Tag Archives: stitch

Something lightens


“River House”

This house was built in preparation for the class I’m teaching this Saturday at the Boston Center for the Arts.*  While probably not apparent to a viewer, this quilt pulls together many elements of recent learning.

How so? For one, it’s lighter than I usually work (exploring white online with Jude Hill).  It has a less defined horizon line. The house sinks into its surroundings better and displays a little perspective (the two barn pieces taught much!!! here and here).  And, the attachment techniques are more refined (and yes, that is the same green plaid I used to roof the two big Barns).


component building

Off-top building” —

By that I mean connecting small elements with stitch prior to trying to connect them with the background (the “top”).  In this case, I HAD to stitch these teeny house elements together, because I couldn’t keep lifting and shifting the background fabrics without going nuts if I hadn’t. Once stitched, I could easily lift the entire component and rearrange the background fabrics.

Note to self: when constructing a component, use pieces of fabric that are already part of the background!

Reducing the number of pins required for when the piece is in your lap is always a good thing. And, this component-building has the additional virtue of reducing stress about shifting windows and doors, some of which are smaller than a standard-sized postage stamp.


‘sky’ fabrics dyed in backyard last summer using chemical indigo (I know! I know! – haven’t gotten to the plants, yet)

Again, because of the work with white over at Spirit Cloth, I laid some gauze over rectangles on the surface. They are staying. For a while, I shifted the house lower down (photo above) and exposed a piece of the underlying linen napkin (just above the roof). I liked wondering what it might be like to leave an unadorned white section, there, right in the center of the quilt. What matters? The house? Or the empty space above?


‘shadow’ of house is an overlay of polyester from a shirt

It is not something I have committed to yet. In the photo above, I have shifted the house back to center, covering not only the white linen, but that mauve rectangle (another goodie from Sandy Meegan, by the way!!).  I like knowing that that empty rectangle is still there, even if I’ve covered it.

Of course, the entire underlying linen napkin is THERE.

The pale blue water fabric came from a fabulous skirt depicting scenes of a European city on a river. I normally eschew ‘cheater’ fabrics (the name says everything, doesn’t it?), but here I am happy to employ.


Back in 1980, I lived in SF and worked in a copy shop.  The best part of the job was access to a color copier, which was BRAND NEW technology then!  The house image came from a photo of a duplex I occupied during the last two years of college.


isabella-street-greenAnd here’s a more recent picture (photoshopped church from Newtonville):

newtonville-churchLastly, a collaged card using a cut out photo of a quilt and an Inkydinkydoo moon stamp:


* Class is at Boston Center for the ArtsSat. June 1, 10:00 to 1:00
Free! (but contact the Center, it might be full).

meditation on germs and used Kleenex

found-fiberI am perpetually picking up ‘garbage’ on my walks, as I know many of you do, too. Generally, I go for rusted scraps. This find may be Kleenex. I know. I know. Gross, right? But – it was so old, so weathered out of its original use (if, indeed, it had ever been used), that I didn’t allow germ-worries to interrupt my scavenging.

People who know me ask, “When have you EVER let worry about germs slow you down?”

grey-fiber-on-grassI have a long history of being rather casual about germs.

Perhaps it’s because my mother was a lapsed Christian Scientist. She wasn’t averse to doctors or anything. Nor did she instruct us on the powers of love or the mind. But she did seem to think Vick’s VapoRub and aspirin could cure most childhood illnesses. I don’t think I ever heard her say, ‘Put on a hat or you’ll get sick!’  Nor were we issued dire warnings about death-producing cramps when we jumped into the Woodlin Club pool right after eating lunch. Most of all, she did not instill the notion that germs were lurking everywhere, just waiting for the unsuspecting, unhygienic to stumble or swipe into their sick-producing path. On some of these things, she has been proven correct. Regarding germs, though, of course I now know better.

But here’s the thing. Even though I now wash my hands more and will avoid someone sneezing up a storm, I keep bumping into germ-protocols that surprise me. Still!  (To my credit, I’ve always been scrupulous about cutting boards, knives, and raw meat)

The first time this happened, I was about eight. On a really hot summer day, my friend Susan’s mother took us to Jumpin Jack’s along the Mohawk River for ice cream.  I remember being absolutely shocked when Susan’s mother prohibited her from eating the flat bottom of the cone. Why? Because it had rested momentarily on the counter. (As a side note, given that Susan’s house was the messiest (and perhaps the dirtiest) on our block, I found myself wondering how this strict concern fit with her mother’s rather lax approach to housekeeping) (and yes, eight year olds DO think this way). This was just the first of MANY shocks.

The Seinfeld episode on ‘double dipping’ was a revelation to me.

When it came time to parent (nursing for a total of 32 months, I was now hyper-attentive to keeping my hands clean), I found the joke about the ‘five second rule’ ridiculous. It was not a joke for us, but a natural response to fallen objects. The birth order jokes about pacifiers? You know how it goes — boiling for the first kid; wiping off for the second; just popping back into the mouth of the third… did not pertain because ‘popping it back in’ was where we started.

Years later, in an online craft venue — I was shocked again — reading about a potential buyer who would NEVER buy a handknit item, say, if it had been modeled on a person (with skin! that flakes! is redolent with oils!)

Shocked once more to learn that Martha Stewart NEVER sets her handbag on the floor. Furthermore, she buys purses with metal studs on the bottom to keep them slightly elevated from WHATEVER surface they rest on (really? public bathrooms, okay, but everywhere?!) Even though I take all of Martha Stewart’s ‘perfect’ lifestyle choices with a massive grain of salt, (given the minions she has to clean her toilets everyday, for instance, and prepare her much-touted, healthy fresh juices), I can’t help but look at my purse and wonder where it’s been.

Here’s the most recent example. Just a few weeks ago, in writing class I listened to a character sketch of a woman whose signature trait was vulgarity. I asked, curious, ‘what made her so uncouth?’  The example?  The casual (but apparently repulsive) habit of sitting on her shoeless foot. On furnishings. In a movie theatre, so close to other people.

Maybe it was a bare foot, but still. I do this ALL THE TIME. So, I have to wonder, “What ELSE am I doing that is considered repulsive and unhygienic? That I’m not even aware of?!!” (And, just so you know, I cannot sit in most adult-sized furnishings comfortably WITHOUT tucking one or both feet up and under my haunch).

So, I get it. Picking up a potentially USED piece of Kleenex off of Week’s Field is gross.

But I fell in love with it.


grey-stitchedIt is delicate. Friable. And even though it is so delicate, it reminds me of the metamorphic rock, gneiss. It could pass, in some views, as a section of an old topographical map.

I put batting behind it, then, after stitching, clipped some away. I like how the furriness of the batting (normally an annoying distraction) adds to the texture.

grey-house-and-moonsSince this backing print is thick – perhaps cotton duck? —  I machine stitched. The scrap is sewn on the WRONG side of the fabric to dull it down a bit, but photographed up against a window, the print comes through clearly. I added a sheer moon, and couldn’t resist slipping a little blue linen under the leaf-shaped ‘window’ in that sheer. Lo and behold! I had not seen or intended it – but there it is – another house!

found-house-up-closeThe light coming through the needles punches makes me happy. Here the house looks nearly charcoal-black because of the setting on my camera.

Simple pleasure / simple need

coffee steaming by dee at clothcompany

Today I offer a quote by Wendell Berry from his 1987 book, “Home Economics” —

“Once we grant the possibility of a proper human scale, we see that we have made a radical change of assumptions and values. We realize that we are less interested in technological ‘breakthroughs’ than in technological elegance. Of a new tool or method we will no longer ask: Is it fast? Is it powerful? … We will ask instead: Can we (and our children) afford it? Is it fitting to our real needs? Is it becoming to us?”

Even though in this post-internet age, speed and innovation seem to matter to us more than ever, these strike me as worthwhile questions.

coffee pot cloth backlit

And yes, I am still working with white, though this morning I pressed a mound of brilliant green and indigo blue squares. I nearly swooned after so much tan, beige, linen, oyster and ecru.

thread sketch

Taking little bits at a time.  Like this teeny thread sketch.  It’s ten-thirty and I haven’t started tidying the work space yet.

Pulled an old book off of the shelf yesterday, “Live the Life You Love” by Barbara Sher.  I love the contribution she makes to working with resistance.  Genius, really.  I’ll leave you with a couple of her thoughts:

“If you think your inability to stick with your resolutions is a sign of weakness, I have a surprise for you:  it’s more than likely a sign of strength.”

“… if resistance is universal… then… it must be as natural and biologically based as sleeping or eating, built into our system for a purpose.”

She doesn’t believe we should combat resistance (or even, vilify it) until we recognize its purpose.

I will leave purpose aside for now and just go with some of her tricks for getting around it.  Number one listed strategy for loosening its grip — “Find the smallest unit – and do it.”

This is such a useful technique.  ‘What can I say YES to in this moment?’  There is always something I can say YES to… even if it is just cleaning the iron (actually, bad example, I hate cleaning the iron) — even if it is just — sweeping threads off of the floor, or sewing shut a tiny little seam on something I’ve already made, or locating the fabric I’ll use for straps on a purse in progress.

(Can you tell the pile of cut-out pocket books is NOT feeling very attractive this morning?!!)

Off I go!  To find the smallest unit, and do it!

puzzle quilting

Scorpios are notoriously jealous, of others and others’ things and so the suggestion to ‘Open’ sits there like a playground mother intoning, “Share”.  I plucked what was handy (calendar page, old scraps of cut-up quilts, wool bits, a page from a book on trusts, retrieved from a huge bin of recycling while working at the law firm last year) – initially to experiment for this week’s class, and then to puzzle this little piece together.

Nautical map is a phototransfer on linen.

Back reveals some of the wool inclusions and some of the stitching.

This little scrap is now about the size of a large Tarot card. I hate to pillage quilts that have been bound and sleeved, but I just hated this one, so pillage I did. Some of it landed in the Scorpio sketch. I have a few more pieces to use elsewhere.  Given my recent sighting of a screech owl around the corner and my sister’s current near-obsession with the bird, I will keep this little piece intact… perhaps to hang with a satin ribbon somewhere.

When butting edges of quilt scraps together and zig-zagging, lo and behold, the pieces do not have to form lines – in fact, little promontories can be stitched readily.  Because piecing otherwise requires making lines (or curves) as one goes, this felt more like putting a puzzle together than like quilting.

Back to Scorpio, and jealousy – I’ll admit to feeling a little envious of all the articulate, thoughtful, resolved, clear, energized statements and dedications many others are making about stepping into 2012.  Maybe it’s because I had a cold all last week, and the new year came in on a headache, but I think I’ll wait til my birthday in February to reflect back on last year and pause to consider the coming year.