Monday, April 30, 2007

The Lowly T-Shirt

There were so many highlights of our March trip to Beijing. Among them was seeing the Great Wall (can you imagine how great the rest of the trip was?). Spotting it from a distance was thrilling enough. But then to actually climb up one of the towers and be on the Wall was even better. John walked from one tower to the next, probably 2 miles total. We could still see remnants of snow and the day was brisk and sunny. John bought a souvenir shirt and requested that it be a wall hanging. The lovely greys of the shirt are perfect with the red and Imperial yellow. This wall hanging is what you see coming out of the bathroom on the first floor. So, several times a day we are reminded of our lovely time visiting the Great Wall of China. Click on the pictures to see some of the details.

Friday, April 13, 2007

Asian? Zen? Prairie?

What are Asian colors? What does "Zen" mean? What about the lines associated with Frank Lloyd Wright and his Prairie style? Asian architecture isn't exactly linear, is it? Just think about the lines of a pagoda. I'm afraid that Pottery Barn and Pier One have defined for me things that are Asian, Zen, and Prairie into a style that I should probably call Pottery One or Pier Barn. So I do have a sort of gestahlt that is emerging for Rachel's Wall Hanging.

Rachel is one of my Kennedy colleagues and someone who is on the frontline at Kennedy in the English classroom. Her students are lucky to have her because of her patience, her world view, and her respect for all. Rachel along with Susan, Corinne, Tanya and Deborah worked along side of me with our grant from the Fry Foundation, and I have a deep fondness for each one of these women. Corinne has a Christmas Tree wall hanging. Susan has a colorful log cabin that I made for her wedding - it's on the front page of my web site. I made buddy Tanya a log cabin wall hanging quilt when she bought her condo in Bronzeville. I willed Deb a piece I originally made for my Kennedy offiice, Amish Jewels, and offered to donate to the Kennedy Art Auction. It didn't get a bid, but it did wind up in Deb's house when I retired.

So, back to Rachel. She bought her first place, a condo in Oak Park, in 2005. She's been saving her Dining Room wall for me. I've known all along what I've wanted to do, but it's been one of those projects that's had a hard time gettng out of my head. The trip to Beijing in March, 2007, helped to solidify the whole "Asian" theme for Rachel. A color palette of reds, greens, black-browns, and neutrals. Strong lines with a vanishing point. Touches of bamboo and the Great Wall. New techniques like fabric weaving, pleat tacking, and raw-edge applique. Midway through the project I met with Rach to show her what I had. The one sure-fire piece in my mind used a lot a red and was a variantion on the Kimono theme. And it was the first one Rachel eliminated because of all the reds in her living room. And all along I was thinking to use brown to unify these 6 little mini-quilts. One meeting with Rachel made me realize that black - or perhaps a brown-black, should be the unifying color.

I'm excited about this wall hanging for Rachel. It's been a wonderful leap from my safety zone. Each one of the techniques I've used in this quilt is something I want to try again - and again.

Sunday, April 1, 2007

The Long Arm of Quilting

This is the most beautiful quilt ever. Of course I say that about each quilt I make, but this one truly is spectacular. Because I was making it for the bed that I share with John, I wanted to make it wide and long. Most queen quilts at 90" wide, so I wanted this one to be 100" wide. John prefers a long quilt, so the length is 114". That is a lot of fabric. I worked very hard piecing the blocks for this quilt. Since this quilt is so large and so pretty, I deciced to splurge and have a long-arm quilter work on this quilt. Normally I do my own quilting, which is straight-line and utilitarian. My machine-quilting holds the 3 layers together and reinforces the geometric lines of the quilt. Just recently I've been experimenting with free-motion quilting, but that's a skill that has to be practiced quite a bit before tackling a full-size quilt

The quilt we currently have on our bed, a white and blue log cabin, is a quilt that I had machine-quilted with an all-over pattern. That technique would not have been good enough for this Jinny Beyer "Around the World" quilt. In February 2007 I met Downers Grove quilter Judy Teska when she and I shared a 90-minute timeslot at a quilting-themed women's retreat held by the Downders Grove Congregrational Church. What a charming woman and what a talented quilter! Judy gave me the name of a long-arm quilter, Debbie of Tinley Park. Based on Judy's recommendation, I took my fabulous quilt to Debbie in February. On March 30 I returned to pick it up.

Debbie is truly an artist. She initially asked whether I wanted my blocks/design or her quilting to be dominant. When I asked her if her if the two components could highlight one another, she smiled. She suggested a varigated thread, Nordic Fjord. She worked her magic (although I must point out that she has a heavy workload and the wait time was 4 weeks). I hate to use the word spectacular again, but really it is. The photograph doesn't even begin to hint at the textural richness created by the quilting. The quilting lines are so organic and complementary to the design and the colors. It's really a work of beauty.

I can't wait to create a new quilt top that is somehow Deb-worthy.

If you're thinking this quilt looks suspiciously like the one in the Made Possible by a Grant From... in a March post, you are sort of right. These fabrics are the same, and so is the overall design. However, the first quilt posted has a Mariner's Compass center and corners. This quilt has a simpler center and corners.