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Saturday, May 31, 2014

Quilts Featured in Art Museum Exhibit

The Quilters' Connection is a group of art quilters. They offer an annual show and their goal is to "encourage, preserve, and development of the art of quilting." The group's 400 member are primarily from the greater Boston area but also includes members from as far away as Japan.

Formerly, the group met in Arlington, Massachusetts. Their current annual show can be enjoyed at the Arsenal Center for the Arts, 321 Arsenal Street, Watertown, Massachusetts. Admission is $8. dollars per person.

The show this year is amazing. Most all of the quilts seem to have been made entirely by machine. There were few pictorial quilts or appliqué quilts. The show seemed to be very representative of the Modern Art Quilt Movement which relies heavily on incorporating simple shapes: rectangles, squares, or circles (geometric shapes) and relies on densely-spaced lines of machine quilting stitches for finishing a quilt.

Hours today are 10-5 and tomorrow 11-3

No photography is allowed.

A video that features images from last year's show is available at the following link:

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=3y45LWsZvm8&feature=youtu.be

We braved the heavy traffic through Somerville and Cambridge to arrive at our destination. To say the very least, the show was very "different" because of the types of quilts on display. The venue (an art museum) was a very appropriate space in which to display the art quilts. If you are in the area, be sure to see this extraordinary exhibit!

Wednesday, May 28, 2014

In Memoriam: Phyllis Fife Sanborn

In Memoriam: Phyllis Fife Sanborn

Patricia L. Cummings


Today, I have been reflecting on the loss of someone who changed my life when I was about 12 years old. I had just moved to a small town and in learning about the 4-H Club there, I joined the sewing group. While it is true that my mother taught me how to embroider, it was Mrs. Sanborn who taught me how to sew. The first project was simple: making a pair of slippers out of two terry washcloths. The next project was an apron. These first two projects were made on a sewing machine and that represented the first time I ever used a machine to sew.

The Gift

In learning that a County Dress Review was coming up soon, Mrs. Sanborn taught me to make a white blouse with bell-cap sleeves and lace and a stand up neck as well as a hunter green lightweight jumper with a square neck and pockets. I came home with a ribbon after showing these two items by wearing them.

A ribbon I saved from 1967. Just call me a pack rat!


I did not do a lot of sewing during high school. Not much time remained by the time I did all of my homework. The next items of apparel that I recall making was a wool plaid mini-skirt reminiscent of Creamsicle ice cream in its coloration, I was a senior in college at the time. After that, I made my wedding gown and then a suit for my husband and a country style shirt in black and white. With each project, I stopped a moment to reflect on this "gift" given to me by Mrs. Sanborn, one that cannot be visually seen. The gift was confidence in myself to sew and enough instruction to ensure quality, no matter what task I attempted. The gift of one's time can never be overestimated.

A Quilter

These days I do not make a lot of clothing but I have made hundreds of quilts and quilted textiles from miniature quilts to queen size quilts. I smiled when I learned that Mrs. Sanborn made quilts, too.

The World as My Oyster

Within a short time of joining 4-H, I became a 4-H Junior Leader. As such, I was selected to go to the National 4-H Center for 4-H Congress.

From left: Lydia Hickey, Gary Nelson, Patricia Grace (me), (the late) David Hersey, and Mary Weiss. We were selected to attend 4-H Congress (date unknown- late 1960s?)

Always Ready to Learn

More and more I believe that God puts people in our path who can help us in our life's journey. They are a blessing and often, they ask nothing in return other than the joy and satisfaction in helping to encourage a young person or other person who needs instruction. Mrs. Sanborn was a good teacher, quiet in her ways, and thorough in her instruction. I enjoyed the feeling of peace that she exuded.


I was 12 years old when I painted this picture
based on a published workbook on painting

The Teachers

About the same time that I took sewing lessons from Mrs. Sanborn, my sister (who is much older) gave me some instruction in oil painting. The painting seen above is the first one I ever finished. Another lady whose name I do not recall ran a group for knitting. As a newlywed, I learned to crochet. and after joining the Embroiderers' Guild of America, I leaned many embroidery techniques via workshops and correspondence courses. However, the age of 12 was a pivotal year for me in learning how to sew using a machine.

Quilting Bee in the Sky

I hope that Mrs. Sanborn is enjoying her rest and will soon be participating in the quilting bee in the sky.


"The Quilting Party" song by Stephen Foster


Just the other night I was watching a re-run of the Waltons, a segment about "a quilting." They played this old song at the conclusion of the show, one that I always enjoy hearing.

In Conclusion

It is fitting to think of the Waltoms in association with Mrs. Sanborn. I believe she held the same old-time values that are much appreciated, especially in today's world. Instead of saying, "Good night, John-boy," we shall have to conclude by saying "Good Night, Mrs. Sanborn." We love you and shall miss your presence but always remember your smile and your joy in the simple things of life.

Bennett Funeral Home, Concord, NH is in charge of arrangements. In lieu of flowers, the family requests that donations be made to the Salvation Army.



Sunday, May 25, 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Memorial Day 2014

Patricia L. Cummings


What does Memorial Day mean to you? Is it a day off from work that will be spent catching up on laundry and chores around the house? Will the day involve going to the cemetery/cemeteries to place flowers in memory of a loved one? Will it be a day to march in a parade, a day to bake a cake, a day to celebrate the fact that snow season is most likely over until late next Fall?

For me, Memorial Day is a time when memories flood back as I think of my dear father, first and foremost. He certainly worked hard to provide for his wife and children. Yet, he was too good probably and died at about the same age I am now. It seems a pity that he never had the chance to "retire." Then, I think of my mother who outlived my Dad by more than 30 years, lost without him and in a sorry state when she finally died at 92 years old. I also think of my two brothers, taken in their early 50s by cardiac arrest. There is no way to know how long each of us will live. One factor that makes LIFE precious is that is does not come with a guarantee for longevity.

O flag born of the spirit /And the blood our fathers shed /
We have no fear while thy bright stars / And bars wave  overhead.


Memorial Day is a patriotic holiday as well as a personal one. At many cemeteries, flags wave proudly on the graves of those who served this country in uniform. We should be thinking of our veterans every day and should insist that they receive the medical care many so desperately need. War changes people.

As Mark Twain once stated something to the effect that the thing about life is...it goes on.

We are lucky to still be here. Whatever you do tomorrow, take a few minutes to be grateful for your life. As long as you are still living, you can right some of the wrongs of the world and your own life. Think about building friendships by spending more time with those you call 'friend." Send a note of thanks, as appropriate. People love to receive personal mail. It takes so little to please someone, really...the price of a postage stamp. It does not get more simple than that.

As for me, I hope to be engaging in my usual daily creative activities but may plan something special like baking a blueberry cake. I hope you are happy and well.


Saturday, May 24, 2014

New Organization Adapts Clothing for Wounded Veterans

New Organization Discovered

Patricia L. Cummings

In a news release from the GFWC, there was a mention of a group that adapts clothing by adding Velcro to ready-made outfits so that it is easier for wounded veterans to put on and take off clothes. The group is the only one of its kind. To learn how you can help this 501 (c) organization, please visit:  http://www.sewmuchcomfort.org/

Non-affiliated.

Women Who Made a Difference: Croly, Webster, and Anthony

The founder of the General Federation of Women's Clubs, Jane Cunningham Croly (1829-1901), was a journalist for the New York Tribune. Her pen name was “Jennie June,” a name sometimes spelled “Jenny June.” Outraged at being banned from attending a speech given by Charles Dickens in 1868, on gender bias alone, she vowed to start a club that accepted women only, and she accomplished that task!

Thirty years after that, she wrote a book titled The history of the woman's club movement in America. A hand-written message in the book says this:

This book has been a labor of love, and it is lovingly dedicated to the Twentieth Century Woman by one who has seen, and shared in the struggles, hopes, and aspirations of the woman of the nineteenth century. J.C. Croly

In 1994, Jane Croly was inducted posthumously into the National Women's Hall of Fame. Today, the Women's Club (GFWC) is still very active as an international group and strives via volunteer work to support Education via fundraising events dedicated to gathering money for student scholarships. The work of the club centers on improving their communities.

CD cover of the book I wrote about Ellen Webster, a quilt researcher, lecture presenter, and overall leader in her community. Contact pat@quiltersmuse.com to arrange to buy a copy of the 355 page book, saved to disc and sold as an e-book, about Mrs. Webster

An early president of the GFWC was Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster, Franklin, NH, about whom I wrote a 355 page book that details her life, her work and in particular her lectures and quilt charts made to share quilt history. She would have fully understood and appreciated the meaning and intent of Mrs. Croly's remarks. An independent spirit, Mrs. Webster valued education highly. In fact, she went back to school after her husband's death, completed work for a master's degree, and became a professor at Wheaton College in Massachusetts.

Equality a Goal

During the preceding 100 years (throughout the 1800s), women struggled for equal treatment under the law and to have access to education, as well as the legal right to own their own bank account, real estate, and even their own children (who were considered the “property” of their fathers! Through all of the marches for Suffrage (to win the right to vote), Temperance (to ban the sale of hard liquor), and abolition, (work dedicated to ending slavery), women maintained the hope that these goals one day would be accomplished.

Other Women Activists

Susan B. Anthony (1820-1906), a strong supporter of Suffrage, died before having the chance to see the first day that women were legally allowed to vote in a national election.s (November 1920). Miss Anthony was a needlework and a quilter long before she became heavily involved with teaching and giving speeches. She made three quilts, but none after the age of 22. She sent pieces of her old silk dresses to be included in Crazy Quilts that were sold to raise money for Suffrage. Given her fame, those respective quilts would have instantly become more valuable. She is reported to have given a speech to a group of ladies gathered at a quilting bee in Cincinnati, Ohio. (That statement has not been verified).

Women's Work Matters!

We can never measure the influence of one woman. There were many women in the 19th century who accomplished much by their leadership. Clara Barton, Civil War nurse and founder of the American Red Cross, is one of those people. Another name that comes to mind is Sarah Josepha Buell Hale, Editress of Godey's Lady's Book. She is also called the “Mother of the American Thanksgiving” for her letter-writing campaign over many years to have the president proclaim a November day of thanks. The list of women who were noted for their contributions to society and the common good is very long. We cannot forget New Hampshire's own, Harriet Dame, a Civil War nurse.

The grave site of Harriet Dame, Civil War nurse from Concord, NH


These women are remembered only because of their own writings but sometimes because of words written about them. Jane Croly Cunningham published many books. Photos of her show up in an online search. We can draw much inspiration from the past, especially when we zero in on a particular woman and look at the person's life in depth.

In writing a book about Ellen Emeline Hardy Webster, I put together many facts heretofore unknown by the public. I wrote an article for The Quilter magazine about Clara Barton and a quilt made in her honor. A newspaper article I once wrote was about Sarah Josepha Buell Hale who is also highlighted in one of my books. I did much research in order to write a lengthy article about Susan B. Anthony. These names do not represent all of the heroines of the 19th century. There were many other groundbreaking leaders. Today, however, we highlight these women and feel a sense of gratitude to them as we praise their vision and the outcomes of their work.



Copyright 2014, Patricia L. Cummings, Quilter's Muse Publications, Concord, NH. All Rights Reserved.

Wednesday, May 21, 2014

A Long Term Project Started

This past spring, I made the decision to buy a "kit" for a wholecloth quilt. The word "kit" nabbed me and convinced me that perhaps it would be a short\cut. I am beginning to realize my folly in the attempt to hand quilt a queen size wholecloth quilt that has pre-marked lines with ink that will eventually wash out with cool water. I tested one line of stitching and yes, the color blue easily comes off with cool water on a cotton swab.

The design is a Welsh-style one. However, there are many many straight lines that form a cross-hatched background. I paid a machine-quilter to baste this quilt by machine. What a blessing that was! At least I can drape this gigantic textile over a standing hoop and select the area I would like to quilt.

If anyone else is "game," this is sold as a kit at Keepsake Quilting


At first I was very hopeful. I told myself that I would load 8 needles every time and quit when I ran out of thread. No. That plan is not working out. I run out of patience after about two runs. In all the years I have done hand-quilting, I am perhaps at my apex of achievement but my fine little even stitches simply do no hardly show at all on this quilt in spite of the fact that I am using pink thread, perhaps in too light a shade.

The other queen size hand-quilted quilt I ever made took two years to finish. I have the new project set up in the den and from that vantage point, I can hear the birds chirping, see an occasional hummingbird feeding, or listen to the brook down back babbling. These are the benefits of hand-quilting in that particular room. It is also a very special place and is not exceedingly-trafficked, making it an ideal spot to leave the quilt in place, with the top of the circular quilting frame removed when it is not in use.

I am sure that the quilt will look nice when it is finished. I am just not completely sure that I will have the forbearance to finish it. In fact, I believe I would rather shoot myself in the foot. We all make mistakes. One of my mistakes is thinking that I shall live forever. I must think that or else I would stop taking on so many projects. I have an equally complex and lengthy embroidery project in the wings, so to speak. I might tell you about that some other time.

For now, I am pondering how lovely the quilt will look and how upset I could become if a cat or dog even thought of jumping on it, or if some idiota (Spanish word that means idiot) sat on the quilt. It will be a special quilt and as much as I have visions of giving it away, I probably won't. It will be a case of hoarding something special until the "right" person comes along who might be the quilt's future owner. First, however, I shall have to finish it. My friend who bought this exact same quilt is working on her quilt and we are encouraging each other. Which reminds me...I have not yet worked on it today. Adios for now.




Sunday, May 18, 2014

Springtime and New Beginnings

Springtime and New Beginnings

Patricia L. Cummings

The Lilac bushes are setting forth their fragrant blooms again, filling the air with their unmistakable and distinctive fragrance. School graduations have begun to happen. Happy  proud parents flock to see their  children pass another milestone in their development. The word "Commencement" itself is rooted in the idea of new beginnings as was pointed out by a speaker at the University of Rhode Island, yesterday. He was just one of the well-wishers to the doctoral candidates and those who have achieved "master's degree" status.

Quince blossom
In today's world, the accomplishment of a college degree requires a strong financial commitment on the part of the candidate or his/her family. The debt load with loans can impoverish students for years to come. To earn a bachelor's degree can be challenging enough but to earn a doctoral degree requires dedication and determination at a level unfathomable by those who have not done it.

The Academic "Elite"

As was mentioned yesterday in a speech at URI, those who hold doctorate degrees number less than 1% of the world's population. While one should not gloat about having earned that status, a mention of it can and should open opportunities. However, any degree is just a start! Though difficult to attain, a college degree is just the opening act on the stage of LIFE.


Long distance photo shot  of James P. Gorham,
 newly-awarded a Ph.D. in English Literature

Our Own Pride and Joy

Many congratulations to my son, James P. Gorham, Ph.D., for having held steady to the task. He has earned the right to add three letters after his name (that mean "doctor of philosophy). They place him in the category of the intellectually elite. That said, we cannot linger long on that word, "elite." It smacks too much of "elitism," a word that conveys a sense of snobbery and head-in-the-air foolishness. My son is not elite in that sense of the word. He is steady, down-to-earth, and reliable, as well as being a hard worker who managed to overcome many external obstacles placed along the way on the route to this new status.


No matter what else you do in life, take time "to smell the roses!"

Making a Difference

One must take the title of "doctor" seriously and realize that the additional letters added to one's name can be translated as "leader," one who is called to set an example and reach even higher to complete other dreams and to craft a fruit-bearing life style that continues to be meaningful to others, as well as oneself.

We know what James accomplished and some of the personal challenges he faced. As he relaxes a bit now to reflect on goals already attained, we are certain that he is looking ahead and will be one of the 1% of those who hold doctoral degrees who are continuing to improve life for others by their words and by their work.

Congratulations to all who are receiving awards this spring! It is truly a time to feel happy! 


Friday, May 16, 2014

Lines

Lines

Patricia L. Cummings

In art classes for design, one of the first concepts ever shared is that there are two types of lines: straight lines and closed lines. Straight lines can be parallel or cross each other but they always have an end point that is their own that is "lost in space," so to speak. An example of a closed line is a circle or even a bouteh, that elliptical shape that is a predominant element in designs from India and country names that terminate with "stan," such as Uzbekistan, Afghanistan, and other countries.

Perhaps you have been an artist forever and do not engage in analysis as to what you design or why. As a reliable standard, the concept of something that is whole (or complete) is easily represented by a circle. The sun, a custard pie, or a wedding ring, items that are all round, complete within themselves, meaningful just as they are even when nothing else is added. Straight lines that are mixed with other straight lines could look like a teenager just up from a nap, his untamed hair sticking straight up in the air and going this way and that without a brush or comb to tame his locks. Lines drawn on a paper could visually symbolize two divergent paths epitomized by Robert Frost's epic poem "The Road Not Taken."

This quilt, loosely based on a design by Elly Sienkiewicz is very symmetrical. It is "balanced" by the repetition of the hearts and the symmetrical borders


Right Brain / Left Brain Interface

Artists rely on the creative side of the brain, when creating anything. To analyze art, one must use the other side of the brain where cognitive awareness lies and the means to interpret data.

Doctors, especially those who study neurology (how the nervous system works) seem to be fascinated with the right brain / left brain interface when it comes to the work of artists. What exactly happens within the nervous system when an artist switches from simply creating art, caught up in the moment, and then the brain takes a good look at the project to assess if changes are needed (in size, color, or arrangement of objects, for example)?


This "Seven Sisters" Star Block was made to recall the seven states that were first to secede from the Union during the American Civil War. Do you think this is a symmetrical or asymmetrical design? I believe I do not know! Perhaps it is more symmetrical than I believe but  not as symmetrical as I would have wished.


Writing: A Creative Process

An uneducated guess is that the right brain / left brain interface for artists is basically the kind of connection that happens when one is a writer. Any good writer steps back a bit from his work to engage in much self-editing. Writing is a creative endeavor but editing is taming words, making sure that they mean exactly what one intends, and shortening sentences to be more succinct. As a seasoned writer, I would have to say that once a manuscript has been written, it is best to put it aside for a time, the longer the better. Then one can come back to the words with a fresh eye and with a sense of renewal. The same concept is true when designing any quilt or needlework project.

This "stand-alone" quilt could be used as a doily. It's symmetry relies on the same-size segments that create the "whole" outer perimeter of the design. The center is a piece of antique fabric that I overlaid and then embroidered using the Herringbone Stitch - Designed by Patricia Cummings and made by her, this was inspired by an antique textile


Museum Exhibits: What the Patron "Sees" May Rely on Good Signage

I hate the word "end-user." In this case, in using the term, I am thinking of the art patron who views any art exhibit, including quilts hung vertically as art objects. Unless someone trained in the arts is present to explain the dynamics and deliberate use of color and design, and how color work in tandem, or in juxtaposition to create the whole design statement, understanding of the work may be minimal. Signs placed near objects on display in a museum are crucial, if only for the fact that many viewers are "visual" learners who need to see words in black and white in order to remember them or conceptualize their meaning. Of course, if one is able to participate in a guided tour at an exhibit, it is likely that insights about the works in question will be shared by the interpreter of those artistic-rendered items.

The Art World has its Own Vocabulary

One word often heard among artists is "symmetry." Is the piece like a fireplace mantel that has a perfectly placed pewter candlestick on both ends? Or, does the quilt or other art item appear to be unbalanced, on purpose? Is the outer edge an unusual shape? If so, the final work may have been designed to be "asymmetrically." The true patron of the arts will eventually learn all of the specialized words for whichever type of work is being studied.


Designed and made by Patricia Cummings, this miniature quilt features a stenciled rose in the center upon which is attached a pre-made appliqué (a bee). This quilt represents purposeful "Asymmetry" and each block was completed separately before being joined to make the whole quilt top to which borders were added. The border fabrics are Indigo cloth by Momen Fabrics, Toyko, the gift of a friend in Kansas


Newly-Installed MFA Quilt Exhibit.

This post mentions just a couple of art concepts. How lucky those patrons of the arts will be when they visit the Boston Museum of Fine Arts to see the collection of quilts gathered by the late Paul Pilgrim and his partner, Gerald Roy, M.F.A. (Gerald Roy holds a Masters of Fine Arts degree and is a painter, quilter, and quilt collector). The quilts are some of the most compelling quilts ever seen, collected for their graphic qualities. Pamela Parmal has written the exhibition catalogue. That volume is sold at the BMFA gift store online or on amazon.com. The book will be a treasure to keep, long after the exhibit has been taken down on July 27, 2014.

If that is the only book in your collection related to quilts, it would be well-worth it to splurge a bit to acquire it. To be honest, I have not yet seen the book but I have viewed quite a few photos of quilts chosen for the exhibit, so I feel safe in recommending it.

     "Asymmetrical" quilt block, inspired by a remant of an antique Crazy Quilt. This block was made by Patricia Cummings who used many different techniques, surface stitches, and composite stitches


Encourage your Child as well as your own 'Inner Child'

I never believe the line when someone says that they are "just not artistic." Usually, that statement translates to mean that the person has not had any training in the arts and/or has never given himself-herself permission to just "play." All children are creative, naturally! Those childhood drawings are just the beginning!

Just recently, I came across a pile of drawings made by my son when he was little. When he moved out, he told me to just throw them away. I did not do so. I treasure them. They represent how he spent his youth and show great promise. He could have been anything he wanted, gifted as he is. He chose to be a professor of English. It is great to have wonderful memories of our relatively short time together and to celebrate with him very shortly as he is recognized for the fine man that he has become through hard work and education. We all have talents. Do not give up on yourself...ever! You may just find that you have a talent that is very special and as meaningful to others as yourself. This has been a lengthy post. Thanks for stopping by for awhile.


Thursday, May 15, 2014

The Wooden Table

The Wooden Table

Patricia Cummings

Perhaps I am unusual. I have no way of judging that. I become very attached to objects. Let me explain. This morning I am thinking about a kitchen table. It was made by a NH artisan, a man who since either retired to Florida or went to meet his Maker before that move could happen. For a short time, he advertised himself as a woodworker via a sign on his lawn, a space full of his wooden objects he had made. In driving past his home, again and again, my father took notice and my parents stopped in. Before they had left, they had placed an order with him for a kitchen table crafted by him. On the backside of the table a message is written that says the table was made for the family of (my father). Unfortunately, the man did not sign his name and it is currently "lost to history."

The table was a "step up." I remember vividly one kitchen set after another that were typical of the 1950s and 1960s. If you lived through that time period, you would recognize that type of kitchen decor immediately. I have no photos handy.

To get back to the discussion of the wooden table, its surface is wonderful but "soft":  easily scratched or dented. It is a soft pine, not a hardwood surface. For a time, the table was used by another family member. I asked for it, after seeing it sitting outside in the rain, ready to be disposed of in some manner.

The table is more that a table to me. I can remember the large turkey dinners displayed on it at Thanksgiving, Christmas and Easter, all prepared by my mother who worked tirelessly to honor family food rituals and made all kinds of specialties for those holidays. I remember the "everyday" fare of homemade baked beans, Rhubarb pie and many other berry and fruit pies. Seeing the table reminds me of the white cake with white frosting and coconut, a perennial favorite of my mother, served with a scoop of ice cream and a huge dollop of love.

Although the table is scratched now, that is okay. To me, it represents the aging process and even all of my own bruises, wrinkles, and scars that are typical of anyone who is in their 6th decade of life.

I smile when I see that table. It is special, more valued than can be imagined. It represents the people who once sat around it. I can vividly remember my Dad eating his first Cornish Hen there and in my mind's eye, I can still see the faces of many family and friends who have enjoyed that table. It was such a blessing to be able to have the table in my possession. "One man's trash is another man's treasure." I do not expect anyone else to have the same sentimental values that I place on objects.

Call me crazy, if you must. By saving things of the past, restoring them as needed, patching together old garments and items of cloth so they can last a little longer, my husband and I have crafted a life of abundance. The old table represents that New England quality of "making do" - "Use it up, Wear it out, Make it do, or Do without."

Somehow, along life's way, the most important thing we have learned is to appreciate the work of others. The old table served many years and I hope it will survive for many more to come, No one living is more attached to it than I am because it holds precious memories of loved ones who are no longer here who once gathered at that table for family fun and camaraderie. For a fleeting moment, when I  look at the table, I can recall their words, or see their faces, or hear their laughter, for even a brief time and then it seems not so long ago that those precious times together were shared.

Life is always moving along, one reason it is often represented as a "river" by those who enjoy poetic analogies. Whether we embrace change or simply endure it, change is inevitable. To some degree, I embrace change. In other ways, I reject it. To me, the old table represents not just the man who created it, whose name if unknown to me,. it represents a time when handmade goods were honored, a reason I enjoyed living in the 1960s and 1970s, a time that featured a "back to nature" theme. That is a topic for another day. Life is good.


Tuesday, May 13, 2014

Color - Glorious Color

Color - Glorious Color

Patricia L. Cummings

I have to admit something. As a child, in say, about 6th grade, my mother bought me a skirt. I knew that she haunted the "bargain basement" of the local store called "Pariseau's" on Elm Street in Manchester, long out of business now, but very much in vogue when Elm Street was the main street in town where there were all kinds of shopping opportunities. Well, back to the skirt. Today, I would love this item of apparel that I refused to wear as a child. The scale of color treatment across the surface was boisterous and in mostly purple, white, and my memory stops there. I just knew that I had no intention of wearing the item. I thought the kids would laugh at me. I hid this item deeper and deeper in a chest of drawers and eventually, it found its way to the trash. I am appalled now, not only for my strong reaction to the colors and whirling designs but also how I "sneaked" the skirt out of the house. I wish I had it back. It would go into a quilt. The heavy cotton would last forever.


A quick look at Nature shows us how colors that are distinctly different combine to create an overall lovely effect. Here we see flowering ground phlox, pansies, and a flowering quince bush coexisting in harmony. Photo by James Cummings


We "think" we know all about color. At least, we develop strong preferences for certain colors. When we become quilters, we expand that color base, often due to whatever fabrics surround us at the moment.


This is a Jacobean style Bell Pull I made that has a lot of embroidery and repeated bouteh shapes. I worked in on antique linen given to me by a  friend. The design was published in The Quilter magazine years ago when I re-created it based on a table runner or bell pull that we found in New York state. Photo by James Cummings


Quilts & Color

Be sure to check out the Museum of Fine Arts gift shop to purchase a copy of a new book based on the quilts held in the Pilgrim/Roy Collection. Many derivative items from coffee cups to placemats and diaries have been produced to market along with the newly-installed exhibit that will be in place at the museum until July 27, a real treat for those who can navigate Boston traffic. For other couch potatoes like myself, I cannot wait to see the book. I happened to order it online because I could get free shipping due to the fact that I ordered Ann Hermes new book at the same time. Every penny counts but I knew that both books were a "must have" for my library and free shipping on amazon was too good a deal not to take.

The Yard

In the past few days, the yard is coming alive with all kinds of color. The lilacs are smelling fragrant although they are  not yet ready to bloom. We planted some petunias. The hummingbirds are back and have found the new location of their feeder. Fun to watch them! Jim has begun planting the vegetable garden and has accomplished many spring clean-up chores. I am happily set up in the den, quilting a wholecloth quilt project when I am not in my studio working on a large counted cross-stitch piece. In the meantime, I check manuscripts as they come in for my final approval. Life is good. It's nice to be "home." Yes, there is no place like home, a place where colors do matter!


Monday, May 12, 2014

Question of the Day - What Are These Ladies Doing?


What are these ladies doing?



Recently we came across an image on a piece of linen perhaps used as a towel but if so, probably a decorative one. The embroidery is a mix of Redwork and Greenwork and various simple stitches. I was a bit stumped as to what activity these ladies are engaged in? Any idea?



Friday, May 9, 2014

Surprise Adds Enjoyment at a Recent Quilt Show

Today we attended a quilt show in Chelmsford, Massachusetts. Before going there, I half-wondered if any quilts associated with long-time New England quilter, Sally Palmer Field, would show up. I was not disappointed. An antique Redwork quilt that Sally had collected and had hand-quilted was on display. For study purposes, we took a few photos. The surprise occurred after we had returned home.


"Teddy Bear's Thursday"


The quilter was, without a doubt, using a transfer method but somehow she ended up the a mirror image. Undaunted, she stitched the (backwards) saying anyhow. Either she was a frugal New Englander who did not want to waste cloth due to her mistake or else, perhaps, she did not speak English and did not realize that the words were backward. At any rate, this gave us a chuckle.

Smiling today.

Tuesday, May 6, 2014

"Strawberry Fields Forever"

"Strawberry Fields Forever"

Patricia Cummings

Strawberries are celebrated in the Beatles' song, "Strawberry Fields Forever." The word "strawberries" will conjure up an image for most of us. When I hear the word, I often think of the fields in Hopkinton, NH where my family members made an annual trek to buy strawberries which grew there abundantly. Picking occurred when they berries were just ripe, succulent and inviting in their color, little treasures. The best of them always seemed to be hiding just out of view, under a large leaf that when moved would give up that secret.

For a time, I believed I was allergic to strawberries. Recently, I learned that I seem to be able to eat them with no adverse side effects. For years now, we have purchased strawberry jelly made by Trappist Monks in Massachusetts, my personal salute to my great uncle's son who was at first a Trappist priest and then a Trappist monk. I knew him as "Bobby" and later as "Father Placid."  The fields where we used to pick those luscious berries were sold and now sit full of weeds and not under cultivation, a "gentleman's farm" as life goes. Likewise, I know not if my cousin is living or dead. Life changes and moves along but somehow, we always expect the life will stay the same and to that end, we cling to traditions, but knowing full well, that life is eerily wrought with changes and those are often just a breath away when the last person observing a routine is no longer with us.

Today we bought Strawberries at the store. They looked so inviting, they were just too nice to pass up. They were probably grown in California. It is too early for local varieties that will be ready about the middle of June, petering out until around the 4th of July.

One time when I was a sophomore at UNH, my parents picked up a friend of mine and me and brought us out to eat at Yoken's, a family restaurant that specialized in seafood. With their "Thar She Blows" motto accompanied by a whale, the place was known for its excellent fare at a reasonable price. Unfortunately, the restaurant is no more. But I digress. For dessert, my father ordered Strawberry Shortcake. My boyfriend ordered the same. After they had devoured that, Dad said, "I think I'd like another, how about you, John?" The two men enjoyed a second dessert, much to the chagrin and embarrassment of my mother. Have you ever done something as outrageous as ordering two desserts? If not, you should try it, at least once in your lifetime. Life is too short to let formalities stand in the way.


One of the favorite quilts I designed to represent the key themes of the 19th century: temperance, abolition, and slavery. It is named after a song of the same name: "Liberty is Our Motto." A small piece of fabric in the upper right corner features President George Washington and President Barack Obama, a design worked by Barbara Brackman. No doubt there is a Strawberry button sewn on this quilt that was made to celebrate the 4th of July.

Made by Patricia Cummings and photographed by James Cummings


I am thinking about the migrant workers who, no doubt, harvested the strawberries that now sit in my refrigerator. I also think of the truckers who were able to deliver them to the store, without a blemish, picture-perfect strawberries at a decent price. I have a few words for you. It is so important to treasure the "little things." For me, today, my treasure is strawberries. What is your small treasure? You do no have to answer me but I encourage you to enjoy the small things in life because they add up to the "Big Picture," the totality of your life, then and now. Soon it will be the 4th of July. Often, I make a cake that has strawberries, blueberries, and lots of whipped cream for a patriotic statement.

Enjoy the day! Today is the only today of its kind you will ever have!

Patricia Cummings


Monday, May 5, 2014

Time to Be Creative

This weekend was a busy one but one taken at a snail's pace. There was the perpetual laundry basket to empty and other seasonal items to freshen up, like the tablecloth for a small round table on the summer porch upon which now sits a glass dish and the largest Aloe Vera plant one could ever imagine. More exciting than that is that it has two "babies" in the pot. Life is good. It always finds a way to perpetuate itself.

Within the last several days, we visited some garden centers. A love of plants, bushes, and trees is something that I share with Mr. Cummings. I saw a promising looking Blue Hydrangea. I hope it is still available when we return. I am on the lookout for some types of houseplants that I enjoyed growing in other years. I avoid Fuchsia, like the plague, only because it seems to attract Mealey Bugs.


This curtain was fun to make. I prided myself on being able to piece "scraps" together to make this. When I learned that it was too short, I simply added some wide lace I'd collected at some time or other. It is fun "making do" and coming up with something that suits my personal aesthetics! The fabric has maxims and words to live by.
Photo by James Cummings

In addition to my Green Thumb projects, I have been busy in the sewing room. On Saturday, I fashioned a curtain for the front door's window. It was too short so I added lace. It is eclectic. I like it and so does Jim. Yellow is a color that is always welcoming! Perhaps that is why the Pineapple is so often used as a symbolic welcome.



Jacobean Appliqué in full bloom - by Patricia Cummings
Photo by James Cummings
                                         


This morning I finished a Bell Pull. This is an item that I made based on an antique that I found. The more vibrant colors I used and all of the embroidery make it special. I placed a sleeve for hanging it, on the back. It was a challenge to find a place to hang this but for now, it is keeping me company in my office.

The last few days have been mellow. I have enjoyed getting into the studio to be creative and to think about finished all the very many projects that are waiting there. I am happy to be off of Facebook and other social media interfaces, at least for now. I feel better "centered" on my work when not sidetracked by the world's issues and problems. They will always be there. People seem to live for "drama," don't they? Only by turning my back on all of that for awhile, provides me the creative space I need and that money cannot buy.

I hope that you will say "Yes" to carving out large chunks of time for your own creativity. Nothing much (original) ever happens in a group. I believe that it is in working alone that we can begin to sort it all out, "it" being all we need to know to be creative artists. There is that word again, "creative." I hope that for you the word is as powerful as it is for me and means creating something from your own vision, not just a copycat version of someone else's creative work. Be happy! Be engaged with your work! Listen to your inner Muse, and then let a vision of something beautiful that only you can make, based on your own experience and expertise, result in an end product you are proud to show as your work.

Creative projects do not have to be perfect. They just have to represent a part of YOU. Get busy! Enjoy life! It's the only one we have.

Patricia Cummings


Friday, May 2, 2014

Merrimack Valley Quilters Guild - 34th Quilt Show

The Merrimack Valley Quilters Guild's annual show is currently set up at Timberlane Regional Middle School, 44 Greenough Road, Plaistow, NH. Hours tomorrow are from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. On opening day today, there was much excitement about the quilts entered into the show and in vendor's booth. There are plenty of opportunities to spend money, that's for sure. The admission price is $8. dollars. The queen size Raffle Quilt called "Sea Glass" is on display and was machine quilted by Carrie Zizza.


Zen Kitty by Beverly Walie would get my "vote" for the most unusual depiction of a car...ever!


Of the many photos that James Cummings took, including some of his favorites, I picked a few to edit and share with you in the hope that if you are anywhere near the show tomorrow, you will plan to visit.


"Snowy" is based on a photo taken by Ruth Martineau's son. I love this quilt! 


"Beach Scene" pulled me right into the landscape with its bright, hopeful sky in the distance. I love this quilt, too!



Jim really likes the work of Janice Jones, the show's featured quilter. She has been featured in several magazine.

Update on the Home Front

I hope this little article was of interest to you. I have so many projects and things to do, I keep meeting myself coming back. You know what I mean. On top of that, I have several books the are demanding my attention. We established a hummingbird feeder station at one of the windows in the den where we feed suet to the woodpeckers and other winter birds; and at the other window, we set up a station for feeding Baltimore Orioles who seem to come around at apple blossom time, not far away.

This week I collected some new houseplants and Jim planted potatoes, onions, leeks, etc., and did the first lawn mowing of the season. There is always so much to do. We work all the time. Although when I think of it, not to work is just not appealing to either Jim or I. Sometimes, we take a very short break as we did today to go enjoy the show. Happy Quilting, Pat and Jim