Happy Old Year Ending (Wrap-up) · Something to Think About

Happy New Year 2012: List of Plans

I don’t do New Year’s Resolutions.  I figure if January was the only time I turned over a new leaf, I’d be in trouble.  I like to think about things in a new way all the time, which gives to a very big habit of blog strolling to see what other new things are out there.  Or like my daughter said to me today, “Now that you’re still convalescing from your surgery, it’s time to do Pinterest!”  I think that might be a hole I’d never climb out of as it would be way too alluring.

But January is my birthday month (as an adult, as a mother, you are allowed a whole month) so I would like to Make Some Plans.  Not resolutions.  For if these plans don’t come to fruition, my pride won’t be wounded.  Like those stand-by passengers on airplanes today, any unfinished plans will just be carried forward to the next List of Plans.

Some Quilting Plans for 2012

1. Make some Cross-X Blocks. I want to do wordy fabrics in the backgrounds somewhere, in order to take advantage of my stash of wordy fabrics. (Photo from janejellyby.)

2. Basket Blocks.  I collected, in my earlier days, an entire group of food fabrics.  (That’s the first batch of selvages I cut off and sent to Cindy of Live a Colorful Life.)  My goal has always been to make a quilt of basket blocks with these fabrics. (Photo from Gray Cat Quilts.)

3. Get back to work on my Lollypop Tree blocks.  I started them last year, and should have followed the advice I saw on several blogs, which was to lay out all the fabrics for each block all at once.  Then I could be sewing them all year long.

4. Get the borders on this harvest/autumn quilt before autumn comes again.  I need need need to get that stack of fabrics tucked back up on the shelves and I won’t as long as the border isn’t on this one.  Like most things quilty, I am over-thinking these borders, but I don’t feel like a plain 4″ all around would suit this quilt.

5. Play around with the QR code quilt idea.  Don’t know if it will pan out into anything, but I just like thinking about it.

5. Spend the Fat Quarter Shop Gift Certificate my son and his wife gave me for Christmas.  I have this in mind, although any colorway will do:

6. Leave time to quilt and listen to audio books in between work (grading & teaching), church service, spending time with friends and family.  I read a piece by Pico Iyer today in the New York Times and he talked about the necessity for quiet space, free from distractions, away from the constant flow of noise and information.  I think many of us struggle with the demands of the things I’ve listed above, plus trying to be a thoughtful and interesting blogger as well as a good member of the blogging community, in responding to our favorite blogs.

It sometimes can be too much, can’t it?  When this happens, I try to get around to comment on those bloggers who I have a special connection to, whose ideas have really sparked me to be a better quilter.  I also try to include a few new ones occasionally in order to keep my ideas fresh, and to sample what’s out there.  I can’t comment on everyone’s blog, although at times I have left the quilting behind in order to attend to the rigors of commenting.  Not a good trade-off, as the comments get more and more brief and tend to be “drive-by” blurbs that don’t really show my appreciation for what I’m reading, and for the creativity I do want to notice, and to allow me to create my own online community with those who interact with what I’m doing.

It’s a balance, and Iyer quotes Marshall McLuhan: “When things come at you very fast, naturally you lose touch with yourself.” Here’s hoping this new year allows us all to enjoy the fruits of our labors,  allowing us to fully reconnect with who we are in the process of quilting.

Happy New Year!

Something to Think About

Crazy Quilt, Crazy Life

“Crazy Quilt,” by Tess Taylor
(picture of antique crazy quilt by Carolyn Aune)

Our grandma taught her nine-patch, strip-piecing,
how to measure, how a fabric falls.

My sister heard her and came out a maker.
She garners fabrics, hoards a jumble-pile.

She’s skilled enough to half ignore geometry,
to spread out winter evenings

and ignore us. Obbligato with the treadle’s whir, she leans
into a tag-sale apron, Japanese cottons,

cambrics dyed one summer in the yard.
She likes found fabric, asymmetries:

She’s taught herself to work by instinct
basting light to dark, canary

to an emerald paisley. We all watch
her coverlets grow wider.

Her expression’s almost revenant
as she rips, re-hems, and irons, mouth

full of pins, cloth billowing around her.
Tonight she sliced our mother’s raw silk saris.

Dark ribbons bloomed and I admired
her fierce concentration to resettle

all her scraps at staggered angles,
the way her body stores her making,

how she destroys each thing she’s salvaged
to harvest it as her exploding star.


An explanation:  The week before Christmas, I was diagnosed with malignant melanoma–a small spot on my leg that threatened to turn my world upside physically, yet did upend my world emotionally and mentally and in most every other way.  Before this story gets too scary, I should say that I am now home from surgery, convalescing, finding that reading poems on Poetry Daily is about all my anesthesia-fogged-in-mind can comprehend, besides feeling really grateful that the the surgeon excised a chunk of my leg to take out the offending spot and that the adjoining lymph node came up clear — free of cancer.

But it kind of puts a dead stop to things such as preparations for Christmas, as I harbored this little horrid secret away from everyone, not willing to go thunk into their holiday preparations, wanting instead to read only about sweetness and light and those tender feelings that I treasure so about this time of year.  So I went silent, instead, the cloth laying idle on the table while I shuttled to lab appointments and doctor’s appointments. Silent, here as well, on this blog, with pictures of holiday cheer a hopeful substitute for the writing.  (I did write about it on my other blog.)

The night we found out the news and the big awfulness of it all hovered over us like a black shroud was the same night we had decided to celebrate our Christmas (we were headed off to Ohio to my son’s for the actual holiday).  I cooked a full fancy meal, and we sat savoring the good food, the chaotic news, the uncertainty, the tenderness and love we felt for each other in our joined journey together as man and wife and wondered how we would ever bear it if the news should be bad.  Turned out two weeks later that it wasn’t, that I can anticipate many more happy years of seeing oncologists and dermatologists and that now I check over every spot on my husband’s arms and back like a mother looks at her child’s face, searching to make sure only happiness is written there, easing away gloom and fright by attention.

So poetry, short and rich and condensed in word and meaning, is my companion tonight and I found this poem which celebrates what we do as quilters: harvesting those quilts which are sown from destruction.  I felt it echoed my somewhat somber mood, as I struggle to make sense of things, still too fresh from surgery to sit (it hurts) and finger the cloth.  We cannot know how the bumps in our roads will shape us, inform us, or teach us, but I hope to have many more days cutting and sewing, willing my body to “store [my] making.”

I wish you all a Happy New Year. Good things are ahead.  Good quilts are in our future.

Take care.

Books · Quilts · Sewing

Quilting Organically

Not quilting with organic fabric.  I was thinking more along the lines of a quilt that just sort of evolves from one stage to the next, getting stalled, then moving forward again.  But Quilting Evolutionarily (is that a word?) just sounded like it was heading somewhere different.  Often I feel the pressure to rush things–you know, to Get-It-Done so I can have something to show off to everyone in the blogosphere.  Because why would anyone want to read about my humdrum, inch-by-inch progress in my projects?  Only because that’s probably how things are going for many of us, especially at the holidays, when we are pulled too many directions.

So, after I put the blue borders on my wonky log cabin, it sat.  Then after finishing the grading, the finals, I actually had a night when I was waiting for my husband to come home from a trip back East, and I wanted to stay up and I had a good novel going, so I was ready to sew.

Forgive the blurry picture–it was at night.  I sewed white strips onto the blue borders.  I also had a stack of “middles” without the blue borders (I’d run out of fabric).  I added red strips to those, and then green.

And then I alternated them up on the pinwall. And there they’ve been for a few days now, while I try to figure out the next step.  They are all different sizes, so I’m trying to decide which ones to cut down, and to which ones I should add a deep blue strip or two in order to get them to become roughly the same size.

The novel I’m listening to is Moon Over Manifest and it’s written for a bit younger crowd; I’m still really enjoying it as it combines two periods of history in the story of the twelve-year-old protagonist.  I’m considering it for my English class next semester: since the main character is 12, I don’t have to worry about inappropriate romantic entanglements that I’d have to deal with in class discussions.  I’m teaching a developmental class (one below Freshman Comp) so this level might be appropriate to most of their reading skills.

So, not that anyone’s reading with a week left until Christmas, and Hanukkah just beginning, and the general rush rush of buying gifts and decorating and baking, but I am making progress on this quilt.  It’s interesting to sew without a plan.  I’m sewing just for the pleasure of it, just to discover what will unfold — the kind of sewing I need right now.


Sewing Machines as Decoration

Out at the outlet shops, gathering Christmas gifts, I spy this window display of antique sewing machines.  Covet.  Covet them all.

If your friend quilted on this machine, you could give truth to the phrase that you are merely sewing in order to keep up with the Joneses.  [Lame humor, I know.]  Makes our sleek, shiny machines look boring boring by comparison, doesn’t it?  (Although I like the way our new machines sew.)

Quilt Shops · Quilt Shows

City Quilter–New York City

I feel like I’ve been gone a long time, in a galaxy far, far away–and I have: I’ve been in the grading galaxy.  Two sets of papers, with one super-duper plagiarizing student which caused me to obsess about this to a lot of people in my life.  My apologies to those who listened to the never-ending conversations that gave me the courage to fail her for the paper.  Papers graded.  Grades done and will be posted after my final meeting with them today.  Then my Christmas Break will really start!

So let me go in WayBack Machine to a lovely morning in New York City when I visited City Quilter.

(Yes, I asked permission to take these photos.)  Entering the store, it extends out long and thin, but up there on near the hanging quilt, it doglegs off to the right with more.  And running parallel to this is the ArtQuilt Gallery.

Along the right hand wall are lots of patterns, samples and a whole section of fabric with a New York City theme, from which I culled my purchases.

They also had some New York-themed quilts on the walls; this is the Empire State Building quilt.

More beautiful fabrics in that right hand section.  Really the store was shaped in an H-sort of layout.

I knew about City Quilter when my sister moved to Manhattan for a year.  I wanted to make her a tote bag that would remind her of the city, so purchased via mail order some New York fabrics, including some of this subway fabric, and made her shopping totes.  She loves them.

Adjoining the City Quilt fabric shop is the ArtQuilt Gallery, where they were having a display by the Manhattan Quilt Guild.  The quilts were very interesting, with everyone interpreting a facet of New York City living, gathered under the title of Material Witnesses.

The quilt of the lower right, The Triangle, is made by Teresa Barkley and pays homage to the Triangle Shirtwaist Fire in Little Italy.  I had been walking around in that section of town the day before.  My daughter’s great-grandmother immigrated from Italy, and found work in a hat factory in Little Italy, so the idea of young women working in these tall buildings had some resonance.

Closer view.

This is pieced.  Lots of little tiny pieces, made by Erin Wilson and titled Shape Study: Dark and Light.  I thought they may have represented some buildings in New York, but her artist’s statement notes that this “continues my work of building an intricate language of pattern, abstract shapes and symbols.”


This is a quilt sandwich: fabrics sandwiches in between two layers of sheer fabric.  Ruth Marchese’s No Escape is in homage to the earthquake in Japan in March of 2011.  In this quilt are references to the tsunami waves, the nuclear power plants, and the changes to the landscape.

Looking from the gallery into a section of the shop.

There were many beautiful and intriguing quilts, but this one really caught my eye.  Central Booking uses a QR code to “spell out the first sentence of The Trial, Kafka’s nightmarish tale of bureaucratic and legal injustice” (from her artist’s statement).  I asked the woman at the desk in this gallery if this was a functional QR code.  She didn’t know, so I held up my phone so it could read the square; it is.

When I came home, I looked up QR codes on the web, and found you could type in a short phrase and have it converted into QR-ese.

I remember Elizabeth Fransson making Japanese Subway Map quilts, interpreting the grid into fabric.  I think this idea could also be interesting: we could write secret messages (shades of Fourth Grade!) into our quilts and display them for only those who know how to interpret them.  What does the above say?  (Remember I was grading, so my creative faculties were in a low ebb.)

It’s the name of this blog: OccasionalPiece-Quilt!