April 26, 2013
A short, very short story.
Two cats in a garden close to my home, so close they often pay me a visit. One jump over the fence and here they are :
and Solero, the brown Bengali who reigns over our area and whose descendants are numerous and beautiful.
The garden they live in is just beginning to bloom and it is a real pleasure to look at it. What a gift to stroll through its alleys after the long Winter ! Its gardener, my friend Germaine, so loved by both cats, spends hours tending to it.
This is how Germaine’s garden looks through the eye of my needle.
A round ochre terrace surrounded by colourful bush, neat narrow alleys and a kitchen garden where flowers have nested too. In a secluded corner lies a small pond amongst pink flowers, home to golden fish and frogs.
Flowerbeds glimpsed at through Germaine’s kitchen window. Nature and beauty are all around.
Lovely and peaceful, yes, but on the other side of the fence is someone who is not in good terms with the feline crew. Worried and annoyed by the boldness of Renia and Solero, Ninio-the-Beagle shouts it loud and clear in the neighbourhood. Oh ! Happy Sunday mornings when our pets greet one another…
March 5, 2013
For the past two years, I have been sewing this quilt by hand, on and off. I started assembling fabrics after the shock and distress I felt when a major earthquake hit the Eastern coast of Japan in March 2011. The earthquake triggered powerful tsunami waves devastating everything on its way and caused nuclear accidents. Friends of mine were living in the same area. They barely escaped this disaster but so many, many people lost their life, were injured and are missing. Towns, villages were destroyed, homes broken, roads and railways heavily damaged, whole landscapes disappeared.
The quilt is better looked at from the bottom to the top. This is how I started assembling my thoughts and fabrics. Scraps of materials like the broken pieces of a familiar world that suddenly was “deconstructed” by powerful and unstoppable natural elements. Layers of fragments and leftovers remaining after the devastation. Phases of life after the tragedy.
Destructive waves moving further inside the country, over scattered parts of houses and objects that were discarded and that used to be part of people’s life.
Little by little as waves receded, life went on when men and women overcame their indescribable fear, loss and distress. With immense joint efforts, resilience and great courage, people started reconstructing homes, birds found their way in a nature that slowly came back to life.
The top part of the quilt is sewn with some Japanese fabrics. Symbols and tribute to the People of Japan, survivors of many tragedies, moving on with life courageously, great willpower and hope.
The quilt below, “Friendship Squares”, is one I sewed several years ago; it was sent with many other quilts made by quilters all over the world to various Japanese rescue associations that distributed them to people in need after the devastating events in 2011. My quilt was not very large, but I like to imagine it warmed the body and heart of a child.
October 10, 2012
Today, October 10, is the 10th World Day for the Abolition of Death Penalty. Many events of all kinds are organised all over the world for this occasion. This year the emphasis is put on the progress that has been accomplished for the past ten years regarding a universal abolition of death penalty and also on the challenges to be taken up in the future.
This quilt is a common project created in fact for the International Day against Torture and Death Penalty, I sewed it a few years ago. The many embroidered squares of cotton were sent to me by members of various Human Rights organisations in my area, namely Amnesty International, ACAT, Lifespark. Each plain cotton square has been stitched with the name of an inmate, one who is sentenced to death. Behind each name there is a life, its history and a fate which in several cases has already come to its end.
This quilt took me months to put together. It is filled with so many various thoughts and emotions. It was definitely not an easy quilt to sew. Nevertheless it was one I wanted to create with others for this special day, as a mark of our engagement for this cause.
As I sewed along, my thoughts went to these inmates, men and women sentenced to death, waiting for years in their cells, a respite between life and death. In one month, one year, ten years, even longer often, they will be escorted to the death chamber. Some prisoners receive a brief letter about their scheduled day and time of death. Others will never learn about their planned execution but in the end, all of them have to follow the guards to a chamber or a yard.
How could I not think also of the victims and their shattered families and friends ? I thought of their loved ones whose life had been changed forever in the most devastating way. Never to forget. Some families have found inner peace in a forgiving process. They are members of reconciliation groups, like “Murder Victims’ Families for Reconciliation” http://www.mvfr.org/. I truly admire each and everyone of them, as I believe forgiveness is probably the most powerful action a human being can accomplish.
Then I also thought of other families, often forgotten, their distress and deep sadness is just as immense. They are the prisoners’ families, innocent of any crime and yet having to face this ultimate punishment : the scheduled execution of a spouse, a son or daughter, a Dad, a family member or a friend.
What about some of these death row inmates who had been claiming their innocence for years and who were proved right, only too late ?
So many thoughts went into every stitch of this quilt. Such inexpressible feelings under the embroidered names of those men and women whose life or mental state went very wild, violent and uncontrollable : feelings of despair, regrets, shame, revolt, remorse, indescribable sadness, loss, hopelessness although at times Hope would shine dimly in their borrowed time.
Yet, there is Hope that one day a universal abolition of death penalty will prevail. I truly believe that Justice, anywhere, can use other means than a penal revenge to protect society from dangerous criminals instead of killing them. Is killing a good response and example for showing that killing was wrong in the first place ? “An eye for an eye and the world is blind” said Gandhi.
I expressed my Hope in choosing colourful materials, mainly African, for sewing together the various embroidered squares. As if instinctively I wished bright shades could help healing painful scars in the heart of all those concerned, in an humble and compassionnate way.
Many thanks to all of you who joined me in this project.
We were out in the recreation yard, just walking in our separate cages, exchanging thoughts. After they came to take F. back to his cell, I waited for my escort but he didn’t come. I guess he forgot about me.
I walked about until I ended up by the gate. A nice breeze was coming through the bars. The sun was shining and I closed my eyes and stood there, facing it.
The rays warmed my skin. It felt good, like when I used to stand on the beach. My eyes still closed, I saw oranges, reds and yellows, and I was somewhere else.
It was still and I could hear a bird chirping somewhere in front of me. My eyes still closed, I reached towards it but my fingers collided with the gate instead and I was at once brought back.
Still, It felt good to have been away, if for only a moment.”
More information on this World Day for the Abolition of Death Penalty here :
(Human Rights Education Associates)
July 3, 2012
A recent challenge for our patchwork group brought me behind my sewing machine. Everyone of us received a large sheet of paper cut as a triangle. We were asked to make a quilt of the same dimensions (60x50cm – 19×23 inches) using as many fabrics as we wished and free our imagination for embellishing it.
So this is how I started. Looking into my treasure-troves of scraps, I found a piece of dark brown corduroy, some jute that used to contain basmati rice, the pretty remaining material that covered one of my mother’s armchairs and a piece of polyester in various shades of green.
The result looks like this, waves of Seasons as my imagination created them.
But in between a lot of time was given as to how I would “dress” this naked triangle.
On the lower part which I saw as the colder Season, I sewed a thin twig surrounded by old tiny buttons that belonged once to my grandmother. Pebbles and snowflakes. Her small sewing table contained real treasures and an array of thread bobbins to quilt all the rainbows of the world. Simply amazing !
I added a few broken branches that were covered with a kind of colourful lichen on our plum tree. The wave of raffia is the frost of late Fall and Winter.
Moving on to Spring time…
Fields and cultures are growing on the polyester narrow strip and another light twig is showing its first leaves on a bright green silk from Hong Kong (not the easiest one to embroider !). The yellow and green fabric above is a piece of beautiful curtain found in a thrift shop decorated with golden hot rain drops in Summer. Looking up in a red Australian sky (material found in an ancient and fabulous shop of Melbourne) a kite is dancing at sunset. The next wave is made of Indian embroidered silk, I just added some beads to enlighten it.
Here you see more of this blue and purple waves. The indian embroidered silk and above it a small precious piece of organza ornated with tiny plastic flowers. Its transparence varies in shades according to the light shining on it. It can move from a light green colour to a sea blue or deep purple underneath. Truly magic to hold and observe. Its texture is as free as waves are, gliding through your fingers.
Of course I just had to add some African fabric, a blue/turquoise shade with a wave of green beads, like seashells. The orange material at the top is another one found in Melbourne, like the hot Australian deserts but also like the warm mood that surrounds Christmas time and its decorations… here an orphan triangular earring found on a trail in the forest. Imagine that !
February 2, 2012
There are all sorts of connections and ways of communicating. Some more awkward than others but…when there is a will, there is a way. Personally I love writing/receiving cards or letters. For years I have been writing to friends close by or corresponding with penfriends much further away. I also like a chat with a friend, an unexpected conversation with someone in town, on a train or elsewhere. It all brings us together. Moments of sharing and smiling that may brighten up one’s day.Not too sure what these cables were meant for but they looked very picturesque
Often friendship is built along the way. Once I received a card that read : “The long remembering heart requires no token”. And yet tokens of friendship are exchanged sometimes. In French we are used to say : “Little gifts keep friendship alive” (Les petits cadeaux entretiennent l’amitié).
Like this wonderful gift – more than a token really - I received shortly before Christmas. First surprise : the parcel came from Danemark. As I unwrapped the cheerful red and white paper and looked at the cover of the slim black book, I could not help wondering : “This picture looks so much like my own quilt !” I could not believe my eyes and I kept staring at the quilt in total amazement. Then when I recovered, my eyes went down to the title : “isathreads…”.Finally I opened the precious book and there they were : all the pictures of the quilts I posted on my blog were inside. Artfully presented on each page. A blue letter fell out of the book, words of friendship brought a wide smile on my face and a warm feeling in my heart. Thank you so very much, Birgitte, http://my2008blog.wordpress.com/
for this special and wonderful gift that has been admired more than once. It will be cherished always.
Another lovely gift I received is this pair of mittens sent by Dena, my English friend living in Italy. Our wonderful and lasting friendship started unexpectedly. By a great coincidence, we used to write to the same penfriend in Indiana/USA. Our common friend thought we might well like writing to each other too (Dena and I). As I received her address, I sent her a small card to introduce myself; she answered with enthusiasm and we never ceased writing since then. We also met on various occasions during the past ten years.
Estela is another friend from abroad, I met her on flickr. She is a talented Brazilian quilter. One day she suggested we exchanged fabrics. We started doing so and year after year we both enjoy sending gifts from the heart and from our sewing rooms. This lovely quilt is Estela’s gift for this past Christmas. Isn’t it pretty and thoughtful ? I love it.More treasures were packed in Estela’s parcel: samples of fabrics and patterns, a hand stitched piece that I will use some day in one of my own quilts. All so appreciated !A while ago I had sewed for Estela these colourful parrots. Birds like those I imagine flying in her garden near the ocean.
A token of friendship can also be a visit or a call to someone. An unexpected conversation that may bring so much pleasure. A gift of one’s own time. A phone call is such a simple and direct way to stay connected. I love those surprise conversations as I do enjoy the smile in someone’s voice when I make a phone call after too long a time.In the recent years, I have also been discovering the pleasure of blogging, of communicating with you and others all around the world. Getting to know your environment and activities, sharing your thoughts is a real gift. At the risk of repeating myself, I will say how grateful I am for all of it.
And since we talk about communicating… I must add that because of some health problem I will remain silent for a while, But I do look forward to visiting and reading you again. Take care, all of you. And be well.
August 7, 2011
Summer is a bouquet of wild violets catching the late afternoon sunrays
Summer is the scent and sweet taste of fresh raspberries just picked in the garden.
Summer is the Season when straw hats bloom under the heat.
Summer is another beautiful opportunity to play “cache-cache” (hide and seek) in the meadows with your friend.
Summer is a time for many celebrations.
In Summer roses of all shades and shapes love to blossom.
What is yours ?
June 27, 2011
Rules or improvisation ?
After reading Sherri Lynn Wood’s post in http://daintytime.net/2011/06/20/a-quilt-makers-memoir-of-rules/ , I thought a lot about rules or improvisation in the way I have been quilting for many years. Sherri is a wonderful textile artist and a great source of inspiration. Her “Improv Mondays series” particularly is a forum where quilters can exchange their experiences and learn from one another with Sherri’s encouragement and teaching. I started looking at pictures of my previous quilts and see how my own quilting has evolved over the years from rules to improvisation.
This is one of my first quilts. It is sewn and quilted by hand since I had no sewing machine yet. The materials are leftovers of curtains (silk-like) found in an interior design shop. I cut the nine-patch patterns around templates I was taught how to make. This warm blanket that has been mended countless times and I am still so happy with it. At that time I decided to name each quilt I sewed, adding a small fancy label at the back. Since I had very little knowlege about sewing, another rule was to start with easy patterns and move on slowly until I felt more or less confident with what I was doing.
When I joined a patchwork group later, we were proposed to sew a sampler of the colours of our choice. I bought the large turquoise fabric but used only scraps for the different patterns. No improvision yet for this quilt apart from the “crazy squares”; it was fun to learn new designs and techniques, like paper piecing for instance.
Later I ventured into curves. Controlled curves, mind you ! Four different shapes of curves cut with the cutter and assembled together according to colours and forms. I enjoyed this immensely for the surprise it created and the many variations. Not endless though, I knew there was more to learn and improvise about it. Another rule was : explore, try new techniques for a wider form of expression, even if it is not “perfect” according to some rules. Letting go of definite shapes and lines whenever I felt like it.
One of my all time favourites is this light quilt made in a very thin and sheer material, organza. There were also leftovers given by a friend who sewed the most beautiful little handbags.
I very soon realised that, wanted or not, there would be curves ! And folds and bumps and total “un-evenness” (if such a word exists in English;) The organza kept sliding under my fingers, there are few straight lines in this quilt. And guess what ? I simply loved it ! This quilt was and still is very alive, moving like a feather in its lightness and irregular folds. Another lesson I learned there : accept the fabric as it is, play with it and follow its weaving or movement while sewing. It gives more “character” to one’s quilt, I find.
Of course I have continued sewing with African fabrics since I came back home from a five years stay there. Improvisation came naturally, just by assembling colours and designs the way I thought they would complement one another.
“Africa in red and black”
Now I am trying to improvise in creating quilts that I sew for a particular person or occasion, in memory of someone or to remember a moment, a place, anything that I want to keep alive. Some quilts take time and much thinking, chosing the materials and design that will best show what I feel. I started this particular quilt over a year ago. It could be a “passage quilt” although no personal materials/clothes were available. This picture shows just a part of it, the correspondance that brings sunshine when one’s life is confined. I keep adding stitches and patches here and there as I remember events.
“R. quilt, letters”
Nowadays my quilts vary. I may sew some traditional pattern like the Seminole quilt I made a while back which was a real challenge for me. I may also follow my inspiration and put together scraps or carefully chosen fabrics and try to materialize an image, a thought, a memory. A way of expressing myself. Those are the quilts I especially love. No real “rules” as such, apart from some basic techniques but a lot of improvisation as I move along with pieces of fabrics and thoughts. For the pleasure of quilting.
Detail of a quilt where I joined the watercolour technique – learned in a great book by Gai Perry, “Impressionist Quilts” and my improvisation. I made books with selvages of various materials. A wonderful project based on a challenge about a French philosopher and writer, Michel de Montaigne.
Books and quilting, two of my favourite hobbies. Thanks Sherri Lynn for having brought up these thoughts about one’s way of quilting and expressing it.
May 20, 2011
Another step in my WIP-quilt (work in progress). A passage quilt for a friend who passed one year ago. Little by little thoughts and memories come to mind and I add this or that piece to the vast puzzle of a life.
Excerpt of a letter received several years ago, memories of a particular day in someone´s life :
“I am at the beach with my family. I must have been 10 years of age. A small and skinny boy. I loved to swim and I’m swimming out … far. In my mind, I am swimming out so far where nobody will ever find me. I have swum out so far that everybody on the beach looks like tiny specks. I get the feeling that sharks are swimming near me and I frantically swim back as fast as I can. Once back on the beach I’ve got to run along the coast to find my family. I see one of my brothers and am relieved. I see that he has a bologna sandwich in his hand and I run to the car to get one myself. Seagulls are flying above and I toss a piece of bread up to them. The seagulls flock around, waiting for more. I take a slice of bread when my mom is not watching because she has told me to leave the birds alone. I am fascinated by them and want to catch one but they get in flight too fast for me. I watch them fight for a piece of bread and, as one seagull drops it, a mad rush to the sand ensues. I wrap a shell in bread and toss it up so a seagull will drop it. I run to catch a seagull as they come down but they quickly see me coming and I watch as they take flight. The sun has tanned me good. I attempt to bury myself in the sand and I watch the seagulls soar above me”.
April 15, 2011
For the past month the internet connection in our home has been less than satisfactory. I will spare you the technical details but in short it has become more difficult to get a reliable and lasting internet connection. It has also something to do with the age of my PC If I add that my camera (not the youngest one either) has been acting strange lately, you may understand my distress about these technologies I was never an expert in anyway. This is to explain my unwanted silence on this blog. I regret it but little by little I will visit you again and look forward to these moments indeed.
In the meantime… Spring has arrived here too. Rapidly, beautifully and unexpectedly warm. In the 20-23°C over the past few days although in the past days the North wind has lowered the temperature by ten degrees. Brrrr…
Not sitting much in front of my stubbornly silent and empty screen, I spent more time in the garden; I read or finished reading several books. I also spent more time in the room that used to be a playroom and now is a music and sewing room.
Do I see you smiling ? Don’t worry, I am not trying to compete with the drums when my son is practising “Ska music” with his group. The sewing machine remains silent on those occasions… but when the room is quiet my sewing machine is playing its own tune, music and inspiration are in the air !
This is a wonderful and inspiring book by Janet Bolton (Patchwork in an orchard) about “appliqué” in patchwork. My friend Marie, in http://ancientcloth.blogspot.com/ mentioned it a while back in her blog and I was delighted to find a copy of this book in a second hand bookstore in town.
La Pléiade is also the name if a well-known collection of books from authors of all horizons . Precious books with soft leather binding and thin pages (onionskin) that one turns slowly and with care. I was telling about it to Janice, another friend and multi-faceted artist, http://postcardsfromwildwood.wordpress.com/ as I replied to her comment in my post about it. I chose Tolstoi and his “Carnets”; he is an author I like to read and re-read now and then. Classical and insightful works that fascinate me.
And of course, another favourite books of mine, Barbara Kingsolver’s “Animal, Vegetable, Miracle” is one I read slowly, month after month. There is so much to learn about living more simply, eating locally, being responsible for one’s own decisions and acts regarding our environment.
Regular walking through my colourful garden brought much pleasure. This constant renewal of Nature in the Spring is always such a wonder and pleasant discovery.Poppies, wild primroses, cherry trees blossoming or anemones, all are so welcome after the cold and not so bright Winter. I really hope you are enjoying the same wonderful feeling.
February 21, 2011
No, Summer has not come yet in Switzerland far from it ! These pictures were taken last Spring when I almost finished the top of a quilt started one year earlier, in January 2009. It is a calendar quilt. Each month I sewed together 30 or 31 pieces of different materials – scraps from other quilts - according to the Season or to a particular day : a heart for Valentine’s Day in February, roses for June or a bare trees pattern for November, for instance.
January, February, March
April, May, June
July, August, September
October, Novembre, December
The months being all sewed, I still had quite a few scraps left. Scraps of scraps… Beautiful ones too. So, what to do ? Thankfully was inspired by another quilter’s work and decided to sew together all those real small left-over pieces. It was quite an adventure, one which created an incredible amount of threads and tiny fabric confetti that spread (I spread involuntarily) all over the house.
“Why are you making this “Benedictine work”" asked my Dad one day as he was visiting us ? (a French expression meaning a painstaking task, “un travail de Bénédictin”). An expression that most certainly was related to the immense work these monks accomplished when they copied manuscripts of classical authors and so preserved valuable books that otherwise would have been lost. The Benedictine monks also kept records of the most striking events of their time and acted as chroniclers of the medieval history of the Middle Ages. So much for history and quilting
Which reminds me… I must bring you some day to an interesting museum in my town : The Gutenberg Museum.
Now, to go back to the calendar quilt, my idea was to border it with more beautiful scraps. Which I did.
Underneath are a few examples of these borders before I added them to the quilt.
And here is the end result, a quilt of about 1m50 x 2m20. I am very happy to have given a sort of “second life” to my scraps . I feel like using more of them in the future and I certainly will. Many colourful scraps are waiting in various ancient tin boxes to be part of another quilt.
Quilting and embroidering the names of the months still need to be made but this is probably my favourite part and I look forward to this. A very relaxing work where thoughts and stitches meander along the quilt.
Et pour Karma, http://karmardav.wordpress.com/
another picture in close-up of the three months, January, February, March.