Wednesday, March 31, 2010

AQS Lancasater Show

[This is Jeweled Garden, by DEborah Kembell of Quebec, Canada. It won 3rd place in the Wall Quilt Division]

I've just read my mailing from the American Quilters Society which lists the winners at the Lancaster, PA show and has links to pictures of all the winning quilts. Here is the link to their mailing: -- I wish I knew how to do that the short way with just one word but readers can copy this

[This is "Vases" by Susan Marshall of Clayton, MD which won Best Hand Workmanship]

I am amazed at the extreme amount of work -- surely thousands of hours total, maybe hundreds of thousands -- that went into making these quilts. They are enormously complex, some simply boggle the mind of anyone has any idea how long it must have taken these quilters to make their quilts. AQS is known for showing quilts that are what I'd called "contemporary traditional" -- that is, most are not art quilts -- the only well know art quilter who was a winner in this show is Carol Taylor. But the winners are artists in the sense of having wonderful eye for harmony and grace in both design and color choices. I cannot see workmanship in the photos which show the entire quilt but I have no doubt that in all cases the workmanship is superior to superb. I would have loved to have seen that show, these are spectacular and I'm sure many other quilts in the show were also.

If one browses the magazine racks you will discover many articles about quick methods, directions for "quilt in a weekend" and so on. What a dichotomy! Why are all those magazine editors emphasizing quickie work? Haven't they looked at these shows? Don't they realize that some people like a challenge and a long term goal? No, of course not everyone. People have to start somewhere but a little challenge would be a nice thing too.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Books By/About Quilters

I have a limited appetite for how-to quilt books, mostly been-there-done-that. Although sometimes something new comes out that intrigues me. However I LOVE books that introduce me to art quilters whose works I may never have a chance to see. For a couple of months I'd haunted Barnes and Noble's craft section drooling over Quilting Arts because it has both generous photographs and generous editorial about the quilt artists, several of whom I had not encountered in other publications or in shows. Finally I ordered it from Amazon or thought I did. But it must have been one of my absent minded days for what I got Quilts from Europe.
This was a serendipitous mistake. I've been reading "Quilt Mania," a magazine published in France, and know the names of many of the artists featured in this book but am happy to have a collection of their work and brief [I wish they were longer] bios. I was a little unhappy that each artist provided instructions for making one's own version of a quilt of hers -- until I saw a technique I wanted to try. I have serious problems with people copying others' quilts, even with their implicit permission as in this book. On the other hand I would very much like to go to the big annual quilt show in Europe some time.

Of course when the wrong one arrived, I ordered the right one. The two together have given me several hours of happy contemplation of these skillful artists and I will return to them often as I do all my favorite quilt books.

I will mention that Quilting Arts raises the question of whether to call some work "quilts" or "fiber" or "textile" art. And this book includes interesting sculptural or three dimensional work. Even though I will never be a quilt artist I think about these questions [and am writing about them in a novel, of all things]. So both books are fodder for my thoughts.

These books remind me of a word for certain foods my mother used under the influence of women's magazines of the '40s and '50s, "roughage." This meant bran and fibrous fruit and vegetables. Good healthy food to keep the system working well -- that's what these books are for my thought and even some of my quilting choices.

Friday, March 26, 2010


This is not about waltzing polar bears! I watched the documentary The High Cost of Low Price today and got the kind of upset one gets when one's face is smeared with something rotten and sickening. The documentary is about the greed of Wal-Mart, not only how it destroys small towns' main street stores but it's total disregard for its employees, it's cynical reliance on state welfare systems to take care of it's underpaid U.S. employees and it's horrible, slave labor production practices in China, Honduras and Bangladesh. There is so much corruption in the system of Wal-Mart that anyone who sees the movie cannot feel like an ethical person if s/he patronizes the stores ever again.

I have heard hints of this, read bits in newspapers, but never put the whole story together before. The documentary, like so many others, treated its audience like a punching bag, blow after blow, almost too much to absorb. I felt totally bloody and flat out on my back by the time it was over. Maybe repetitiousness is necessary for such a subject because so many have been lulled by the repetitiousness of the cheery ads that make it seem a wonderful company. Yes, many items do cost less at Wal-Mart. If you must save pennies maybe you DO want, even need, to shop at Wal-Mart. But for those who have the financial choice of paying a bit more there is no question about what you will do if you have an ounce of scruples.

As one black minister in the film said, "they practice plantation democracy." A wonderful, resonate metaphor. American capitalism has never been honest, has never been without a thick overlay of greed. Fortunately many communities have stood up to Wal-Mart, many class action suits have been filed, a variety of environmental suits have been won. IS Wal-Mart so big it's beyond the law? It seems to think so. What about the steel companies, the oil companies, the drug companies, Wall Street? "Do we need to know about this?" said a woman with whom I walked to the parking lot. She felt as battered and bruised as I did. "Yes," I said. "We need to know." Beyond that I do not have an answer.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

The Spring is Here Waltz

This is, as you see, the header for a culture center email -- but I loved the bears and their added words. Just a moment of March madness.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

A corridor in the asylum

I have a page-a-day calendar on the table where I have breakfast, the pages are all pictures or items from the Metropolitan Museum of Art. Today's picture is one I don't remember ever seeing at the museum, Van Gogh's "A Corridor in the Asylum". I looked at it as I had my blueberry bagel and coffee, it is a design that could be copied as a quilt [I've often thought of making various paintings into quilts but haven't done so and probably won't]. The painting is haunting in its emptiness with the one small man far down the corridor going into a room. One imagines inmates behind those doors sunk in depression, sitting or lying motionless, minds nearly blank with the weight of inchoate feeling, another bit of darkness entering their dulled thoughts.

Yet the artist is observing, he is in the hall although we do not see him, he is working rapidly on his canvas, creating a picture that has balance and perspective and softly melding colors -- very different from the vivid outdoor colors we often associate with him. What a lot to contemplate at 6:20 in the morning! Insulated in the ease of my life, these thoughts, which might be heavy and dour for someone else, give me a good start for the day. If I were going to make this a quilt, I would need to dye several pieces of fabric or to decide to change the feeling of the picture by using tone on tone commercial fabrics. The quilt would be built from the dark end of the corridor outward, opening toward the unseen painter -- doing such a project would be a satisfying experience. For me the contemplation will replace the actualizing. Life is so full of possibilities, some we just imagine and move on.

Tuesday, March 23, 2010

American Idol

I don't have a TV and don't want one. I have never seen American Idol and wouldn't watch it if I had a TV. But this picture of Didi Benami is here because Didi, who I first saw when an infant living in the same building I lived in, is one of the women finalists. I've watched clips from her rise on American Idol and cannot judge her singing but her stage presence is impressive.

Didi's parents left the city 20 years ago but her uncle who lived only a couple doors from me for some 25 years is understandably proud and calls to keep me up to date on her career -- and that of her very talented sisters. Didi and her sisters visited once in a while and sometimes one or two slept on my sofa. I am happy to see that after some years struggling like so many other pretty, talented young women, to "make it" in Hollywood, she has reached a national audience. To see someone with the grit to work hard at a career and be recognized is heart warming. Maybe some readers would like to watch the next time she's on and even vote for her ...

Sunday, March 21, 2010

Baby On the Way

I'm hopelessly in love with word play and couldn't resist photographing this baby bib. 'nuf said.

The shower for Cori was by all standards a fine success. She received everything she might need and was a very happy wrapping paper ripper, as can be seen below. I am astonished at the "things" invented for new mothers in the last few years and very delighted especially at the very cute little shoes now available.
There was a large crowd in a much decorated room, ages from a few weeks to my august age ['nuf said about that subject] Food was good, conversation good, sufficient hands available for an efficient clean up operation when it was over -- an important consideration. And now the count-down begins in earnest for the actual appearance of the child who at the moment may be either of two well liked names. Sometimes I wonder if the MDs ever make mistakes when telling parents about the sex of the child. This technology did not exist when my daughters were born. I was certain the second would be a boy, i.e., Alan or Michae. When it was clear she was neither, I had no name ready and had to delay the hospital's paperwork for a couple of days until a decision was made.

Saturday, March 20, 2010

Baby Quilt

This is the quilt made for the great-grandson-to-be. The shower was last night. The colors here are approximately the same as the colors on the gift wrapping paper in the previous post. The nursery will be nothing if not color coordinated. Cori had registered at Babies R Us with color choices and people largely followed her directives. The little elephants on the quilt are patterned on the elephants that were a general theme -- those on the invitations were also patterned on the ones on the vinyl fabric of the stroller, etc. The shower was a big success with maybe 70 people, a room decorated a bit like a prom, and enough gifts to last through a few more babies if need be.

The whole thing was a bit of a culture shock for me as I've been away from these suburban rituals for many, many years. The part of me with vivid memories of traveling in very poor countries where mothers carry children about in shawls tied over their shoulders and not in "Snugglies" is once again aghast at American consumerism. Another part of me is amazed at the assortment of the cutest little baby shoes I could ever imagine, along with clothes that are adorable on a hanger and will be entirely delightful on a real child, when he grows into them. And now back to "real" life.

Thursday, March 18, 2010


I've been out of touch with "progress" it seems. I watched agape as two grandmothers and a recent mother filled two shopping carts at Babies R Us for a shower tomorrow night. They had a wallet full of money collected at a church appeal for a baby shower. The mother-to-be, my granddaughter, had registered her needs at the store. I understand stroller and crib sheets, that is about it. A bunch of other items which young mothers feel are necessary were unknown to me. I understand choosing items that match a color plan -- although I knew no such thing when I had children. But many items have been invented and we were told by the young mother -- a sister-in-law of the granddaughter -- that she finds them not only useful but indispensable.

To listen to the list of necessary items was to think I had raised babies in the dark ages. I never experienced a shower, nor did I feel bereft without one. Some things stuck me as frivolous in the extreme. When I wished to nurse a baby in a public place -- well, never in a public place but a semi public one like the automobile I was riding in, I did not need a "nursing shield" -- a swatch of fabric attached to a shaped whale bone stay to keep it modestly in place above the breast -- I simply put a blanket over my shoulder stole style and covered breast and baby. That is the only very cogent example I can give of what struck me as unnecessary inventions.

Just as breakfast cereal brands and varieties of salad dressing have multiplied, it seems so have the things a young mother feels she must have to get through a baby's first months of life. The picture above is the mountain of boxes that were purchased and wrapped this afternoon, many more items will appear at the event tomorrow. Babies will still coo endearingly to parents and grandparents and still awake crying at 3:00 in the morning, but now they will be cuddled on softly padded seats in bathtubs and lulled to sleep in their bassinets by tinkling toys with a choice of tunes to be played, not by mama's voice singing lullabies. The great American consumer machine is doing it's product extension thing and young couples feel they must have what the young couple down the street has -- how else can they tell that they are raising their babies right? Is it a miracle the grandparents of this crop of babies actually survived babyhood without these accouterments? Hmmm ... maybe it's a miracle the great-grandparents remained approximately sane back in that primitive era.

Sunday, March 14, 2010

Spring Forward

"Spring Forward!" The mnemonic, "spring forward, fall back" is on the minds and tips of tongues of countless people today. I like it, springing forward -- most people seem to like it too. It's exciting, the start of a race, the enthusiastic welcoming of a wonderful season. All those are thoughts that have very little to do with the gray, rainy, windy, chilly day just beyond my splattered windows with the occasional raindrops racing downward among their some how stuck and static colleagues.

The electricity was off during the night but my clocks were confused -- I have three clock radios, one near each place I want to listen to the local classical music station. Each had a different reading. One always defaults to 12:00, no argument or information there. The one beside my bed that I glanced at when I awoke [punctually a little before what yesterday would have been 6:00 when it's set to begin playing a bit of classical music for me to wake up to said a blinking 3:51. Once I was up, I glanced at the clock near my sewing table and strangely, this clock which has been within five minutes of it's cousin in the bedroom,said 4:48. What! No way am I going to figure out that nearly hour-long discrepancy. Some oddities in the world we must accept since they have no practical implications although we can mutter all day long and come up with a truckload of metaphorical meanings to munch on. [Sometimes I love alliteration - most times really except when I get embarrassed by my childishness].

I trusted my watch, so I reset the clocks. I am dazzled by the technology that told my computer to "spring forward", probably exactly at 2:00 a.m. I trust it's time totally.
A sundial is, of course, useless on a day like today, but my internal wake-up clock was quite dependable. I feel fettered by civilization knowing I need, I really do need, to know the time just to be a functioning member of society as I know it. These are gray day kinds of thoughts; if it were bright and sunny I wouldn't mutter and mumble about metaphors to ignore or contemplate. I'd feel like springing forward somewhere out of doors.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

March Journal Quilt

"In March only the Shell Tree is blooming" -- that is the title of this journal quilt continuing my theme of trees and birds - mainly trees. The shell tree is a photo transfer, fussy cut and then fused to the background of sky and sandy grass. The second photo transfer is the egret and four ducks, which are returning again. The sky has partly been magnificent [most of this week so far] but last week it was mostly a depressing gray from which a mix of rain and snow fell. Typical changeable March weather. I prefer the blue so that's what I've shown. You'll notice that four little shells have been added, two on the tree and two in the sand.

I made this quilt before I went back to the beach where the Shell Tree is. I walked there last Saturday morning and was very much saddened -- read my Big 7-0 Blog to see what that's all about. [click on 'profile' to the right, go to bottom of screen and click Big 7-0 Blog] I can't bear to go over that story again.

Today is a bright blue sky day, it's nippy but spring is promising and I look forward to doing leaves or blossoms or both for the April journal quilt.

Monday, March 08, 2010

Quilt Mania magazine

Perhaps I shouldn't admit it, but I love to go into bookstores, Borders or Barnes and Noble, have coffee and something to munch and read magazines I don't intend to buy. Today it was "Quilt Mania" the magazine from Europe [France, I think] that always has wonderful photography of the quilts which often are clever new takes on old American standards. They do quite original things as well, but I especially enjoy their unexpected takes on American classic block patterns. It's a beautiful magazine and easily consumes an hour spent sipping good coffee and eating calories I don't need.

I truly believe in supporting publications that deserve support -- but at $12.00 for a magazine, I just can't do it. So I look and memorize and enjoy. The Europeans have a wonderful eye and I'd really love to someday go to one of the larger quilt shows they have. It's wonderful seeing a fresh approach.

Sunday, March 07, 2010

They're Back, Harbingers of Spring

This week the Canadian geese returned. I think they probably winter in the Chesapeake Bay area. First there were six and then eleven and then thirteen. First the grass was not covered in snow. Then for three days rain and snow alternated, with a thin white cover each morning. They were undaunted, they searched for green shoots under the dry brown top layer and under the snow. They are not fat but they are not thin either; they have taken good care o themselves and had enough to eat, even if they did have to flap their wings for three or four hundred miles. Today the snow is gone again, the sun is brilliant. I saw a robin scurrying on the lawn. If it stays nice the forsythia will begin to open. Spring is always a time of rejoicing. Yes I know it will come and in a sense I take that assurance for granted but the beauty today after the gray, wet, chill of most of the week is glorious.

Wednesday, March 03, 2010

Reducing the Stash

Three wall quilts, attic window style, that I made about five years ago and offered, with a few others, for sale at a members' boutique at the Empire Guild show back then. A couple sold but these did not -- I only asked $75 which seemed quite reasonable. But people were looking for small souvenirs in the $10 and $15 range. So they have been stowed away. They are truly meant to be wall quilts but could work as lap quilts especially for the wheelchair bound, or could be covers for card tables or other small tables.

These are being given to a silent auction to benefit Sturgis High School, the charter high school where my daughter works and from which all three of her children graduated. I am glad the quilts will find new homes. They are "homey" enough to be quite decorative in many sorts of decor so I hope they will bring in a nice little donation for the school which was named one of the 50 best high schools in the US last spring in an annual survey by Newsweek Magazine.

I just read that in Utah a bill has been introduced to the state legislature, as a cost cutting measure, that senior year of high school be eliminated. The argument is that little new is taught in senior year, it is a time for goofing off by most students, etc. When I mentioned this idea to my daughter she said, "Not at Sturgis." There senior year is a busy time of serious preparation for college -- because it is a goal of the school that every student will be accept at a college if s/he applies. And the majority do apply and are accepted. It's a very worthy cause to which to donate my quilts.

Monday, March 01, 2010

Earth Speeding - a little

Some odd facts are too wonder-full not to share. I have just read that the earthquake in Chili changed the speed of the earth's rotation -- by a fraction of a micro-second. This is not a singular event, an earthquake in Indonesia a few years ago did the same. The article explained that when two of the big tectonic plates crunch up together [not the exact wording] the effect is similar to when a figure skater brings her outspread arms closer to her body -- she speeds up a bit. Having just seen a ballet documentary, I suppose the same thing must happen to spinning dancers.

It's amazing what physicists are able to figure out all this. The article also said the Chilean quake may have changed the position of the earth's axis ... a bit. We are tiny little bits of matter on this great big ball, going about our every day lives, totally unaware of the dynamics of the ball -- except if we are unfortunate enough to be too close to the epicenter of an earthquake, or in the way of a tsunami that the quake causes. BUT those scientists with their computers full of calculations can figure out what happened and tell us about it. It's all pretty wonderful [as long as you're not where the quake happens. Then it's all quite horrible].