Wednesday, November 29, 2006


Remember the old linens that I went out and bought on Sunday? I discovered something I hadn't originally noticed when I was trying them out for the Anne Frank quilt. One, which is an old tea towel has crocheted lace inserts at each end. On one end the initials J.J. are worked into the pattern. At the other end the date 1914. I suppose that means it is about 93 years old. No wonder it looks a bit worn.

1914 was a memorable year. It was the year the Austrian archduke Franz Ferdinand and his pregnant wife were assassinated in Sarajevo. This was the event that triggered the First World War that same year.

It was the year Charlie Chaplin created his character, The Little Tramp.

It was the year the Panama Canal opened.

It was the year our house was built.

I don't know what this all means, or what any of these things have to do with each other, but it got me wondering about the year 1914 and who made that tea towel and why they would put the year on it. And it made me wonder if, 93 years from now, someone will pluck some bit of textile that I created from a basket in an antique shop and wonder about the person who made it.

Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Nearly finished

I have almost finished the Anne Frank piece—sewing on the binding. I am showing only a couple of details because I am not sure I am supposed to be publishing this piece until I know if it is accepted for the show, but I just have to tell you that Kristin's idea for texture was just what I needed.

I ended up using only one of the linens. Here you can see that I stained it (coffee) and added some shadowing where I overlaid the foreground pieces. The pattern is strong, but I don't think it overpowers.
I needed one more small element to balance the background. When I was printing the house and the diary and star of David, I also printed some strands of barbed wire, with a thought of using those. Then I rejected the barbed wire, which seemed very harsh. But after I added the lace piece, two small strands of the barbed wire seemed the right counterpoint and provided the visual balance I needed.
This is a dark piece. It is somber. But it is a somber subject. Because it is so dark, I purposely chose a warm palette, so that it hopefully, will be about life and not about death. Hope, not hopelessness. This is probably the most serious quilt I have ever made. Every decision has been difficult. I never wanted it to verge into sentimentality or become morbid or exploitative. I hope it hasn't. There is something unsettling about the whole thing.

Sunday, November 26, 2006

Old Linens

Kristin, you may be a genious! (See Kristin's suggestion in yesterday's comments) I love the idea of using some old linens to tie all the background pieces together. I went out on an expedition this afternoon to find some. I expected Goodwill to be a source, but all I found there was the lace curtain, which I think is much too new and shiny. But I found the other two pieces, quite inexpensively because they are worn and stained, (perfect!) at an antique shop. Now I need to see if I can make them work.

Interestly, the idea of these old linens triggered a memory of staying at a pension in Berlin in 1972. Frau Nickel, the owner, was an elderly woman who had been in her house, overlooking a park in the center of then, West Berlin, since before the first World War. The once quite grand house was quite shabby by the time we stayed there. Her battered grand piano sat on stacks of bricks because, she told us, they had had to burn the massive legs toward the end of the war (WWII) to stay warm. She told us she had hidden two Jewish sisters during the war. I was, and am, skeptical of the story, but she did have a "secret" room, which she showed us, accessible only through a small door hidden behind a bookcase. We slept on lumpy mattresses and I was amazed by the bed linens, which were elaborately embroidered and trimmed with handmade lace, by then quite threadbare. The sheets were so worn as to be nearly transparent and patched so many times that there were literally patches on the patches, but the amount and the quality of the handwork on them was stunning.

Frau Nickel was a fascinating character, quite eager to tell us how hard her life had been. She said that food was so scarce in Berlin before the end of the war that the animals in the zoo were butchered and the meat distributed to the residents of Berlin. From her window, she pointed out the grave, in the park across the street, of the first Russian soldier killed in Berlin. She said she saw people walk past and spit on the grave, but said she never would because, "I thought how it would hurt his mother."

She Made Her Mark—progress

I had only one guess as to the identity of my mystery girl for the "She Made Her Mark" piece when I posted a fragment last week. I hope you can tell from this photo that it is Anne Frank.

I am struggling a bit. Now that I have the background pieces sewn down (the figure has not yet been sewn on) I feel like it needs more to achieve that collage-y background look I was going for, but I am a little bit at a loss. Perhaps more of the diary pages. Maybe some old family photos. I don't know what kind of copyright issues I am flirting with here.

When I went up to Tacoma with Gerrie and June I said I was thinking of trying to make a piece for this exhibit and asked for suggestions of women who could be the subject. One of them mentioned Anne Frank and I knew almost immediately that was who it would be. Her diary made such an impression on me when I read it as a young girl.

Thursday, November 23, 2006

Thanksgiving 1968

After posting my wedding picture and reference to my friend, Kathleen, who loaned me her veil, Kirsty jokingly asked me if I still speak to Kathleen. The truth is I very seldom talk to Kathleen, who lives quite far from me now, but I think of her and her husband, Gary, every Thanksgiving.

Kathleen and I grew up together, nearly like family. Our mothers were best friends and our families shared many Thanksgiving dinners.

In 1968 Kathleen and Gary moved to Connecticut to go to graduate school at UConn in Stoors. I had graduated from college the previous spring and I was working for my sorority (Alpha Omicron Pi) as a traveling chapter consultant. We were all far from our Idaho homes and discovering new worlds.
I spent the week before Thanksgiving visiting the chapter at Northeastern U. in Boston. It was a sad and dispiriting week. The chapter was one of the oldest existing AOII chapters in the country with a wonderful legacy of outstanding women, but it WAS 1968 and the world was blowing up in a lot of ways, both good and bad, and sorority life was becoming a symbol of elitist, old thinking and the chapter was suffering badly. The few remaining members wished to return their charter and close the chapter with some dignity. The alumnae, for whom this chapter had meant so much in their lives, were distraught and in total opposition. I felt for all of them. And I really had nothing to offer. So, at the end of this sad week, Kathleen and Gary drove to Boston to pick me up and we went back to Connecticut for Thanksgiving.

What I remember most was how happy we were to see each other, how homesick we all were, how beautiful Connecticut was and the music. Three albums. During that long holiday weekend we played these three albums over and over and any song from any of them will instantly take me back to that Thanksgiving. Gordon Lightfoot, The Rascals and The 5th Dimension. When was the last time you heard of any of them? In 1968 they were all at the top of the charts.

We cooked our first Thanksgiving dinner away from home and family, together. Kath didn't have a pie plate, so we divided the pumpkin pie ingredients into the compartments of her muffin tin. Then we forgot that we probably should adjust the baking time for these tiny tartlets. They came out of the oven looking like black hockey pucks—inedible. We made way too much stuffing but Gary held the turkey steady while I crammed every little bit into the bird. It is a wonder it didn't explode. We invited another Idaho State grad who was also going to school at UConn, whose name may have been Allen—I have forgotten—to join us. We drank a lot of cheap wine, lighted candles and sat on the floor around the coffee table (which may have been crates) to eat our feast. We laughed a lot, called our families and bravely held back our tears at the sound of their voices.

When I left I could see, from the plane window, Kathleen and Gary standing just inside the waiting area. Gary had his arm around Kath's shoulders and she was crying. I was sitting on the plane crying just as hard.

I was so thankful for those friends. I am still thankful for that memory.

Wednesday, November 22, 2006

He's aged well

Just like a fine wine!

Ray was a little chagrined by how dorky he looked in the wedding picture I posted yesterday, so I'm posting this one to show you that he's really a good looking guy. I took this picture a year ago when we were in Ecuador for Christmas.

Tuesday, November 21, 2006

36 years ago today

The wedding took place at the Pocatello First Methodist Church, followed by a reception in the fireside room, followed by dinner and my Dad's homemade wine at my parents' house. We had such a good time at the party that everyone finally made us leave and we departed for our 3-day honeymoon in romantic . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . . Salt Lake City. (We were poor, it was close—and we're not even Mormon)
I made my dress. I still think it is pretty. My headpiece and veil were my "something borrowed" so you can blame my friend Kathleen for that goofy-looking thing. Ray looks stunned, doesn't he? I only just noticed how short his rented tuxedo pants were.

We've accomplished a lot in 36 years and I see no end to the fun! Life is good.

Monday, November 20, 2006

"I must go down to the sea again . . ."

I'm feeling like I should be posting photos of work in progress, but quite honestly, it isn't happening. Seems like Ray and I keep hopping in the car and taking off for one place or another, but even when I'm home I'm distracted by other things. I got my quilt back from Houston last week and was a little bummed by the judging sheets. I shouldn't have been, but I was. Just having my quilt accepted was a big thing, but I'm a sensitive soul. (snort!) The category of "Visual Impact", which seems sort of like the bottom line, was judged "needs improvement" by one judge, "satisfactory" by the second, and "outstanding" by the third. (Clearly only the last judge has any taste at all!) When I got the photos sent to me by a couple of people who went to Houston I had to fret a bit over how insignificant my piece looked next to that brightly hued, giant head next to it. Well, my friend June told me that Houston was not the right venue for me. She may be right or I may just need to—what? Make things big and bright? Probably not.

On another note, we went down to the beach with my friend Beth ( walking partner, co-conspirator, quilter) and her husband, Ed, for a couple of days. They have a house in Seaside, where Ed grew up. They are the kind of people who live for the beach, couldn't exist without that frequent infusion of sea air and salt spray, so the house is a real labor of love—very comfy and cottage-y. This is their view from the house—not bad to wake up to!

On our morning walk we ended up at the statue of Lewis and Clark looking out at the ocean. It occurred to me that I had just recently been thinking about L&C trekking through the Columbia Gorge (see last entry) and here they were again. I like the detail of the dog with the fish in its paws.
Down the way, tucked in among houses is the reproduction of Lewis and Clark's salt cairn. Sea water was boiled in buckets set into the cairn (rock structure—oven in this case) until only salt was left. The Corps of Discovery was happy to have this salt, not only for seasoning, but to use to preserve the game they killed. The Corps wintered near Seaside at Fort Clatsop, before their return East.

I have to admit I enjoy the historic stuff as much as I do the ocean air, but it was pretty great too.
This last picture was taken out near where the Columbia River empties into the Pacific Ocean. Beautiful beach grass.

Wednesday, November 15, 2006

Road trip to Idaho

We drove from Portland to Boise (about 435 miles) yesterday and drove back to Portland today. My favorite section of that drive is through the Columbia Gorge, which is beautiful in every season. Yesterday the weather was good and the drive was spectacular and I kept wishing my camera was up front with me instead of in the suitcase in the back of the car. I finally got it out when we stopped at the the Starvation Creek (I love that name—you can read how it got the name here) trailhead. The yellow leaves were glowing with their own light, it seemed.

Today, driving home, the gorge was misty, then rainy. I had my camera up front and decided to try to capture the gorge in the rain.

The highway runs alongside the railroad tracks on the Oregon side of the Columbia. Dramatic cliffs define the gorge on both the Oregon and Washington sides. In some places the railroad tracks are actually elevated above the water of the river. Mist drifts down the sides of the rock walls and waterfalls spring from the rock. It is a landscape like no other. On clearer days heading west, you see layer upon layer of mountains down the vast expanse of the great river. You can almost imagine the Lewis and Clark party making their way along this same route toward the waiting Pacific Ocean.
The closer we got to Portland, the harder the rain came down, until we found ourselves approaching downtown in pouring rain and rush hour traffic.

And the reason we went to Boise, then turned right around and came home? We went to see the Rolling Stones in concert last night! Mick was agile and amazing and all energy. Keith was charming and bemused and, as he said, "Happy to be here—happy to be anywhere!" The band was great. The lights and spectacle made one's heart pound. The music was everything we hoped for. Sigh . . . . .

Monday, November 13, 2006

She Made Her Mark

I am working on a piece for an exhibit called "She Made Her Mark". I chose a person who I have always found very inspiring and am trying my best to make a piece that represents the qualities that she possessed and the "mark" that she made. I'm not quite ready to show progress as there are pieces that are now separate and will, at some point, come together. I am also not quite ready to tell you who the "she" is, but I would be more than pleased if you can guess from the little bit I am showing.

The hexagonal pieces will form part of the background. I do love this pattern, but it is a beast to piece, so I am taking the lazy art quilter route and fusing instead, and so far I am liking the somewhat aged, traditional feel of this part. The face is harder. It is not easy (at least for me) to create a recognizable rendering of a real person.

I think you will be seeing more of this as I progress. This was a tease, just to let you know that I am working on something.

Thursday, November 09, 2006

My quilts have even more fun than I do

I was lucky enough to have my quilt, The Weaver, (far left) accepted in the International Quilt Festival in Houston this year. This is the most famous, big deal Quilt Exhibit in the World. I did not attend the show, but two people on the Quiltart list, Jamie Fingal and Sarah Smith both sent me pictures so I could see how my quilt looked in context. This is one of the pictures Sarah sent me. Thank you, Sarah! It is fun to see what it was hanging with. It seems to be in good company—the guy on the right won a ribbon.

I also sent several postcards for the Fiberart for a Cause booth at the Quilt Festival. It was fabulously successful, raising more than $58,000 for Cancer research. It tickled me to read Deborah Boschert's blog yesterday and see that she purchased one of the cards I donated. Cool.

Wednesday, November 08, 2006

Happy Birthday, Cayo

Today is the birthday of my favorite (OK, my only) son-in-law, Carlos Julio, known to friends and family as Cayo. Cayo grew up in the beautiful city of Cuenca, Ecuador, where my daughter met him in 1998. They married in 2005 and moved to the United States this July.

Cayo has a great sense of humor. He is creative and hardworking, an excellent cook and baker of banana bread and carrot cake. In Ecuador he was an architect and he is also a talented artist. He is currently studying English and adjusting to life in a new country and city. I can only imagine how difficult all this is, yet he makes it look easy. Can you tell we are very fond of him?

Feliz CumpleaƱos, Cayo!

Monday, November 06, 2006


I was awakened this morning with a boom from somewhere outside the house and I saw, when I rolled over to look at the clock, that the power was out. A transformer had blown somewhere in the neighborhood. Rain had started during the night and I stepped out on the front porch for a last look at the fall color and fallen leaves. By tomorrow morning it will all be a sodden mass of muck. The rain is here with a vengeance.

I looked at this little dresser I brought home from a yard sale a month or so ago. I left it on the porch thinking I would work on it out there. No power meant no computer, no sewing machine. Today was a good day to finally get to it. I was planning to sand it a little then give it a nice clean coat of white paint, but when I ran a fingernail across it I found that the moisture in the air had softened the old latex paint to the point that I could peel it off in ribbons. A window scraper proved a good tool to quickly and efficiently remove most of the paint.
It was surprisingly warm out on the porch and dry enough, though the rain kept pouring down, filling the street below, making a small lake.
This is the beginning of winter. The rain is still falling tonight and the TV news (obviously the power did come back on!) was all about flooding and rain and more rain. My dresser project will have to move indoors tomorrow. Paint would never dry out there and it's going to get colder, they say.
Fall is my favorite season. It was nice to spend part of the day out on the porch today watching it slip away for another year.

Saturday, November 04, 2006

Art Quilts in Tacoma

If you are also readers of June Underwood's and Gerrie Congdon's blogs, this will seem like deja vu, I'm sure. They have already covered the wonderful day we shared together on Thursday, and their pictures look pretty much like mine, but here is yet another version and perhaps I just need to record it for my own personal record.

In case you haven't read the other accounts, the three of us took the train from Portland to Tacoma, principally to view the exhibit of Art Quilts at the American Art Company. June is writing a review for the Art Quilt Reviews web site. My friend, Carla Preston, who lives (until next week) in Tacoma, joined us and was kind enough to drive us around on that rainy, rainy day. We started with a wonderful lunch, then descended upon the American Art Company.

The piece on the right above, Toot Reid's "Twenty," seemed to be our collective favorite, though it seems to be difficult to photograph. My picture certainly does not do it justice. The photo on AAC's web site is only a little better. We were all taken by how much red there was in the quilts as a whole. The show was beautifully hung and progressed in color groupings from a primarily red wall around to a primarily green wall. With a few exceptions the pieces were stylistically and colorwise, elegantly tasteful and compatible. Almost too much so. We all agreed a little edginess and/or innovation would have been refreshing.

After we left the AAC we made our way to the Tacoma Art Museum and discovered one of those kind of wonderful surprises that you sometimes just happen across without any prior knowledge. An exhibit of work by Aminah Brenda Lynn Robinson kept us enthralled for over an hour. Her textile/sculpture/collage/paintings are so rich and so exuberant that it is hard to take it all in in one viewing. Using found objects and personal treasures, she has created a whole universe of African American memory and culture that is at once joyful, thoughtful, tragic and poignant. This was my favorite piece, using old ties and bits of batting, yarn and old quilts. (Note the size—it is quite large) You can see more about this exhibit here. It will be in Tacoma through January and then travels to Toledo, Ohio. Certainly worth seeing.

Days like we had feed me in a way that is hard to describe. Viewing art is among my favorite things to do, but doing it with like-minded friends, sharing an adventure, enjoying good food and the followup discussion of what we've seen is a kind of sustenance. The proof lies in the fact that I came home and began work on a new piece fueled by all that inspiration.

Friday, November 03, 2006

Walkers in all seasons

If you've read this blog for awhile you know that my friend, Beth, and I walk nearly every morning on the Fanno Creek Trail. You know we launched a protest against the Portland Golf Club (wierd how this link works. If you click it it looks like nothing happened, but if you scroll down below this entry you will see all the entries about the protest.) when they strung razor wire adjacent to the trail. (They ultimately removed the razor wire) You know we see ducks and herons and have gotten to know many dogs and their owners. Recently we have been picking up big maple leaves, rolling them into rose-like forms and creating a bouquet on a section of fence. We haven't walked regularly this past month because we have both been traveling, but each time we walk we add another "rose". I doubt most people notice it as they jog past or walk their dogs, but it's a silly thing we are enjoying. It will be interesting to see how it changes as the weather changes.

We have been walking for four years. We walk regardless of the weather—usually. We have wimped out a couple of times when it has been too icy to stay upright, but generally speaking weather does not deter us. We dress for the weather and one of the great discoveries we made when we started this are earbags. They are earmuffs that are not connected. They really do stay on, they are cozy warm and people say we look "cute" when we wear them. The company should be paying us a commission. Out on our walks and at Starbucks people constantly comment on them and ask us where we got them. I think we've sold hundreds for the company. And before you ask, we have gotten them locally at REI and also ordered from Plow and Hearth catalog. (Be warned—if you order from P&H they will send you emails almost daily forever)

Wednesday, November 01, 2006

P.S. to Oregon Grape

Here's a little bit of trivia that I like. The scientific name for Oregon Grape (see previous post) is mahonia aquifolium. The Oregon Governor's mansion is called Mahonia Hall. Most people don't make the connection.

Oregon Grape

I made this postcard to send to a friend who has been undergoing chemotherapy, just to say that I am thinking about her and sending my love. The subject is Oregon Grape which is not really a grape at all, but rather a bush with beautiful holly-like leaves and dark blue berries. In the spring it has fluffy clusters of yellow flowers and in the fall the leaves turn beautiful mottled red and green.

Oregon grape is one of my favorite NW plants and is the official state flower of Oregon. The berries are edible but they don't taste very good. Years ago my Dad, who was an amateur wine maker, made wine from Oregon grapes. It tasted terrible. My mother said it tasted like she imagined wine made from mushrooms would taste. So we enjoy Oregon grape for its beauty, not as a food or wine source!