Return to the Quilt Show, Part 1

Dear Liza,

Last Hope California by Ginny Hebert

On Friday, Auntie Bridgett took the day off from making art and went with me on an adventure. We took the number 15 bus downtown, walked over to the Yellow Line Train, and rode clear to the end of the line.

There was some drama on the train, as a few people with mental health issues were being loud and a little scary, but Trimet Security folks came and calmed them down and got them off the train. After they all went on their way, we breathed more easily and the train continued north.

Inside the Expo were hundreds of quilts by scores of quilters, as well as demonstrations of the latest sewing machines and gadgets. Auntie Bridgett tried the ABM International Innova embroidery machine, which you drive sort of like a motorcycle! It is bigger than our sofa, and costs a lot more.

Auntie Bridgett plays with toys!

We found a whole series of quilts by Virginia Hammon, called “Money Quilts”. They are all perfectly pieced and machine quilted, and all say something about money, politics, and humanity. These aren’t just pretty quilts: these are politically informed art.

A Money Quilt by Virginia Hammon

I saw quilts that I had noticed and photographed last year, like this lovely map-looking one called “Bee Good, or Be Hungry”, also by Virginia Hammon.

As with all good art, the more I looked, the more I saw. There was a barren white section, quilted in tight city blocks, representing the city. As the city gave way to suburbs and countryside, more colors were introduced and the quilting became looser. The message was clear: make room for bees, or do without their help.

Bee Good or Be Hungry by Virginia Hammon

Along with these very contemporary quilts were Victorian Crazy Quilts from around 1903, found in people’s grandparents’ attics. I love the combination of piecing and embroidery, and the any-way-it-falls- piecing technique. I may need to get out Great Grandma Billie’s velvets and Ruth Andresen’s silks and do something.

1903 Crazy Quilt





I was inspired by so many techniques! The raw-edge machine applique I saw last year has gotten more impressionistic, looking like landscape paintings. I want to use this on my Portland quilt this winter.

Extreme close-up of raw edge applique



Realistic, moving portraits show how quilting and painting can be combined.

Fabulous Portraiture in paint and thread

There was more to see and interesting people to talk to, and I will tell you about the tomorrow!


Grandma Judy


Dear Liza,

Yesterday I took the #20 bus into town, then the yellow Max train north until the end of the line. There, near (but not near enough to see) the joining of the Willamette and Columbia Rivers, is the Portland Expo Center. It is a huge convention center surrounded by a huge parking lot. It felt very much like California, where every building has its requisite slab of asphalt.

Inside, there were hundreds of quilts, and hundreds of people who make, love, and even sell them. I was amazed at the level of workmanship…every corner met exactly, every seam lay flat, every stitch was tiny.


Many of the quilts were traditional motifs like Log Cabin and Texas Star, executed in traditional fabrics. Perfect, but to me, they shared the flaw of a Flemish painting: perfection of technique over …ooomph.

I value ooomph.

For example, there is a whole new (to me) school of applique, where the edges of appliqued fabric aren’t turned under, but very closely machine sewn. This gives the piece an easy, watercolored feel that is delightfully informal. Not exactly high art, but fun and energetic.

Each color on each dog is layered on and sewn…oomph

What I hadn’t expected was the degree of artistry. Not just great precision, but having something to say and saying it. A point of view, a political statement, a cry for love or peace or justice…these aren’t common in quilts. But here they were.

I found the most beautiful, sad political statement of all. This quilt of death dancing with his bride, money falling o of her gown, and this quote:

“Only when the last tree is cut, the last fish is caught, and the last river is polluted, will we realize we can’t eat money and we can’t drink oil”.

Only when…. quilt

Then there were some with both oomph and joy and precision….. which I will share at the bottom of this post.


Grandma Judy

Oomph and precision
Ooomph and precision
Political chuckle

Fall Colors


Dear Liza,

Local trees go berserk
The air feels different. It is cooler, drier and has the smell of the end of summer. Aunt Bridgett and I walked through Laurelhurst Park yesterday for the first time in a week or so, and it felt like visiting an old friend who got a new haircut. All our favorite places and trees were there, but the fall has painted them brilliantly.

Set off against a perfect blue sky
I am off today to visit a quilt show at the Expo Center, which is way up by the Columbia River. I am taking the Y#20 Downtown, then the Yellow Max line, all by myself. It will be exciting to see a whole new part of the city from the train windows! I will take pictures so I can show you.


Grandma Judy

Best crayons ever