July 10, 2013

A Bowl of Memories

When we moved into this house 18 years ago, my mom bought a scraggly little raspberry stick for my youngest daughter. She wore overalls and white Carter's underwear with pink flowers (daughter, not Mom) and we planted it back near the new post-and-rail fence.

The bush has spread throughout the yard and into the field next door. The fence is now an ivy-covered wall.  Mom is 82 and doesn't remember bringing her the bush. The little girl in the overalls is gone, replaced by a 23-year-old woman whose underwear has a whole lot to do with tiny pieces of black lace.  

Me?  I get these. And everything that went into them.

July 9, 2013

The Furthest Thing from Triangles

With the last scraps of Haze Kilim triangle detritus picked off the carpet and the dogs, I am flying back with outstretched arms to Cloth Without Rules.

I find myself returning again and again to Saskia's story cloths that also tell stories in words. Especially after I saw Patricia undergo the same experience: creating a story cloth that also spun words.  Probably because they are the furthest thing from sewing triangles together, those two projects floated around me in my first free day in the studio. I started to imagine MY cloth that could write...and what it would say. I put on the soundtrack to Dances With Wolves (music that was written for me, not Kevin Costner in a loincloth). I hit the "Buffalo Hunt" track, turned the volume to its maximum and then my hands reached for the old indigo Shot Cotton that fell into my life when I cleaned Liza's drawers. I hit replay again...and again...

...and here's what came out.

There's a girl in grey and red  and a mane/tail made from Glennis's Shibori Ribbons lying in wait.

July 7, 2013

The Quilt That Taught Me a Truth

It started months ago with two questions. First, could I remake Kaffe and Liza's Haze Kilim quilt with the new handwoven stripes that landed in the shop? Second, could I do it with a heretofore unexamined attention to detail and precision? 

First, a review. It started with half yards of stripes of all shapes and sizes...

...cut into strips by color family...

...then sewn together to form new fabric.

The trick here is to keep the lines...well, in line.  Because they are loosely handwoven, they want to undulate when disturbed. And because my 1/4 inch seams are often a "more or less" operation, those undulations can quickly deteriorate into waveforms. When you keep pulling at the waveforms to straighten them out, you end up with spikes normally associated with ECGs.

This part went more or less okay because I threw all my attention into the accuracy of the 1/4 inch seam. (It helped that I took every stitch in the grip of an audiobook set in Bombay, read by an actor whose voice breathed life into Australian, Indian, Afghan, American, Italian and Palestinean characters. Shantaram is an epic novel based on the author's escape from an Australian prison and his years on the lam in Bombay; the book is over 900 pages and the audiobook is about 40 hours...enough to become a good friend.  Enough to envelope you in delicious loss and disorientation when it ends.)

But back to the quilt.  The new fabric then gets cut into bizillions of triangles. With accurate measurements and straight stripes.

I was still trying to be precise but by this point, it didn't come very naturally. Still, every time I saw some wonkiness, every time I sensed that I was fudging on the cutting, I redid my work. Then, it came time to sew Light to Dark, creating squares from the triangles and then sewing the squares together into a family.
And then, sewing five families together to create a row, a neighborhood...and eight neighborhood rows together to create a city. Make four borders out of leftover triangles and at last, it is born. A finished quilt.

So it started months ago with two questions. First, could I make a new Haze Kilim?  The answer is Yes. I love all the jewel tones bouncing off each other and the handwoven feel that I cannot capture in my photos is intoxicating. Second, could I muster accuracy and precision?  The answer is...um, for a while. In the company of a good book. And really, only because I could channel the Emergency Broadcast System and alert myself that "This is a test. This is only a test."

But.even then, my attention to detail lagged.  At some point, the need for precision and the ensuing frustration when I couldn't deliver same just got on my nerves. I ripped out really obvious lapses but by the time I sewed the borders on, I had really lowered the bar on the definition of "obvious." And I even changed my perception of those moveable lines, daring any quiltmaker to intentionally duplicate the wave that I had created!!

Don't gasp at my conclusions while looking at these photos. They are not close ups.  Just trust me, there are little mismatches everywhere.  On one hand, we say, "yes, that is the nature of the handmade." But I work with women who can do this perfectly and with Grace. The truth is that I cannot. I simply do not have the technical skills and Grace leaves the building every time I do something that requires a ruler. I used to think that if my life depended on being technically proficient, I could do it. With this quilt, I now know differently.

And here's the bigger, more important truth: I am just fine with that.

Its just one more shortcoming. No matter how many leggy pony-tailed friends tried to show me, I could never do a cartwheel and I was reasonably athletic in my leggy and pony-tailed days.  No matter who explains it to me using words with only one syllable, I cannot understand quantum or any other kind of physics and I am very smart. I make lousy pie crusts, get paint everywhere if I don't tape off the woodwork (and I even do a pissy job of that), and am invariably brought to my knees at work when I have to  calculate the cost of an 1/8 yard of fabric that costs 10.50 per yard.

These shortcomings, they are my friends. They are me. (Don't get me wrong, I am still fragile enough to have shortcomings that can close my throat, but damn if it will be about a 1/4 inch seam!)  I am glad that this quilt taught me all this.