Quilt Night for November 2011

Quilt Night was over at Jean’s house this month.  And guess what?  It was just Jean and I there–we chatted and visited, talked about how we met our husbands (we’re both in second marriages), our grown kids, pets, recipes, and of course, quilts.

But first, check out this beautiful spread of treats: caramel brownies, vegetables and dip, fruits (including some awesome fresh raspberries), salsa and Halloween chips in black and orange.  I must admit the brownies and the raspberries held my fascination.

Jean went first for show and tell.  She’d finished the quilt she had been working on at October’s Quilt Night, and was now sewing on the binding.  It is a stunner.

I couldn’t get a very good picture of it, but you can sort of see the beauty and complexity of her work.  She owns a long-arm, so she’d quilted it herself as well.  Jean’s a Renaissance woman!

Then we got to talking about combined fall/Halloween quilts.  She pulled this one from her table in front of her TV — one side is a beautiful fall fabric and the other side are these cute log-cabin-style pumpkins.  We also talked about the ebb and flow of Quilt Nights.  Sometimes after a big bash, we go small again, like tonight.  I was so ready for Quilt Night–it had been a long week and I needed to get out and go.

Finally, after working all evening, I have something to show: the Halloween House quilt was quilted.  I trimmed it up and sewed on most of the binding, but when it got to the end and I wanted to try to join the binding fancy-style, my brain gave out, so I gathered up and went home (with a few brownies for Dave).

I’m so glad I went and so glad Jean and I got a chance to chat and sew together.  Really, whether it’s two or twenty, isn’t that what getting together as quilters is all about?  Thanks, Jean!

Bloggers Quilt Festival-Fall 2011

All is Safely Gathered In
Original Design

When I was a young mother I moaned to MY mother about how I never got anything done.  The laundry always piled up;  sometimes as quickly I as I could move it from the dryer, fold it and put it in the drawers, it would be used, dirtied and find its way back to the blue plastic mesh basket in front of the washer.  Meals were a never-ending story, the bathrooms always needed to be cleaned, the floor rarely seemed to be free of crumbs or sticky places.  I began quilting because I wanted a something for my bed, however I soon saw the advantage of quilting.

It stayed done.

I didn’t have to resew a seam as it didn’t unpick itself in the night.  The patches would still be there, done, when I was ready to assemble them into a quilt.  And then somewhere this stitching and patching and quilting took a turn and became my art, my way of expressing creativity.

I think I moaned to mother for years and years. Then the children grew up, the bathrooms needed cleaning only once a week, then the children left.   The dust and dirt of housework and I have made our peace with each other, leaving lots of room around my job as am adjunct college professor (English) to happily spend time cutting and sewing and creating quilts.

So, today, here is All Is Safely Gathered In, a quilt about sowing and harvesting.  I began this three years ago, trying to work with an original block I’d drafted–simple in design but it carried a nice big punch with those new large-scale prints that we were all investigating.

When I was casting about for a name, I talked it over with my husband.  How about something about harvest? he asked, and the phrase from a favorite hymn jumped right out at me.  When I was that young overwhelmed mother, I could think of nothing more satisfying than walking around the house at night, the last child in bed, the open book fallen to the floor, the night-light casting its golden glow on the cheeks and hair of these children who kept me so busy during the day.  I fell in love with them all over again, storing up these feelings of satisfaction every night against the onslaught of the day.  And now, many many years later those children walk their houses at night, picking up the books, bending over to plant a kiss on their children’s soft cheeks.

I sowed children and stitches and tasks uncompleted and time and more time and I am now reaping grandchildren and quilts and houses that don’t get quite as dirty.  While I’m not done, I feel like I have some sense of the law of the harvest.  And it is immensely satisfying, I must say.

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Many thanks to Amy for hosting the Bloggers Quilt Festival!

Sol LeWitt

When I last visited my parents, I found my father’s Sol LeWitt catalogue and fell in love with his work.  He had a long career of interesting art, and pioneered what’s called “wall art” or the drawing of art directly on the wall (above).  I’d seen some of his works when I’d visited the National Gallery of Art in Washington DC.

from the website Field:

Wall Drawing 130
Grid and arcs from four corners. (ACG 103)
March 1972

In 1972 he created a book, “Arcs, Circles, and Grids,” for Kunsthalle Bern, Switzerland, which contained pen and ink drawings depicting all possible combinations of the three elements in the title. These combinations take into account both the type of line (arc, circle, grid) and all the possible points on a wall from which an arc can emanate (the center, the four corners, and the four midpoints of the sides.) Many of the combinations in the book also were used as plans for wall drawings, both before and after the book’s publication.

And here’s another interesting one:

Again from Field’s website:

Wall Drawing 797
The first drafter has a black marker and makes an irregular horizontal line near the top of the wall. Then the second drafter tries to copy it (without touching it) using a red marker. The third drafter does the same, using a yellow marker. The fourth drafter does the same using a blue marker. Then the second drafter followed by the third and fourth copies the last line drawn until the bottom of the wall is reached.
October 1995

Why is this interesting to me?  Because before he did all this, he did this:

The man was enamored of the grid, and tried to use mathematical calculations to vary the grid.
I don’t know about you, but to me, that sounds like making a quilt.  I can hardly wait to draw some of my own, or else use his, in homage to this great contemporary artist.

And again, from the back of the re-constructed stash closet, I plan to use these in making the blocks.

Are you inspired by artists?  I’ve seen lots of quilts done with the Impressionists in mind — soft washes of ethereal color laid down with fabric, instead of paint — quilts in honor of Monet.  But has there been a contemporary artist that has caught your eye, and your design sense? Sol LeWitt has caught mine.

Silencing the Quilters

I showed this picture in the last post, of the books I’d picked up at a garage sale.  The three smaller ones are interesting, and I’ve found a few new blocks to try sometime. The other was intrigued me because it reminded me of the Farmer’s Wife blocks that are being made by several around the blogosphere.  The authors, Patricia Cooper and Norma Bradley Buferd, created what they called “a unique oral history” of the quilters of Texas and New Mexico.

I started reading some while standing in the driveway at the garage sale:

“Back in the old days we had to make the quilts so thick.  You know in those old dugouts the wind would come through so bad that you really had to be covered to sleep.  Papa would bring the cotton back from the gin, you know. Just how ever much Mama needed.  It was all clean then. . . . We stayed busy every minute we had quilting.  We all worked in the fields and mother didn’t have any idle time.  If anything let up, she was working on her quilts.”

I was hooked so I bought it and took it home.  But after skimming some of the book, and reading the introduction, I was kind of angry.  Here were all these “oral histories” of women talking about hard times as farmer’s wives, as women on the prairie, quilting whenever they could, yet the authors didn’t identify ANY of these women.  Not one.  How is this preserving oral histories?  As the poet Lowell said, “the gift without the giver is bare,” and so likewise these oral histories are just ephemeral without the women’s names.

The authors make an apology, of sorts:

“In the interest of brevity and continuity we have often condensed conversations, monologues, and run-on conversations on similar subjects without indicating that the speaker has changed.”

Yuch.

And then this horrifying note: “We take full responsibility for editing the tapes and our notes in this way.”  Is this because someone at the publishing house raised an alarm?  I hope that some editor did, somewhere.  My sister, who is a REAL historian, would cringe at this.  As I do.  I still enjoy reading the accounts, but I trust them less.  It’s like that old Aunt Jane stuff we read so often, quoted as if Aunt Jane of Kentucky was a real person.  She’s not.  She’s fiction, and I’m afraid that some of this is like fiction too.

On balance, the play Quilters was taken from this book, and I found that extremely moving the first time I saw it.  And the next time, too.  Perhaps scholarship meant something different then?  That the very fact that these women’s voices — albeit anonymous voices — were published was a Huge Deal?  Maybe.

You bloggers are documenting your quilts with your voice, whether you post one day or four days a week, whether you make a quilt a week or a quilt in a year.  Your blogs and writing have authenticity as you document your ups and downs, your WIPs, your completed quilts.  You have a voice.  You are not like these unknown, silent women from the prairies.  You put a face and name to your creativity and it enriches us all. Keep writing!