS helpful for making them lie flat. I'll make a small quilt, possibly with a large border or it will be throw size -- these B/w fabrics are not really suitable for a crib size quilt.

I don't have to do something I"m not enjoying. I enjoy mastering something difficult like a very complex paper pieced block, but I was not mastering this and I've seen so called "easy" methods, which don't look easy to me and seem very time consuming. My life will not be less wonderful because I cannot sew Drunkard's Path blocks. My life will be more wonderful if I say Phooey! I will do what gives me pleasure. I can make some other B/W quilt, there are many possibilities. I am going to enjoy the process of putting my imagination in gear, looking for inspiration in other quilts and then hitting on an idea that excites me ... and making IT. Tune in a few weeks or months from now for the continuation of this story.

Friday, March 13, 2009

The Buttoned Down Quilt

All quilted and with about half the buttons it's going to have -- this is the quilt I called "the Lemonade Quilt" two or three weeks ago. Now it's going to be called "the Buttoned Down Quilt because it will have quite a lot of buttons on the central part. They are shirt buttons, not fancy ones and at the moment I need some blue ones so it might not be completely finished for a while.

I loved watching how quilting it made it so much quilt-ier, and blended some of the squares together. Of course the texture has changed which is also satisfying. I'm pleased with this quilt, I think I'll take it to show and tell in the next guild meeting to show what can happen to a handful of samples from the share table. The two photos look rather different but it's just different light, different places in the apartment.

Wednesday, March 11, 2009

Is this funky?

I had to make something -- and because it's me, it would be quilted == for a young woman I don't know. She had posted a profile of herself in which she used the word "funky" several times. Clearly to her, it's a positive word that she applies to herself. I pondered this for quite a while, and came to the conclusion, that I don't know what "funky" means in today's parlance.

Did I have any fabrics I'd call funky? I wasn't sure. Finally I chose a couple of the same pattern in different colorways -- actually three, the third being only a small piece -- and decided to make the background to the star a dusty pink with a tiny white pin dot -- a very conservative choice. I could have chosen something stronger, say a bile green of magnetic blue and maybe that would have been "funkier" -- but it was beyond my ability to do so. I didn't want something that threatened to bite my hand, chew it up and spit it out. I'm afraid this is as funky as this no longer young quilter can get.

Monday, March 09, 2009

Hate it, love it, could care less?

This is a brief follow up to yesterday's post. The picture above is a longer shot of one of the Stoudt quilts I discussed. I think it looks fascinating. I admit this style of quilt which has been featured in magazines for a few years now, really appeals to me. Usually it's neatly sewn with all seams well hidden and the whole thing is quilted in whatever manner the quilter chooses.

Ms. Stoudt has chosen two methods of making this type of quilt. In the one above the squares and rectangles are all sewn on a whole cloth background. In the other shown in detail previously, the squares seem to have been made individually and sew together so that the raw seam edges become part o the front, i.e., part of the design. I find both methods interesting.

What I'm wondering is whether some people find this kind of surface really interesting and if some find it disgusting or at least very distasteful and ugly. After all the serious quilt police give a ton of rules about neatly finishing our work. Here you have to make an emancipated leap into the world of art quilting and freedom of expression. For people like me who like things reasonably neat this could be discomforting on the one hand or very freeing on the other. For example in the classical music genre atonal works set my teeth on edge and heavy metal makes me want to run for cover or to throw a huge sound-proofing tarp over the band or boombox producing it. I wonder how other people feel about this sort of quilting.

Sunday, March 08, 2009

Macusco Show in Somerset, N.J.

Entering a quilt show has the same promise, excitement and sense of anticipation that entering an art museum, concert hall or opera house has for me. I am going to see interesting things I want to remember. A busload of Empire Guild quilters went to Somerset, N.J. for the New Jersey Quilt Fest [one of the many shows sponsored by the Mancusco organization] This was my third or fourth year to see this show. I have sometimes been a bit disappointed. Today I was not. It was a good show with a nice balance of quilts, some truly spectacular. There was a nice balance of traditional, contemporary and some in the "art" category. many with very, very high levels of accomplishment. I do not have pictures of the best quilts, they were mostly fairly large, people were standing in the way and I could not have captured detail.

I photographed a few quilts that made me think, I'd like to try that. So these below are not truly representative of the quality or the variety. Less than half the show was New Jersey work, there were one woman shows, a fascinating group of SAQA art quilts curated by Lisa Chipotine which for some reason had no labels, not even quilters names, the Hoffman challenge quilts, dolls and garments are always shown at this venue, and other special groups included a set of orchid inspired quilts and a set of black and white ones as well as other special exhibits.

Christine Porter from the U.K. had a small one-woman show which included this chevron quilt as well as a similar one in brown/beige. That's an "I can do that," quilt -- and maybe I will.

Mary E. Stoudt of Pennsylvania had a couple of wall quilts of raw edge squares that fascinated me for how well they worked. The first here was in medium and light colors. Both seemed to be clippings from scraps that fell on the floor during other projects. In this time of recycle, it made sense. I did a detail photo of each so as to remember how they were done but they are far more effective seen from a distance.

The Stoudt quilt below used very, very small pieces and these which were somewhat deeper red than they read in the photo had a wide border of very dark squares of the same sort. If you click this photo, you'll actually see the squares larger than reality.

My only hesitation about making a quilt in this way is to say, so then what do I do with it? Of course it's a wall quilt, although it could grow to throw size. Hmmm -- both were very effective hanging. And that's really the main criterion for a wall quilt, I suppose. Utility is not a consideration.

Many quilters have a very good sense of humor but shows don't often include them. This one below by Elise M. Campbell is called "Pigs in a Blanket". Wish I'd thought of that.

I enjoyed the show more than I have previous ones there. It was not as well attended as I suppose they hoped, although it was Sunday and Saturday is a much better day for attendance. I believe the many venders were probably not very happy. Although most of the people in our group bought a few things, as did I [a bargain stash addition is irresistible] none seemed to be doing hopping business. It's a difficult time to be a shop owner.

Thursday, March 05, 2009

A Quickie

A lap quilt. Where did that come from? Well, you know, UFOs linger and lurk and then pop out when you're looking for something else. This was just a dozen nine-patch blocks that I made one day when I was sorting my box of various size squares. They were all so bright I thought maybe they could work together although some prints were practically were in fist fights with others.

When they surfaced I realized I had a fair amount of black left over from the recently done reversible quilt and if anything could calm down this bunch of off the wall colors black was surely it. I'm not sure about the finished quilt but I have to say I enjoyed putting it together and enjoyed each nine patch on its own. The quilt really was a quicky. Putting the stripping on and making the whole top was a snap. The quilting is ultra simple and did not even need to be marked. I like working in this ad hoc manner. I like the occasional quicky. I think I went a little nuts when I gave it a yellow binding. But hey -- it's done. I'll find someone to give it to. Anybody want to offer postage for me to mail it to you?

Tuesday, March 03, 2009

Flower Pot Table Runner

I needed a spring-like quickie little quilt for a swap. One of the nights when I was wandering about in an insomniac haze at 3:30 A.M., I pulled out half a dozen quilt books, not so much looking for a pattern as looking for distraction. I found this flowerpot pattern and thought, A-ha! A quickie!

Anyone who reads my quilt posts knows that nothing is ever as quick as I imagine it will be. When I got to work, I immediately knew that one was not enough. It could have been a small pillow cov flowerpots would make a runner. Pulling out stash is always a pleasure. An original impulse to use yellow turned to pink when I thought of the ochre of flowerpots. Pink it is. Four took half a day -- why and how I don't know. Quilting just messes up the usual way time flows. So the four got together and I had lunch and contemplated them from across the room -- all laid out on my "design floor".[We all know I have no design wall and complain about it reflexively. They need oomph! thought I. Ah-ha, I have that piece of fabric with wonderful butterflies, they can be fused on quick and easy .. well, not quite so quick when you think of the fancy cutting involved. Then of course it had to be quilted and finished.

So time wore on and by the end of the afternoon I had a runner made. Do people actually use table runners? I don't. Ah well. It is springy -- and I wish the weather were the same. All in good time, weather does its own thing with time, doesn't it?

Sunday, March 01, 2009

Trying to Read

Killing time in airports, especially the international transit areas which have, in most cases, turned into huge duty free shopping malls with emphasis on high end attire and electronics, plus the same old, same old liquor and perfumes. Fortunately there's usually a couple of bookshops. Perhaps unfortunately because I can only resist the sale for a certain amount of time.

A Buy-Two-Get-One-Free come on at W.H.Smith in Heathrow when I was stuck for four hours finally enticed me to get 1599, as well as a book of Nadine Gordimer's short stories and some bit of pablum that was disguised as real philosophy which I've already taken to the thrift shop. I am trying rather valiantly to read 1599. Its subtitle is "A Year in the Life of William Shakespeare". The author is James Shapro who seems to have read every scrap of British history of the era. He writes well enough but it's so far it's hard to keep it open wide enough to see the whole page. But the real problem is that my eyes get tired at the end of the day. And the underlying problem is that my sleep has been all messed up for weeks. I get into a list of the names of all the nobles in Elizabeth' court who were fighting the rebellious Irish -- who were being starved on purpose! And had every reason to rebel. I'm interested in the politics but not that list of names. My eyes start to close, the heavy book tilts out of my hand and I lose the page... Progress is very slow.

I thought the other day I'd try a novel instead. Recently I bought from Daedalus Booksellers three novels by Nobel Prize winner, Effrida Jellinek. Since I needed something to keep me awake I chose the one called Lust. OMG! The cover blurb says her writing is violent -- that is a major understatement. Her characters are bestial, they do not have names, and the sex is almost continuous and indeed very violent and brutal. It was so repulsive I put it down and haven't gone back ... but I will. Yes. Because I want to understand what there is about this writer that could so impress the Nobel Academy.

I do know why the Nobel was given to Nadine Gordimer so maybe I should give myself a break and read the book of short stories I purchased. Sometimes reading IS an advsnture for me and I like that. In fact I'm reading yet one more book, Out of Antartica by Robert Argod which may be science or lunatic fringe. I'm not sure. He premises that large parts of the earth's inhabitants originated on the Antarctic continent and that many mythologies prove it. Proving something with myths is like proving things by quoting the Bible. All these books will get read, but it's a slow, slow period.