Report from the Armory

I took a day off work on Monday to go to the red-and-white quilt show at the Armory, thinking it would be a nice quiet day. I was not prepared for the busloads, literally, of ladies coming to town especially for this show. The quilts, particularly the way they were displayed, hanging back to back up to the rafters of the massive Armory, were stunning, and a little overwhelming. The curator cleverly arranged the quilts in circular “rooms” so you could also take in smaller groups at a time. Almost as interesting were the attendees. The average age was about 65, and many came as part of a tour, with their friends or quilting clubs. I overheard many women who had visited the show several days in a row. There was no idle chit chat; these women were there to talk about quilts, period.

Walking around, I felt a little bit like when I blithely signed up for swim camp in middle school because I liked to swim, for fun. I found myself swimming laps for five hours a day with all-state athletes in serious training. I came home with a chipped front tooth (racing dives) but in tip-top shape. Just like the girls at swim camp, the quilters were a friendly bunch, and they were happy to chat about techniques and patterns with us novices. One woman very kindly explained reverse applique to me and one of the very few gentlemen in attendance. I think he just wandered in, the exhibit was free after all, and found himself awash in ladies and decided to stick around.

The exhibit was true to its name; the quilts ranged from intricate to bold graphics, and there were some very sweet sailing ships, houses, and airplanes. I’ve included details from just a few of my favorites.

Red and white quilt extravaganza!

As promised, here is more about the upcoming Folk Art Museum exhibit–Infinite Variety: Three Centuries of Red and White Quilts. Some amazing facts to ponder:

  • All 650 quilts come from one person’s collection! OK, that is just staggering. I struggle to find a place to stash our duvets in the summer, but perhaps Joanna S. Rose is not a New Yorker… I can’t wait to find out about more about this fascinating lady.
  • The exhibit is free.
  • It will be the largest gathering of quilts in New York City, ever.

So, people get ready. This is an exhibit not to be missed. (March 25 to 30 at the Park Avenue Armory, 643 Park Avenue, NYC.)

Paper Rollercosters

This paper craft for kids comes straight from one of my favorite museums: the Peabody Essex in Salem, Mass. Yes, it has an amazing Asian art and Maritime art collection (including a room-size model of the S.S. Queen Elizabeth, which never fails to impress us). But sometimes we go just to hang out in the sunny atrium designed by architect Moshe Safdie, admire the sky, and pretend it’s not 4 degrees outside.

The paper rollercoaster craft (offered as part of the PEM’s “Eye Spy, Playing with Perception” exhibit through May) had the qualities of a good kids’ project: simple enough for little guys to enjoy and interesting enough to engage bigger kids. Plus you probably have all the stuff you need right in your house: glue sticks, strips of colored paper, and a piece of paper for a base.

Dab one end of a paper strip and press to the base. Twist, bend, or loop–then glue the other end and press. 

    My 10-year-old made his rollercoaster a continuous circuit. My five-year-old’s design defied the laws of physics, but he thought it looked really cool.


 On the way home, we drove by the Salem harbor,

 and it was winter again.

Year of the Quilt!

I don’t think it’s an official astrological sign (although perhaps nicer to be born in the year of the quilt than, say, the rat), but it really is a lucky year. The American Museum of Folk Art in New York City is displaying highlights from its amazing collection of American quilts. Now until October 2011 you can see Masterworks, which indeed they are. If you ever wondered what makes Amish quilts so special–besides their bold graphic designs and rich palette–stand up close and marvel at the tiny(!) perfect stitches. To the amateur quilter (me) it might be worth remembering that these are museum pieces, lest you get disheartened, but there is much to inspire. Hands down, my favorite is the slashed star quilt. Its cranberry, gold, and teal stars on white are a geometric wonder, and the design is complex without being fussy. The site has a slide show of the quilts if you can’t get to NYC.

Slashed Star Quilt

Freedom Quilt

Map Quilt