Quilts and Colour Exhibition

During our recent trip to Boston I visited the Quilts and Color exhibition currently showing at the Museum of Fine Arts. This exhibition was especially useful for me as it ties in very nicely with my current knitting course module which looks at the use of colour.

The exhibition showcases around 60 quilts from the collectors and artists Paul Pilgrim and Gerald Roy and looks at both the craft of quilting and colour theories used in the design of the pieces.

The collection ranges from early 19th century to the 1940’s, a time when women’s environments were very labour intensive. The collector Gerald Roy quotes: “That first sentence that I use in my collector’s preface—I make my quilts as fast as I can so my children won’t freeze, and as beautiful as I can so my heart won’t break —I think that is the epitome of what quilt making provided for women throughout the history of the nineteenth century. Their worlds were very much labor intensive, and to be able to escape and to produce something by way of producing it for utility, for the family, for warmth, but also having that other very, very special part was extremely important.”

The first quilt we saw was the Carpenters Wheel Quilt by Mrs. Miller made around 1890.

Carpenters Wheel Quilt

I found this combination of colours really interesting – the photo doesn’t really do it justice though as the orange was much brighter, but the complementary colors of dark red and green seemed to reign it in. What you also don’t get from the photo is the detail in the stitching, if you look really closely in the orange squares you can just about see the flower pattern.

This next piece is ‘The Star of Bethlehem’, there aren’t any details to say who it was made by other than it was made in new England in the 1920’s.

Quilt Star of Bethlehem

Here is a close up of the centre, the amount of work that must have gone in to produce something like this is incredible:

Star of Bethlehem Quilt

We spent ages in front of this next quilt ‘A Thousand Pyramids’ (1930), trying to work out of there was any pattern  or logic to the placement of the triangles or whether they had been placed randomly.

Thousand Pyramids quilt

We never reached a conclusion on that one!

Pamela Parmal the exhibition curator states:  Traditionally, most quilt makers used a high contrast, usually white with a dark color, to create their patterns, which could easily be seen. A lot of the quilts in this exhibition do just the opposite; they’ll use similar colors together, or will have no white whatsoever. In fact the majority of the quilts in the show do not have white in them.”

‘Touching Sunbursts’, made in Pennsylvania in 1854 was one of the few quilts on display that used white.

Touching Sunbursts quilt

Again, this was one when viewed close up you could see intricate stitching patterns in the white squares, details which get lost when viewed from afar. This is what made the pieces so interesting as on first glance you are drawn in by the colorful and bold overall pattern,  but when you get closer you can see the patterns on each individual piece of fabric as well as the stitches that piece it all together.

I didn’t make a note of the origins of this one unfortunately but I was totally captivated by it. It’s almost as if the dark pattern has been printed on top of the finished quilt.


Here is a close up – just look at the number of different individual fabrics that were used to make it!


Another of my favourites was this one – it reminded me of spinning records.


Quilt 2

If you look in the red squares you can see the stitching patterns a bit clearer in this one.

Speaking of the collection Gerald Roy quotes “…can you imagine what these women, if they were alive today, would think about their work appearing on the walls of the Museum of Fine Arts, Boston? I mean that would be mind-blowing to those ladies. And what a compliment.”

If only the family of Mrs. Ephraim Scott has known her ‘Sunburst Quilt’ (1856) would one day be on display – it was dubbed by them as the ‘ugly quilt’!

Sunburst quilt

This is one of the best exhibitions I have been to for a long time. Each quilt is so intricate and beautifully made it’s impossible not to stop and appreciate the detail in each one. The amount of thought, work and love that went into each one is truly inspirational.

The Diamond Field Quilt

The Diamond Field (1860) – picture taken from


Boston and Beyond

It’s been a week since we got back from our trip to New York and Boston. While I was able to blog every day in NY  I wasn’t quite so organised on the second leg of our trip and since being back time has just flown, so here is a belated account of what we got up to in Boston.

I was sad to say goodbye to New York – 3 days just wasn’t long enough and while we certainly made the most of our time there thanks to a 3 day city pass there were still things that remained unticked on my list; such as the Guggenheim and the fact that (despite my best plotting-on-a-map efforts) I didn’t happen to stumble upon a NY yarn store. Bah.

On Wednesday morning we picked up our car and headed on a roadtrip to Boston, stopping at a diner for lunch.

After what should have been a 5 hour drive we eventually arrived in Boston late on Weds evening due to complications with the sat nav (not user error at all….honest!)

We had planned to go whale watching on the Thursday morning but when we arrived at the harbour we were told that the the tour was full that day. Instead we took the opportunity to explore the city.



One of the places we went to visit was the Old South Meeting House, built in 1729, which is famous for being the place where the Boston Tea Party began back in 1773. It was the largest building in colonial Boston and was used for public gatherings, a place of worship and engaging debates.

Some of the comments in the exhibit were quite funny – I would love to know what beef this person has with Queen Latifah?!


From here we took a stroll around Boston Common and ended up at the Cheers Bar.


In the afternoon we went to the New England Aquarium which has a magnificent collection of fish, animals and exhibits.

That evening we went to a ‘Quilts and Color’ exhibition at the Museum of Fine Art – some of the pieces on display were absolutely stunning and I am going to do a separate post about these.

On the Friday we drove to Cape Cod where we found the Black Purls Yarn Shop in East Sandwich where I finally got my yarn fix – yay!



The shop was very well stocked and had some gorgeous yarns to squish and drool over. I need more yarn like I need a hole in the head but I couldn’t resist these 3 skeins (this is not the best picture as the middle one is more of a browny colour and the blue is a lot darker). And I have no idea what I will make from them yet.

Lovely Yarn


Happy, happy, happy  🙂

We spent the afternoon at the Plimoth Plantation, a living museum showing how life was in the 17th century. There is a recreation of a small farming town, populated by actors who go about their daily life in full costume and answer any questions you have, all completely in character. It was a fascinating place!


On Saturday, our last day, we made it onto the Whale Watch. The weather wasn’t great and the water was a bit choppy but once we got out to sea and saw the whales it really was an incredible experience!

We saw about 7 – 8 whales in total, mostly Fin whales and a minky whale.


That really was the cherry on the top of a brilliant holiday!

Now, what to make with that yarn….


Day 3 – Central Park

Day 3, our final day in New York, started with a walk through Hells Kitchen. It was once one of the most violent and dangerous neighbourhoods in the City (Herbert Asbury wrote The Gangs of New York in 1927 inspired by the area) however today it is lined with a mix of restaurants and residential buildings.

There are many theories as to how the area got it’s name but the one I like is the story of 2 police officers watching a fight in the area. One turned to the other and said ‘man, it’s hotter than Hell here’, to which the other replied ‘hell is cool compared to this, this is Hell’s Kitchen!’

Our walk brought us out by Pier 86 and to the Intrepid Sea-Air-Space museum. The museum is on board the Intrepid itself, a 900 foot long aircraft carrier and houses vintage air and sea craft such as the A-12 Blackbird, the worlds fastest spy plane.

You can also take a tour of the missile submarine the USS Growler and see a retired Concorde and the Space Shuttle Enterprise.


There was an exhibition there on camouflage which looked at how things in the natural world are designed to blend in with their surroundings. My favourite were these butterflies with their wing markings mimicking owls eyes.


From here we took a rickshaw to B&H Photo-Video on 34th Street, a massive electronics shop spanning the length of one entire block, it has to be seen to be believed!

The afternoon was spent in Central Park. We have been so lucky with the weather during our stay, it was a lovely afternoon strolling through the park and sitting under a blossom tree with a hotdog and a giant pretzel!

We went for a little row on the boating lake too and stopped at the boathouse for a couple of drinks and watched the world go by.


No prizes for guessing where we went next. I had to have one!


We found ourselves back in Times Square for dinner and stumbled upon a great Indian restaurant Utsav. The food was great, albeit a little pricey, but it was a lovely dinner to end our stay in New York.

Today we drive up to Boston!

Art, Travel

Day 2 in the Big Apple

Today we started our journey at Discovery in Times Square at the Body Worlds exhibition. It is an exhibition of the work undertaken by Gunther von Hagen, the inventor of plastination which is used to preserve the human body. The subjects are all donors who agreed for their bodies to be preserved and displayed for scientific research. The exhibition focused on health and wellbeing and how the stresses and challenges of everyday life can affect the body. My husband was a lot keener to see the exhibition than I was, but I’m glad I saw it. It’s a real eye opener and definitely makes you look at and appreciate your body in a whole new light!

Next stop was the Museum of Modern Art, or MoMA. The museum houses masterpieces of modern and contemporary art by artists such as Van Gogh, Cezanne, Miro, Picasso, Andy Warhol, Monet, Matisse, Ernst…. The list goes on!

Here is one of my all time favourites, The Starry Night by Van Gogh.


And Andy Warhols cow wallpaper, I love this!


The MoMA is a truly inspirational place – there is also a sculpture garden where you can grab a coffee and sit and take it all in.

From here we took a wander down Fifth Avenue to visit some iconic shops such as Tiffany’s, FAO Schwarz (the toy shop in the film Big, and you can have a go on the piano too!) and the Apple store.

After dinner we headed over to the Rockefeller ‘Top of the Rock’ viewing observatory to see phenomenal views of the city in lights.



New York, New York

So here we are in New York, day 1 done and so far so amazing!

Our hotel is a stones throw away from Times Square do yesterday we walked through and down to the Grand Central station for breakfast.


There was an exhibition on of quilted panels to mark the anniversary of the station last year.


From here we went to the Empire State Building. The views were breathtaking!



We then took a tube down to ground zero which was a very humbling experience. It’s so hard to comprehend the devastation that took place there. The memorial site is beautiful though, they are still developing the site and it should be opening fully in the next few weeks including an artefact museum which will house some of the original steel structures from the twin towers. I imagine it will be a very moving place to visit.

We walked from Ground Zero to Battery Park and caught a water taxi up the east of Manhattan. It took is right up close to the Statue of Liberty so we were able to get some amazing photo’s.


We alighted the water taxi at Greenwich Village and found a little bar in the area for a quick drink and a cookie.

Our plans for the evening were already in place as I had managed to get tickets to see Suzanne Vega at the City Winery. The venue was amazing, I will have to wait until I get back to post some pics but it was a brilliant night. The support act was Ari Hest who I only discovered when I booked the tickets but he is totally up my street, gorgeous songs with a voice to die for. Check out his song ‘something to look forward to’ and I guarantee you will fall in love!

And the best part of the night? I only got to meet Ari Hest AND Suzanne Vega herself!!! I have been a fan for over 20 years so it was such an honour to meet her and say hello. And she even signed my book 🙂


Today we have another full agenda of things to do and see so I had best get a wriggle on!