precious fragments

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.

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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.]


Marti Reponds to Recent Events

She Rises When Needed

Martiresponds

grace has also posted about this wonderful work this evening.  Please read her post as well as the first comment which contains Marti's detailed heartfelt explanation for her creation.

 


Day 21 - results

Treasurebox

As a first layer I did create at least the sense of an actual box with a lid that opened in the center to left and right.  Loved the way it looked!  Pictured exactly how I wanted it to look and then instead I crammed the page spread full in a way rather characteristic of my real-life treasure boxes.

The only fragment that remains of my constructed box is the strip of Japanese silk tape.  It's also the last remaining fragment of this wondrous tape but since this was not a material challenge its purpose had been to suggest the sumptuous often stuffed and tufted silk linings to trinket cases I remember some of the Old Nanas keeping when I was a child.  Something mysterious and elaborate from their own girlhoods in most cases.  The inside of the box was described with a piece of icy blue distressed damask patterned paper . I'll start with the tape and go up and around until we're back at the amaryllis bud.

tape representing my love of Japanese design both traditional & modern.  Hollyhocks and hummingbirds.  Summer's early morning sun.  Later spring's first peony.  And the way any rain-battered rescues scent the dining room - opening as beautifully as a pampered show bloom.  below the peony - 60's style pop art!!  My power/waxing crescent moon and favorite number 11 (in nearly all of its permutations) 

Small paper scrap representing silent glistening snow falling from a sky that seems to reflect the snow's sparkle once it's settled on the ground.  Both the stated Advice from A Tree - torn from a seed packet attached to a T-shirt bearing the same design.  A gift to my son for house/cat sitting while Jim and I took in an Orioles-Red Sox Game at Camden yards and spent the next fiendishly hot day exploring my favorite childhood destination:  Longwood Gardens. So I'm actively treasuring the memories of all of that.  As well as the meal we all cooked together once the family was briefly reassembled before T. took off back to the farmhouse with my special Beech in its side yard.

The full moon closest to my birthday and all the memories of the many times I've been fortunate enough to wander in its particular light among nature - unafraid and feeling deeply blessed.  The way the tree energy rises by slow inexorable degrees during early spring here in new england

(forgot that up at the top there's a strip of brown velvetish leaves on a golden background.  To representing dying-back plant matter in later fall. And also a golden/deep space purple reminder of the mayan prophecy that humanity shall be saved by a flower.)

  Our planet's oldest flower - the magnolia.  Her flower essence aids in all aspects of re-birth as well as labor and delivery/fresh new birth-growth of a creative endeavor or gaia-loving mission.

Happy thriving honeybees living in cooperation with our species.  My favorite comfort go-to meditative color range of dioxine purple, vivid coral, red-violet and clear bright lilac.  Ease:  physical, mental, emotional, and organically shared at community level. 

Just about the easiest and most dare-you-to-look-away lovely indoor flower to grow - the amaryllis.  The image also gives a strong shot of clear vibrant first chakra/red energy to stabilize and root all valuable memory and meaning.  This flower essence has always seemed very androgynous in its vibrational signature.  The remedy's effectiveness spans all levels of physical comfort and confidence actively felt as a vibrant mind-body connection.

Sprinkled throughout the treasured items - my favorite 'happiness' color of bold yellow streaked with orange.  Sometimes as snippets of no meaning to signify my fondness for using EVERY scrap of paper and also some free-cut stars to represent my love of spontaneous joy-filled unassuming craft time.

This was a very enjoyable and profoundly stabilizing prompt for me personally.  For a little while in the beginning I got shaky the way some of you did with the care package.  But then I focused on my intention for everybody else - to decelerate and come into a more rooted sense of creative mojo/essential Self despite the chaos and accompanying noise.   Dried my eyes, took a deep breathe and gently prodded my soul enough to finds seeds of joy ready to sprout and make flowers.

(big deep long exhale)

isn't it GREAT that we're all doing this together???


a post from Marti

Prompt 15: attachment, Style over substance, substance over style:

I've shared of how my home is decorated very simply with my dyed cloths, weeds, pine cones, bird feathers, at times, bird nests, ornamental corn, dried chili peppers in baskets, etc.  In fact, my kitchen now contains a large chili ristra, a surprise gift from our kids when they were here for Christmas. The ristra hung outside the front door but heavy winds knocked it down, tore off some chiles which were soaked and ground into a chili paste and now  the ristra now hangs in our kitchen.  All the things that are "ornamental" in my home contain and mean the world to me.

Some of you may know this story: when we got  ready to sell our home in CA, the first real estate agent that we spoke to admonished me to get rid of my rocks, birds nests, bird feathers, etc. because they held no "style" and would be off putting to potential buyers...you can guess where this is going.  She didn't get our listing.  The agent who did asked us to keep things just as  they were for they spoke of w ho lived in this home and she felt that was important.

This brings me to the what I have chosen to put in this collage in response to prompt 15:  I noticed that some have painted their backdrops, used  gesso, other materials so instinctively I chose  one of my dyed cloths as the backdrop for this collage. It was chosen for many reasons; for the joy of bringing old cloth to life by dyeing with the gifts of the land, for the image that presented when the cloth was unbundled, the image of a meadow,  the leaf imprints coming from my dearly loved  Chinese Pistache trees in front of our house; a tree  that I had not known until we came to New Mexico. The leaves of these trees yield varying shades of green, etc depending on the mordant used on the recycled cotton cloth.  This backdrop cloth reminds me of a meadow, a meadow where sheep frolic and that is important to me..  My father came to America as a contract shepherd, loving his flock of sheep and I loved him dearly.  He was my touchstone and although it has been over 42 years since he died, we still speak to each other and I see him now and  then.  The image that I have chosen has to do with him but also myself for when you hold to the things you love, even though it may set you apart, your heart leads the way and substance over style, wins out every time.

Thank you all for being here so I could share this with you:

Marti15


Day 6 - results

Promptcomplete6

Was happy to be able to use some of the seasonal wrapping from a lovely bouquet J. brought home a few weeks ago.  Today's morning snow flurries were pretty to watch - thick fluffy flakes falling in slow drifts.  All of it since melted once the clouds moved on and the sun emerged.

The final collaged column above includes pieces from my first attempt that went so badly awry at just the layout stage. Couldn't resist stretching the snowflake motif to include one falling among cactus.

Tomorrow will mark one full week of the challenge completed!

Prompt6spread


Day 5 Morning Post

Prompt6raw

 Prompt #5:  Divide a page in half on the diagonal.

Select two images that feel like the beginning of a conversation.

Add a few more pieces to each side of the dialogue.

I've decided to keep my creative life/general mind-frame as clear and simple as possible for the next few months.  To that end I'm going to continue illustrating the morning prompt posts with a very loose look at how I've decided to interpret the prompt in my gluebook.  The late afternoon Results post will reveal how I brought my plan to life and a sense of creative satisfaction.


Day 4 - Morning Post

 Prompt #4:  Plant a tree somewhere in your booklet. 

Challenge yourself to create it from at least 3 pieces of fodder.

Pro-tip:  Keep things as colorist/abstract - or even Charley Harper-ish - as your personal aesthetic will allow.   This will helps to hold your vision loose and open to suggestion.  Nobody says the tree must have realistic branches or leaves, either.  Just plant a tree you feel you'd like to live with as more of an inner narrative starts to whisper.  In another week or so you'll start to notice inter-relationships that may not yet be apparent to you. Meanwhile let your tree hold space for that CLICK moment.

[In truth I clicked pretty well today and thus got very absorbed in the booklet's emerging narrative.   Used Yes paste a lot in the centerfold for extra pieces and wanted them to have a solid night under book pressing.  Forgot I had to first create a sample version plus get it processed and posted. etc.

all will be revealed in its finished state this afternoon I guess ...

WhitePinecollage


Day 3 - results

Botticellideck

Above is the image that influenced this prompt.  I very much wanted Her rising from the center of our fire pit.  As you saw in my results for day 1 I had her trimmed to size and ready to glue.  But then she disappeared.  Entirely.   When and where-ever she resurfaces I'm going to thank her.  Because, in my search for the same card in the actual deck (the one I chose was scaled down as the image on that intro card most modern decks contain) I found a much more appropriate choice:

Thestars

The fire pit is where I make my sacred prayers and intentions known independently but it's also where I've gathered local female friends for Ceremony - often on quarter and cross quarter days sacred to all sorts of heathen record keeping.  Energetically there are additional women who work with my flower essences and I consider them to be a vibrational part of the ceremonial landscape as well.  I made two copies of the card on my ink jet printer just in case I bungled my first attempt at a loose plan.   Knew the gilded parts would be cut away so there was no need to wait for a trip to Staples for laser prints.  Instead I backed them with brayer cleaning paper.  Like how the darker green hints with accuracy of the field's tree growth just before our property line.  In the colors of late spring.  If only we had something going on out there that would justify glorifying those wonderful apricot fruits at the top of Primavera.  But the background paper is close to the right color ... hmmmm.

Firepit

as a visual re-set, here's the reality of this spot:

Firepit102619

and here's the way these results sit on the centerfold 'map'.

Centerfoldmap

Am thinking now about the legend strip at the bottom of the page.  How I want it to Be.    Something like this but wilder while also being more tightly focused on specific types of leaves, acorns, relevant animal stickers, whatever ...

Am closing out with acknowledgement that these grace-full luminous women's original task was indeed to represent The Three Graces within one of my favorite seen-in-person famous paintings - Primavera.  I liked introducing that connection because I knew the appropriated reference included Our Grace and also my grandmother's older sister Lordy Lou Grace.  But who was the third?  This morning I woke with a smile of contentment.  I understood the third Grace could only be Ms. Paley.  Enormous Changes at the Last Minute left quite an impression on me when I was back there in my Women Only reading phase that only broke for People's History of the United States.  Feel so happy I got to see and hear her read years ago ('79 I think) at a benefit for the BU 5 in the Arlington Street Church.

Dee!  Any chance you were there, too???