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Archive for the ‘fabric’ 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.

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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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I’ve been busy making progress on a handful of quilts but just haven’t had time to write about it! The first one is a small Hawaiian-themed quilt for my younger daughter’s bedroom wall. She helped piece the strips we used for these “Illinois road” blocks and she just loved the print, which features rainbows and Hawaiian flowers and “honu” (sea turtles). The sky blue is a batik, the only one here. I think that difference causes it to stand out, making it look like the sky on a sunny day with whispy clouds. I began to hand quilt this piece and haven’t quite finished, but every time I look at it, the bright and sweet colors cheer me up.

And I’ve carried on my “quilting in paradise” theme by layering a small quilt for my older daughter on our redwood deck. The joys of Northern California! This quilt has Valentines theme (the print fabric shows “sweet hearts” candies all over it).

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That piece is now bound and finished and sitting happily at the foot of her bed as decoration and an occasional lap quilt.

I’ve put my batik stars on hold temporarily while I work with some red, white, and blue fabric that I purchased almost 2 years ago. Really adorable small prints showcase the retro look of these reproduction 1930s and 1940s fabrics. I got most of these at my local quilt shop, The Granary. Fun! I’m still playing around with more fabrics. More soon…

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Project planning is in full swing for my next quilt. I have begun to piece spinning stars made of light blue (and blue-grey and blue-green) and dark blue batiks. I love picking colors but it isn’t easy–I quickly become a perfectionist about color choice and placement with a scrappy project like this!

I don’t have a design wall yet, but I do have a new bulletin board. Nestled in among the lovely fabrics is an old abstract watercolor by my older daughter (she is now 8, did this piece at 5 or 6) and a fun recent drawing by my younger (6-year-old) daughter. Speaking of whom, I will share the Hawaiian-themed quilt I’m working on with my 6-year-old in my next post. (The kid can sew pretty convincing quarter-inch seams!) Until then, here are a few more photos of my delicious oceanic batiks:

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Found some fabulous “layer cakes” of fabric (10 inch squares) at my local quilt shop. Can’t wait to use these beauties!

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I had the chance to see some great projects by my friends Anne T. and Olga P., two very talented quilters. I wanted to share pictures of their work–especially the paper piecing they are doing by hand. Both are working on hexagons by the dozen! Olga created her own stars as well using freezer paper pattern pieces. Also pictured here: a gorgeous leaf bowl made by Anne and her “mystery quilt” in Amish colors. Hats off to you both!

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Hello again! Hope you’ve all been keeping busy gearing up for spring projects. There’s a new energy in the air around my house–we’ve started our spring cleaning early, and that’s taken most of my free time. But I still try to find a moment or two for something bright and cheerful on the side. Right now, it’s orange “slabs” for my improvisational modern quilt. Here’s a preview:

"Slabs" of orange fabric made into 10.5 inch square blocks

“Slabs” of orange fabric made into 10.5 inch square blocks

I like the look overall but have a few second thoughts. I enjoy the very funky repro-style print featuring huge white flowers and berries on an orange background. But I’m not quite sure about that apricot and white fabric (a 1930s reproduction) I mixed in, or that polka dot. With this style of work, you have to get comfortable with things not exactly “matching” and that can be a bit of a leap. Here’s how they look together–apologies for the dim lighting:

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Send me a comment if you have any thoughts on how to improve these! I am seriously considering removing the strips of apricot and white, but then, I could go even farther and totally redo the blocks to make them more consistently orange. My previous post showcased the red and yellow versions of these, which I think worked better together.

More soon as I meditate this, if I find a few minutes to sew in this busy life. Happy almost-spring!

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I have been busy! Very, very busy, and although most of my busy-ness hasn’t been focused on crafting, I have had a few inspirations and I’d like to share those with you. My theme? Vintage modern patchwork.

I’ve become obsessed with the book Sunday Morning Quilts, which is such a fun, joyful approach to patchwork and quilt-making for those of us who’d like to use modern techniques to make arty, pretty quilts. The authors focus on improvising with scraps, first by dividing them into colors, and then by turning them into “slabs” – blocks of make-your-own patchwork fabric that sort of resemble log cabin block. Really, they could be any sort of rectangle/square creation you could dream up. If you have strips or scraps on hand, and love putting color on top of color, it can be addictive.

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I’m now making “slabs” in red and yellow. I am still drawn to 1930s/40s reproduction fabrics and modern fabrics that have a similar feel: tiny prints, polka dots, little florals that are mostly one color, all in very vibrant hues. My local quilt store provides me with both, luckily. For me, it’s a kick to combine old-school fabrics that are just so bright and cheery with modern-style patchwork. This is an example of what I did with strips of bright red.

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And then I made more:

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Next: I will trim these and stay-stitch them around the edges. Then: Orange slabs, and then slabs that are off-white with tiny little prints. I have a plan, believe me, for what to do with these… More on that soon. And stay tuned: in an upcoming post, I’ll show you my progress on the little holiday quilt featuring the tiny “mini” prints from my previous post.

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