Covid-19 Times · Quilt Finish

Memorium: Speech Acts for a Dying World

Speech Acts for a Dying World
19″ high by 20″ wide

I thought a long time about whether to alter this quilt’s perfect original symmetry of twenty inches square. The design, by Yvonne Fuchs, called out for such a premise: neat, ordered, tidy, structurally sound. Even-keeled, if you will. But with the advent of 500,000 dead Americans from the covid-19 pandemic, our world was none of the above. We were not even-keeled, neat, ordered, or even structurally sound, given the riots in the Capitol in January over the continuing big lie of the election. I feel this keenly.

When our guild proposed a challenge, calling it Sounds and Voices, I was all ready with a design in my head of a vision of people beating pots and pans in solidarity with the essential workers in New York City, a rite that has its origins in the protests in Chile years ago: women in the streets beating pots and pans, protesting in what was known as a cacerolazo. These sounds and voices of a cacerolazo have spread to Spain, to Mexico, to many other cities around the world, but coming home to America as show of strength for those in the early days of this pandemic. Knowing now the roots of this sound, I wonder if it wasn’t also in protest: protest against our inability to take our American-made gumption and beat this thing soundly. But the virus is boss, no matter what we think, no matter how many pots we bang.

After too many weeks inside and of not traveling more than five miles from our home, I got up from the computer where I’d just seen the image above, and said, “We have to go to the beach. Today.” My husband and I had tossed the idea back and forth many times, but all of a sudden we just had to go.

We took some photos of a grandson’s quilt, had a burger at a local shop and even grabbed a few groceries at a new-to-us store: in other words, we refreshed, just for a few hours. Back home, in looking at my ideas for the challenge quilt, they too, had to change.

Less than two weeks after our trip to the beach, this awful number came into the news around me. You all know the statistics: how many more dead than our wars or combined wars, how many families with that proverbial empty seat at the table, how this number will not stop here, but keep going. And now I realized that I would change the quilt’s dimensions and purpose, making it 19″ high (for Covid-19) and 20″ wide, for the year 2020, when our pandemic started.

I started quilting while watching QuiltCon lectures.

This quadrant is about the noise: sounds, voices, getting larger and more obstructive. It’s the daily statistics, the numbers, the news, the anxious waiting for vaccines.

This quadrant has the wind, clearing my mind, corralling the noise and sounds into a restricted space, even though they try to expand. The starfish is on the beach, a transition between the offshore refreshing winds, and the ocean calling out a rhymthic hushing of the clenched ennui in our world.

Beach at the top, descending into the sea, with lots of shells, some of which I brought home with me.

I thought I was done at this point, but I kept thinking about all the references to hand-work and stitching at QuiltCon this year and last. How do I stitch a shell? A starfish? Questions with no answers are my needle and thread.

This quilt is in memorium to those who have died, and the title is taken from a poem by Peter Gizzi. I spent a long time with this poem, using all my rusty creative writing/reading skills to tease out the meanings from his words. This section shown is the final set of stanzas. It references voice with its “whole unholy grain” and I took grain to mean the quality of it, the chorusing of voice, but then he cuts to an allusion of paradise, that place where the dead will congregate after death. Grizzi carefully charts the passing of time with his naming the constellations in the sky: a hunter, a bear, all undergirded by the “sound of names,” calling out for the dying, the naming of those who are sick, or gone, or merely absent in a rest home or a hospital.

He ends the poem with the line “the parade of names,” a bell-like tolling, a constant recitation in our obituaries and our news stories, a clear marking of those leaving this world for the next. It’s this era’s verion of John McCrae’s classic poem In Flanders Fields, a short poem about the dialogue between the dead and the living, a reminder of those buried there, keeping watch yet battling onwards, wanting us to

Take up our quarrel with the foe:
To you from failing hands we throw
    The torch; be yours to hold it high.
    If ye break faith with us who die
We shall not sleep.

While their enemy was about territories, and the next war’s was a horrific grinding of ideals and democracies under the hand of one small man, we must catch the torch, and not break the faith, no matter what our foe. Death is death. Those who are gone can never come back, yet are alive in memory and stories, fragments of lives told with the sound of our voices.

Gridsters · Quilt Finish · This-and-That

This and That • February 2021

Little three-year-old Gio came to live with my son Chad and his wife Kristen last year, and when this February rolled around, I decided that he had become, in effect, my grandson, and in my world grandchildren get quilts. I rustled up a stack of Hungry Animal Alphabet fabric by J. Wecker Frisch, figuring that my daughter-in-law was probably working with this little guy on his alphabet.

Kristen and Chad had first taken Gio’s mother under their wing some years ago (a complicated story), but soon Gio’s mom decided to go out on her own; it was heartbreaking. Fast forward two years, and Chad and Kristen got a call to come and get this cute energetic little boy. Without a moment’s hesitation, they did, and now he is in a secure home with a family that loves him.

This past Thursday, I had hit the Pandemic Wall, (and here, too) so we grabbed the quilt and jumped in the car and headed to the beach to take some photographs. Let’s go places, indeed.

Of course, this is my favorite block. That’s totally me, there, eating raspberries with racoons and a quail on my shoulder and a quilt on the table.

The back is an alphabet toss of black letters on white. I quilted it in a meandering stipple, bound it in red (Gio’s favorite color), and signed the back and sent it off that afternoon. Gio’s Quilt is quilt #244. It measures 45″ wide by 55″ high and I hope it makes Gio smile.

from Surfside Quilters Guild website, February 2021

This past week I was also able to present and teach at Surfside Quilters Guild, out of San Clemente area (California).

I recently got a new laptop and am now able to use virtual backgrounds when on Zoom. I used to have to set up a quilt stand and clamp on a quilt as my backdrop, and one afternoon when I was auditioning backgrounds, Dave magically appeared. I ended up using the lower image with Plitvice and the backdrop of California poppies. I still think my hair looks like –and moves like — a bowl of Jello when a virtual background is used, but it’s easier than setting up quilt stands.

Surfside Quilters Guild is a collection with many powerful, talented and well-known quilters. I fall in love with every guild where I go and teach, but it was fun to circle back around to this one, and have Nancy Ota in my class (I took one from her when I first moved to Southern California). Nancy mentioned that she’d just heard news of the death of Roberta Horton, a silver star of a quilter. (I wrote about Roberta Horton here.) In 2019, when I’d gone to PIQF, I saw Roberta and she graciously agreed to a photograph together. The news of her death blew me away, much as the news of Gwen Marston’s had done a couple of years earlier.

Horton’s books: I have all but the Stained Glass Quilting Technique.

Roberta Horton is one of a collection of BIG quilters, meaning Before Instagram. Before Facebook and before social media. You learned about these quilters — Roberta, her sister Mary Mashuta, Gwen Marston, Nancy Ota, Ruth McDowell, among others — by reading magazines, seeing which quilt shows where they would be teaching, and then trying to get there. The edges of our quilting universe seemed a lot farther away then and I was a roaming fangirl. I learned a lot from the women in that cohort, who, regretfully seem invisible to this new crop of younger quilters, quilters who somehow believe they sprang fully formed out of the social media earth without any quilting mothers. I have always believed that we quilters are richer for our heritage, and hope we won’t forget these giants.

Because Surfside began in 2009, and because their website is a strong compilation of their history as a guild, I had fun exploring their Blocks of the Month. I chose their Freddy Moran Garden Lady block (2012-2013) for my block this year for the Gridster Bee, and hope to make many of the accompanying sewing-related BOM blocks for a quilt in 2022. [Freddy Moran is another heritage quilter, seen here and here.]

This block, however, is not from Surfside, but is the block one of my beemates chose for her turn as Queen Bee, and is a free pattern from Heidi Staples of Fabric Mutt. I am doing all my blocks for the above quilt with red backgrounds, so tried it out in the block you see above.

These are what I made for Susan. The scissors are there for scale (blocks finish at 3 1/2″).

And last but not least, here are some textures drawn by Mother Nature and her helping flock of seagulls, seashells and edges of waves. If you need more beach, I put a Beach Highlight on my Instagram; make sure the sound is on for full effect. I plan to keep my finger on that play button often in the next few weeks, trying to get through pandemic life, and as I get my second dose of vaccine this morning.

It’s nice to feel a bit of hope again around the edges of life. I wish this for you, as well.

Happy Valentine’s Day Quilting!

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

Picties and Verities • Quilt Finish

Picties and Verities, quilt #243
71″ wide by 78″ tall

Finally!

This baby has a new name: Picties and Verities.

What, you ask? Well, that phrase was in a poem I read about a thousand years ago, and I liked it and wrote it down and of course I can’t find it now, because that’s my life, when even what we had for dinner last night is cause for wandering around in the corridors of memory.

Verities, defined: a true princple or belief, especially one of fundamental importance. Seems to me that striving to be happy, knowing that the sun shines on all of us, as well as the idea that it’s always good to go home — with or without your trailer — just have to be some verities.

Picties, defined: For this one, I went to my husband’s college Oxford Dictionary, a two-volume set complete with magnifying glass. Pict (rare, it says, from the 1400s) means to paint or depict or represent. I would say all those bits of appliqué up there qualify as little pictures. Of course the Picts were also the ancient name of people from North Scotland, and are associated with elves, brownies or fairies. And possibly old grey castles with dungeons (an allusion to its working title: Trapped in the Dungeon of Cute). And since my great-grandmother was from Scotland, I own that heritage with pride.

I sewed on buttons last Saturday, while listening to my Guild’s program, and added, as is my usual, “Made in the time of Covid-19” for anyone who receives this quilt after I’ve gone to the afterworld to frolic with Scottish fairies. You’ve seen photos of this, but here’s a last batch of fun.

And since you’ve read this far, I now treat you to one of my husband’s beautiful photographs, taken the last week of January:

Aloe Blossom

We retraced his steps to take a look at it this past week, because in trying to identify what it was depended on what the plant’s leaves looked like: if they were cacti-looking, it was an aloe. If they were leafy, it was a kniphofia (aka Torch Lilly or Red Hot Poker). It’s an aloe, but it is a distant cousin to kniphofia, apparently. My husband Dave takes long walks everyday, bringing home pictures like this, reminding me of when my children used to bring me home bits and pieces of their days, spilling them out into the kitchen, a line or a thought floating backwards over their heads deep in the refridgerator.

It’s so nice to watch Dave gather his interests about him now, after having had his nose to the grindstone for years, bringing home the proverbial bacon to put in the fridge for those now-grown children. His process — of snapping pictures of whatever interests him and only later culling and choosing — reminds me of this quote from the artist Ann Hamilton:

“A life of making isn’t a series of shows, or projects, or productions, or things; it is an everyday practice.  It is a practice of questions more than of answers, of waiting to find what you need more often than knowing what you need to do….Our culture has beheld with suspicion unproductive time, things not utilitarian, and daydreaming in general, but we live in a time when it is especially challenging to articulate the importance of experiences that don’t produce anything obvious, aren’t easily quantifiable, resist measurement, aren’t easily named, are categorically in-between.” (Ann Hamilton, artist)

Having had three finishes within a couple of weeks, and today teaching a workshop with the Surfside Quilters Guild, my next plan is to do some wandering myself, maybe some daydreaming and find those experiences that don’t produce anything obvious, yet are so critical.

And P.S. Blocks 4, 5 and 6 of Shine: The Circles Quilt are now back on the blog, free to all.

Other posts about Picties and Verities:

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

Postcard from Burano

Postcard from Burano, quilt #242
11″ x 22″

Over the space of several years, I tried three times to get to the small island of Burano, just a vaparetto ride out of Venice. And when my husband and I finally made it there, we had only about an hour before the next ride back to Venice.

When the boat docked in Burano and everyone turned right to go into the main part of town, we turned left and wandered, taking in the brilliant color, the laundry, the umbrellas, the acqua alta barricades in the doorways, snapping away.

We arrived at the outgoing vaparetto a few minutes early, but stood in line, mentally and physically leaving Burano forever.

So when I had a chance to take Gillian Travis‘ class in October 2019, pulled in by the chance to do a fabric representation of that small island with its brilliant colors, I signed up quickly. It was at PIQF (Pacific International Quilt Festival); my friend Leisa and I traveled there and spent three days in the hotel, rarely leaving as the Mancuso quilt show had many pieces to see, and then there were all the vendors (of course).

In our Townscapes class, we started by tracing, and Gillian had very specific and helpful instructions on how to do everything. I listened carefully and took copious notes. This was one project I wanted to finish. She’s the one who taught us the trick of using parchment paper as a backing for layers of fused fabric (instead buying those expensive specialty sheets).

When I got this far, she came over, and making sure it was all fused together, peeled it off the parchment paper like peeling off a giant sticker, and we plopped it onto a stretch of blue fabric I’d chosen (in consultation, of course).

And this is where I picked it up, a year and some months later. But I’d been to Burano and seen the white window frames, the laundry and the umbrellas, so I pulled out my photos and started adding details.

I imitated the upside down boots on the left side, having found that in our visit:

In the course of time, a lovely splotch affixed itself above one of the chimneys. I tried to get it out with soap and water; it just means that some of the gulls of Venice would now fly through my sky. Her method is to stitch details into the picture while stitching down the fused pieces.

I did that, constantly referring to all the snapshots I took during class. I used a free-motion quilting foot, realizing I would sacrifice another needle to the gunk of fused fabrics.

Then I added borders, as I knew I wanted to stretch it onto bars like California Bear.

I quilted it lightly, trying to add some detail to the sky, but not too much, winding my way around the gulls.

Side view of the borders wrapped and stapled.

I took shots of all the details. Like the teacher, I tried not to be too pristine about how I stitched the window frames, or added detail to the laundry. I can sometimes be a little too uptight about those sort of things, and while I’ll never be an artist like Ms. Travis, I can imitate in order to learn new things.

Work of Gillian Travis

And if you’ve been to the Yorkshire Dales, she has a townscape for you too.

If you want to read about our quick trip to Burano, I include many colorful photos on my travel blog, TraveledMind.blog. (It’s currently under renovation/repair having suffered a loss of domain name recently, and I’m still working to get it back up to where it was.) On the blog, we’re currently in Tokyo, soon heading to Korea and yes, it was a trip from 2017. I’ll get it finished, hopefully before we head out again, maybe in 2022?

Happy February. Wear a mask, get your vaccine, and stay home and quilt!

300 Quilts · Quilt Finish

California Bear • collage quilt finished

California Bear, Quilt #241

California Bear, a collage quilt started in a class with Laura Heine at Road to California 2020, is finished and hanging on my sewing room wall. (It just seems pretentious to call it a “sewing studio” so I persist in calling it a sewing room.) This is a fused collage quilt, and I wrote about it a year ago, when I first began.

As usual, I did multiple permutations moving butterfliers and flowers around until I decided I was done messing with it. The perfect is the enemy of the good…and the done, as I always say. More info our on California Bear is here, if you are interested.

I hung him across from my fancy new calendar from The Dolphin Studio (I saw my sister’s and just had to have one), and he’ll stay there until he walks on to somewhere else.

I finished fusing him into place Friday afternoon, then quilted it in a tiny grid all over, thoroughly gumming up a needle, but it got the job done. After that, I my husband, Dave, and I went out to get stretcher bars (we are double-masking now) and a burger, and then we sat in the parking lot afterwards eating our hot french fries and Habit burger. Later, he helped me staple it into place; I cut out Laura’s name from one of the selvages and fused it onto the back. I’ll make a label later on, but I wanted it up on the wall before January ended.

I went walking this morning and it was California cold. Not as cold as some of the weather in other parts of this wonderful state (we have twelve “Fourteeners” in our state–that is, mountains over 14,000 feet, so you know they have snow). But here in Southern California, an hour east of Los Angeles, well…this is kind of cold. All around our geographical basin the mountains were touched with snow after our last storm. Pretty fancy for us.

And here’s a photo of my quilt holders: two clamps duct-taped onto some molding strips that I found in my garage, but you could use dowels. Really high tech. Oh, and here’s a photo of the Quilt Holding Husband using the Quilt Holders:

We just clamped them onto the corners of the quilt. If you are a short person, like I am, then it makes it easier to hold up the quilts. Later on, we switched, and I held the quilt for while, as seen in this post (in front of the colorful wall). I haven’t yet tried them on a quilted-with-batting quilt, but soon I will and I’ll let you know how it works.

That big-skirted lady is for a quilt, coming later on in the year, and the ABCs and other fabrics are part of a quilt for a grandchild who is having a birthday soon. I use my design wall as a bulletin board sometimes.

I’m making progress on this (binding on and clipped down, reading for hand-sewing). I’ve also come up with a name. Coming soon.

I recently freshened up my blog header, switched up my blog theme (the other one wasn’t supported any more) and am working on the commenting problem some of you have had. I think I’ve solved it, but will know when you tell me. I always ask for your name and your email, as I like to answer my comments privately. If you can’t comment on the blog, you are welcome to email me at opquilt [at] gmail [dot] com.

Happy Quilting!

Older Header, from 2014. My, how time flies!
300 Quilts · Giveaway · Patterns by Elizabeth of OPQuilt · Quilt Finish · Quilt Patterns

Pomegranates • Giveaway

Where does inspiration begin?

Does it start here? How about both places? Today is a pattern announcement, a quilt top done announcement and the best part: a giveaway!

My friend, Kenna Ogg of Madison Cottage Design, is launching her line of batiks from Banyan Batiks (made by Northcott) and asked me to help her share the pictures and flavors of her line of fabrics. And at the end of the post, be sure to enter to win a fat quarter stack of these beautiful fabrics, rich in the tones of fall and winter.

So when she sent them to me to dream up a quilt, I kept thinking about my friend Karen’s pomegranate tree, and how she was always so generous with the fruit:

Pomegranates come on in the fall and into winter, so the two ideas merged into one.

(Posed under a citrus bush)

I arranged the fabrics, trying to get a feel for the richness of the color, then one night drew up the quilt idea in my Affinity software, and a quilt pattern was on its way!

I drew up a pomegranate shape, adding the bit at the top (the calyx), then traced it onto fusing material, cutting out the center of the circle so the quilt wouldn’t be too stiff. I then cut around the outside and fused it down to a four-patch.

All are on! Now the borders.

It’s a fun way to show off the luscious tones of this line of batiks. I had a hard time photographing them in the night when I was working, so here’s a photo from Kenna:

This is what she’ll send the winner of the giveaway: Twenty Fat Quarters. Yes, you can make the Pomegranates quilt from that. But now you can also score a discount on the pattern, as I’m launching it at the same time. Head over to my pattern shop on PayHip, navigate to the pattern and for a 30% discount on this pattern enter the following code at checkout:

PomegranatesOPQuilt30

There are three places you can enter the giveaway:

The giveaway is now closed.
Congratulations to Esther, who wrote:
“Love the fabric and the pattern! Pomegranates and the pomegranate tree are beautiful. The tree and fruit provide habitat for birds. Maybe this will be the year I plant a tree or two, there are a number of varieties, some with pink arils and lighter rind that I think would make a nice combo with the standards. I think there are many references in the bible and poetry as to their beauty and symbolism, though right now I can’t pull one out of my memory. As far as harvesting the arils, I just “go for it” since I’m only cleaning one at a time. If I was ambitious, I’d make pomegranate jelly. I like to use the arils in a salad of winter greens, with slices of bosc pear and fuyu persimmon and a vinagrette.”

Here, on this blog (I’ll pick a winner on Thursday evening, and email the winner). OR, on my Instagram account. OR on Kenna’s Instagram account. And of course, you’ve figured out by now that if you enter all three places, that’s three times the chances. I will mail your name and address to Kenna and she’ll send them out. Good luck.

Leave me a comment below, telling me what you think is the easiest method to get the arils (the seeds) out of the pomemgranate: get on an old shirt and head out to the picnic table and just go for it, or submerge the fruit in a water bath, letting the arils sink to the bottom while the pith floats to the top. And of course, since I love your stories, any pomegranate story or memory you want to leave me will make me smile.

A red-stained juicy pomegranate smile!