Sunbonnet Sue picks flowers in El Salvador!

This time around, Sunbonnet Sue visits El Salvador, proudly carrying the country’s national flower, flores  de izote, in her arms.   Sunny Sue is all dressed up in happy yellow gown dressed up with purple and aqua lace and she’s wearing some extra flowers in her hair.   I’m using some vintage lingerie lace that my mom gave to me a few years ago – it was really going to waste in my sewing box.   I think it looks quite pretty and reminds me of the real national dress, loaded down with gewgaws, ribbons, and ruffles.

So what about that flor de izote, huh?   Look it up on the web, because it is truly a lovely flower.  It’s actually the flower from the Izote tree, a member of the Yucca tree family.  You might be more familiar with it as the Joshua tree.   This tree looks great as a hedgerow, and here’s the best part:  the flowers are edible.

Yes, flores de izote are edible – both the flowers and the pistils, but separately.   If you known someone in Central America with an Izote tree in their front yard, you might want to see how they like to cook them.  One recipe I’ve seen calls for eggs, flores de izote, breadcrumbs, and salt, mixed together, formed into patties, and fried.  It doesn’t sound bad, does it?  If you like to eat flowers, I mean.  However, I’ve heard the flores can be a little bitter, but some people like that taste.  And from what I understand, the pistils are usually pickled.  I’m sure that’s good too, and I usually like anything pickled.

Speaking of Salvadoran flowers, Christy Turlington, one of the supermodels, is an American of Salvadoran ancestry.  She’s best known perhaps for her Calvin Klein ads from 1987-2007.    El Salvador has some great beaches.   If you’re into surfing, you’ll want to check out the waves – I can promise relatively decent accommodations, mid-size waves, and relatively uncrowded.     And who knows, maybe you’ll run into Christy visiting the home of her ancestors….

And while you’re waiting for the right waves, you might want to take a minute to enjoy a pupusa….  Pupusas are thick corn tortillas stuffed with cheese, beans, or fried pork.   If you want a real treat, you’ll try to find a pupusa with Loroco cheese (it’s a vine flower bud native to Central America).   Alas, it is not flores de izote!   After they’re grilled, they are served with a curtido, usually pickled onion and carrot slivers.   Piping hot, they are fabulous!

Well, I hope that I’ve inspired you to embroider, to applique, to quilt, or to spend some time eating flowers!   Well, okay, I may not convince you to eat flowers, but why don’t you enjoy this flower from my yard instead?   Until very soon, take care and be in peace……  Happy Halloween!

Sunbonnet Sue dances “La Vaquita” in Nicaragua!

Sunbonnet Sue looks very festive in her bright red dress trimmed with vintage pink rickrack  (given to me by my mom) and wearing a red hat covered in flowers.   The mask she’s holding is supposed to resemble the face of a cow (una vaca).  The folkloric dress worn by Sunny Sue was first introduced during regional festivities in Managua.

In these festivities, the  “La Vaquita” costume is composed of a hoop around the waist, decorated to make it look like a shirt.  In the front, an image or a painting of a cow’s head is attached and finished with either real or fake horns.  The dancer carrying “La Vaquita” is generally wearing a red huipil or dress and the dancer’s clothing and hair as well as “La Vaquita” are generally bedecked in masses of flowers.   Every July-August, there is a Santo Domingo procession.  The  women who brings vows or promises to Santo Domingo created and use this costume while accompanying the saint as he travels between churches each year.  As they travel with the saint, Las Vaquitas are dancing to the so-called “toros” songs of the chicheros (chicha sellers) and interacting with other dancers dressed as bulls.

By now you might be wondering, “What is chicha?”   Chicha de maiz (chicha from corn) is a traditional drink in Nicaragua.   It is a typical drink, usually unfermented and served very cold.  It is often flavored with banana or vanilla flavors, and its saleswomen can be heard calling “¡Chicha, cafe y jugo frio!” in the squares and streets of Managua, Leon, Granada, and Masaya.  Nicaraguan “chicha de maiz” is made by soaking the corn in water overnight. On the following day it is ground and placed in water, red food colouring is added, and the whole mixture is cooked. Once cooled, sugar and more water is added. On the following day, the maker adds further water, sugar and flavoring. Although fermented chicha is available, the unfermented type is the most common.   Nicaraguan party-goers usually enjoy the pink chicha the day after a big night out, as a cure for the common hangover.

Chicha is a term used almost the entirety of Latin America to describe several varieties of fermented and non-fermented beverages.   Most often chicha is made from corn.  However, depending on the country or region, chicha can also be made from manioc root (yuca or cassava), grape, apple or other fruits, and rice.   While chicha is most commonly associated with corn or maize, it generally means any homemade fermented or non-fermented drink.   And, well, chicha is an acquired taste, so sample it with care.

I hope that I leave you inspired to create, to embroider, to quilt, to applique, and to dance your own dance.  I leave you with a beautiful and interesting flower I saw recently at a local plant nursery.

Sunbonnet Sue Sings Edelweiss in Switzerland!

So this time around we’re visiting Switzerland.  Sunny Sue is looking quite pretty in her striped gown and plaid apron and the Edelweiss flower is stunning.    We tried out a new stitch for Sunny Sue’s hair, using an “interlaced running stitch” from Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials (see Blogroll) — I think this stitch adds a fun and lively look to Sue’s hair.  I also tried out the “split stitch” around the hair ribbon, but I didn’t really love this stitch, probably because I used three strands and there’s no way to split it evenly….

Edelweiss, also called Lion’s foot, originated on the Asian steppes.  It’s a hardy plant that is well adapted to climatic extremes; it roots deeply and its felt-like covering on its leaves provides the plant protection from drought, strong winds, and strong sunshine/heat.   In German, Edelweiss means noble and white, which makes it the perfect name for a flower that works so hard to survive.  And for those of you who love flowers, but live in places with arid or windy conditions, Edelweiss is a great choice for your garden.

Of course, if you are a bit of a royal sort (you know, gotta a whole lotta princess in you!), then you’ll already have guessed that these “Silver Stars” were the favorite alpine flower of the Austrian Emperor Franz Josef, and his beloved, but much older, Empress, Elizabeth, who was killed by an assassin.   If you remember King Ludwig II of Bavaria (aka Mad King Ludwig — see German Sue), he as well as German Kaiser Wilhelm I were great fans, as well, of this lovely flower.  Mad King Ludwig liked the Edelweiss so much that he often had it painted into his portraits…so you know, you’re in good company if you like the Edelweiss.

Perhaps the Mad King liked the Edelweiss because of its value as a medicine, or perhaps because it was a powerful talisman to ward off evil, or perhaps because it was an alpine love charm.  It’s quite hard to say which is likeliest to have attracted his attention the most–he was mad, after all.  Well-known as a love charm, love-struck swains would gather Edelweiss from high crags and ledges in the Swiss Alps.   Many of them died from falls or from exposure as they tried to prove their love to their soon-to-be-grieving lovers.  However, the upside to this exercise was that the successful beaus were demonstrably brave, able-bodied and serious in their intentions–a kind of Alpine survival of the fittest.  But they don’t pick the Edelweiss in the wild any longer; it is now a protected species in Austria and Switzerland.

If you’re like me though, you knew “Edelweiss” only as a show tune from the 1959 Rodgers and Hammerstein musical The Sound of Music.  In the theatrical version, Edelweiss is sung by Captain Georg Ludwig von Trapp and his family during the concert near the end of Act II as a defiant statement of Austrian patriotism in the face of the pressure put upon him to join the navy of Nazi Germany. In the 1965 film version, the song is also sung by the Captain earlier in the film as he rediscovers music and a love for his children.   That makes me want to watch the Sound of Music again–such a great movie.  Maybe I’ll go do that now….

I hope that I’ve inspired you to embroider, to quilt, to applique, to think about the symbols in your life, to plant some hardy Edelweiss in your parched garden, or to watch The Sound of Music one more time, just because it’s good!   I’m leaving you with a star-shaped flower from my own garden, and, I hope, I also leave you humming “Edelweiss” to yourself…

Sunny Sue potters around in Honduras!

Greetings, everyone!  Sunbonnet Sue hails from Honduras this time around, embodying one of Honduras’ native peoples, a Lenca woman holding a hand sculpted Lenca pottery rooster.  She’s wearing what amounts to as the current Lenca style, a dress with a pleated skirt and minor decoration at the cuff and collar.  A headscarf protects her head from the heat and keeps her hair out of the way.  The Lencas are part of the Mesoamerican peoples that lived in Honduras at the time of the Spanish conquest.   Along with the Chortis and Chorotegas, the Lencas developed a sophisticated pottery, which included basic bowls and plates for daily use as well as intricate ceremonial objects.   The Lencas wove everything from their daily life, including from their astrological observations and their own artistic viewpoints, into these clay items.

The Lenca Indians live in the high mountains in western Honduras, with about 100,000 Lenca remaining today.   As an ethnic group, the Lencas are among the poorest and least educated peoples in Honduras, and while they maintain many of their traditions, the Lenca language has mostly been lost.  Of note, during the Spanish conquest, the Lencas maintained a 12-year defense against the Spaniards, their war ending only after the death of Lempira, their leader.   Lempira is now widely regarded as a national hero and the Honduran currency is named after him.

Modern Lenca communities are built around the milpa, which essentially means “the field”, but can also mean the greater agricultural system of planting.   Lenca men plant a wide variety of crops, including coffee, cacao, tobacco, plantains, maize, wheat, beans, squash, sugarcane, and chili peppers.   These crops are planted at mostly subsistence levels, although some of their produce does make its way to the markets eventually.

Lenca pottery is easily distinguished from other pottery in the region.  In the mid-1980s, the formation of women’s pottery cooperatives, mostly by non-governmental organizations, helped transform Lenca pottery into a more profitable version.   The cooperatives initially helped create pottery with a modern touch, and help expand the market for this pottery.   Much of what you will find on the market today no longer shows the traditional markings, but rather those that will appeal to a broader, even international, market.   Below a picture of the Lenca pottery rooster that inspired my Sunbonnet Sue’s rooster.   It’s quite lovely.  It should be noted that Lencas do not use a pottery wheel, but rather form their pottery shapes entirely by hand.

ACTA de Honduras (see Blogroll) is one of the better known of the NGO’s now assisting Lenca women in design, development, and marketing of their pottery.  Anthropologist Alessandra Foletti Castegnaro has made helping Lenca women her life’s work, and she has helped nearly 3000 Lencas in 14 Lenca communities to become more self-sufficient and augment their incomes from agriculture.

So I hope I’ve inspired you to quilt, to embroider, to applique, to extend a helping hand, whether it’s to a friend or neighbor, or to a whole group of people, or to share your knowledge in some way that helps someone else.   I leave you with this beautiful flower from my backyard — I hope you enjoy it too.

Sunbonnet Sue plays ball in America!

Hello, everyone!  First of all, I want to say thank you to everyone who stayed with me, checking back on the blog regularly.   Secondly, I’m thrilled to be back on the blog again.  I’ve missed it!  Third, I want to explain where I’ve been.   So, my computer went on the fritz. But before I could fix that problem, I lost a bag during a trip with my family.  A very important bag, it turned out.  It was the bag containing my International Sunbonnet Sue book, filled with my notes, a sketchbook containing several of my well-researched and carefully drawn Sunbonnet Sues, and several applique squares being embroidered, plus needles, embroidery floss, etc, etc.   I also lost all of my connector/chargers — for my Blackberry, for my Kindle, for my iPod, for my camera, you name it — it was in the bag.  Not to mention a bunch of other stuff.   And I’ll tell you honestly — I was devastated.  Nothing in the bag, on its own, had much value, but the time I spent on the appliques and sketches — well, it still makes me sad that I lost it.     So, in any case, it took a bit of time to pull myself back together and gather replacements.

That’s where today’s American Sunbonnet Sue comes in.   While I was waiting for my new International Sunbonnet Sue book, I decided I had to keep going.  One day, I was holding a little piece of worn denim, and that’s where the idea of this tomboyish Sunny Sue came to mind.   In the International Sunbonnet Sue, the American Sunny Sue was depicted wearing colonial-style clothing.   Nothing wrong with that, and I’m sure many of you will like that depiction better.  But I wanted to represent her differently, and so I came up with Sunny Sue wearing a baseball mitt and holding a baseball as the perfect depiction of American culture.   I thought about having her hold an apple pie, but I couldn’t figure out to represent the apple in the pie, so I gave up that idea.

Baseball has been around North America, probably since the first English settlers set foot on the Eastern shore.    In the mid-1800′s, baseball rules began to be codified, and men’s clubs began to form teams.   Eventually, baseball evolved into the billion dollar business that it is today — on all fronts, from national baseball teams to PeeWee teams in your communities.   I grew up in a large family, and we often played softball at get-togethers with neighbor kids.  Those were some killer games.   When I was older, I joined a women’s softball league.   I was a fair hitter, but a slow runner.  I could pitch pretty well, but couldn’t catch it if it fell on top of me.  I guess that’s why I spent a lot of time in right field.  Oh well, we’re not all meant to be athletes, right?

The other American icon that I included is a little more subtle — that is, the blue jeans.   Blue jeans have been around since Levi Strauss began manufacturing and selling them in the 1870′s.   They were originally meant to be durable clothing for cowboys, miners, and farm workers.  But in the 1950′s, blue jeans became sexy and symbolic of youthful rebellion.   And well, they still mean the same thing, to a degree.  For sure, blue jeans worn with the right kind of insouciance are terribly sexy.   And to a degree, they also still symbolize rebellion — whether they are worn with big bell bottoms dragging in the dust (from my day) or halfway down someone’s butt with their boxers showing.  I hardly ever wear jeans these days, but I do recall all the different kinds that I’ve had — from bell bottom to straight legged, pleated, plain, or yoked fronts, worn out to black to dark blue to white to all shades inbetween, with embellishment or plain, button fly or zipper fly, low rise, high rise, mid-rise, no wash, stone-wash, or sanded down, I could probably go on and on.  Do any of you remember “hash” jeans?   They were a big style in the Upper Midwest in the late 70′s/early 80′s.   I recall having friends of mine purchase cheap used and new jeans to take to the Soviet Union (in the day) and sell them there for $150-$200 a pair.   Jeans are worn everywhere today, but they still scream American icon to me.

I hope I’ve inspired you to embroider, to quilt, to applique, to pick yourself up and figure something out when you hit a roadblock or get knocked off your chosen path, to play a game of ball with your family and friends, and to put on those jeans and think about what they represent to you.   I’m leaving you with a lovely photo of a plant in my living room…by the way, next time, it’s another original Sunbonnet Sue from me….

Sunbonnet Sue follows her star to Israel

Sunbonnet Sue is looking a bit ecclesiastical for my taste today, but still the colors are bright and cheerful.   In Judaism, blue symbolizes divinity, because blue is the color of the endless sky and endless sea.    Many Jewish garments will have touches of blue, as is commanded in the Torah.    Blue is also considered the color of God’s glory, and when special items, such as the Menorah, the Ark of the Covenant, and others, are transported from place to place, they are covered in blue cloth.   So today’s Sunny Sue is clearly divine, by any set of standards!

While I could wax poetic about the wonderful sights and landmarks to see in Jerusalem, you can find all of that information elsewhere.   As you may have already picked up on if you’ve been watching this blog, I like to shop.  And if you’re in Jerusalem, I suggest you visit the large souk in the center of the city.  It is filled to the rafters with some truly great art and stores and cafes and restaurants and is definitely a must-visit part of the city. 

If you’re interested in learning about the state of quilting in Israel, I suggest you check out these blogs — Milk and Honey Quilts (see blogroll), Noga Quilts (see blogroll), and Scrap Happy (see blogroll).   One of the more famous Israeli quilters is Shulamit Ron (see blogroll for her website) and there is also a 350-member strong Israeli Quilting Association (see, but you’ll need to brush up your Hebrew!).   While the excellent quality fabrics we are so fond of are available in Israel, they are expensive, but with a little imagination, Israeli quilters are making high quality quilts from readily available regional textiles.    There are a few places to shop for fabric in Jerusalem and Tel Aviv, but most of them don’t carry much in the way of cottons.  And if there are cottons, they are usually solid colors or some kind of awful baby print — at least that’s my experience.

I hope that I’ve inspired you to applique, to quilt, to embroider, to visit the wonderful city of Jerusalem and to find some divinity within yourself.  I’m leaving you with a beautiful blue hydrangea from my front yard — the head is about as big as a large dinner plate!

Sunbonnet Sue plucks the harp in Paraguay!

So, my friends, ta da!!!   This is my first original Sunbonnet Sue pattern, and I think she turned out quite cute!   Today, Sunny Sue represents Paraguay, often referred to as “an island surrounded by land”, wearing a well-known version of folkloric dress.   The skirt has two deep ruffles marked by tiny vintage rickrack (my mom gave it to me!) and her hair is full of broderie perse flowers, which I think are fun and funky!   Broderie perse means “Persian embroidery” but it’s really a style of applique embroidery.  In essence, I cut a flower out of one fabric and appliqued that flower to another fabric.   This was a popular style of applique in the late 17th century, but it crops up throughout quilting history.   Chintz fabrics were originally used for the applique itself, because chintz usually has clearly defined elements which could be cut out and applied.  In my broderie perse, I used a tiny backstitch to hold the applique in place.  As I said, I think it turned out amazingly well.  Yes, my modesty knows no barriers.

The Paraguayan harp is a cultural icon.  Much of Paraguay’s traditional music is written for the harp, but the Paraguayan harp is more than just a musical instrument for Paraguayans.  It represents Paraguayan pride in their country and in their people.   Paraguayans are mostly bilingual, speaking Spanish and Guarani, an indigenous language, and they share a rich historical memory and folk traditions.   One of the most successful Paraguayan harpists is Felix Perez Cardozo, who became well-known on stages throughout the world in the 1930′s and 1940′s.   There was a resurgence of popularity in the 1980′s  with Paraguayan folk-music ensembles, and Paraguay has ensured that music schools, conservatories, and private teachers continue to provide instruction and promote the harp.   Before coming to Paraguay, if I thought about it, I think I considered harps to be a fairly rare and unusual instrument, so it took a bit to understand it in its iconic format.

Paraguay is a lovely and remote country filled with wonderful Paraguayan people who speak a version of Spanish that I like to call “Spanarani” (Spanish-Guarani).   On many occasions whilst conversing with my Paraguayan acquaintances, I had to say to my native Spanish-speaking husband, “Umm, what did they say?” to which he would reply, “I have absolutely no idea.”   So, it basically turned my Spanish into mush (That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it!   It is not because my Spanish stank to start with.).   So…you might want to learn a few Guarani phrases before heading to Paraguay.  Just saying.

One of the most famous Paraguayans, Eliza Lynch, is, well, not technically Paraguayan.   Eliza Lynch was born in Ireland, but after the potato famine, around age 10, she moved with her family to Paris.  There she met a French officer and lived with abroad for a period of time.  For health reasons, at around age 18, she returned to live with her mother, eventually coming to befriend Princess Mathilde Bonaparte.   Described as possessing an attractive figure and face as well as long golden hair, she soon set herself up as a courtesan to the wealthy elite.  Soon after, she met Francisco Solano Lopez, the son of the president of Paraguay, at that time one of the wealthiest nations in South America.   Eliza and Francisco began a relationship in Paris that would take them all the way back to Paraguay.

Although they never married, Eliza bore Francisco six children.   When Francisco’s father died in 1862, he left his son as his successor to the presidency.   Eliza Lynch, although never formally Mrs. Lopez, became the most powerful woman in the country.   At the time, Lopez’ political enemies considered her the woman behind the presidency, and blamed Francisco’s ambitions on her (although she denied this), including his greatest folly, the War of the Triple Alliance.

One of the decisive battles of Triple Alliance was the Battle of Cerro Cora.  During the war, Eliza followed her husband, along with other camp followers, as they journeyed from battlefield to battlefield.  The Battle of Cerro Cora ended up essentially a rout, and Francisco was killed by Brazilian forces.   After killing Francisco, the soldiers headed toward the civilians where they found Eliza Lynch and her oldest son, age 15 and a colonel already.   When told to surrender by the Brazilian soldiers, the son replied:  “A Paraguayan colonel never surrenders.”  He was shot to death in front of his mother.   Before Eliza Lynch allowed herself to be taken prisoner, she buried her lover and her son with her bare hands.   She was then banished from Paraguay, and returned to Europe with the rest of her children.   After 5 years, she traveled back under the promise that she could settle there, but arriving in Paraguay she was once again banished.   Eliza Lynch died in poverty in Paris in 1886.   More than one hundred years later, in an ironic twist of fate, Paraguayan dictator General Alfredo Stroessner had her exhumed and her body buried in the national cemetery, having declared Eliza Lynch a heroine of the Paraguayan people.  It is commonly believed that Eliza Lynch encouraged Francisco to start the War of the Triple Alliance which was both bloody and ultimately futile.  In the aftermath, Uruguay, Argentina, and Brazil divided up much of Paraguay’s land, leaving it much more impoverished than they had found it.   But still, historians can find good words to say about Eliza Lynch — that she taught Paraguayan society about European customs and for her dedication to her lover, Francisco, even though it eventually cost her everything.

I hope that I’ve inspired you to quilt, to embroider, to applique, to wear flowers in your hair, to be a loyal and helpful lover, and to fight to the bitter end if it’s something that means a lot to you.  I leave you with a photo of the model for Sunbonnet Sue in Paraguay.  Enjoy!

Sunbonnet Sue squeezes grapes in Greece!

Today, Sunbonnet Sue wears her lovely toga, and honors Dionysus, the Greek god of wine and revelry, and makes her offering of plump grapes to be turned into wine.   The lazy Susan stitches add texture and dimension to the grapes, and the embroidered stars on the toga add another interesting textural element.   We can all raise a glass of wine and toast Sunbonnet Sue — we’re celebrating our 15th post of Sunbonnet Sue visiting countries around the world (the patterns so far all taken from the book, International Sunbonnet Sue).   Next posting, I will show off my first original Sunbonnet Sue pattern, representing the country of….well, you’ll just have to wait a day or two….

Dionysus is the son of Zeus and Semele.   Here’s how that went:   Semele asked her lover, Zeus, to allow her to see him in his real form.   He appeared as thunder and lightning, and Semele was consumed in the storm that occurred afterwards.   Zeus saved their love child from the ashes of her body.  Seeing as he came from a somewhat dysfunctional family, it’s no wonder that Dionysus took to wine and revelry (you may also know him as Bacchus, the Roman god of the grape….).    Dionysus married Ariadne, the Cretan princess who helped Theseus defeat the Minotaur.  Afterwards, though, she was abandoned on the beach of Naxos, where Dionysus found her as he was beachcombing.  Soon after finding Ariadne, Dionysus popped the question to the abandoned princess; after their marriage, they had several children, all associated with wine and wine-making.   In today’s world, Dionysus remains quite a popular god, as evidenced by the amount of wine drunk around the world.  He is still a revered god at Naxos — in fact, devotees of Dionysus, especially the older, possibly more repressed ladies, become wild maenads (wild women!) for a night, inspired by this god of wine and revelry, engaging in an ecstatic frenzy of dancing and drinking, engaging in abandoned sex, and eventually hunting down their men and devouring their raw flesh while dressed in fawn skins and carrying a big stick wrapped in vine leaves.   Hmm.  Quite the evening.   Well, I can only recommend leaving the fawn skin under lock and key if you’re going to be drinking wine.

Athens is an interesting modern city, even though it is among the world’s oldest cities at around 3,400 years of age.   For thousands of years, Athens has been a center for arts, learning, and philosophy — the place where Plato and Aristotle and many other great philosophers debated their grand ideas.   The city is often referred to as the cradle of Western civilization and the birthplace of democracy.   What I particularly like about Athens is that, while it is a modern city in every sense, it has maintained itself as a classic Greek city, preserving a wide variety of ancient monuments, including the Parthenon, the Acropolis of Athens, and the medieval Daphni Monastery.   In 1896, Athens hosted the first modern day Olympics, and rejoiced to bring the Olympics back again in 2004.   Since I enjoy history, I always go to see all of the sights and pay homage to the great skills of people who made such substantial, long-lasting monuments and art with only the most basic of tools.  Truly amazing.

But of course, I also squeeze in a few minutes (possibly hours, according to my husband) to try to suss out the fabric shops and quilt shops if I can.    There are a few, but as always, the search for cottons is tricky one — and often I get waylaid by the other sumptuous, gorgeous, luxurious fabrics that I find.   However, if you are on a fabric hunt yourself in Athens, take a ride to the metro station, Monistiraki, walk a block or so to Athineas, then turn on to Agias Eirinis for the fabric shops and later Perikleous Street for the notions shops.  You might also try a store called Kaliviotis, on the north side of Ermou near Syntagma, and the shopping streets of Eolou and Agiou Marou.   The Athens Central Market is fun — not really for fabrics — but why miss a large market?  You’ll find many treasures you never even dreamed existed, but must have!  And if you’re in Athens on a Sunday, you might want to check out the flea market at Monistiraki — I’ve never been but I’ve heard it’s wonderful.   Also, if you have a minute, check out Nero’s Post and Patch (see my blogroll) for a view of Greek patchwork and quilting and more.

I hope I’ve inspired you to quilt, to embroider, to applique, to travel to Greece and see the sights, or simply to drink more wine and occasionally behave like a wild woman (without the fawn skins and without devouring your husband, mind you!).   I leave you with a lovely purple flower, almost the color of purple grapes….

Sunbonnet Sue rows her gondola to Italy!

The lovely Sunbonnet Sue takes on the role of gondoliere today, and she certainly has the costume for it.  She’s looking quite sharp in sparkly woolen beribboned hat with its gay ribbons and a sharp red-and-white stripe shirt.   Her skirt is made from a small piece of embroidered fabric that I purchased in the souk in Damascus in the late 90′s.  (It makes me happy when I find an odd scrap of fabric and an old memory to go along with it!)   She definitely looks like she’s enjoying her tasty strawberry gelato cone, after all that hard work rowing!  You might note that I went back to Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials (see blogroll), where I found the Holbein stitch (a variation of the running stitch) to make Sue’s hair a little more interesting.  All in all, she’s a good-looking boatswain, and Sue’s taking her rowing as seriously as Giorgia Boscolo, who. in August 2010, became the first female gondoliere in Venice.  Sunny Sue is such a feminist!

Gondolas, which once served as a real means of transportation in Venice, at one time numbering around 10,000 in the Venice Lagoon.   But these days, with just under 500 gondolas licensed in Venice, they are mostly used to provide tourist rides over the Grand Canal although modern-day gondolieri have exchanged the long poles for more practical oars.  I’ve heard that the gondolas used to have little cabins or awnings on them, presumably to protect the passengers and their goods from the weather, but you know me! I prefer to believe that the cabins allowed privacy for lovers on their way to their private assignations.   I’m sure there’s a little bit of truth in both.

But while Venice is certainly a lovely city with sense of romance, I personally much prefer Rome.  What I especially love about Rome is that every time you walk around a corner, there’s something interesting, historic, or just plain fabulous to look at, to examine, and to learn about.   You can find gazillions of resources for visiting Rome, so I’m going to talk about what always interests me — quilting and quilt shops in Italy!   If you just love fabric and textiles in all of their shapes and forms, then check out Bassetti Tessuti on the Corso Vittorio Emanuele II.   Bassetti Tessuti is the perhaps the largest fabric store in Rome (could even be Italy, it’s that big!), and fabric lovers will think they’ve died and gone to fabric heaven.  Imagine all those luscious piles of fabric….Of course, it’s to be expected since Rome is almost as much of a fashion hub as Paris or New York.   You might be able to find some forms of cotton at Bassetti Tessuti that you can use for quilting, but I pretty sure you won’t want to cut into one inch of it….

But are there quilt shops?   Well, there is an Italian Assocation of Quilting and Patchwork — if you read Italian, you can check out (     I know of one, Il Mondo di Pezza ( on the Via Tommaso Arcidiacono, but I’ve never visited it.   For the dedicated quilter, it’s probably worth a visit just to find some cool Italian fabric for your quilts.  Il Mondo di Pezza is the likeliest place to find quilting cottons and notions as well as the likeliest place to find out what’s happening on the Italian quilting scene and meet some Italian quilters.   Hey, Italy’s not only about the food!   Okay, we really like the food too, but you know what I mean….

So, I miei amici (my friends in Italian), I hope you grab a cappuccino, a gelato or some other Italian treat, and find some inspiration in this blog to quilt, to embroider, to applique, or just to row your own boat the way you want to — with or without passengers.   To help you get inspired, I’m going to leave you with this beautiful lavender bougainvillea spreading its fabulously wonderful color along a fence.  Have a good one!

Sunbonnet Sue crosses the border to Mexico

Today, I introduce you to Sunbonnet Sue in Mexico.   She looks lovely in her striped serape (or is it a rebozo?) and wide sombrero, but I’m not too sure about carrying a cactus!  Ouch!  This week I was looking for ways to vary my embroidery stitches and add interest to the applique.  Well, I didn’t get too far off my standard stitches, but you’ll note the fringe of the serape is done in the long-tailed daisy stitch combined with French knots (I think the fringe looks way cool, by the way!).   If you’re looking for great tutorials on a wide variety of embroidery stitches, consider checking out Sarah’s Hand Embroidery Tutorials (check my blogroll).  The tutorials are well demonstrated and clearly explained.

I love Mexico.  And I love Mexico City.    Well, Mexico City has all the worst a city can offer — horrible traffic, terrible crime, smog, pollution, and more.   But it also has the very best a large city can offer — for instance, the Basilica de Guadalupe is fabulously beautiful, and in numbers of visitors, it is second only to the Basilica in Vatican City.    The city is overflowing with cultural pleasures — from the Catedral Metropolitano, an unbelievable architectural masterpiece built from 1573 to 1813 to concerts, museums, sidewalk entertainment, luscious restaurants, and more.   If you’re a lover of museums (as I am), Mexico City offers a plethora for your enjoyment, from the Palacio Nacional with its spectacular Diego Rivera murals chronicling the history of Mexico, to the Palacio de Bellas Artes with its cultural events, art nouveau and art deco architecture, the world-class Museo Nacional de Antropologia, the Museo Nacional de Bellas Artes, and the Museo Nacional de Historia.   It will take several trips to see it all.    In all of these places, the displays take you from pre-Hispanic Mexico all the way up to present-day Mexico.   There’s plenty more to see and do in Mexico City, and if you have a chance, get out of Mexico City to all the wonderful regions of Mexico itself.

But you know what I’m all about here.  Textiles, arts and crafts, especially of the indigenous variety, are what interest me.   The artisans of Oaxaca and Chiapas provide the broadest variety of beautiful crafts and textiles, crafted with rich imagination and incredible skill.  In the pre-Hispanic era, the Aztecs and other indigenous civilizations produced fibers from yucca, palm, maguey, and cotton which they wove into serapes and other useful items.   After the Spanish conquest of the Aztecs, silk and wool as well as European-style looms made their way to Mexico, where a cottage industry in weaving  soon thrived.   Many of these woven fabrics are dyed with natural dyes and, in today’s version, many of these handicrafts are still made within indigenous communities.

Mexico City has loads of fabric shops, but it is generally pretty difficult to find quilting cottons in most of them.  Although, there are occasionally some surprises, especially on the discount tables, but even there you need to purchase with care.  A cautionary tale:  I once bought a beautiful floral fabric in one of these stores, carried it around for a few years, and then made it up into a quilt.  When I washed it the first time, I ended up with patches of smeary white — the dye hadn’t been set or something, and I essentially ended up with plain white cotton.  It was pretty disappointing.  However, I do know that Mexico City has a thriving quilting community — while I know there are other quilting guilds, the Mexico City Quilting Guild is a good place to meet people and find out about other quilters, and I’ve heard that you can find a good quilt shop in just about every region of the city.  I don’t know but isn’t the hunt for a great quilt shop part of the fun?

I’m leaving you with a flower growing in the cactus patch in my garden.  Do you see the little butterfly sitting so still on the flower center?   I hope that I’ve inspired you to quilt, to applique, to embroider, to create, and to take a look around your own neighborhood and see what quilting treasures you find there!  Adios, amigos!