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…
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)
April 7, 2012
She arrived with a heart as big as her maker’s. A red and soft heart of felt, arms wide open for me to welcome her and eyes bright and cheerful as her dress. Who was that ? “Mara”, the cutest doll I ever received, she was created by Marie’s talented hands. A gift from her heart. http://ancientcloth.blogspot.com/
Ever seen such a pretty hairdo ? Mara also came with her arms full of presents, fabrics of all sorts, reproductions of antique materials that I cannot wait to use in a quilt, just for me. Thank you so much Marie ! For having lived several years in Africa, this adorable little doll touches my heart and brings back many memories of people, places, events. A time never to forget.
My little doll from the South arrived at the same time as Spring does in the mountains. Not many colours yet to brighten the landscape but for the catkins on some trees. Patches of snow remain in the cooler areas and green grass barely starts growing on the pastures. Still, walking along those tracks in a new Spring makes you feel good, it gives you energy and joy. It makes you feel grateful too.The new Season gives you inspiration for whatever you need or plan to do, or so I feel. No greenness outside yet ? No problem ! I can deal with it and create my own palette of colours. I did so in sewing (of course) a heart of “Forty Shades of Green” for Irish friends of mine brought together by destiny. A happy quilting, I assure you. There were really forty different scraps of green fabrics for those who might wonder;)I thought this fresh and green quilted heart would be nice to send you my best wishes for a Happy Easter. Green like the hope and light that we all need, at any time. A renewal in nature as in our life. A promise of better times ahead in a troubled world. I do wish you all the best.
October 20, 2011
This past Summer was quite busy, in a nice and interesting way. Yet every time I could, I managed to save some time for myself in sewing and quilting. My way of getting away from the busy surroundings and concentrating on new projects… although there still are some UFO’s (UnFinished Objects) !
One of them was this small square of dyed cotton where I embroidered a feather for a great project initiated by Jude Hill. The fabric is dyed with a wild yellow flower called “genista tinctoria” or “Dyer’s broom”. The jay feather litterally fell in front of me one evening as I walked on a mountain track at sunset. Here are more information about this wonderful project; anyone wishing to embroider another magic feather is welcome to join. There is a description and a free instruction here too.
Months ago when the terrible disasters occured in Japan, tsunami, earthquake, flood and more tragedies, I kept thinking of dear friends living there. I had been given some Japanese fabrics and I decided to sew a quilt using those and others that I thought would fit in my project. Sewing for a better future, for a reconstruction of the disaster area by the resilient people of Japan. This is only a small portion of the quilt. It has to be looked at from the bottom to the top, starting by the huge devastating waves. The more one looks upwards, the more hopeful, colourful the quilt will appear. From distress to hope.
Also progressing, a soft lap robe for a friend who has not been well for many months. She chose the colours: brown, yellow and green. I found in my precious collection of scraps the materials and patterns that would be meaningful to her. She loves reading in the garden of the home she is in at the moment and I feel she will enjoy wrapping herself in a warm friendship quilt.
And last but not least… every member of our quilting group had to sew those small “pochettes” or pouches ? Next May there will be a large reunion of quilters in our area. We will organise this event. Each participant (about 300) will receive such a little pouch as a gift from our group.“What is it for ?”, you may ask. Ah, that is the question ! The first one who guesses its use will receive a similar “pochette”. How about that ? In fact, there could be several utilizations for this tiny pouch but we have a particular one in mind.
Bonne chance, good luck !
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.
January 6, 2011
Walking in the garden a few days after Christmas. I was enjoying a fresh and early morning sun as I spotted a branch of blackberry, shaped like a heart. A wild and stubborn bush, not ready to give in to Winter. The persistent branch made me think of this past Summer bounty and of the delicious marmelade waiting on the kitchen table for the family breakfast.
Fleeting images of particular moments during the Holiday Season. I realize that the grandfather who once was as tall as his grandsons looked now small and frail. Emotion. A moment of love shared between generations, smiles and looks of complicity that belong to the three of them only. A wonderful bond.
My activities will not resume until mid-January. These days after Christmas are “in slow-motion”. Remembering family celebrations, animated talk around the table, gifts being offered, a surprise for everyone. Each family member had decided to offer a gift to one person only chosen by drawing lots. Each one kept the secret until Christmas Day. What an excitement as the time for sharing gifts came ! I was so happy that mine was meant for my Dad! I offered him a soft warm fleece jacket in his favourite colour, grey/blue. He loved it and is wearing it almost every day since Christmas
Sidney Poitier’s spiritual autobiography is one the best I have read in a long time. “The Measure of a Man” is the story of his life from his birth on Cat Island in the Bahamas until his recognition as a great actor in Hollywood. When he was about 12, S. Poitier told his sister : “When I grow up, I want to go to Hollywood and become a cowboy “. He had just seen his first movie in Nassau, a cowboy one of course. In 1963, S. Poitier was the first black actor to win the Academy Award for best actor for his great performance in Lilies of the Field. He also received the Life Achievement Award for an outstanding career and humanitarian accomplishment.
Reading his memoirs is like having a worthwhile conversation with an older family member, his words are powerful, reflective, generous, humane and so moving. It makes you look closer at the foundations of your own life.
Looking forward to even more reading. Family and friends know me… and I received several books:
The Amish Quilts, 1870-1930, showing many reproductions of quilts from private collections in Switzerland; there are also some very interesting chapters about the origin and history of the Amish.
Matthieu Ricard, “Spiritual Paths”, a small anthology of some of the most beautiful Tibetan writings. To be read slowly too.
“Three Cups of Tea” by Greg Mortenson and David Oliver Relin. One Man’s Mission to Promote Peace… One School at a Time. I have already started reading it and can hardly stop…
“The Rothko Chapel” by Domique de Menil. With her husband, John, Dominique founded the inter-religious Chapel in Houston/Texas in 1971. The de Menil’s dream was for the Chapel to promote interfaith dialogue, human rights and the arts. I am so grateful for this gift, a beautiful souvenir of a memorable visit of this Chapel some years ago.
From Barbara, my English quilting friend, I received the loveliest Desk Diary you can imagine !
More gratefulness. To Marie, http://ancientcloth.wordpress.com/ my inspiring and creative friend; she sews and expresses herself beautifully in her quilts. Marie sent me those colourful parcels.
Wonderful handmade gifts and special fabrics I look forward to sewing in my quilts. Precious presents from here and there. Thank you so very much, Marie ! All is truly appreciated. My thoughts are with you.
January will be a slow month for me. As my friend Marah wrote on a beautiful card : “Never let the urgent crowd out the important”.
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…