Quilting in the Time of Covid-19

Angel Death_Sculptor

Like so many of you, my life feels right now like this sculpture in the Metropolitan Museum of Art, placed in the American Wing; we seem to take a photo (or five) of it everytime we go there, so that it ranks it right up there with snapshots of anything Monet.  It is titled The Angel of Death and the Sculptor, by Daniel Chester French.  The sculptor is mid-stroke and the Angel gently takes his hand — stilling him —  as if to say, “You’re done for now.” If this work seems familiar to you, French was also one of two sculptors who created our Lincoln Memorial.

I came slalomming down off my very enjoyable time with the Orange County Quilters to a buckets-of-rain day, one where I’d normally stay in, but that day I went to two different grocery stores, trying to stock up our house.  In two-days’ time, our world came roaring to an end with the advent of the novel corona virus, also known as (and always in all caps) COVID-19.  I had it easier: one of my friends was in Brazil at Iguazu Falls, and did about a 28-hour turnaround trip back home.

Yesterday I sent a letter out to some friends and the outward flowing of goodwill back towards me, and to others on the list, has helped me deal with this isolation.  I was feeling undone by the contant drumbeat of bad news and sadness and worry about our hospital workers on every level and the deaths and the lack of tests and misinformation and too much information and should I make masks and will my neighbor give the disease to me? sort of stuff.

So to get myself back on track with doing something creative, I’m listing here some of the projects I hope to undertake.  These are quilting projects only.  I have lists and lists of finishing up the house, regular stuff, and the burning question (which, feel free to comment on) is whether I should have the house painters back to finish up the details on their recent big job?  I’m calling it Quilting in the Time of Covid, with apologies to Gabriel García Márquez.

quiltinginthetimeofcovid

  1. Finish quilting and binding a quilt I’m referring to ReJiggered.ReJigger

It’s a variation of City Streets, just in different colors.  I’d thought about the name Vitrailed, which means to set with stained glass, because the Tula colors are reminscent of our trip to La Sagrada Familia a couple of years ago:

LaSagradaFamilia_3.jpg

2. Totebag with Spectrum Pattern on side

Spectrum Tote Bag EPP.jpg

I’d made this for an EPP workshop I taught last August, and gave it away.  I’d like to try another, in different colors.

3. Make up Azulejos in a tangerine/indigo version

Azulejos Quilt_1

Fabric gathered — check
But that’s all.

4. Work on the quilt that I’m calling Eridani (no image yet).

If we all ever get back our lives, I’m supposed to teach this in October of this year.  Stay tuned.

5. Make face masks.  

Face Mask Orange Dot Quilts

So my husband and I had this conversation this morning while getting ready for our Stay-At-Home Church, and it went something like this: If only the people who get sick are supposed to have face masks, yet all hospital personnel have face masks, should we have face masks to protect ourselves, too? Yes, but…the big caveat is if you are using a purchased face mask, then no.  I’ve chosen Dora’s version (above), and will be making a few for ourselves and family.

ToDo_March 2020

In cleaning out I found a  To-Do List pad which only has 3 lines on it per day.  So I have to choose only three things to accomplish.  Last night when I couldn’t sleep, I made a week’s schedule, listing only three things.  But then my Frantic Self addded more and more, writing in the margins and on the back.

Why is it that in this time of coronavirus, we still feel the push to do?  I think it’s because we want our routine back, of Mondays at the grocery store, Tuesday at the Quilt Shop Sew-day, First Mondays with my little group of angel sewers, Tuesday-then-Friday-then-Saturday meetings with my guilds.  We just didn’t see that Angel of Corona Virus headed our way, stilling our blur of activity, asking us to stop.

So I write this hoping to find a new balance, a new routine.  I found it helpful when my Gridsters in the group letter talked about what was their experience during this time, and what they were working on. While I’d enjoy having a giveaway from any comments you might write, the problem is that I’d want to mail everyone a little treasure, instead of just two or three (and even though I love my USPS and need them to keep us connected, I won’t do that). However, I’d love it if you’d share what steadies — not stills — and how things are in your COVID-19 world.

Happy Sewing!

The Ides of March

Ides of March

When I was in high school, the incredibly dweeby drama kids would go around campus on the 15th of March saying “Beware, beware the Ides of March!” and it took the rest of us a day to figure out what in heavens name they were talking about.  My apologies to you if you were one of the drama kids — dweeby, or not — but apparently Julius Ceaser was stabbed 23 times on the Ides of March.  Ides come from the word divide, which brings me to the the process taking place in my life: once I divided all that stuff in my sewing room in boxes, how do I get it all back in there?

It began with the dividing:

March SRoom redo_1.jpgMarch SRoom redo_1March SRoom redo_2March SRoom redo_2a

We eventually moved all the boxes back into the sewing room, and it’s pretty daunting to see all your stash that way.  I had wanted a glass top on my sewing desk for-e-ver, and bit the bullet and had a piece of glass cut really big to fit the top. When I got home, I realized there was no way I could get it upstairs (my husband was traveling) so the young men across the street who lift weights for fun, were willing and able to get it upstairs for me.  I paid them in cookies.

After I winnowed down the boxes, the fun began: the design wall needs to take shape.  In the past my design wall was made of foam core artboard, but when I went looking for it this time, it was not to be found in the size/thickness I needed.  And the next best thing was going to cost me over a hundred bucks.  So I used the advice found in Christa Watson’s post, and purchased two insulation sheets at our local Big Box Construction store.

I didn’t want to use a giant bed sheet like she had, as I had been spoiled by having a grid on my old design wall.  So I hunted/haunted the internet and soon found a gridded flannel made by Robert Kaufman on Amazon, and snapped up six yards.  Measure before you buy, as we had Just Enough.   I did NOT pre-shrink it, as I needed every inch.  I cut it into two three-yard lengths, sewed it together along the one long (3-yard side), matching the grids.

I set it aside while we did this:

March SRoom redo_3

My room is much smaller than Christa’s, so we had to cut down the insulation.  We used a linoleum knife, which has a hooked shape and a sharp blade on the inside curve.March SRoom redo_3a

Then we had to account for the outlet on my sewing room wall.  First (above) a template made out of newspaper).  We took that upstairs and traced around it, then double-and-triple checked it.

March SRoom redo_3b

We even checked it against the real wall.

March SRoom redo_3c

Back down in the dining room, on the dining room table, we taped the two insulation sheets together using white duct tape, only better stuff than duct tape.  I don’t know what it was, but it really holds.March SRoom redo_3d

I taped around the cut edges of the socket hole.March SRoom redo_4

Like Christa, we laid out the flannel, and stretched it around the boards, stapling it in place.  The staples did NOT like to go through a double layer of flannel, and we didn’t quite stretch hard enough, but it doesn’t affect the performance in the least.

We followed her advice and purchased these screws and these washers.

March SRoom redo_6

Slipping a screw into a washer, we placed them top and bottom and two on each side of the foam insulation seam.  While the foam board seams go East-West, my flannel seam goes North-South for stability (which you can see in the photo, right in the middle).  The covering does pucker a bit and my husband asked if I wanted to re-do it.  I didn’t.

March SRoom redo_6a

Why does it not matter that much to me?  Because I like to cover my design wall with Thermolam, a type of fleece.  They have renamed it, so look for this number —  TP970  — on the bolt. (Here’s a post on how I did my old design wall.)  I had thrown my old Thermolam/Quilters Fleece/Whatever in the dryer to fluff all the threads off from previous use; it works fine.  I smoothed it out over the flannel, using straight pins to keep it on, and letting it overlap by 1/2″ at the seam (which you can see in the photo below).  It really grabs the blocks and pieces much better than the flannel by itself, and is easily cleaned by running a sticky lint roller over the surface.

March SRoom redo_7March SRoom redo_7a.jpg

I cut out around the electrical outlet and pinned that into place, too.  Immediately I put up the blocks I’d received from The Gridsters, who jumped into #sawtoothmania feet first.  I have only one I’m waiting on, but will start playing with them once I get the last one.  Their signature blocks used my Tiny Envelope pattern, found free on this blog.

March SRoom redo_7a

Most recent item was the Daylight lamp, suspended over my cutting table.  My husband screwed it onto my window sill for me, as I couldn’t figure out any other way to get it here.

I emptied the last box today, which was all my doo-dads that had been placed all around the room over the last 15 years.  I love my doo-dads (I’m not a minimalist) but after living with clear walls for a month, I edited down what I want to hang back up. I also sorted through my scraps, separating them into strips and scraps, and found the bottom of that bin, not seen in too many years.

Old Recipe Card_1

That process has a parallel in this recipe card.  It’s one of a collection of cards that I’d purchased at a garage sale some twenty years ago.  I’d had it at the back of a shelf, always meaning to go through it, and use it to form the backbone of that novel I meant to write when I was in grad school.  Who was this woman who had used this recipe for the spaghetti sauce so much that she had to affix on the corner with a straight pin? I went through all of her cards, photographed some (you may see them again), but threw away most. I’m kind of at a dividing line in my life. Much like I realize that there will be no more spaghetti sauce made with this recipe again,  I also recognize that there will be no novel written about this person, whose recipe cards I purchased when her children cleaned out her house and sold them to a stranger, standing on her front lawn.

In the last few weeks, I have gone through nearly everything in my house with the exception of the kitchen and family room, and like my scrap bin and like the box of recipe cards, I have had to distinguish between the old life that looked forward into mountains of possibilities, and this current one that gazes backwards, happy with what she sees, no longer wishing to be the caretaker for old hopes, for old dreams. While I realize that there still remains in me a creative force, it flows in different ways.  Yes, the scraps that were divided reminded me of projects I’d done, as well as suggested promises of what might lie ahead. But who was that young sewer who cut up all these fabrics?  I hardly know her now.

Today I dutifully divide what might have been, from what is probable now.  While I wonder about that quilter from the past, I must work with this version of me that is sitting here sorting: relinquishing those bits, those scraps, opening up a space for what calls to me now.

Old Recipe Card Box.jpg

Maintain vs. Innovate

I’ve been reading a series of articles by Andrew Russell and Lee Vinsel, two academics who have noted that we tend to focus on innovation and ignore maintaining.  Maintain?  Innovate?  When I insert this into the quilting world, some thoughtful parallels arise.

LIghtbulb moment

some images cheerfully swiped from the internet; find them using a Google image search.

First, some background.  In an article on Aeon, Russell and Vinsel observed that our love affair with the new and the untried has obscured our reliance on, and the need for, the “old things,” those items like the electric fan that have been unchanged for a century or more.  And by letting the new obscure our vision of the old, it has also blocked our view of the humans who do “the work that goes into keeping the entire world going….from laundry and trash removal to janitorial work and food preparation.”  And to no one’s surprise, it’s “women — disproportionately — [who do the work] to keep life on track.”  Russell and Vinsel argue that it is time to bring the work of maintainers into clearer focus.

EPP Stitching

When I first heard this interview on the radio, I let it sink to the background while I worked in my sewing room that morning. But something in me wondered if this idea also applies to quilters.  To see it, come at the idea from a different direction:  Say you have nineteen bins of fabric at home, a list of at least twelve quilts to be made from the above-mentioned bins, yet when you are on Instagram and you see the latest quilt that EVERYONE is doing, you click through to get their suggested fat quarter bundle because that is the most awesome thing ever.  Sound familiar?

To borrow Russell and Vinsel’s terminology, I would suggest this is a classic case of quilter Maintenance vs. Innovation.  We don’t want to do the hard work of re-imagining why we stashed that fabric, purchased that pattern in the first place, preferring instead the WOW feeling (and let’s face it: the easiness) of contemplating sewing up something fresh and interesting.

Fabric Stash

I believe in innovation.
I do like the feeling of a few fresh cuts into the fabric with a new pattern by my side.  And full disclosure: I’m not a “sew-from-my-stash” only sort of quilter, believing instead that occasionally everyone’s stash needs a punch up of energy with a few fat quarters of current fabrics with their current color palettes.

Plitvice Quilt_unquilted

I believe in maintenance.
Having recently I’ve slogged through a few really old UFOs I found out that there is happiness and satisfaction in working through those projects, yet often it didn’t come until that last stitch on the last inch of binding.

Tesla Roadster

Some fall into the trap that Elon Musk did recently, when he outlined a tunnel transportation system in Los Angeles demonstrating that he believed “that the best path forward is to scrap existing reality and start over from scratch.”  Yet, as Russell and Vinsel note, “a clean slate is rarely a realistic option.  We need to figure out better ways of preserving, improving and caring for what we have.”  Although tempting, we can’t torch our fabric stash in order to begin fresh and new and wonderful and exciting.

But the mental tussle between finishing up those UFOs vs. buying new fabric perhaps goes deeper, as Russell and Vinsel describe in their article, “Let’s Get Excited about Maintenance,” when they say that often we “fetishize innovation as a kind of art, [which] demeans upkeep as mere drudgery.”

Innovation=Art?  Upkeep=Drudgery?

  • If I’m buying new, I’m making art?
  • Sewing up my old half-finished projects is drudgery?

The answer might be yes to both questions, but it’s more like often or sometimes, but not always.

EPP 4 cutting pieces

We need innovation.  I can’t imagine making a quilt today without my rotary cutter, mat or ruler.  But we also need maintenance to help us keep our lives in balance and on track.  Make that new quilt, buy that new fabric, but don’t think of it as better than pulling out the quilt you started last year.  Likewise, finishing up a painfully old UFO that would have been better donated to the scrap bag isn’t necessarily more noble, either.

Innovate? Maintain?

We need both.

Irritated by the Internet

Map of the Internet

classic visual map of the internet, image can be attributed to artist Barrett Lyon

Lately I’ve been irritated by the Internets.  And by blogs, although I’m someone who still reads them, someone who still writes them, and still thinks the longer form is useful.

Blog

This post is divided into parts.

All is not well in Blogland, and like the song from Music Man where he sings about Trouble and it means the new billiard table in town, our trouble is the concept of “monetize.”  It can be lucrative to place ads on blogs, and I have no problem if  a blogger wants to make some cash.  Money is always good, and hey, it’s their blog.

But I do get irritated when some of the ads have positively gotten out of hand, so much so that ads pop up on top of pictures, intrude on the blogger’s writing, and blink and pop across content. Some of the ads are disgusting (see below for examples), with that creepy crawly worms thing the worst.  Because of this, I had stopped reading some blogs, but in the end, I liked the quilter and what they did, so had to find new ways to read.

Blog

Using a Reader to read blogs

So I started by using a reader. I subscribe directly to some blogs, and their post notifications come directly into my emailbox.  But I don’t want all my blogs to come there.  A reader will gather all your reading into one list, and can categorize the blogs (I read both ways).  One well-known reader in quiltland is Bloglovin’ but I have moved over to Feedly.com.

I used to use Bloglovin’ a lot, but  I found it frustrating at how many clicks I had to use to get the blog to leave a comment (I love a good conversation).  And then I started noticing this:

Bloglovin ID blog

They won’t send you to the blog, they send you somewhere in their universe, which as a blog writer, is not helpful news.  It means a reader might might never actually visit a blog, to see the layout, the way the blogger has designed their space. Some writers believe that Bloglovin’ has taken content (without permission) for their in-house blog, broadcasting it on their website.  The blogger-who-wrote-it will not see any of these comments.  Yes, this has happened to me, and frankly, it’s kind of weird, like somebody stole my content.  They will link back to me, but it’s after the fact, so that if I’m not on top of it backstage, I will never know it happened.

Waving goodbye

So I said, I’m done, and left them for Feedly.

Feedly4

opening pages

I never log in with Facebook, instead setting up an account using my email.

Feedly Screeshot

This is what I see when my Feedly page pops up, with the category Fabrics/Quilting highlighted. I chose the magazine view, but you could also choose a list view.  It allows me to read the first few lines of any blog post, and then decide if I want to expand it.  I find I am actually reading more of my colleagues’ posts this way, as I also don’t lose them in the deluge of emails.

The blogs I added (see the very bottom left: +ADD CONTENT to add the blogs you want), I arranged by categories.  The numbers show the unread blogs.

Feedly2

Here’s Afton’s Quilting Mod, as an example.  I clicked on it from my list and the full blog shows up.  I scroll through and read it, then decide I want to leave a comment.

Feedly3

At the bottom of the page, I click on VISIT WEBSITE, and I’m sent to her blog in a new window in a new tab (although this preference can be changed).  Notice the address that shows up in the lower left — I’m referred directly to Afton’s blog to leave a comment, a real plus.

Blog

Using the Reader View in your browser to make posts easier to read.

Reader View 1

Sometimes I’m not in my Feedly, and have clicked on one of my ad-filled blogs. So I use the Reader View.  Safari has always had this, and now Firefox has it too.  First, Safari.

There is an icon of stacked documentson the left in the address bar.

Reader View 2

Click on this, and you’ll be taken to the above view (compare them).  All you are getting is the writer’s content, plus their photos.  All animations, ads, colors, and videos are removed (although you will see placeholders for them).  Click on the stack icon to go back to their website.

Reader View Firefox

I just downloaded the newest version of Firefox.  Above is the webpage without the Reader View.

Reader View Firefox1

The webpage with Reader View.  Click on the little grey page icon on the right of the address bar to be taken to their Reader View.

See also those little greyed icons at the upper left?  Those are also new.  I’m quite interested in the third one, the soundwave icon.  My mother is mostly blind, and now I can now have my Dad set up the webpage for her in Reader View and it will read it to her.  Hooray for easy accessibility for webpages!

Blog

Ads placed to drive the blog writers to pay.  It worked!Quilt Abecedary title
I’d developed an alphabet of improv letters when I ran the Spelling Bee blog some time ago.

 

quilt-abecedarysm

Knowing that if I put them down somewhere in my Sewing Room, they would disappear, I documented how I made them and put them up on a blog.  For a while, WordPress and I had a bargain: they could put up an ad on the bottom of my post, and I’d keep using their stuff for free (I had converted this blog over to a paid blog some years earlier).

Then I started seeing this:

Bad Ads

The dreaded creepy crawly ads I hated were now in between my text, obliterating the the instructions for my wonky and fun letters and words (see the one in the box in the upper left).  I didn’t want to pay a yearly fee to have them keep the ads out (and I suspect — just a little — that some of the more obnoxious ads were designed to encourage me to pay), so I did the next best thing: I moved the entire blog.

Quilt Abecedary New 2019

It’s now back in Google’s arms at: https://quiltabecedary.blogspot.com.  I have links from this blog, above, so you don’t have to remember the address.  But if you ever need some wonky improv letters and words, don’t forget that it’s there.

Blog

White I spend a lot of time on Instagram, I still think that there is a place in our lives for blogs: it’s where we put up tutorials, we comment on the state of the world, we have space to write about quilts and things that interest us (by the way, congratulations if you made it this far).  I don’t want to see blogs go away, so I hope this post will make your reading easier.

NOTE:  If you want to start making your own Feedly list, I’ve put just about all the blogs I read way below, in the footer, but like anything, it’s a work in progress and subject to change.  I update it about every quarter.

 

Power of Pattern: Central Asian Ikats

Ikat_1

Among the most colorful clothing in the word, ikat robes — which hail primarily from the “the Stans,” or Central Asia — employ “creative use of scale, proportion, and orientation.” They are created by dying the warp (or vertical) threads of silk and cotton, sometimes multiple times.

Ikat_2Ikat_3

This past week, my husband and I had a chance to head into Los Angeles County Museum of Art (LACMA) to see this collection.  Here’s the notice in the gallery:

IkatTitle_1

Ikat_4

Ikat_4a

Note the embroidered cuff.

Ikat_5 Tajik Wedding Ritual

This photo of a Tajik Wedding ritual (1865-1872) shows the rich patterns of both men and women in their ikat robes.  I did a Google Image search, which has lots of results, but these older robes, as shown in LACMA, are rarer now.  In that Image search, I saw lots of machine-made ikats, which don’t have the subtlety of the hand-dyed.

Ikat_6

On the right is a series of threads which will form the warp threads in a loom, showing their various patterns from dying them using a resist process:

“Fabricating an ikat design demands vision as well as time. Before any actual weaving takes place, the lead craftsperson must picture a fully fleshed-out color pattern. Next, assistants soak the warp threads of the textile-to-be in a series of dye vats—up to eight in total—accumulating hues along the way. Prior to each dying phase, all stretches of warp are strategically bound with dye-resistant greasy thread, leaving exposed only those portions meant to be colored.

“By repositioning the dye-resistant thread before every immersion, textile makers gradually cover the entirety of the warp in an array of different tones. The most skilled designers will subject some sections of the material to multiple immersions, combining red and yellow dye to produce sunset orange, or red and blue dye to yield rich royal purple.

“Finally, when the Technicolor warp is ready, loom operators stretch it taut and gird it with a cotton or silk weft. The result is a long, narrow oblong textile bearing the designer’s repeating geometric pattern. This can be shaped into an eye-catching coat, or alternatively kept two-dimensional and made into a wall hanging” (from an article in the Smithsonian Institution Magazine, when they mounted their exhibit of ikat).

IkatTitle_3

LACMA’s didactic label in the exhibit

Ikat_7

I love the visual doubling and tripling of pattern and color in this robe.

Ikat_7bIkat_8

I think the guards thought I was crazy when I came to this robe.  I kept crouching down, zooming in, trying to capture the details of what I would call a type of kantha stitching, embroidery, hand overcasting.  It was a riot of color and texture and pattern:

You can see the nature of the ikat weaving, which blurs the edges as the weft yarns are woven through those pre-dyed warp yarns.  To make velvet, two rows of weft yarns are needed, instead of just one, so velvet robes were considered top of the line.  In the outfit above, it is the outermost robe.

IkatTitle_2

I took so many photos, that I’m not really sure which title goes with which picture, but I enjoyed reading the names of the clothing: a woman’s robe is a Munisak, a woman’s dress is a Kurta, and a man’s robe is a Chapan.

“Defined by an hourglass sihouette produced by the gathered fabric at each side of the waist, a munisak was used throughout a woman’s life for significant events, from her wedding to her funeral.  As such, it was an important part of her dowry” (LACMA text).

Ikat_9Ikat_10Ikat_10aIkat_11Ikat_12

Recently, my friend Judy had traveled to this area with her husband, so I was familiar with the term “the Stans,” and what the area looked like.  Although some consider that term a snub (“stan” means land, as in Afghanistan is the land where Afghanis live), I think it works well for those of us not familiar with where these countries are:

Map of The Stans

Image sneaked off of her travel blog, *here*

Women and Ikat_2017

Women and their Ikat Robes (2017), from *here*

106-Turkish-Coat_Folkwear

Turkish Coat, pattern #106

While we were in the LACMA exhibit, I told my husband that many quilters have used FolkWear patterns to make a similar robe, and added detailed surface decoration.  I first learned about ikat when I took a class in Houston several years ago from Roberta Horton, a reknowned quilter, who showed us ikats from her line of fabrics, made in India:

Ikat_14.jpg

Although I was a Clothing and Textile Major in college, I’d didn’t remember hearing about this fabric before; perhaps that why I wanted to blog about it today.  But in the quilting world, we also have variants of these colorfully patterned robes worn by these people from Central Asia.

Tabula Rasa Jacket_thequilttree.png

I’ve seen the Tabula Rasa jacket and all its variations, from a pattern by FitForArt.  Perhaps it’s the blurring of the lines between our patterned quilts and these beautiful ikat robes?  The more surface decoration the better?

crocheted jacket

Not always. I’ve also seen some not-so-great versions of handmade clothing that were patterned to within an inch of their lives, certainly showing their makers’ skill but not always on the level of what was in that exhibit.

The brilliant thing about these ikat robes is the sense of balance that is present.  Even in the layering of the different patterns, something pulls them together, links in either color or design.  A worthy goal for our own creating, wouldn’t you say? whether it be in quilts or robes or clothing.

Ikat_13

This was another experience that showed me that old truth: it’s always good to get out of my head, my studio, and the endless loop of social media, in order to gain inspiration from other places in the world.

Happy traveling, and Happy Father’s Day!

Wedding Day for Us

The day my husband became a father to four children.