Sea Island Indigo’s workshop is allowing us THREE bags of fabric for the dye pot. By that, I assume they mean the standard grocery bags.
Well, I am flying. I am NOT going to check two bags. So this morning I am balancing my squirrel-like packing skills (of which I am rather proud) with the greed to bring more (and more) fabric. To my surprise, it was a great relief to put half of the cloth away… to name the feeling, ‘greed’, and put that away, too. Setting aside greed allowed love to come in.
You see, I had collected a bunch of needle-resistant cloth for the rag quilting workshop. Made sense…. it looks like sewing will be limited with this method. But an awful lot of the tough fabrics I own are a tad gross in feel. I find myself protesting, “NO! NO! I’m only bringing fabric I love”.
Selecting fabrics you love is not at all the same, of course, as fending off greed. Instead, it is governed by pleasure, aesthetic discernment, cultivated tastes, sensory delight… by all those irrational preferences for some colors over others, and in my case, by a slight mania for a good jumble of patterns. When you’ve gathered a pile of fabric you love, sometimes looking at the stack is enough!
Raise your hand if you know what I’m talking about.
I will save my greedy impulses for food. There’s gonna be some AMAZING food on this trip!
But before I go off to my LIST and my PAGES and the CLEANING I like to do on Mondays, I wanted to assemble a collection of pictures from the summer class I took — ‘Considering Weave’ with Jude Hill over at Spirit Cloth. Just as a place to see what I did. How much I learned. These kinds of visual bookmarks make a difference down the road… it is so easy to underestimate or lose track of the volume of threads/cloth that went through the process with me… this will help me remember!
And, by the way, the act of doing this — its value both now and later — is just one of the many, many things learned from Jude.
I didn’t get a chance to make any fringe and look forward to trying. Would like to edge some of my Star Maps with it. And, I can’t wait to try some of the more experimental techniques offered this month. Any more meaningful reflections on the class will have to wait. It was a terrifically provocative journey (as usual)… and if other classes I have taken are any indication, the fruits of the learning will keep coming over the next months and seasons.
This quilt has hung, unfinished, on a living room wall for a couple of seasons. I am finishing it now.
How often do I look at a thing undone and feel an unspoken but clear sense of failure? (like those dolls on the mantle — when?!)
What if I walked around assured that each thing was being finished in its proper time?
The standard 1/4″ black binding with mitred corners was the first idea. But it was too much. Not right at all. And, I didn’t want to use the machine.
I pawed through my bins and found an old cotton apron. Very old. Very soft. Not quite Emancipation Proclamation period (1863), but a lot closer than most fabrics I own.
It was a little heartbreaking to tear through some hand darning. But I did. As I ripped one, two, three, four, five strips, destroying the apron, hearing that destructive sound, I thought about the tearing action of the slave trade. Entire cultures being ripped apart — not just families. Africans ripped from their homes, their continent, stripped of language, bearings, family, culture, dignity — and finally, their status as human beings. Rip. Rip.
I am using a beautiful antique silk thread and starting on the top. A simple running stitch. You can see the edge and the fabrics below. I like that.
You can’t tell from these photos, but the apron at some point in its life shared a wash with a red garment. The garment bled all over it. That felt right, too.
This is the first of the Middle Passage quilts and will have a certain cheer and unity to the design. It is meant as a ‘semi-before’ picture. Terrible things have happened or are about to happen — traders kidnapping men, women and children, chaining them in coffles and marching them to the sea. Barracoons along the western coast of Africa warehousing human flesh.
But, it will get worse.
The next quilt will be darker and more fragmented. African patterning less recognizable. That will be THIS side of the ocean.
I like the sense of new beginnings wrapped up in the anticipation of winter. I like the way the the shortening of the days seems to mandate a quiet looking inward. I like how the trees disrobe. I like (gasp!) Christmas shopping. I really do.
Did I miss going to Staples with one or both of the boys last week? I don’t think so.
I took part in that crazed shopping ritual every September for more years than I want to count, so its absence WAS noticeable. Another marker of change. But to stand in lines sometimes stretching from the register all the way to the back of the store, because I, like so many others, had waited until nearly the last minute? Ugh. To anxiously check the list and the items in the cart, hoping we selected the right size or color index cards and the exactly specified composition book? No, I didn’t miss it.
I can go next week. Or, not at all. But, probably next week, because what is September without the purchase of some snazzy new notebooks and a dozen or so workhorse pens (I prefer Bic blue medium point).
Okay, so I AM a notebook nerd. I probably buy everyone on my gift list a blank book at least every other year, because I can’t help buying them and because to me, they would be a welcome gift. Tell me to stop!
I cleaned the boys’ rooms this week, partly in anticipation of company, partly as a way to acknowledge their absences.
Well, and in C’s case — in the service of hygiene. I was so relieved to discover a very old plate of pulled pork on his keyboard tray (oh god, it was gross!). Relieved, you ask? Well, yes, because that meant that there was not, in fact, as I temporarily supposed, a mouse corpse wedged between inaccessible joists behind the desk (mice take about two weeks for their stink to rot away).
With the cool air on Sunday (hallelujah, rain storm!), I could run the fans all day and refresh the whole upstairs.
I let this dinosaur have his way with the fruit bowl — in honor of days gone by. Some things I will save forever!
There are no known images of Eliza Lucas Pinckney, but here is a picture of a piece of her jewelry. It gives you a sense of the elite, wealthy class that she occupied. To put another way — this jewel-encrusted brooch gives you a sense of what slave labor could buy. So great was the hunger for the wealth produced by slaves in Charleston in the 1740’s, that the slave traders could barely keep up with demand (they got rich, too, by the way). In those days, as rice cultivation got underway and markets were favorable, Carolina was known for its ‘easy wealth’ — which is a little like Thomas Jefferson asserting that the harder he worked, the luckier he got!!
Yesterday, I came across a fantastic web page about Eliza Lucas Pinckney, located on the Clemson University website. There is even a picture of one of her descendants! And one of her garments. The page focuses on indigo, the slave contribution to the science and success of the commodity, and reveals some details about ELP’s slaves that I had yet to come across in my research. This is exciting.
Two books also came to my attention yesterday.
Two of my readers recommended the book by Patricia Klindienst called, “The Earth Knows My Name. Food, Culture, and Sustainability in the Gardens of Ethnic Americans.” It looks fascinating, and I know from what reader Jacqui Holmes shared with me in an email yesterday, that it includes some specifics about Eliza’s experiences with indigo (none of which was news to me, however).
The other book I’ve already ordered. It’s by Andrea Feeser and called “Red, White, and Black Make Blue. Indigo in the Fabric of Colonial South Carolina Life.”*
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On another note, I did a quick run up to Salem this morning. It was a good visit and traffic was a breeze, but I always come home a little spent and so I really ought to walk away from the screen right now, drink water, put on a fan, and sew for a while, just to collect myself. But I can’t help but going off, first, on a mini-rant.
My sister tried to convince me that Irish immigrants had it just as bad as African slaves.
No, no, and No!! I answered back.
My ancestors were reviled, yes, faced prejudice and economic hardship, yes… and what the English did to the Irish during the potato famine surely constituted genocide. But! So many differences. Even, knowing, as I do, how terribly the Irish were treated in the South in the mid-eighteenth century (in many cases, by the way, by the same landowners who were abusing and exploiting their slaves). Even having read letters by Southern mistresses asserting that they’d prefer ‘a lazy Negro to a slovenly Irish girl, any day of the week’. Even having read that sometimes Southern landowners employed the Irish for brutally exhausting labors specifically to avoid working AN ASSET (i.e. an African American bondsman) to death. Even learning, as I did yesterday, that Catholicism was outlawed in the colony in this period. Not the same at all. Just as one tiny example — being ripped off during indenture cannot possibly be considered comparable to being dehumanized into a piece of property.
Again (again!), I named the recent Atlantic article, “The Case for Reparations” (by Ta-Nehisi Coates) (I am thinking of making my boys’ second term tuitions contingent on reading this article). You could not possibly read that article and believe for a shred of a second that blacks and certain white immigrant groups got the same kind or degree of raw deals.
And speaking of being descended from Irish immigrants, two of whom were not here during the 250 years of slavery, Ta-Nehisi Coates specifically condemns taking the view that because our particular ancestors were not here during the ignominious slave years of American history, we are somehow exempt. We are not. Half my family tree was probably near-to starving in County Cork in the antebellum years. I am not exempt. My paternal great-grandfather fought for the Union. I am not exempt. As an American, how could I be?!
(I just ordered Coates’s memoir, too) (Whooa — big time spender here. ANOTHER reason to walk away from the screen).
* Book cover image used with permission of Clemson University