Tag Archives: prayer cloth

Sent-Hearts for Charleston Quilt

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I shipped the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt last week and the Mother Emanuel’s Memorabilia Committee ought to have received it by now. I’m glad the quilt made it there before the first anniversary of the massacre (June 17).

There is so much to say about this project — how it came together, how much it meant for the ten participants, what each of us learned about the lives lost — but posting about the quilt’s creation doesn’t feel respectful at the moment. If you’re curious, a lot of the process along with links to the makers can be found in the sidebar category “Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.  I expect some narrative and documentation to follow. But not now.

Here are photos of the nine people who lost their lives last summer.

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nbc news

Charleston Shooting

People stand outside as parishioners leave the Emanuel A.M.E. Church, Sunday, June 21, 2015, in Charleston, S.C., four days after a mass shooting at the church claimed the lives of its pastor and eight others. (AP Photo/Stephen B. Morton)

Blocks were made to honor: Tywanza Sanders, Myra Thompson, Susie Jackson, Rev. and Senator Clementa Pinckney, Ethel Lance, Cynthia Hurd, Depayne Middleton Doctor, Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton, and Rev. Daniel Simmons, Sr.

After reading this Post and Courier article, we also decided to honor the five people in the church that night who survived: Felicia Sanders and her granddaughter (Felicia is Tywanza Sanders’ mother), Polly Sheppard, and Jennifer Pinckney (Rev. Clementa’s widow) and her daughter.

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Kathy Dorfer stitched “Love heals” on her block (and enclosed this with her square)

The contrast between slow cloth and swift violence was evident all along the way, repeatedly reminding us of the ruthless speed of the news cycle, the continuing savage treatment of blacks in this country, and the permanence of this kind of loss.

I wanted the recipients to be able to hang the quilt upon receipt if desired, so I enclosed a four foot long dowel. That meant I had to use a long, narrow box. It bothered me how much the box looked like the size and shape of a container that would house a rifle. I said as much to the clerk — the staid one with the frizzy bleached hair. To her credit, she didn’t look at me like I was crazy. But she did say the most inane thing to reassure me: “Oh don’t worry, you answered all the questions.”

Answered all the questions? You mean about shipping things “liquid, fragile, perishable, and potentially hazardous” – the questions that I, and presumably lots of other people, routinely lie about? Oh well, I’m guessing the box was opened.

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I insured the quilt for $500, but if it offers some of the comfort that quilts have been offering since the dawn of needles and cloth, I will consider it priceless.
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Participants: Liz Ackert of Texas, Hazel Cindy Monte of Washington,  Maggie Rose of New Jersey, Gillan Wang of Massachusetts, Kathy Dorfer of California, Nancy Erisman also of California,
Dana Webb of Washington, Kristin Anne Freeman of Montana, Mo Orkiszewski of Australia.

To read more, click on category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt” here
or find me on instagram (deeamallon) using category as hashtag

To investigate this style of quilting more, visit
the inspiring and generous master quilter,
Jude Hill 
at “Spirit Cloth

Hearts for Charleston – Cindy 

This delicate and floating heart arrived from Washington state from one of my favorite fiber artists and bloggers — Cindy Monte (blog: handstories).

Instead of employing nine warp and weft strips, she used three and three. The result mimics a pieced nine patch and keeps the reference to the nine deceased Charlestonians going.  Her tiny stitches create such a lovely surface! Note that there are nine stars to commemorate each of the passed souls.

 The white “thread beads” (Jude Hill’s term) scatter along the appliquéd indigo “ribbon” as well as up and out of the center of the heart — looking to me like the Milky Way. Both the look of the dots and the feel of them somehow give me a sense of holy space and hope.

   I encourage you to go to “handstories” to read what Cindy wrote about the making of this square. Also search: “Harriet Tubman” to read about an inspiring, educational collaborative quilt Cindy made with young students.   

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

To investigate this style of quilting more
(most of us are students of master stitcher/storyteller Jude Hill),
please visit “Spirit Cloth

 

Hearts for Charleston Quilt — Kristin

This heart hales from Montana, from the talented hands of Kristin McNamara Freeman, of spirithreads. Another stellar example of superb craftsmanship and thoughtful, heart-felt creation!

The block bears close looking. Subtle touches like the change of stitching from outer heart to inner heart add up to a complexity that is wonderful.
  Kristin sent the lyrics to a song to accompany that blue chain stitch, which you may have noticed connects all of the hearts. Look at how it begins at the inner most section of the red heart and travels up and out the top and around to each of the white, initialed hearts. Here are the song lyrics:

Lyrics By: Bobby Petersen
Music By: Phil Lesh

Blue light rain, whoa, unbroken chain
Looking for familiar faces in an empty window pane
Listening for the secret, searching for the sound
But I could only hear the preacher and the baying of his hounds

Willow sky, whoa, I walk and wonder why
They say love your brother but you will catch it when you try
Roll you down the line boy, drop you for a loss
Ride out on a cold railroad and nail you to a cross

November and more as I wait for the score
They’re telling me forgiveness is the key to every door
A slow winter day, a night like forever
Sink like a stone, float like a feather

Lilac rain, unbroken chain
Song of the Saw-Whet owl
Out on the mountain it’ll drive you insane
Listening to the winds howl

Unbroken chain of sorrow and pearls
Unbroken chain of sky and sea
Unbroken chain of the western wind
Unbroken chain of you and me

The song says so much, it’s hard to add more, but of course I will.

I watched Gwen Ifill’s program on PBS entitled, “America After Charleston” recently and was interested to hear a couple of the people attending say that they were not filled with forgiveness (including Cynthia Hurd’s brother)… that forgiveness was a process and they weren’t there yet and might never get there. The suggestion was emphatically made by one woman that it was outrageous that the press made so much of Charleston’s forgiveness — yet another example of how it is so much easier (for us white people) to hear about forgiveness than righteous anger.

You can watch the entire program here: PBS, America After Charleston.

IMG_1285IMG_1286 IMG_1289 IMG_1290 IMG_1291 IMG_1292Here are a few more things I want viewers to notice about this beautiful block:

  • the feather stitch that surrounds each white silk heart — delicate, formal, sweet, and somehow heart-rending.
  • the double row of stitches bordering the open/broken/central heart, providing definition.
  • the skillful use of patterned fabric:  the scale and color of the paisley print of the big heart keep it from being overly busy or disappearing and add so much interest; two horizontal floral strips in the bottom third (red, white, and blue, by the way) create a visual ground that is literally populated with flowers; a navy and white boldly-printed African fabric makes the background dynamic, inviting the eye to travel over the entire square.
  • how the white running stitches traveling horizontally bind the strips, while the rust-colored stitches within the open/broken heart are chaotic, swirly, and a contrasting rust-colored, looking if not bloody, then at least stained.
  • how those stitches make a distinction between inner and outer.
  • how the heart’s form is not a closed form… leaving us to decide whether the split down its middle is a rending wound, a means of keeping the heart open to the world, or both.
  • how each of the floating white hearts along the side are embellished with the initials of the deceased: Clementa Pinckney, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Daniel Lee Simmons, Sr., Myra Thompson, Susie Jackson, Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lance, Tywanza Sanders and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.
  • how the inclusion of red silk vertical strips references blood without contaminating the purity of those elegant white hearts along the side, or even, the strength of the central heart.
  • how the back reveals the patient application of an invisible basting stitch in black — creating a completely applied grid on the reverse that is not visible on the front.
  • finally, I love how distinct and almost naked the large heart appears on the back!

Thank you, Kristin, for this beautiful contribution!

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

To investigate this style of quilting more
(most of us are students of master stitcher/storyteller Jude Hill),
please visit “Spirit Cloth

P.S. For those of you with eagle eyes, the top heart initially featured the letters “CH”. Kristin sent thread for me to change them to “CP”. There is another “CH” further down the line of hearts.

Hearts for Charleston — Maggie’s for Rev. Daniel Simmons

“Although he died at the hands of hate, he lived in the hands of love.”

Artist and educator Maggie Rose of New Jersey made this heart in honor of Reverend Daniel Simmons.

This tribute written by Susan DeFreitas (published with her permission (find her blog here)) gives you some background on the pastor and expresses our collective grief:

Vietnam veteran, Purple Heart: Allen University, Phi Beta Sigma;
Master’s of Divinity; pastor; father, grandfather.
How many times did you wonder if today was the day
you would die? Some days last longer than others, we know,
and the world must have slowed in its rotation the hour
enemy fire found you, the young black soldier
in that green heat, when your bright blood
sought the earth. Did it return to you,
that green day, when enemy fire, as if traveling through time,
came to reclaim you? Those hours in the ambulance, the hospital,
the operating room must have been some of the longest
in recorded history. They draped the American flag over your casket
as your children and grandchildren lifted you up
in song, and it seemed as if the country itself, some essential part,
would descend into the earth that day. But you did not die young
unlike so many others whose names the nation
has lately learned to mourn. You died at seventy-four,
after three decades of saving souls; your children, grandchildren
are beautiful; and all the days you did not die can never now be
taken from you. Your family, not the enemy, had the final word:
“Although he died at the hands of hate,
he lived in the hands of love.”

 The open structure of the heart speaks to vulnerability. The perfect circle within suggests to me that by opening our hearts, there is a chance of experiencing some kind of unity.

Maggie used purple netting to stand for Rev. Simmons’s purple heart and picked some green strips to reference ‘that green day’ of battle mentioned above.

abc news photo

She has also included vintage fabrics from when her mother lived in Alabama in the 40’s (the sweet floral at the edge of the heart, is one). Maggie remembers her mother telling her about a black friend from those days — how they would share confidences over the fence but wouldn’t dream of, say, going into town together. Maybe that floral print was being hung on the line while the two friends laughed about something? The air between them fresh, but elsewhere so toxic?

Maggie also used silk tie remnants, apt for a prominent male leader. Reverend Daniel Simmons had been a pastor for most of his adult life.

There are also a few strips that I dyed during the Sea Island Indigo workshop last fall down in Charleston. This cloth was dyed with indigo plants genetically linked to the indigo that the enslaved tended in the 18th century. Indigo production, no small aside here, was back-breaking, smelly, rife with insects, and furthermore, certain aspects of production required extremely critical timing and understanding of Ph levels (ie skill).  The stitched kente cloth symbol above means, “he who doesn’t know can know from learning.”  I guess we hope that is true of all those who think we live in a post-racial America? Or who think African Americans are to blame for where they find themselves in 2015?

Interesting that it very nearly forms a nine-patch.  Maggie also built a cross by combining yellow velvet with yellow embroidery. She was remembering the old song about ‘tying a yellow ribbon around an old oak tree’ and wanted it to stand for remembrance, but also power and the richness of gold. I love that the velvet is so soft to the touch, which makes it resonate with forgiveness.

The cross is surrounded by an open ended form. Originally, Maggie stitched the Emanuel AME’s shield around the cross but found it clunky and unappealing. Once she unpicked the stitches forming the bottom rim of the shield, it suited — the openness of the shape got her thinking about ‘open religion’ and ‘open suffering’. Certainly one of the most powerfully upsetting aspects of the Emanuel AME tragedy rests in how welcome the hateful assailant was made to feel by the AME community.

As with the others, I show you the ‘wrong side’, because the back reveals another version of the same story. Here we find the tag of Peace and the Reverend’s name. But we also find the scraggly threads that show the beginnings and endings of stitch-runs, a skeletal version of the design, and the kente symbol showing more prominently. Like the others, there is the sense of the love and care in the block construction going right through to the back.

Today I leave you with an elegiac song with the chorus “We Can’t Cry No More” by Rhiannon Giddens : here.

Hearts for Charleston Quilt — Dee

My block honors Rev. Sharonda Coleman-Singleton. She was 45 at the time of her death and left behind three children. As a part-time minister at Emanuel AME, a speech and language pathologist at Goose Creek High School, and also the coach of the girls’ field and track team, her death impacted a wide circle of people.

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image from NBC news

IMG_0498She was said to have run ‘cheek to cheek’ with her athletes — a method of inspiring runners to perform at their best level. Imagine that: a grown woman, strong and swift, pacing her high school students on the track, pushing them to go faster. It’s an unshakable image. I also read that there were times when she ‘prayed so hard that the tears fell down her face’. And her smile! Look at that smile! Apparently, Rev. Coleman-Singleton was known to wear that smile even when disciplining her students!

Not long before the bullets began to fly, she took a call from one of her children. I am grateful the phone call was over before the violence erupted. It was a mundane, housekeeping kind of call — letting one of her children know where she had hidden the game controller. The three stitched hearts on the left are for her children: Chris, Caleb, and Camryn.
IMG_0500Synchronicity lead me to dedicate my heart to Reverend Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.  At my town’s vigil for Charleston, the person who read the prayer for her wore an unusual dress. I actually gasped when I recognized it, because I had used fabric from an identical dress (purchased ages ago in a thrift store) for my block .The quilt square was in my purse, in fact, at the time – I wanted the cloth to be in the energy of our town’s memorializing and prayers.
When I read about Rev. Coleman-Singleton’s life, I wanted to honor her even more — in part because one of my boys ran track for four years in high school and it would not be an exaggeration to say that the experience changed his life. Because of his first coach. When you start counting up all the people touched by Rev. Coleman-Singleton’s life, it really makes you shake your head.

Eulogizing her, Mayor Riley of Charleston said, “In each of her roles, everyone she touched, their personality changed. That is passed on and that’s how a community is changed.”
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I used some of the indigo strips that I dyed while at a workshop outside of Charleston last September, as well as that cut up dress mentioned above and some fabric dyed here in Massachusetts in my back yard.

The nine patch in the center of the heart is mis-aligned, but I left it that way. It, of course, stands for the nine deceased. Those squares are silk and have a slight sheen to them, which makes me think of how memory shines after a person is gone. I’m not sure the block is quite done yet.IMG_0507

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IMG_0193Some of the double exposures that I created during this time were visual explorations about faith, death, and martyrdom. The ‘African Christ’ figure made ages ago appears above.
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One more square is winging its way to Massachusetts from Montana as I type and a block arrived from New Jersey yesterday (stay tuned!). Soon it will be time to assemble the quilt.
Many of the contributions honor all nine of the deceased. Others honor a single person. I haven’t yet resolved how this will determine the final quilt (i.e., if one is honored, shouldn’t they all be?). Furthermore, when with this in mind I started a block for Tywanza Sanders, my online reading revealed the agonizing fact that his mother watched him die. That particular article made the point that the “Charleston Nine” really ought to be the “Charleston Twelve”.
More on this as I go.
To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”.

Hearts for Charleston – Nancy

Nancy Erisman of California sent a cloth square for the “Hearts for Charleston” quilt and it is a beauty!!

It is dedicated to Cynthia Hurd who, like Nancy’s mother, was devoted to books (Ms. Hurd was a librarian, Nancy’s mother an English teacher, and then clerk in a bookstore). To represent the deceased’s love of books, Nancy wove in fabrics printed with book spines as well as a cloth printed with cursive words.

I really encourage you to read about the making of the square on Nancy’s blog: Pomegranate Trail, here (and also 5 or 6 posts before that), because the amount of love and care and remembrance of Ms. Cynthia Hurd that went into this square is very, very moving. The heart is surrounded by a red blanket stitch. Here’s what Nancy wrote about that:

I wrapped her heart in a blanket stitch to symbolize the loving care she gave to all of the patrons of the library…
to symbolize the love she gave to her friends, family and church community…
to symbolize the love those who knew her gave back to her…
to symbolize the loving care we should all give to each other…to symbolize the loving care that, because of this tragedy, is being shared with Cynthia’s family.

A good blanket stitch can say all of that. 

 

IMG_0904Of the stitches radiating outward from the heart, Nancy wrote:

The ripples grew and grew and grew.
They began close to the heart in red to symbolize both the love 
Cynthia shared and the love sent back to her.
They began as a heart shape.
Hugging close in.
As they radiated outward/inward, the heart shape morphed into a lumpy circle.
Years from now, way out in the edges of the ripple…
may Cynthia be remembered well.
The stitches turned blue to represent the community.
The community who knew her.
The community who loved her.
The community who only got to know her because of her untimely passing.
The community surrounding her, holding her in light and strength.

There are a lot of stitches.

This beautiful embellishment is attached to a button and looks exactly like the braids on the cover of “Americanah” (which I happen to be reading right now).   There are eight, to symbolize the other members of the congregation who passed. Nancy hopes that people will feel free to touch the braids and take comfort from them. Again, I share what Nancy wrote:

As I braided the eight, I considered the Black Lives Matter movement and I hoped these could be used as a physical source for comfort for those remembering 
Cynthia and the others…
for those deeply troubled by the current state of affairs.
It is comforting to hold them.

The central heart is patterned with a finger paint print, giving the heart depth and movement. In Nancy’s mind, it speaks to Ms. Hurd’s uniqueness: The finger paint fabric… was used to symbolize Cynthia’s beautiful uniqueness…to represent her, as individual as her fingerprint.

Nancy has added a series of shooting stars to its surface.


Like all the other squares, the reverse side is as beautiful as the front, albeit in a different way. It’s clear to me that when I attach the squares to each other, I shall have to leave the backs exposed, somehow.  Thank you, Nancy, for radiating such love with your words and your stitches!

Hearts for Charleston — Gillan

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Next up: Gillan Wang — a Newton, Mass. fiber artist who brings her talent and wit to a variety of styles. She took my year long class awhile back and has gone on to show in galleries and host several successful “Newton Open Studios”. Some of her work is functional, like fiber bowls, some is illustration-driven, while other pieces are more conceptual. Here is her website: ArtbyGillanIMG_2323

Each of the congregants is represented by beads spelling out their initials.  And, each set of initials is linked, by stitch, to a star. There’s “MT” for Myra Thompson and “SCS” for Sharonda Coleman Singleton.

IMG_2325Gillan chose commercial prints depicting celestial scenes, along with a deep blue silk, and some strips of indigo. Woven together, these strips create a night time sky. By stitching the initials of the deceased on these fabrics, she places them in heaven.

Only one small red heart speaks to the tragedy.

  She used a transparent star-patterned sheer for the primary heart. It is wonderful how we can see the underlying patterning! And there’s a stamped spiral on the right that seems to go to or from one of the background stars, continuing the theme of shooting stars. By surrounding the heart with bugle beads, Gillan added luster and definition.

All in all, I love the sparkly, star-studded surface. It speaks to expansion, healing, and a universe that is big enough to hold all our joy and pain. There is also a child-like quality to this piece that brings in a welcome sense of innocence. 
This square will catch the light in many varied ways and hopefully please the onlookers.

Thank you, Gillan!!

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