Far Away Doors • Quilt Finish

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Doors opening, closing on us
by Marge Piercy

Maybe there is more of the magical
in the idea of a door than in the door
itself. It’s always a matter of going
through into something else. But

while some doors lead to cathedrals
arching up overhead like stormy skies
and some to sumptuous auditoriums
and some to caves of nuclear monsters

most just yield a bathroom or a closet.
Still, the image of a door is liminal,
passing from one place into another
one state to the other, boundaries

and promises and threats. Inside
to outside, light into dark, dark into
light, cold into warm, known into
strange, safe into terror, wind

into stillness, silence into noise
or music. We slice our life into
segments by rituals, each a door
to a presumed new phase. We see

ourselves progressing from room
to room perhaps dragging our toys
along until the last door opens
and we pass at last into was.

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Far Away Doors
Quilt No. 216 • 49 1/2″ wide by 43 1/2″ tall
Some blocks sent to me by the Gridsters Bee

Finished!

I originally named it “Home-keeping Hearts” but that was just its milk name as it had just been born and I was in a cheezy mood of  Hearts and Deep Meanings and All That.  Marge Piercy said it best about doors, even quilty ones inspired by far away doors from Dublin, Ireland:

“the image of a door is liminal, / passing from one place into another / one state to the other, boundaries // and promises and threats. Inside / to outside, light into dark, dark into / light, cold into warm, known into / strange, safe into terror, wind // into stillness, silence into noise / or music.”

The photograph on the truck?  It went like this: on our way to get some Vietnamese bùn châ for lunch, we trekked down to our newest neighbors’ home to ask if we could please pose the quilt on their cool car, and so I knocked on their door and it opened to a crying baby in the other room and a smiling baby in his father’s arms and good-natured parents, owners of a new-to-them truck and the mother’s name was Genesis and the father’s name was Nate and we introduced ourselves and they said yes, of course, and then they headed back inside because it was about a hundred degrees outside, as they smiled and waved and shut the door behind them, the  lovely music of a home with a young family and a Ford Ranger just made for quilt posing.

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And so, this variation of Merrion Square is finished.  I pass out the how-to sheet as a freebie when people take my Merrion Square classes, so hopefully you’ll be in one soon.  Check my schedule to see if there’s a workshop near you.

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And finally, many thanks to all who entered the giveaway for the ruler.  The winner has been notified by email and I’ll get the ruler off to her this week.  I am leaving the post up because there are so many great responses to my question.  You are all a significantly talented and experienced group of quilters — thank you for your ruler advice!

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And That Has Made All the Difference: a Four-in-Art Quilt

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And That Has Made All the Difference
Quilt No. 151, November 2015
#4 in the Literature Series

I close out the Literature Series with another poem, a famous poem, by Robert Frost.  You can even guess what it is by looking at the colors, and those leaves — yes, I chose “The Road Not Taken.”

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I chose a family group picture from the last time we were all together, almost 2 years ago this December, and cut-and-pasted it into a photo I grabbed from the web of a golden allee (which I think must be in New York’s Central Park).  I tweaked it, then printed it on some fabric I’d prepared with Bubble Jet (more info about that on *this* post).

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I let it dry from the printing, then set it with Bubble Jet Set, laid it out to catch the excess moisture (below), then hung it to dry.

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It needed more leaves.  So I cut out scads and scads of leaves from fabric that I’d backed with fusible webbing, and ironed them on.  I framed the photo with a partial log cabin arrangement, then quilted it.

Made All the Difference_1

In conjunction with the making of this quilt, I read the book by David Orr, The Road Not Taken, which is an analysis of this poem, which apparently most of us get wrong (sorry to be the one to break this to you).  We think it’s about rugged individualism, of the choices that we make and how we come out on top.  That idea, apparently, is routed firmly in our American way of looking at things, which is to say, that as a country, America comes out on the top in scales ranking us as the most individualistic  (only the Czech Republic was tied with us.)  And it’s certainly part of the part and parcel of this poem, when we talk about it and think about ourselves as that individual (notice how there are no other people in this poem) striding through a dappled forest, making astute and informed choices.  But really, it’s about so many things.

While there are many threads in this book, I was quite intrigued with the idea of being at the crossroads.  And in introducing that idea, Orr wonders if it’s not about the final victorious moment, but rather it is about”[t]he moment at the crossroads”. . . “in which all decisions are equally likely. We haven’t moved, we haven’t chosen, we haven’t sinned” (51).  Orr quotes the introductory note on Frost in the second edition of The Norton Anthology of Modern Poetry:” ‘The Road Not Taken’ seems to be about the difficulty of decision making but is itself strangely reluctant to resolve. It keeps us in the woods, at the crossroads, unsure whether the speaker is actually even making a choice, and then ends not with the decision itself but with a claim about the future that seems unreliable’ ” (70).

MadeDifference_backEven Frost himself, in a note to Leonidas Payne in November of 1927, writes: “My poems—I should suppose everybody’s poems—are all set to trip the reader head foremost into the boundless. Ever since infancy I have had the habit of leaving my blocks carts chairs and such like ordinaries where people would be pretty sure to fall forward over them in the dark. Forward, you understand, and in the dark” (53).

Forward and in the dark is about how I feel about many decisions I make, but the quality of individualism whispers in my ear at all times: I am the one who can see clearly to choose, as if the “I” was unchanging, solid, rooted in bedrock.  Yet doesn’t the choosing change us?  And then doesn’t every choice become monumental?  Orr agrees, saying that “If we can’t persist unchanged through any one choice, then every choice becomes a matter of existential significance—after all, we aren’t merely deciding to go left or right; we’re transforming our very selves” (60-61), which is one aspect of what the poem is about: choice is slippery and transformative, yet a constant in our lives.

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However you think about it, I did make a significant choices some twenty-six years ago to marry my husband, to join with him in raising the four children I brought with me out of a period of loss and devastation, and in doing so I not only changed my life, but the lives of the children.

And that has made all the difference.MadeDifference_back

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“The Road Not Taken,” by Robert Frost

Two roads diverged in a yellow wood,
And sorry I could not travel both
And be one traveler, long I stood
And looked down one as far as I could
To where it bent in the undergrowth;
Then took the other, as just as fair,
And having perhaps the better claim,
Because it was grassy and wanted wear;
Though as for that the passing there
Had worn them really about the same,
And both that morning equally lay
In leaves no step had trodden black.
Oh, I kept the first for another day!
Yet knowing how way leads on to way,
I doubted if I should ever come back.
I shall be telling this with a sigh
Somewhere ages and ages hence:
Two roads diverged in a wood, and I—
I took the one less traveled by,
And that has made all the difference.

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Here they are together.  Somehow I need to stitch them together and meld them together into one quilt.

Tiny Nine-Patch

About Us: We live all over the world, from Scotland and Australia to the continental United States.  Our blog is *here.*  Please visit the other members of our Four-in-Art Group and see their Literature Art Quilts:

Betty at a Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com
Catherine  at Knotted Cotton (delayed by house flood; will post later)
Nancy at  Patchwork Breeze
Susan at PatchworknPlay
Tiny Nine-Patch
Next reveal date is February 1st, 2016.  We have had a series of emails amongst ourselves, clarifying where we want to go in the next year, and found again our desire to keep working together.  Rachel is now the head of our group, and we will have a new theme and quarterly challenges.  Stay tuned.
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The Woods Run Mad With Riot: A Four-in-Art Quilt

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The Woods Run Mad With Riot
A Four-in-Art Quilt, August 2015
#3 in the Literature Series

As always, my exploration of a subject in this series starts with the literature, and the poem I had originally chosen just wasn’t cutting it.  It didn’t evoke that hot, slightly wild feeling that day after day of hot weather can produce, when even Mother Nature seems slightly out of control, patting her damp forehead with a handkerchief, swooning slightly at how overcome her gardens are, the tempo and volume of the cicadas and crickets and birds, and wondering if she’ll last out the heat.  THAT kind of evocative.

So I went hunting and found a new poem that did the trick:

Summer in the South

And how in heaven’s name could I pass up a poem that had such a great closing line: “the woods run mad with riot”?  So that became the title of this piece — immediately — and I tried to figure out how to express this in fabric.  While I normally do a deconstruction post after my reveal post, I’m combining them into one this time.

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The trees in the background would have to be slightly oppressive, the sky colors clear, not soft or muddy, and when I found this great paisley fabric in gold, things just started to gel, as I thought it looked like a field crisping up, the tractor marks a design in the tall wheat fields.  Or whatever fields.  The poem has a line about shoots being “yellow-green” and there’s something about water, so here we go.  I used SoftFuse Premium this time, my new go-to fusible for fabric.  I pressed the paper-backed fusible to the back of the fabric, let it cool, then free-form cut the shapes, remembering to work backwards visually, so it would come out correctly after I peeled off the paper.  (Note: In other quilts, I have peeled off the backing and cut what I needed freehand, without using the paper for drawing. Here are some tips for using SoftFuse Premium from Marti Michell’s blog.)

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I thought about borderie-perse, that method of appliqué that has always seemed to me to be rich and visually saturated, and since this poem is leading me onward, I turned to this technique, cutting around blossoms and wads of flowers and slipping them into place to build up my scene.  The SoftFuse is slightly tacky on the back, sort of like a Post-it note, so I can stick it down and it won’t move, yet I can reposition it when I need to.

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I know that I will be adding log-cabin-type strips to the edges; here I’m auditioning colors.

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I sewed the strips on the edge, then auditioned threads for quilting.  I’d picked up quite a few Magnifico spools from Superior Threads, a mid-weight poly thread with a lovely sheen and I just have to say I love this thread.  I use Bottom Line in the bobbin, lower my thread tension by half (from the 4.2 range to the 1.9 range) and it all quilts up beautifully.  I stitch around all the flowers, put a bit of quilting in the stream and field, and quilted around the clouds.

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Time to trim.

Three of Four

Here it is with the other two, already done.  I can already see that the last piece is going to need to be bold as well.  And I may have to rework Winter a little bit.  Hmmm. . . not while it is so sweltering hot.  I need to just sit on my porch, letting the afternoon breezes cool this place down, sipping something cold and icy and refreshing, while fanning myself with a wide-bladed palm leaf fan, swooning a bit.  It’s that kind of a hot summer!

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Tiny Nine-Patch

About Us: We live all over the world, from Scotland and Australia to the continental United States.  Our blog is *here.*  Please visit the other members of our Four-in-Art Group and see their Literature Art Quilts:

Betty at a Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com
Catherine  at Knotted Cotton
Nancy at  Patchwork Breeze
Simone at Quiltalicious
Susan at PatchworknPlay
Tiny Nine-PatchNext reveal date — the final in our Literature series — is November 1st.
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[in Just-], a Four-in-Art Quilt

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For those of you who are avid English Paper-Piecers and are new followers, welcome!

in Just_in the garden

[in Just-]
#2 in the Literature Series
Quilt #147

Continuing our theme of literature and my personal love of poetry, this is the second in a series of four art quilts for this year, a collaborative effort by the Four-in-Art Quilters, a name chosen because we do four small (12″ square) art quilts per year.  For this quarter, I chose e.e. cummings’ poem “[in Just-],” a poem about a balloon man selling balloons in Spring.  I’m also following a seasonal theme, as the last art quilt focused on Winter.

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e.e. cummings’ poem appears on the surface to be a simple sensory poem about “when the world is puddle-wonderful” and “bettyandisbel come dancing / from hop-scotch and jump-rope.”  It’s a world where the wonders of childhood dominate, from mud, “piracies” and “marbles” to  the sight of a balloon man with his wares to sell to the children.

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But in the last stanza of the poem, the capitalization and descriptions change.  The “old balloonman” becomes the “goat-footed balloonMan,” with his whistling pipes and inferences of Pan, a somewhat lascivious ancient god who is half goat, but has the reputation of pursuing the women.  Suddenly the poem changes, the games of childhood left behind as Pan brings different games to “eddieandbill” and “bettyandisbel,” games from which they will never stop playing.

Balloon Man

(detail of center panel)

When this version is presented by my students to the group (they each have to choose a poem, analyze it and present it), there are some groans, as in, “can’t this just be about balloons and spring and mud and marbles?”  Yes, it can.  But perhaps e.e. cummings is trying to have us look at two spheres at once: childhood and adulthood, and that razor-thin edge where we cross over from one into another.  We then have an interesting discussion (all very G-rated) about when they felt they crossed the dividing line from childhood to adulthood, and the answers vary from when I got my driver’s license, to when I first kissed a boy, to when someone left home, to when they had their first jobs and bills and live-in girlfriends.  And so it goes.  The balloons of childhood escape from our hands into the heavens, and we can never get them back.

Two Art Quilts

I plan to join all the quilts together when I’m finished; here are the two I’ve completed thus far.

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[in Just-]

in Just_labelI can’t believe I left off the author’s name, so I hand-wrote it in.  There will be a final label when all the four quilts from this series are joined, so I’m just not going to worry about redoing it right now.  The “Deconstruction Post” will be next, with some info about how I made this quilt.

Tiny Nine-Patch

About Us: We live all over the world, from Scotland and Australia to the continental United States.  Our blog is *here.*

Please visit the other Four-in-Arters, and their quilts around this theme:

Betty May 2015Betty at a Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com
Catherine May 2015
Catherine  at Knotted Cotton
Jennifer May 2015
Nancy May 2015
Nancy at  Patchwork Breeze
Rachel May 2015
Simone May 2015
Simone at Quiltalicious
 Susan May 2015
Susan at PatchworknPlay
Tiny Nine-Patch

Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening, a Four-in-art Quilt

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Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening
#1 in the Literature Series
Quilt #142

Moving a different direction, the Four-in-Art quilters have chosen a year-long theme of Literature for this current series, and within that, we each have chosen our own way to think about literature.  Some have chosen to focus in fiction or non-fiction or others have chosen children’s literature.  I have chosen poetry.

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Robert Frost’s poem, “Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening,” is one that I taught in my literature class at school, which gave me a chance to really research it, to hear a recording of him reading his work, to explore what others have thought about it.  Depression runs in our family, and many writers have commented about the intimation of suicide — the struggle over this — buried deep in the implied meaning in many of the lines.  Frost, of course, has denied that, but I think that while the writer may write the lines, it’s the readers who get to interpret what they see in the poem.  Time for you to see the poem:

“Stopping by Woods on a Snowy Evening”
by Robert Frost

Whose woods these are I think I know.
His house is in the village though;
He will not see me stopping here
To watch his woods fill up with snow.

My little horse must think it queer
To stop without a farmhouse near
Between the woods and frozen lake
The darkest evening of the year.

He gives his harness bells a shake
To ask if there is some mistake.
The only other sound’s the sweep
Of easy wind and downy flake.

The woods are lovely, dark and deep,
But I have promises to keep,
And miles to go before I sleep,
And miles to go before I sleep.

In class we study the iambic tetrameter, the rhyme scheme, the internal rhymes and then focus in on those repeated lines.  When you watch Frost read his poem, the first line of that last stanza really comes through that the woods are dark and deep, although lovely, and then he raises his eyebrows, almost in a shrug, saying he has promises to keep, as if that prevents him from exploring the darker woods before him.  And many times our obligations do keep us on a certain track, keeping us from veering off into depression or getting lost in other ways.  When you have to put food on the table for your young family, you have fewer minutes to ruminate or cry or sit in the corner and stare out the window.

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I think the first line, “And miles to go before I sleep,” might refer to the tasks we all face: the laundry, work, family and social obligations, that daily list of compiled chores that pile up before us.  I know I certainly had a week like that, and even though some were delightful obligations that brought great pleasure, there was no extra space on the calendar, no breathing room to stop and look at woods filling up with snow.

Perhaps that second repeated line refers to the longer view, past calendars, past busyness, past the To-Do list.  We all need purpose in our lives as it is the engine that drives us to get up and get dressed, to engage with the world and to lay out our days in ways that not only contribute to the lives of those around us, but more importantly, lets us focus on the miles both behind us and in front of us.  Frost’s genius lay in crafting the lines that cause us to reflect on the bigger picture.  His poem reminds us to pay attention to the journey of our lives, rather than than the mere detritus of our lives.

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While some may think of the quilting as just a hobby, for me it has become part of my purpose in life: to explore and to create, to reach across the world or country and build friendships, like this small art quilt group.  Certainly I can outline the big ideals that inform my choices, but when traveling miles to bring a quilt to fruition, I take heart in Frost’s reminder to keep to the journey.

I like this new challenge for this year.  I’ve already chosen my poem for the next reveal, which is in May, and yes, all mine this year will have a seasonal theme.

Tiny Nine-Patch

Please take time to visit the other Four-in-Arters, who have also put up their Challenge Quilts today
(just bits and snips of their quilts are shown–be sure to see the full quilt at their sites):

Betty Lit1
Betty at a Flickr site: http://www.flickr.com
Katherine Lit1Catherine  at Knotted Cotton
Elizabeth at opquilt.com (you are here)
Jennifer Lit1
Jennifer at her Flickr account
Nancy Lit1
Nancy at  Patchwork Breeze
Rachel Lit1
Simone Lit1Simone at Quiltalicious
Tiny Nine-Patch
PS: My blogging software places ads here so I can use this site for free.  I do not control the content of these ads.

Don’t Put Up My Thread and Needle

Don’t put up my Thread and Needle (617)
by Emily Dickinson

Don’t put up my Thread and Needle—
I’ll begin to Sew
When the Birds begin to whistle—
Better Stitches—so—

These were bent—my sight got crooked—
When my mind—is plain
I’ll do seams—a Queen’s endeavor
Would not blush to own—

Hems—too fine for Lady’s tracing
To the sightless Knot—
Tucks—of dainty interspersion—
Like a dotted Dot—

Leave my Needle in the furrow—
Where I put it down—
I can make the zigzag stitches
Straight—when I am strong—

Till then—dreaming I am sewing
Fetch the seam I missed—
Closer—so I—at my sleeping—
Still surmise I stitch—