27 August 2011

PurlSoho retail therapy

Patrons finger the yarns.

The entrance, at 459 Broome St.

In August I found myself in Manhattan, to visit a family member in hospital. I took a bit of time off from the bedside vigil to meet with one of my New York-based offspring, on her last weekend of freedom before beginning graduate school. We went to PurlSoho, a sliver of a store, and found an Aladdin's cave of yarn, fabric and more.

Be still my heart! Bolts and bolts of Liberty Tana Lawn.

Liberty lawn designs in embroidery hoops -
what a great way to use scraps.

Liberty fabrics have that somewhat eccentric British design sensibility - on view in the creative hats at the televised Royal Wedding in April - and the tightly-woven, yet supple, lawn quilts up beautifully.

According to my 1959 Fairchild's Dictionary of Textiles, lawn is:

a fine, plain weave, relatively sheer cotton fabric made in close constructions. Generally made of fine, combed singles [single ply] although some cheaper carded yarn qualities are also produced... The term lawn was originally was used for fine, plain weave linen fabric with an open texture... The word is derived from Laon, a city in France, where linen lawn was manufactured extensively.

I stopped drooling over the Liberty bolts long enough to notice that PurlSoho also has a nice, edited yarn selection, including many tempting chunky yarns.

Yarn and, at the left, real wool felt.

Textured scarves.

I have a yarn-buying moratorium, but I did purchase a pre-printed sashiko embroidery panel. I took this back to the hospital and worked it there a bit, becoming entertainment for some of the patients at New York Presbyterian. I remember how utterly boring illness can be, and was happy to explain my project to the johnny-clad people, trailing IV poles, who approached me in the lounge. One woman sat with me for quite a while and chatted while I stitched. I think she needed to talk, and I was happy to listen.

Old Singer models - marvels of industrial design.

As we left PurlSoho on our way to the subway, we admired the window of AllSaints Spitalfields clothing company, with its display of antique sewing machines. For information about PurlSoho, the website is: www.purlsoho.com/purl

The Soho MOMA Store is nearby too, at 81 Spring Street. Get refreshed at Balthazar, across the street at 80 Spring St.

16 August 2011

Images 2011 and more

Impressions of Lowell
Top row, one of the waterways that powered the mills.
Middle row, Left to right: 1) Antique Maine quilt
2) New England Quilt Museum
3) James MacNeil Whistler.
Bottom row, 1) lunch at La Boniche 2) Historic building.

On Saturday, August 13, DH and I packed in a full day of quilt viewing, taking in three - count 'em - quilt exhibits, all part of the Lowell Quilt Festival. (Click on any image to enlarge it.)

A good crowd at Images 2011.
A selection of antique red and white quilts from the NEQM
can be seen hanging from the balcony.

Our first stop was Images 2011, the annual show sponsored by the New England Quilt Museum (NEQM) auxiliary. My quilt "Radial Motion" was juried in, so of course we had to see it basking in its fifteen minutes of fame. In a change from previous years, the show was not held at the Tsongas arena, a hockey rink, but rather at Lowell Memorial Auditorium. I prefer this new venue - easier to navigate, and less of a coliseum feel.

A pineapple-type log cabin pattern of strong graphic intensity. By Pat Harrison.

First Impression, Kathleen Murphy.

The Tsar's Decree, by Megan Farkas.
Based on a 1905 illustration by Ivan Bilibin
for a tale by Alexander Pushkin.

Original illustration.
Source: http://www.wikipaintings.org/en/ivan-bilibin/illustration-for-alexander-pushkin-s-fairytale-of-the-tsar-saltan-1937

How wonderful to see a connection between a quilter in 21st America and a Russian illustrator working before the first World War. I love the idea of quilters re-interpreting illustrations by artists who worked in traditional two-dimensional media. The translation from illustration to quilt inherently brings adaptations and changes, making a new work.

For example, the quilting stitches suggest the water flow in a manner almost superior to the linework of the 2-d illustration, and the stars of the illustration have been interpreted using Swarovski crystals, which literally sparkle in the blue cloth sky.

In the Pushkin story The Tale of Tsar Saltan, the eponymous tsar chooses the youngest of three sisters to be his wife and tsarina; the elder sisters are teeth-grindingly jealous. Saltan goes off to war, and the envious sisters waste no time placing the tsarina and her young son, Prince Gvidon, into a barrel, which is tossed into the sea.

The sea, in a benevolent guise, takes pity on the mother and child, and casts them up on shore. (This is the scene in the quilt). In their new land Prince Gvidon - who grew quickly in the barrel, evidently - rescues a magic swan. After various adventures, the swan turns out to be a beautiful enchanted princess, whom Gvidon marries. He and his mother are also reunited with Tsar Saltan, and all live happily ever.

Ocean Treasures, by Norma Schlager.

The Sea was the theme of the juried art quilt show at the Brush Art Gallery and Studios, which we visited for the first time. Some artists who work in this complex also had concurrent open studios, and much of the work was very impressive. The Gallery is in the same re-purposed mill complex as the National Park Service Visitors' Center for the Lowell National Historical Park.

More info about the Brush Gallery can be found here: www.thebrush.org/

Time is as Weak as Water, Carol Anne Grotrian.

Some artists in the show are from my quilt guild, including Carol Anne Grotrian, who dyes the wonderful shibori fabrics she uses in her quilts.

Sea Spray, Valerie Maser-Flanagan.

Valerie Maser-Flanagan, Last Light.

One artist, Valerie Maser-Flanagan, had a quilt at the Brush Gallery and also at our next stop, a quilt exhibit at the birthplace of painter James MacNeil Whistler. Also the headquarters of the Lowell Art Association, this house museum displays some etchings and drawings by Whistler, period furniture, and paintings by his contemporaries such as William Morris Hunt. Worth a stop if you're in the area. More info: www.whistlerhouse.org/

Art Quilts at the Whistler.

Like most exhibits that are limited in size, this small show would have benefited from a theme or other unifying concept; as hung it was a rather random assortment of attractive contemporary art quilts. Nothing wrong with that, but the whole never rose above the sum of the parts.

Robinson Farm Girl, Vita Marie Lovett.
An excellent example of the "thread-painting"
to contemporary quilting.