Tuesday, April 30, 2013

Friday, April 26, 2013


A few weeks ago I joined gallerribba

I learned about this website through the SAQA-blog that I am moderating as part of my responsibilities as co-rep for SAQA Europe/Middleeast.  The founder of gallerribba, Meta Heemskerk had asked whether we would include a post about it, and in the exchange of getting it fit for the blog she then asked me whether I would like to join.
I like the idea behind the site.
The name is derived from Meta’s original idea that the works on display should all be mounted on a certain Swedish furniture store’s frames that are called “ribba”. This original idea did not stick, however, the size remained, and obviously the name did, too. Small art for the wall, not exceeding 30 cm in length either side.
Quite a challenge for me, who has been working rather larger during the last few years. However, as I already metioned in my post on the small quilts I have donated for SAQA’s benefit auction,  I need to start working smaller, and the size is growing on me. However, at present I don’t have a whole lot of pieces in that size. For the beginning of my presence on gallerribba we agreed that it was possible to also show a a few pieces that have been sold.
Now I am working on filling the ranks. Last week I entered the finishing straight with a small contribution for the series Shapes, which indeed had been in the making for quite a while. 

All it needs now is to be mounted on a wooden frame – which gives the piece a fourfold chance. You can hang it in either orientation you prefer, and are not bound to the particular orientation as would be determined if I had decided on a tunnel. Buy one piece, and get four different ones. Now that’s a deal!
Please take a look at the website – there are quite a few other interesting people on it!

Thursday, April 18, 2013

The Last Runaway by Tracy Chevalier

Right before I left for England there had been a little discussion on the yahoo-group of the Contemporary Quiltgroup about the latest novel by Tracy Chevalier, “The Last Runaway”.

So I thought it would be the first book I would buy when I got to England. As it turned out, the first book store that I went to did not have it in stock, but I did find it eventually, and read it while I was traveling.
It is set in the 1850s and tells the story of a young English Quaker woman, Honor Bright, who emigrated to the United States together with her sister,  engaged to be married to a man from their fellowship who had gone ahead and settled in Ohio. The sister unfortunately dies on the journey and Honor continues to their original destination on her own. The story develops around Honor’s difficulties adjusting to Ohio life, the people she meets and the friendships she strikes up with. These experiences are always interspersed with quilting, because that is one of Honor’s big talents. When she encounters runaway slaves and begins to help them she is taking a stand against her new-found family, and then the going gets rough...
I really enjoyed reading the book, it teaches you a lot of things about the Underground Railroad, and, if you’re not a quilter, a few things about quilting, too. For quilters I think it is nice to have a little bit of reference to quilting put into the daily life of Honor along the way.
The book is out in hardcover only right now, as far as I could tell, and after I finished it I decided that I would not take it back home as my luggage was tightly packed anyway. So I set it traveling – I gave it to the volunteer at the register in the Quiltmuseum of York, asking her to pass it on to other quilters after she has finished reading it. Watch out for it – perhaps it will come your way!

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

Do you like brown?

I don’t. Or at least I used to not like brown. At all.
About ten years ago, I posed a challenge to my then-quilt-group. For an entire weekend we were to work on a new technique which I was going to teach them at my house (we were living in a huge house then, where eleven people could easily assemble for a weekend of sewing without getting on each others’ nerves or in each others’ way). But each and everyone of us had to work with their least favorite colour, combined with any other colour.
At first they were non-plussed by the idea, but I am proud to say that they all complied, none chickened out of it. They started trading fabrics – the one who loved bright pink offered some to the hater of pink in exchange for greens or turquoise, I don’t remember which.
And during the weekend we all started thinking differently about that colour which we had considered our ‘most hated colour’. Which, for me, had been brown. I just didn’t use to like it, partly because of the political implications and German history, partly because commercial fabrics in brown tended to look unpleasant to me. But put next to each other, or in combination with blue fabrics, this started to feel a bit different:

from long time ago: most-hated-colour-challenge...

And this changed even more when I started hand-dyeing my own fabrics. I could even be pleased when I managed to dye various shades of brown, and could find myself praising me for a particularly nice shade of brown. Which before would have been completely unimaginable to perceive, a nice shade of brown. I admit, I still haven’t used brown much in quilts, though brown does feature in the background of my small quilt Play of Lines XXI, and in one of the lines in Play of Lines XXX:

Play of Lines XXI
Play of Lines XXX, detail
But after the past week’s dyeing of the March selection for my fabric-club, this might have to change, too.
While I was doing the ironing of colours three and four of the entire selection Thursday night, in the cellar, I was so tickled by the shade of brown that I saw, that I couldn’t believe my own eyes.
I waited for daylight to verify this impression.

shade of brown included in March 2013 selection
of fabric-club for hand-dyed fabrics

And I have to admit, tell myself, am proud of the fact that: this is a really nice shade of brown. It has quite a few ‘ice’-effects from not stirring too intensively, but that makes it even more interesting. I am beginning to like brown. Let’s see where this fabric will be featured in my quilts!

Monday, April 15, 2013

Quiltmuseum in York, England

One of the highlights of my trip through the north of England that I had been looking forward to for weeks was the visit to the Quiltmuseumin York.
The Quilter’s Guild of the British Isles has worked hard for many years and put together a collection of heritage and contemporary quilts which they display in magnificent rooms at St. Anthony’s Hall.

The main hall at the Museum of Quilt in York -
picture taken from website of the Quilters' Guild of the British Isles
Exhibitions are changed on a regular basis so it does make a lot of sense to check opening times of the museum when you are planning a visit, as the premises are inaccessible during changeover between exhibitions.
When I was there, three rather different exhibitions were on display. The large hall contained an exhibition called „Town and Country“, which juxtaposes quilts from well-to-do origins with quilts from a more moderate background. It was very interesting to see how they differed in terms of fabric selection and quality, and intricacies of pattern. Quilts from wealthy estates used silk and other at that time expensive fabrics and demonstrated a lot of leisure time for sewing in the intricate patterns, especially the half-inch hexagons usually done with the English paper-piecing method. Quilts from workers or small farmers usually were made to keep warm, had faster to sew patterns and are characterized by a totally different choice of fabrics. Often to just as stunning an effect!
One of the smaller display rooms had „Signatures V“ by zero3 textile artists who have been exhibiting together for a number of years. And the smallest room showed a selection from the “Nineties Collection” that are in the Quilters Guild collection.
Liz Whitehouse, who works for the Guild and the museum told me that frequently people come and say, „Oh, but this is so small!“ Honestly, I don’t understand why they would say that. The premises are wonderful with their high ceiling, documentation is extensive and shows the careful research that has gone into them, and when you sit down and count the number of pieces on display you’ll see that they are not so few as the first look into the hall might suggest. Of course, if you come with the expectation that you are coming to a little Festival of Quilts with several hundred quilts, that must leave you disappointed. But of course that is not what this museum is for.
During the AGM in Nottingham the reports on the museum had been serious. Due to the recession visitor numbers last year were fewer than needed for the upkeep of the museum, and the board has decided to start a benefactor program specifically for the museum. Information on that can be found here. Perhaps there are enough people out there who will join together?
Another way of helping the museum is to become a friend or a full member of the Quilters’ Guild of the British Isles as membership fees are one of the fundamentals for this charity organization to continue with the work they are doinng, including the museum. With the membership you receive the quarterly newsletter “The Quilter”, that keeps you informed about ongoings of the Guild. You also get a reduced entry fee to the museum, and a 10% discount in the museum shop, and that includes online shopping.
And every small donation is welcome as well. I donated part of my earning from teaching for the Guild at the AGM, because I do hope that the museum will be kept open for a long time to come!

Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Nottingham, second day

On Saturday, the entire morning was dedicated to the Quilter’s Guild of the British Isles’ AGM (Annual General Meeting), during which I learned a lot about the way meetings are handled in Britain. It did come as a revelation that meetings such as these can be fun to attend (whereas in Germany they usually aren’t, and that goes for every kind of organizational meeting, definitely not restricted to the patchwork guild!). When listening to Tina McEwen, the current president of the Guild, as she talked to the members, I understood that so many more members were actually present at the meeting than usually show up on these occasions in Germany.
The afternoon was devoted to a little bit of shopping at the vendors’ stalls.After that I went into the lecture hall to listen to Gillian Clarke, a former historian, who gave a talk on how she uses illuminations of medieval books, or from other medieval sources such as choir stands decorations in churches, as the basis for her quilt designs. She has done a quilt called the “Labors of the month”,

sorry - out of focus: Gillian Clarke, Labors of the month, detail
and, upon the comment of a friend “you know, Gillian, these are all men!”, she went on to do “A Woman’s work” as a parallel.

Gillian Clarke, A Woman's Work, detail
Her wonderful wholecloth quilt in white and red (white front, red back, and all the quilting done in red) had a fateful accident while in an exhibition, where water leaked onto it from the rood – and it was the quilting thread that bled onto the quilt. 

Given my most recent experiences with bleeding red, I talked to her about what she had done about it, sharing the precious advice I had received from readers. But she said she hadn’t done anything at all about it, simply accepted it as part of the fate of the quilt. “It always makes for a good story, you know.”

In the evening, the Gala dinner took place at the East Midlands Convention Center

Only while I had been packing my suitcases had I discovered that the theme for the evening called for “Lashings of lace”. Not being a very lacey person, I had encountered a short moment of slight panic. I had never before been to a British theme party in my entire life, but read about them and their potential intensity just recently, and I was slightly scared about not really doing the right thing. In any case, I do not own a single piece of clothing that includes a piece of lace and did not want to buy any, but I did remember that I had once bought a piece of cardboard with handmade Brussels Lace (in a very simple style) on a fleemarket. I managed to find it, put it in my suitcase and figured I would find a way to set it to use when the occasion arrived.

I did, too: I wore it around my shoulders in a sort of sash-style for the gala dinner. I had also acquired another piece of narrow lace in a small “surprise bag”bought at the fundraising stall for QGBI’s region 10, which I wore wrapped around my head as a kind of lace bandana. Here I am in this extremely flattering outfit, together with Laura Wasilowski and my raffle prize, a rather pink bucket filled with rather pink quilter’s goodies that I won completely unexpectedly:

Laura Wasilowsky and I after the raffle drawing.
After the meal was over, we were treated to Laura Wasilowsky’s and Frieda Anderson’s talk on their “Chicago School of Fusing”. Laura and I had been seated next to each other during dinner and had tried to figure out where we might have met before, except for our little exchange on Friday on the occasion that our workshop rooms had been exchanged. We both had the feeling that we had, but we could not find out when that might have been. In any case, I thoroughly enjoyed their talk about their technique and processes, including Laura’s songs underlining her story of Eve and the creation of fusing, as did the rest of the hall. If you ever get a chance to hear the two of them perform, don’t miss it. It made me want to give fusing a real try...

Monday, April 8, 2013

Nottingham, first day

With my visit to Nottingham I was rather lucky with QGBI’s planning: all my teaching was done on one – the first! – day, after which I was finished and could simply enjoy the atmosphere at the meeting, meet a lot of people, and enrich my scanty knowledge of British culture by immersion.
We had breakfast in the university’s Atrium, which, of course, reminded me about being a student at the university myself many many years ago.

Returning your food trays, and the system is breaking down...
After the grand opening of the weekend on Friday morning, at which we were greeted by Morris dancers (I am not quite sure about the spelling here...) and by Robin Hood and his lovely Lady Mariam in person

I went to find my workshop room, which had been changed last minute in the morning. Fifteen people were enrolled in the workshop, everybody appeared on time, and we had a heavy workload ahead of us. The workshop I taught was an abbreviated version of my “IQ – from inspiration to quilt”, which I had originally conceived of as a two-day workshop. So this one-day set-up consituted quite an experiment – the class is a full class, and I did not know beforehand whether the cuts had been made at the right points, and how this would really work.
I think it did.

Even the larger room was a tight fit with fifteen students,
but we managed fine.
Assuming that every student knew how to do free-hand cutting, I showed them my quilts as they appear in my eternal calendar, explaining how the different techniques yielded vastly results, even when using the same inspirational picture. After that we dove into the process of making the individually crafted paper templates that I frequently work with, based on a small design that was supposed to show the workshop participants the usefulness and applicability of my little technical trick, the half-closed seam. And in the afternoon they started to work on their own inspirational pictures, although there was only enough time for a beginning approach. Of course, it would have been nice to give the students enough working time so they could see the effects - and pitfalls! – of the technique when applied to their own intended design. But they were able to get through the entire process of template making once, I did point out to them the possible difficulties when leaving out one of the vital components in the process, such as forgetting to put a grid on the back of the templates before cutting them up, or the necessity to add further sewing lines at some points. So I do hope that they went home with a sound basic knowledge of what it is they can do when using the kind of paper templates I work with, and that they will put it to use in their own work.
Despite the fact that I was very tired in the evening I went to listen to Anja Townrow’s talk on her development as a quilter. Good that I did, it was such a show! I don’t think any quilter in Germany would have the guts to stand up in front of so many people and talk so humorously and unconceitedly about herself. 

Anja Townrow, detail of one of her fabulous foundation pieded
and appliqued quilts
Anja uses freezer paper for her many curves and perfect points and produces stunning results in terms of technical perfection and sewing, with appliqué added on top for additional effects.
Freezer paper is not available in supermarkets in Germany, so I had never thought about applying it to my technique of template making. You can get it in quilt shops, though, at the corresponding prices, but I don’t want to spend a fortune on freezer paper. Though it might be worth considering whether an adaptation of my technique is practicable or desirable, and I will certainly do a little bit more thinking about that, at the moment I think using freezer paper is just an additional step in the process. One would have to trace the worksheet onto the freezer paper, and that would slow me down. I do make sure I take a picture of the paper before I cut it up into templates, I have added enough information for orientation on the individual pieces to get them back into place, and as the freezer must be removed before joining the pieces, which need to be pinned nevertheless, I don’t actually see an advantage in using freezer paper for the kind of designs I work with.
I do see that it has a distinct advantage when using it for foundation piecing, though!

Sunday, April 7, 2013

Limited edition

On Good Friday I realized that I had come back from my exhibition in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines (half a year ago...) with only very few business cards left. Bad timing – everything is closed on Good Friday, which comes before a weekend, when the printer will not be open, and on Easter Monday again everything is closed. I am leaving for England on Thursday morning. No way I am going to get cards in two days, I don’t have a colour printer. I still have plenty of postcards advertising for my fabric club. But they are all with German text.

What do you do in a situation like that? Add the fact that I have absolutely no clue as to how many business cards with English text I might need when visiting the AGM. And how many more cards will I actually need with this particular address on them?
I simply decided I was going to make my own, despite the fact that I don’t have a colour printer.
I printed cards on my computer in black and white and cut them apart.

Then I cut up a few small strips of my snow-dyed fabric, which I wanted to sew onto the back of the cards.

First thoughts went into the direction “plenty of stitches, a bit of free-motion”, but the prototype was not exactly convincing.

So I switched back to plain old zig-zag stitch, the widest I can make it on the machine.

And here they are – they come in three or four different colours. A very limited edition indeed!
The kind of cards you can get on Easter Sunday. Saves money. But doesn’t exactly save time... But they were fun to make and added to my excitement about leaving for my ten days in England

Saturday, April 6, 2013

First impressions from my trip to Nottingham

Changing planes in Amsterdam - probably the only airport in the world
where you can buy tulip bulbs, in bulk! Lovely.

Descent into Manchester

Play of Lines on water...

Reflections on the roof of the Atrium, U of N Jubilee campus

House decorations

New possibilities for quilt design?

Multilayered colours on rust

Design opportunities in bus route overview

Having a cup of tea in the sunshine... (together with Elke Heege)