New Favorite Doc: Bill Cunningham New York


I am in love with a photographer: Bill Cunningham. Last night my husband and I watched a documentary, Bill Cunningham New York. We checked it out of the library, of course!

Bill Cunningham: an eye for fashion

Who is Bill Cunningham?

Mr. Cunningham has photographed street style for nearly 50 years—mostly in New York City. He’s known for his photo column, “On the Street” in the New York Times. At 83 years of age, he’s still going strong. Really strong!

Work it, Bill!

Bill still works, doing a weekly column for the New York Times. I hope I’m doing what I love when I am over 80!

Bill is famous for riding his bike around the city (no helmet). In the documentary he says that his bike is number 29. Thieves stole the previous 28 cycles.

He’s usually seen wearing a blue smock. (He says smocks are practical because they have pockets and keep the camera from ruining his other clothes).

Like a bee

His photography style is quick. He tries to be invisible. He snaps photos on the fly and usually doesn’t ask permission.

Bill is a throw back. He still uses film. He’s not digital and it seems he never will be. Bill has enthusiasm. He’s optimistic. Like me, he is known to clap when he’s happy!

Gentle genius

Most remarkable of all, Bill Cunningham is truly kind. He’s egalitarian: treating socialites and transvestites with the same openness. “You kids,” he says to practically everyone. The ladies love when he calls them “Child.”

Bill Cunningham making new friends. Photo courtesy of Wikipedia, creative commons license.

What is the idea?

Bill doesn’t take pictures because of WHO wears the clothes. His reason IS the clothing. He visits the fashion weeks, society events and the streets. He sees new ideas and trends. He filters. Like all artists, he helps others see.

These things take time

It’s a little difficult to get to know the man behind the camera. The director, Richard Press, says that the movie took 10 years to make: eight years to convince Bill and then two more years to actually film and edit.

Bill is shy. His life is his camera. He loves his work. And, his play is more of the same on the weekend. I won’t give everything away. If you love fashion, you’ve got to watch, Bill Cunningham New York.

Talking heads

The documentary includes interviews with several famous people. Fashion editor Anna Wintour gushes about Bill. (Ms. Wintour is supposedly the devil of The Devil Wears Prada fame. And, by the way, if you are into magazines or advertising, I recommend The September Issue. )

And, everyone else loves Bill Cunningham too. I want to be like him: kind, passionate and seeing beauty in the world.

Have a wonderful day!


Here’s the trailer for the movie.


Click the image to see Bill’s fashion video for the first week of June, 2012.

Click the image for more info about the documentary.


Flower Delivery


Here’s a quick hello and a wish that you have a wonderful day!

DePaul Art Museum Flowers

Straight from my phone to you: the flowers in front of the DePaul University Art Museum had a faded beauty. (Taken on or before May 7.)

Have a great spring day!

Sewing Machine Punk? Is there such a thing?!


I finally visited AllSaints Spitalfields on Wednesday. Here’s a travel log of my trip.

AllSaints Spitalfields is in the 900 N. Michigan Building—part of the Magnificent Mile in Chicago. The store sells clothing and accessories for men and women with a gothic/Victorian theme.

The entry is a cathedral to the Industrial Revolution: instead of stained glass, old black sewing machines are shelved over every inch of the window. No wonder people call this look steam punk.

What is this place? AllSaints Spitalfields.

What is this place? AllSaints Spitalfields, photo courtesy of Google Maps, Photo by AllSaints.

Inside, the display cases are adapted from large sewing machines and other real and pseudo machinery.

Thank goodness I don't have to pedal this treadle long arm.

Time or money has warped and smoked the mirrors.

Is it me, or is it dark in here? By the way, I am wearing the Ribbed and Cabled Sweater that I designed. I just finished it last week!

The store is successful at creating atmosphere. A fellow shopper gushed that it was an “eye meal”!

Here, there be monsters

AllSaints’ clothing whispers and grumbles in grayish champagne, black, white, and a few other dull but beautiful tones. The most colorful item was a dress printed with sea creatures reminiscent of monsters found on old world maps. Highlights of the spring/summer 2012 collection include miniskirts with matte sequins arranged in a “tribal” pattern, a white eyelet maxi dress tied with a leather belt, fitted jackets, a drop-stitch sweater in faded black, and draped and pleated dresses and tunics made of washed satin. They even offer a complicated get-up of folded and twisted fabric that looks like a dress but is worn as an onesy! Since I wasn’t shopping to buy, I didn’t notice any price tags. Online the store offers clothing from $40 for bikini bottoms, to $550 and up for leather jackets and heavily beaded dresses.

Which reminds me of a book…

It all reminds me of  Mortal Engines, a book. (Yes, I read Young Adult fiction from time to time. Please don’t let anyone know, it’s a carefully guarded secret!)

Mortal Engines, by Philip Reeve, tells of a post-apocalypse world in which portable cities scavenge Europe looking for food and resources. In this future, all our current computer technology has been lost and mechanical ingenuity rules. But, forget the plot! I enjoyed the descriptions of this alternate (hopefully) future and the reverence with which they held the past computer glories (such as, shiny plastic discs). Peter Jackson is working on a movie!? Similar, and better, is The Golden Compass series by Philip Pullman.

Tulips’ last stand

In contrast to the dark interior of AllSaints, the sun shone brilliantly outside. This winter was so warm, the tulips are nearly finished for the season.

Michigan Avenue in Chicago. April 18, 2012

Over the blue double-decker bus you can see the top of the Marilyn Monroe sculpture and Chicago Tribune headquarters behind that. This is also on Michigan Avenue in Chicago.

I hope you are having a beautiful spring and enjoying something new or beautiful today!

Be of good cheer!

Creating My Own Free Form Quilt: Using the Rayna Gillman Method!


Creating My Own Free Form Quilt: Using the Rayna Gillman Method!

Here’s a photo of my quilt from Friday morning. It is a loose interpretation of Lincoln Park (an awesome park here in Chicago).

I like what is happening in the top 2/3rds of the quilt, but the bottom is feeling too intense — not enough change in value. Plus, I didn’t have many colors for the water. Happily I just received a gift card, so I was able to stock up on watery light & bright blues and calming greens.  (It’s so nice to have a guilt-free shopping expedition–and to support my local quilt shop, Quiltology!)

My computer is having major issues, so I’m sneaking a few minutes on my husband’s computer. (I’m not really sneaking, but it sounds more fun to say I am!!)

I’ll be in touch! Enjoy spring!

Book Review: Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts by Rayna Gillman


Cover of the book, "Create Your Own Free-Form Quilt" by Rayna Gillman

I picked up Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts by Rayna Gillman from the library. (I love that they will text me when a book I have placed on hold arrives at my local branch!) Unfortunately, I couldn’t read it until late that night. Although I was yawning and my eyes were tearing up, I couldn’t put the book down. Finally, I went to bed, but I was too excited to sleep!

Such is the thrilling life of a quilter!

I see the light!

Cathy holding up fabric for a Kafe Fasset quilt

Getting on my hands and knees for fabric...I find it easiest to use my mat and rotary cutter on the floor.

I’ve dabbled with a couple of versions of free-form quilting, but nothing like this! To me, Rayna Gillman’s methods are a revelation. Rayna makes quilting sound like a mixture of cooking, math and mixed martial arts. In Create Your Own Free-Form Quilts, she explains how she slices, dices, multiplies, divides, rotates and flips!

Once you know her techniques you can find what works for you. As she says, there are no mistakes in free-form quilting.

One step at a time

Rayna gives step-by-step examples of her techniques, each with its own color photo. She auditions many possibilities. Later in the book you see how some of her examples fit into new quilts.

She’s flexible about her methods. If you want to fuse bits and pieces, go for it! (Although she generally sews.) Her rallying cry is, “What if?”

Rayna’s Method: Part A

Rayna encourages you to dive in and sew strips together. She calls this therapy sewing. It helps you see unexpected combinations and gets you moving. If you are really stuck, she says, “Don’t look, just sew.” As you sew you’ll see things you like, then follow your instincts.

Rayna’s Method: Part B

Once you have “strip sets” and modules you like, it’s time to move to the design wall. This begins the “slow design” phase. It is the time to rearrange and reflect. If it works, great! If not, go back to the first phase and more play!

Rayna to the rescue

Rayna Gillman shows how to rescue “the dogs.” By “dogs” she means quilt blocks and tops that you’ve abandoned. You probably are tempted to toss them. Instead, give them therapy! This is my favorite section of the book. She takes some really horrible blocks she made in the 1970s and 1980s and turns them into something current and interesting. Some of her blog readers also accepted the challenge to transform the dogs. I love to see how different people solve the “problem” blocks in different ways.

Quilting color

Rayna includes a terrific chapter about fearless color. She learned from her grandmother, “Nanny,” who embroidered unexpected colors. Her Nanny told her, “Darling, there’s no such thing ‘as doesn’t go’. You can use any colors together as long as you repeat them somewhere.”

Like all the C&T Publishing books I’ve read, the quality is top-notch. (When I write a book, they are one of the publishers I will contact.)

Initial blocks that I created following, "Create Your Own Free Form Quilts".

Blocks on the Quilting Room Floor: Here are first modules that I created following, "Create Your Own Free Form Quilts".

What’s my vote?

I love this book. I’ve already started sewing and slicing a new quilt based on it. Beginning quilters might find this book too free-form. Don’t expect any projects in this book. All the same, you’ve got to check it out. Or, buy it!

You learn more about Rayna and see lots of her work at her website:


P.S. In an up-coming post, I ‘ll show you step-by-step, how I followed Rayna’s methods to create my own free-form quilt!