Ralli Quilts and Conversations

Ralli_1 Ralli_2 Ralli_2a Ralli_3

I was fascinated by all the comments left on my last post about whether to not you choose to answer every comment on your blogs.  The trigger, of course, was a couple of articles from 99U which is a site geared toward business types.  In talking about this with Cindy, of Live a Coloful Life, we both remember the early days of blogging, where reply comments were not the norm, but instead of replying to a comment, you’d head over to their blog and leave a comment.  A couple of comments referred to this, such as this one from Barb: “I also would rather someone comment on my blog rather than spending time replaying to my comment on theirs. That would be a great agreement; instead of replaying, comment more on others blogs.”

Ralli_4 Ralli_4a

Some of you came up with your own name for those snippets of comments. I liked Susan’s observation: “‘Nice Quilt’ is what I would consider a conversation ender. If someone says something like “that’s a really nice quilt, I like the blah feature” then I consider that a conversation opener.”

Ralli_5 Ralli_5a

Nancy echoed many comments when she wrote “I like the interaction between people, albeit virtual, through blogs. I have made some blogging friendships of which I am truly glad. I leave comments about blogs that have given me inspiration, a lesson, beauty, a smile, or something to think about–the start of maybe a brief conversation.  I think of blogging as a way to interact with others of like interests. In my smaller physical community, it is difficult to find the more artistic quilters or those who self-design, so I turn to blogs.”


I’ll leave the final word to Claire about our blog reading, as she describes exactly how I feel: “All this assumes a normal day with a leisurely coffee break while I read email and blogs. Other days I skim and probably miss wonders.”

Well said, Claire.

Ralli_7Bling Ralli_8stitching

All of these quilts are from an exhibit I recently saw in Utah at the Brigham Young University Museum of Art.  They are known as Ralli Quilts, and are from Pakistan and India (see map at end of post). I was amazed at all the stitching, the detail, and the colors (like the quilt above–I couldn’t get my camera to adjust to the deep reds).

Ralli_8stitchinga Ralli_9 Ralli_10

These were all found by Dr. Patricia Stoddard, a friend of my sister Susan (who tipped me off to this exhibit).  The website about these quilts is found *here* and is interesting reading. Her book, a veritable catalogue of the quilts, can be obtained *here.*

Ralli_11 Ralli_11a

I loved the contemporary look of these quilts, many made in the 1970s.  There are several sites that sell newer ralli quilts and can be found by a search on Google.

Ralli_12 Ralli_13 Ralli_14

This reminded me of the Trip Around the World Quilts, a sensation on Instagram last year.

Ralli_14a Ralli_15wholeclothimprov

Improv piecing anyone?  Often the women saved time by piecing printed textiles together, rather than doing their appliqué.

Ralli_16 Ralli_16a Ralli_17

One of my favorites; I put the closeup on Instagram.  It was a good afternoon there at the museum, looking at quilts that are out of our quilting mainstream, a good antidote to the quilt market frenzy on social media.  Their vivid colors and patterns reminded me that time spent with patchwork and colors can bring a quiet satisfaction and an entry into the wider world of quilting.





Our Four-in-Art quilt group will be revealing their final challenge of this year on November 1st.  Occasionally we have an opening for someone who wants to play along.  No shipping required, just a willingness to engage in new ideas, new techniques of your own choosing.  Leave a comment and your blog address if you are interested.

Circles EPP Button

And then a couple of days after that, I’ll have my November Circle Block ready to show you, plus a variation that may interest you for the holidays!


Thinking about our Dialogue: Comments

E-Mail Concept
(illustration from *here*)

Okay, quilters, fess up.  How many of you feel compelled to answer back every comment that shows up on your blog, whether it needs an answer or not?  Those comments land on our blogs, our IG feeds, and sometimes Flickr posts, then often make our way to our email boxes.  Do you need to respond to them?  Should you respond to them?

According to the 99U article on being efficient with our time, we should not respond unless there is a question.  Yet Seth Godin observes that “many people do, because there doesn’t seem to be a great alternative. It’s asymmetrical, and productivity loses to politeness.”

So according to Godin we choose being polite vs. being productive.  You should know that I am the Thank-You-Note Queen of the Universe, taught well by my mother.  I try to write a thank you to every gift, or acknowledge some kind gesture.  I believe in thank you notes.  But the digital universe is not the same thing as the real world.  I say, if the the comment requires some response or has a question, I try to answer them. However, I don’t write back to every comment on my blog because some are of the “drive-by” quality: “nice quilt,” or “great colors” or “Awesome!” I’ve left a few “drive-by comments” myself and I’m just acknowledging the blog post or the blogger’s work or the subject, and I certainly don’t expect a response.

In a related article, Elizabeth Saunders recommends that “Before you send a reply, ask yourself: are you responding just to reply, to show you’re paying attention, or just to say “thanks?” If so, you’re typically wasting time that could be spent producing something of value and only encouraging people to respond, thus adding more email to your inbox.”

She has a great point, but some of my treasured long-distance friendships have come about because of the correspondence that developed from their first comment, and I’m loathe to pass up a gold– or a silver — friend.  As Scott Belsky says, “My thinking: email may drive us crazy, but it is still a form of communication with people, and communication helps build relationships.”  It’s a balance. Often comments springboard me to a new post, as engaged readers have interesting things to bring to the conversation.  I often view this whole process as a dialogue, reading each comment carefully, weighing and considering what was written, enjoying our discussion.

What do you do?  Do those comments in your inbox nag you until you answer them all?  Or do you use Saunder’s advice, responding when needed?


Thinking About Light


The next challenge reveal for our Four-in-Art Group is coming up on November 1st, and I’ve been thinking about the theme and how to interpret it.  The year-long theme is Urban, and this challenge is Light, Lighting, Lights.  Since we are city- or manmade-based this year, that lets out things like the Northern Lights, moon, sun or stars.

My Urban Lights

We actually have an art installation here in LA, in the museum of art, titled “Urban Lights,” and it is a series of vintage lampposts ranging from large to small and as early as the 1900s.  Scroll quickly through the following photos to see what a magnet this is for Los Angelenos (all taken from Instagram):





















And then I went browsing through some of our own photos, gathering scenes where I’d photographed light:


A rainy night in Bologna

Montreal Church Stained Glass

Stained glass in Montreal

Montreal Gov Bldg

A government building–I love the different tonalities of light here

Montreal Museum of Art

I photographed these glass panels a bunch of times, trying for the right exposure and balance
(Montreal Art Museum)

Montreal St Josephs


Notre Dame Montreal

Quebec City Doorway

Quebec City doorway

Shanghai FreewaysShanghai freeway intersection

Turrell Pink Light

And two light “paintings” by James Turrell.  The lower one is actually a doorway you step through into a light-filled room.

Turrell Room Light

I have a lot of thinking to do before I start on this new theme!


Criss-Cross Finished!


It all started with a request to join the Friendship X and + Swap, me digging out one lonely block from the back of the closet, marooned there from when I’d started to make the blocks but abandoned the project, and an invitation from Krista.  And now I can show you the finished quilt.

Criss-Cross_final front

Criss-Cross_draped front

Lounging around on my new gate in my re-done landscape.



To go with this scrappy quilt, I used up odds and ends of binding ends, plus cut a few more pieces here and there.

Criss-Cross_full back

The back: IKEA music fabric.


Some days you make a fancy printed label, but when the fabric is so fun with lines and notes, I think some days you should write the label.  So I did.

Criss-Cross_stained glass

The stained glass effect of the front showing through the musical back.  It’s done!
For more posts about this quilt, type “cross” into the search box on the right; you’ll get several, including one that has a diagram of the pattern I used.

This is #136 on my 200 Quilts List.





Free Pattern for Shopping Bags

As the Governor of California recently signed a bill banning those single-use shopping bags that we all get at the grocery stores, we’ve all been buzzing about what to replace it with.  There is still the paper bag, but a section of the bill suggests paying 10-cents for each shopping bag (even though Ralph’s and Trader Joe’s now offer them for free).  Whether you hate this bill or love it, a shopper still needs to come up with a way to carry their groceries home.


I made my first bags out of lightweight canvas, and figured out how to get two out of one yard of fabric. Because these are canvas, I didn’t need to put the handles all the way to the bottom seam.  However, if you are making it out of lightweight cotton, you might consider doubling up on that to make it sturdier, or yes, buying some webbing for your handles.

Whenever I use these, I get positive comments from the checkers. . . and a whole slew of awful stories about those re-usable plastic bags that some people have.  One clerk told me that he unzipped one and a whole bunch of moths flew out into the store.  Another talked about the smell of those bags that are re-used and re-used.  I think we quilters have the best possible world with our cloth bags, which can be thrown in the washer.  Apparently bags at the produce counter and at the butcher’s counter are still okay, so I don’t have to worry about those grocery items messing up the cloth bags.

Shopping Bag Pattern

I’ve written it up in a downloadable PDF pattern that is free: OPQuilt’s Shopping Bag Pattern.

Just send back some good karma, if you wouldn’t mind, and always practice good attribution, acknowledging that it’s from OPQuilt.com.  To do so, please do not post the pattern on your blog, nor print off five copies for your friends.  Instead link back here, and let them print off their own.  Thanks.


Antique Crib Quilts and Karl Benjamin

triple irish chain crib quilt

Recently we went to the Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) and viewed a small exhibition of crib quilts.  I thought I’d share them with you because while they look so old and antique they also are refreshingly current in some of their color choices and design.  Above is a Triple Irish Chain from the 1930s, one of the “younger” quilts in the exhibit.  I did find interesting that while no one really knows the origin of the label “Irish Chain” some suggest it came from the quilts fashioned “from bags of scraps sold to workers in the Irish shirt industry, who made quilts for sale in their spare time.”  No dimensions were given, but they are smaller quilts, roughly 2 feet across and 3 feet high.

triple irish chain crib quilt detail

Detail of Triple Irish Chain crib quilt.

square in a square crib quilt

This “Square within a Square” quilt was made in Pennsylvania around 1880.  All of the crib quilts were protected behind a plexiglass box, and some quilts were really hard to photograph, given the glare of the lights (I never could get a decent photo of the “Bars” quilt).

square in a square crib quilt detail

Detail, “Square within a Square.”

dutch windmill crib quilt

Another more contemporary quilt, made around 1920, is this quilt with two names: “Dutch Windmill” or “Hearts and Gizzards.”  This one is also from Pennsylvania and is machine quilted.

dutch windmill crib quilt detail

While you can’t really see it too well, on each larger black piece is a name embroidered in red, perhaps revealing the “creators of each separate block.”

churn dash

While this pattern is known as “Hole in the Barn Door” or “Monkey Wrench,”  we typically refer to it as “Churn Dash.”  This one is both hand and machine pieced and is from the 1880s.  The title card next to this had this tidbit: “From the beginning of the 1880s, the primary sources for patterns were magazines and newspapers with diagrams and instructions, and ultimately mail-order companies.”  The more things change, the more they stay the same.

mariner's compass crib quilt

“Mariner’s Compass,” from the 1880s.

mariner's compass crib quilt detail

“Mariner’s Compass,” detail.

lemoyne star crib quilt

This little “Le Moyne Star” is hand pieced and quilted and is dated to 1840.  I love the on point setting of this little quilt, as well as the use of the red setting triangles in the borders, causing it to look like a shooting star effect.  The title card shared this info about the dye: “Before the synthetic production of alizarin crimson in 1869, printed patterns on textiles were colored by “Turkey Red” dyeing, named for an eastern Mediterranean method that required soaking cloth in oil and dyeing it with madder root.  The print on this quilt resembles chintz patterns from India that were popular in Europe in the eighteenth and early nineteenth century.”

lemoyne star crib quilt detail

The quilt was slightly pinkish; this is not an aberration of photography.

flying geese crib quilt

This “Flying Geese” quilt is hand pieced and hand quilted, by machine bound and dates from 1870.  This one was my favorite in the collections because of its very modern look and the fabulous fabrics.  LACMA’s curator wrote “This quilt exemplifies the reductive nature of quilt imagery, which distills and captures an enduring impression of an object. . . .[namely] the migrations of geese.”

flying geese crib quilt detail

Modern Art Painting random

We walked out through an adjoining gallery, where this painting caught my eye.  Since we were with my sister Christine and her daughter (and baby granddaughter), I didn’t linger, but did think it would make a great quilt.  And while we’re on the subject of fine-art-possibly-inspiring-a-quilt, take a look at these:


This is the work of Karl Benjamin, known as the father of Hard Edge painting.  His ideas are perfect for inspiring quilters, as we work in hard edges, with our seams and our cloth.

Karl Benjamin log cabin(from *here*)

He died two years ago at the age of 86, but has left a legacy of  “vision, not logic” as the LATimes says.  As we quilters struggle with “naming” the different factions of the quilting world (art quilters, traditional quilters, modern quilters. etc.) I loved how he talked about the various labels given to his paintings, in an interview (click if you want to read more):

“Hard Edge got started the late 50s, and I hate that word. It doesn’t mean anything. What’s a soft edge? Monet? To write about something, you have to find a word, so unfortunately I don’t think that was a very good word.
“Abstract Classicism was another one. Someone had a show in London, and irrationally corporate called it Abstract Classicism. Well, it was good for your career, because you had a name now, but it didn’t mean anything. But you take it in context. In any art, there’s the romantic and the classical. It’s always kind of torn between those two poles. So there was Abstract Expressionism, which was accepted for wild painters, which were brand new then, and Abstract Classicism, which was opposed to expressionism. But it balanced out equally.”

Los Angeles Modern Auctions (LAMA) May 6, 2012 auction catalogue(from *here*)

You can find more of his paintings *here*  and *here* or just do a search on his name in Google Images.  (Have a great time.) Okay, back to our museum visit. . .

bojagiIt was Korean Day at LACMA and in the courtyard was this quilt-like display, titled “Community Bojagi.”  A bojagi is a “traditional Korean wrapping cloth,” and over 1700 people collaborated to make this riot of color and patches.

Boro(photo from *here*)

It reminded me of boro, the Japanese tradition of mending cloth to keep it viable and which, over time, becomes its own art piece. . . just like some of our quilts.  They, like the crib quilts shown above, are made for use but are often made for display.  Who knows how many of ours will end up in museums a hundred-plus years in the future?