Thursday, March 31, 2011

My Favorite Red & White Quilts

As promised, here are some pictures of my favorite quilts from the "Infinite Variety Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts" exhibit recently on display in NYC. This quilt was the poster child of the event. The design was featured on the signage, brochure, and on a tote bag available for purchase. The intricate design creates a fantastic optical illusion. I'm not sure how you would piece a quilt like this together. It was absolutely stunning. Plus the applique pieces in the corners add to the whimsy of the overall design. The star design was another fabulous piece. Lining up all of those points so perfectly had to be very tedious. With many of the quilts I looked at the design until I could figure out the basic block, but with this quilt and the quilt above I have no clue how you would put them together. Maybe someday when I have more time and better sewing and cutting skills I can tackle this kind of design.

This next quilt looks deceptively simple. The actual quilting (the stitched used to connect the layers of the quilt) is very intricate. The multiple stitch designs are easy to see on the plain white background.

A closer look at the red design on the quilt shows it is a combination of reverse applique and and embroidery. It must have been such a long process to cut and stitch around all of the applique. What a great display of craftsmanship.

The airplane quilt was adorable. The design is fun and whimsical and I could see this in any little boys bedroom. (I could also see a store like Pottery Barn selling a recreation of this piece.)

Not surprisingly this was a quilt made around war time to show support for our troops.

This quilt is another kind of optical illusion, but this is one I could make. It's all long strips, little blocks, and right angles. I like the striking look of the completed quilt - very bold and modern.

The quilt below features applique work that is beautiful, but I was more impressed by its condition. The quilt was made in 1858 and isn't faded or falling apart. What a testament to the women that put this piece together.

And finally one last little tidbit I learned. Often quilts were used to raise funds. A quilting group would put together a quilt and people would pay to have their name put on the quilt and then the quilt would be sold or raffled.

The close up below shows one such piece - there are names added along the edges. Seeing the names in the quilt makes me want to know where it was made, who paid to have their names added to the quilt, and how much money did it raise. It was really fascinating.

Quilts require time and effort to make. And for many of the quilts on display everything was done by hand. There were quilts that just gave me goosebumps because I could feel the history and sense the heart and soul that went in to making them.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Infinite Variety - Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts

The American Folk Art Museum presented a very special quilt collection in the Park Avenue Armory. The show was free to the public but only open from March 25th - 30th. On display - 651 red and white quilts belonging to one private collector, Joanna S. Rose. The show was a gift to New York City from her and her husband in celebration of her 80th birthday. The Park Avenue Armory is a huge open space (something like 55,000 sq ft) - the actual display was set up by a design firm and the layout was breath taking. It all started with a small circle of chairs, representing a quilting bee. From this circle a "tornado" of quilts swirled up to the ceiling. Around the center spiral there were large round pods of quilts that were hung from floor to ceiling. The resulting display was like a giant house of cards. I felt like Alice lost in Wonderland wandering through quilt after quilt. The quilts were hung using wire and large cardboard tubes. Both the tubes and the wire faded in to the background and it was almost as if the quilts were floating mid-air. A graphic artist actually determined where each quilt was placed in the display. First she matched each quilt by size, as they were hung back to back she made sure each pair was the same size. Then she arranged them putting the quilts with less intricate designs higher and those with fine details at eye level.
The quilts spanned three centuries with most from the 19th century. The patterns, the quilting, the applique - it was overwhelming. You could walk up and look at all of the fine details and see the craftsmanship in each stitch.

The quilt designs were so inspiring, I was ready to pull out the sewing machine and start on my own red and white quilt creation last night.

Tomorrow I'll post some close up photos of my favorites from the show.

Monday, March 28, 2011

Enough With The Snow Already!

Back in January we had snow storm after snow storm.

After snow storm.

We had so much snow that it piled up on the streets and sidewalks.

And while it looks pretty in the photos, especially in the trees - it turns dirty and soggy and makes the streets a big slushy mess.

We had so much snow this year, a strange snow pile built up across the street. I'm not sure if it was all snow or a pile of trash covered in snow.

But the big snow pile was there for weeks and weeks. (Yes those are Christmas trees waiting to be picked up. I actually saw a Christmas tree out by the trash on St. Patrick's Day - who keeps up a Christmas tree until mid-March?!)

Finally by the time we got back from Iceland it was almost gone. Rain showers washed the last bit of it away.

And now with April just around the corner the snow pile is gone and we are ready for Spring. Apparently Mother Nature has other plans because last week we had more snow!

It was enough to get some accumulation, but thankfully not enough to create another snow pile.

Over the weekend it was bright and sunny outside but the temperatures were in the 30s and 40s. Enough of this cold business - it is time to put away the heavy coats and thick gloves!

Saturday, March 26, 2011

It's Always Better to Be On Something

No matter what, no matter where the cats always like to curl up on something. A blanket on the bed, a bag on the floor - their motto is it's better to be on something that is on something.

As seen in the photo below, it is better to be on the blanket, on the blanket, on the bed. They had the entire bed, but all chose to sleep in one little corner.

Sunday, March 06, 2011

The Blue Lagoon

I really need to write some more about our trip to Iceland, but my unpaid internship has been keeping me very busy. I woke up early today and that means time to get in a blog post before work.

We started our trip to Iceland with a visit to the Blue Lagoon.

Iceland is full of geothermal hot springs. The Blue Lagoon isn't a naturally occurring hot spring, it is the by-product of a geothermal power plant. To fuel the power plant deep boreholes were drilled to extract super hot, mineral rich water from thousands of feet underground. The water produces energy by driving steam turbines. The runoff water is still very hot but it is too salty to provide central heating for homes so it is piped in to a lagoon dug out of a lava field. The water is a milky, pearly blue and has a high content of silica and other minerals. The water isn't an even temperature, some areas are 'hot spots' where the temperatures are significantly warmer than the surrounding water. We found a little nook with a hot spot and soaked away the afternoon.

The Blue Lagoon is a tourist attraction, set up for visitors to Iceland. Natives go to their own local geothermal pools. Even though it is a tourist attraction it was fabulous. The facility is modern and clean.

There are regular buses between the airport and the Blue Lagoon and Reykjavik. Our flight was essentially a red-eye between the 8pm departure from NY, the flight time (about 5 hours) and the 5 hour time change. Even though we landed early in the morning our hotel room would not be ready until the afternoon. Our visit to the Blue Lagoon was the perfectly relaxing way to start our trip.

We boarded the first bus from the airport to the Blue Lagoon. We were the only people on the bus! It was our own private motor coach.

Michael was smart and had us pack a small bag with our swimsuits and a change of clothes. We locked our larger bags in a holding area at the entrance to the facility.

The walk to the Blue Lagoon was freezing - the wind was blowing an it was cold outside - around 30 degrees. The outside of the facility is all lava rock which makes for a beautiful and dramatic entrance.

Right before you enter you get to see a little bit of the water. It is the most beautiful shade of blue. The water is so thick with minerals you can't see your hand once it goes below the surface. In certain spots along the lagoon there are pits of soft, squishy silica that you can use as a scrub. The water really does make your skin feel amazing.

The facility has separate men's and women's locker rooms. The women's locker room was expansive - set up for hundreds of guests. Winter is off season and the locker room and lagoon was relatively empty. I can't imagine the crowds in the summer.

When you enter the facility you are issued a waterproof bracelet. The bracelet allows you to open and lock your locker and charge items. They just scan your bracelet as you exit and you pay for any additional services. You can get massages in the lagoon - you float on a small raft during the massage. It was too cold for floating during our visit, we kept submerged as much as possible.

The women's locker room had a vanity area stocked with hair dryers. All of the furniture was very modern with clean and simple lines. The locker room was fully staffed and kept very clean.

The facility has a casual food counter and a fancy restaurant that is carved out of a lava mountain - one entire wall is all lava. Michael made reservations and we had lunch in the restaurant. We sat by a window and had a lagoon view while we ate. The food was amazing. It was our first meal in Iceland and what a start. We both chose the seafood special. It was a piece of Atlantic char and a piece of salmon with a mussel on the side and a wonderful sauce. The seafood in Iceland was the best seafood I have ever eaten. It was so fresh and always cooked perfectly. The texture was firm but flaky and the taste was really delicate. I eat salmon because it is good for me, not really because I enjoy the flavor - it is strong for me. In Iceland the salmon was so light, it was really delicious.
When we were done relaxing in the hot pool we caught a bus right to our hotel in Reykjavik. The tour bus companies do a very good job of getting you exactly where you need to be.
This was the perfect way to start our trip!
Below is a scan of the official Blue Lagoon brochure. The steam really does rise off the water, it is striking with the lava hills in the background.