Sunbonnet Sue Sails Her Pirate Ship to the Bahamas

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I did not sail on a pirate ship to the Bahamas, I swear!  That might have been fun (especially if Captain Jack Sparrow were also aboard), and while I sailed there as well, it was on a much tamer cruise ship over a long weekend — there was no wielding my cutlass!!.  When I was trying to figure out how to depict the Bahamas as a Sunbonnet Sue version, I came across a beauty contest site in which contestants wore costumes from their countries.  Most of the costumes were folk dresses, but the Bahamas’ contestant was dressed up as a sexy pirate, and her outfit is the source of my inspiration for this Sunny Sue.   This Sunbonnet Sue is dressed a tad more conservatively, and mostly I was envisioning her as a female version of Johnny Depp’s character, “Captain” Jack Sparrow, in the “Pirates of the Caribbean” movie series.   So, “Captain” Sunbonnet Sue is dressed in a tricorn hat, a jacket with long tails, and high black boots.   Alas and alack! she’s lost an eye (covered with eye patch) and that’s precisely why I did not give her a cutlass…no accidental cuts, please!  But I hope you noticed the beads, which are a nod to Captain Jack Sparrow’s beaded and knotted long tresses.

As you can imagine, the Bahamas’ history is rich with pirate lore.  Almost everyone has heard of Blackbeard, the notorious Edward Teach.  He was an unusally big and tall man, terrifying his own crew and the crews of the ships he attacked.  Before each battle, Blackbeard would weave hemp into his beard and light it on fire — scary!   He ruled Nassau, enforcing his version of law and justice, for about 5 years before he was killed off the coast of Virgina by the Royal Navy in 1718.  It’s estimated that Blackbeard captured about 40 ships in those 5 years — a busy pirate, indeed.  Before Blackbeard though, in the late 1600′s, Captain Henry Morgan, a Welsh member of the Royal Navy, attacked Spanish trips as they traveled between the Old and New Worlds.  After he earned himself a knighthood, he was given the title of Deputy Governor of Jamaica and settled down as a wealthy sugar plantation owner.  Who says piracy doesn’t pay?

However, the most evolved pirate was Calico Jack (real name:  John Rackham).  He received his nickname from the striped trousers and coat that he usually wore.   When his pirate master did not attack a French man-of-war ship, Calico Jack seized his master’s ship, the Treasure, and sent his boss on his way in a small sailboat.  Calico Jack then led his own pirates in many skirmishes.  But why did I say he was the most evolved pirate?  Well, even back in the 1720′s, he was open to women working in the non-traditional field of piracy.  One woman, Mary Read, was already part of his pirate crew, and he eventually wooed Anne Bonney away from her husband.  Anne, dressed and disguised as a man as was Mary ahead of her, joined his pirate crew.    When a pirate-hunter on orders from Royal Governor Rogers attacked their ship in 1720, the (not-so) brave Calico Jack and his drunken crew cowered in the hold, while Anne and Mary fought off the attackers, but were eventually overpowered.   Calico Jack was hanged for his crimes, but the ruthless and fearless female pirates, Anne Bonney and Mary Read, were both taken prisoners.   They both claimed to be pregnant, and so were granted a reprieve from being hung like the rest of the crew.   Mary died from a fever in her cell, but Anne had the baby and then disappeared into history.   So, while Sunbonnet Sue enjoys masquerading as a pirate, she’s truly not a ruthless pirate.  Or so I believe.

Even Captain Sunbonnet Sue enjoys the pretty pink flamingos though.  The West Indian flamingo is also the Bahamas’ national bird, and what a great bird to show off Bahamian style, right?   In the 1950′s the flamingo population on the island of Inagua, Bahamas, was down to only about 5,000.  With the help of the National Audubon Society, a trust was created (the Bahamas National Trust).   Under the Trust’s purview, the number of flamingos on Inagua grew to its current population of around 80,000.  The Bahamas Wild Bird Protection Act now makes it illegal to harm or capture endangered or threatened species, including the West Indian Flamingo.   Although it is a timid and shy bird, its long legs, long neck, and characteristic bright pink color make it a very special bird — they can be as tall as 5 feet.  Even its large, heavy, down-curved bill is special and different from most other birds.

I hope you’ve enjoyed taking to the Caribbean seas with me this time around.   I hope you feel inspired to don your pirate bikini and prowl the iridescent blue waters of the Bahamas, to buy some pink flamingos next time you’re at one of the big box stores and plant them in your front yard, to go for a sail (even if its just in your mind), to applique or embroider some pirates and flamingos of your own, or just to enjoy looking across the horizon to see what’s sailing towards you.   I leave you to enjoy this gorgeous (flamingo) pink flower from my backyard…happy sailing!

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Sunbonnet Sue recites Pablo Neruda’s poetry in Chile

Sunbonnet Sue visits Chile and recites Pablo Neruda's poetry

Sunbonnet Sue visits Chile and recites Pablo Neruda’s poetry

So here we are again, this time with Sunny Sue visiting the shores of Chile.  The indigenous groups of Chile include the colorful and interesting Mapuche and Aymara, but the folk culture of Chile is really about Spain, especially the huaso culture that surrounds cattle ranching (think vaqueros in Argentina).  Although Spanish traditions, especially Andalusian (especially in costume, music, and dance) and Castilian, have made the most impact on Chile’s folk culture, it’s important to note that Chile also has a substantial German, Austrian, Italian, Irish, French, British, and other European community, traditions, and influence. As you can see, Sunbonnet Sue’s lovely aproned outfit reflects European folk costume traditions.  She’s a true vision in floral purple and looks ready to dance, except she’s lugging around a mysterious moai statue from Rapa Nui National Park on Easter Island.  That’s weighing her down some….

The moai figures, head-and-torso figures carved out of stones, average about 13 feet tall and weigh around 14 tons.  Don’t we wish these statues could talk?  We could ask them why their creators went to the time and (what must have been crazy) effort to transporting these 900 or so giant figures to various locations on Easter Island.  Archaeologists believe the moai were created to honor ancestors or chiefs, but it is truly unknowable as there exists no oral or written history of the island.  Or we could ask how the Rapa Nui Polynesian peoples even ended up on the island –  Easter Island is located 2300 miles west of South America and 1100 miles from the nearest island.  That’s pretty isolated, so we can imagine the tale of arriving there is pretty harrowing in and of itself.  I can only marvel at the ingenuity and determination (and possibly pure luck) of these intrepid Polynesian explorers.

Santiago itself is a wonderful city, where any visitor can enjoy, to an amazing extent, European treasures like British high tea, French casseroles and coffee, German cakes and sausage, and Italian pasta.  These European influences can also be seen in the city’s architecture which shows its Germanic and Spanish influence.  Happily for those who quilt, there is also a wonderful quilt shop in Santiago — check out its website, http://www.thequiltshop.cl.  The shop imports cottons from Brazil and the U.S.   Actually, it’s quite amazing how difficult it is to find quality quilting cottons outside of the U.S. — for those quilters who remember the 70′s and 80′s in the U.S., the quilting cotton market must have been similar.   It’s truly hard to imagine that in the context of today’s booming quilting industry which abounds with high quality cottons in any print and color you can imagine, and I think it truly takes some extra creativity to make art out of such limited resources.

However, what struck me about my visit to Santiago, Chile, and its whereabouts were the number of houses involving Pablo Neruda.    Pablo Neruda was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet and politician Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He named himself after Czech poet Jan Neruda.  He wrote erotic love poems, surrealistic poetry, historical epics, and even political writings.  In 1971, Neruda won the Nobel Prize for Literature. Colombian novelist Gabriel García Márquez once called him “the greatest poet of the 20th century in any language.” Neruda always wrote in green ink as it was his personal color of hope.   During his lifetime, Neruda served a stint as a senator for the Chilean Communist Party. When communism was outlawed in Chile in 1948, the government tried to arrest Neruda, but friends hid him in a house basement in Valparaíso, Chile.   Later, Neruda had close ties with Socialist President Salvador Allende.  He died of heart failure and cancer complications three days after the Chilean coup d’etat led by Augustin Pinochet.    Already a legend in life, Neruda’s death reverberated around the world.   Here’s one of Pablo Neruda’s more erotic poems:

Carnal apple, Woman filled, burning moon,
dark smell of seaweed, crush of mud and light,
what secret knowledge is clasped between your pillars?
What primal night does Man touch with his senses?
Ay, Love is a journey through waters and stars,
through suffocating air, sharp tempests of grain:
Love is a war of lightning,
and two bodies ruined by a single sweetness.
Kiss by kiss I cover your tiny infinity,
your margins, your rivers, your diminutive villages,
and a genital fire, transformed by delight,
slips through the narrow channels of blood
to precipitate a nocturnal carnation,
to be, and be nothing but light in the dark.

If you’d like to read or listen to more of Pablo Neruda’s poetry, check out http://www.poemhunter.com/pablo-neruda/.

So folks, I hope that I’ve inspired you to visit Chile, to learn more about Pablo Neruda, to write or read poetry, to explore every city you visit to see if you can find a quilt shop, or simply I hope you find the time and energy to spending some quilting or embroidering.  I leave you with a photo the beautiful purple wisteria growing in my backyard….Purple wisteria in my backyard

Purple wisteria in my backyard

 

 

 

 

Sunbonnet Sue parties with peacocks in India

Applique Quilt -- Sunbonnet Sue joins the Foreign Service -- visits India (original design by Mona A Kuntz, April 2014, Sari with Peacock) xHey people!  I’m back after a long absence.  Sorry about that, but I have a busy job and once I fall out of the habit of doing something, I truly do fall out.   But I’m back and you have my sincere apologies.

I’m back with Sunny Sue visiting India, wearing a richly colored sari, loaded down with bangles and earrings, and holding the national bird of India, the Indian Peacock.   Although I adore the International Sunbonnet Sue patterns, I did not believe the Indian version of Sunbonnet Sue in the book really captured the Indian woman in my mind.  So I drew my own — the  above photograph is my own version of Sunny Sue visiting India.   I didn’t do it justice, but I really wanted to celebrate the beauty of the saris that I see Indian women wearing.  They are gorgeous, and often made from lovely silks in the brightest of colors, often beaded or with other fancy borders.  The sari is usually a long length of silk or other fine fabric.  It can be up to 9 yards long and 2-4 feet wide, and wrapped around the waist, with one end draped over the shoulder.   However, Indian women find many ways to drape and pleat the fabric into individual styles — I learned that there are more than 50 recognized sari draping methods.  That’s a lot from one length of fabric.  The draping leaves the midriff bare to one extent or another, and an undergarment or petticoat is found under the bottom half of the sari.  On top, the cropped fitted blouse with short sleeves is known as the choli.   The sari takes a lot of grace and style to wear, in my opinion, and it is widely regarded as a symbol of Indian culture and grace.   I know that if it were me wearing the sari, I’d be a walking disaster.  I can imagine my drapery slipping, the whole shebang sliding down my body at some inopportune moment, or me walking around with it tied in a big bow with a knot somewhere.  I doubt that I could manage to wear a sari, but saris are ingrained in the culture and history of India, and I admire the Indian women who can wear all that fabric and make it look easy.

I’m also a bit fascinated by the Indian peacock, I must say.  Although they are some of the most beautiful birds in the world with their iridescent blue and green body and tail feathers, they are also some pretty testy birds, and I suggest not getting too close to them.   But beautiful they are, indeed.  They use their long graceful train of feathers in their mating rituals and courtship displays, spreading them out into a shimmering fan of feathers that is something fantastic to see.   I’ve read that the peahens choose their mates according to the size, color, and quality of those fans…well, hey, don’t we all go for beauty over substance?  Girls will be girls.   Like many bird species, the peacocks gather a harem to their side — and a group of peafowl are called “parties” or sometimes “musters”.  So the next time you get invited to a peacock party….well, you know what’s in store!!!  Peacocks have been kept as pets for thousands of years, but if you’re planning on keeping a “party” of peafowl, think twice.  They are easily startled, and scream out a loud warning to their fellow peafowl.  But if you’re startled out of your sleep by a scream that sounds like someone being murdered, first check on the peafowl….it might just have been them.

So folk — I’m glad to be back.  I hope you wear a sari sometime or maybe just any old thing that makes you happy and proud as a…ahem…peacock (couldn’t resist!), and I hope you enjoy my own version of the peahen below, in the form of a Nicaraguan pottery chicken that I picked up a few years ago.  It’s much quieter….

Nicaraguan pottery chicken

 

 

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 http://www.israel-quilts.com, 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!