Thursday, December 4, 2014

The Color of the Year Thing-again!

The Pantone Company has issued its 2015  'color of the year' decree. Usually bloggers go into rhapsodies about Pantone's choices but this is one post that reserves the right to be, hmmm, rather less than ecstatic. The shade is #18-1438 and is called Marsala. It's a red-brown and Pantone's press release crows, " A naturally robust and earthy wine red, Marsala enriches our minds, bodies, and souls." That's a lot to ask from a paint chip much less wine!

Just what is marsala? It's a fortified (means extra alcohol is added) wine from around the Marsala region of Sicily. It's sweet and strong and often used in cooking.When marasla wine is seen through glass, as in just-poured for your consumption, yes, its color is a rich dark red. But translate that color to my favorite medium--fabric, in particular cotton fabric, and the result, as seen in Pantone's own marketing pictures, can be a flat slightly greyed red-brown. Like liver. Oh dear. But on the positive side, I understand that Marsala is another addition to the Taupe family, that wide-ranging family of greyed shades so loved by Japanese quilters and now gaining popularity everywhere.

The make-up bloggers love Marsala. Of course--it's exactly a popular shade of blush. Trendoids who change their wardrobe might like it. Ever since they've been mining mid-century fashion for inspiration, colors of the wartorn 1940s and the flat 1950s have been revived. Some still live on, as in, greys are here to stay. But this Marsala looks like a slightly darker mother of Ashes of Roses, a strange post-war pink-brown-grey that lived a long life particularly in almost indestructible nylon upholstery.

Who might look good in marsala? See below-
 Brown-eyed blonds have a chance and even chestnut-haired girls. My favorite character from The Big Bang Theory (Kaley Cuoco) wore the darkest version of marsala at a 2013 awards show, But plain old brunettes and gasp! salt-n-pepper hair--not a chance. Marsala does look good as part of an ensemble of neutrals and maybe that's what the fashionistas were after: expanding the neutral palette.

But as a quilter (and that's my main interest since there's nothing Marsala on the rack at my local department store) I think Marsala has already come around. As in, we quilters knew it, it's already available and we've been using it. I do wish Pantone would catch up to the world of patchwork!
 Meet Garnet, color #26, Peppered Cottons from StudioE Fabrics.

Thursday, September 11, 2014

9/11 Again

Every time the anniversary of the attacks on the Trade Towers comes around, I stop and give thanks for what I have. While putting a stamped letter in the mailbox this morning, I looked down the street and realized all my near neighbors (next door to us and across the street) had flags or red-white-blue ribbons out. I ran in and fetched a small American flag and fastened it to the side of the mailbox. It's a tiny gesture of remembrance but heartfelt.

All of us remember where we were or what we were doing that bright September morning. I'd heard the breaking news on the radio while washing up breakfast dishes and switched on the TV. Nonstop confusion is the only way to describe the newscasts that morning. I called Rod at work to tell him (he already knew-) and decided to go to the gym like I usually did.

At my gym, the treadmills face several televisions. So while tromping my mile+ again I watched the confusion, the smoke, and tried to understand what I was seeing. And then the plane struck the Pentagon.

I saw the images flash on the screen and stumbled off the treadmill as did everyone else. Someone shouted "Turn it up!" and we gathered underneath the screens and peered upward as we all held our breath. The older man beside me in the Army ballcap muttered, "That tears it-" and abruptly left. Someone was crying. Others were whispering at the edge of the group. I got back on the treadmill and tromped on the terrorists in my mind.

We went to war. And went to war. And went to war. Six long years passed. In 2007 I was teaching at a quilt show in Denver and in a scrap quilt class met a delightful student named Elaine Dumler. A year later I was back in Denver and there was Elaine with her almost completed scrap quilt. We started to talk on a personal level and I learned that she was a writer. She wrote about the challenges of transitioning from wartime duty to stateside postings and how this affected the soldier, the military spouse and indeed the whole family. Her newest book was being edited but she didn't yet have a title. Wheels started spinning in my head. I turned to the index of the book I'd written on the Drunkard's Path pattern and came to the variation called The Road Home. "What about calling it The Road Home -" I said. "Look, it's a variation of the Drunkard's Path pattern-" Then I offered to design and make a quilt for the cover. On the plane ride home I got out graph paper and colored pencils and went to work.

I felt strongly The Road Home needed to be a full-size quilt and enlisted the help of three other people: Mary Frankle, Mary Henris, and Jan Spickett. Enlisted is not the right word--they volunteered! We cut and pieced furiously over a period of several days. Another Marine wife Lori Housel did the longarm quilting and off the quilt went to Elaine for photography. Mary Henris is shown here pinning blocks to the design wall.

The free pattern for The Road Home quilt is on my website and can be downloaded. Click here  Road Home Quilt .

Like the little flag tied to the mailbox, it's a small gesture but what I can offer on this solemn day. After last night's speech by President Obama and the realization that we are not done by any means in the Middle East, today I am taking this anniversary seriously.

Tuesday, April 15, 2014

Many Paths

It seems that I'll never get away from making variations of the Drunkard's Path quilt pattern. Ever since, as a young quilter, I vowed I'd never need to conquer curved piecing 
             *never say never*
have remained perversely attracted to the bisected-circle pattern. I thought perhaps I'd gotten it out of my system when I wrote a book about Drunkard's Path 20+ years ago. The book was Happy Trails subtitled Variations on the Classic Drunkard's Path Pattern. C&T Publishing, bless them, did two print runs of the original and then I bought the rights to the book back. And promptly turned around and sold the rights to the book to Dover Publishing. Whereupon Dover revamped the cover and came out with 65 Drunkard's Path Quilt Variations. The same book but a different cover. "Vintage" copies of both of these come up frequently on line at Aamazon and Ebay.

Dover went through their supply and decided not to re-publish two years ago. And then a couple of months ago, I got an email from Dover--65 Drunkard's Path Quilt Variations was back in print! And can be yours again for $11.95.

In the meantime, the Drunkard's Path pattern still exerted a huge influence on my work and I have a notebook filled with more and as yet unsewn DP variations. But what was most exciting is that I saw that the basic unit of the Drunkard's Path pattern--a quarter-circle and its wing-shaped remainder within a square--could be used to good effect when combined with other quilt patterns entirely. Oh boy. 

Eclipse, the scrap quilt from the center of the original book, still gets fan mail.

The same quilt was used as inspiration for Earlene Fowler's first book in her Bennie Harper quilt mystery series called Fool's Puzzle. The artist's rendition of Eclipse is on the left in back of the broken jar. More recently, a Drunkard's Path variation called The Road Home became the symbol of Elaine Gray Dumler's book of the same name about the challenges military
families face when their loved ones come home from deployment.

That subject is near and dear to my heart so I designed and with friends' help (Mary Henris and Mary Frankle) made a Road Home quilt. Here's the quilt in pieces up on the design wall with Mary Henris 'auditioning' fabrics.

The quilt grew and got a lovely center as Elaine sent me a photo of 
of a poignant homecoming of an Air Force pilot and his family.

The quilt top is shown here lower right still unquilted but believe me, the quilt is done! You can still download the pattern and the directions from my website here Road Home . 

What's up with Drunkard's Path today? The pattern still evolves. A pillowcase from Ikea bought at a Denver Goodwill store yielded exactly the right fabric to showcase the Drunkard's Path as a bridge to other blocks.

A treasured fabric, a '50's decorator chintz with a playing cards motif, turned into new Meteor Shower. 

Here's a close-up of the Star+Drunkard's Path unit. And another of the card fabric (right).

Obviously I can't stop making this pattern. And neither can my students.