Ode to Joy

Last week I rushed to complete a quilt for a show at my church. The theme is “Ode to Joy.” My inspiration was, of course, the music by Beethoven plus our garden, Melody Bells, and a book called AMARANT: THE FLORA AND FAUNA OF ATLANTIS BY A LADY BOTANIST.

I’ve always thought we are much better off finding the joy in our life rather than pursuing happiness. And one sure way for me to find joy is spending time in the beauty of nature—especially if trees are involved. So a tree became the first element in my quilt design.

Right now the garden has passed it’s spring prime of abundant poppies, ranunculus, daffodils, love-in-the-mist, and nasturtiums. Now lilies, geraniums, roses, and passion flowers bloom. Only a few butterflies flit around the pond, but little chompers on the passion vine promise an abundance later in the season. Flowers and butterflies became the second

Future butterfly, current glutton

element to show joy—sigh, such a cliche.

AMARANT: THE FLORA AND FAUNA OF ATLANTIS BY A LADY BOTANIST, written by Una Woodruff and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 1981, popped into my mind. My mom gave me that book years ago, and her impulse buy at Pic ‘n Save became one of my treasures. Old-fashioned botanical style drawings of things such as “wayside plant” with pods like double peas that grow into free-flying beetles abound. Other flowers transform into ladybugs . . .  or butterflies. Maybe this quilt could inch a little farther, no longer quite so cliche.

I cannot match the artistry of the author/illustrator Una Woodruff. But she did inspire me to employ a skill I do possess. I cut out lots of fabric butterflies. (Have I mentioned I live close to Rosie’s Calico Cupboard, known to me as Fabric Heaven.) Big butterflies, tiny butterflies. Purple, blue, pink, red, even brown butterflies. Then I cut apart individual wings from some of the big butterflies and used those sections as flower petals. The undissected butterflies fill the sky as if the flowers themselves took flight. Well, I hope that’s what it looks like.

The tiny butterflies and the Melody bells, you ask how they play in the design? Well,  wired ribbon rises from the tree trunk. The tiny butterflies become notes on a musical staff. The butterflies are color-coded to match five musical chimes, taking the place of the Melody Bells inspiration. A little mallet hangs from the quilt border so an art appreciator can “read” the butterflies and play “Ode to Joy.”

My version of being part of the digital age is to make an “interactive” quilt and post it on the blog. So be one of the first to view this work. If only I could figure out how to let you play it on-line!

In the post of 10/18/12, we talked about some children’s books featuring quilts. You’ll be glad to know, we haven’t exhausted the list. One of my sisters, who’s quilting skills outshine mine in every way but weirdness, gave me THE QUILT MAKER’S GIFT, written by Jeff Brumbeau, illustrated by Gail de Marcken, and published in 2000 by Pfeifer-Hamilton. Wow! Beautiful story about greed, giving, and joy. Enough stunning illustrations for two or three books. On top of all that—it has a bear!

QUILTS FROM THE QUILT MAKER’S GIFT by Joanne Larsen Line and Nancy Loving Tubesing with illustrations by Gail de Marcken was published by Scholastic also in 2000. It has twenty patterns for quilts from the story. The blocks range from easy to challenging.

Any picture book about quilts should be ashamed of itself if it is not beautiful. SHOW WAY can hold its head up with beautifully justified pride. This lovely book, written by Jacquiline Woodson, illustrated by Hudson Talbott, and published in 2005 by G. P. Putnam’s Sons, pieces together the history of eight generations of the women in the author’s family. The mamas “loved those babies up so. Yes, they loved those babies up.” The Show Way quilt of the title shows the way to freedom. Bet you can’t read it with dry eyes.

Oh, and my quilt? I raced to get it in on time only to find out I was a week too early. That turned out to be a good thing since there were technical difficulties. I hear some of you ask, “What kind of technical difficulties can a quilt have? Ones that aren’t actually too complicated. They have been resolved and the quilt is to be hung tomorrow.

Last year’s quilt, “As a Deer Longs for Flowing Streams,” based on a chant by John Philip Newell. Find out more about him at salvaterravision.org

Ah, Sweet Procrastination

Example NOT to follow:

Every morning this week I’ve awakened with my mind juggling subjects, wondering which I should pick this week. And this morning, as soon as I finished breakfast and exercise, I cleaned out my roll-top desk—first time in years. Since I didn’t take a before picture, you would not be impressed with the after picture. It’s better though, trust me.

Waterfall by the zoo administration building

Sun bear living up to his name

Then my husband and I went to the zoo, which is actually justifiable since I’m working on a book about bears. My husband, who wishes to be known on-line only as Johnny Danger, graciously took photos of the bears. You’re probably able to detect the sharper focus with his steady hand.

Sloth bear, also living up to his name

Now I’m going to take a short break to make a quilt block.

Speaking of quilts, neither my sister nor I felt that the true ugliness of the fabric for our ugly quilt contest was apparent in the first photo posted 10/18/12. So here goes the second attempt to establish the depth of the challenge, which is still ahead of us rather than behind. See title.



The green fabric is the basis for our ugly quilt contest.

Same fabric against different background


Almost done with the block–a block for a wedding quilt—not the ugly quilt contest. Back in a couple minutes.

Block for the wedding quilt







Can pro . . . crasti . . . nate no longer.


Three non-fiction books about bullying:

Last week, I told you about the Olweus program to prevent bullying and the book NOBODY KNEW WHAT TO DO. I showed three covers of the books I was able to find at the library, but hadn’t yet read.

For primary children, LEARNING HOW TO STAY SAFE AT SCHOOL, written by Susan Kent and published by PowerKids Press in 2001, is a useful read aloud for the youngest  school children and helpful for independent readers. Various topics, like bullying, peer pressure, or avoiding trouble, are covered in one page with clear advice for children including when to ask for an adult’s help. This is a book I would have read to my first graders an issue at a time so the tips could sink in.

BULLYING, part of the Introducing Issues with Opposing Viewpoints series, published in 2008 by Gale, Cengage Learning is for middle school students and older. The three chapters address specific questions: What Causes Bullying? How Can Parents and Others Combat Bullying? and How Can Bullying Be Reduced?

Each chapter is made up of 4 – 6, sometimes conflicting, responses to the question. The Olweus Program is contrasted with Izzy Kalman and his Bullies to Buddies program which asserts that victims need to do the standing up for themselves or they will continue to be victims.

The book is good for overviews of differing perspectives, which often offer solutions that fit different situations or could be used in combination. Students can find options. Adults can get an introduction to bullying issues.

PLEASE STOP LAUGHING AT US, written by Jodee Blanco and published by BenBella Books, Inc. in 2008, is for young adults and older. It follows her memoir PLEASE STOP LAUGHING AT ME, which told about the severe bullying she endured as a child. The effects of the bullying followed her through adult life. After she wrote the first book, she still sat trembling in the parking lot afraid to go to her 20th high school reunion. It was good that she did.

PLEASE STOP LAUGHING AT US continues her story when she left her successful PR firm to follow her desire to help other bullying victims. This choice extracts a high emotional price as she speaks to students, parents, teachers, and administrators and relives the years of abuse. But her story is ultimately one of hope and forgiveness. I haven’t finished reading this book, but I’m hooked so far.

Take some time to think about the kids who are afraid to go to school, to use the bathrooms, or to walk home. Although none of us individually can solve the problems of bullying or school violence, we can help tip the balance. One simple thing is to teach our children to notice the child who is alone and to invite that child to play.

What else?

Qu . . .Qui . . . Quil . . . Quilt . . .QUILTS . . .and Contests

Before you read on, what is your reaction to this fabric?

My sister and I are quiltaholics. We go to shows and fabric stores when we can, which is not as easy as it sounds since we live at different ends of California—the long way. On our last shopping trip, we found the fabric above. For some unfathomable reason we decided to have a contest to see who could make the prettiest quilt out of this fabric. (Did I mention we both think it’s ugly.)

Pieced quilts are an American art. Many of the oldest quilts were made with scraps of fabric—leftover bits or pieces taken from worn out clothes.

The oldest quilt that I made for myself is constructed with one extra block from each of the Log Cabin quilts I made for friends and family, and one of the fabrics is a scrap from the first dress I made after my clothes were stolen from a laundromat (one of the downsides of multitasking).

Many quilts hold similar kinds of memories. But quilts can also be works of great beauty and were the canvas for many women artists with no other artistic avenues. Those other avenues are now open, and the quilting route now also calls to men.

One of the first picture books of the year I read with my first graders was Sam Johnson and the Blue Ribbon Quilt, written and illustrated by Lisa Campbell Ernst and published in 1983 by Lothrop, Lee & Shepard Books. Sam Johnson tries his hand at quilting, but is rebuffed by the Rosedale Women’s Quilting Club so he organizes the Rosedale Men’s Quilting Club, and the competition is on. The story pokes fun at narrow gender roles and ultimately demonstrates the richness found in cooperation. Every page has a traditional quilt pattern in the border.

We read the story together in class and made a paper friendship quilt that hung on the wall for the school year. At the end of the year, every child took their block home.

Sweet Clara and the Freedom Quilt, picture book written by Deborah Hopkinson, paintings by James Ransome, and published by Alfred A. Knopf, Inc. in 1993. Another book I have used frequently with groups of children. (Depending on the age and attention span of the children you’re reading with, you may have to shorten the story a bit.) This is a story of a slave girl who becomes a seamstress. She gathers scraps of cloth and information to make a quilt that’s a map to freedom. This story is inspiring, powerful, and rooted in history.

There are many other wonderful picture books that feature quilts and quilting, but for now we’ll jump to quilt fiction for older readers.

The Quilt, written by Gary Paulsen and published by Random House in 2004. This short middle grade book is about Paulsen’s relationship with his grandmother, who mothered him. The story is told in the third person from the boy’s point of view as the women in the family come together to help his cousin through her labor and delivery. Most of the men in the story have died or are fighting in WWII, and the boy observes the farming women carrying on. He hears the story of family members as the waiting women work on a quilt.

There are many things the boy, who isn’t named in the book, can’t understand, and Paulsen remembers what it’s like to be a child hearing concerns of adults. What he doesn’t understand, he tries to address in six-year old ways—helping when he can and trying to be like Roy Rodgers.

This book is a tender tribute, and strikes me as quite different than the other Paulsen books I’ve read. There are two other books about his grandmother, which I will search out. I also want to read and reread some of his other, more well-known titles.

Leaving Gee’s Bend, written by Irene Latham and published by G.P. Putnam’s Sons in 2010. This novel is set in Gee’s Bend, Alabama, which is an actual settlement associated with an old plantation. Google “quilts of Gee’s Bend” and you’ll find several sites to view some of the quilts made by the residents.

This novel is middle grade to young adult.  The beginning of a quilt that Ludelphia carries in her pocket serves as her touchstone as she tries to help her ill mother by leaving the boundaries of her small community. Her mother’s teachings about quilting become Ludelphia’s metaphor for the ways she must find to grow to protect her community and family. While I always knew people worked with what they had, the book shows how precious each bit of fabric, each length of thread could be.

I promised you a contest a few weeks ago. And you don’t have to sew! Please tell me which of the posts so far is your favorite. That will get your name thrown into my hat. If you tell me what makes it your favorite, I’ll throw your name in a second time. The contest will close at midnight on 11/8/12, when a name will be drawn. I’m trying to see what appeals to those of you who are reading this blog. I’m very grateful for your time and interest.

Oh yeah, the prize. Unless you tell me you already have a copy of The Pig and the Dragon, that’s what I’ll send you. If you do have it, let me know if you’d like a picture book, an early reader, a middle grade, or a young adult, and I’ll send you something from my stash. I’ll e-mail the winner to get your mailing address and will let you all know what I learned.

Also, tune back in for episodic (probably infrequent) updates on the contest with my sister. I’m awaiting inspiration. Any suggestions?