A Quilt Square of Paris

A Quilt Square of Paris

There seems to be a quilt theme going on in its small way. Mimi at French Kitchen wrote beautifully about patchwork quilts the other day, and Laume shared her own experience with quilts and healing here.

And, of course, we had Lani Diane Rich on in conjunction with the release of her new book, The Fortune Quilt, wherein a certain quilt is (obviously) central to the story.

My mother made Memory Quilts for each of her seven children, each square of these quilts a carefully embroidered, appliquéd, quilted work of art featuring some important moment in the son or daughter’s life. She tried to give them to each of us on our 30th birthday, although sometimes she would run a little late getting them done.

More than half the blocks on mine concern travels, a fair percentage of those travels in France. And I am feeling woebegone and beleaguered because I have been trying and trying to take pictures of some of the quilt squares, and they ALL turn out blurred.

All of them. It is a still subject. I am bracing. I am using a digital camera on automatic. With flash. Without flash.

Photos. You know, they are just not my skill. And I can’t even enlist Sébastien, who is off swanning it in San Francisco.

Here is the blurry photo of the quilt square that represents Paris.

Memory Quilt Paris

If you look closely, past the blurring, you can see “2000” on the Eiffel Tower, which also has little sparkly threads, because that’s what the Eiffel Tower looked like at the turn of the millenium.

And you can see the rose window, if you look closely at Notre-Dame.

You CAN’T see the exquisite stitchery. I am not doing my mother’s work justice, because I can’t get it focused enough to show the detail. Here is my mother, expert photographer, looking at me.


Actually, in this particular photo she is looking at Sébastien, but that is the WAY she looked at me when I protested her truffle thievery.

It is probably also the way she looked when she read that I wrote, “she didn’t have the royal nerves under pressure” in Blame It on Paris. Which, now that I think about it, given that she had seven children, four of whom are my brothers, might not be an entirely accurate view of my mother.

My quilt has 72 quilt squares of this intricacy, plus 72 plain but elaborately quilted squares in between. My mother of 7 kids made 7 quilts like this, each quilt an extraordinary thing, both in terms of art and in terms of the love that went into it, a celebration of each child’s value and life.

Sometimes–most times–the things people are capable of are truly amazing. Do you have an art that you pour something into, and what is it that you pour? What form does it take (blogging, quilting, writing…?) What does it celebrate? (Paris? Something else?)

This is not a contest, but if you want to tell us about it in the comments, I would be fascinated to hear. Or if you want to tell it on your own blog and post a link to that in the comments, that is fine by me, too. Because people often have amazing gifts to share.

  • That square is beautiful! I am amazed that your mom did that for seven kids. That is really wonderful.

    My new thing I’m trying is jewelry making. I’m not very good at yet, but it’s a nice creative outlet, different from writing in that once it’s designed, I don’t have to think about what I’m making too much.

    I’m wondering, with all of the travelling you’ve done, did you take many pictures? I’m not the best photographer either, but I never took many pictures so I didn’t get any practice. When I travel or go to events, I always forget my camera or forget to actually take pictures with it. I hate interrupting the moment to stop for a picture. I took more after my daughter was born (life kinda stopped for a while then anyway), but now that she does more I find myself forgetting again.

    March 7, 2007 at 5:41 pm
  • Oh, Laura, what a good idea! You know me, I love to share. 🙂 You might be trying to get too close to the quilt. Try backing up a little and focusing through the lens. I know it’s on automatic, but I’ll try to explain–if you were manually focusing and had the lens zoomed to the maximum and looked through it and your object was still out of focus, you’d then start to back up or away from the object slowly, until it came into focus. You’re in essence extending the lens by moving yourself. Try that.

    Well. I minored in photography, the second bachelor’s around. Actually, I minored in art with a focus in photography–I was only there two years but all I took were English and art courses (talk about heaven). I USED to pour myself into photography. I loved taking the pictures, and the artistic part of it, but I also loved the darkroom–and so much of the art was in the developing and printing, as well. Photography combined both parts of my brain, the creative side and the analytical problem-solving side. Math came up a lot in the darkroom. I even loved the smell of the chemicals. I fear darkroom skills are becoming a lost art. At any rate, I didn’t have much time for the darkroom once I had to get a full-time job, then we moved and I didn’t have a darkroom, then I began trying to get pregnant & I’ve been trying, pregnant, and/or breastfeeding ever since and it’s all a moot point because the chemicals are not safe for developing humans.

    So now, besides writing, I pour myself into knitting, which I decided to learn so that I could knit my first child a special (ie, not store-bought) Christmas stocking. (SEE the mommy standards to which I hold myself? Crazy.) I’ve rarely knit anything right from a pattern. I at least tweak it, if not make the entire thing up–with guidance, of course, from various books which explain how to do just that. Again, lots of math comes in–room for both sides of my personality. Sometimes a math problem is just the thing–it has an ANSWER. ONE correct answer. I always liked that about math. Everything about knitting soothes me (well, except when I mess it up and have to take out lots of work). I love the feel of the different yarns, the colors, the SMELL, especially of wool. I love the rhythmic motion, the way it forces you to sit still and be. I love sheep, because they give us wool. I love going with my boys to the yarn store so they can pick out yarn for their own sweater, or hat, or mittens. And now I need to get back to writing, so I can get back to knitting. 🙂

    BEAUTIFUL quilt, by the way. Special woman, your mother.

    March 7, 2007 at 7:05 pm
  • First of all, what a lovely and loving lady your mother is! She looks fascinating and wise. And what a good and kind and thoughtful thing to do for her children.

    It’s a great quilt!

    My husband (now snoring in front of the TV) was an art, film and photo major — I’ll ask him for advice on photographing quilts. Meanwhile, Amy’s advice is excellent.

    Thanks you for the link, BTW.

    About Sebastien (I’m not going to try an accent aigue this time as it got messed up in the previous post): I visualized him looking a bit llike the boyfriend in “The Devil Wears Prada.” Taller maybe, based on his nickname for you, Laura.

    March 7, 2007 at 9:32 pm
  • I want to see your jewelry, Michelle. I have never advanced further than my daughter’s build-a-brooch set of beads. Real jewelry? That’s awesome. And Amy, I’ve never learned to knit. I used to crochet, when i was young. I don’t know that I’m talented enough to knit though, and I have nobody near to teach me. Yes, I know there are books, but I’ve always thought of Knitting as something that is passed, you know? So learning from a book just isn’t the same for me.

    It’s not a traditional art that I have, but I’m still on such a high that I have to share it anyway. I’m a doula. Of course, that means that i have to rely on other people in order for my “talents” to show. But still, oh my, it really takes something, you know? Not just anyone can do it, I firmly believe that. And this morning, one of the hospital nurses actually told me I was the best coach she’d ever seen. No, it didn’t swell my head, because I was standing there next to my friend who had just given birth, and SHE was the SUPERSTAR. But it was nice to hear. I actually just blogged about it over on my personal blog, and then cruised over here, and you’re talking about “art”. Well, LIFE is art, isn’t it? today, for me, the answer to that is YES!


    March 8, 2007 at 10:31 am
  • Your mom is amazing. My mom made quilts too, and I’m really really kicking myself for not keeping any of them when she died, but they all needed repairs and I was just too overwhelmed by everything to imagine that I’d ever find the time or brainspace to get around to fixing them.

    I have the same problems with photographing fiber as you do. I’m thinking of recruiting outside help.

    In other news, I win! I convinced Mr. Husband to take me to Paris next weekend, yay! And am studiously writing down all the favorite places you mentioned.

    However. The hotel where I wanted to stay is full that weekend, so I wondered if you (or any of your fabulous commenters) knew of any hidden jewels of the hotel variety. We’re also scouting the internet, but as we learned to our chagrin in Rome, the internet doesn’t talk about the mildew aspect.

    We will raise a cup of hot chocolate to you at La Charlotte de l’Isle, and I will inquire about the possibility of shipping chocolate witches to North Carolina. If I can’t, I will at least mail you some Belmandel and chocolate-cinnamon-sugar when I get home.

    March 8, 2007 at 1:39 pm
  • See, I KNEW I would learn interesting things about people asking about their art!

    Michelle, YES, I took lots of pictures while traveling, but…I also bought lots of postcards since the pictures on them were much, much better. Jewelry-making sounds intriguing!

    Amy, that is very kind of you to talk to me about photography as if I might actually be able to process this into a viable photograph. I shall attempt it. I didn’t know you did photography in addition to knitting and writing! You are multi-talented.

    A DOULA! Wow. You’re amazing, Dee.

    YAY for the Paris trip! I have never stayed at a hotel in Paris, but friends of mine have, and I’ll see if they remember the name of the place. Enjoy the hot chocolate!

    March 8, 2007 at 1:46 pm
  • What a lovely story and a lovely gesture!
    The quilt is AMAZING!
    I once briefly collected quilts before they became hot…
    But nothing as elaborate as this one.
    REgarding steady shooting:
    Try clamping your forearms to your sides
    Then holding your breath
    If you can brace yourself against something it helps
    Then once you’ve got your subject in view, close your eyes
    And shoot
    I found that helps alot initially..
    Forget the flash too
    Bonne chance 🙂

    March 8, 2007 at 1:58 pm
  • P.S. I never bother much with the zoom lense, because yr sure to have jiggle then, but DO hold down the button 1/2 way before the actual push.
    That WILL focus the picture for you.
    Also isn’t there a help line for yr camera?
    Canon is like 24/7 and are very kind.

    March 8, 2007 at 2:09 pm
  • Wow- that quilt is amazing! I have made a few, but they are simple, machine-sewn tablets of smaller squares with nothing interesting in them. I love that you and your siblings have that little piece of you mother right there, and that each individual quilt tells a story- YOUR story- that will go on living for generations. My Aunt has one with each square containing a stitched signature of all her relatives- so novel an idea, and yet it tells a story too! It truely is inspiring- now I am kicking myself, as I look at a pile of fabric that has been screaming at me to continue with the idea of making another quilt! Alas! I have so many hobbies- knitting, sewing, quilting, stained glass, and scrapbooks that I love to pour myself into, and yet never find the time to complete an entire project. sidenote…Sorry for always ranting on here, but I really find myself so interested in your blog and the comments!… I am enjoying this thoroughly! PS About the camera- if you have a macro option (usually a tiny flower symbol, on most cameras) try that. But you have to be VERY still, or better yet, use a tripod or counter for stability for getting close-ups and detailed photos. I do photos for Ebay items, and that is the best way for tiny objects and details! Good luck!!

    January 6, 2008 at 10:58 pm

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