Friday, May 29, 2015

Studies in Quilt History: Focus on CT

Sue Reich of CT Quilts will conduct a workshop to study old quilts on September 19, 2015 from 9:30 a.m. to 3:30 p.m. at the Windham Textile & History Museum, 411 Main Street, Willimantic, Connecticut. The focus will be last quarter nineteenth century quilts from 1870- 1910. This day is the third session in the series.

A special presentation will be given by Michele Palmer, author of American Toile and The Storied Fabrics of Europe and America. Bring toiles to share. There will be a special viewing of antique sewing machines and a tour of the museum. Bring quilts from the 1870- 1910 time period to share. The cost of the workshop is $70. dollars; lunch is included.

Future workshops planned are: Early Twentieth century quilts: 1910-1940; Mid-Twentieth century quilts: 1940- 1970; and Bicentennial to Millennium Quilts:  1970- 2000.

"Get a Closer Look!"

Contact information is as follows:

CT Quilts
28 Scofield Hill Rd.
Washington Depot, CT  06794

Sunday, May 17, 2015

The Textiles of the Hmong People

The Textiles of the Hmong People

In the past I have written lengthy articles (for publication) about the Hmong people and their work. If you have ever laid eyes on a piece of H mông Textile Art, you know that it is love at first sight. The intricately stitched creations of Paj ntaub or Pa nDau (pronounced Pond ouw) are made with loving hands and utilize a number of techniques including cross stitch embroidery, surface embroidery, reverse appliqué, and appliqué.

The "H" is silent in H mông and the word sounds like "mung."

Types of Patterns

The H mông people produce two types of textiles: geometric and pictorial (scenes of war and peace). Each piece is uniquely-made and is a one-of-a-kind textile, yet certain recurrent themes are present. Common themes are “Snail’s House,” “Elephant Foot,” and “Ram’s Head,” a few of the geometric design names. Since I can now only post one photo to a Google blog, I will share the following today: a colorful baby carrier. Babies were brought out into the fields by their mothers to do farm chores in the hillside areas where Hmong lived in Laos, Cambodia, and North Vietnam. Babies wore highly-decorated hats that would look like flowers when viewed from overhead in order to ward off evil spirits and confuse them.

Hmong baby carrier from Thailand
The straps have been cut, according to Hmong beliefs, so as not to bring bad luck to the baby

There are a number of fascinating books available about the Hmong. Their lifestyle appears to be vanishing to some degree, and needlework traditions could become all but lost if the younger generation does not take an interest in learning the finely-tuned skills responsible for Hmong embroidery and appliqué.

Posted by Patricia Cummings

Sunday, May 3, 2015

"Take Joy!" - An Essay

Anyone who is familiar with the life and work of Tasha Tudor associates the words "Take joy" with her. As an active writer and children's book illustrator, the artist was inspired by the statement of a fifteenth century monk, Fra Giovanni Angelico, who said: "The gloom of the world is but a shadow. Behind it, yet within our reach, is joy. Take joy." He was a painter, too, which may be one reason that Tudor discovered his words. The whole quotation (the original source of Tudor's phrase) was found in an article in Piecework magazine, March/April 1997.

Just look around and it is easy to see people who look troubled and who seem to be carrying the weight of the world on their backs. Feeling the burdens of age, illness, or simply responsibilities can leave an individual so tired or in pain that "taking joy" does not seem like an option. Yet, we can all find things in life to enjoy, no matter what our circumstances.

Art is a therapeutic venue and it does not have to be "high" art or techniques only learned through expensive classes or an college art education. For example, today I am coloring...with crayons, but on muslin fabric that was silk-screen printed by someone else. I am taking joy in this endeavor. The subject matter is Sunbonnet Sue "babes" doing this and that: catching butterflies, fishing, etc. and the blocks are associated with letters of the alphabet such as "e" for "elephant." The project is quite fun and is one I purchased from Kim Bunchunk years ago now. A smile comes to my face when I sit down to work on these tiny blocks for a miniature quilt.

With quilting projects, it is fun to jump in and try something new, even if one does not fully know what they are doing. There are few mistakes that cannot be disguised in some manner. The importance of any project is to "Take joy!" Think about the person for whom the end project will be given or consider how nice a quilt will look on a bed, a wall, or hanging in a quilt show, possibly with an award ribbon it. I urge you today to be an observant and committed quilter, that is, be aware of what you are doing and why you are doing it. Most of all, take joy in your work!

Saturday, May 2, 2015

Hmong Work

Hmong Work

Patricia L. Cummings

My memories of the Vietnam-era are crystal clear: images on the television of fighting going on (during high school years), and protests being mounted at the university as the number of war dead mounted. When the war ended, the Hmong people (who were allies of the United States) tried to escape into Laos by crossing the dangerous Mekong River. As the scene below indicates, they used any method available: swimming, traveling in small plastic tubs, or trying to make their way on make-shift rafts.

Pictorial representation of the flight across the Mekong River

In Laos, there was little to do in the camps where the Hmong people were given safe haven. Men and women alike passed the time by doing needlework. The Hmong women have a strong tradition of appliqué work. When some of them migrated to the United States, supported by the Mennonite Church, the women found work doing appliqué on quilts for the Mennonite tourist trade in Lancaster County, Pennsylvania. Mennonites are very good at piecing and hand-quilting but not so skilled at appliqué. In Amish country, it is not widely-broadcast that many of the quilts are appliquéd by Hmong hands for fear that people would feel cheated if they thought a quilt was not totally constructed by an Amish or Mennonite quilter. 

The pictorial needlework of the Hmong sits in two camps: scenes of the people escaping the Communists and remembrances of peaceful villages. In addition, the Hmong are known for their tiny reverse appliqué and appliqué which are included in useful objects such as tote bags, small bags suitable to hold a camera, baby carriers, and many other items of utilitarian value. They also make exquisite "pictures," that could be framed. Today, the Hmong young people are assimilating into U.S. culture and the needlework is becoming a craft allocated to older Hmong. We could consider their type of needlework a "dying art." The skill involved in creating Hmong work make it important but its greatest significance is the celebration of a culture and that group's collective memories.