Archive for the ‘art’ Category

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.


(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.


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:


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:


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!

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I’d like to take one more chance to document the Pacific International Quilt Festival (PIQF) 2012. There were a couple of remarkable special exhibitions, and this one was my favorite:

These quilts were featured in a special exhibition called “Life,” by Yoshiko Katagiri of Japan. Absolutely ethereal in person. She used a handful of bright traditional Japanese fabrics against pale solid lights and rich dark blacks and navies. It really blew me away. This is the quilt I first noticed, an image of the iconic Mount Fuji:

There’s a light touch in these pieces I really admire, and they combine creativity and tradition in a unique way. I’ve always liked Japanese textiles and design style, and these are fine example of the uses of both.

Another exhibition that caught my attention was called “From Marble to Marvelous,” featuring 20 quilts inspired by marble tile floors in European cathedrals. This one was gorgeous:

I took a close look at a few by Christine Porter of the UK. I own a couple of her books, and though I have not had the chance to make one of her patterns yet, I’m hoping to do so one of these days. Her quilts are beautifully pieced.

Here is a photo of an image of the original marble tiling that this quilt is based on:

And finally, I liked this very modern take on a tile-based design:

One more quilt to share with you. I took a look at the international quilt exhibition during my last few minutes at the festival. This quilt from Israel made me stop in my tracks. It’s called “The Dead Sea,” by Gisha Wogier:

The use of the log cabin blocks for the water here was so clever and the artist chose the perfect colors:

On that note, I’ll leave you, I hope feeling inspired and not too intimidated to go create something spectacular… or just plain fun.

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This past weekend I visited “PIQF” – Pacific International Quilt Festival, held in Santa Clara, CA, each October. This was the festival’s 20th anniversary and it’s definitely going strong. I captured a ton of images of outstanding quilts. They were inspiring, yet also really intimidating. It is hard to believe that people can craft such perfect pieces.

This quilt won “best in show” – I think. There were so many people standing in front of it, it was a little hard to tell what was going on. It’s “America, Let it Shine,” by Sherry Reynolds of Wyoming.

Here is a close up… She used over 4,800 crystals on this quilt!

Here is another amazing creation:

I think this was my favorite quilt of the whole festival. It’s called “Inner City Kids,” by Arleen Kukua of Richmond, CA. Here is a closeup:

Stunning. Here are more examples of the fantastic artistry on display…

Soon, I’ll share the results of the longarm quilting for my two other recent projects. More to come!

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Sorry for the month-long break in blogging! I was traveling on the East Coast, and then returned to a giant to-do list that is just now being whittled down to a manageable size. Sadly, my crafting was largely on hiatus as well. But I’m back!

First, I’d like to show off a few things my 5-year-old daughter made in her summer camp, during the week that the group focused on art and famous artists. I loved how her teacher exposed the kids to “real” art and then had them produce their own creative work. Here’s a sampling of it:

She painted with watercolors, and then used black ink to outline. Brilliant! I find there’s something very Picasso-esque about this one, don’t you? All the shapes are actually recognizable, which is a huge leap forward in her art ability!

Here are some sculptural objects she made. She’s very taken with the word “Imagination” and included it in both sculptures’ names:

Unlike the milk-carton-and-tin-foil objects she’s made in other camps, I actually WANT to save these:) I hope to find some wall space for her painting soon.

I’m also working on some summer sewing now. I have several unfinished objects, yet (for some reason) I have started another that I am excited about: I’m make a quilt kit from Connecting Threads, using their very bright, modern “city” fabrics, “Around Town.” (It’s their “Nieces and Nephews” kit, which I think is sold-out as a kit, but still available as a pattern.) Here are the very first blocks.

I can tell this one will be fun to make and cute to look at — so, more on this very soon!

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Art for the ages

Here’s a gallery of some of the amazing art I saw at the Art Institute while I visited Chicago… Challenge yourself: can you name the artists who made these pieces? The museum has expanded recently and it is now a behemoth, spanning three interconnected buildings. I crammed in as much 19th- and 20th-century art as I could fit into one afternoon. I really only had time for the European collections, which include Impressionism, post-Impressionism, and a range of more modern styles. No matter how familiar some of them are, these pieces just glow. They could inspire any creative soul to bigger and better things.

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Apologies for the temporary hiatus of Told You Sew! while its author visited friends in Chicago. We held a memorial for our dear friend M.N., alternatively laughing and crying. We all agreed that she was one of the funniest, smartest, kindest people we’ve had the privilege to know.

On a lighter note, my hosts E.H. and M.M. are also amazing artists and crafts-women. They shared with me their love of sock-dolls, which M.M. makes in the most creative fashion. She designs her own patterns and hand-sews each one. They are really inventive. Quite a few of them have taken up residence on this shelf:

So fun! My favorite is this fine fellow. I love his glasses and argyle style. I think of him as an Ivy-Leaguer.

M. has given some of these dolls away as gifts (including an adorable one that adorns my shelf and will appear in a future post) and I feel certain there’s an emerging market for them, as word gets out how unique and cute they are!

Their apartment also features modern art by E.H., my childhood friend who has now promised to read this blog. Are you out there E.? I love these works of “spilled” paint:

In my humble opinion, these are as good as the modern art we saw during another highlight of my trip, a visit to the Art Institute of Chicago. More on that in another post!

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