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The International Quilt Festival of Suzdal, Russia

This August I travelled to the International Quilt Festival in Suzdal, Russia. It was a 10 day trip, with 8 of them spent at the Quilt Festival and in the immediate neighbourhood of Suzdal, a small town about 2 hours east of Moscow.

quiltedfield

I have been wanting to visit a Russian quilt event for a while, as I know there are several, and when I saw pictures similar to this one posted on the internet last year, I decided that this was where I wanted to go.

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Suzdal is a very old town. It was founded nearly 1000 years ago, and for a while it was the capital of a principality while Moscow was still merely a small outpost.

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The Suzdal Kremlin (photo above) is way older than the more famous one in Moscow, and is on Unesco’s world heritage list, along with one of the monasteries in Suzdal.

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The capital was moved, but over the centuries,  Suzdal became a religious centre with several monasteries and lots of churches. During the Soviet time, industrialization passed Suzdal by, and much of the old architechture was preserved. When the people realized what a gem they were sitting on, laws were passed to prevent highrise buildings in or near the town centre. More than 300 buildings in town are now listed or protected, including 5 monasteries and more than 30 churches. Suzdal is now a major tourist attraction on the so called Golden Ring, and more than a million tourists visit every year.kyrkjer

This also means that the place is well equipped with reasonably good hotels and restaurants, so the town, with a little less than 10 000 inhabitants, is capable of hosting quite large events.

The travel agency connected with the quilt festival, which organized the tour, had put together a varied and interesting program, which, in addition to the quilt festival events, also included a trip to a local farm and several guided tours of the town and area.

Since there were so many interesting things to do, and to look at, that were not necessarily quilt related, I brought along two family members who are not quilters, and we all enjoyed ourselves very much.

 

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The quilty events like exhibitions and classes were spread out on 8-10 locations throughout the town; – in hotels, churches, culture house, library, and even inside one of the monasteries. Exhibitions were open every day for more than a week.

The quilt shops were located in one of the hotels on the outskirts of town, along with the show administration and most of the classes. Our hotel was in the very centre of town, right next to the town square where much of the entertainment was going on, and with short walks to most of the exhibitions and attractions, and to a variety of good restaurants.

 

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Some events were one day dos, like the Quilted Field event held in the grounds of the Museum of Wooden Architecture.

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People sew quilts of the same size, 1 x 1 meters with ribbons attached to all four corners. The quilts are then laid out on the grass in a checkerboard pattern, and tied together at the corners.

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The audience can then walk, run, dance, or skip across the Quilted Field, enjoying all the different colours and motifs, and of course take lots of photos. People love to pose with their quilt, or with their family and friends, and photograph each other in the field.

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In addition to the quilted field, there were also quilts hung on clothes lines and on the walls of the old houses around the area.

 

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There were also lots of stalls selling food and various crafts.

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In addition to all this, the organizers also put on a more than 4 hour long show with lots of song and dance, traditional wedding processions and games, in which both young and old took part.

The theme of this years quilt festival was “Love”, and on this day the focus was on courtship and weddings. There was a special competition category of wedding quilts, and these quilts were hung around the area, and the winners were announced at the end of the day.

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People had dressed up in traditional wedding dress, and a procession of wedding guests following the couple marked the start of the show program.  Later the guests mingled with the audience, and it was interesting to study the various costumes they were wearing.

Quilters also wore their home made dresses, and we recognized a few of them from the fashion show in the town square on the previous day, – more on that in a later post.

On stage a folk dance group sang and danced to traditional folk tunes. They were very good, and wore a variety of wonderful costumes, – the sort quilters would love to take a closer look at.

I think they performed for more than an hour, and still I was sorry to see them go.

 

The audience were invited to learn traditional wedding dances in front of the stage. One couple led the dance, one lady had a microphone and explained the moves over the loudspeakers. Of course, we did not understand the words, which were in Russian, but we understood the moves and steps that were shown. They started out with the polonaise, which we also did at our daughter’s wedding 10 years ago, so it was really very similar to our customs at home.

A small play was performed, again all words in Russian, but you could guess a lot from the mimics and tone of voice. My guess is that this was about a young girl who wanted to be a fine lady in town, and turned up her nose at the simpler farm girl who wished to stay put. However, the farm girl got the eligible young man in the end, but luckily an officer also came to the rescue of the “fine” girl, so all was well in the end.

I loved their costumes.

 

The whole thing was very informal. You could sit and watch all the time, or get up and walk around looking at the quilts, participate in the dancing and games, go have a snack at one of the stalls, or sit on the grass enjoying your packed lunch. There were not only quilters present, but families out for a Sunday afternoon walk, officially invited guests, and also busloads of tourists visiting the museum as part of their tours. Everybody seemed to enjoy themselves very much.

 

This is already getting too long. I will have to make several new posts to show you more of the quilts, and of other (hopefully) interesting stuff.

🙂

Eldrid

 

 

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Annual Spring Report 2016

The photos below were all taken on May 1st, the date I have used to compare the progress of spring for some time now.

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The woods have just a hint of green, – most trees have only small buds, while a few early ones are sporting tiny leaves.

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The pussy willow has been out for some time. There is still lots of snow in the mountains and temperatures have been quite low so far.

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Crocuses are mostly finished, most of the daffodils are budding, and so is the cherry tree.

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Only the very early daffodils and the ones growing in the most sunny places are in bloom.

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The tulips along the south wall have large buds.

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The spiraea bush, – the very first bush that was planted in our garden nearly 40 years ago, is starting to sprout leaves, but no flowers yet. The rose bush to the right was planted about the same time, and will hopefully display its white roses in a couple of months.

2016-6

The field looks yellow and bleak, but there must be something green growing underneath since the deer turn up grazing there almost every day.

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

Transforming a Pillow

The mention of shoddy in my previous post, reminded me of a pillow I rescued from the bin when sorting out things at my parents’ house last summer.

shoddypute

I think it originally came from our grandparents’ home, and I remember sleeping with that pillow when I was a little girl. It was very lumpy back then, and even worse now. Nobody else wanted it, and my first thought was to toss it, but then I rather liked the two fabrics it was made of, and since it would also be good for supporting the breakables during our drive back home, it went into the car instead of the bin.

shoddy

Back home I opened it up and emptied the filling into a plastic bag. This is what shoddy looks like after it has been inside a pillow that has been used for more than 60 years. Very lumpy indeed.

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Shoddy is made from old woolen garments, like the socks in my previous post, which have been shredded and carved into fibers, and then carded and made into fillings for pillows and duvets. Close up, one can see some of the original threads and many different coloured fibers.

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I washed the fabric and put it away in a plastic bin.

Then we bought a new sofa, and I needed a couple of new pillows. I had seen one in a recent quilting magazine which gave me some ideas, and when looking through my stash for some background fabric, the old pillow came to mind.

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I brought it out, and decided to use both fabrics, and I could even keep the old seam. I cut it one ruler width from the seam on both sides, and then cut the length into two parts, one for each pillow.

Then I added strips of a blue cotton damask fabric, which I had dyed myself many years ago. The two backgrounds are a bit different in size as the inner pillows I had available were of two different sizes. I also turned the stripes horizontally on one, and vertically on the other.

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Then both backgrounds were layered and quilted with a wavy, on point, grid.

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Next, I drew lots of circles in three different sizes on paper backed fusible web. They were ironed on to the back side of many different yellow, orange, red, and some purple scraps.

 

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Then I placed my “flowers” on the green and blue background. I moved them around till I was satisfied with their placement, then ironed them down.

 

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I sewed around each circle using the satin stitch on my machine. Since the background was layered and quilted, there was no need for a stabilizer.

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I drew some stems with chalk, and then sewed them using a wider satin stitch.

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In order to make some leaves, I ironed strips of different greens onto fusible web. Then I drew some leaf shapes in different sizes, and made some templates which I used to draw on the paper side of the fusible web already ironed to the strips. I cut out lots of leaves so I would have some to choose from when distributing them on the background.

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When I was satisfied with the placement, I ironed and sewed around all the leaves using the satin stitch.

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Then I only had to make backings for the pillows. Since I did not have zippers available, I made the envelope style backing. I use that a lot.

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And onto the sofa they went.

🙂

Eldrid

Old Socks

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Recently I had the chance to see some of the old socks that Annemor Sundbø rescued from the ragpile at her factory Torridal Tweed. The socks and other old and worn knitted garments were going to be recycled and turned into shoddy.

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However, when Annemor took over the factory and went through the pile of rags, she noticed the beautiful patterns on the knitted garments, and they became more unusual as she neared the oldest layers at the bottom of the pile.

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She decided to save many of these old rags in order to document older knitting patterns and traditions. Her work resulted in several books and a collection of garments for exhibitions. What I got to see, is the sock collection.

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All the socks have different patterns, and it was also interesting to see how they had been worn and mended. If one part of the sock became totally useless, usually the foot part, it had sometimes been cut away, and a new heel, foot and toe had been knitted onto the old rib and leg.

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Sometimes it also looked like and old sweater arm had been used for the rib and leg part with a new foot knitted onto it.

These rags are a legacy of harder times, when people had to turn every shilling, turn bed sheets sides-to-middle, and turn one garment into a new one to make do. It is not all that long ago.

 

You can read more about the salvaged rags at Annemor Sundbø’s website.

 

🙂

Eldrid

 

Edited: In my next post, you can see what shoddy looks like.

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.

blaafarveverket

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.

 

 

summertextSummer

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

ps

“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.

Silversea

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

 

Annual Spring Report 2015

May 1st has come and gone, so my annual spring report is overdue, but here it is.

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I guess there is no such thing as a “normal” spring, but if there were, this would be close, I think. At least this is very close to my memories of what spring used to be.

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Since we were going away on May 1st, I took these photos in the evening the day before, and nothing had changed much overnight, so I think they count as May 1st photos.

We have had a relatively mild winter with little snow here on the coast (inland dwellers will tell a different story), but the spring has been quite cool, especially April. The leaves on the birch trees have just started to come out, but very slowly.

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The daffodils are budding, and a few are in bloom.

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The exceptions are the ones by the walls facing south, they have been blooming for some time. The crocuses are all finished, unlike the very cold spring 2 years ago, when they were still in full bloom on May 1st.

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The flowering currant bush is also in full bloom, ….

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…. but none of the rhododendrons have shown their colour yet, – not even the early ones.

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The tulips by the wall are ready to bloom, and were opening up when we arrived back home two days later.

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The rose bush has got some green leaves, but the spirea bush only has a hint of green on it.

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No leaves on our old rowan tree yet, but it is budding. We still have snow falling now and again.

As we travelled into the fjords on May 1st, we could see that there was still a lot of snow in the mountains, and the greenery varied from quite green to none at all, depending on whether the slopes were facing south or north, and on the altitude. Some high lying farms inland still had their fields covered with snow.

 

 

🙂

Eldrid