About quilt making

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.

“Baroque”

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.

“Demi-teintes” (Halftones)

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.

“Enchanted Forest”


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.

“Brilliance of Pearls and Eucalypts”

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.

Just a detail to show you how transparent this organza was. The “pearls” and the leaves are the only pieces of coton/muslin  I inserted in the quilt; the pearls are covered with organza.

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.

“Un peu de tout”  or “A little bit of everything”, a common expression and name for shops or restaurants in West Africa…


“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.

“Reading in the Woods”

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.

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Art and raindrops

June 21, 2011

Rain is falling today as it did last night and part of the day yesterday. A light and persistent rain. During the night I woke up and listened for a while to the heavy drops on the roof.  A stormy weather but a cosy feeling inside the house. In the morning a shy  and scarce sun lit up the sky for a  short while;    raindrops,  swept by the wind,  looked like tiny pearls, colourful beads, like the jewels I had seen once in  an artisan´s workshop.Somewhere under those  ancient arcades a door opens into a small art studio. Two artists work there, an artisan jeweller and a potter. They each have their own workshop and share a bigger room for exhibitions. I visited this picturesque old town on a rainy day, like today, and thought why not have a look inside ?

As I pushed the door and went inside,  stones and pearls were glittering inside showcases. Precious gems that I was reminded of as I saw the brilliant raindrops today. Bracelets, earrings, pendants, rings of different designs and shades.

The potter was absent, I was not able to take pictures of his pots, vases, dishes and jugs. A look inside  his small workshop showed an apron and  a potter’s wheel waiting for the craftsman.

In the jeweller’s workshop  a necklace,  as glittering as a river, was set on a bed of pebbles.  The necklace was catching the sunrays and colours reflecting in the window. A beautiful piece of art created with silver and labradorite.

I liked the green pendant with the embedded white flower, as if floating in a jade pond. Each jewel seemed to have a life of its own, one given to them by the artisan.Are you sometimes dreaming of faraway shores ?  I suggest you go and visit Deanna, a great artist from New Zealand. Her jewelry is inspired by the shores and beautiful  nature on her island.  http://www.deanna.co.nz

Is it raining in your part of the world ? Here is a child´s poem that will  surely  keep you smiling 🙂

“If I were raindrops…

I would fall and give kisses

To the world.

Give coolness to the poor.

Cool others who are hot.

I´m clear,

I´m caring,

And I love it when you are happy!

When it´s cloudy

I have fun

And yes, you know…

I am coming.”

Poem by Jaime

 If I

carousel

June 7, 2011

A wonderful carousel of images ! This is what my camera, a Sony Cybershot DSC-W5 has offered me for almost six years. Now it is tired of this kaleidoscope of pictures from here, there and further.  We were a good team, I think,  always close, ready to point and shoot.  Sadly  it is no longer so. My camera is beyond repair and will rest now.

Until I get a new one I will post pictures from the past months and years. During a recent Spring cleaning, I was happily surprised to see how many pictures deserved to be brought to light.  Sony did a  good job  indeed ! I look forward to sharing with you some of my earlier pictures.

Let’s embark then for a another trip on the carousel and for more images  that I hope you will enjoy.

Here is a very old carousel in an open air museum in Ballenberg, Switzerland. It could have been made in Germany according to the style of its paintings.

As I was walking along the Yarra River in Melbourne, this ancient carousel  was waiting to turn and turn with the music during a big festival. Its decorative panels looked like alpine landscapes. Maybe they were painted by a European artist longing for home ?

A poem for you. Can you remember the music of your carousel, wherever it was ? I remember the accordion, lots of it !

I saw a carousel which went through the sky
With its beautiful horses, its planes and nacelles
And thousands of children of all colours,
Thousands of children laughing happily.

Turn, turn, carousel,
All around the world and show to everyone
That happy children have all the same light in their eyes.

Janine Dufour