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The Quilted and the Non-Quilted Feast

The first day of our tour we spent sightseeing in Moscow, and in the afternoon we ended up inside the Novospassky Monastery, where a delicious meal had been prepared for our international group.

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We were to dine in one of the towers that sit on every corner of the wall surrounding the monastery.

The entrance was through a low door in the inside wall, up some long and narrow steps to the gallery, and again ducking through low doors and into the tower room.

It was a lovely sight: tables already set with lots of delicious food, old cupboards against the walls holding beautiful pots and crockery, traditional costumes on display, along with various crafted items, – and everything lit only by candles and the natural light coming through the small windows, filtered through blue and white glass.

Many old and newer samovars were displayed around the room and on the steps to the upper room:

We were told that we were going to have a traditional Russian meal, – as in a feast, – and our guide inside the monastery described each course as they were served: what they were, a little about tradition and production, how they should be eaten, etc.

I think there were more than ten different courses, – I lost count somewhere during the meal, – and all of it was delicious; the pumpkin soup, chicken and mushroom pie, pancakes with caviar, fish, pork, cucumber rolls and everything else.

We had sweetened mint flavoured juice to drink, – very good after a long and warm day out in the streets. Then there was cake and desserts along with hot tea made from lots of different sour fruits and berries, and sweetened with comb honey.

What a treat!


 

A week later we went into another monastery, in Suzdal, and inside one of the churches there, we laid eyes on another feast.

22 year old Xenia Shlyakova had single-handedly provided a full table of yummy food, – all made from fabric and set onto a large, handmade, table cloth.

There were all kinds of food:  fish with both red and black caviar, mushrooms, and chicken…..

……. pelmeni, cucumbers, roasted pig with vegetables, goose and apples, prawns with lemon and strands of dill……

….. breads in a basket with an embroidered napkin, and decorated bread or cake.

Bearing in mind the topic of the festival was Love, and Wedding, this would probably be the kind of decorated bread made especially for weddings. Note the poppy seeds on the braided loaf, – they are all tiny french knots.

Of course there were desserts too, – fruit, berries, cake, and cookies.

No feast is complete without something to drink.  In the bottle there is moonshine, and my guess is tea in the teapots and the samovar.

I wondered a bit about the boot on the top of the samovar, but Mr. Google informs me that it is used instead of a bellow to fan the fire inside the samovar.

And then the tea is sweetened with comb honey, – everything so neatly made, down to the last detail.

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One the artist’s beautiful quilts was overlooking the table.

 

Both feasts were amazing experiences, and even though the last one was for the eyes only, it is remembered just as well as the one which we could also taste and smell.

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

 

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Dolls, – Tradition and Art

 

Dolls were a prominent part of the Quilt Festival in Suzdal. There was a separate competition category for dolls, and there were also several doll making classes during the week.

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The dolls exhibition and classes took place in the library building, an interesting sight in itself.

I loved the two quilts fitted into the arcs in the upstairs room. The large angel wings, put together from lots of individual wings made by children, was a popular selfie spot.

 

Old doll making traditions seem to have survived and are very much alive and kicking in this country, – maybe because dolls were not seen only as toys for little children, but were also part of traditions connected with adult life. Linda Walsh has an interesting article on her blog about Russian folk art dolls and their use.

According to tradition, rag dolls should be without facial features so that evil spirits would not mistakenly recognize them as humans and inhabit the dolls, – thus it would be safe for little children to play with. This old belief implies that dolls at some time must have been regarded as something more than just the sum of the fabric scraps they were made of.

There were a few faceless dolls in the exhibition, but most had facial features of some kind.

Anyway, regardless of face or not, the dolls were highly individual creations, – not two of them were alike.

The amount of work and attention to details were impressive.

People could enter works related to the terms “Urban Fashionista”, and also “Birds”, “Fish”, “Bears”, and “Bunnies”. Hence, there was a collection of imaginative, stuffed, animals, and, not surprising perhaps, – also cats.

 

“Angels Everywhere” was another subcategory of the dolls competition. And there were lots of angels and angel wings in many variations. One could also see the main theme for the festival, “Love”, reflected in many of the creations.

And even more angels:

The artist Nata Shulepina had created a special project called “Pray for me”:

Svetlana Minina taught classes on doll making at the festival. What she can express through a plain piece of cloth is truly amazing. Her small sculptures are really works of art.

I also loved the bird-woman sculptures, also made by Nata Shulepina  .   According to Wikipedia, these are mythical creatures, some telling the future, and some akin to the Greek sirens.

Not all dolls were as esoteric as the ones above, though. Some were engaged in down-to-earth, practical, activities:

Dolls could also be seen in other venues.  In the vendors’ area there were two life size dolls:

I loved the doll with three pairs of arms and hands. That could sure come in handy on many occasions.

Linda Walsh writes in her article about dolls with many arms:

“Ten-handed doll is a ceremonial multihanded doll. This doll was a common gift for weddings or for young hostess wishing everything to be well. It was considered the doll to help a woman to do all the housework , needlework, weaving, sewing, embroidery, knitting. The doll was made of bast fiber or straw. The doll can be put in the place, where woman spends her time working.”

The tradition of giving dolls as gifts with accompanying good wishes, has certainly not been abandoned. I have received such gifts on previous visits to Russia, and again on this trip.

This lovely doll was thrust into my hands by a fellow quilter on the opening night of the festival. Just like that, for no reason I can think of, other than that we had just been introduced. She is an amazing quilt artist, and the doll now sits right next to my sewing machine.

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I bought this colourful, small, mat from a lady in a stall on one of the first days. On our last day we ran into each other at the Apple Festival inside one of the monasteries, and she gave me this small doll. We had no language in common other than body and facial expressions, but I understood this was meant for good luck.

According to this site, it seems this kind of doll is for wishing good health to the receiver.

Thank you! 🙂

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

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Quilts in Suzdal

At the International Quilt Festival in Suzdal there were many different exhibitions located in different venues around town.  There were both quilts for the Festival’s different competitions, and also special exhibitions of interesting and outstanding works. Most venues had a combination of the two.

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The quilts in this post were exhibited in the small church (winter church) to the left, behind the market square trading arcades.

The first glimpse through the door looked promising, and we were surprised to find not only quilts in the entrance room, but also some interesting ceramic sculptures, and a large egg covered in mosaics.

The medieveal themed quilts were made by Anna Veksler from St.Petersburg, and we were told that the ceramic sculptures were made by someone called Popov. I am not sure about the egg, except that it was beautiful, – that I know.

 

The main room was all painted white and with light coming in through low windows.  The building is not in use as a church any more, – not for the time being, anyway.

The exhibition in here was also a mix of quilts and ceramics.

 

In the room were a few benches to rest on, and they were also works of art. We were persuaded that it was ok to sit on them, though. They were very solid.

 

One of the competition categories was called “Made by Men”, and those quilts hung in this room. They were all made by male quilters, of course. A versatile collection with some nontraditional construction techniques.

 

There was also a collection of quilts from Japan, made by Yuriko Moriyama.

 

I also liked this work by Olga Bernikova.

 

The front end of the room was occupied by some of Galla Grotto‘s quilts, who also taught some classes at the show. She is an artist with an impressive body of works, – and not only textiles. I heartily recommend a visit to her website.

 

Alevtina Shevaldina made this quilt in the rug making technique. She had one in another exhibition too.

There were also several rugs in a special exhibition of old Russian quilts, which I will show in a later post.

 

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Also, Japanese Keiko Nakamura was inspired by Alevtina Shevaldina’s quilts to make her entry for the Quilted Field.

 

And there were more ceramic sculptures, – in every corner, – and more quilts.

 

I’ll stop with these photos of Nelly Saveljeva’s quilt.

More to come.

🙂

Eldrid

 

Skarvsöm in Sweden and Yakutia

When visiting quilty events in foreign places, especially abroad, I hope, and expect, to see something different, – something we do not have at home, something new and exciting, – even exotic perhaps. But I also notice things that are familiar and similar to things I have seen before. Some times I know right away what the object reminds me of, and at other times it is just a feeling that I have seen it before, but cannot quite pinpoint what, where or when.

When walking the Quilted Field in Suzdal I came across a couple of quilts made in a technique I thought looked familiar. When studying the photos after I got home, I recognized the sewing technique as “Skarvsöm”.

I remembered reading about this technique many years ago in “Norsk Quilteblad”, the newsletter of the Norwegian Quilter’s Association. It was then described as a traditional patchwork technique in Sweden, well documented as far back as the 1700s, and mainly used for ceremonial cushions for weddings.

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“Skarvsöm” is made with woolen fabric which is felted so it will not unravel. It is often traditional patterns formed with squares, rectangles and triangles, but in between each and every patch or design element, a narrow strip, most often in a contrasting colour, is inserted, like a passepoil or piping. When the seam is finished, the strip is cut even with the surface on the right side of the work.

Here and here are examples of how it is made, and in Sweden’s Digital Museum you can see many examples of old items made in this technique, so it  is well documented. Here is a blog post with a short article on the history of this kind of quilting in Sweden.

Åsa Wettre also dedicated a whole chapter to this technique in her book “Old Swedish Quilts”.

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Since I could see no names on the quilts above, I wondered at first if someone from Sweden had entered their work in the Quilted Field project, but dismissed this idea as I thought our Swedish travel companion, Anita Fors, would have mentioned it if this was the case. My curiosity aroused, I messaged the organizers and asked about the names of the quilt makers, and if this was a traditional quilting technique throughout Russia. Within a few hours I got to know that this is a traditional technique from Yakutia, and the two makers are Anna Zverova and Vera Vorfolomeeva.

The latter also made these two quilts hanging in the special exhibition of Best Quilts from Previous Quilt Shows:

I noticed she had used not only one, but three strips of fabric in the seams between the patches, all throughout the red/yellow/black quilt, and in a few places on the other quilt too.

Further study of my and my husband’s photos revealed that this technique was also used in some of the clothing and other gear presented at the Yakut wedding demonstration, like on this coat:

…. the mittens:

 

… and the saddle bags/carpets:

 

It has been interesting to observe and learn about all this, and as often happens, new information creates new questions and more curiosity, – in this case as to what could be the connection between the Swedish and Yakut traditions.

Given that the two geographical areas are almost half a world apart, it is probably pure coincidence, – but I cannot help but wonder.

After studying all this, and also having long online conversations about the subject with our travel companion Anita, I got a sudden urge to try my hand at “skarvsöm”.

Just take a look at the beauty here.

 

Edited:

This kind of sewing is called “kybyty” in Russia. Here is a You-tube-video where Vera Vorfolomeeva shows how to do it.

Here is also a stunning picture of the StBasil cathedral in Moscow that she has made in this technique.

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

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The Quilted Field in Suzdal

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Sunday 14th August was the day the quilted field was to be laid out.  The weather forecast said rain, so we were not sure if we were going to be able see it or not, but luckily it let up during the morning hours, – and so we were greeted by this gorgeousness once we entered the grounds of the Museum of Wooden Architecture.

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The quilts are 1 x 1 meters and have strings attached to all four corners so they can be tied together. This was a good thing as the gusts of wind occasionally blowing across the field, could easily have created some disarray.

 

 

The Quilted Field is an ongoing project. Every year the 10 best quilts from the new entrants are chosen to be a permanent part of the project. At the moment they are aiming at having a large amount of very fine quilts to display at the event of Suzdal’s millennium anniversary, which will be in 2024.

 

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The best and most interesting quilts are exhibited for the rest of the week on the inside walls of the Eufemius Monastery.

 

From what we saw, they will have no problem of filling up the fields with exquisite quilts in 2024. There was a lot of creativity, skill, beautiful colours and design displayed at our feet while walking the field. The entries come from all parts of Russia and also from other countries. All entries are accepted, – none is turned away.

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There were so many quilts, and hardly enough time to study each one in detail as there was so much going on the whole day. (See my previous post) . However, some of them made me stop a bit longer to study details I found interesting.

 

 

The theme of this years Quilted Field was Wooden Architecture and Calico Wedding. Keiko Nakamura from Japan made this one, inspired by the wooden church standing in the grounds of the Suzdal Kremlin:

As you can see, a lot of different techniques have been used making the quilts. Keiko also used the same quilting in the border as she had used for an obi belt for her daughter-in-law’s kimono:

 

The participants of the Quilted Field do not get their own quilts back. At the end of the show, all quilts that are not permanent parts of the project, are packed in paper bags, and the entrants can choose a random paper bag with an unseen quilt to take back home.

All the quilts have name tags on the back, with the full address, so you have the chance of making friends with the maker of the quilt you get, and the one that get yours.

You can also choose to donate your quilt to the project and not get that unknown quilt in a paper bag.

Since the quilts lay backs down and were tied together, there was no way we could see the name tags, so I have no idea who made most of these quilts, and can therefore not give credit to the makers. However, if you see your quilt here, feel free to comment below.

There was also a special exhibition of wedding quilts hung in different places around the field. This was a separate competition.

There was also a quilted car.

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The organizers have lots more photos on their website.

🙂

Eldrid

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The Four Seasons Embroidered Frieze

This summer Kaffe Fassett’s exhibition “50 Years of Colour” has been on show at Hadeland Glassverk here in Norway. I finally got to see it during its last week, and it was indeed glorious. But I also got to see a lot more.

Since we had travelled a long way for this, and stayed a couple of nights, we also decided to visit the nearby Blaafarveverket in Modum, as we had heard they usually have some good exhibitions there during summer.

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On arrival we were presented with the options of buying discounted tickets for any two of three sites, or all three. We thought that we had time for only two, and when hearing that one of them had some embroidery on show, we decided on that one, in addition to the main site, – which showed paintings in blue colours and also lots of blue glass and china, linked to the former production of cobalt mined in this area.

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The second site, Nyfossum, used to be the director’s dwelling. The old house and gardens are being restored to former glory, while the log barn in the photo above has been turned into a gallery to house the annual summer exhibitions.

What a surprise to step into the barn and discover that the embroidery on show was actually THE Four Seasons Frieze, also called the Life Frieze, made by Torvald Moseid during the years 1961-1977. I had read about it in some magazine many, many years ago, and I think I also may have glimpsed it on tv at some time, but had never seen it in “person”.

Impressive is an understatement. It is 62 meters long and 58 centimeters tall, and all in one long piece of linen fabric, embroidered all over, mostly using the couching stitch with yarn spun from wool from the double coated Norwegian tail-less breed Spelsau.

The whole piece was hung around the walls in three separate rooms and a hallway. It was not possible to see all of it at once, – you had to move from room to room.

 

Below are more photos showing details from the frieze. I have put them into four groups, one for each season.

For every season there was also a small text explaining some of the scenes. As they were only in Norwegian I have tried to write up an English version, but I fear the poetry of the texts got lost in translation.

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Spring
Early spring starts with naked trees and dead leaves.

The break through is like a powerful gust of wind. Flocks of migratory birds are carried by the wind. They fly with their heads stretched out towards the spring, and the wind is playing in groves and thickets.

The woods turn green, and flowers spring. The tree of spring spreads its glory like an open fan.

Flowers and plants are grown and tended to. Two who are enthralled with each other stand in the middle of them, as if they are part of the flowers’ beauty and vitality.

 

 

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Summer starts with the big wedding feast. Flutes are played, and in the flowering fields there are undulating rows of dancers.

The summer bride has got her finery on. She has a classic profile, she is pale, and a myrtle garland is tied around her brow. The summer breeze is playing with her long hair. A knot of glorious summer flowers is tied behind her neck, and the wind blows her bridal veil into the wedding feast.

The wedding feast is like a flaming bonfire which turns into cascades of colourful midsummer plants.  The midsummer sun shines in bright red and yellow.

Midsummer blooming has a boundless lavishness of shapes and colours. Large flower bowls are opening up, and children are playing with pollen stamens.

 autumntextAutumn

The birds bring the first signs of autumn. They pull golden threads across the earth. The threads turn into light, golden veils which are pulled over the woods.

Nature closes down towards the winter time. Colours and shapes change the trees and plants. Large, brown, knotty plants with filled seed pods are contrasting with the blue.

 

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Winter

The winter opens with the stormy wind hitting the trees, and dead leaves in brown, yellow, and red are blown into the air.

Through winter cold and frost the death rider on his wild horse charges into the night. Nature is desolate and silent.

The wind plays with light snowflakes, and they are dancing around like pearl embroidered suns.

In the darkness of the winter night a flaming ice rose shines like the fiery northern lights, filled with hope.

 

Needless to say I was above impressed when walking along the frieze, trying to take it all in, – and even more so now, when working with the photos for this blog post, and I really got to study the details.

One cannot help but wonder about the drive and stamina that the artist would need to finish a piece like this. And even so, when comparing the beginning and the end, one can almost get the impression that he did not want it to end, as the sheer masses and density of the stitches are ever increasing towards the end.

Still, the artist has produced two similar works of art after this one. His second frieze, the 50 meters long Orfeus and Euridike (1978 – 1985), was also displayed at Nyfossum in the neighbouring rooms, and was almost as impressive as this one, although a bit different.  I took lots of photos here as well.

His third and last work of this scale, is the 70 meters long frieze based on Draumkvedet, a Norwegian medieval ballad often compared to Dante’s Divina Commedia.  This was finished in 1993. I should like to see that one as well, – maybe I will be so lucky some time in the future.

🙂

Eldrid

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“The Four Seasons” and “Orfeus and Euridike” will hang at Nyfossum till the middle of September this year. There are still two more weeks to get to see them.

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It is time for the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival again. Since I am working on commissions which can not be published yet, I will enter an older quilt into the festival this time.

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This wall hanging was made in 2004, and is one of a series of quilts I made using old photos taken on and around the island where I live.

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The photo I used here, was taken sometime in the 1920ies during the cod fishing season, which is usually in February till April. It is probably early in the season since there is still snow.

The photo is taken on the fjord, which we have a good view of from our house. As you can see, there are lots of small boats on the fjord, each one hoping to get their share of the valuables still swimming deep down underneath, – hence the title I assigned to this piece: “Our Share of the Silver”.

Some women owned their own boats and gear, and traditionally they occupied the innermost part of the fjord, which was then called “Kjerringhavet”, – meaning “The Women’s Sea”

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I manipulated the photo so that there are a lot more boats with women in them.

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Then I designed some blocks, which would look like a swirling school of fish when put together, and placed the photo in the middle. I also turned the photo blue to better blend in with the fabrics I planned to use.

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I thought it was a bit tame with only the blue colours, so I added some sunshine, – which I am also sure these women had in their lives from time to time.

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The photo was printed onto cotton fabric, and the rest of the quilt has both cotton and silk fabrics in it. The quilting lines follow the movement in the blocks surrounding the photo.

The quilt was eventually bought by an organization who then donated it to the old people’s home in our neighbouring village Kalvåg, where it now hangs.

This is entered in the Art quilt category of the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival. Be sure to go over there and have a look at all the beautiful works that have been posted, and also make sure you visit the other categories while you are at it. You can also vote for your favourite of each category from May 21st to May 29th.

This is my 13th time participating in the Bloggers’ Quilt Festival. My previous entries can be found here:

Spring 2009

Autumn 2009

Spring 2010

Autumn 2010

Spring 2011

Autumn 2011

Spring 2012

Autumn 2012

Spring 2013

Autumn 2013

Spring 2014

Autumn 2014

 

🙂

Eldrid