Wednesday, September 27, 2006

Fabric Conversations...

Kitty S., a talented quilter, colorist and teacher from our local quilt group, is offering an informal class to several of our members on making a Boston Commons quilt. I can’t do the class, but decided to do the quilt anyway – king size!

Saturday, Kitty and another gal who recently completed one went fabric shopping with three of us who intend to do this thing. There will be twenty different fabrics in mine! Here they are, in the order that they’ll be placed in the quilt. The center of quilt is the fabric on the left, and it will build out from there in the order shown. Click on the picture to get a better look.

Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Perhaps more important than color, value, scale and design, I think fabrics also have personality. There are silly ones that you couldn’t take to dinner in a fancy place – playful ones that shout for a romp in the sprinkler – sedate ones that like to sit in the back pew at church – and so on. As we were selecting mine, Kitty often mentioned that one of them “talked to another.” Looking fondly at my new quilt babies this morning, I started thinking about them as characters in a play, having conversations with each other.

You may have noticed that my characters are all over the map – batiks, dainty floral prints, stripes, plaids, polka dots, abstracts, large scale florals. How can all of these different types of fabric get along together?

Let’s look at the whole cast one more time.

Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artistWhat could we name this play? What about Jungle Exploration? What about Tango of Love? At the moment, I’m leaning toward Family Reunion. We probably would not call it Desert Dreams, or Revenge of the Grunge Singer, or Country Bride. Given this particular cast of characters, what might you name this play?

Indulge me for a moment… let’s explore this concept with regard to specific personalities. Here are some of the conversations I imagine in the play:

Blue-green Lattice Batik says to his son, Tiny Blue Flowers, “Come on kid, lets go shoot some baskets.” Watching them fondly from across the room, Dragonflies murmurs, “Chip off the old block. Our son will grow to be as handsome as his dad."

Blue-green Lattice Batik, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Tiny Blue Flowers, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Dragonflies, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Blue Batik is sitting on the sofa between her sisters. Her elder sister by less than a year, Periwinkle Polka Dot, is calm and composed, the scholar of the family. Both sisters are concerned about Violet Floral, who is young, impetuous and in love for the first time. “You are always such a wild one, dear,” says Blue Batik. "Stick with us, and try to stay out of trouble today.”

Periwinkle Polka Dot, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Blue Batik, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Violet Floral, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Violet Floral replies, “Trouble? Fat chance! Look at Stripes! You think YOU keep me under control? Ha! So, you’ve noticed I’m crazy in love with Spiral Batik? Ooooh-la-la! Right! Well just try to keep us apart – I dare you!”

Stripes, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Spiral Batik, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Pale Hydrangea waves at Pink Floral across the room and turns to wink at Bright Purple Floral in the kitchen. She says softly to herself, “Without us, this play would be rather dull. I am gentle, fresh and pure. My light reflects on all the others, emphasizing their brighter qualities. I don’t need many lines to be of influence here.”

Pale Hydrangea, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Pink Floral, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Bright Purple Floral, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist

Green Plaid, out in the garden, is having a conversation with his grandson, Purple Batik. “Congratulations,” he says. “You and Bright Purple Floral are a great couple! Your strength of character, orderly without being boring, compliments her almost child-like willfulness. You’ll do well together.”

Green Plaid, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Purple Batik, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Well, OK, I never said I had any talent for writing scripts. I’m sure some of you could do far better. But the point is, fabrics do have personality. They can speak to each other across the boundaries of color, value, and style. Hopefully my selection will continue their conversations with one another throughout the second (sewing) and third (using it) acts of this play.

Anyone care to give us some samples of conversations between Dragonflies and Wild Batik? (Remember, Dragonflies is married to Blue-green Lattice Batik and mother of Tiny Blue Flowers, or so the script says...)

Dragonflies, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist
Wild Batik, Boston commons quilt, fabric selection, photo by Robin Atkins, bead artist


  1. Just a note that the colors seem a little dark on my monitor. (Yes, I know... they look different on everyone's system.)

    If anyone has some yardage of "Violet Floral" that they'd like to sell - or trade for a book and/or beads - please let me know!

  2. Anonymous12:49 PM

    Dear Robin,

    I am very much looking forward to seeing the finished quilt. What a wonderful idea to use verbal patchwork as well!

    Best regards,

    This is my patch below:

    Pleasant, sun flooded sitting room.
    Blue-green Lattice Batic is sitting in an easy chair, his attitude is content and relaxed.
    Through the open french window Tiny Blue Flowers can be seen playing in the garden.
    Enter Dragonflies: She walks in, moving gracefully, well aware of her beauty, and showing it off.
    She opens the conversation (her voice is melodious and silvery):

    Blue-green, darling, are you well?

    Indeed, dear Draggy, I feel swell.

    Is everything quite to your liking?

    Indeed it is, and you look striking -
    apart from that I love your scent!

    Thank you for the compliment.
    Do you think there is a chance
    the two of us go out to dance?

    Why not? We've stayed at home too long,
    so I suppose there's nothing wrong
    with a glitzy night in town.
    Let's go and get a stylish gown
    for you to be the dancefloor queen.

    Oh darling, I've already seen
    a garment wonderful and pretty
    right in the centre of the city!
    Thank you for your kind suggestion,
    most generous, without a question!
    In return please make a wish:
    Shall I cook your favourite dish?

    Tiny Blue Flowers comes running in from the garden. The three of them join hands and form a circle. Dancing around, they sing together:

    Oh lovely day, oh happiness!
    May life stay so, and may God bless
    all around us, you and you,
    Blue-green, Draggy, Tiny Blue!


    Idea, producer and director: Robin
    Playwright of this scene: Sabine

  3. Since I generally am a frequent poster to blogs thought I'd let you all know I won't be posting very much for a while. Have a very sick dog and spend most of my time with her. Right now I have my lap top actually on my lap while I sit on the floor next to her. Wish her well if you would -- she is such a wonderful dog and just doesn't understand what is happening to her. Thanks friends, Jackie

  4. Anonymous6:25 AM

    Oh dear, I only just found out that I got my cues wrong. The conversation should have been between Wild Batik and Dragonflies - it just came home to me! Well, you have my family scene now instead, nevertheless a patch ...


  5. My sister bought a whole bunch of fabrics with people in mind. She was planning to make a "Family" quilt. Each different fabric represented a person in our family, but only she & I knew about it. She had an artsy fushia batik for me, a butterfly print for one of her daughters, a boring beige, with tiny barbed wires print for her mother-in-law, a plaid for Dad etc... It was fun to look at fabrics in that different way when we were out shopping together.

  6. Sabine ~ Once again you astonish me! (Readers note: English is not Sabine's native language!) People with fluency in a foreign language amaze me, and when they can write in scrips in rhyme as well, I'm in awe. Thanks for your contribution to this post!

    Jackie ~ I'm so sad to hear of your pub dog. She is obviously well loved. My heart goes out to you.

    Deb ~ I love your sister's idea. How did it come out? Do you have a picture of it that you and/or I could post?

  7. Anonymous1:39 PM

    Robin, thank you so much for your kind words - I'm glad only the computer screen can see my blush.

    I have returned to your blog tonight (it is 10 p.m. here), because I feel I still owe you the "real thing", i.e. a conversation between Wild Batik and Dragonflies, so here goes:

    Wild Batik, Dragonflies' one-time boyfriend, has returned to his home town after a lengthy stay abroad. Tonight (you remember: Blue-green's and Dragonflies' night on the town)Wild Batik and Dragonflies meet on the dancefloor by chance ...

    Hello, Drag, you pretty thing,
    let's see, is that a wedding ring
    on your finger? Could it be
    that you did not wait for me?

    Hi, Batik, you're back in town?
    Will you stay and settle down?

    I would if you would marry me.
    But now, that you're no longer free ...

    Wild Batik, please don't act silly,
    there's lots of girls here: Janet, Lilly ...
    all looking for a handsome guy.
    Why should you want to pass them by?

    I don't, to tell the truth -
    was just thinking of our youth.
    Please dance with me just one last time,
    surely this can't be a crime.
    After that we'll say good-bye.

    Alright, let's dance then, crazy guy!
    But bear in mind: Your flattery
    will not work a bit with me,
    for Blue-green is my real life,
    and I am his most faithful wife.

    So be it, my one-time girl,
    come on now, let us waltz and whirl.
    Although of you I'm truly fond -
    there's other fish still in the pond.

    Robin, you had asked what your readers would call this play. For my part, considering the budding love between Purple Batik and Bright Purple Floral, and looking at the scenes that came to my mind, I tend to call it "Tango of Love". I wonder what the play's title will finally be.

    Hope Jackie's doggie has recovered a little already. A comforting pat to her.


  8. Anonymous6:10 PM

    Since I'm in a blue funk (yep Holly Golightly reference) and don't know what to do about it, I decided on with the truth. You see fabric doesn't really talk to me in words. It 'talks'to me on a level where words don't abide. It says things like: "I love you and you love me," or "I'm so blah you won't be able to notice me," or "I am so right for the next quilt," or perhaps, "you need to buy me because what if I'm gone and next time you come to the store you can't find me. How will that make you feel?" Then there are the ones that sing a real song. Such as: "I am daisy, tra-la-la, I'm so pretty, tra-la-la, And you want me tra-la-la, So, just buy me, tra-la-la, Who's to know? Who cares, buy me, Tra-la-la." Repeat twice more and try not buying it. Or the Lily, Rose patterns, that hum softly to themselves with the perfect knowledge that they are beautiful and will go to home in a flash. They don't sing just for me, but they know the people who can hear them. Invariably they go with right people. Then there are the velvet looking cottons that seem soft when they are really crisp--they sing a sirens song of love and acceptance beyond what a human can tolerate--you buy them. Then there are the one that just sit there, while somehow grabbing you by the throat while sitting on your chest and you wonder, 'Oh, migosh! is this an asthma attack or do I just really, really want this material.' And who can forget those orderly and choatic at the same time, geometrics. Now, that is a class where the waters run deep and you can drown in their wonderful repetition. Then who can resist the kids fabric as they giggle behind their hands and blush big eyes at you. Or the Christmas bells that ring when you look at Christmas fabric. I love hand bells anyway, so I don't even try resisting them. Oh, and did I mention the soft whispers and the sly swish of hula skirts with the fern fabrics and the tropical prints?
    Indeed, there is a whole symphony at the fabric shop, a cachophany of sound and well...

  9. You all are such inventive storytellers and poets!
    This is just charming....
    We do create our own universes, don't we?

  10. Anonymous6:52 AM

    To Beadin´gram:

    I read about your dog and I want to send you my best wishes from Germany.
    Two month ago I lost my 17 year old doggie girl and I thought the gap would last for a long time. My husband brought a tiny and sweet puppy just a few days after she was gone. We often think about our old girl, but now we have to concentrate on the little one, and I think this is the best for all of us. She gives us so much joy and sometimes I think, that is what our old dog Mogli would wish for us. Mogli was ill for several months and in a way I think it is the best that her pain ended now.
    I wish you all the strength you need in this situation and that she doesn´t have to suffer so much.
    Please excuse my English, but I only wanted to tell you that there is somebody in Germany who understands your situation and feels with you.
    yours, Andrea

  11. Sabine ~ You've outdone your previous efforts!!! Are you, per chance, related to Shakespeare? And, yes, I think Tango of Love is more fun than Family Reunion for both our little play and the quilt. Thanks so much!

    Mary ~ I love the thought of our fabrics singing, and the whole symplony at the fabric store. A new dimension to the personalities of fabrics. Thanks!

    Andrea ~ Thanks for your message to Beadin' Gran. I've written directly to her, so she'll know of your kind thoughts.

  12. Andrea
    Thank you so much for your thoughtful words and kind compassion. I appreciate it very much. Please accept my sympathy at your loss of Mogli and my joy that you have a new puppy. That is good. Thank you again, Andrea, you are so sweet to write.
    Jackie/Beadin' Gram

  13. Anonymous5:02 PM

    Robin, with all this DRAMA going on, you're never going to get to SLEEP under this quilt!

    It's been pure pleasure being in your studio, sharing creative energy with you. I feel so blessed to have found someone who can put my ideas down in writing. Thanks again for all your help.


  14. WOW! I love all the fabrics! You have done a lot of nice woork. Keep up.


Thanks you for joining the discussion on this post today!