Monday, August 24, 2009

Grandchildren and Their Quilts

The first grandchild! What a thrill!

Quilt made by his great grandmother, Wini Waters Alexander.

Here I am in a small village near Gui Yang in southwestern China, Guizhou Province, the spring of 1996 sharing a photo of my son and his very pregnant wife Taryn.

We were there to photograph the Spring Festivals of the various Miao people, the 2nd largest ethnic group in the region. Here are two interesting websites. One looks to be an offical Chinese government explanation of the ethnic peoples. The other was created by refugees in the USA. Interesting to compare and contrast their points of view.

Everywhere I shared the photos of my daughter-in-law, the women exclaimed and giggled to one another. They could relate. It was an instant ice-breaker. I also shared photos of my daughter in her wedding dress which they also seemed to understand and get excited about, though none of us could understand the language of the other.

Knowing our first grandhcild would be born while we were in China, we had given our intinerary to our children before we left. But trying to track us down was not easy.

Wednesday May 1, 1996, found us packing to catch a train to Kaili. At 6am when we went downstairis for an early breakfast, we learned we had a fax from our daughter in Seattle. The fax was almost 48 hours old! No one at the hotel had sought us out when it came in. Someone else in our party happened to go to the office looking for a fax she was expecting and saw the fax addressed to us! We had been expecting a phone call, not a fax.

Our daughter-in-law in New Orleans was in labor! Oh my! The baby had surely already been born yet there was no second fax! Someone suggested that perhaps the communication service had sent a second fax to the next hotel. No way could we wait until we reached the next hotel! We tried to call New Orleans for an hour but could not get thru.

Just minutes before we had to leave the hotel for the train station, we got thru to our son and learned the wonderful news! We had a grandson! Gary snapped a photo of me on the phone in the hotel crying while I was talking with our son. Ah, I was now a Grandma! By the time we got on the bus, everyone had heard the news and cheered as we boarded!

A year later after our daughter's son Conner was born in New Orleans, it was time to choose my "grandma name".

I always knew I wanted to select my own grandma name. I wanted it to be easy for them to pronounce and also meaningful and unique to me. It came to me as I was reading a small book.

Written and illustrated with beautiful photographs from the author's trips to China and East Asia, it was a book about mothers from around the world and their small children. The woman author happen to be from Falls Church, Virginia. I lived but 5 miles from her. I cannot remember her name now so I will call her Susan. Her name is probably in my journal from those years but those journals are still packed away since our last move.

A baby was born the night Susan arrived in a rural village in southwestern China. It was a home where she had stayed before and she had become friends with the family. The birth was what we quaintly call a "natural childbirth at home" in our culture. Her friend did not say she was in labor when Susan arrived and, to Susan who was not a mother yet, her friend was not behaving like she imagined a laboring woman would behave.

Exhausted from her travedls, Susan fell asleep in her room and didn't hear a peep throughout the night from the laboring friend. In the morning there sat her friend by the fire with a new baby in her arms.

The name of the grandmother who had come to assist the daughter at the birth was Mingma. I had found my grandma name! Mingma!

What a perfect fit the name was. It was an easy name for a baby to pronounce; I was in China when my first grandchild was born; and I had all three of my children at home by "natural childbirth".

Stay tuned for the story of how I learned what my "grandma name" meant!

Comments or questions? Contact Karen Alexander by clicking here.

Saturday, August 22, 2009

Printed Textiles 1740-1890

Studying the fabrics in early cotton clothing is a great way to see what was available for quilting during any given time periods.

Click on the following link Identifying Printed Textiles in Dress 1740-1890. Then click on RESOURCES in the bar at the top of the page that opens. You will be presented with three free booklets to download as pdf files. In addition to the one on Printed Textiles in Dress, there is one on lace and another on woven textiles.

What better way to become familiar with what was available for quilt-making than by studying old sample books and antique clothing costumes from earlier eras. (Click on any photo in my blog to see a larger version.)

Below we are visiting the Museum of Printed Textiles (Musee de L'Impression sur Etoffes) in Mulhouse, France in September 2006 while on one of Deb Robert's fabulous Textile Study Tours.

To read about the birth of European textile design, click here. I highly recommend Deb's tours if you want to study textiles. She has another one to the U.K.coming up next June.

Click here for a new blog site for tracking textile exhibits in the U.K.

Enjoy exploring!

Wednesday, August 19, 2009

Design Influences Upon Quilts

There are a lot of exicted quilt historians and quilters looking forward to the March 20 -July 4, 2010 quilt exhibit at the Victoria & Albert Museum in London! From their PR: The V&A will present its first ever exhibition of British quilts, with examples dating from 1700 to the present day - a unique opportunity to view the V&A's unseen quilt collection as well as key national loans. Click and bookmark this link to keep updated about the details.

The V&A has recently published an extensivie research paper on a particular aspect of patchwork history: DOING TIME: PATCHWORK AS A TOOL OF SOCIAL REHABILITATION IN BRITISH PRISONS by Claire Smith Research Assistant CLICK HERE to read it.

My First Visit to the V&A
in 2007 was an Awesome Experience

I would even say the experience boarded on overwhelming. There was so much to see and absorb just in textiles alone. One of the many things I enjoyed about this visit was seeing examples of ancient designs that appear repeatedly in American quilting but have thier roots in the older Near and Far East.

I have loved ikat since my first visit to Asia when I was a teenager. This piece is not that old but it defintiely reminds me of an American quilt patern. Click on the pictures to enlarge them.

The above piece is a woven cloth patterned by selectively resist-dyeing the yarns before weaving. It is in the V&A collection and is loosley dated about 1850-1900. The pattern emerges as the cloth is woven. This technique is known as kasuri in Japan and ikat in South-East Asia. Does the alternate block resemble the Hole in the Barn quilt pattern to you?

Needlework from a woman's smock about 1630 England. Doesn't this remind you of late 18th century redwork?

Talk about exquisite patchwork! This Chinese garment shimmered.

(Photos are from my visit to the V&A in 2007.)