29 Jun

Hansel and Gretel

Yippee! I finished a quilt this morning. This is a little one (90 cm tall) inspired by the theme “Fairy Tale World” for the Main Quilt Fest.

Hansel und Gretel
I wasn’t sure I’d do anything, but since Grimm’s fairy tales are definitely part of my German experience, I thought that if I were inspired I could kill two birds with one stone. Or at least I could tell myself I wasn’t getting distracted since a German fairy tale quilt could hang comfortably with my German countrysides.

Original forest fabric. Circle denotes

Just to see what would happen, I tried (a la Dijanne Cevaal) to hand dye a piece of cotton velvet to look like a forest. Mine is not as elegant as Dijanne’s work, but I like it well enough, and I thought I saw a little cottage in the fabric. Poof, I was inspired to make “Hansel und Gretel.” Of course, you can’t see the original witch’s cottage as it is completely covered by my embroidery, but it was enough to get me started.

Hansel und Gretel witch's house

The velvet was a little tricky in that I had to be careful all along the way not to mangle it too much, but It was nice and sturdy to sew all the buttons, beads and stones on to.

Hansel und Gretel embroidery detail
I even added a chicken bone as Hansel tricked the witch into thinking he wasn’t fattening up by poking a chicken bone through the bars of his cage. I also quilted in a thorny pattern with metalic thread to add a little evil, but not too much.


The red dotty fabric, of course, represents Fliegenpilze, or poisonous mushrooms. As well as being a part of the German culture, I believe that any self respecting witch would have some of these in her cupboard or garden. There are also a group of witches in Fasching parades which wear red head scarves with white polka dots.

Witch sweeping up naughty children?

26 Jun

Lyon Quilt Trip

Have you ever wondered who the suckers on those big tourist buses are? They just might be a bunch of middle aged ladies with patchwork purses on their way to a quilt show! (Go ahead and skip to the next entry if you’re just looking for the quilty stuff.)
This is our bus

You have no idea the hilarity which may be going on inside. Our trip was well organized by Uta and Sylvia who kept us entertained with hourly tips and tricks like how best to keep the leaves on your plants shiny or what works best to clean your cloisonné jewelry, a raffle with grand prizes like a dryer (OK, a clothespin) or a panoramic view of Heidelberg (a postcard), and a sing-a-long. They also provided snacks and drinks in a most professional manner (notice the “uniforms”). We pretty much laughed all the way to Lyon. And yes, that is free champagne for each of us.
Uta and Sylvia, hostesses with the mostestes

Once in Lyon, we stayed at a very nice hotel, with what’s probably the easiest navigational system. It’s the giant tower in the middle of town. That’s our room, way up high on the 37th floor.

Lyon skyline and our hotel

The inside of our hotel looked like Drunkard’s Path blocks. It also echoes the traboules which the city is famous for.

Hotel interior looks like quilt blocks

We knew we were at a classy place when Kathy noticed her tea bag was made of lustrous organza.

Classy lady and tea bag

Tea bags aside, France is definitely shabbier than Germany, but even some of the graffiti was pretty cool:

Lyon is traversed by the rivers Rhône and Saône. The rivers are traversed by many bridges. We traversed the city on foot, by tour bus, by city bus, and by tram, but unfortunately, not with the popular rental bike system. Here I am, not really paying attention, at the foot of a bridge on the way to Fouvriere, the cathedral on the hill overlooking the city.

just being a tourist

On Sunday, my roomate (and friend), Kathy and I took a funicular up the hill to the cathedral.

View from Funicular

Up top we enjoyed the view and took a short rest at a café. As we got up to leave, a tall, attractive lady dressed in turquoise, approached us and asked if I was Kristin La Flamme. It was very strange to be recognized away from home by someone I have never met, but wonderful in the way that the internet can make the whole world seem like a small village. So, “Hello to Wenche from Norway!” We chatted briefly about quilting and blogging (she makes patterns for whimsical quilts), but I’m not great at small talk, so we went on with our separate tours, giggling about how odd this “alternate reality” of blogging is.

Aside from seeing the view from the cathedral, Kathy and I hoped to find some of the famous traboules of Lyon. According to a book I bought in the gift shop, traboules are pedestrian passages which connect streets to courtyards and courtyards to streets and are integrated into the foundation of the buildings. The stairwells and arcades through which ones gets from apartment to apartment within a building are also considered to be part of the traboule system. Apparently, the traboules began when river commerce was popular and the banks of the rivers were not yet contained with stone walls. Boats could deliver their goods riverside directly into the cellars of the buildings and the passage ways would lead the goods to the merchant at street level. Later, the silk industry recognized the practicality of being able to move the silk from the weavers’ workshops to the merchants in other buildings without exposing the fabric to the elements and integrated traboules into the new construction. These secretive passage ways came in handy during the French Resistance as well, as only the locals knew which buildings were connected to each other and where one could enter a building on one street and exit another building on another street.

From the cathedral we spotted a few tower-like stairwells which were probably part of the traboules.

Lyon rooftops

From the streets below, we spotted another enclosed stairwell:

Traboule enclosed stairwell

My book had a map which showed where we could find the traboules, so we began our hunt in earnest. Unfortunately, I hadn’t had the chance to read the part with the list of the traboules who’s owners had signed contracts with the city to make them available to the public. We tried one door, but it was locked. Luckily, though, a tour group exited another door as we were reading the plaque posted outside. As the guide told us we could go in, I noticed a flash of turquoise down the street and called for Winke and her man to join us. Though this was not one of the more architecturally imaginitive traboules, it was one of the longer ones, connecting four buildings through four small courtyards. From the inside, here’s the door we entered through:

Traboule entry and street access

Through these entry tunnels, one gains access to stairwells to the upper floors, the central courtyard of the building, and other tunnels continuing to the next building, or radiating to several other buildings (there is no space between individual buildings in old European cities). We did not have access to the stairs as they lead to private apartments.

Traboule enclosed stairwell

The view from a courtyard in a connected building:

tarboule arcade in a courtyard

This arcade/stairwell was unusual as it was on the outside of the building, but I suppose the alley I was standing in could have been home to another building at one time, or perhaps a building was planned but never built. Nevertheless, moving from a weaver in one apartment to a merchant in another, silk would stay warm and dry under these arcades and in this stairwell.
Another covered arcade

And to prove we were there, here’s Kathy’s and Wenche’s man’s backs as we exit through another building. Notice that this passage lacks the vaulted cieling of the other one, though based on the wrought iron, it may have had one in the days before electricity and unsightly wiring:

Traboule tourists

Here’s what these hidden mazes look like from the outside. Apart from the brass plaques, these doors look like most others in the old section of the city.

Traboule door

After checking “find a traboule” off our list, Kathy and I wandered through the old town, bought a tuna sandwich baguette and tarts for lunch and happened upon a street market. As we ambled, we wondered if we might find some of the trompe l’oeil Lyon is also known for. According to Kathy’s guide, the best examples were to be found in the newer old town, but that was on a hillside and we weren’t up for the hike. Instead, we sat on a shady riverside bench to eat our baguette. We were pleasantly suprised to look up and notice this:

Bookstore trompe l'oeile

OK, we can check off “find trompe l’oeile.” We also pefected the French “man laugh” while in Lyon. We chortled “Hough, hough, hough” all the way home in the bus. Now if I could just find the time to check off “make this dress.”

Dress I want

Onwards to the actual Expo X and quilt content in the next post!

26 Jun

Quilt Expo X

Our party bus left Heidelberg Thursday morning, so we had the evening to explore Lyon, but didn’t dive into the quilts until Friday. On Friday morning, our wonderful bus driver dropped us off here at the convention center. Lest you think there are no crowds, we had to walk into the center of this ginormous “city” to the end where the expo was held. Left to right are me, Claudia, Kathy and Christine.
My posse

Once inside we split up for a while because I thought I wanted to take a class. Ends up, the only one that looked interesting had been on Thursday. My pals started at the back and worked their way forward so I didn’t catch up with them until mid day, but that was fine as we were looking at quilts, not each other. My plan was to look for a while first and take out the camera later after I had digested things a bit. I did not seek out the prize winners, but just what struck me for one reason or another in each category. Some areas did not allow photographs as well. Overall, there were more than enough quilts to see. There was a broad range from traditional to art quilts, although most of the traditional quilts were historic. I thought the American representation was weak, but that’s probably because the créme de la créme of American quilts are headed to Huston, Paducah, PIQF, Chicago, etc. Oh yes, the “Quilt Police” do not live in Europe.

Once in the show, the first quilts to see were made especially for the Expo. As Lyon is the silk capitol of France, Soie et Lumiere was the theme chosen by the French guild. Though simply constructed and kinda puffy, I really liked the way this: Nuit et Lyon, by Françoise Fuhrer sparkled.

Nuit et Lyon by Françoise Fuhrer

Lyon Lumiere by Jeannine Leduc had a wonderful energy and used a lot of silks. The lines are all couched yarns and cords. The yellow spiral is painted.
Lyon Lumiere by Jeannine Leduc

Though not my style at all, this entry into the The European Quilter contest caught my eye. All the fabrics are sewing related and fussy cut to isolate little scissors and spools, etc. The setting triangles (or spaces behind the compas points) were filled with selvedges, and the workmanship was very capable. It’s called In die Wiege Gelegt, or “Born into It,” by Margaret Zalfen of Germany.

In die Wiege Gelegt by Margaret Zalfen

Nothing really jumped out at me from the Culture of My Country competition. There were some amazing antique American quilts there, but photography was prohibited. There was a Log Cabin quilt in particular with the teensyest blocks I had ever seen. They were probably no more than three inches square and logs no more than 1/4″ wide. And it was a full size quilt. The quilting in this collection was impeccable as well. The collection of Amish quilts was popular with the europeans, of course. A Russian group showed their quilts and some hand crafts. In general the Russian sensibility was very ornamental. Everyone really seemed to like this “pillow’ version of a crazy quilt, 100 Pieces, by Vera Sherbakowa (I liked it too):

100 Pieces by Vera Sherbakowa

Detail, 100 Pieces, by Vera Sherbakowa

It was nice to see the I Remember Mama quilts in person. I had seen so many already in publications though, so I didn’t stop to study them all. Still, things are often very different in person and you really do miss the textures and shine in print. I think my favorite is still the one of a sporty younger man in bathing shorts next to an elderly woman fully clothed and wearing a sun hat. I think it’s called Kukla and Ya-Ya but I don’t feel like looking it up right now.

Speaking of seeing quilts in person, I seem to see works on the internet or in books and put them on a pedestal of perfect piecing and quilting and craftsmanship. I really need to get out more often because in addition to those quilts which actually are absolute perfection, there is also a lot of incredible work out there which is not as “quilt police” perfect as it is in my imagination. It was really reasuring to see that aside from the creative vision, the actual construction of many pieces is quite accessible to someone working at my level. That is to say, someone who has confident hand eye skills and is comfortable with her sewing machine, but does not hand quilt like Esther Miller or machine quilt like Diane Gaudinski or Hollis Chatelaine. Now to work on that artistic inspiration… that’s the difficult part. And that’s the part I can appreciate in someone else without feeling like a failure myself. Perhaps because the artistic vision just IS while the technical skills can always be improved. Did I make any sense there?

I don’t remember which category this quilt was in, but it was the one which commanded me to take out my camera. I love the color, I love the simplicity, I love the well-done piecing, I love the neclaces which are just circles of machine quilting. I want to be able to make quilts like this which are not over the top, yet they WOW you nonetheless. It’s called Roam Free, by Margie Garatt of South Africa.
Roam Free by Margie Garatt

QuiltArt@10 was nice and I enjoyed SiX:Stories. Both were very arty, but not sloppy. I guess I seem to have a thing about craftsmanship. Husqvarna MasterPieces also had some gorgeous work, to include Mel’s Matchstick Moons. Unfortunately, that was one of the ones where I couldn’t take pictures. There were a few more themed competitions which were again nice, but nothing jumped out at me. I stopped at the SAQA: Breaking Boundaries exhibit to introduce myself to Linda Colsh. While there, juror Steen Houg was talking about each of the quilts and both why he and his partner juror chose each piece and what they saw in each of the works. It was fascinating to hear his interpretations, and so great for me to hear intelligent talk about art. Again, I don’t get out enough. The only talk I get around here is about dinner plans and what’s in the wash. Anyways, nice to be an artist for an hour.

Steen Houg guided

Behind Mr. Houg is an underwater scene by Leslie Gabrielse. I have admired his Lionfish from afar for many years and wondered just how he gets his layered, painterly look. I love this elegant combo of raw edge appliqué, hand dyed fabrics and commercial prints, crazy quilt stitching, and painting. None is over the top or heavy handed IMHO.

Leslie Gabrielse detail

I checked out the Tactile Architecture competition because my two entries were rejected. I was pleased to see that whatever the reason they were rejected was, it was probably more subjective than not, and may have had more to do with the poor slides I had than with the quality of my quilts. They would have looked just fine in the exhibit. That said, I really liked all the pieces that were chosen, so no hard feelings. Two that I really liked were Enter Here, by Jo Wolf (USA) and Altstadt, by karen Eckmeier (USA). There was another more diary like one that I loved, but I didn’t get a picture of it.

Enter Here, by Jo Wolf

Altstadt, by Karen Eckmeier

The Journal Quilts show was interesting, but on top of the rest of the show, just too much to take in. As journals, they are too personal to just look at and walk away. They need you to read the artists’ statement of what she was experiencing in each particular month. But, to read about each one was just too overwhelming for me. I did browse though, and particularly liked the ones where the artist had chosen an underlying theme for her journals and essentially did theme and variation. Call me simple.

We slolomed through the vendors, but didn’t buy much. Quilting fabric in Europe is very expensive (equivalent to $15-$20 per yard). Quilting may be an everyday hobby and an industry for Americans, but it is a treat for the decidedly middle class here. There was a patchwork damask belt/wrap thing that did jump out of a basket and wrap itself around my waist and insisted on going home with me, though. And I couldn’t stay away from the hand dyed stuff. I had hoped to find a Japanese craft magazine for the bus ride home, but ended up with a Magic Patch magazine full of fabric origami instead. Oh, and I did get some French rick rack. Very cute.

26 Jun

Expo Magic Quilt at le Sucriére

On Saturday, the majority of our group went to a mideaval town with a small quilt show. Kathy and I opted to stay in Lyon and go to the Magic Patch Expo at le Sucriére, a sugar factory converted into an exhibition site. I was supposed to meet two ladies from the online group, Texies, which I belong to. Unfortunately, I waited, but not necessarily in the right place, and didn’t meet the ladies. The photos are a bit wonky because many of the quilts were hung very high as the space had high ceilings. The quilts were mainly hung around the perimeter with booths in the middle. On the ground floor were mostly vendors, but on the upper floor were artists sharing their techniques and their artwork. It was all very open and casual. They had a few workshops too. We got a quick lesson in making an evening bag from a square of fabric while we were there.
Le Sucriére

Color Play III by Linea Hassing-Nielson of Denmark is the most unusual Pineapple quilts I have ever seen:

Color Play III, by Linea Hassing-Nielson

Another unusual piece was this one by Elisabeth LeDall. Not only does it incorporate cool origami-inspired flappy things, but she’s tucked crocheted balls between the squares.

By Elisabeth LeDall

More quilts by Russian artists. Sorry Daniela, I didn’t see any group of quilts from “Little Pieces” or Smaranda. Or maybe I did and I just didn’t know it. There were some lovely little quilts by Russian artists, but the group seemed to have another name. I liked the funky birds on this piece, Splinters of Sunny Summer, by Natasha Laritsova.

Splinters of Sunny Summer, by Natasha Laritsova

There was group of quilts by Australian artists. I think I might need to move to Australia as an understudy or something. I seem to be loving everything quilty that comes out of that country! I loved the simplicity of Approaching, by Karen Gray (hand and machine quilting and discharge dying if I interpreted it correctly):
Approaching, by Helen Gray

This is Dust Storm by Beth Miller, also Australian. Again, I was drawn to the simplicity. There’s a wealth of different fabrics below, and one perfect one above.

Dust Storm by Beth Miller

Old Pods by Jenny Bowker. I love the use of burlap as a background fabric. The prints on top make it look very mid century modern, yet it’s not trendy.

Old Pods, by Jenny Bowker

Dianne Firth had one piece at the Expo, I think in the Husqvarna show. This one was along the same lines. She essentially just uses strips of striped fabric, but of course, they are artfully arranged. This is titled The Soak:

The Soak, by Dianne Firth

If I don’t move to Australia, I think I’ll go to the Netherlands. If I liked a quilt there was a good chance it was from there. I’ve been admiring the work of Mirjam Pet-Jacobs for a while and not only did she have work both at the Quilt Expo and the Expo Magic Quilt, but she also had a little booth to show off her work and techniques. She was away when we arrived, but her colleague gave us a little demo on how Ms. Pet-Jacobs makes these cute little bowls. They’d be perfect for those knitting leftovers. Mirjam corrected me here: The small basket you showed was made by my friend and artist Rita Berghuis-Ensing; but it’s alright, I make them as well, only a little smaller.
Bowl by Mirjam Pet-Jacobs

Pentimento #4 by Mirjam Pet-Jacobs:

Pentimento #4 by Mirjam Pet-Jacobs

This is a detail of one of her other works. I like the use of crazy patching to get more depth of color into a basicly solid area. Then she doesn’t go over the top in adding a focal element.
Detail of quilt by Mirjam Pet-Jacobs

She uses these simple figures a lot. I like them. She had two other fascinating quilts without these figures, one at the Expo and one at Magic Quilt, which related to Alzheimer’s Disease. This one was by her booth, I don’t know the title. More info from Mirjam: The long narrow quilt with the armless figure is one of six panels, called The other Muses. More info about the figures (Mimis) can be found on my website.
by Mirjam Pet-Jacobs

In honor of Hans Christian Anderson, the Danish quilters showed works that related to his stories. I’m not sure if this one by Bettina Anderson was part of the group, but it was silky and glowed, and had subtle seed stiching, and reminded me a bit of Gerrie’s litturgical piece.

by Bettina Anderson

This one is Cloud Berry Swamp, by Lena Wik. I don’t know what story it goes to, but I like it.

Cloud Berry Swamp by Lena Wik

No Doubt About It by Barbara Stougaard:

No Doubt About It,by Barbara Stougaard

I liked this series of three quilts exploring color and form by Turid Lismoen of Norway.

Green Chair, Red Chair, and Blue Chair, by Turid Lismoen

Simmilarly bright, there were a bunch of quilts by Laura Wasilowski like this Pear Trio:

Pear Trio by laura Wasilowski

There were three quilts by Olivia Uffer of France. This one, Méditation, was my favorite, but they all had three dimensional additions, shiny fabrics, buttons and beads, and a wonderfull whimsy to them.

Meditation, by Olivia Uffer

This is a detail of one of the houses. It’s so perfectly constructed. I love it!

Méditation detail by Olivia Uffer

These little cuties were by Margo van Strien of the Dutch group Texuis (www.texui.nl)

Why Us and Not them

This was part of a challenge or competition with the theme Dream Gardens. It was my favorite because it is based on a child’s drawing. Well that and that it is well made too. It’s called Le Jardin de Morphée vu par Claudia, 5 ans et demi, by Michéle Clares of France.
Le Jardin de Morphée vu par Claudia, 5 ans et demi, by Michéle Clares

This entry is Magnolia, by Jutta Erner of Germany. I was supposed to meet Jutta, but it didn’t happen. So, in lieu of meeting in person, here I am as stunt double by her quilt.

magnolia, by Jutta Erner

We thoroughly enjoyed the day and were so glad that we had the time to amble through the exhibits. I had a great weekend with friends, inspiration and good food and scenery. I wish I could do it all again next weekend. Well, all except the eight hour drive.

20 Jun

Quilt Expo X

I’m going to Quilt Expo X in Lyon, France and I’m leaving very early Thursday morning. I will stay until some time on Sunday. I know this is last minute to spring on you, but is anyone elso going? Does anyone want to try and meet up, or does anyone have a particular quilt there that I should go see and maybe take my picture by so I can be your stunt double? I should also go to Expo Magic Quilt on Saturday, as a few internet friends will be there. Any takers?

20 Jun


It’s a construction site around here. I have been “building” houses and apartment buildings out of fabric. I really like my concept here. Most of the buildings are made out of the cloth shopping bags EVERYONE uses here. The stores do not bag your groceries for you, and you have to pay for plastic bags if you haven’t brought your own bags or basket. Many stores keep the boxes that the goods are delivered in so that you can put your items in a box and then the box into the trunk of your car. Shoe stores often ask if you want the shoe boxes, otherwise they will just add them to their recycling pile. Other shopping is bag-optional. Clothing stores will give you a bag, but if you buy a small item, you might be asked if you’d just rather put it in your purse.

But I digress. I like the idea of constructing a city out of something that all it’s inhabitants can relate to, and that relates to the inhabitants. I’m cutting and sewing all the pieces intuitively so that it has the character of german towns which have grown more organicly than the gridded cities in the States. I’ve used about a dozen bags so far and need to get some more. I like used ones though, but have cleared out my neighbors’ stashes. I really want one from our neighborhood bakery because it has lots of text on it and pictures of pretzels, but they have been sold out for months now. I’ll have to accost a little old lady on the street and buy hers off her. I need to try another shade of pink, and I’m thinking it needs some pale yellow. I have some white bags left, but I forsee a need for a few more.
City in progess

20 Jun

One for the Grandmas

I left the living room this morning, and when I got back the kids had migrated from their bedrooms:

Crashed on the Couch

They crack me up.  Apparently sleeping on the couch is not the same as climbing on the couch (which is not encouraged).

20 Jun

More poppies

Here are the poppies that my mom mentioned in her comment. We’re Californians, so we both have soft spots in our hearts for these. California poppies were the inspiration for my quilt, Shades of C.R. Mackintosh, and of course, the quilt was a gift for my mom and step-dad 🙂

California Poppies

And look, she sent a picture of the Flanders Poppies that inhabit her new town, Eugene, Oregon. They’re everywhere!

Oregon Poppies