Category Archives: Quiltlandia

As the page turns… in the real Portlandia!

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Go ahead and judge this book by its cover.

Go ahead and judge this book by its cover.

Grieving is hard. It’s long. It does you in. It doesn’t end. Some days getting out of bed is the most courageous act you can imagine. And accomplish.

I already know I will be grieving Blaine the rest of my life. You have no earthly idea how much I miss him. Just to exchange one more glance, I would give everything. To see him smile. The universe for one more hug. The chance to say goodbye.

In what now seems clearly a survival strategy, I actually managed to finish the book I was working on when Blaine left. I dove headfirst into a deep and consuming project. Not only were the words my responsibility, but also the design and layout. And know this: when the author does the layout, the words seem never to be finished. Catch that typo. Use a different turn of phrase. Put in that cool thing you forgot. So it takes longer than it takes. (Credit to an old friend, Paul Nyrczinski, for that aphorism: “Things always take longer than they take.”)

But it finally got printed. And delivered to us. You can see a video of Joyce and I opening the first copies here. And we have a real live website and everything, look here.

Since the shipment of three pallets with 2,500 books arrived, we have embarked on a marketing campaign so we can sell the books and recover our costs. Yes, we self-published. It’s our very own necks on the line.

So far, in addition to purchasing the book from our website, you can buy it in a growing number of retail locations. Powell’s Books, for example (all stores except the one at the airport)! Did you know you can order from Powell’s online and pick it up in a store without any shipping cost? Or you could buy two books and they would be shipped for free!

The book is also available at a number of New Seasons Markets. Multnomah County Library has it (OMG, all copies are checked out right now, they better order more!!). Other bookstores like Broadway Books, Reed College Bookstore. Quite a few quilt/fabric stores: Cool Cottons, Fabric Depot, Pioneer Quilts, The Pine Needle, A Common Thread, Greenbaum’s Quilted Forest, The Cotton Patch.

And soon it will be in Made in Oregon. And who knows where all. We are relentless in our marketing efforts. By the end of this, we should be able to write a book about marketing a book. Not that that’s never been done. 🙂

We are proud of our book. We think it will appeal to a whole lot of people:

  • people who live in Portland and want to discover what they don’t know about their home town
  • people who visit Portland (or want to) and want a tangible record of their experience that goes way beyond a phone full of selfies,
  • quilters who have always wanted to see quilts in a leading role, and
  • every person not in the above categories

So we think you might fit in there somewhere. Check it out!

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My perspective on Modern Quilt Perspectives

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This is the first book review I’ve done about a quilt book. It may be the first book review I’ve done about any book. I really don’t remember. Just please note this is an extraordinary circumstance. And it came about because when I commented on an announcement of the book on Facebook, the book’s author asked me to let him know what I thought.

There seems to be something called a blog tour going on about the book, but this is not part of that, I don’t really know how those things work. I’m not (yet) part of the larger quilting community, though I’d like to join. 🙂

I had preordered the book Modern Quilt Perspectives from Amazon based on reading some of the blog posts Thomas Knauer has written over the past couple of years. I first discovered him when I was pondering questions like whether quilts are art or craft, what’s the difference between modern and traditional quilts, etc. If you want to learn a whole lot, start with his post A Brief History of Modern and follow the links to subsequent posts. (But I can’t find the 4th in the series?)

So when I heard he was doing a book about Modern Quilting I knew I had to read it.

Cover of book Modern Quilt Perspectives

Cover of book Modern Quilt Perspectives

Here’s the thing: I think this is the first quilt book I’ve actually read like a book. I mean I own plenty of them, but now I realize I don’t read them, I use them. As one uses recipes from a cookbook. I look at the patterns and figure out which ones I want to make and read the instructions to see if I am patient enough to follow them. Then the real fun begins: what fabrics to choose, how to make it my own. I read a paragraph or page here and there to help with a particular task.

There are some I plan to read like a book, even start at the beginning, but soon I find myself paging through to see what the author’s approach looks like… to look at the quilts, searching for inspiration. If it’s a Kaffe Fassett book, I look at them again and again, trying to discern what makes his fabrics and quilts so appealing, why they make me so happy. But even that isn’t like reading a book, it’s more like devouring it with my eyes.

But Thomas’s book is different. First, it must be said that he is just effing brilliant. I don’t say that often. Hardly ever, in fact. It’s not just that he knows so much about art history and quilt history and puts them in a cultural context. He also thinks about what it all means. And his quilts so simply and beautifully illustrate his insights into those meanings.

Each quilt is accompanied by a short and accessible story or essay explaining how it came about and why it matters. For example, how quilting and community are connected. The role of individuals in a healthy society. What identity means. How babies are made. Social commentary and political expression.

My favorite might be In Defense of Handmade, which uses the bar code of a mass produced quilt as the pattern. How freaking brilliant is that?!? The quilt could serve as the poster child and its essay the manifesto of the maker movement.

At the same time, the book is filled with little gems in boxes…like about using tonal fabrics, aiming for randomness. How to get beyond symmetry. And techniques for achieving quilts I had never imagined, like joining four small quilts into a larger whole with loops and buttons.

He’s also so very observant, of very big and very little things. For example, one of the quilts in the book is made of multiples of the letter H, because when he and his daughter were walking in the sun holding hands, she pointed out that their shadow was an H. The fact that he was attending to her, noticing what she said, being so inspired by it that he designed a quilt and then included her in the making of the quilt shows her that her ideas matter. She matters. Imagine our world if every child grew up with that. When I see and hear this story, the letter H also becomes Hope for Humanity.

Most of all, Thomas encourages readers to use his book as a point of departure in their own quilting journey. It explained a lot of things that made my own progression make more sense and why I’m at a kind of crossroads now. I don’t think I would know I am here if I hadn’t read his book.

When I first started quilting, I was learning techniques. Enough to follow very simple patterns. I even made one from a kit!

I picked fabrics I liked but didn’t know to pay attention to how the fabrics worked with the pattern, or not. Often not in my case.

Once I felt comfortable enough with technique, I focused on fabrics with gorgeous saturated colors, then looked for a pattern that would let it glow. At this point I just wanted to make quilts that were beautiful. Something to eat with my eyes.

After shit happened

After shit happened

Blocks before shit happened

Blocks before shit happened

But then that was no longer enough. One day I made blocks with colors I thought looked great together and were “on trend” but looking at the top laid out on my design wall I was overcome with a feeling of utter boredom. I mean, the colors were pleasing and all, but just. so. boring.

So I timidly slashed some of the blocks and mixed up their order. Making “mistakes” on purpose. Basically trying to deconstruct the boringness by introducing unpredictability. Which is inherently more interesting to me than the blandness of every square the same size, a pattern repeating. A funny footnote on this quilt: Every mistake was on purpose until I got to the very last piece in the very last block in the sequence, the one in the bottom left corner, when I inadvertently sewed the last seam with the wrong side of the fabric facing up. I started to rip it apart to resew then started laughing as I realized it was the perfect period on the quilt that I named Shit Happens. (And I thank Thomas for helping me feel it is okay to use the word shit.)

Settling/Unsettling

Settling/Unsettling

My next quilt was one I designed to convey differences among settlement patterns. Drawing from my academic background studying geography, I tried to take the concept of differences between gated communities of large private estates and inner cities that are crowded and chaotic and illustrate the different feelings they evoke. That when settlements have too much order and privacy they can lose serendipity and liveliness. And why I would rather set myself up for unexpected discoveries and unforeseen moments even when it means giving up security and control and comfort.

I used a print collection by Malka Dubrawsky (from moda) to help make this point but after reading Modern Quilt Perspectives, I have enough confidence to try expressing myself relying less on the fabric and more on my own design.

While I will still make quilts because they are beautiful (especially as long as there is a Kaffe Fassett Collective!), now I know that I will seek more meaning whenever I start cutting fabric for my next quilt.

Yes, I’m aware that this book review has turned into an examination of my own quilt journey, but it feels like that’s the way Thomas Knauer would want it. And that’s why his book matters so much. And why you should read it.

My Cinderella Story for March Madness

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The idea and general design for this quilt came to me in a dream. Seriously. Fortunately, I remembered it when i woke up. For once.

And then Blaine helped me with the important details. Like what the brackets are all about, what seed plays what seed in the first round, etc. etc.

Basically, it tells the story of an entire March Madness tournament, from the first round to the championship game. And has fans in the bleachers and watching on tv.

It was really hard to get everything right. In fact, I’d have to say it was probably the most difficult quilt I’ve made to this point. I had to figure out the pattern and how to make it all fit, and of course rip out and resew it in quite a few places.

It’s called Cinderella Story because the lowest ranked team in the weakest bracket ends up taking it all. You can follow the story in the quilt pattern. It’a a really big quilt, so I couldn’t really figure out where to hang it to get the whole thing in one frame, but I did include it in the adventure Joyce and I undertook to depict my quilts in iconic Portland locations. Maybe there’s enough showing to give you the general idea.

Ric and Blaine are at the Rose Garden at this very moment watching the second round game of the 2012 NCAA tournament between Indiana and New Mexico!

Last week, it occurred to me that it would be cool to put the quilt on display for the tournament, I emailed the Rose Garden and someone there was kind enough to reply quickly, but had the disappointing news that there are so many NCAA rules about what can and can’t be displayed that they were having to remove lots of things. So I told her thanks and that I would just consider it the NCAA’s loss. 🙂

But I’d like to point out that in this year’s tourney, there were two near-Cinderella stories in the first round, with two #15 seeds knocking off #2 seeds.

So maybe there will be a Cinderella story for my quilt. Maybe, just maybe, despite the odds and NCAA rules, someday my Cinderella will be invited to the Big Dance.

Quiltlandia: Quilters Just Wanna Have Fun

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I started this in a Trash to Treasure Pineapple Quilts workshop taught by Gyleen Fitzgerald  that Joyce and I took together here in Portland. Joyce and I exchanged pieces of fabric scraps and sliced them into strips prior to the class. Gyleen’s approach made the class a lot of fun. Joyce and I really enjoyed it and were secretly proud when she named us the renegade members of the class.

I used Kona’s zucchini color for the solid to set the exuberant strip pieces against. As I flew around Portland one morning taking the last photos of quilts two days before my show, when I passed one of the Facing the Crowd bronze face sculptures by Michael Stutz outside Jeld Wen Field, I had a sudden inspiration that this quilt just wanted to have fun sticking out its tongue. I knew Gyleen would appreciate this choice.

An interesting side note is that I finished this quilt during the week of vacation we were supposed to spend at Prineville Reservoir last June, but Blaine’s sudden illness and hospitalization derailed that plan. Making the quilt was my way of healing from my fear and worry that surfaced during that episode. I guess you could say the quilt represents the celebration of healing in our whole family.

Quilters Just Want to Have Fun Facing the Crowd

Quiltlandia: The World Is Made Better By Flowers

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This is a simple quilt, with squares arranged so the design is diagonal across the body of the quilt. The fabric is a variety of large scale (some so large they are ginormous) floral prints I collected over two or three years. The scale is so large in some of the prints only one petal is contained in the square. I did that on purpose, I just wanted a riot of color. You probably also noticed a kind of rainbow effect in the order of the colors, it was fun to figure out how  to arrange them.

I more or less improvised the border fabrics, with the primary one a geranium print with wonderfully rich greens and reds.

I started this quilt when my mom and I worked on sewing projects while we spent a week or so at the River House in Bandon by the Sea a few years back. That’s why it has a special place in my heart.

A floral quilt in a floral yard. With dog.

Quiltlandia: Share the Rack

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The name, of course, is a play on Share the Road, a bumper sticker frequently on display in Portlandia, where bikes pretty much rule.

There is a sorta interesting backstory about this bike shelter. The Hawthorne Bridge was closed for repairs for a seriously lllloooooonnnnnngggggg time a few years ago, seems to me it was closed for a year and a half or maybe even two years. Soon after we got our bridge back, however, a movie crew took it over for a few months to film a number of scenes from the movie The Hunted. Our patience had worn very thin so there were a number of complaints from the Portland citizenry. To placate the public, the movie company promised to build a covered bike shelter on Hawthorne Blvd. as a kind of “thank you” gift.

This is that very bike rack.

I used several prints from the periwinkle blue and green Pretty Bird fabric from Michael Miller. I think this would look especially fine on a tweenager’s bed.

Share the Rack: Quilts AND Bikes

Quiltlandia in Portlandia: Swaddle Me

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I’m going to post photos of and a bit of narrative about all the quilts in my Quilt Show at Bed Mart in the Pearl for First Thursday in October 2011. Joyce and I scampered across the city taking photos of my quilts set in iconic Portland places. This is the statue of Vera Katz on the Eastbank Esplanade.

I named this one Swaddle Me, a hashtag that @BravoAndy uses to very humorous effect. I dunno, maybe you had to be there. 🙂

I had a lot of trouble getting into a rhythm making this quilt. For some reason, I didn’t grasp the fact that it mattered what order the little pieces are when attaching the strip blocks to the larger whole block. If you look closely, you’ll notice that the two strip blocks on each side of the larger blocks are the reverse of one another. Unfortunately, I didn’t notice that when I started and had sewn quite a few together before it dawned on me.

I didn’t buy any fabric for this project, using only what I had in my stash. Which wasn’t really a problem because I had collected a number of blue and purple and teal fabrics over time for a ridiculously complex idea I had that involved peacocks. Fortunately, I came to my senses before I embarked on that project, hence I have a plethora of blue/teal/purples tones. I’m not sure you can tell from this image, but some of the fabrics in this quilt are prints of peacock feathers.

This is not a hard quilt to make, especially if you are aware of what I overlooked. Cutting the small pieces is a little tedious, as is sewing them together, but it’s not difficult.

Quiltlandia in Portlandia: Swaddle Me