Tuesday, July 31, 2007


Sorry about the delay in posting the Venice photos! It's been busy -- Sally Collins visited our guild and I took two full-day classes from her and attended an evening lecture. Wow! I'll post more on that later, but for now, here's Venice.
This is from the exterior of St. Mark's (San Marco) in Venice. I have never seen anything like it -- truly amazing. Although I can't say I enjoy standing in line to get in, it does provide an opportunity to look very carefully at the things around you. There's so much to see that it's nice to be forced to stand and look. The pinkish colors in the stones give the exterior such a warm feel. Click on the photos to enlarge them and see the detail.
This exterior is actually part of the Doge's palace, which is attached to the basilica. (This is immediately to the right of the preceding photo.) The brickwork is a patchwork pattern. I looked at the pattern carefully, and every now and then the alternating greys and pinks in the interior of the "blocks" do not follow the pattern. It makes it more interesting, and I am assuming it was intentional.
I love this wall -- it's a quilt in marble.
Here you can see the elegant pillars with the subtle yet stunning colors from the marble.

The most amazing thing about the basilica is the floors. Unfortunately, they don't let you take any pictures inside. I ended up buying a book, The Floors of Venice by Tudy Sammartini, which has both English and Italian text in the same book. It was expensive, but for a book with so many color photos, it was well worth it. I wanted to put a link to Amazon for anyone interested in purchasing it, but they only have scalper-priced used ones. You can, however, order it here for what I paid for it in Italy, although I don't know what the postage will be.
ItalicThis is a two-page spread from the book. I was thinking how drafting it into a quilt would be a formidable task, but when I looked for the book online, I see that someone has already made it into a quilt. Check it out here. Incredible! [Edit - oops! Just realized the quilt is not exactly this floor, but it's a similar design and is from Venice.]
Here's another photo from the book. The entire basilica is filled with the most amazing floors! It's a quilter's paradise.
Venice is more than San Marco's, of course. I could never live in a city without cars or trees (truly odd, especially at night), but I could visit again and again. The contrast between Amsterdam and Venice was so strong that it was a day before it occurred to me that both are cities built on canals. They could not be more different. I loved them both.

Monday, July 23, 2007


I had planned to post about Venice today, but it's taking awhile to get that together. Instead, here's what I'm working on.I am beginning to get the hang of making wonky letters and am getting less nervous about making free cuts in the fabric, so I made the word purple all in one fairly short sitting. Now that I have several words, I'm thinking more seriously about layout. Right now the plan is to add some interest by mixing in some tall, skinny color words and some short, squat ones.

And here's what a stack of 147 hexagons looks like (a mere 2-1/2" tall). It's what I need for my next I Spy quilt, which I'm making for my nephew Andy's two little girls. I had about 80 already cut and finished the rest this weekend. It's pretty time consuming to fussy cut the pieces, but as soon as that's done the rest is just stitching. I like having a project that is straightforward -- something good to fall back on when I'm not sure what to do on a more challenging quilt.

Friday, July 20, 2007

Quilting, Croatia, and Harry Potter

Hoorah! Finally got back to quilting today. I pieced purple in yellow for my Stroop quilt and started trimming the template-cut fabric for my next I Spy (aiieee....!). I will post photos later this weekend -- right now my camera is still full of vacation photos, which I've downloaded into iPhoto but Picasa is now available for Macs and I want to see if I can put my photos there, too.

On vacation we stopped in Dubrovnik, Croatia. Here's a photo of the medieval city seen from a nearby hilltop. It's a beautiful city and has become a resort area in the past few years.
I have received two postcards from Dubrovnik in my life -- one in the early 70's from an uncle who was visiting there, and one in 1980 from a good friend who was there doing research for her disseration on Serbian nationalism. Both cards were essentially this same view. When my friend returned from her year in Dubrovnik, which was then still part of Yugoslavia, she was very despondent about what would happen if the iron grip of communism were to loosen. She predicted a bloodbath once there was no one to keep the various ethnic groups from fighting each other, and that is indeed what happened in the 1990's. Dubrovnik was severely damaged during the fighting, but the Croatians have worked very hard to repair it and make it a tourist attraction once again. I felt sad there knowing that just a few years ago the city was bombarded and bodies were lying in the streets -- and that these groups of people still hate each other.

On a lighter note, on the main street of the old city was a bookstore with a big Harry Potter sign -- in English -- in the window.

Tonight's the night! I have pre-reserved my copy and will pick it up tomorrow morning as I'm still too jet-lagged to go to the midnight release party. Coincidentally, when we were at the airport in Rome to return to the States, we ran into some friends from home who were on our flight. They are Italian and their daughter, who was born in the US, was reading her first big book in Italian -- Harry Potter e la Pietra Filosofale. They told us that volume 7 won't be available in Italian until November, but the English version will be released in Italy (and in Croatia and I guess all over the world) in English as soon as it comes out. Happy reading to all you HP fans!

Thursday, July 19, 2007


We are back from vacation, and what a time it was! I'm overflowing with things to talk about but since the most dreaded words in the English language are "Let me show you my vacation photos," I'll limit myself to quilt/art-related (in the broadest sense!) photos and a few general observations that I hope you'll find interesting. Today, the 4 days we spent in Amsterdam. This time of year, there are flowers and bicycles everywhere.
I loved Amsterdam. I had been there for a long weekend in 1980 and I worried that the city would not live up to my rosy memories, but it did. Amsterdam exudes charm and warmth; it was foreign, yet I felt at home. The art museums are among the best in the world (the Rijksmuseum and the Van Gogh), and when you take in the light and atmosphere of that part of the world, it's like walking onto the canvas of a great Dutch or Flemish painting.

There were far more bicycles than cars in the city. The two bikes parked in front of this home show how they can be used for everything -- the first has three children's seats (one in front of the handlebars and two behind the grown-up seat) and the second has a 'trunk' attached in front to carry things in. This is far more fuel efficient, and far more cardiovascularly healthy, than driving everywhere in an SUV!
There are even stoplights for the bicycles. Tourists can rent bikes, but the city is small enough that we walked everywhere. I was also pretty intimidated by the traffic.

I had read about some quiltshops on Laura Jasper's Lola Quilts blog, so of course I had to visit!
Unfortunately, the one specializing in traditional Dutch fabrics was closed for the month of July, but the other -- Bird Blocks -- was open. They had a lovely assortment of fabrics (mostly American, but most were new to me) and I bought two tiny paper piecing kits of Dutch scenes as a memento. I will have to go back in October one year (yeah, right!) to see the Netherlands guild annual quilt show. There is only one guild in the country, and it has 1400 members!

I did enjoy the clamshell quilting look of the sidewalks.
One of the highlights of the trip for me was visiting Amsterdam's 17th century Portuguese Synagogue , which is still lit only by thousands of candles. Next door was a Jewish children's museum that was a blast to visit. The coat rack at the entrance was a delight:
And I loved the cascade of Hebrew letters next to one of the windows. One day I will quilt something like this -- don't know what, but it's percolating!
And in the museum's art room, the table had this saying, which we quilters understand:

And finally, I have to share the stairway carpeting of the hotel we stayed in -- very cool indeed, and it made me smile every time I saw it.