Friday, September 1, 2023

The great trip -- Greenland

In this summer of terrible weather, we accomplished our goal of escaping the traditional misery of July and August in the upper South: heat, humidity, air pollution, thunderstorms, power outages.  And it worked, as we took a cruise to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland, Ireland and back again.  The weather there was great, with the occasional cloudy or drizzly day but mostly sunny and cool.  One day, as we sailed through the scenic fjords, waterfalls and glaciers at the tip of Greenland, I sat on our balcony for several hours, periodically adding more and more clothing until I was wearing every outer garment I  had brought along, plus a blanket.  Heaven!!

one of many glaciers in Prins Christian Sund
This cruise took us mostly to smaller towns (which is pretty much all there is in the countries we visited) so our days ashore didn't include a lot of excitement.  We don't like to spend hours on a bus going on the very expensive shore excursions, and our ambitious hiking days are decades in the past, so our typical routine was to get off the ship, walk around town for a while, find a place to have a beer, and return to the ship.  Usually Ken went back first, leaving me to wander about and take photos at leisure.


The towns in Greenland all have bright and cheery color schemes, the better to show up against snow and clouds, but they are small, isolated and minimal.  None are connected by road to anywhere else.  I was simultaneously exhilarated by the beautiful surroundings and the depressing realization of how limited life must be, especially for the young people.  Yes, the coming of the internet has opened up the world virtually, but physically how many of those kids will ever be able to get anywhere else?  Parts of these villages had the same forlorn vibe as Indian reservations we have driven through in the US -- but maybe we're projecting our emotions onto people who don't feel the same way we do.

a boatful of people from Aappilattoq

As we cruised past a tiny village, population about 100, a little armada of boats came out to say hello.  People loaded up their kids and zipped around the big ship, waving and hollering.  Two boats pulled up together so a couple of children could climb over to join their pals, with all the nonchalance of our kids going from one parked car to another.  (Nobody wore life jackets and I held my breath while they made the transfer.)  Certainly the best entertainment of the day for the locals, and I wondered if they do this every time a cruise ship passes.


I felt twinges of guilt as I wandered about and snapped the boats, fishing equipment and containers, the older and more weatherbeaten the better -- was I being a rude tourist/voyeur?  Yes, there were shiny new boats by the docks, but the beat-up old ones make much better pictures.  Yes, I examined my guilt but then I took more pictures.  Mea culpa.



As you can see from the photos, there is junk lying around, as in any working environment, but the streets are clean, the houses are bright, the little kids are happy, flowers are everywhere, there is little graffiti to be seen,  and the air is probably purer than I've ever breathed at home.  


We've been in Greenland once before, many years ago, and I fell in love with it.  It was such a thrill to go back again, this trip blessed with far better weather than we had the first time.  Perhaps it's within the realm of possibility that I could even go there again....

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

At sea again

Nanortalik, Greenland 

Prins Christian Sund, Greenland 

For 50 years we've sweltered through Louisville summers and asked ourselves why we don't go somewhere cold for July and August.  This year we finally did it, and set off for a cruise to Canada, Greenland, Iceland, Scotland and other cool climes.  We're in Rotterdam today at the halfway point, and will head home on pretty much the same route.

You can keep your sunny beaches, I am drawn to the cold places.  And we're getting our fill on this trip!

Wednesday, July 26, 2023

Some beads and a nostalgia trip

daily stitching July 14

A couple of days ago I wanted to add some beads to my daily stitching, and had the idea to make them stand up in a tower instead of just lie there on the fabric.  And as I started sewing them on, I thought of Sandy Snowden.  Sandy was one of my good internet friends whom I never got the pleasure of meeting in person, although other in-person friends of mine were also in-person friends of hers.  

Sandy lived in England and was an avid garment sewist as well as a lover of quilts and hand stitching and an enthusiastic blogger.  Sadly, she died in 2020 but her husband has thoughtfully left her blog online, and that allowed me to indulge in an hour of nostalgia.

In 2019 Sandy did a daily art project involving beads, 24,000 of them, to commemorate 24,000 Christians in India who were physically attacked in the previous year because of their faith.  She wrote, "I wanted to see just how many 24,000 was." 

Each day for 300 days she sewed on 80 beads, sometimes in towers (standing straight up from the fabric, attached at only one end of the queue) and sometimes in loops (attached at both ends, standing up like an inchworm).  She finished the year by adding words around the edges of the composition.

Sandy's finished project

Sandy put a small sequin underneath each bead tower, for a bit more structural stability, but unless I happen to find my stash of sequins in the very near future, I'm going to do my own beads without that step.

Sandy's project in mid-July 2019

As an aficionada of daily art, I have always enjoyed it when one of my internet friends embarks on a daily project, and I follow along closely during the year. Going back through Sandy's old posts that year, I came across my own comments many times, which made me happy that I had been able to stay in such close touch with her.

I don't know how long I will keep stitching bead towers in my own daily project this year, but I'll be thinking about Sandy while I do it, and about how the internet has allowed us to make connections and friends across the continents whom we would have probably never met in real life.

daily stitching July 15

daily stitching July 16

daily stitching July 18

Monday, July 10, 2023

Someone else's trash becomes my treasure

Last year my good friend moved to Atlanta, and realized that she owned a whole lot of stuff that she didn't want to take with her.  So she held an open house of sorts, in which friends were encouraged to take home anything in two big upstairs rooms.  I of course could not resist, and found all sorts of treasures, including but hardly limited to a guillotine blade paper cutter and a 1950 edition of Webster's New International Dictionary.  I've been using the paper cutter for myriad projects, and cutting up the dictionary for art.

But today I want to talk about a special find: a huge box full of the ribbons and medals that my friend's daughter won in a long and successful swimming career, spanning many years from childhood through high school.  The minute I saw them I knew they were perfect fodder to be turned into "postage stamps" for a grid quilt.

The ribbons were two inches wide, with woven selvages, already a bit stiff with some kind of sizing, but I backed them with nonwoven polypropylene for a little more substance.  As soon as the backing was sewed to the ribbons, I sliced them into squares with a pinked-edge rotary blade, and then continued with many more rows of stitching in different colors.  There was no fraying or raveling (a big improvement over previous postage stamp projects) and the gold letters and pictures sparkle when the light hits them right.  

I watched a great deal of trash TV last August while mindlessly feeding hundreds and hundreds of squares through the sewing machine, and eventually counted and bagged all the finished squares and stashed them away in a big shoebox.

I pulled the shoebox out again in April and started sewing the squares together into a grid.  Having learned from experience that the larger the quilt, the more tedious it is to sew it together, I decided to make three separate panels and hang them as a tryptych.  It was so easy to put these smaller panels together that I zipped through the final assembly stage in less than a week.

And now the finished quilt -- "Competition" -- is hanging in the 20th Anniversary Show at PYRO Gallery.  I think it looks great, and it was probably the most painless major piece that I have ever made!  


Wednesday, June 21, 2023

Blast from the past

My friend-since-graduate-school sent me an email the other day with a photo of a quilt:

I made this quilt 50 years ago for her son Kimo, who is about to have his big birthday.  It's obviously still in circulation in the household, perhaps used by one of his kids.  

I had never taken a picture before I mailed it off, and I am thrilled to see it again.  I remember the actual design and construction, and how I struggled to make it.  I had cut out the beautiful curvy motif, turned under the edges and pinned it carefully to the background.  But when I started to sew, it slithered around and thus became all puffy and bulgy.

With hardly any quilting to hold things in place, the bulges have survived the decades.  So have the vivid colors, since the fabric was largely polyester (that's pretty much all we had in the early 70s).  

For me, the photo is a reminder of how little I knew about quiltmaking in those days -- and no wonder, because I was totally self-taught, without benefit of the myriad books, magazines, workshops, quilt shops and quilt guilds that later turned quilting into an easily-accessed industry.  Fortunately, I have learned many things since then, and not just about quilts!

The photo also reminds me of my enduring love for the curvy shapes that I stole from Henri Matisse.  You probably know about how the great artist, having lost almost all his sight, turned to scissors and paper when he could no longer paint.  He cut these shapes, along with dancers and stars, and made a body of work that is stunning in its simplicity and power.

Henri Matisse, The Sheaf
Kimo's quilt was the first time I had used this motif, but it would certainly not be the last.  Years later when I learned how to do free-motion quilting, I used this same curvy rhythm to fill space.  I called this pattern "Matisse" and have taught it to many students.  

Sometimes I make little motifs in rows.

Sometimes I let the curves sprawl across large areas.  

Just looking at the photos makes me want to go down in the studio and sew Matisse curves onto something!


Friday, April 21, 2023

More daily Joanne

I wrote last week about my daily art project for this year, and showed you several collages that depended on the prints in my friend Joanne's leftovers.  My task in working with these strong patterns is mainly to find a few that want to play together, then put them together and stand back.  On the other end of the spectrum are the pieces that I make on solid color fabrics, or those with minimal patterning.  Those generally serve as the base for more elaborate stitching or applique.

mostly blanket stitch, plus an appliqued moon

cretan stitch and a few beads

machine appliqued tiny trees, about 3/4" from ground to tip

stacked running stitches make mandalas

more stacked running stitches