The Gullah Lady – Sharon Cooper-Murray

IMG_0474The Sea Island Indigo Workshop weekend* began on Thursday, September 18 at the Charleston Museum with a rag-quilting workshop and storytelling by Sharon Cooper-Murray, aka ‘the Gullah Lady‘.  Sharon is a compelling performer and interesting historian, as well as a fiber artist and writer in her own right.

Here’s a 25 second example of a Gullah tale that she told at Boone Plantation recently.  If you hunt around YouTube you can find lots more!  And, Charlestonmag.com posted an interview with her here. The Gullah story that we heard was vivid, complete with food stomping and arm gestures. Translation needed — you could tell that some urgent message needed conveying, but not exactly what (turns out the hens used to rise first in the morning, not the roosters, and the story told why).

beautiful example of rag quilt - it weighs a TON, even without backing or batting

beautiful rag quilt – it weighs a TON

indigo strips provided!

indigo strips provided!

Rag quilting is a no-sew method of quilting making.  Strips of fabric are poked into a loose weave base and tied on top.  We used burlap for the base and a nail for an implement.  Earlier makers used feed sacks or possibly, the loose weave fabric used to construct slave garments, osnaburg (also called ‘Negro Cloth’).  It is a resourceful means of cloth making — requiring no needles, thread, or large scraps.
IMG_0464IMG_0477Sharon brings a work-in-progress along with her, to which we were all invited to insert a strip.
IMG_5395Here is Sharon — as herself — constructing one of her Indigo Babies for the dye vat.  She sells these at fairs locally.
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IMG_5475Of course once I got home, I devised a shortcut — using a tapestry needle and longer strips.
IMG_5477IMG_5480By stitching with enough slack between pokes, the strip can then be cut and tied, four at a time.

I love the back!

I love the back!

This method would be a terrific way to use up fabrics that are not needle-friendly.

*****

Next up:  visit to Avery Research Center, then two days of indigo dyeing in a pole barn!

Sea Island Indigo Workshop took place September 18-20, 2014 in Charleston, SC.  A field of indigo was grown for us by Donna Hardy, on Rebellion Farm, in Ravenel, SC.  Fiber artist Kathy Hattori, of Botanical Workshops, flew in from Seattle to co-lead the two days of hands-on indigo dyeing.  My participation in the workshop was funded by a kickstarter campaign.

what is enough?

IMG_5336Sea 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!

 

 

Wrap up

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.

in-process butterfly received a needle woven body

in-process butterfly received a needle woven body — idea to embroider words inspired by Cindy over at handstories

some actual weave; some figurative

some actual weave; some figurative

one of my indigo cloths with woven opening

one of my indigo cloths with woven opening — made so many mistakes!

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a woven patch

a woven patch — lumpy, loveable, functional

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the “Triscuit” crater — backing from my indigo vat

woven strip square open and woven at center with butcher's twine

buckling caused by size of opening could not be fixed even with machine stitching to a heavy weight backing

woven 'islands' extending patterning over edge

woven ‘islands’ extending patterning over edge — one of my favorites from the class

woven islands partnered with Middle Passage piecing

woven islands partnered with Middle Passage piecing

visual weave with vertical and horizontal running stitches

visual weave with vertical and horizontal running stitches

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the crow got a woven base and flew off to Wendy Golden-Levitt

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seeing warp and weft all around

seeing warp and weft all around

continuing on a piece in context of weaving

continuing on a piece in context of weaving — many sections begun in another of Jude’s classes

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more strip weaving because it's hard to stop; travels well

more strip weaving because it’s hard to stop; travels well

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speckled vintage linen from Deb Lacativa’s dye pot

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blue sky — arashi technique with commercial dye — by moi!

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sampler:  Corn Guy

sampler: Corn Guy

as I started 'sewing' more, back neatened up (worked top down)

as I started ‘sewing’ more, back neatened up (worked top down)

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copy of Jude’s waves. Woven on primitive box loom (which was a rectangular basket in my case)

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Planning to order a bead loom so that I can continue without some of the frustrating tension issues caused by wrapping warp around a basket and taping it to the back.

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.

Bye for now!
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trust time and edges

'Middle Passage I'

‘Middle Passage I’

This quilt has hung, unfinished, on a living room wall for a couple of seasons. I am finishing it now.
IMG_3782How 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.

IMG_0591I  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.
IMG_0586It 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.
IMG_0605I 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.
IMG_0601You 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.

 

Call me a notebook nerd!

IMG_0516How I love September!  The air gets deliciously cool and sweaters are pulled out of closets with a sense of cozy relief.  I feel this way every year.  For as long as I can remember.

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.
IMG_0467Well, 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.
IMG_0352I let this dinosaur have his way with the fruit bowl — in honor of days gone by.  Some things I will save forever!

IMG_0479Pretty soon, sedum will be stealing the show.