Sunday, January 31, 2010

Quilt National 2009

Nearly a year late in this comment about Quilt National 2009 -- but I am full of excuses. I try to get to the Midwest to see family on Quilt National years. It's about 150 miles from my brother's home in Indiana but a very nice drive to Athens, Ohio once I get around Cincinnati. But last year I had just moved from NYC to Cape Cod and was settling in here. I'm sorry I didn't get to Indiana because I missed seeing my favorite aunt who died just before Christmas. Of course, I also didn't get to Quilt National.

Recently when ordering another quilt book from Amazon the "you might also enjoy..." screen had the QN catalog and of course I knew I'd "also enjoy" -- as well as enjoy the discounted price. It arrived yesterday. I spent the evening with it. I've purchased all the former catalogs, usually at the time I saw the show. In those cases I carried the vision of the actual quils in my mind as I looked at the catalog. I find that size is usually a matter of mental adjustment because most pictures in the book give me the impression most of the quilts are the same size -- I read the dimension info carefully and try to adjust my mental picture but I'm not very good at doing that.

Of course texture is a big difficulty. Some art quilt books include smaller detail photos but QN's catalogs never do, so the viewer is almost forced to see the quilts as two dimensional objects which none of them are. Photographs are a very poor way to view art quilts. I think even sculptural objects are more satisfactorily seen in photographs than are quilts.

Because the great majority of the quilts in this show were abstract I feel even more that I missed an important experience by not seeing the show. In abstract works texture, material qualities of transparency or heaviness, as well as the complexity of the quilting are all extremely important. A book simply is no substitute.

I was very impressed at the geographical variety of quilters -- 16 of 80+ were from outside the US. Only a three or four of them were quilters whose works have been in former QN shows, a remarkable 3 were from Israel -- a small country with no quilting tradition. Happy as I am to have the book -- and I will return to it as I do to the catalogs of former QNs -- I am very sad that I didn't push myself to go see it.

Saturday, January 30, 2010

A New Dawn Every Day

Before I moved here I never saw a dawn unless I as away from the city, which was very rare. When I moved to Cape Cod I was delighted to be able to choose an apartment that faced east. This time of year I am usually up at least a quarter of an hour before dawn, so I can make breakfast and generally have it eaten before the sky colors with the first of the dawn. Most often I have turned on the computer and am looking at news [I have no TV -- thus I have no audible commercials] and I'm sitting where the dawn is entirely visible if I turn my head just a little to the left. Often I stop and watch the glob of gold creep up through the bare branches of the trees and sometimes it is so bright I have to pull the middle of three shades on the wide window because it hits me blindingly.

Every now and then it is so splendid I open the nearby slider to the patio and step out in the cold to take a photo. These are two. Of course no two are alike which reminds me that really no two days are alike either. Some days, of course, it's gray and the clouds are thick and I only see lightness arrive. I don't suppose I'd want it to be otherwise. No philosophizing and no poetry -- the pictures are poetry enough.

Thursday, January 28, 2010

Here are four little -- 4x6" -- journal quilts. One year I made a journal quilt for almost every day -- I never did an exact count but it's about 350. Each celebrates something that particularly impressed me that day. The frog above on a background of other frogs, celebrates a day in early summer when I fell asleep listening to the tree frogs chorusing outside an open window.

This black and white with a bit of red captures for me a concert given by the LeBeque sisters, duo-pianists -- on separate, nested grand pianos. They are not twins but they look very much alike except one wore a white pantsuit and the other black. They played several jazzy Polenc pieces, so this little quilt is both about them and about the music.

This swirly patterned fabric with gold glitters and many, many beads added represents another piece of music, Schubert's Great C major Symphony, his #9. It is not as supremely majestic as Beethoven's #9, but I probably love it almost as much.

And this last little piece is far, far more prosaic. It's title is "I can't believe I'm sunburnt at my age. I should have known better."

Doing a piece for every day was quite consuming, but it was also a great exercise in awareness. When you live each day knowing something about it is going to be immortalized [at least in your memory] you shift into a kind of awareness that is unusual and often wonderful.

Tuesday, January 26, 2010

Four More Stars

I've done four more stars. It's clear that I will do only four more of these because I won't have enough of the background fabric for four after that. So the quilt will be 3x4 blocks, probably with stripping and of course a border and will be something around 42x54 which is a very reasonable size for a throw.

As I work with Carol Doak's Fifty Fabulous Stars book, I admire her more and more. I had previously made 21 of her designs. Most of these are ones I had not made before. I supposed she planned these variations with a computer program but that doesn't detract from the constant interest. Plus she then sewed examples of every one of the fifty always making interesting color choices -- always different than I'm using.

If you look at the complexity or simplicity of the different stars, you'll also appreciate her design ability. The most complex of these four has 120 pieces in the block, the least complex has 40 pieces in the block -- and each block is 12x12. When the paper piecing methods have been mastered the sewing is not hard, although there are some places where you can see less than perfect sewing. But I do have to protest just a little that these blocks still have the paper on the back and have not been ironed so they were not lying totally flat when I photographed them.There is distortion. I'm sorry I cut off some of the tops.

I've discovered a way in which a digital camera is harder to use than the old fashioned film camera -- I was usually conscious of pressing my arms against my sides and pressing the film camera firmly against my nose when I pushed the shutter. With the digital camera, in order to line up the photo it must be held away from the face and I often move a bit. I'm going to purchase one of the digital cameras that has an old fashioned view finder, then I can hold it still. Also I won't have the sunny day problem of finding it hard to see the screen clearly. Meanwhile I've got four more blocks to sew together. I'm enjoying making this quilt a great deal.

Sunday, January 24, 2010

Quilt postcard

This very lovely little art quilt postcard was sent to me by Stephanie London who lives in Edmondton, Canada. She said she wanted to catch the wintery sky on a sunny day I think she did so beautifully with a batik background, a couple of pieces of organdy across the center, the dull golden sun and the lines of stitching, the ten thoughtfully positioned beads. I will display it as one of the most successful small quilts I've ever seen.

Saturday, January 23, 2010

Button, Button, Who's Got the Button?

Maybe it's cabin fever -- or it's just winter and I felt like playing indoors a little. I decided to sort my buttons yesterday, partly because I'm putting buttons on a quilt I'm making and wanted to have them divided by colors and sizes. For two hours I sorted and divided into zip-close bags. Two hours! and I'm not done yet! But I found some treasures -- don't know what to do with some of them -- how about four acorns that have been turned into buttons? I have three glass buttons from the Schindler factory [as in Schindler's List] which have stars of David incised in them -- these I'm simply keeping. Just two examples, actually most are utilitarian, which, of course most buttons should be. I do have a friend who makes broaches from interesting buttons, so maybe I'll put ones she might be able to use in their own baggie and give them to her ... Of course some will go on the quilt that brought on this little fit of making order out of chaos. Did anyone else play a game called "Button, button, who's got the botton?" when you were small?

Thursday, January 21, 2010

January journal quilt

This is my Janaury journal quilt, "Blizzard in the Forest" I am going to do a journal quilt a month with the theme especially of trees, but the secondary theme of birds. As you can see, a snowy owl is fighting the blowing snow. I hope it gives the impression of being unable to see the trees distinctly because the snow is blowing so hard -- there are hand quilted lines of silver thead and lots and lots of tiny blue beads for snowflakes. This is, I think, the only one that will have much beading; it's very tedious work.

Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Abstract Art Quilt, mini

Just want to show off this abstract art quilt that was sent to me in a swap. I'm very impressed that the whole turquoise part is created fabric. I read about the methods of doing this with bits and pieces and Angelina fibers and netting but I've never seen an actual one -- seen many in Art Quilt Magazine. I'm impressed. And the additonal embellishments give it a joie de vie; it's mounted on black felt. It's about 3x5 inches, a mini treasure.

Tuesday, January 19, 2010

Unappreciated American Ritual

The photo was taken about 100 yards from my apartment. It is the hearse carrying Teddy Kennedy's boty from the Kennedy compound, less than a mile away, to Boston for funeral ceremonies. This is appropriate today because the people of Massachusetts have been voting all day for a successor in the Senate. I have heard no reports -- I have not been able to listen to the radio [I have no TV] for days because of this election. The warring advertisements for Brown and Coaky have been unbearable.

I didn't remember that one must register to vote so didn't register and so didn't vote today. I would have liked to, it was my own absentminded fault. But peace will return to the airways. A little later this evening we'll have only the warring ads between Honda and Toyota dealers, a matter of no consequence to me. They don't make me cringe like the empty promises and nasty innuendos of political ads. I'm not writing a political piece. I know who I hope wins and would have voted for but since I didn't what I really vote for is no more politicians and their minions, including family members, talking at me between the Mozart and the Vivaldi. From now on, back to Bach. Perhaps the Senate will now pass the health care bill ... or perhaps it won't.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Color choices again

In my new year to-do list was another swipe at the Carol Doak paper pieced star patterns. I decided to use this fun polka dot black fabric as the background for several that will become ... well, I don't know how big a quilt. Maybe it will be 16 blocks [they're 12x12] with stripping. Or maybe it will grow to 20 blocks. It partly depends on whether I have enough of the background fabric.
I seem to be very much in a black and red period the last year or so. These blocks will be predominantly shades of red with other colors as seems right. Color has been my bugaboo ever since I started doing the quilts from her Fifty Fabulous Stars book. I consider it a good exercise in understanding what works and what doesn't.
Some of these four stars have had other iterations -- well, just a quarter not the whole thing. The problem seems to be that when fabrics are spread out for consideration the variations in tone [or is it hue?] seem marked and dramatic. But when I sew them into these relatively small bits, all kind of bunched together in the middle of the star they blend rather than contrast. I love the fact that fabrics blend in quilts, it's one of my favorite things about quilting. But in these stars I want a different effect and I have a lot of difficulty deciding which fabric to use.
This is not exactly the start of something big, but definitely it will grow bigger. Just half a square at a time while I work on other slow projects as well, approaching them in the same piece by piece manner.

OH, my gosh! I just looked at these pictures, despite having had these squares pinned to my design wall, I see the light yellowish diamonds in the top star are wrongly placed in three out of eight instances. Will I redo it? You gotta be kidding. It is said that the Amish quilters used to deliberately sew in a mistake so as not to challenge God's perfection. And I've always said God's got nothing to worry about from me; I can make imperfections without even knowing it.

Monday, January 11, 2010


In a moment of having having fun, I made this little piece, known in some circles as a "quiltie" for a swap. I mailed it today to a young woman who likes skulls and pirate flags and Day of the Dead symbolism. This is not that. I hope she also has a sense of humor because I think the Laurel Burch cat is very funny. [The fabric is on the back as well].

Then I used by selvage technique to add borders. That's it, quick and dirty. It makes me smile. And I miss the talented Ms. Burch who died last year, much too young. She designed very special cats as well as other things.

Saturday, January 09, 2010


I'm mainly working on blocks that will go into various quilts. As I work I mull about enjoying block quilts more than freely designed ones, although I make them occasionally. Sometimes I like what I come up with but often I feel I'm not very good at it, basically because it doesn't come naturally.

Yesterday afternoon I had another experience here in my new home town, of trying to find a house where a gathering was being held. The grid system is almost nonexistent here on Cape Cod; towns were laid out long before the Midwest, where I grew up, had even been discovered, let alone surveyed in neat mile square parcels which were then subdivided into 40 acre increments. How satisfying it can be to know that as you drive a country road, you'll come to a right angle road every mile! The towns and cities are also neatly gridded for the most part. Also, Manhattan, where I lived for nearly a third of my life is gridded north of Greenwich Village. To find the house I was looking for became an exercise in cul de sacs and winding roads -- that was difficult at twilight. Finding my way back to a known highway in the dark was almost as difficult. Fortunately a light layer of snow had fallen so there were tire marks to help me scout my path.

Since quilting is, for me, purely for my own pleasure, I will continue making mostly block quilts. They do get more complicated, like the Doak stars I'm making, still the lines are straight, I'm not doing circles and meanders. I know I'll challenge myself now and then with something abstract or needing curving lines -- it's good to break out of habits every so often. I must admit that deep in my heart, I'm a rather square person.

Thursday, January 07, 2010

Winter Trees

Trees, and birds, are going to be the theme of a dozen journal quilts I make this year, one per month. Mostly, I think it will be the trees, but of course birds are wonderful too and they live in trees [mostly]. I made a small trees-in-a-blizzard quilt -- what the cutesy artsy people call a "quiltie" -- which was an interesting trial run but not what I had in mind, quite. I may try the same idea only differently. Then I'll post both at the same time. Since trees change with the seasons, as do the birds that are around to inhabit their branches, the journal quilts will go through the changes of the year. It's a snowy winter so far so trees and snow are calling. Actually part of the reason I'm posting this rather prematurely is I really wanted a change of photograph -- not that there's anything wrong with the chicken below, only that it's not mine. And as a record of how the creative mind works, it's naked trees and snow my semi-subconscious is playing around visualizing.

Short addenda while it's on my mind: what is this I find among people on some web sites who write about "addie" for "envies" [addresses for envelopes] and other baby talk? Is the computer infantilizing us?

Tuesday, January 05, 2010

Neat Things People Have Given Me

Tis the season when new treasures arrive and I am lucky to have talented, artistic friends who send me their handiwork. I'm very fond of this chicken with her sparkling crown of jewels, very much under-pricing the worth of her personal handicraft. It was quilted and embellished by Felicity.

Jenn sent this heart which she quilted. It is the ideal decoration for Valentine's as people where in the apartment comlex I live like to do special things on their doors for the various holidays.

This stained glass candle holder was made specifically to match my red coffee table and looks wonderful when the room is darker and the flame makes the ruby bright and beautiful. It was made by my professional glass making son-in-law who may have had a bit of assistance by daugther Rachel.

Not a handmade item but that rarity in my life, the gift of a book that is just right. I tell people not to give me books because my taste is both eclectic and persnickety. But this book about leaves is beautiful, full of fascinating information. And timely as I have just decided to make a set of monthly journal quilts this year. The theme will be birds and trees. How many ways can I find to depict trees? A single leaf is one possibility. Whatever I chose it can be biologically accurate!
What a wonderful holiday season, even including a truly white Christmas.

Monday, January 04, 2010

Bump in the Night

Hibernation called early, my eyes kept closing as I read in bed. The weekend's snowstorm was essentially over but the wind was busy rearranging the mini drifts and it crept in around the windows wherever it could. I bearishly burrowed beneath the duvet and slept. A CRASH!

Was it a dream? Was it out in the hall? Upstairs in the neighbor's apartment? Did a picture fall off the wall? Did outside doors were locked, I wasn't worried about an intruder and I don't believe in ghosts. I did not imagine it. Something fell. I was not going to go back to sleep until I investigated. I turned on a hallway light that illuminated enough everywhere except the pantry. No, I didn't see anything on the floor that shouldn't have been there. If it was the Christmas wrappings/etal, on a high pantry shelf they could wait until morning. That's what it probably was, I decided. Eventually back to bed But wide awake, of course. Hungry but only because I'm thinking about dieting and I refuse to eat in the middle of the night. Remember past bumps in the night, some scarier but none dangerous -- snow or ice sliding off a roof, cat knocking over a vase. Eventually back to sleep.

In the morning, discovery. Yes, a picture propped on the top of a bookcase fell five feet down just behind the table. Glass not broken, nothing displaced. The other picture beside it remained in place. So did the large glass vase on the other side. Why do such things happen? Some kind of engineer would give me some kind of answer, I suppose. The superstitious would look for omens. I replaced it. The morning has dawned with sun sparkling the lightly sculpted snow. The photo on this post is a window coated with snow during the storm, quickly melted but caught looking ghostly.

Saturday, January 02, 2010

Winter, oh, yes, indeed

The "dawn came up like thunder," as Kipling wrote. But very shortly thereafter the clouds crept up "on little cat's feet," as Sandburg wrote about fog, and then the snow blew in, thinly but persistently so that it is whiting everything. Not the big fluffy stuff; the little, insidious stuff that travels on a cold wind. This is winter, no point in complaining, after all it's January in New England. Those in the midwest where it's much worse may well envy this paltry problem. It's the kind of evening to get into cuddly warm clothes -- and remember to be glad to have them, knowing many in the world are inadequately clothed or housed -- and to read something interesting. Which is precisely what I plan to do. I began a collection of Rushdie short stories last night so I am transported to India until the next segment which take place in the West.

I have long wanted to do a year of journal quilts [I did a year of daily 4x6s but that was a special year that demanded special memorializing]. I began a swap and enticed fourteen people to join me. I want to experiment with ways of showing "Tree". I have a number of ideas already. In the not too distant future I will set about finding how to represent one of the "naked" trees I photographed in Central Park a couple of winters ago. I think not the grand and enormous elms but a smaller tree. How to do it is eating at the edge of my mind, along with characters from a novel who have to somehow sort out their lives and reach a concluding moment. I love to give the brain orders to work on a problem on its own while I'm busy doing things of lesser importance: eating dinner, blogging, etc. It feels as if the year is off to a good start with plenty of things to keep me busy and humming.