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I’ll continue my travel narrative here…and keep reading to find a patchwork connection!

Nothing can quite prepare you for Paris’s Sainte Chapelle. Many have referred to it as a “jewel” – quite apt, as you’ll see if you keep reading. You will find it nestled among the city’s halls of justice on an island in the middle of the Seine River, just a stone’s throw away from the much more popular Notre Dame Cathedral. Amazingly, the chapel is perfectly preserved in the heart of this bureaucratic complex.

When you first enter Sainte Chapelle, you step into the “lower chapel,” a dark space with a handful of stained glass windows and numerous columns covered with peeling paint. A statue of St. Louis (minus hands) presides over it all. The mood is mystical, a bit magical. I stood for a while taking photos of the paint, the stone, and the windows, getting a sense for the place.

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(I should note that the elaborate painting was done in the 19th century during a restoration. Not sure how well it represents what medieval people saw, but it lends a great aura to this sacred space.)

DSCF3066Then it was time to ascend the spiral staircase.

I confess to feeling claustrophobia in small windowless spaces, and a very narrow spiral staircase is one thing I truly dread. I rushed my daughters forward to climb as fast as I could out of there. I was rewarded at the top with a jaw-dropping sight: dozens of immense stained glass windows, nearly floor to ceiling blue and red… light pouring through the colored glaze and right onto my amazed face. I could see why this was the king’s chapel, his holy place, and why it has been venerated ever since the 12th century. I stared and I turned around to keep staring and I just did not want to leave.

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DSCF3104DSCF3133Tour groups came and went, using headsets with tour guides leading in Japanese, Spanish. I still kept turning my head, craning to see individual panes depicting biblical scenes. My husband and kids found folding chairs and had a seat while I gaped and snapped away with my camera.

It is an often-heard cliche to call the chapel a “gem” or a “jewel” – though still very apt. The glass really does look like a series of rubies and sapphires.

After a few more minutes, just when we thought of leaving, the sun came out outside and truly illuminated the glass, just like one of those brilliant medieval manuscript paintings minus the gold leaf. Stunning. In the clouds, however, the panes looked just as good and perhaps even more mysterious, more blue.

DSCF3085 All these gorgeous colors make me think about some patchwork I recently completed that corresponds to its brilliant blue and rich red. Though it could never actually hold a candle to this chapel, here it is:

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IMG_4309Batiks are sometimes used for “stained glass” quilts, I believe, because they convey that look of mottled sun and shadow passing through a pane of glass. Much more than a solid color, they offer the depth of different degrees of saturation.

IMG_4312My contemporary pattern mimics the “window” effect also, with small squares of lighter red-orange in each block. The blocks go together very quickly, making it an easy weekend project.

To keep things simple, this patchwork table runner is not quilted. It’s backed with plaid flannels that I had in my stash, which should help it stay put on the table. I am planning to use it this fall to brighten the darkening days. And it will offer me a glimmer of a memory of my trip to Sainte Chapelle, too.

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Hello! I promised myself I’d blog this month. There is so much to catch up on!

I’ve been away from Told You Sew! for so long because of work, kids, and, well, life. I increased my working hours some time ago and it’s been harder to weave creative/crafting time into my days; I also took on a volunteer role during the school year. This summer, I’ve been lucky enough to travel. It was fantastic and restorative, but it certainly cut into my “productivity”!

It did, however, provide lots and lots of inspiration. I was astonished by how much gorgeous creativity I saw. My most recent trip focused on Paris, Sorrento and the Amalfi Coast, and Venice. SO MUCH ART! So much color, so many layers of history and artistic vision over so many centuries! I’d like to share a little bit of that with you over a few installments.

This was our very first stop:

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Jet lagged, we made our way to the Musee de Cluny in Paris, home of the Lady and the Unicorn tapestries. (The museum, in the Latin Quarter, is now more formally known as the Musée national du Moyen Âge.) It was worth it. My two daughters and I occupied the room in that old medieval palace that houses the six tapestries for what seemed like hours, pouring over the tiny details embedded in these stunning works. The smaller animals, such as the monkey and dog, are rendered with intricate light and shade. The kind unicorn figure has always been a favorite of mine (ever since I was a horse-loving youngster) and the lion, with its tongue thrust out, seemed more a dandy than a danger. The women’s garments are depicted in such dimension and color. This is amazing fabric art, and so surprising to think that this tapestry series was made so very long ago, in around 1500… I also am intrigued by the beautiful necklace the lady is holding. My own passion for jewelry as an art form has only grown keener over the past two years. (More on that soon.)

We also had the chance to visit Eugene Delacroix’s studio.

IMG_1658A truly monumental painter in the French canon, Delacroix made dramatic canvases that struck a chord with my family. The color! The emotion! The tragic violence! The celebrations! I think his paintings would make for the subject of some great movies (and far better than films about video games!)… On the less violent side, I especially love his painting of a Jewish wedding in Morocco with its vivid dancer:

DSCF2878One unmissable stop for art lovers is clearly the Louvre, the Pantheon of traditional European art. We of course had to view the Mona Lisa, but my daughters were quite underwhelmed after fighting crowds to get to the front of the crowd to see the relatively small painting set behind glass and a barrier with a very wide birth… and protected by numerous guards. As I was taking this photo, I was being crushed by waves of people you can’t see behind me.

IMG_0918Really, it’s much more enjoyable viewing lesser-known works of the Italian Renaissance. The Louvre has whole galleries of them no one is looking at. Take this one, my absolute favorite, of two Venetians. Please don’t try to tell me these guys aren’t just as mysterious as Mona (or maybe I could just see them better):

DSCF2832The girls preferred the large-scale marbles, both ancient and modern. In fact, they were most taken with the 19th century pieces by Italian and French artists… many of whom no one outside the word of art history knows about today. But they are lovely indeed. And imitation is the sincerest form of flattery.

IMG_1592How do you like these Three Graces? My husband snapped this artsy shot and I turned it black and white. It seemed to merit that kind of classic treatment.

IMG_1594Who is that modest young thing?

And then you find the more unusual forms of art that have been pursued over the centuries in Europe, tucked away in corners in more obscure venues. This display of miniature portraits was hidden in an 18th-century museum we visited:

IMG_0882As we strolled the streets of Paris, a very different kind of French art beckoned to us…. Unfortunately I felt my waistline would not allow an indulgence, though looking back, I wish I had! (We did sample some outstanding macarons in lovely colors, but I ate them too quickly to take a photo!)

IMG_0886I plan one more Paris installment in this travelog… one that relates to my crafts, I promise. Very soon!

Golden state

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True Californians look up at our dry hillsides and call them “golden.” (Never brown!) And in this beautiful state, it’s now the season of gold. It came a little earlier perhaps because of the drought, but it usually hits right around my birthday in early May. Let’s celebrate golden California with two hybrid West Coast-Venetian necklaces!

I made this piece as a birthday gift for myself and I have loved wearing it. The “M” charm is matte vermeil (gold over sterling silver), which I purchased at a gem and jewelry show from a great vendor called Forever Silvers. That company features tons and tons of charms. Highly addictive, highly dangerous!

The necklace includes Venetian glass beads from a company that imports them directly from Italy, the Venetian Bead Shop. I’m a big fan. (They are getting to know me pretty well over there!) That same company also sold me some round Swarovski crystals I used in this necklace, along with some pretty gold seed beads. I have to say, beads and charms are like candy. Once you start consuming them and get a taste for them, you can never have enough….

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The expanse of gold-tone seed beads at both ends mimics gold chain, don’t you think?

And last, I included Miyuki Japanese seed beads in a fun shape that I picked up on a recent trip to Virginia. As I travel, I always seek out crafts supplies! I also added in a few gold-filled metal spacer beads that I love for dressing things up a little.

To string this piece, I used flexible bead wire by Soft Flex, a company based up in wine country, in Sonoma, CA. I enjoy working with the lightweight version of their wire, which has a great drape. I closed up both ends with crimp beads and used a gold-filled lobster clasp to finish it off.

Here’s one more piece I made that I’d like to share:

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This one also includes Venetian glass beads, Swarovski crystals and crystal pearls, and Soft Flex wire. The central focal bead, two round beads and two twist beads are all wrapped with the colored wire, which I then passed through the bead a second time. It’s a cool way of creating a little space and movement in the piece without having to insert any extra crimp beads to hold things in place. I like these rose and gold tones for both spring and fall. The central disc bead looks like it’s been drizzled with raspberry sauce. Yum… The vivid colors are cheerful and appetizing, yet completely calorie free!

Write in if you have any questions about techniques, or just to tell me what you think of these designs. Happy crafting, and more to follow. I have more jewelry to show you, and I’ll also try to offer an update about a table runner and small quilt I’m working on in the near future.

 

I brought back a bunch of photos to share from last month’s PIQF in Santa Clara, CA. Such a wide range of beautiful creations and award-winning quilts. It’s quite overwhelming as you walk through the displays. I captured images of some of my favorite pieces. Enjoy this taste of the show – in no particular order! Hats off to these terrific fabric artists.

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Quilts were on walls everywhere throughout the convention center.

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My friend Ellen came out for a visit last month. We’ve known each other since the age of 11…. we grew up together. I miss seeing her since she lives far away, in Chicago. In anticipation of her trip West, I made her a gift for her birthday: a necklace of green Murano glass beads strung on green Soft Flex wire.

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This style is called “illusion” because of the way the thin wire seems to disappear inbetween the beads. Often illusion necklaces use translucent wire or plastic fishing line. Then the beads truly “float.” In this piece, I liked the many shades of green, including the wire itself.

I used tiny 1 millimeter by 1 millimeter crimp beads to secure the beads in place. Each crimp required a micro-crimper. Some of these beads have even more gold than green, so I decided to use a gold-tone toggle as the clasp.

Green called to me for this project for a few reasons. First, I knew that Ellen wears green – I wouldn’t want to pick a color she hates. Second, it was a favorite color of a close mutual friend we both miss, Marion, who died a couple years ago. And what’s more, Ellen and I traveled together to Big Sur, down the Pacific coast, and saw a lot of very green beauty there in the cliffside hills. We hiked up the Ewoldsen Trail, getting an awesome view of the ocean.

The trail:

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The views:

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Back to quilts!

A while back, I started a red-white-and-blue quilt. In fact, I began working on two of them: one with a scrappy background, and one with blocks that all had the same pale blue on white background. All the blocks are big bow ties (simplified pattern, without Y seams) that lend a fun double arrow look.

Well, the baby who is the intended recipient has been born, and he’s a cutie! Little Augustine (“Augie”) will be able to cuddle up with these 1930s reproduction prints:

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I put a cute “quilting words” fabric on the back because Augie’s mom also likes to sew:

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Augie is just three weeks old, so I think this will be his view of the quilt for a while:

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After piecing the quilt and layering with a 80/20 cotton/poly blend batting, I free-motioned large meandering patterns in pastel variegated thread. Free-wheeling quilting lines are good for a baby’s small hands to trace, and the primary colored arrows are stimulating for little eyes. I hope he likes it!

Here’s a photo showing my scrappier blocks, as yet to be turned into anything. I do like this block arrangement, too:

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Memories of Capri

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Ever since I returned from Italy this summer, I’ve been inspired to create jewelry with Italian glass beads. I’ve been drawn into these beads, mesmerized by them. They are as beautiful as any modern art, in my opinion. They are also more durable and jewel-like than most non-precious materials out there. (My daughters have dropped these tough glass beads–and I admit I have too–without any damage.)

The highlight of my Italian journey was a short trip to Capri, the fabled isle that attracted everyone from Roman emperors to modern movie stars. I’m calling the necklace pictured here “Memories of Capri,” and here are a few images to whet your appetite for a trip to that Mediterranean paradise. The Blue Grotto… the Faraglioni (huge stone formations off the coast)… the views, oh the views of the Bay of Naples… and, mainly, the nearness of the ocean itself, a unique and deep blue.

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The beauty just goes on and on there. My stay was short, but no matter how long I looked, I’m sure I’d never tire of those views. The image above is a sphinx at the Axel Munthe home (now a museum) on the very top of Capri, in the town of Anacapri. That ancient stone is probably the world’s luckily statue. And unlike on the Pacific where I live, it’s not whipped by strong, exhausting winds. There’s a peace to the place that’s magical.

I chose some gorgeous authentic Murano glass beads from the Venetian Bead Shop to create my necklace. I began with a few dual-toned rounds and some deep sapphire blue squares and small rounds. I then began to think of making a longer piece–but not too heavy–using seed beads to connect my bigger items, and adding a handful of Swarovski crystals for variety, additional color, and sparkle, and just a few crystal blue pearls. The crystals also help to vary and balance the shapes here.

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I used a .14 Soft Flex silver “extreme” wire to make a very flexible and light piece. And last, I used a silver jump ring and a lobster clasp to finish it up, with some silver crimp beads sealing off the edges. I wore this necklace to my office without doubling it–and it was fashionably long. Flapper length. And that’s fitting. I believe it was in the 1910s and 1920s that vacationers started flocking to Capri, though it was a destination long before–and long after.