Tag Archives: indigo

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?

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!

The Spiral of Work — October 2014

polebarn-indigo-ravenel-deemallonContinuing with a one-year-backward-look as a tool to propel some completion of unfinished work, here’s a shot from last fall. This time last year, I was busy integrating my experience from the Sept. ’14 Sea Island Indigo workshop. I really can’t believe that was only last year! Was it?!!
indigo-clothhoop-weaving-deemallonAnd, here is a piece that was begun in Jude‘s Considering Weave class. Not sure what I’ll do with it, or even where to find it!

Another incomplete piece:
indigo-quilt-moon-deemallonI’m happy to say that the October 2014 folder includes a few finished things as well: two dolls that I made for my sons and the “LA Circles” quilt that I finished a couple of weeks ago.
boydolls-deemallon-ragdolls The book to finish is a memoir about the descendant of slave owners in Texas — his process of investigation and atonement. It’s called “Tomlinson Hill”.  I purchased the book after hearing the author interviewed on the radio, and within a couple of weeks (during The Slave Dwelling Project’s overnight in Medford, Mass., at the Royall House and Slave Quarters), I met two or three people who were descended from slave owners and learned about the group, “Coming to the Table“.  The group is “for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.” There was a meeting nearby recently, but I don’t seem to be in a phase of life where it is easy, natural, or right (somehow) to join a group or even attend meetings. Too much else pressing, including the need for restorative solitude.
tomlinsonhill-deemallonBut I can read. The book comes at a good time — I started and then put down “Purity” — Jonathan Franzen’s new novel (I’m a fan!). I was going like gangbusters because it’s a “speedread” from the library (7 days, no renewal), until I realized that the toxic relationships described in the story were just too close to some parts of my current reality to make the read pleasurable. I like books that challenge me and make me uncomfortable (and those that don’t, btw), but this was too much. Control what you can control, right?!

Hearts for Charleston — Dana

And now for the incredible work by Dana of Raven and Sparrow.


One of the things I love about this quilt square is how it captures both the chaotic rupture of grief and the renewing power of hope. Look at the way Dana combined neat, orderly elements with loose and ‘messy’ ones.  The contrast speaks volumes.

heartsforcharleston-ravenandsparrowThe couched red threads on the left speak to blood, disorder, hate, and loss. They scramble and defy the cool, ordered grid below. The purple cloud of gauze has the visual feel of smoke or staining. It spreads across the surface and behind the heart. Looking at it, we wonder: is the damage done? How much further will it spread?  The heart is stained and rent. The edges of the central rip are frayed — in contrast to the neatly applied stitches that define the heart’s outer edges.  These skillful choices elevate the image to something beyond the cliche of the broken heart.    A five-petaled flower grows out of the place of brokenness and brings its purity into the messy tumble of red. It speaks to the enduring power of hope and also of forgiveness, an apt reference for a community living their Christian values.  Like Liz, Dana dyed her strips especially for this project. Not only that, but she used a resist to spell out the words, “open our hearts” — words spoken by President Obama in his eulogy for Rev. Clementa Pinckney.   Dana also used a resist to create a series of small hearts along one of the strips. She beautifully embroidered nine of them.

IMG_2342The floral embroidery in soft colors lends a sense of peace and purity to ‘the Nine’.  The pretty uniformity of these hearts stands in contrast to the wild chaos opposite. And, it’s something else.   It’s that this line of uniform and sweet encircled hearts suggest that in death, the Emanuel Nine became united — in faith and essence perhaps?

On the reverse side, with white thread on white linen, Dana stitched simply, “Remembering, June 17, 2015.”  All in all, this is a beautifully executed and powerful visual statement about loss and hope.  Please read more about Dana’s process, and enjoy her other beautiful dyeing and needlework and her extraordinary flare for table setting.

Specifically, the project is discussed here and here, here and here.

Thank you so much, Dana!

To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.

Nine of Hearts for Charleston Quilt

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I swooned opening up the first of the squares to arrive for the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt. Mo Orkiszewski from Sydney, Australia made this one. (She is a multi-dimensional artist who blogs at It’s Crow Time). These photos do not do it justice — can you see how beautifully detailed it is?
heartscharlestonShe cut red felt into open hearts and then outlined each with a thickly applied whip stitch that must have taken hours and hours to apply. Some of the stitches, she told me, were made while listening to President Obama’s eulogy for the Rev. Clementa Pinckney. Tears fell onto the cloth.
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Delicate cross stitches and running stitches make, to this eye anyway, a map of sorts — all while connecting the strips and integrating the layers. Mo admitted to me that she had never quilted before.  How, in five years (or more?) of following her blog, I wondered, could I not have noticed? What an amazing first effort!
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square-EmanuelAME-quilt-MoSome of the indigo, as well as the tiny white bird print, were gifts from Jude (Spirit Cloth). The birds represent the birds of peace.
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From an email exchange:

the backing cloth is an indigo dyed “daylight moon” that I bought from Glennis Dolce (Shibori Girl) in 2013, the half circle edge of the moon was stitched from the back at first but it looked wrong on the front so I took out a lot of the stitches, then restitched them with the raw indigo dyed silk in the final hour because the organza held the memory of the moon edge and made that ridge  — the thought behind it is an abstracted heart with the 9 heart silhouettes forming the left hand side of the heart shape and the right hand side is the healing flow of the water of love that all hearts create

indigo-woven-mo

heartsforcharleston-quilt-mo-bird

circle-stitches-indigo-mo

Do you see the row of wishbones along one edge? There are nine.

As someone with a special affinity for crows, feathers, and avian bones, Mo’s inclusion of bird bones was no surprise, and from her online photo, I thought they were REAL. It might have made sense — not just because of her affinities, but also because sometime last year I mailed her a baggie full of wishbones. Perhaps they are returning? I thought.

(No, as it turned out, and better cloth than bone for ease of construction later).

I love what they say here.. representing nine wishes for peace and healing for each of the nine deceased and their families, and perhaps also nine places for their souls to make wishes as well?

Her square will not be dedicated to one of the victims like the others. Instead, it represents the COLLECTIVE loss — the wound to Emanuel AME, and indeed, to the larger community.
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To read more about the project, check out the category: “Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.

The project has taken on a life of its own well-beyond what I could have imagined. The email exchanges happening right now are not at all limited to housekeeping. It turns out that each participant NEEDED an outlet of some kind to express their heart ache and our emails have become places to share family histories, grief, and hope. I am learning so much and appreciating the participants so much! More on that down the road.
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Keeper of the nest

Last fall, I found this nest on the lawn of The Royall House and Slave Quarters, in Medford, Mass., after spending a night in the quarters as part of The Slave Dwelling Project (blogged about here). How could I NOT pick it up? And how could I not feel a little ambivalent about picking it up? It spoke to me of fragile lodgings and displaced homes. The act of scooping it up as “mine”, referenced ownership, improper and otherwise.birdnest-deemallon But I took it. And housed it with care.

Last week, this bird doll and the nest and a reading of “The Logbooks – Connecticut’s Slave Ships and Human Memory” by Anne Farrow all came together. (I am almost done with the book and sooo wish I had heard Farrow speak recently at The Royall House. She authored another book called: “Complicity: How the North Promoted, Prolonged, and Profited from Slavery“). It felt proper to include some cloth that I dyed under Donna Hardy’s tutelage in South Carolina as part of The Sea Island Indigo Workshop (blogged about here and around there).  Afterall, the indigo we used had provenance to the time of slavery, and the land itself had been worked by the enslaved. I marked 25 places in the hem, so that I could stitch blood-red beads — with each one standing for a decade of slavery. I poked around my studio and found some rusty bits, too.
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IMG_1842To keep the nest visible, I selected a wide-mouthed jar for the base. (The white cloth was rejected).
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IMG_1869A certain somebody, who likes all of my cloth projects, seems to have an especial fondness for this one. He stole it off the table and chewed it down in the dirty back yard twice, and stole it from the living room coffee table once, and managed to eat three or four of the silk beads during yet another unattended moment (silly me! — I have more, beads that is, and well, also, unfortunately, moments of not paying attention). The doll will get made. Finn seems dedicated to calling HER ownership into question as well!
IMG_9446The next post will feature some content from “The Logbooks” and some ideas about dealing with this particular ambivalence.

Friday in between

IMG_6503Yesterday’s meal and company and fire were nice: delicious, warm, companionable. We had a couple of birthdays to celebrate, too.

IMG_6467.JPGIMG_6464.JPGIn the quiet aftermath, I have resumed work on the second Middle Passage quilt. In this one, the top band of cohesive and colorful culture is very narrow and grows increasingly fragmented as one works down toward the bottom, where the ocean resides.

IMG_6501.JPGThe pale green and white triangles are meant to signify the sails of the slave trading ships. The brown striped batik also signifies the slavers, but this time, the planking on the ships.

I forgot how much I like working this way.

deemallon, quilt, piecingIMG_6489Using photo apps to strip out color or intensify it can be a useful trick to find weaknesses in design.

I blogged about the first (and now complete) Middle Passage quilt here, but it occurs to me I have yet to post a good picture of it, finished and bound.

I’m afraid from now until the end of the year, my felt creatures will be hogging most of my time (not to mention Christmas), but in the New Year? Archives of everything! Binding and finishing at an amazing clip! With no significant writing time consumed!