Friday, June 30, 2006

A Poem-Worthy Day

A day like today takes me back to high school and lines by James Russel Lowell that we had to memorize:
What is so rare as a day in June?
Then if ever come perfect days.
Then Heaven tests Earth if it be in tune,
And over it softly Her warm ear lays.

Not a great poem by any means, but I always think of it on beautiful June days.

We're leaving for Europe again this afternoon. At this time I'm not sure whether my husband's professional travel is a blessing or a curse. I'll enjoy myself when I'm there, but I know I will be very glad when it's July 10, and I am home for a long stretch to get caught up with all the projects I want to work on. I hope to get a chance to at least read what everyone is doing while I'm gone.

Wednesday, June 28, 2006

I'm traveling again, and so still can't do anything creative. I am thinking though! My guild is having a challenge based on the Quilting Arts "How Does Your Garden Grow?" challenge, (although my guild seems to be taking the expression literally--lots of flowers, etc.) I am thinking about doing a picture of Queen Anne's lace, probably with a crazy pieced background to allow for the various greens to be arranged randomly, and using real lace and embroidery for the focus flower, perhaps a sheer fabric and embroidery for the ones in the background. I love Queen Anne's lace and have wanted to do something with it in a quilt for a long time. I have old photographs which I will use (can't post them). Weeds are very appropriate for how my garden grows, LOL!

And as another thought, last week while at my family farm in Missouri, I took pictures of the now falling down house where my grandmother lived, thinking that they might be useful for the Portals challenge being discussed at Quilt Studio. We'll see. It was fun playing with the camera anyway. Too bad I don't remember what setting I used to accentuate the green moss in one shot!

Sunday, June 25, 2006

Some Thoughts on Quilt Trends

I have just spent 10 days at my mother's and have done no sewing or quilting. However, I have looked at some interesting magazines and books, and thought I'd share some thoughts. This is going to get philosophical.

I read Ruth McDowell's book, Fabric Journey, which I found fascinating. There are no patterns in this book, and not even any explanation of how she does her very complicated piecing, (although I believe that is found in some of her other books). It's only an explanation of design and fabric choices. Her quilts are wonderful, truly works of art. I found her fabric choices amazing--they are so unexpected, bearing no obvious resemblance to the object they become in the finished piece.

But I was particularly struck by the way she makes subtle, or maybe not-so-subtle digs at quilters who applique pictorial style quilts rather than piecing them as she does, and those who use painted fabric or fabric printed with appropriate designs (leaf-print fabric for leaves, etc.) instead of meeting the challenge of using commercial fabric in unexpected and creative ways. She says the "structure of the piecing process gives integrity to the surface with an underlying connectedness that may not be apparent at first glance," and "...the process gives a depth and strength to my work that is not present in most other ways of working with fabric." (p. 8) Not everyone would agree with this, but I think I do. To me her quilts resemble some of Cezanne's paintings--both break objects into shapes, or blocks, instead of using a more flowing technique of shading. (My art terminology is weak here.) But isn't it interesting that she seems to feel the need to defend or justify her technique?

I thought I detected the defensiveness again in an article by Harriet Hargrave in the latest edition of The $100,000 Quilting Challenge. I can't quote this because I passed the magazine on to my sister, but to paraphrase, she seems to be defending the use of the short armed home sewing machine for beautiful machine quilting--quilters should perfect their technique and make the quilts "entirely their own"! Take that you people who send your work out to the long arm quilters!

Do both these established quilting greats feel that their position is being threatened by a new generation of quilters with new techniques who are pushing them aside? If so, are they right to feel endangered? An interesting question to think about.

Tuesday, June 13, 2006

Interesting book

This is one of the Japanese books I bought in Paris. Unfortunately, a scanner is on my list of electronic-things-I-need, so I have tried to take some pictures of the work in the book, with not too great results. The detail doesn't show up. Basically these are applique and embroidery, done by hand instead of by machine as you see much pictorial work done here. The applique is raw edge, held down by widely spaced buttonhole stitches, and the details are added by embroidery and couched threads of various types. I love the sketchy, apparently casual look of these, as though you could just throw one together quickly!

This third one is particularly blurry, but I'm posting it anyway because of the striking color scheme. Like the rest, the objects
are done with raw edge applique and accented with embroidery.

Sunday, June 11, 2006


Arrived home last night after long, but basically pleasant flight. Just starting to unpack and organize. Bob left to go run an experiment at Argonne National Laboratory, so it is quiet here. It's good to be home, but I loved Paris. I woke up in the night last night and as I tried to go back to sleep, French phrases kept running through my head. Where were they when I needed them?

Here are some photos: my husband and I on the rooftop terrace of Institut of le Monde Arab, which has a beautiful (and free!) view of the Seine and Notre Dame; the church where we lived (see the little door to the left--that leads to flats belonging to the University of Paris Medical School); and my husband, son and daughter-in-law in the Tuilleries. As you can see from pictures, it was grey much of the time while we were there.

I took the other two pictures at a quilt exhibit I visited. It seemed to be the equivalent of a local guild show. There were only about 20 quilts of varying quality. I thought these two were quite striking, both in the colors and the unusual design. Both makers were creating an abstraction based on photographs, one of sand dunes and one of a flower bed.

I have a few other pictures which I will post later. My dirty laundry is calling.

Wednesday, June 07, 2006

More Paris notes

Yesterday I went to Brentano's American Bookstore and treated myself to two Japanese quilting/needlework books. They have a huge selection of books in English, French, and Japanese. I bought 156 Original Designs by Yoko Saito and another books with title only in Japanese by Kazue Saburai. This book is mostly embroidery stitches and ideas for using various threads and fabrics in embellishment. I bought it for the beautiful small scenic and abstract works, very much like what we do here for fabric postcards. These don't seem to be postcards, but just small pieces, all by hand. They are exquisite, somewhat stylized and abstract. I think they will be a real inspiration. Both books have instructions only in Japanese, but with diagrams and metric measurements a moderately experienced American quilter should be able to figure them out. The first book also contains wonderful quilted purses, everything in the Japanese taupe fabrics. These books are my main Paris purchase--no designer clothes, jewelry, etc. LOL (I've had good wine though!)