Posts Tagged ‘Travel to Paris’

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.



Read Full Post »

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!

Read Full Post »