Tuesday, May 27, 2008

Pun Intended

"If you think you can, you can. If you think you can't, you're right." Mary Kay Ash

I was born left-handed which should come as no surprise since my father is a lefty. However, my parents determined it was best to train me to be right handed; it would make my life so much easier they said, and so, put spoons, crayons and toys in my right hand from toddler-hood.

In elementary school I had the WORST handwriting by all accounts, turning the paper far to the left so my printing would look like the teacher wanted, or so I was trying. I failed my first driver's license test, a big event in any kid's life. The testing man told me "Sorry. but I have to fail you.... Oh you can drive just fine, but you can't take directions!" This too was because of my left/right cross-over problem, I turned left when he said right and vice versa until this veteran tester was lost! I still do this some times, and even to myself!

It was exhausting, and obsessive-compulsive, but I re-wrote papers over and over again until eventually in highschool my handwriting/printing combo was actually pretty. It was an effort but gave me great pleasure. (This was before computers- I'm not a masochist!)

But today I discovered a skill on the plus side of my cross-over issue - I can sew with control using my left foot on the pedal while standing, which is now my preferred way to piece or machine quilt. I was only using my right foot on the pedal, and it was tiring after awhile of standing. Problem solved with a shift to the left.



Sunday, May 18, 2008

Susan McCord's Quilt Carries On

If you know the 19th century quilt maker Susan McCord's work, you immediately see the similarity to Susan's Fan, the quilt made by Rita Denenberg in 1989. It won Judge's Choice in the 1994 All-American Quilt Contest sponsored by Land's End and Goodhousekeeping Magazine. It is a take off on Susan McCord's "Trailing Vine" quilt made around the 1880s. It is in the Henry Ford Museum and therefore you can see it in the book Fons and Porter present Quilts from the Henry Ford (p. 52-59, including the pattern) but it is a beauty and has been published in other books over the years too. Susan actually lived in Indiana, with her large family and made several gorgeous quilts. She favored appliqué.

Rita chose a unique way of adapting McCord's quilt. Rita repeated the serpentine vines quite similarly to McCord's, but instead of placing them in Strip Style side by side, she appliquéd hers into one huge "Grandmother's Fan" tilted on it's side with six blades; each blade has one curved vine running the length with four off shoots. Together they fill the blade but are delicate in their design, no prints are the same, and the overall look is not dense or compact. It is harmonious, symmetrical overall, and the use of red as the one main and repeating color gives it an air of modernism, even today.

If we were to take a leap in time to 1995, we'd notice the quilt made by Jane Sassaman titled "Willow" chosen as one of the 20th century's Best 100 American quilts. In the center is a large contemporary, whimsical, colorful depiction of a tree trunk with branches and leaves reminiscent indeed, of McCord's trailing vines, in its totally curved orientation and individual leaves appliquéd so that they appear delicate and alive. In fact ,larger leafs on each quilt are made with horizontal strips of different colored fabrics. Jane herself says a 17th century embroidered Elizabethan Jacket that she saw as elegant and witty influenced her.

In the next blog I post, I will continue the continuum of this pattern. It gets into politics…the quilt does!


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Thursday, May 15, 2008

Buying Auction Quilts

Many collectors of antique quilts think of themselves as caretakers of historical documents, made at the hands of the needlework sisterhood before them. Their quilts speak to them and tell their story through clues in the style, fabric, pattern, quilt stitches and sometimes stitched or inked words, names, cities or dates.

The first time I went to an all antique quilt auction was in Southern California. One of those large Mid-western quilt dealer auction houses was holding an auction at a nearby hotel and I was very excited to go. I got there early and looked through their quilts as one is supposed to do, but I was rather new to quilt dating. It was crowded with people and I wasn’t able to get though very many stacks before the auction began.

With paddle in hand, I was ready. I believed every word the auctioneer said, big mistake. to read the rest go to my article in Collector's Weekly.

I would love to her about your auction experiences. What quilts did you miss and why? Which did you buy that you wish you hadn't and wouldn't have had you known then what you know now?

Ultimately I feel blessed for having the quilt auction experience I relate in my article "An Introduction to Identifying and Collecting Quilts. It taught me to take responsibility as a buyer and to learn everything I could as a collector. At that time I was hardly a collector, I was a quilt-loving shopper who became a collector because of all my shopping!

Everything that happens to us, I believe, happens for a reason. If we get the message and make the changes we don't get that experience again. If we don't hear or see it or don't choose to handle it, then the lesson comes again in another form. I prefer to "get it" as soon as possible so I can move on in my spiritual growth and development. How about you?


Friday, May 9, 2008

Living with the Amish

Oprah's Inspiration page -- A Thought on Lessons Learned

"Listening to the whispers of my soul really stretched my heart, and I had more to give to my husband."
— Sue Bender, who took a retreat from her marriage to live with the Amish

If you have not read Sue Bender's book about her experience living with an Amish family, it's a lovely read. The title says it all Plain and Simple: A Woman's Journey to the Amish
"Modern-day career woman and homemaker Bender tells of the compulsion--for Amish dolls and quilts that seemed to evoke a simpler life--that took her from New York State to Iowa and Ohio, where she lived with sympathetic Amish families and began the journey of self-discovery here described." Publisher's Weekly

I read it in the 1990s when I was hectically working as a psychologist, but made time each month to meet with my quilt guild. I was collecting quilts by then and this was where I found my relaxation and exercise- shopping is hard work you know, all that walking and stooping down to pick up a wad of cloth from the corner of an antique shop. So often at that time, quilts were unappreciated and just heaped somewhere. Ah, the good ole days.

Anyway, the point is, I related to the author as I imagine many of you reading this will. Her book is about her experience inside of herself resulting from her experiences living with the Amish. I found reading the book to be an opportunity to relax, as it was a relaxing read, not difficult or mentally demanding. When I wanted to take a break from my busy life, I could ponder what Bender's writing was about. From this perspective I eventually rearranged some things in my mind and in my life, so to increase my joy of what life was bringing me.

Since then Bender has written a journal to guide you on your personal journey to your self based on Plain and Simple. Next she wrote the book, In Everyday Sacred: A Woman's Journey Home telling us how she applied the Amish experience to her demanding life when she returned home.

In a review "Bender speaks to our longing to make each day truly count. She chronicles her struggle to bring the joyful wisdom and simplicity she experienced in her sojourn with the Amish back to her hectic, too-much-to-do days at home. Bender discovers for herself, and in the process shows us, that small miracles can be found everywhere in our homes, in our daily activities and, hardest to see, in ourselves." And she wrote a reader's Journal to accompany this book too.