January 22, 2011
This is one of my favourite quilts. I sewed it some years ago using African fabrics only. It is rather small (1m x 80 cm) and it is made with scraps of materials from various countries in West and Central Africa. A long road along the markets of Mali, Niger, Burkina Faso, Congo.Most of its patterns are symbolic. These simple cotton fabrics are textile words. Those who know their language can read the social status, the affiliation to a particular brotherhood, culture or the area the materials were designed in and on what particular occasion.
This pattern was printed on a traditional African dress called boubou. I was told it represented jewelry (earring ?). The name of this piece of material is : “My husband is rich”. Obviously !
I could not find the designation for all patterns but thanks to a wonderful book (at the end of this post) there are a few I can share with you.
Women grinding millet, a daily work in African villages.
Warriors´ signs. On the left there is “The Brave´s Belt” (ce farin jala). A symbol of the belt a soldier or a warrior wears around his waist before setting off for battle. On the right, a mask or a shield.
“Of threads and words” could be the translation for this wonderful book featuring many precious pieces of clothing belonging to kings, heads of tribes, clans or areas of various cultures in West and Central Africa. Sometimes symbols have been sewed or weaved on bark or raffia clothing. These unique pieces have been also represented on more common sorts of materials. As on the cotton fabrics I collected here and there.
What I cannot share with you here is the soft touch of the local cotton. A lot of materials I used have been worn, washed on stones along a river or in a pond, then dried in the hot sun. The original colours have vanished a little but the cotton texture has sometimes become as soft as silk or muslin. So pleasant to sew and quilt !
November 7, 2010
In attempting to keep the younger one (but not the quietest) longer at home, the abuela (granny) tells him once that at midday, when the church rings its bells, the devil is let loose so that he can get all the bad kids who are still outside…
September 2, 2010
Like moments in a life. A WIP or work in progress that I will share with you as memories come back and inspiration helps them taking shape. I will try to blend in memories, my own perceptions of events together with fabrics, colours, patterns. Anything that will help illustrating someone´s life.
Circles that could be the years of a life, like tree rings. They appear smooth and regular although some entangled rays encircle those rings. They are joyfully radiating from the core of this life and also somehow confusing in their dispersed directions. Life in its fullness.
In the South the light is bright at sunset; a few drops of rain have refreshed the valley. A day of laughter and smiles, and maybe also of tears and darker thoughts. Life is never a long quiet river. One goes through so many emotions during a lifetime.
Then in the morning the sun shines anew over the luxuriant vegetation; a bright sun of hope whose rays warm one´s heart. Dreams may come true.
May 9, 2010
The mother was standing at the side of a country road on the highlands of Madagascar, her baby snuggled on her back. She was selling wild flowers and a few oranges, tomatoes, rice and this special kind of spinach they grow there, “brèdes” (a French name I found no translation for).I stopped and asked to buy the flowers and some tomatoes. I never tasted again such sweet tomatoes. The lady was shy, her baby curious and serious. They both looked so beautiful and in harmony, I asked her could I take a picture, please. The taxidriver translated this for me, she agreed with a half smile. Then a rapid conversation went on between the mother and the driver. I was to give the picture to her later. She never had had a picture of her and her baby. I did drive to this area again some weeks later, stopped in the curve and climbed a steep earth track to a hamlet of red houses. They were of the same colour of the soil, as if they had grown out of it. By the time I arrived, I was surrounded with children who screamed of excitement and brought mothers out of their homes. The shy lady was there, she embraced me gently and looked, and looked again at the picture, hardly believing it was her and her baby ! Emotion and laughter and… more demands for pictures
I took more pictures (with my precious Nikkormat!) and for some unfortunate reason, they were lost at the photographer’s in town. The mother and her child is the only one I still have of this episode. The village I went to looked very much like this one. This tapestry (cross-stitching with local wool on the lining of a well-worn carpet I was going to throw away !) is a unique gift I received from a dear friend as I left Madagascar.
So, these are my thoughts and good wishes for all mothers today, we celebrate their special day. Happy Mother’s Day to each and everyone of you ! A loving thought also for all mothers who will not celebrate with us but who stay in our heart forever.
Des mots d’enfants, kids sayings… and others’ who were kids too
“When mom is tired, why do I have to go to bed “?
“For the others, my mom may not be the most beautiful, but when one looks at her with My eyes, she is the prettiest”.
“A mother who tucks you in bed leaves behind a scent of sleep”
“Mothers always forgive; this is why they were born”.
“A mother’s love is like air : so obvious that one does not even notice it. Until one misses it”.
April 14, 2010
I have been away from the computer for a while,
Enjoying a timid Spring awakening in the Alps,
Sunny walks along mountain tracks,
Exuberant birds’ songs at all hours.
Quiet reading and sewing,
Happy meals with family and friends,
A pause at Easter, a time to reflect
While wondering at Nature’s revival
And new inner paths.
Eggs, you find them everywhere around Easter time ! Mostly chocolate eggs over here ;) Not all though; those are carved in various semiprecious stones from Madagascar. I got them as I lived in this great island and visited market places, craftsmen’ workshops.
You may be interested in reading a few lines about eggs and their symbolism
Almost every day during Easter time, I walked along a narrow irrigation canal (the local name is “bisse”). Sometimes on wooden paths or bridges, but mostly on mountain tracks barely freed from snow. The very first flowers were blooming on the dry slopes. Delightful !
Sewing and reading, two of my favorite hobbies. The “grandmother flowers’ garden” is still growing and blooming… since it is sewed by hand, I like to bring it along wherever I travel and I added quite a few hexagonal flowers. Spring mood and also the wish to see this quilt finished at last. A low table has been waiting to be covered for… quite a while.
In my favourite second-hand bookstore I found a wonderful book by Alice Munro (Ontario, Canada): “Open Secrets”. Shorts stories about women that take place over several generations from 1850s to the present, from Canada to Australia, the Balkans and France. Unconventional women who never wanted to be contained. I so enjoyed each story! Alice Munr0′s writing is simply superb. Her characters never leave you. I already know that I will read more of her.
“In the mountains, in Maltsia e madhe, she must have tried to tell them her name, and “Lottar” was what they made of it. She had a wound in her leg, from a fall on sharp rocks when her guide was shot. She had a fever. How long did it took them to carry her through the mountains, bound up in a rug and strapped to a horse’s back, she had no idea”…
(First lines of “The Albanian Virgin”, a short story by A. Munro – just to make you feel like knowing more…)
How about you, what are you reading right now ?
March 30, 2010
And a Happy one too ! The top of my Séminole quilt is finally sewn together. It is not quite finished though, I may add a colourful border – pink ? turquoise ? yellow ? See what materials are still there… All are recycled fabrics and there are not many left in those shades now.
Then slowly but surely I will start the handquilting. Not on the patterns themselves (too many seams) but rather on the plain stripes, black or coloured. A slow work I will enjoy doing during the Summer months, often as I sit in the garden. Hopefully the temperature will be milder as when I took this picture
This is the last picture I made of the stripes before I sewed them together, cutting some of the wide black parts and adding here and there a few colourful left-over materials and patterns.
What a warm and colourful Winter it was !
February 7, 2010
Although Winter has its particular beauty, and a dormancy that seems to quieten down everything around you, there is one aspect that I miss a lot : a colourful vegetation. Of course there are some Winter colours that brighten up gardens, parks or forests. Moss, bays, leaves, lichen, cones and the occasional bushes that keep their warm shades all Winter. Leaves or branches. Green is probably the colour I long for more than any other.
It is the time of the year when I like to sew “colourful”. Two projects are on the way – Seminole and calendar quilt – their bright shades are a real pleasure to look at and they add this cheerful mood in the thickest of fogs outside the window. Recently I sewed a small garden for my friend Else in the Netherlands. She loves flowers and her garden is a joy to look at and to walk through.
So I chose amongst my fabrics those flowers I imagined Else would plant in her garden and this is the result :
Flowers from here and there sewed directly onto a piece of green linen, rough edges around the fabrics. I added a special Swiss material with a black cow, some rhododendrons, pine trees and a deer to remind her that she should visit me in the Alps during Summertime
The back of the quilt is also decorated with flowers. I called it “Delft garden” from the beautiful blue and white Delft pottery made in the Netherlands. Those materials were like our Winter, in a state of dormancy in some boxes. Now they are alive on Else’s quilt and who knows ? those flowers may well bloom in the Spring in her garden ?
December 18, 2009
December 17 would have been my mother’s birthday. This is one of the first quilts I sewed for her. A Christmas gift that she always kept close to her. She loved it. She left this world on December 22nd, six years ago and I like to think of her as the most brilliant star in the sky. Soft, luminous, always present.
This quilt is also one of my first attempts at patchwork. It is definitely not perfect but it carries a special meaning for me, especially during the Holiday Season. It is on one of my walls at home now and I see the sparkling smile of my mother.
December 14, 2009
Slowly but surely, home looks more and more “Christmassy”. Quilts, stars, crown, pine cones, baubles were all sewed along the years. They add a colourful touch inside the house whereas outside trees are bare and bent by a strong and freezing Northern wind.
I just started decorating the Christmas Tree too, one I bought in the village. Every year the funds of this sale will help children go to a ski-camp for one week. This year I fixed decorations in the upper part of the tree only. And of course, no candles nor small chocolate figurines !
Ninio is a great acrobat, there is no obstacle for his stubborness. And his curiosity for novelty is… boundless !
November 21, 2009
Last January I started sewing two different quilts. One is a calendar quilt: every month I would sew 30 or 31 (or 28 !) pieces of different materials, according to the Season. The twelve months are ready, I just need to figure out how to put them all together.
The second quilt is made with Seminole patterns. The art of patchwork created by this Indian Tribe of Florida always fascinated me. The extreme precision needed in sewing together those various patterns prevented me to make more than a few small pieces in a sampler, for instance.
The instructions for this quilt were well explained in the Austrian Patchwork and Quiltjournal. One different stripe and pattern each month of the year. I used fabrics left from previous quilts. 2009 is a “scraps-year” for me, both quilts are made of scraps and I barely managed to finish the twelfth stripe of the Seminole. I had to cheat a little bit… you will see this later
There is still a lot to do ! Black coton will separate each coloured strip, top and bottom. To avoid having too much “dark”, I will sew a narrow stripe of a colour of my choice – and still in stock ! – between the two black parts. A border will be added, of course. Only then will I start the hand quilting, mainly in the black parts.
The colours I used are not those proposed in the Quiltjournal but they were the ones I had in stock: turquoise green, dark blue, dark red (burgundy), pale yellow, pink and a mixed pattern with some of the other shades. I am quite happy, I think they blend in nicely together. What do you think ?