Tuesday, July 22, 2014

Jane Austen's Brothers Quilt Blocks

I am catching up with Barbara Brackman's block of the week quilt Jane Austen Family Album. Yesterday I made the quilt blocks representing her brothers who served in the Royal Navy.

Waves of the Sea is for Francis Austen, who became Admiral of the Fleet and married Jane's friend Martha Lloyd.
Crosses and Losses is for Charles Austen who became a Rear Admiral. He brought his sisters Jane and Cassandra amber corpses and gold chains, a gift forever immortalized in Mansfield Park. I changed the layout a bit to suit my fabrics.
Today I made the Comfort Home block for George, a brother who suffered from some kind of limitations that required him to live in a special home.

I have been using the green fabrics for all the quilt blocks for the men. Just because.

I am so glad to be catching up on at least one project!

Sunday, July 20, 2014

As Bad As It Gets?

My sewing area has several heavy duty extension cords for power, some overhead fluorescent lights, cement floor and concrete walls and no ceiling. Still, the dehumidifier keeps it very dry, the new glass block windows keep the spiders and critters out. The insulation we had installed last year. keeps it warm. I have all kinds of miscellaneous storage for my collections. I forgot to take a pic of the other corner with all my quilting books on a rickety old bookcase.

Fabric is in the cabinet, with fat quarters in the shoe box storage to the left, and vintage fabrics, embroidery pieces, upholstery fabric in the bins to the far left. On the right are boxes with thread, scraps, patterns, and other stuff.
A desk area that usually I use for design and planning. Underneath is a bin for my Love Entwined and underneath hand dying supplies and a bin of shirting fabrics.

My Bernina 830 Record, which I bought two years ago when my original 1974 one died from overuse. It is the same model, same year, but was owned by a gal who did not do a lot of sewing. And of course, next to it is Mom's 1950s ironing board!

My original table for my original Bernina 830 fell apart several years ago, and I am using my mother-in-law's sewing table. It does not really work for my machine, I have to slide it out to change the bobbin.

I want a real, permanent, functional room. No more fitting into the extra bedroom and dealing with the constraints of living in a house you don't own and can't change.

I want great lighting, a dropped ceiling, drywall, carpet tiles, and hopefully a wall between me and the laundry room/furnace room area. I want better storage with great visibility.

I have Mom's 1959 Colonial Maple hutch. I can't part with it! I hope to incorporate it into my storage somehow.This is how we used to use it, displaying heirloom Blue Flow and Milk Glass and other things. Note: dog toys not dead animals on the floor!
I suppose I could put books on it, or folded quilts (which not have no place to be, but are in pillow cases in boxes still). There are three drawers and two shelve underneath behind the doors. And two small doors above.

First we have to clear out enough stuff so the electrician can actually get to the fuse box. That mean unpacking boxes, which means hubby needs to get all those Hemnes bookcases together for our library, DVDs and CDs. We also need to get carpet tile for the floor, to cover the 1972 vinyl tile Dad put down. Thi will be a very long process.

I have worked in worse rooms. One basement parsonage had the worst light ever. I did not get much done while we were there. Another house I had a tiny room, perhaps built for a nursery back in the early 50s, too small for more than a twin bed and a dresser and nightstand. At least I know that we are working on creating a good work space that I will have for a very long time! At least a long time for me, as I have not lived anywhere for more than 10 years!

Saturday, July 19, 2014

When Dreams Came True: The Apollo Lunar Landing

About twelve years ago I made my quilt When Dreams Came True, celebrating the special moment in time when humanity accomplished an amazing goal. I had grown up with the Space Race and I have several scrapbooks full of newspaper clipping from the early ventures. I was in high school when man walked on the moon. It was a time when we still believed that we could dream big dreams and work hard and make them come true.

 "On July 19, Apollo 11 neared and went behind the Moon. At 1:28 p.m. EDT, it fired its service module rocket to go into lunar orbit. After 24 hours in lunar orbit Armstrong and Aldrin separated Eagle from Columbia, to prepare for descent to the lunar surface. On July 20 at 4:18 p.m. EDT, the Lunar Module touched down on the Moon at Tranquility Base. Armstrong reported "The Eagle Has Landed." And at 10:56 p.m., Armstrong, descending from Eagle's ladder and touching one foot to the Moon's surface, announced:"That's one small step for a man, one giant leap for mankind."

To design the images I used copyright free NASA photographs. I printed copies of the photos and traced the outlines with a black marker. I projected the image onto large paper and traced the outlines. For the portraits of the astronauts I used a copier to enlarge the image even more.

Using the enlarged copies I cut out the outlined pieces to make templates. I also traced each image onto a large clear plastic sheet so I could check for correct placement. I used fusible applique, thread work, and machine quilting. It was my first time to try these techniques.

Read about it at The First Lunar Landing  as Told By the Astronauts: http://history.nasa.gov/ap11ann/FirstLunarLanding/cover.html

Friday, July 18, 2014

The Mysterous Joan

A search for female warriors from history will always include Joan of Arc, or Joan the Maid (La Pucelle) as she called herself. She also appears on the lists of canonized saints in the Roman Catholic Church. There are plays and movies about her life and numerous paintings. We have her trial records and the retrial records. And yet we understand nothing of her. Joan does not fit into any of our expected categories: a saint who lead armies into battle then cried over the dead; a "simple" uneducated provincial girl who answered interrogators with cogent and intelligent answers; a teenager who believed she was the instrument of God's will but was burned at the stake as a witch; a virgin who bivouacked with her soldiers who saw her undress and felt no carnality at her beauty.

Kathryn Harrison's new book Joan of Arc, A Life Transfigured uses every lens possible to endeavor to understand her. Literature and cinema interpretations are offered side-by-side with historical account; the myth and legend appears next to the flesh-and-blood girl.

First throw out any ideas of Joan being simple, ignorant, delusional, unstable or pure fiction. Her folks were pretty important people, and Joan could sign her name. She definitely knew her religion and faith. If  her visions were a side effect of illness, how could she have been so cogent and well spoken?  You can read the trial of Joan here. This is not fiction.

Harrison goes to great length to compare Joan to the Synoptic Gospel accounts of Jesus. It is sometimes disturbing, leaving me wonder if we are to think that Joan, a product of the Medieval church, knew the Gospel so well she could purposefully imitate Jesus? Is Joan's story redacted to appear more like that of the Christ? Can we twist any history through a lens and see what we want to see? I leave that up to you to decide.

What we can know is that Joan inspired the common soldier to do things he would never have done without her, pushed a reluctant Dauphin to claim the throne of France, and routed the English from Orleans. Then the king and leaders found no more use for her. Joan was left aimless without an army or battle to fight, eager to finish routing the English off the continent. Her love of male finery was her undoing: a soldier grabbed her fine cloth of gold cloak and pulled her off her horse. She was imprisoned for a year before her death at age 19, the man she gave his crown unable or unwilling to raise ransom money. For a Catholic who expected a bodily resurrection, the destruction of her body by burning upset her more than death itself.

Joan grew up wearing a homespun russet gown that laced up the front. When she responded to her voice's call to lead France against the Brits she bobbed her hair and adopted male attire. This was against Biblical law. Joan became quite foppish. A fashion explosion was going on in Europe, one only the upper crust could legally indulge in. Rich new fabrics and style innovations abounded. At at time when available virgins flaunted their hair, Joan's short cut was at once a requirement for war but also a statement that she was not available.

Part of her insistence on men's wear may have been the chastity belt aspect: Joan's tight leggings were attached to the short puffy pants with forty cords that were triple threaded through holes. Inconvenient for a women's needs, but also for a would-be assaulter. Virginity was part of her power and mystic, a requirement to live up to the old Lorraine legend of a maid rescuing France, and a statement of not being an evil sexual woman. Females, after all, were known to be the devil's tool to bring down virtuous men. The worst thing Joan's accusers could do was call her a wanton slut.

She wore armor, sometimes for days, and her soldiers were impressed that she could stand it. She had a quilted and padded top under the armor, but still it weighted a lot, and sleeping in a metal shell meant aches and bruises. But unlike the paintings you find, she had no long partial skirt under her armor.

Joan's cloak of gold had to have been a remarkable gift, as the fabric was worn by high church officials and kings and queens. See an example of a cloth of gold dress, made between 1403 and 1403, and worn by Queen Margaret here.

For centuries we have been fascinated by Joan. We don't get answers in this book. We see what we want to see in Joan. Then perhaps it is Joan's very mysteriousness that keeps us fascinated generation after generation.

Joan of Arc, A Life Transformed
by Kathryn Harrison
Publication date: October 28, 2014
ISBN 9780385531221

Thursday, July 17, 2014

Sewing Again!

Today I got my sewing machine plugged into an electric outlet and started to catch up with the Jane Austen Family Album weekly block that Barbara Brackman has been offering. This is Friendship Square to represent Catherine Knatchbull Knight, Edward Austen's adopted mother.

I decided to fussy cut the center per the instructions of Barbara Brown, but with my own twist. I used a neutral stripe and then appliqued motifs from my fabrics in the boring parts! Then I photographed it wonky, as I mean the bird to be at the top of the block.

Getting power to my Bernina 830 and iron was not an easy task. The space I have for my sewing room has no electric outlets...yet. This is what it looked like before we moved in.
My hubby had to get a heavy duty extension cord from an outlet in the finished basement side, over the hanging ceiling, into the unfinished basement side...where it is plugged into another extension cord. 

We went to IKEA in Canton, MI yesterday and picked up five Hemnes bookcases.We had thought we'd get the Billy bookcases, but the white and natural wood were out of stock! Rather than make another trip, we upgraded to the solid wood Hemnes line.

Self serve is a lot of work.
But the real work is ahead, putting together the bookcases. Then we can take our library out of the boxes.
HEMNES Bookcase IKEA Solid wood has a natural feel. The shelves are adjustable so you can customize your storage as needed.
I just loved these chairs and table. I want something like this in the family room for laptop compuers, crafting, or to sit with a book sipping tea. 

Tuesday, July 8, 2014

"America 1844: Religious Fervor, Westward Expansion and the Presidential Election that Transformed the Nation" by John Bicknell

What if Texas had not been annexed into the United States? What if California, Oregon, and the Pacific coast were a separate country? What if Henry Clay had won the 1844 presidential election and western expansion had come to a standstill?

The premise of  Bicknell's America 1844 is that the future of America was determined by the events of this pivotal
presidential election. year.

The most important political topic of the time was the annexation of Texas, a cause supported by President John Tyler. His arch nemesis was Henry Clay who feared that the annexation of Texas would shift political power in favor of the southern slave states. Clay also did not buy into the mandate that America must claim the continent all the way to the Pacific Ocean. John Polk was the Democrat choice, a slave holder from Kentucky who ardently believed that the whole of North American must become unified into the United States of America and who also wanted the annexation of Texas. Throw in Joseph Smith, the founder of the Mormon church running for election and you have a very interesting presidential race.

For ten years there had been a 'gag' rule that had tabled the issue of Texas. John Quincy Adams had gone into congress after his presidency, and as an ardent abolitionist he was against bringing Texas into the union. At the end of the year Adams successfully lifted the gag rule and the vote was cast.

Meantime, regardless of whether the land was American or not, people were immigrating across the continent to California and Oregon. In 1844 the trails were still being forged, often by people ignorant of the land-- and basic survival skills. Bicknell is at his best in describing the harrowing journey of several parties. And he tells the story of  John C. Fremont, the little remembered explorer of the Rocky Mountains and Pacific Northwest who was quite a character himself.

The Second Great Awakening brought new forms of religion. George Miller studied scripture and determined that 1844 would be the time of the second coming of Christ. Millerism spread across the country, with people selling or giving away everything they owned in preparation. Miller believed that God played a hand in human history, in contrast to the deistic beliefs of the Founding Father's time. The abolitionist Angelina Grimke' was a follower of Miller. The date of the end time came and went--several times-- but that did not deter Millerites from hoping it was still coming. Some later decided that the Second Coming of Jesus was his return to heaven and not an earthly reality.

The Mormons were undergoing continued persecution, suffering total loss of their possessions and land while authorities turned a blind eye to the crimes. It is appalling to know that the law would not protect the rights of this church group. Smith's platform was progressive, calling for prison reform and gradual, compensated emancipation. He was jailed and lynched, which ended his campaign and left Brigham Young to claim power.

Millerites hoped to escape the world and figured God would release the slave at the end time. So there was not need to think of worldly matters. Joseph Smith looked to fix societal problems. Social activism was born in the Second Great Awakening and lead to the Social Gospel of the early 20th century.

I was very interested in the thorough presentation of the Anti-Catholic riots by Nativists in Kensington and Southwark  neighborhoods now  part of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania. The Protestant Bible was used in public schools, and the Irish Catholics wanted to use the Catholic version. Nativists built a platform in front of St. Michael's Church in protest. They also called to mandate a 21 year residency for voting rights and the blocking of non-naturalized citizens from holding political office. Riots ensued. We lived in Kensington for some time.

Millerism, Mormons, Catholics vs. Protestants was not the only religious news of the day. Transcendentalist Henry David Thoreau translated a Buddhist text from the French and became a practicing Buddhist, introducing the religion to Americans. And it was the year that Robert Chambers beat Darwin to publishing the first paper on evolutionary theory. Not to mention that the issue of slavery was splitting mainstream denominations.

Thank you to Chicago Review Press and NetGalley for allowing me to read the pre-release e-book.

America 1844
by John Bicknell
Chicago Review Press
publication November 1, 2014
ISBN 9781613730102

Great Blog for Handkerchief Lovers and My Latest Find

 I bought a SwissAir hanky off eBay today and did a Goggle search to learn more about it. I Goggled SwissAir handkerchiefs and discovered a great blog on handkerchiefs, Handkerchief Heroes at  http://handkerchiefheroes.com. The blog has wonderful photos, thematic articles with links and even songs and quotations.

Here is the handkerchief I bought.  It is part of  series. The series is shown at the "Air Travel" post at http://handkerchiefheroes.com/air-travel/. Now I want them all! There is a cubist feel to the design. Each hanky features a different country with two people with instruments.

Many years ago I found this Swissair hanky for about a quarter at a flea market.


Souvenir handkerchiefs abounded. Designers like Tammis Keefe did series for major cities. Here are some other hankies in my collection originally purchased to remember a special trip or place.

The Eagle in John Wanamaker's flagship store stood in the atrium and was a meeting spot for Philadephians.
Tammis Keefe from her Philadelphia Series