Saturday, April 30, 2011


Even after all my good intentions about making my quilting a priority, I find myself in a position where I have said yes to too many good causes, along with some unexpected and unagreed-to responsibilities being dumped in my lap.  In my muddled brain that keeps spawning images, I have begun to see a quilt:  a small person holding a large bag on a sinking ship that the rats are deserting. I could make some really disgusting rats at this point.

So I have had to content myself with sandwiching my quilting in between bouts of making flyers, attending meetings, writing e-mails, and creating websites.  My quick job for the week was finishing the painted leaf I created in the Playing with Paint class I took.  It was a Valentine's gift to my husband  and I was worried about quilting it--that the leaf would no longer float quite so nicely on top of the bark, but all is well.
In a 2D photo you can hardly see the quilting, but it does add another layer of texture to this little quilt, and binding ultimately seemed more appropriate than quilting.  I will add a small sleeve and a label in between other tasks next week.  It's only 7 1/2 x 10 1/2" so it was a quick project.

And if you are still reading me, thanks for the company.

Sunday, April 24, 2011

Poetry Month

April is poetry month and I can't let it escape without a poem. This is a poem appropriate for the kind of spring we have been having--"Skunk Cabbage" by Mary Oliver, one of my favorite poets.  You should read the whole poem but it ends

tenderness, not longing, but daring and brawn
pull down the frozen waterfall, the past.
Ferns, leaves, flowers, the last subtle
refinements, elegant and easeful, wait
to rise and flourish.
What blazes the trail is not necessarily pretty.

And sometimes what blazes the trail becomes pretty.  Remember the coltsfoot from an earlier blog?  Here they are now making their own bit of warm sunshine amid the chilly wet gloom of our spring.

Friday, April 22, 2011


It seems as though I have had many projects in the state of process for a long time.  One of my big projects is done but not ready to be photographed yet. And so I turned to some of my smaller projects this week. One began as an exercise in the painting on fabric class I took last February, although it seems it's been sitting around much longer than that.  I was trying a wash on wet fabric and the result was a great little piece with green fading into blue, with strong colors around the edges and light tints in the middle.  It was about the size of a page, 8 x 11" but not quite squared up--these were practice pieces,after all.  I loved the strong color on the edges and decided to leave it as is and create a small wall hanging around it.  I, of course, forgot to take a picture at this stage.  One day I will remember. . .

The colors strongly suggested a landscape and as I played with adding shapes to emphasize the blues and greens, I also began to see it as an old manuscript page or even a page from a book and so I added lines of color and surrounded it with a piece of my green hand-dyes.  I liked the idea of combining nature, writing, and quilting.  And here is "Text in Context":
It's now about 16 x 20" and once again I feel the real thing looks better than its photo.  Perhaps that's just an artist's excuse, comparable somehow to "The check is in the mail," but the light colors are delicate and don't show up well nor does the texture quilting I did on the green fabric.  But perhaps the photo is indicating a weakness in my work; perhaps it should have enough value contrast so that the elements are strong even in a photo.

Anyway, if you are still reading, thanks for the company!

Friday, April 15, 2011

Drawing Lines

One of the many nonquilting hats I wear is that of a book sorter for the annual book sale at the local public library.  As one of the perks of the job we are allowed to buy books early, and last week I came upon a book by Piero Ventura, whose books I had loved to read to my kids.  This particular book, Great Painters,  was a history of art for young people, maybe fifth or sixth graders, and I decided to add it to my collection of books for the grandchildren.  At home as I leafed through it, my eye was caught by a strong black color that seemed to stand out from the page.
Somebody had given all those cavorting cherubs little black shorts.  I looked further and saw that the same someone must have thought that in Spring Botticelli should have given the three Graces and Flora something a bit warmer to wear.
After that I was not surprised that Manet's Olympia had been given a little black dress:
But did the infant Jesus sitting on the Madonna's lap really need pants?
This book had been withdrawn from a nearby school district (not Wellsboro), and we will never know where the blame can be placed.  An overzealous librarian?  An outraged parent?  It is hard for me to understand the mindset of someone who would go to the trouble to deface a book  this way.  Yes, Olympia did cause a stir in the adult world when it was exhibited so perhaps I can at least formulate arguments about that painting, even if I don't agree with them.  But what exactly were children being protected from with the other embellishments?  

I was eminently amused by all this.  And given what's shown in our current day media, it was easy for me to smile at this as a relic of an earlier era--until I read a brief note in Time Magazine this week about a woman who was caught trying to take Gauguin's Two Tahitian Women off a museum wall because it "has nudity and is bad for children."  Wouldn't it be great if so many children were showing up in art museums so often that what they saw there would change their lives?

So what does this have to do with quilting?  Well, it does have a lot to do with art and with the difficulty we seem to have making a distinction between the beauty of the human body and pornography. It reminded me of the brouhaha created when Quilters Newsletter ran a story that included a quilt with an image of nude woman on it.  

Now I don't usually put human figures in my quilts--I've learned not to say never about using any technique in my quilting--so it doesn't apply directly to my own work.  But it does remind me of lines we all draw around things we find acceptable and unacceptable.  I do not think that throwing out all boundaries and saying everything is equally acceptable is a workable situation, mainly because most of us would be lying to ourselves.  We do have preferences, things that makes us uncomfortable, things that draw us into a work, but making those boundaries absolute and impenetrable could cut us off from an experience that might change our lives or connect us in important ways to the world and the people around us--or just make us better quilters or better artists.  Hmm.  Better artists?--I could start a new tangent here but should be getting back to making art, not just talking about it.

And if you are still reading, thanks for the company.

Wednesday, April 13, 2011

Back to Basics

So what have I been doing that has kept me from writing blog posts and working on my quilts?  Well, among other things I have been cutting out hundreds of squares and triangles.
No, I am not contemplating a scrappy quilt.  I'm helping out my daughter, a children's librarian in Massachusetts, who, as part of Colonial Days, is doing a workshop on quilting for young children.  They will be creating their own quilt blocks, fabric glued (alas, not sewn) to a background, and the basic squares and triangles should give them lots of opportunity to create patterns and to play with color. And it is always worth taking some time to introduce children to quilting.  Of course, I  also get to use up some of those bits and strips of fabric leftovers that keep piling up.  

And even though I have aimed for brevity this time, thanks for the company anyway. 

Sunday, April 10, 2011

A Good Purchase for a Good Cause

During my recent excursion into New York City to see the red and white quilts, our bus also took us to the Empire Quilters Guild annual exhibit and its vendors.  I have learned to second guess that whispered "Buy me!" that I hear as I pass by fabric that I haven't seen before or the newest gizmo that promises to bind a queen size quilt with no hand sewing while it is clearing out the dishwasher. But when something shouts "Buy me!" I have to listen and so it was as I passed a booth in the corner of the exhibit.  There on the counter was a basket filled with skeins of yarn beautiful to look at and heavenly to feel.
And I got to feel self-righteously good about buying it as well.  This is silk yarn made from recycled remnants of saris from factory floors in India.  A women's cooperative chops up the remnants and provides paid employment for women who spin them into yarn by hand using a drop spindle. As soon as I saw it I was imagining couching it onto a quilt top.  So for twelve dollars I got to take home a beautiful source of embellishment and to do a good deed.  Leilani Arts is the the group that sells this and other interesting yarns and ribbons.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Searching for Spring

Yesterday I was feeling overwhelmed--all those organizations I couldn't say no to because they were good things to support have suddenly become very needy.  And I have some deadlines looming for my quilting, which is, after all, supposed to be my main focus right now.   I went to bed with a suffocating feeling--not for lack of air, but for lack of time--and woke up at 5 AM feeling much the same.  

So as I put on my hiking boots to take Terra on her morning walk, I grabbed my camera and decided we would slow down for a bit and go in search of spring.  Now for those of you who don't live in northcentral Pennsylvania,  the foot of snow we had a little over a week ago is gone but we keep having these blustery snow showers that turn the calendar back a month or two, and that was the prediction for the afternoon today as well.

This morning, however, was chilly (29 degrees) but beautiful with a blue sky that went on forever.  I collect sky pictures and didn't have anything like this one--nothing dramatic, just faint wisps of clouds that you might be able to glimpse if your screen is tilted the right way.  They reminded me of quiet background quilting that just gives a hint of texture.
A quiet, joyous sky that was a perfect accompaniment to the calls of the red winged blackbirds that surrounded us.

And the grass is turning green!  Finally freed from all that snow, it is definitely dreaming of sunny days.  Once I noticed one patch I realized that the fields had flashes of green everywhere.  I just hadn't noticed. . . 

And the sugar maples, connected with a much deeper wisdom than those of us who live totally above ground, know it's spring.   Their sap has been running for a while and now their buds are visibly swelling.
But I knew I had definitely found spring when I saw the coltsfoot.  I usually don't notice them until they are full- fledged dandelion lookalikes clustered on the edges of the road.  But this year, because I was looking, I got to see them at a whole new stage with the yellow of the flower-to-come just peeking out of the top of the shaggy stalk.
Perhaps I like these flowers so much because they don't follow the usual rules.  You notice that they have no leaves; those arrive after the flower has died back and they are in the shape of a horse's hoof, hence the name.  Many people think they are dandelions but they bloom earlier than dandelions and are among the first, if not the first around here, of the wild plants to bloom in the spring.

Terra and I returned from the walk, both of us relieved of burdens.  Terra found a good place for a nap, and I   picked up my quilting.   Got one of the big projects I've been working on trimmed (wow! did that take a long time--must have measured five times before I cut into it because the show I am entering has an exact size rule and one miscut and I wouldn't have to bother entering), faced, and turned as the snow fell outside the dining room windows.  The facing still needs to be sewn down and of course there's the hanging sleeve and the label, but it's almost ready to be photographed.  And I was only on the phone four times with my other duties as yet another crisis developed (the phone call from my daughter doesn't count). 

My morning ramble had cleared my mind and gave me a full day to savor.   Perhaps that saying "You've got to spend money to make money" applies to time as well.  After all, we speak of "time well spent."  Does time well spent make us more time? 

I wish all of us a good night's sleep and, if you are still reading, thanks for the company!