luxury of thread

odds & ends

JudeheartblogLife has become a new thing.  I'm glad I'm able to say that even though this particular new thing is unknown to a large degree.  In some ways it's defined by the old things I'm inclined to keep.  Or in this case, complete and then keep.  I know exactly what I want to do with this.  Made in a Jude class that had hearts in the title.   I also made this in the same class:

Georgeglassesthese psychedelic sunnies were inspired by this:

Beatle George Harrison tours the Haight, 1992 ...

and now that J works from home and keeps misplacing his special working mode spectacles, I'm going to to use the motif as can't-miss-it-embellishment on the case I'm going to make for those glasses.

GaiacuInstead of overdosing on news articles I've been spending the heat wave experimenting with getting more detail shots from some of my art quilts.  This is a detail from Gaia Heals Herself.  Considering gift giving in the coming season(s).  What will it look like?  I thought about printing postcards to bundle with other little trinkets that are useful and fun to share.  Really like the idea of generosity large enough to spread bits and pieces of our special personal treasures here and there.  Placed into new context and sparking unknown creatives to make something new of their own.

Gaiaheals
 As current events give us an opportunity to consider female power and potentiality I've been looking at a book that's new to me.  And I really love it.

Psychedlicmysteries

Sacredfeminine Artwork2 Artwork3
Wish there was more artwork.  The essays I've looked at so far have been nourishing and thought provoking. 

The plentitude of electrical storms have put a huge crimp in my stitching plans.  There's only so many times I can stab myself with a needle or drop a really sharp scissors on my bare foot before it starts to feel like a losing proposition altogether.  I want to be near cloth and thread, though, so I've been going through stuff, again, to see what might be bundled and re-distributed somehow.

The other day I wrote on my main blog about how much trouble I had not going to garden centers and greenhouse throughout the spring and early summer as I normally would have.  Have also had a lot of trouble not redistributing books, clothes, creative supplies, and so forth.  It isn't, for me, about de-cluttering it's about the redistribution of energy.  Something wishing to re-create its own relationship to sharing.  Not to mention discernment.

Gardenia71320


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.


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 ...


resiliency .2

Heartcenter

Am sitting on the couch watching snow flurries through the big front window.  Above is a close-up of the flaming heart I recently unearthed.  I hadn't done more than in the ditch foundational quilting so I devised a learning challenge for myself.  On the right hand side of the heart I stitched patterns that followed hints of ripple in the silk gauze taffeta and dupioni .  On the right I picked an organic shape of moving water cooling the flames of the heart's receptive side and then quilted around it.  I see now that any stitching pattern at all will produce the overall rippling call and response of the fabrics.  Have always in the past assumed the nature of the fabric dictated the rippling rather than the ongoing tension of the stitch.  Seems so obvious but all the same that's my enlightening moment from yesterday.

StitchingheartIP

I'm going to finish this center portion of the quilt by sewing gold beads to the orange center of the yellow starbursts above.  Am very grateful my bead stash remains sensibly stored and sorted by color with a fw "special" mixed bags of equally special beads made of stone, clay and wood.  Have been collecting them - with sporadic devotion to using vast quantities - since my early thirties.

J. just called from his office in the house to tell me our state governor has issued stay at home orders effective tomorrow.  He's going out to fill the tanks in his truck and my car in case they close or severely limit gas purchase for non-essential vehicles.  Am relieved to have the question of when answered at this level.


resiliency .1

Forgottensewingtin

Yesterday was largely recuperative without sacrificing a steady stream of small accomplishments outside, in the house, and here in the studio.  The years of debilitating physical illness taught me that small and steady is the only way to fly. The trick is to have enough faith in the process that it sustains commitment to maintaining both small and steady in an ongoing way.

Yesterday I asked my morning self how I could become more comfortable with a shorter attention span and more fragmented abilities to focus on any given activity or thought-problem. Then I had a day of answering the question by simply making note of how I flowed from one activity to another.   What I was drawn to eat or drink and when.   And - as always - how elastic time becomes whenever routines-of-running-around come to a full stop.

Within time's suspended animation I had a pivotal epiphany about how I set up my creative life prior to brain trauma. This is key to helping me properly sort out the rest of my studio space.  Had previously reached the conclusion I had innumerable boxes and tins and a few plastic shoe boxes crammed full of seemingly random creative supplies because I didn't inherently understand how to organize things 'properly' and was too impatient to learn.  But in yesterday's early evening I finally grasped what should have been obvious:  I mixed up my supplies so in the event of a drop-and-run emergency no matter what I grabbed-up in a few precious seconds would leave me able to make any number of different things from what was inside. 

Everything

Last night I discovered a long-overlooked supply tin holding the above contents. I decided to take pictures because I knew the process of setting them up would help me organize the grouping at a mental level.  I can tell just by the goldeny velvet circle in the center, the strip of turquoise dyed suede and the collection of threads in the upper right corner that this grouping evolved from Jude's second Cloth to Cloth workshop followed by the heart-oriented class.   Also had previously imagined I'd permanently lost the hank of faceted sunstone beads.  Reuniting with them has been outstanding!

Rosequartzstonefish
In the now, of course, preparing for a potential need to grab and go has been replaced by keeping still.  Isolating one set of possibilities and potential in order to to discover working with what's on hand at a whole new psychic decibel range.  This particular sewing box is destined for considerable retrofitting in order to make it functional.  For starters it needs a scissors and wider assortment of both pins and needles.   Some kind of straight edge marking device - maybe a six inch quilter's square.

  What I assemble will then become my working sewing box over in the house.  Raw supplies that don't fit my evolving needs are being reabsorbed into the relevant storage containers here in the studio or within the single plastic tote of fiber arts related supplies that will continue to live in the house.  House-based/dining room table/downstairs bathroom creativity becomes important to me during the parts of summer when it's simply too hot to be up here.  And have found stitching is easiest to pick up and put down in the spontaneous rhythms of the Outside seasons.

Beeswaxetal
While I was deciding how to best utilize the tin's oddly shaped space I had the sudden awareness that I'd learned to keep these kind of storage tins from The Sisters  - Grace & Pearl - for sure.  But more vividly and sensually I got it from my mother.  As a child I did what many of us do with off-the-rails Living Large if only in their own minds parents.  I mythologized her behavior and did everything I could to reframe it as mysterious rather than alarming and cruel.

To that end I spent a lot of clearly recalled time sitting on the splintered floor of a strange set of closets built between our two bedrooms.   I'd sit there as silently as possible - cradling a carved rosewood box I still have - and silently commune with the contents of the box in my arms.   They fascinated me.  There was liquid kohl in a small wrinkled tube and five or six mascara brushes.  I had no idea what they were until years later.  

Deets1

What some women would have kept as a straight-up makeup box became more of a magic carpet in my mother's hands.  She'd included a few gaudy shoe buckles I recognized as belonging to my grandmother.  Years later I'd hear her tell a neighbor lady who hung on her every word for almost 20 years that she'd 'filched' them from Pearl's traveling case so as to keep them from appearing at an impending wedding rehearsal dinner.

There were tiny pine cones and glittering chips of semi-precious beads from a number of broken necklaces.  A political button expressing support for McKinley that I've kept in the box all these years.  Paper scraps in her handwriting loaded with various writing ideas.  There was also a tiny red datebook from the year 1955.  It felt wrong to read it (and this remained true up until just four or five years ago) but I always sat with it pressed tightly between my palms.  Trying as best I could to create mystery and magic that could hold me steady during times when she frightened me into a state of silence for any number of reasons.

Introspection related to more tangled family roots seems like a luxurious albatross a lot of the time.  The self-involvement level of traversing and untangling every nook and cranny one encounters is, for me, achingly exhausting to maintain.   Although there's always an underlying context of fear involved with anything that speaks directly to our physical and cellular connections I'm also pleased on a daily basis with the positive and most meaningful ways I was shaped by my mother in a manner I authentically treasure.  

Clothshelves

Most of my fabric stash is quilter's cotton I collected between '87 and '05.  The latter date has no real significance in relation to compulsively gathering fabric in preparation for the stage of life I'm now in.  I simply knew Enough when I saw it.   Not all that long ago this collection was color sorted with separate 'category piles' for florals and leaves, specific topical themes etc.  When Mama first made it clear she intended to become a full-time studio companion I started shifting piles all around so she could nest and get her bearings in the first and second shelves.  The color coding system is still discernible but it's scarcely well ordered.  The unique pleasure of working and dreaming in the company of a studio cat is worth the shift.

The larger point is that I took most of yesterday to actively ground with outside work and time by myself here in the studio in which to feel raw and untested.  By last night the bedroom floor was empty and I'd put some drops of lavender and tangerine essential oils in the dehumidifier water.   Also put thought-time and just-being into the small third bedroom.   I'm glad to have liberated space so that it becomes a satellite evolving sanctuary of a room, as I originally envisioned it might be.    As we adjust to all being here all the time I've noticed this space becoming something of a small-scaled family room.  The atmosphere is livelier and more communal without the rolls of finished/not finished handwork and stacks of raw supplies absorbing so much vibrational energy.   Noticed that within hours of learning everything I'd removed wouldn't be coming back in the room T. began organizing his friends so they could have virtual meet-ups in the afternoon and evening.

Life's not good given larger contexts but it's definitely workable and contains many moments of sustained grace. The luxury of  being able to work a tiny piece of land is fomenting inner resilience and relative ease (so far) in returning to a place of inner equilibrium a lot more organically possible than I might have imagined when I didn't know what to imagine, really.  

for now we wait and sow seeds.