fabric timelines

shibori girl yellow, etc.

YellowglennisunopenedYesterday I went through a box in which I pre-sorted a lot of yellow treasures years ago.  I virtually never look in it because I know what's there except, by now, I really don't   since I never look.  Had forgotten the above treasure and find it a perfect meditative visual aid as I continue to vacillate between, as Pam Gregory puts it, clarity and silt.  Gotta say this fantabulous grey is the most gorgeous silt I've ever contemplated!
Yellowshiborigirlopenhuh.  as usual I was scattershot and doing a few things at once.  I thought surely the words on the other side of the white paper background wouldn't show up in these pictures even though I could clearly see them with my eyes.  Also you can see I was digging in pots and plant roots today...

YellowtreasuresFirst thing this morning (3 degrees.  snowing.)  I livened up my consciousness by steam pressing a lot of the treasures I re-connected with from the unexamined box.  More Glennis beauties and a lot of stuff I messed around with on my own, plus some Artemis ribbons, a sheet of wool felt, and a piece of linen it looks like I painted with watered down yellow ochre acrylic paint.  I perceive a lot of destinies but have got to stop thinking like a 30 year old.  A lot of the things I reconnected have the feel of what I had in mind for my braid.

interest was expressed concerning the example braid so here's what that was about:

Rolledscrollin the mid aughts I was part of an international collaborative fiber arts journal project.  A modest group of us worked on Anthologies in which we each picked our own theme and then everyone in the group made a page to fit.   This particular page was for an anthology entitled Blue.  I figured somebody else would riff on Joni Mitchell so I thought about how Blue is everywhere in my home environment because J is blue to the bone and it's soothing up to a point from a mental health point of view.  But am not myself an all-blue person.  Fortunately I happened upon a Van Gogh quote that solved my dilemma:

Thereisnoblue

The unrolled scroll reveals my inspiration.   Part of the request was that we hide a quote in a secret pocket.

ScrollpocketI created a lined pocket partway across the page so it was a little less obvious of a hide.

Blueandorangefrontwoven and embroidered front of page with light beading.  Each person chose the page dimensions.  I added a cloth 'gutter' (orange strip to right) to facilitate a variety of attachment/binding options. 

Backofscrollback of scroll designed as a nod towards Van Gogh's Night Sky Over The Rhone
Secretpocketused water soluble crayons to color the indigo batik.
Orangeandyellowback


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


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 ...


my Aunt Grace quilt LOC.3

Bowandarrow21420
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.

Mamaonquilt21620

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.

216bowarrow

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. 

219quilttopfinished

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."  


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.