Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Quilts, among other things

Well, I had meant to be around again rather sooner than this, spring weather notwithstanding, but that plan was put at naught by a bout of food poisoning over the weekend which laid us both waste; more violent and total-systems but somewhat shorter-lived in my case, somewhat more limited in its effects but of longer duration in Tom's. Good old-fashioned norovirus I think (you aren't obliged to follow the link, though the transmission electron micrograph photos are actually rather pretty, like a detail from a Chagall painting or something). 

This was doubly galling, since it was brought about by a batch of Cancale oysters, the first I had dared to buy, open, dress and serve from scratch, We don't indulge very often really, but it has been a treat we have discovered since we've lived here, sometimes a sociable one, and friends procured for us the special silicone glove for the job, showed us how to wield the knife, and we had promised to save ourselves restaurant prices and return the favour of all the oyster lunches they'd treated us to, so this was the practice run for that. Now, however, they'll be off the menu anywhere for the foreseeable I fear. It's as much as I can do to mention them really. The worst is over but weakness and discomfort and some symptoms linger: I've not been able to apply myself to looking at a screen, or doing anything much, for long at a time, and to be prone and incapacitated does seem a chronic waste of springtime. Tant pis, nothing to be done but wait it out and replace lost fluids, sip ginger tea and nibble cream crackers, this too shall pass, horrid though it has been, and not eating oysters again, if that's what happens, is hardly a serious deprivation in a human lifetime.

Anyway, moving on, here are a batch of photos of my sister's quilts, which happily I prepared earlier. Despite trimming and fiddling with contrast and white balances etc, it really is difficult to do justice to the rich liveliness of colour and pattern and texture in them, but perhaps just a stream of images might convey something of the kaleidoscopic show they make as she unfolded and shook them out one after another.

The one immediately above, an African inspired design, in fact one of her least favourite ones, contains no patterned fabric, the patterning is made exclusively by intricate piecing together of plain materials. She used to make rather more figurative designs, turning the geometric shapes into forms of birds and animals and plants, like this one I posted about some years ago, but these later ones are more in the way of traditional quilts, using squares and rectangles and triangles, sometimes in pinwheels or other configurations, but more abstract. She has slightly more sophisticated machinery now, a quilting frame and special sewing machine feet, but the squiggly quilting patterns across the overall design are done freehand, not using any template or other pre-programmed thing, and though she may buy new material sometimes,  never those purpose-made, itsy-bitsy, dainty 'patchwork' fabrics ones sees in craft shops, and she mainly uses a large amount of second-hand, thrifted, salvaged stuff. 

The backs are nearly as beautiful as the fronts,

and the pompoms and other trims are also all hand made. 

In addition, there are bags and cushions and tea cosies (the latter sometimes in the shape of chickens)

and cotton bags, which also have patchwork motifs on, them for putting the quilts in

when someone buys them, which I hope lots of people do.


Stella said...

The god of the stitch has blessed your sister and yourself, a pair of talented and clever women. A quilt is a lovely thing to contemplate -- offering comfort and warmth as well as artistic expression. I have especially noted the one with the sharp triangles, even though I am not a quilter I think getting those points sharp is a painstaking achievement. It is a craft I haven't tackled, but there is a seductive quilt shop in the neighborhood I'm moving to. Ah, the scraps of fabric one could fill one's life (and house) with! So sorry you've been felled by a bad batch of oysters.....on the rare occasions I indulge it is with a small prayer.

Roderick Robinson said...

Ah, it is shame, a shame it is. VR was brought low in a similar way (though it may have been a shrimp) during one of the holidays we spent in Brittany with Joe and family. Finally hadn't enough energy to move away from a kneeling position in front of the throne of easement.

However VR believes quite seriously she was put on earth to eat oysters and was rapidly back into her stride. As recently as yesterday I asked her what was the best meal she ever ate - in gustatory as opposed to social terms. With barely a pause she mentioned a lunch last year at Bouzigues (Med coast), coincidentally overlooking the oyster beds, with a very traditional ring to it: 1 doz. Supérieurs, a Dover sole, and a creme caramel.

But I sympathise, I really do. Apart from anything else one has to overcome the aesthetics - oysters resemble nothing so much as ... No, I cannot finish this comparison.

A little consommé perhaps. And my brand of heartease.

Catalyst said...

Oh, my gosh, the color, the color! The quilts are stupendous.

As for the oysters, I only eat them if they've been cooked, ala Rockefeller or some other recipe. The BRD eats them raw, with relish, no..not with relish..I mean she relishes them. But she too has suffered from the gut throes. Why she continues I can't comprehend.

jo(e) said...

Those quilts are gorgeous!

Ellena said...

I like to eat oysters or should I say chew oysters but now I wonder if I'll have the courage to do so again.
What a spoiler experience for you and Tom. Bon courage.
These quilts are masterpieces and should be covering walls.
I wonder how many hours of work are buried in all this beauty.

Nimble said...

Oh those pinwheels!

Lucy said...

Thanks all, on the mend now!

Stella - I feel my achievements are as a satyr to Hyperion compared to hers, yet I became a happier person when I decided that sewing needlework simply wasn't for me any more. We all learned to sew and did a lot of it as girls, but doing amazing things with fabric has been her training and her life. The pinwheel points are, she admits, quite challenging.

Robbie - Thank you, for the heartsease (also known as love-in-idleness I believer) especially. However, my heart is still in quite good shape, nothing like temporary misery of the kind where everything is painful and loathsome, to make one appreciate the joy and happiness to be found in normality. It's in fact quite encouraging - especially for Tom who is quite grieved at the thought of no more oysters - that Veronica has not let herself be discouraged from her oyster eating mission. I had heard somewhere that once poisoned by oysters one should never risk them again, that some kind of fatal sensitivity is set up, but I think that must be apocryphal, her story and that of Mrs Bruce (comment below) seem to give the lie to it. I don't fancy them again for a bit though.

Cat - it's a very odd thing, the passion for oysters; a friend whose wife loved them and suffered similar afflictions to ours, said that to him it seemed like playing Russian roulette, surely no foodstuff could be worth it? Yet Tom is already wondering when he will be able to resume the joys of guzzling them. I was never quite so mad for them, and in fact found the business of preparing them in any quantity rather unpleasant and offputting, so felt I had paid a lot for an uncertain pleasure. I may reintroduce myself gently in time though; our favourite seafood place sometimes does good grilled ones in winter, that might be a place to start.

jo(e) - nice to see you, they are aren't they? Colours even better in reality.

Ellena - I don't know, I've known people here who have eaten them every week of their lives for years and never suffered. I also wonder if your side of the ocean might be a bit safer than the English Channel. There's no way of knowing by looking or ensuring their safety by preparation, if there is a problem it's way back at the élévage stage, and quite invisible. The quilts entail phenomenal labour, it's true, they do hang on walls but also lay on beds. You wouldn't want pussy cat claws pummelling them, though Ziggy the wicked furball tends to leave them alone. She has a place at a fairly upmarket exhibition and sale for them next month, and has at last been persuaded to try to sell them for something a little way closer to what they're worth, but of course all those hours can't really be measured in monetary terms. Happily she loves making them.

Nimble - they are glorious, aren't they? The yellow and red ones she calls the jousting quilt.

Beth said...

Lucy, so sorry for your trauma -- I gave up oysters (which I love) years ago after too many similar bouts, but how annoying and unpleasant for you both! On the other hand, your sister's quilts are an absolute delight to see - I just love what she's doing with color and the simplest of patterns. Funny, isn't it - as in your family, I was the one who liked to sew while my mother and aunt were the avid knitters. To each her own! And I think your designs and projects are just as lovely, and your photographic collages quite quilt-like.

Hope you and Tom are feeling lots better by now. It was great to see the photos of you at Natalie's!

Julia said...

Beautiful quilts! Like Buddhist prayer flags, now lovely to sleep beneath one!

Sorry to hear about the oysters, their revenge can be fearsome indeed!

the polish chick said...

oh my, the red one in a key of red is amazing! i mean, they all are, but that one…swoon!

HKatz said...

These are so beautiful. And the one that's right above the line "and the pompoms and other trims are also all hand made" looks like a pattern of piano keys.