fabric timelines

Sympathetic Evolution (tm jude)

Creatorstone My response to recent community truth tellings and the resultant supportive growth tendrils pushed me all the way beyond words.   Obviously where-ever I was going expressively would be cloth driven.  Somewhere around 2 a.m. on Thursday I understood I wanted to make a tribute/protection quilt for the community jude created and has tended in much the same style I tend to my gardens. 

I've never wanted to do this before.  For one thing - precision and math.  Planning that's focused rather than a rough suggestion.   For another - I learn best when I incorporate rather than emulating.  But for this purpose it doesn't feel like my expressive style serves the purposes.  So what's coming to life is a bit sympathetic magic and a little evolutionary cloth/work approach and whole bunches of sympathetic evolution.    I don't remember when it was that jude put her stamp on that phrase and its brilliant articulation recurring throughout her work and teaching development.

Wheelassquarebegin She sent me this I don't even know how many years ago.  It was last resurrected for ongoing contemplation shortly before the shit hit the fan COVID-wise here on the east coast.  I thought I would like to make it the center of something bigger and somehow aquamarine-ish. 

Wheel transferIn this busy multi-plexic portion of the growing season yesterday afternoon was sending me to the big bad tizzy place.  I realized cloth work would help slow the revs as well as elevating my perspective of the moment.  I sat down with my intentions to just go in the sympathetic evolutionary magic sense - having earlier stolen 10-15 minutes to anchor stitch the green and blue/turquoise fabric to the under-side of jude's corduroy base. 

 once this was done I sensed the soft collaboration I was seeking.  And remain pleased that I gained the most beautifully moody moon circle to dream over.

Next will come a border of small four patches.  To adept lovers of small piecework the size will probably feel overblown (1" finished) but for me this level of literally scaling down is an exercise in trust that time and providence can hold the care I'm taking. Last night after I got this far I adjourned to fictionland but not before I located my embroidery hoops with today's stitching time in mind.

***

Appliqueing the stone into position was so gratifying at a stitch level.  Was a little worried I'd cut too scant a turn to prevent the corduroy unraveling but there was no such problem.  Later today  I may stick it in a hoop and do a little noodling but that could well be a plan to procrastinate marking and cutting the little squares. 

slowly but surely I'm coming around to the understanding that neurological abrasions shouldn't keep me from stitching just because I can no longer manage a fine seam.  I probably could if I spent more time with it but that's the Catch-22 that this endeavor may help me mend a lot more effectively.

Backsideofstone


first studio day since last post!

Chrysochollawetfrombowl

Since then I've been spending most of my waking time outside in the sun-struck gardens.   Temps have been high enough to make this space largely uninhabitable even in the productive phases of early and middle evening.   I've brought painting and stitching supplies downstairs to the dining room and more or less found storage space that's functional.  

As I sit here and compartmentalize how I've been using my energy I see that not a lot of active "official" creativity is in evidence.  But there's been a lot of gestation time related to both writing and Pearl's log cabin deconstruction.

FirstglimpseinsideThe day after my last post I followed through on removing the log cabin borders.  Cut solidly through all layers and then carefully looked inside.  Saw just enough to need to see more.  To know Pearl's life in the cloth trail of, well, threadcrumbs.

Stood in front of the studios big front window with a candle burning on the cleared coffee table workspace.  The work of literally cutting ties with what the object of quilt used to be was as energizing as it was meditative.  I was moved through and through with a sense of my grandmother's spirit urging me forward:  Know me.  Understand the larger context of what you recall being told of my life's history.

I cut each tie with mindful care.   A couple of times I heard myself saying aloud "I believe this belongs to neither of us".  There was a lot of sadness being released.  I suppose from me but mainly, as the doer, I was conscious of confirmation concerning my original hunch that Pearl made this quilt in large part to stay constructively occupied while she healed more subtle layers from her despair to suffer two miscarriages after moving to the house where I was raised.

 I told the floating sense of dissipating sadness that I understood.   And me too'd what remained as drifting residue until it too had dissipated.  By then all the physical thread ties were cut and I'd gently pulled them free.  I peeled aside the cotten sateen then flipped the quilt face-up and did the same for the piecework.  What remained as a batting was a layer of brown flannel that Pearl had pieced to size. 

FlannelbattingStaring at that line of double-threaded running stitches I saw how honestly I come by all the things that I do - and yet.  When it came to needlework Pearl hoped to turn me into the second coming of her husband's sister, for whom I'd been named.  Thus she stressed methodology and a layer of excellent execution she didn't ask of herself - at least under the duress of what I presume is an accurate interpretation of where her head and heart were at during the time of construction.

The quilt is entirely handpieced.  She sat with the comfort of cloth wherever she could find it and moved steadily forward one strip of self-made life at a time.   And I came to realize how my ongoing yearning to know more of her as a woman who survived a great deal and never failed to go to bat to me until she was too sick to bat for herself was being fulfilled in an unexpected and entirely tactile way.  I smiled and imagined gently washing the pieced layer of living soul's comfort.  Became focused on rinsing it after washing and then doing a second ceremonial renewal clearing with rosewater added to the rinse bowl. 

As groundcloths for the individually constructed 3.5 inch blocks Pearl used serviceable scraps from old clothes.  This was a whole ongoing category maintained by the two sisters.  When handmade cloths were too threadbare for other purposes they were still given due respect because parts could still be salvaged for their serviceable scraps bundle(s).   In this case the scrap groundcloths (here and there I found some pieced examples) were sometimes oversized and in other instances barely serviceable.  All of the backgrounds appear to have been scavenged from old clothes representing her youngest married life.  It's as far as I'm going to deconstruct her efforts. Am not going to attempt a cleaning of the top's outer layer but I'm going to continue clearing the entire be-ing of it of sadness and other energies for as long into this calendar year as the windows are consistently open to keep residue moving out and away.

BlockbackingsectionSome portions of the inner quilt are quilt clean, as directly above, and then uncomfortably soiled in others.  Am beginning to wonder if at least some of the most corrosive looking damage is actually accidental water spillage (or deliberately spewn florida water) damage from times over the years when I employed this quilt as an Ancestor altar cloth.  

I am still immensely surprised by how poorly her joined seam lines are worked.  It was another tangible clue that she was keeping her hands moving without a lot of mental and emotional hook-ups firing as they did in my years of knowing her. 

***

Concurrently I'm going to consider making low-loft patches I plan to apply to the surface of piecework. Have decided I do want to have this quilt contain elements of my direct matrilineage but I don't want to use the worn gauze of a garment I took-over from my mother after her death.  At which time I inherited unused yardage of the gauze.  Sold most of it to my friends and other friends of theirs in three yard lengths.  Then had to deal with the unanticipated dissonance of going through a few summer seasons of seeing various people I knew using it for summer wear of their own style. 

JoycegauzeI have two pieces of roughly the same size.  Ripped in half at two in the morning a few nights back because I realized I wanted a curtain in our front kitchen window that wasn't thrown together from an ancient sheet until I came up with something better.   And then belatedly realized this cloth was less than useless in filling the need at hand. Sure would have been quicker than what I'm very simply and slowly stitching by hand but this is a lot more satisfying. Every time I start to over-graze the not unrelated territories of civil unrest and bottomless corruption I put it down until my head's in a better place.

obviously enough that's why the time it's taking to complete the straight forward endeavor is way overdue even by super slow standards.  Didn't quite put that together until this moment.


one of Pearl's log cabin quilts

Pearlslogcabin

Hand pieced and tied baby quilt made by my grandmother Pearl during her reversal of fortunes/young mother/diligently frugal wife stage of life during the 30's.  She does not appear to have pre-sorted her scraps or limited the scraps' color/design nature or type of fabric.

Jude's focus on baby quilts and quilts still in their infant stage(s) has slowly pushed my mind into a state of active inspiration related to what's on hand and already of strong interest to me.  To the point where yesterday I planned to start deconstructing the quilt above.  Have been previously inclined to work with the blocks just as they are but separated from the heavy cotton sateen borders and backing.  The sateen used to be a not entirely unpleasant acid green that made the somewhat subdued color range of the quilt sing more prettily.   

Pearl had a knack for clashes that work.  I didn't realize that was something I came by honestly until this past weekend when I sat with this quilt on my lap and carefully studied each individual block.  I chose to spend the better part of an afternoon that way in honor of the many hundreds of afternoons I did not have a chance to spend with Pearl.   Despite all the more pressing and seemingly non-negotiable things that needed doing I did this instead.

zero regrets.  A much stronger and radiant heart center.

Over decades of me hanging this particular quilt on one indirectly lit wall or another the color has faded considerably and is now completely unpalatable to me.  I think because, before it faded, it used to hang on a wall where it should have looked smashing but it didn't.  At the time I thought that was the fault of the wallpaper in that particular apartment hallway.  But now I think it was the fault of non-existent light sources beyond recessed fluorescent light bars.   Since moving to mid-state places I've hung it in spots with enough light to properly showcase the way the bright green enlivened the smatterings of bright strips in the primarily muted tones of her scraps to hand.

I loved and admired my grandmother passionately for (a) making palatable and effective creative resolutions with whatever was right there in front of her.  and (b) the wisdom to understand the profound satisfaction (as well as self-sustainability) of wasting-not.

Quiltcu4

Unless she was making something special and tailored to specific tastes Pearl worked at making patches from the ubiquitous paper grocery bag not quite hidden beside her place at the dining room table.  By the time I came along she wasn't sewing as she once had.  The grocery bags were vintage scraps she hadn't gotten around to using.   She was very un-precious about her piece work.  She'd pick up one thing and then another and sew them together.  

In my youth I thought this was an example of how girls raised "in the old days" were taught domestic skills as a form of robotic conformity.  But now I see what's obvious and far-more likely.  She was selling hand pieced and tied quilts made from wool scraps by the time she was 11.  Undoubtedly she kept an ingrained eye on the clock to insure maximum return on her time and skill investment.

It's obvious to me this top was made from quilt blocks pieced in the moment and without a lot of pre-amble.  in terms of her go to underlying traditional pattern structuring - she focused a great deal the dark/light contrast design staple of successful patchwork quilts that are timeless in nature.  She also took care (AL. WAYS.) to space the red scraps evenly throughout the piecing.  That was one of her Things:  Red scraps were highly prized and a mandatory inclusion whenever possible -  but also she felt the color to be inherently tricky and thus subject to innumerable rules/taboos of her own device. 

The immediate present tense source of construction/design inspiration also comes from jude and her working methods that are equal parts construction and subtraction.  I don't generally have compulsions to stitch through layers that are barely existent but having spent some quality time with the Summer Bitch in my hands as I prepare for the coming season - I can definitely understand the appeal of such working.  So I got it in my head I would liberate the pieced blocks from the borders and backing - then tell some kind of relevant (appliqued and stitched) story upon them.

Thought I would indulge in a super-soft collaboration and stitch-in cuttings from a scrap jude sent a staggeringly long time ago.  a scrap from her grandmother's silk kimono.  I want to tell some kind of story to Pearl in these choices and what I make of them.  I guess it's kind of the inverse of what grace does with her blog - as a chronicle of self for Emrie to keep as providence wills.  I want to bypass time and sequencing all together.  Just showing my grandmother's spirit who I am and how much of her I carry within me.

Blockscu1

All these ideas and frames/spheres of influence & inspiration has been a nice thing to consider slowly as the weeks move closer to the season of life force's rapid growth.  In that time I've grown accustomed to handling this quilt as Pearl herself probably handled it.  Previously I've been careful with its heirloom nature.  In the past twenty years I've often kept it rolled within the top layer of a cedar chest full of family linens and needlework.  But now I've been carrying it around so that I can arrange it in different ways in different places.  Trying to learn what it wishes to become.

For starters I decided it wished to become two distinctly different things.  I envisioned working with the ground of pieced blocks.  Assumed the cut-off sections of the border would be repurposed.  Perhaps as a book cover for an album of family photos I'm amassing.  Thought it seemed like a summer project so I put it aside until last week.

Then, once I had it out and had solidified the practical steps of initial transmogrification something happened that's happened before.  I have never liked the green sateen finished treatment because it wasn't the right green to harmonize in my eye's mind. I think it would sing a lot more convincingly if she'd gone with a rich dark jade.  Think how the BLUE would have popped then - as well as the darker rusty reds and browns. Not to mention the glimmering radiance it would lend the whites and light pastels.

Indeed I have come to this moment of truth four or five times now.  I get exactly this far (my goal used to be to get one of those glass-topped table display cases for displaying and contemplating the deteriorating pieced blocks) and then I see the places with visible stitching lines and marvel at the knots of cording - all chosen and placed with my grandmother's hands.  And I just can't bring myself to undo the work.  So I thought I'd do what I can and in the process approach much bigger work.

Cabinblocks

I'm not going to undo all the ties and thus create sight-based cutting lines.  I'm going to cut away the sateen in strips just shy of the seam lines.  Will pick out those stitches and then see how much I can or cannot de-layer.  And I think questions to myself over and over such as:

Will I repair anything?  Or just let it be with some kind of very delicate binding and then whatever I make on the 'other side' If I decide to go all in on the symbolic family lineage I may use as a ground cloth a very well worn cotton gauze nightgown of my mother's.  It was floor length but after she died I cut it down to a short swingy sort of lounge top or a mini dress.  On the other hand - I'd just as soon keep her out of this.  So I could use some of the same fabric but crisp and new rather than worn thin.  There'd be more strength and body to it.  Hmmmmm.

 The blocks themselves are a trove of fabrics my grandmother used to outfit herself, my mother, and all the windows, tables, etc.  She also made men's dressing gowns and camp shirts for hunting excursions arranged and guided by my godfather.   I spent a bit of time really studying the blocks and touching all the fabrics.  Letting the sensitive edges of my finger tips linger over the confident knots she made without a single one slipping over time.   
Logcabincu2

For the center chimney squares Pearl used a shiny silky gold fabric.  I love the places that are worn-away.  I thought of here and there very lightly needleweaving.   I thought I might ask her questions I've so wished I could ask over the years.  stitch them here and there.  Or maybe I will just think the questions as a rolling mantra while I work on this in whatever capacity.

have wanted to do something of this sort for 46 years.

and in doing so grieve her death as I did not have the ability, on any level, to grieve at the time when she died.

So I am going to cut-away the faded green panels, leave the ties in place and dye the pieces in a mourning color - either deep purple or grey.  Perhaps a bit of both.  Have a strong hankering to do this with ink rather than dye.  Then I will piece them back together and include fabrics I have that I would like to be able to share with her.  To see what she might create from the scraps. 

And also I really need to speak a quiet language of sorrow that's gone unexpressed until now - that she didn't live long enough to see my ways of embracing the things she taught me that have become the most significant cornerstones of my life.

it's finally do-able.  this particular release & goodbye...

Things that fit.  One step at a time. 


piece by piece .1

Crazylimpetcrystalnest

I'm still having trouble making friends with my radically altered attention span.  As in:  I don't know what in the hell I'm supposed to do/accomplish without one.   And since that symbiosis has always been one of my defining characteristics I'm forcing myself to think farther out of the box.  To apply lateral right brain un-logic as a way of making each day consistent within some type of ongoing theme here in the studio.  I figure if I string enough seemingly disjointed actions per day into an ongoing chain I will eventually see there's been cohesion even in seed form.  Such is my plan any way.

  The two piles of complete and incomplete hand stitching output that I brought over from the house are guiding me closer to some new form of process.  Simply by being grouped as they were at whatever time I left them in the room they give my consideration of them a structure.  That means I'm currently organizing and evaluating my stitched-based creations in layers of time as well as technique.  And that's allowing me to also discover themes that jump the track of their specific linear timelines.

*** 

Embroidery and I have a long and entirely happy history.  About fifteen years ago I began to understand I was doing the work I did each day as an ongoing sense of forever-inadequate penance borne of very deep rooted survivor's guilt.  Something so glaringly apparent also came as a shock to my self-perceptions.  Once I more fully understood how profoundly guilty I felt to have survived a series of things that many people do not - I questioned the reason, wisdom and purpose of that survival. And in the absence of clear-cut answers treated myself impatiently and without due compassionate consideration for a good long number of years.  Understanding this part of the healing process was non-negotiable I focused on finding ways to gentle-down at least the edges of what proved to be relatively successful sub-basement psycho-logical excavation.  

As an outgrowth of finding some semblance of imbalanced-balance I started exploring the what-if of early retirement and all that implies.  What else might I do with my time that was a lot gentler and mindful of the fact I had virtually nothing left to prove about what I could "take" without total collapse? I mind-mapped what that question evoked for me in the form of a colored pencil freehand mandala.  I drew the mandala as if it was composed of embroidery stitches.

Butterflypansy

This activity prompted led me to explore/research contemporary embroidery classes being offered here online.  I had some killer books on the subject but such is not always sufficient for those of us who need to ask questions that are answered in order to fully learn so it sticks.  I chose Sharon Boggon's Creating a Personal Library of Stitches.   Subsequently took a heavenly texture-oriented embroidery design class with her as well  - and a studio workhorse journal that's been pivotal in how I keep track of my creative surges and burn-outs.  To this day I am off-and-on obsessed with her blog and following the links she posts.   The details featured in this post are from a crazy quilt block I made specifically so I could refine my understanding of certain stitches that I really came to love during her embroidery classes.  In the linear timeline sense this piece is an outgrowth of the initial Library class.

 I chafed against (and swiftly abandoned) the first Recipe Rule of contemporary crazy quilting: first we cover all the seam lines.  The fact that I wandered off that course soon into things, and that the foundation block itself was machine sewn, means I can conceivably cut it up in ways that preserve both the hand stitching and good structural support.  I can work with just parts of it arranged either vertically on birch board or more horizontally within a book.  Am on the verge of thinking I may have realized at least the cutting apart option in the past but didn't have a concrete plan or spark of vision.

The other alternative I've kicked around over the years we've lived here is to simply join ALL my elaborately embellished fiber arts pieces in a continuous horizontal strip.  Cut that into workable sections for our wall spaces and then rotate in different places /stored resting time as mood and situation require.

Twoshellseque

The palette and feeling tone of the piece is so relentlessly purple because it was born when my son reached an early teen phase of noticing things about me that he would sometimes speak of if he thought his observations would be helpful.  And they often were.  In this case he'd noticed that although I loved the color purple and often got a little delirious if we visited somebody with a purple themed flower garden he'd never seen me sew anything containing much purple.  I said it was because some - in fact a lot - of people don't like purple at all.  He waited until I looked up into his silence and our eyes met.  We said in unison but I/you am/are not one of those people

Sunandmoon

In response I began this piece which vexes me in the disparate arrangement of darks appearing in hulking clumps and tone-deaf application of the underlying crazy/scrap quilt principle the Old Nanas of my older childhood lived by:  don't pre-sort.  life's more exciting that way.   At the same time this working evokes a sense of love.  It continues to inspires me because so many successful what-if's are involved.   And I really do like how it came to exist and the memory of our son-to-mother conversation.

Crazyworld

I will cut it apart for sure.  Maybe.  Perhaps just cut apart the bits I'm most drawn to working with in a different way.  Hmmm. Bulletins as and when ...


private chaos .1

Notsoprivatechaos

eta:  by the time it was tonight and T. was at last home from the end of his work shift until whenever, I was able to sincerely make light of my freakout.  J. was mainly on the stuff all over the floor track but T. quite kindly informed me that typhoid is a bacteria and that was what required so much burning.  Thought that was rather chivalrous of him.

Above is an unapologetic image of how my corner of our bedroom looked this morning before I had a few hours to contemplate and then begin to implement organization. The melange of finished work, WISPs and 'raw' cloth looks a lot more coherent at the moment.  My quest for this day and early evening  weekend is to have everything organized and at least most of it successfully relocated and stored up here in the studio.  As an unexpected bonus a box of family relics that's currently lurking in the studio will be going into the closet that used to be too full of everything above (but the pile of jeans and my bathrobe) to contain it.

Fiftyquestionmark

 Every now and then it's good to examine the contemporary embroidery sampler I made to commemorate my fiftieth birthday.   I worked on it mainly in a weekly stitching group that met just across a modest parking lot abutting our side yard back at the old place.  Other members of the group really liked the question mark factor.  It had been unplanned.  I merely "saw" a spiral of half a Century releasing an unexplored seed of promise courtesy of a beneficent cosmic Beyond.  The question mark overlay has come to mean a lot to  me over the past dozen years so.

Clothtoday

I'm sharing these particular words and pictures today because somebody known and accordingly cherished for her quiet wisdom suggested it might be good medicine for us to afford each other peeks into our individual scope of private chaos.  Specifically as we all evolve into something we've yet to become.  Indeed - here we all are in uncharted waters.  About to experience something unprecedented - and here in the US going through a profoundly unsettling existential crisis in an unpresidented condition.  While also constantly shedding layers of what simply isn't relevant to moving forward.

Hence the reason all this stuff is in my bedroom piled up like somebody was running for their life.  Right before I fell asleep for a few hours I thought:  what if one of us has to be sequestered in that room and then we have to burn ALL the stuff (as with typhoid) I've made and/or hoped to complete before

The End. 

Openstashboxes

That particular question mark woke me up and adrenalized just enough of my motor control to get everything cloth-related out of the room right then and there.  Also had the presence of mind to create a safe path around the bed's corner.  Only then did it feel safe/prudent/advisable to allow myself to rest.  When I woke up this morning I thought this abrupt change in life/style/focus is dis-ordering our minds because any real organization of thought in today's world has grown more precarious than most of us can realize or fully understand.  It was a daunting a-ha moment and I was pleased to burrow back closer to sleep until J. arrived home from his first foray into early seniors shopping hour.  He told me he was the only one he encountered who seemed to be actively practicing social distancing protocol.  

Alicesguesttowel

Above is a fragment of family predecessor Alice Mary's perfect needleworking skills.  She for whom I was named looms large in my sense of who I am not.  And that's a sentence that never would have occurred to me before perpetual crisis mode changed the kind of thoughts I'm having. A few are fairly astute - like my Alice Mary realization.  But a lot of them feel like lost ants who can't find the scented trails that will lead them home to the safe core of their society.

  I find it very uncomfortable to be unable to sit quietly with a thought or difficult feeling and slowly unwind it.  Sitting quietly belongs to a part of myself that reflexively packed itself away while in my first rush of baseline survival instinct.  Am now thinking that earliest part of my process might have been overly efficient because I've no clue at all how to be or what to do in the absence of longform attention span and ability to focus well within it.  It's something that hasn't been a problem - not even after sustained brain trauma - since I left my mother's sphere of influence back in my late teens.

All the same A is for Anxiety is back in a way that needs unwinding and sustainable deconstruction as and when necessary.  The other night I had two back to back 'attacks' (first since Kavanaugh shouting on that horrible summer afternoon ...) that went unnoticed by the household because that was what I deemed best.  And must have imagined I could rely on as a game plan moving forwards: Oh don't mind me.  I'll be upstairs out of the way freaking all the way out in a dark room by myself.

  As reality unrolls I have uncomfortable portions of each day where I confront personal unraveling in ways that make me realize I spend a lot of unacknowledged time thinking about what's best at the widest scale possible.   But this global situation - while embodying wide scale by definition - is also a spiraling-down process that pushes into the core of our sense of individual self as well as our sense of community, culture, and how close to larger reality we're willing to live at any given moment.

Thelittledyedpocket

Stuff in progress

In the process of sorting and folding and planning a major ironing binge fest I found things that are ready to be backed and bound for display.  Stuff to be pressed and stuff that can be finished or moved much closer to that end goal.  Stuff I can think about instead of spiking adrenaline every time I realize there's no existing plan on any level - not just my own universe of Place and family but you know - out there in the world beyond this place where we're actively waiting to be told we must shelter as best we can.

my to-hand bio/phyto-chemical self-prescription of the day and weekend to follow:  aromatherapy once the evening/back in the house portion of the day is at hand. Stitching a few easy seams on the long quilt until then.  This is not the time to compete with myself - and certainly not for the reflex reason that it's what I always do.  And you?

Bjps

[noticing big-time the way time is warping more than usual :  earlier today I asked J. if it had been two or three weeks since he started working at home.  He stared at me before replying It's just one week today.]


notions

Notions

Yesterday I had the luxury of shifting my studio back to its usual frame.   Was good to do that and better still to see the results strewn across my coffee table workspace once I got this far today.  Am planning a few hours of same right now.  Then it's back outside to the field to continue clearing the existing garden and perhaps beginning to dig up clumps of spearmint and goldenrod right in the center.  In their place I'd like to create a sunflower house. Have never done that and this seems like a good year to see what it's like.  Both to successfully make it happen and also to step inside of it.  Feel like it would be a more organic/feral version of stepping into this little place.

Sewinboxdeets

Have been thinking a lot lately about my friendship with jude and, more concretely, how satisfyingly deep and long-running it has been.  Have also been thinking about Flickr more generally and how I really loved everyone posting lots of close-up shots of sewing boxes etc.  And further thinking it's the thing I most miss about in-person sewing circles:  gawking across the table at other ladies' Things.  Asking questions and hearing backstories that draw everyone closer.  Making something that's in turn closer to the true nature of circling together. 

Larimaretc

Right now we're having propane delivered.  The driver's wearing a mask ...


finding & receiving

Graceandpearl

On Tuesday I started slowly breaking down a narrow six foot long artist's altar here in the studio.  It was 6 or 7 years in the making - stacked solid with layers of mementos, gifts, talismans, and artifacts of all kinds.  Was inspired initially by a truly massive stacked altar glimpsed in the background of many talking head segments of a documentary about Wavy Gravy.

Above is a picture of my aunt Grace and my grandmother Pearl.  The sisters stand wreathed in prolific plant life within their back yard in Bethlehem PA.  Grace is on tip-toes so she can stand while bending her knees to simulate riding a horse or donkey.  Her smile shows real affection for the handsome well-spoken outsider Charlie who her younger sister's engaged to marry. 

Beneath her Pearl, at 19, is doing this whole thing strictly for her man.  He's sweet talked her into it - is undoubtedly sweet talking her even as she acquiesces - kneeling there in her good skirt and favorite blouse.  Because clearly her sister, the eldest, isn't going to do that.

********************

More than likely  Charlie promised Pearl a trip to mountains and a lake.  Grace went too, of course.  The couple won't be left alone until their wedding night save occasional Sunday mornings when Charlie manages to convince Pearl's entire family that his sister Alice was meeting them directly at their family's church.

(who reading this believes they went anywhere near a church or the lady for whom I'm named?)

I found the picture during the final clearance phases of my altar.  Knew it was there and was looking forward to sharing it here.

Fadedheartblg

Have managed to find another Thing I need with me.   It's a heart my son made in kindergarten Valentine's crafts.  In this picture it looks roughly half as bright as it was when he first brought it home in all its dayglo fluorescent glory.  In actuality it had faded to a very anemic pastel.  The heart is one of the last things I removed from the altar.  Earlier this morning I brought it back to life. From now on it's going to live in the drawer of my nightstand within a small grab-and-go clutch.  Just realized while typing that almost everything in that clutch was a gift from T. at various points in his life.

Inkedupheart

Also found upon the altar - this wayback treasure from jude

Judewheel

This patch has always reminded me of a medicine wheel.  But on the altar it represented solely what it is:  a talisman from a very unique and authentic friend who once said to me "i think we already knew about each other."

Electricbluesilk

Yesterday afternoon I put my hand in the pocket of a jacket I'd washed and machine dried the night before.  Apparently I didn't check it before I banished evidence of a very unpleasant yogurt container mishap.  The results of habotai silk self-sculpturing are pretty phenomenal.  am not going to iron it.  Will keep it 'around' so I can touch and gaze.  Eventually I'll want the silk for something else but that's off in the future.

Linenshibori

Also this week:  for absolutely no defined purpose and even less relationship to anything that could legitimately be defined as 'need' - I treated myself to a pack of six indigo dyed linen scraps from Cape Cod Shibori.  Above is my favorite.

Linenshibori2

Shibori3

What's yours?

Ccshiborimoon

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We've had a lot of sun (although not at the moment) and the narcissus are doing quite well.  Sure is a lift to see fresh-life green in strong sunlight.   It's been very chilly outside and the bare ground is frozen again.   Hard to believe just day before yesterday I was optimistically envisioning myself planting garlic after the next full moon.

Definitely time to stop procrastinating my seed order though.
 


creative priorities can shapeshift if you let them LOC4

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Last fall I decided once the holidays had completed their cycle of revelry and exhaustion I'd spend dedicated time each day working on the quilt pictured above.  And that I'd stick with the project until the quilt was at long last DONE.  It's a queenish sized bed quilt that was machine pieced decades ago - an unplanned outgrowth of the cloth-based creative explosion that occurred when I immersed myself in Julia Cameron's The Artist Way in '93 .

I was inspired by a friend of mine.  About a month earlier she began engaging with the book's content in a manner that required a fair amount of emotional debriefing every few weeks.  She found herself struggling a great deal with the unexpected and at times destabilizing issues the text evoked for her.  This intrigued me.  I wondered what I was missing about the more actively repressed parts of myself that might yield comparable insight.  I got the book and settled in with it just as J. and T. left for a week and a half in FL with Grandmom.  It seemed an auspicious time to embrace whatever free-fall the book might evoke.

  Well.  Can't say "but nothing happened" because a LOT happened.  But I definitely didn't struggle with my inner self or the book's various proposals, suggestions, and exercises.  i was open to all of it without qualification and don't know quite why.  It was the first time since my grandmother died when I was newly 17 that I relaxed all the way to the bone.  Let myself trust something sprouting inside as if that dual ability to plant and grow hadn't died right along with her.  Experienced an almost glowing sense of personal hope and recognized it for what it was.

  Looking back I realize this was an important evolutionary precedent to set in motion even if I didn't mean to do it or understand how/why I was able to pull it off like that's just the way my life worked.   As if I routinely got out of my own way as soon as I realized that's where I'd been.  The mere notion that this might be who I actually was underneath all the learned gobbledygook and Monster Halls of Fame was diverting enough to re-define my sense of personal empowerment.  I understood - as if it was a physical Zen Master's whack upside my head - that it was a CHOICE to be either unable or unwilling to move in new directions. OR to simply relax enough to be genuinely willing to follow someone else's lead instead of standing stiffly to the side; unable but far more to the point completely unwilling to allow myself a less restrictive option. 

~*~*~*~*~

Since it's "only" ever been meant for me rather than being an intended gift or family necessity I've been hand-quilting this one at a glacial pace even by my lackadaisical standards. Thus it's become something of a fever chart for degenerative neurological slippage as well as how ineffectively I've struggled against the changes it brought.  Especially before learning how to find a completely different type of stitch rhythm and flow - and thus also gaining its accompanying satisfaction range simply to feel able again.  Prior to the collage challenge seed being planted I assumed I'd spend an hour or two a day working on getting this quilt closer to completion from January 1st onward until it was finished. 

The completion target date for a young girlhood in south jersey that I wrote in my planner last fall still feels realistic and attainable in a non crazy-making way.   This week I finally felt caught-up enough from all the life/domestic detail-ish things that slid off to the sides during the challenge. This quilt was unrolled and pragmatically assessed.  Was pleasantly surprised to discover I'm much closer to completion than I remembered being.  Have been spending the afternoons quilting on the studio Dreaming Couch.  Sometimes I've let that time extend until the sun moves close to setting.  It's been extremely pleasant so far - even on the grey wintry mix days when I've needed an extra light source.

Pigfarmdeet

My grandmother stopped quilting before she faced this type of dilemma.  Think she saw/felt it coming and wanted no part of the ego adaptations involved with changing expectations rather than hobbies.   She was a very proud woman.  This defining character trait of her life's ultimate trajectory didn't always work in her favor.  Especially in situations involving things, people, and places she loved too much to bear to see them in any state other than perfection. And couldn't admit to inner feelings of conflict when she believed she was supposed to give all of that over to Our Lord or His Son.  So she excommunicated the objects and activities that engendered unacceptable feelings - such as hand sewing anything at all once the results wouldn't guarantee the customary yield of admiring exclamations and aspirational flattery.

(in some ways it feels like I'm making a very different choice for both of us not just myself ...)

 


my Aunt Grace quilt LOC.3

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My life-long love of super scrappy bed quilts began as a tiny child.  As a fifth generation quilter I grew up studying any number of hand sewn quilts on the beds at my grandmother's house where I was raised - and also in the upstairs bedrooms at her older sister Grace's place.  All these quilts bore the generational mark of frugal DIY ladies born at the starting line of the 20th century.  They'd been raised to make good practical use of every scrap of cloth they had to hand.  Not all at once, certainly, but eked-out slowly over time so that the various fabric patterns recurred like a narrative theme covering time, space, and an ongoing roll call of the past's play suits and pajamas and special birthday party dresses/boy's dress shirts for Good/church.

Upon immediate reflection - what I just described is what I grasp(ed) of Aunt Grace's methodology.  Her quilts were to my eye joyous and freewheeling - impeccably sewn but otherwise completely off the How It's Done rails - brought to heel only by the implicit structure and rhythm of one patch/bold graphic classic quilt patterns.

For scrap work my grandmother favored impeccably aligned log cabin/dresden plate variations that were by and large unobtrusive or painterly in their color range and its distribution.  Her choices often suggest she pre-sorted her scraps as she accrued them in order to work efficiently in a far more color coordinated/visually restrained style.

(Oh come on Pearl, the Grace of my memory would sometimes goad.  Live a little why dontcha)

As with so many other things about how she presented herself and her home I feel pretty clear that my grandmother's self-expressive style consciously hewed to the specific and implicit dictates of the fairly dour Lutheran sect in which she and I were both raised as the backbone and mental/psychic wardrobe of not just our lives but Life itself.  She was not a showy woman in any way.  But she understood some people were colorful without being prideful.   Quite early on she saw the way I was breaking, so to speak, in the aesthetic sense and had no trouble asking her friends to supply more colorful scraps for me to learn - and practice until perfect - a variety of piecing techniques.

Her sister was a lot more layered in how she lived and created.  She had an ongoing willingness - from which I actively inferred enjoyment - to use all the scrap happy colors and patterns all at once.  She mixed decades worth of fabric to create ingrained family myths of origin.  The kids in our family who were her grandchildren slept in her upstairs rooms full of handsewn quilts all the time.  They knew at least some of the stories connected to each of the fabrics.  Stories about things that happened while their parents and uncles were wearing clothes made from specific scraps in yardage form.  In the timeframe of my memories the quilts were growing worn at the edges.  They held the aura of fading scrolls documenting family life when our own parents were young or mere babies.  The upstairs rooms in our time weren't needed save for sleep overs and dedicated kidspace while the adults talked downstairs.  We could crawl around and sprawl together laughing helplessly much as we later would on living room floor based Twister game mats.

  Every once in awhile one of Grace's masterpieces would require seam mending and patching.  This would be a big deal for the sisters.   In addition to brown paper bags overflowing with scraps at both their feet they were also inundated by young enthusiastic children.  We flocked around them in a minimum of 4 and an average of 6 in number  It was a sunlit offhandedly nurturing environment suddenly awash in Pearl's far from muted alarm concerning all that could go wrong - particularly with so many children and the sisters' combined collection(s) of the very most necessary sharp Things that outnumbered the kids three to one.

I loved being able to watch close at hand.  Adults in my life often granted me a front row seat to their activities because they knew I'd be quiet and more or less motionless. I fully realized this as well as the fact that my freeze frame hyper-focus on what they were doing formed a kind of hedge/buffer zone between their workspace and more overtly excitable kids inclined to shout, grab suddenly for things they shouldn't touch let alone run with, or jump around and around and around the adult who was trying to Get Something Done despite the ongoing distraction. 

When the sisters' stitching time turned surgical I was outright called to Assist by simply being there between them and the other grandchildren.  Immobilized with fascination and Need To See.  I loved the moment when split (homemade and much patched, naturally...) bias binding was pulled free and I could see within Aunt Grace's generous seam allowances the true scope of how colorific the unfaded fabrics were.  My eyes gravitated to the excessively excessive somebody-stop-this-woman factor like a very happy bee in a mile-wide clover field.  In such visual mayhem I instinctively found permission to rest and quiet my ever-spinning child's mind.  And isn't rest what a handmade scrap quilt is most meant to Hold?

Bowandarrow215

At the beginning of last Friday the super scrappy hand pieced bow and arrow quilt top featured in this post existed in a state of un-joined but individually pieced/hand sewn 24-inch squares.   Near the middle of the afternoon it looked like the lede image.  I just ... had to do this.  I needed to put together this quilt top - to spend a few day's worth of Workday time sitting quietly in the sun and stitching while I thought things through as much as one can in today's hall of mirrors.  A later point in life ambition became quite tangible in the impulsive form of last Friday morning.   I simply picked up the rolled bundle of blocks and brought them to the studio with me.  It was mid-afternoon before I zeroed in on the nice detail that I finally got my act together* in this specific way - featuring a Bow and Arrow pattern - on Valentine's Day.

What I stitched is primarily a valentine to the woman I grew up calling Aunt Grace even though she was my grandmother's sister.  Her grandchildren in turn called my grandmother Aunt Pearl.   The sisters were very close.  They shared weekend phone calls of fair length during a time when long distance charges usually kept my grandmother's sharp eyes fixed on the clock and her phone call/egg timer. 

Although they did exchange fabric scraps these were kept as a kind of sisterly contemplation - the scraps wrapped small to large within themselves.  They were, at least on my grandmother's end, kept in her nightstand's drawer in a charmingly warped wooden box their younger brother had made.  Grace's scraps were kept there solely to be arranged in various ways on the plain white sheet of Pearl's unmade bed.  Carefully put away for the sheer pleasure of bringing them out again at a later time.  That was in a whole other category from how they worked and with what.  Their quilt and clothes making aesthetics differed enough that unless they were in clear agreement over specific pattern and color choices they worked primarily from stashes as separate (and impressively huge...) as passing ocean liners.

[*It should be said that I first began cutting out the individual scrap pieces on July 4th, 1992.  The occasion marked my first authentically crippling migraine headache.  Had I had an inkling of how many I'd have over the course of the next 20 years I would have curled up on the bed and wept.  But I did not and thus I tried to make some constructive use of young mother alone time while J. and T. watched the fireworks from the old Lechmere parking lot in Cambridge.   I began making my lateral longview way towards a hazy future when I'd have time and inclination to begin putting together a whole new generation of hand sewn bed quilts.]

Each fabric used comprises a single six inch block's worth of pieces:  two quarter circles and the curved bow-tie looking piece in the center.  A number of fabrics I used weren't large enough for the center portion so I cut extra pairs of quarter circles for a wider choice range.  Once I got to the point of beginning to stitch (roughly 15 years ago ...) I used the same fabric on each block's opposing quarter circle because - in a quilt this loud and random the ongoing repetitive duets of the same fabric provides points of discernible focus  if not outright resting space.  The fact that the twin pieces appear in different circles keeps your eye moving.  After a few stumbles as to where or why it's moving your brain registers the repetitive code and starts seeking it out.   It's the pattern within the distortion of "pattern" that my - and Aunt Grace's - seemingly off-the-wall pairing choices create. 

Aunt Grace did this all the time and quite deliberately.  I'd watch her stitching while my grandmother also worked amidst gentle chiding (oh Grace!) that showed deference to their birth order.  It's my inner child's sweet spot/intuitive design point I learned from my loving perusal of the childhood era quilts that most drew my eye and gladdened my heart.  By the end of Saturday I'd stitched together the above.  And my ongoing studio companion was extremely quick to lay claim to my accomplishment.

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Mama takes her studio kitty duties very seriously.  Haven't stitched anything big like this since her arrival but she seemed to have an instinctive grasp of how to most effectively participate.  meanwhile on my end - due to my extended hiatus from working big and strictly by hand I'd forgotten how freely the mind wanders through reflection, problem solving, and just plain wiping a grimy media saturated brain's slate as close to clean and blank as it gets these days.

I forgot about the way I connect to the spirited history of stitchers fairly immediately once I've found my personal needle rocking rhythm and smooth pull of the thread.   And the ongoing almost simian grooming of stray threads that proliferate the more you handle and shift the fabrics.  My grandmother - who could be super impatient and exacting - had quite tenderly and slowly taught me how to stitch well.  Our religion didn't encourage pridefulness and yet she made it clear that she expected to be able to be proud of me in terms of both my stitching manner and rhythm and also the ongoing quality of my workwomanship.

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This is how the quilt looked once I got it away from the cat and took it up to the bedroom.  Had to spread it out on my bed in order to gauge how many of the remaining blocks would need to be added. 

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By mid-afternoon on Sunday I had finished sewing together this loving tribute to my Aunt Grace  It's something that's still making me shake my head in surprise since the accomplishment was not on the books.  It was more a case of "this is what I'm doing now.  I won't ask why I'll just do it with single-minded creative focus until it's done."  


the luxury of cloth .1

Bathroomcurtainnot

Last year around this time I started looking in all the wrong places for this particular friend.  My intention was to create a bathroom curtain for a room I'd say I dislike if it weren't entirely functional and easy to clean - even at the deep detail level. We don't need a curtain there in the green months.  In the winter we don't need more cover than what you find from a single layer of batik such as this.

When I couldn't find it in the places I looked I pinch-hit with a resurrected quilter's cotton curtain (dark green printed with white hyper-basic morning glories sporting incorrect leaves.  They form staggered vertical lines across the green) from J's music room at the old place.  It's serviceable and okay but ... thought I was looking forward to making the switch ASAP until I finally found the above batik yesterday afternoon.  Then I recalled, in slow delicious layers, how the fabric came into my life and specifically why I bought it rather than another satisfying armload of books.

From there I further recalled that throughout my younger adult years I'd put so much stock and blind trust in my largely unimaginable future Old Woman form - as I hazily envisioned her already nestled in what I thought of as a Sleeping Walnut somewhere near the center of my heart.

 Have recently been unpacking, admiring, and re-evaluating aspects of my fabric stash that aren't sitting on open shelving here in the studio. The extra-significant specially treasured stuff in other words.  My efforts don't have much of a plan to them - I've simply been inspired by both Jude and grace - specifically their recent posts about the importance of handling and dreaming over cloth for however long.

My takeaway from both of their shared experiences is that the cloth we make a point of keeping shows us who we are.  who we have perhaps for quite long imagined ourselves to be - be-coming.

and.  what I now realize to be far more relevant -

I have an old white cotton comforter that's the perfect weight for several months of the year.  Everything about it is entirely cotton - as cotton used to be and it's perfectly worn-in, to boot.  Needs patching that's likely to lean closer to total recovering.  Know this but couldn't quite find the incentive to additionally know where to begin.  Since coming into the studio earlier today I've been thinking of cutting this batik apart at the edge of the repeating pattern.  Using that panel length as the centerpiece of the comforter re-covery process.  Keep the top portion as-is and hem with something else I really love too much to actually use - to become a dedicated studio altar cloth.  Don't currently have one.  Whenever I feel the need to move/work in that particular way up here I 'import' cloths from other parts of the house. 

This seems remiss.

[I bought this on my 34th birthday - It was an impulse purchase after I'd dodged into a large glass-fronted store just beyond Coolidge Corner on Beacon Street.   This piece of cloth was the first gasping half-unfocused  thing I saw when I entered a place I'd never been or previously noticed prior to seeking escape from an unexpected lightning and thunder laced summer shower.   The store was full of batik and ikat yardage as well as beautifully understated clothes made from both. 

There were also store-length tables brimming with every imaginable style and price point of beads.  And, I later discovered, frequently these were peopled by a casual handful of women making staggeringly beautiful jewelry from them.  Along the other store length wall were glass shelves full of Day of the Dead shadow boxes, Nicho frames, carved bone pendants and parquet curio cabinets.  These shelves were interspersed with drop-down accessory displays.   Mostly hand woven shawls and belts or braided cord finger-woven versions of same.

There were also wooden/pottery/porcelain bowls and plates and all sorts of other well-off gewgaws such as elaborate hair combs and custom-made miniature brocade couches/wing chairs for a cat or small dog but these things didn't interest me at the time.  Now I'm sure I might have envisioned wall displays of such things.  Not for myself to live with but just as an aesthetic exercise to create a cohesive collection/statement wall.  Along the lines (although clearly QUITE different vibe) of the wall display featured here.  Back then I was mainly concerned with the rain stopping promptly so as to get me back home in time for a carefully planned birthday supper  - that I wasn't supposed to know about - with J. and T. 

I bought the fabric - stopping only briefly to consider its price - because I'd picked it up when I arrived.  Once my eyes did fully focus on the colors and pattern I knew it would mean something of a glad-hearted/hopeful nature to me later on in my life.  Just knew.  And so I spent the money meant to be my yearly solar return Book Binge without a blink of regret.]