Category Archives: Continuing

Editing cloth and prose

The base. Pieced. Bottom left sea green patch bugs me and presents itself as a problem to be solved.

What if I go back to my hybrid method of quilting? I used to combine piecing and appliqué in a somewhat slapdash way that embarrasses me a little now. It sent me into a purist phase — everything must be pieced! What if I now consider some of those “nice” purely pieced quilts as unfinished — or at least, as potential canvases?

How much fun to defy the lines of the seams and extend patterning in a spirit of play?

And, as always, how about adding more houses? The pinned one on the left, believe it or not, is a “discovered” house, fussy cut from a rayon blouse. The green house to the right was made by simply topping a vertical rectangle with a roof.

There are so many more pictures of Italy to share but they already feel like old news. But I will be sharing more, if you don’t mind… along with a half dozen mini book reviews. They’re piling up! Turning into homework (ugh!)

One Assisi insight (not profound at all but hear me out): when you’re not walking the dog, cleaning the house, watching two MSNBC news programs a day, cooking dinner most nights, and tending a demanding mentally and physically ill sibling, a charge whose hours of attention are preceded by dread and followed by a period of demoralized recovery — there are a lot of hours in the day! In Italy, I had soooo much time! Time to wander the streets. Time to drink Caffè machiatto at the bar with the old men. Time to light candles for my sister all over the city. Time to read and write and quilt.

(My street — San Rufino Ave).

I am watching how I vacuum and scrub and now garden (yes!) to avoid the page.

It’s a process. And I miss my sister more here than I did there, particularly (and ironically because it was a place of ongoing tension), whenever the phone rings. It rings and I think: it will never again be her.

But you’ll be happy to know that of the 200+ chapters in my manuscript (Blood and Indigo), all but a handful have received a hard edit. One of the best things I did in Italy at the advice of fellow-writing-resident– the supremely lovely, warm, insightful and generous Argentinian writer, Elena Bossi — was to chop a lot of dull descriptions of interior crap and replace them with dialogue. What a good piece of advice that was!

Maybe that was one of the reasons I was so taken with the statute of David at the Cathedral of San Rufino — the dynamism of his raised arm, about to strike! I deleted two entire chapters while I was at it. Highlight, click! Highlight, click!

And what a pleasure to come home to a world exploding with the extravagance of spring.

Fog and woods

We had a wonderfully moody day of fog a couple of days ago. This morning is crisp and clear again and even, a little hot. After a terrible night’s sleep, I set out to walk at around noon and found my way to the Bosco di San Francesco (the woods of St Francis). It was all down and then up hill, but walking on dirt not stone came as a relief as did birdsong. The clip (if it loaded) is from a drumming performance in the square. Such a thrill to stand there and have the sound enter the chest. A kind of masculine synchronized fury. Less thrilling: they wandered the streets and played until midnight (competing with the middle school hooligans). This morning I woke to the sound of recycling pick up. Imagine a truck that lifts a bin of glass and dumps it into a truck bed ten feet down, also full of glass. A crashing cascade. It sounds like the end of the world. I’m not complaining. Am I?

The door into the woods is in the middle of that long wall on the right (below).

An Assisi-inspired WIP. All hand pieced but with some areas of appliqué — what I call a hybrid approach. I got a little inventive to accommodate the design (and to work with limited scraps brought along on the trip), but also in response to having heard Jude say recently something like “technique is everything, really.”

Here are some shots of Saint Clare’s alb. Ssh! Don’t tell. Photos were prohibited there (you cannot believe what scant attention people pay to those signs, BTW). I did not use a flash.

There is some beautiful pull-work down the middle which you probably can’t see. I wondered if Clare had been a giantess, because the gown is BIG. But no, my host said the style was for cloth to pool about the feet. Perhaps, too, some length was cinched up by a simple belt.

This picture, from “The Little Flowers of Saint Clare,” tells of the time when Clare came up off her sick bed to raise the monstrance to pray for the sisters, who were defenseless to an advancing army of Saracens. She then prayed for then soldiers, too. A sweet voice came out of the object (“because of your love, I will watch over you and them always”) and the army changed course and went elsewhere.

Below is her cathedral. The alb is housed in a reliquary on the lower level. She’s buried on the level, too.

Can’t remember if I mentioned, but we attended a choral performance at St. Clare’s the first night here (below).

Blue Cross and endings

These mosaics aren’t about my sister, per se — more about clearing out her apartment. The first four pictures show how she lived. The second four, the clean up.

As of this morning, it’s done. Keys handed over. Inspection performed. Cancellation of lease signed.

There were a lot of people at the housing office. Bundled against the cold. Stacking and restacking all the papers they’d brought. Proof of this. Proof of that.

It wasn’t lost on me that to each and every one of them, my sister’s death represented a boon — a chance to move up a slot on the waiting list. My sister was on that list for eight years. Waiting. Wondering. Whenever she’d trot out her conspiracy theories, I’d push back, “Nah — we’re just waiting for someone to die.”

I’m thinking the blue cross in my new quilt piece (more of a doodle than anything) might represent aid coming from unexpected places (a blue cross being a less recognizable symbol of aid than a Red Cross). The bird and flying insects represent freedom. The underlying thought is that it’s too bad my sister had to die for me to be free. It wasn’t the route I would have chosen. And my problems didn’t set it up that way.

In other fiber news, I added an external pocket to my denim travel bag for my phone. Yeah! Also, the pennant I contributed to Mo‘s project, “I dream of a world where love is the answer” has flown home, along with tokens. In particular, I love the little white star. Thank you, Mo!

And lastly, the woman who taught the Indigo workshop I attended in 2014 down in South Carolina, Donna Hardy, posted this on Instagram this week.

I am shipping off a heavy weight cotton rectangle with a simple resist that came from Africa. It’s an honor to be part of this project, too.

PS my eyes feel 90% better already!

Scraps and surprises

What happens when you turn it sideways and you like the subtle form visible there more than the intended (and obvious) one?

And while spritzing, pulling and pinning will correct bumps on this one, it won’t turn an unhappy experiment into something worthy of my time.

That’s how it goes sometimes.

I have no recollection of taking this picture. Should I be worried? I don’t even know where this house is.

I like all the lines and recesses and the walkway coming straight at you.

What if the photo inspires the next small cloth? It might be a fun challenge to try and capture shadow, railings, and rooflines.

What if we don’t know the purpose of our lives — not out of superficial disregard for what matters but because it is unknowable? Would that change anything? Would it strip away some layer of reflection and free those thoughts for other things?

We had rain yesterday. It’s still grey and humid and blessedly quiet. After days of porch construction next door and “Carnival Week” at the camp out back, how welcome the quiet is! The whir of fans. A dripping faucet.

Hope you all are having a good weekend! Much to share about writing retreat. It was productive. Interesting. And mostly — wonderful to be out in the rolling hills of my birth (not to be too dramatic!)

Getting show ready

First and importantly to all my readers, known and unknown: you are the best! I mean it. This community has sustained me for years and now, as the U.S. administration spirals out of control into what I’m calling a “Fox shitstorm”, you matter more than ever. Period. Thank you.

I’ve been pulling work out of the basement to air before the show here at my house. It’s “go time” with only two weekends left to prepare.

I have never been so pleased to be in possession of crappy powers of memory. Opening my plastic bags of inventory has been like Christmas! How much I forgot about! And, given how much my style and standards have changed over time, I’m pleased and surprised by how much of it I still really like.

There are at least six quilts from the Global Warming series (example above). More on that another time.

Many pretty baby blankets, this one machine pieced and hand quilted. This week, in light of time pressures, I bought a big spool of bias tape for edging. Usually I cut my own. (#amazonslut).

I’m heartened to see a number of pieces that just need edging. K and I plan also to experiment with wooden frames, where dimensions allow (there’s no time to build frames). To my mind, there’s something violative to the qualities of quilted cloth when you put it under glass or stretch it like a canvas, but I want to be flexible. I want to see how people respond. There remains a certain –ahem — lack of imagination among some buyers about what properly belongs on walls. Frames might overcome that to some degree.

Notes to self:

  • Stowing finished quilts with lavender sachets is a really good idea
  • Stowing quilts leaving price tags pinned on risks rust
  • Wouldn’t it be cool to try a quilt version of the #theunreadshelfproject?
  • Give yourself a little more credit
  • Resume practice of inserting inventory lists in stow-bags

We barely got touched by the last nor’easter but K travels to China again soon, which imposes its own set of (somewhat stressful) conditions.

And can I just say, for those of you following a certain drama in Colorado, my brother has acted the fairy godfather this week. Bless him!

Pins and needles

On pins and needles waiting for the fourth nor’easter (not really — more like ever so grateful Husband is not in Russia or Singapore).


Pins for damp stretching. If only I could be spritzed with water and pinned into shape!

Another kind of pin on my first wearable sigil. This symbol is for protection.

All kinds of clean up requires clear ground. Eventually the insurance adjuster and spring will arrive!

I’m home and warm and writing today.

Label the room. Why not?

Labeling a room is one way to start the week. And lists are a way of life. It’s sunny. Birds are singing. And tomorrow, it will snow. They’re predicting 10″ to 12″ — but lighter this time. Still, the forecast is enough to kibosh a Salem visit for tomorrow. More time to write!

Even though my cold came roaring back this weekend, I managed to: fill four bins with twigs out back, make a necklace, cook six meals (counting Friday), clean up several rooms and vacuum the basement studio (while in pursuit of my Pfaff sewing machine cord and pedal — found!), buy and wrap a bday gift, make a tricky ask for photo attribution on FB, watch Betsy deBoob on 60 Minutes, and continue along with the creepy and satisfying Netflix series, “The Frankenstein Chronicles”.

How was your weekend? Are you watching anything good?

I’ll leave you with three selections from Krista Tippet’s interview with social scientist and YouTube sensation, Brené Brown.

“It’s really a struggle to straddle the tension of YES/AND.”

“Your level of true belonging can never be greater than your willingness to stand alone.”

Brown also cited a useful definition of civility as promulgated by the Houston organization, Institute for Civility in Government: “Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”

(Should I take back the “deBoob” insult? Maybe. But not now).

Interview here: “Strong back, soft front, wild heart.”