Category Archives: Continuing

Round and round we go

I was born at dusk: 5:47. Sixty-three seems an impossible number but there you have it! It was a good birthday with ice cream cake, roses, “Little Women,” and calls from both boys.

(If you’re a parent to millennials, you know what a big deal a call is).

A string of grey grey days. I’m back to editing. Back to working on C’s quilt, which I am lap quilting in six pieces. Back to trying to ignore loud construction noise.

Today, the news unsettles me more than usual. Is it because we’ve arrived at that moment when a lawless leader has done so much damage to our institutions (think: the Senate, the DOJ), that he is, for all intents and purposes, a dictator? Nothing to hold him to account.

I worry about the press. I worry about the Freedom of Information Act, especially given how little disclosure is coming by way of the courts. I worry about the election in November. I worry about violence. I worry about how far and wide our petty leader’s retribution will run.

Please don’t tell me how little good worrying does — worry is not lessened by being made wrong for doing it! And, as you know, it’s not ALL I’m doing (though — HA! — I worry that whatever things I manage to do won’t matter enough to counter this tide of corruption).

On the plus side, I read a piece by some pundit opining that whoever the Democratic candidate ends up being matters very little. Turn out is everything. Not the freakin’ swing voters. Turnout. Not the policies. Turnout. That idea takes a little pressure off finding exactly the right (electable) candidate.

The press, the House, and a huge majority are the last places of hope.

Feels an appropriate moment to share this lovely and suitably profane gift from Deb Lacativa. We both know it references not caring about who thinks what about our views. The caring about outcomes, about the future, runs deep.

And then there is this gift from Michelle. I’d sent her my banner from Mo’s project and unexpectedly, she sent me hers. I walk by it many times a day. It cheers me up!

Lastly, thank you so much to all who took the time to read or listen (or both) to an excerpt from my novel. Thank you thank you. Your encouragement means more than I can say!

If you look for it again, don’t be surprised to find it gone. Publishers are weird about what constitutes publication so out of an abundance of caution, I will mark it private at week’s end.

Symbol versus talisman

Still in bed. Feel like I’ve taken on some of K’s jet lag. But my cold is gone.

Speaking of cold, yesterday I opened up the bedroom after cleaning, like I do. Turned the heat off. Put the fan in the window and switched it and the air purifier on. Meant to set a timer for 40 minutes and forgot.

Ooooh whee. It was 15 degrees here yesterday. Our mattress froze.

It was fine.

We’d just seen the movie about Bryan Stevenson of the Equal Justice Initiative, Just Mercy. I cried more than once and, I don’t cry.

After the shortest possible jog (because of the cold), we ate at Bernard’s — a Chinese place that used to be in the mall and now sits on an access road the developers dubbed, “The Street” (what can I say? It’s Chestnut Hill?). After I blurted out that K had been to China 55 times (it’s really 52), our waiter became very attentive. I drank at least sixty ounces of water, for as soon as my glass neared empty, there came Quan with a refill. Smiling.

Anyway: after reading Grace’s post, I realized my response to Acey’s “Find a talisman or protector” prompt needs a redo.

That hooded guy is a symbol and a powerful one but he doesn’t feel like mine, in a way. He doesn’t even feel INTERESTED in me. That’s part of the point of him, in fact. His eyes his view his witnessing go to much bigger things. Or smaller. But not personal.

PS I discovered while cutting out another outline, that by clipping the hood and shortening one arm so that the figure appears to be facing forward with her arms extended (in a gesture of MERCY, in fact), the figure goes from male to female.

Yes, once the female arrived, it was clear that the other is male.

A word about optimism

From a Medium article entitled, How to stay sane if Trump is driving you insane: Advice from a therapist.

“There are times when optimism is not appropriate or possible, and this is one of those times. Our President is delusional, lying, or ignorant; disastrous climate change and war with North Korea loom; marginalized people in our society are suffering. Faced with these calamities, catastrophic thinking is a rational response.”

She recommends:

  1. Radical acceptance. Clear eyed acceptance. Seeing things as they are now.
  2. Feeling the inevitable grief.
  3. Practicing mindfulness, in particular countering bad news with good (because pessimism is not useful either).

“You may object, “But I can’t just forget all the terrible things going on!” You are right. Mindfulness is not about forgetting. It is about shifting focus to what is most immediate and most helpful. We help no one by staying in our anguish for long. Bernie Sanders said it best: ‘Despair is not an option.‘”

These are digital collages that I made at four this morning. They incorporate quilts and photos of collages, so the layers are numerous, sometimes past counting.

The images speak for themselves but to name a few: the virgin atop a cathedral near Assisi as well as an Italian stone archway, an antique bird cage for sale in Essex, Mass. Quilts on the line in the backyard, a woven cloth painting, and another close up of patchwork. A SoulCollage (r) card made from magazine pictures.

As usual, I used Diana photo app for double exposures and Prisma app to create mosaics.

Talking to Mom

I was walking Finn the other day and decided to ask my mother for some help. Why not? Whether it’s some synaptic crease of memory or a calling across time, if the advice is good it hardly matters.

I would’ve liked direction on my manuscript, but she zeroed in on cloth instead (no surprise, there) (she was a seamstress extraordinaire, remember?)

“Put all the sewing away except for C’s quilt,” she said.

There are two unfinished quilts for C, actually: a pale green one planned as a queen-sized blanket and a smaller log cabin in saturated blue/greens for the couch. The couch quilt was meant to be a quickie, made well in advance of the larger quilt. Ha!

Since the larger bed quilt’s unfinished state more than occasionally keeps me up at night, I got right to it. And guess what? I felt better immediately.

Before and after below. I’d been pinning on top of bed quilt sections for a couple of seasons.

It’s about focus and intention.

A tidier living room makes for a happy secondary benefit.

What’s the story?

It’s done. Sky indigo-dunked by me. Foreground silk, I don’t remember (arlee barr?) Pink linen: Deb Lacativa. Plaid house window: a shirt of my husband’s. There is blue-grey linen from Montreal, dark blue linen purchased in NYC in another lifetime, and scraps of a skirt that I wore to my last (and loathsome) job.

I keep asking myself — what is this little piece about?

Sometimes the story of the cloth can be found in the fabrics. The clock print would be the obvious narrative (the relentless march of time, etc.) but for me it’s all about that red plaid window. It’s warmth. It’s comfort. K wore it for years and years: camping, mowing the lawn, walking around the North Shore, fixing stuff in the house.

Somewhere I read that when quilters place a red fabric in the center of a log cabin patchwork square, it is to represent the hearth of home.

Yes. That.

A recent experience offers something akin to permission to think about this a little differently. The experience? — this season’s Project Runway (yes, it survived Tim Gunn’s departure!)

If you’re a fan of the show, you’ll know how often the judges insist on ‘story,’ which is something a little different and apart from the designer’s ‘voice.’ Each collection needs a story, the judges insist, a unifying theme. Sometimes what the designers say is laughably far-fetched, seemingly uttered just to satisfy the judges. Other times, you can see how the designer’s story directed construction and textile choices in a meaningful way.

Near the end of this season, the contestants were tasked with creating an installation, and the man who ultimately won simply could not find a narrative for his collection. He painted his cubicle an awful color and slapped up some floral cut-outs. It was dopey. It clashed with his exquisite garments. He flailed, openly complaining that he couldn’t find the story.

And yet, he won. The woven strips of leather, the craftsmanship, the authority of his designs were story enough, it turns out.

I’m still not sure what to think about this. Is the play of color and shape story enough? Maybe, maybe not. Listening (very part-time, I’m afraid) to Jude’s recent class, has me reviving old pieces. One side benefit to watching her create is this reconsidering of older work. IS this piece finished? Is that piece? Could something be added that would enliven it (i.e. tell a story)?

I’m quite certain that the reason making a gift for a particular person is gratifying, is because the recipient supplies the story. It’s built in. You start with this bib and that bob, and you’re off, all the while considering the person who will ultimately receive it. I know that this is an energetic matter, too, because as recently mentioned on Dana’s blog, after making a satisfying gift, I’ve tried to trick myself into thinking a subsequent piece was also a gift, to no avail.

Thoughts, please?

Geography of the heart

The midsection of this work-in-progress uses a contour map print for the central form, leading me to call this and others in the series, “geography of the heart.” The embroidered word “love” below the heart underscores the theme, but in a generic and possibly saccharine way.

I was nevertheless prepared to finish it up when I came across some spoonflower fabric that used a collage (above) that I made a while back as part of the second of two sketchbook projects.

The scrappy fella silhouetted speaks of war orphans, Spanish flu orphans and children of immigrants in New York City.

More specifically, this jaunty man-boy is a stand in for my father who grew up in Woodhaven, New York (an area sometimes claimed by Queens, sometimes Brooklyn). As a teenager he worked as a runner on Wall Street. I can imagine his wiry form, his scrawny athleticism. Eventually he earned enough to attend Pratt Institute and set himself on a path out of the boroughs and into the suburbs.

Suddenly, the idea of the heart’s geography comes alive with particularly.

‘Design is working with what you have and doing the best you can to hold it together.’ Jude Hill

One of the biggest challenges for a collage-style quilter is holding onto the feeling of the piece as you adhere the components. Things that are overlaid in the design phase may lose an element of spontaneity or positioning or something when pieced. On the other hand, if elements are simply stitched down, they may not relate well enough to each other.

Problem one: to lend more meaning to an otherwise generic notion of origins. Solved: by inserting scrappy fella.

Problem two: adding one overlay guy on the left (circled in red). The strip of spoonflower fabric under him will be seamed — just like the right-side panel. But the guy? If I appliqué him will he float too much? And if, on the other hand, I piece him in, will the narrow seam allowances be significant enough subtractions of pattern to disrupt what’s going on?

I’ve gone both ways with this over the years without having formed a real preference. This time, I think I’ll use appliqué.

[Couldn’t find my xerox copies of the sketchbook and so grabbed a few images from Flickr. The first two page spread below is shown two ways. It reads: When will they try to steal your liberty?

The bottom image shows the title page, “It’s Not About Me” — which was one of the themes offered that year.

You can see the entire sketchbook on their site. My user name is katydidart.

the joy and misery of one quilter

I like cloth, the way it smells under the heat of an iron, the way it feels in my hand, how it drapes over my lap, responds to thread. I like stitching up bits of it and then moving the components around — first this way, then that and then the reverse and perhaps back again. Removing, adding, slicing in half, saving some parts, dispensing with others. Writing does this for me too, but cloth carries a special legacy.

My mother was a seamstress extraordinaire (think: upholstered couches with contrasting piping; lined, tailored wool blazers; Austrian shades; my wedding gown, pieced from antique laces and linens). Her mother sewed and hear tell, worked for a famous milliner in New York for some years. One of my maternal great grandmothers made quilts. There is a lineage here and a reassuring one, especially since my writing veers off into more challenging territory.

At some point, a quilt emerges, but it’s inaccurate, in a way, to call it ‘finished.’ It’s more like a slice in time. The piece could’ve come to a halt sooner or I could’ve kept going. Because digital technology makes these things easy to track, I’ve learned that it’s not unusual for me to strongly prefer an earlier, vanished iteration. I don’t wring my hands about this though and never have, not only because there’s no other way I could work but because each iteration offers some new leaping off point. Really this is about accepting one’s basic circuitry.

But even so, do I wish I brought a higher level of intention to the table? Maybe, though I’m not quite sure what I mean by that.

Self-acceptance and reliable absorption aside, misery does gain entrance now and then and when it does, you can be sure it stinks with comparison-mind.

Have you noticed how consistently comparison produces misery — as in Every. Single. Time. More and more I stand witness to its corrosive bullshit and step aside allowing the sanctity of life, my unique life, to hold sway.

Comparisons, if given free reign, would gnaw my fingers off. Is my work selling? Does it evidence a voice or is it derivative, merely? If I like X’s work a lot, is there a way to internalize her process so that it becomes my process, thereby creating work I like as much as hers? And if not, how come I can’t identify my process nearly so well? Has my color sense progressed or is it stalled? What about my themes — are they moving forward or is it the same old shit every time? What do I say to charges that I’m not staying in my lane? Why do I have so much fabric? Why does Y get acclaim in the form of gallery space, instagram likes, and invites to teach — is her work that much better than mine? — and what does it say about me that on some fundamental level I don’t care enough about all that to even step into the game?

A recent post in Jude Hill’s online class reminded me that connecting with others and letting the work be about joy might be the keys to letting the chaff fall away.

Ah yes! Look at the scraps of unnecessary thought juddering away!