The Spiral of Work — October 2014

polebarn-indigo-ravenel-deemallonContinuing with a one-year-backward-look as a tool to propel some completion of unfinished work, here’s a shot from last fall. This time last year, I was busy integrating my experience from the Sept. ’14 Sea Island Indigo workshop. I really can’t believe that was only last year! Was it?!!
indigo-clothhoop-weaving-deemallonAnd, here is a piece that was begun in Jude‘s Considering Weave class. Not sure what I’ll do with it, or even where to find it!

Another incomplete piece:
indigo-quilt-moon-deemallonI’m happy to say that the October 2014 folder includes a few finished things as well: two dolls that I made for my sons and the “LA Circles” quilt that I finished a couple of weeks ago.
boydolls-deemallon-ragdolls The book to finish is a memoir about the descendant of slave owners in Texas — his process of investigation and atonement. It’s called “Tomlinson Hill”.  I purchased the book after hearing the author interviewed on the radio, and within a couple of weeks (during The Slave Dwelling Project’s overnight in Medford, Mass., at the Royall House and Slave Quarters), I met two or three people who were descended from slave owners and learned about the group, “Coming to the Table“.  The group is “for all who wish to acknowledge and heal wounds from racism rooted in the United States’ history of slavery.” There was a meeting nearby recently, but I don’t seem to be in a phase of life where it is easy, natural, or right (somehow) to join a group or even attend meetings. Too much else pressing, including the need for restorative solitude.
tomlinsonhill-deemallonBut I can read. The book comes at a good time — I started and then put down “Purity” — Jonathan Franzen’s new novel (I’m a fan!). I was going like gangbusters because it’s a “speedread” from the library (7 days, no renewal), until I realized that the toxic relationships described in the story were just too close to some parts of my current reality to make the read pleasurable. I like books that challenge me and make me uncomfortable (and those that don’t, btw), but this was too much. Control what you can control, right?!

Hearts for Charleston Quilt — Kristin

This heart hales from Montana, from the talented hands of Kristin McNamara Freeman, of spirithreads. Another stellar example of superb craftsmanship and thoughtful, heart-felt creation!

The block bears close looking. Subtle touches like the change of stitching from outer heart to inner heart add up to a complexity that is wonderful.
  Kristin sent the lyrics to a song to accompany that blue chain stitch, which you may have noticed connects all of the hearts. Look at how it begins at the inner most section of the red heart and travels up and out the top and around to each of the white, initialed hearts. Here are the song lyrics:

Lyrics By: Bobby Petersen
Music By: Phil Lesh

Blue light rain, whoa, unbroken chain
Looking for familiar faces in an empty window pane
Listening for the secret, searching for the sound
But I could only hear the preacher and the baying of his hounds

Willow sky, whoa, I walk and wonder why
They say love your brother but you will catch it when you try
Roll you down the line boy, drop you for a loss
Ride out on a cold railroad and nail you to a cross

November and more as I wait for the score
They’re telling me forgiveness is the key to every door
A slow winter day, a night like forever
Sink like a stone, float like a feather

Lilac rain, unbroken chain
Song of the Saw-Whet owl
Out on the mountain it’ll drive you insane
Listening to the winds howl

Unbroken chain of sorrow and pearls
Unbroken chain of sky and sea
Unbroken chain of the western wind
Unbroken chain of you and me

The song says so much, it’s hard to add more, but of course I will.

I watched Gwen Ifill’s program on PBS entitled, “America After Charleston” recently and was interested to hear a couple of the people attending say that they were not filled with forgiveness (including Cynthia Hurd’s brother)… that forgiveness was a process and they weren’t there yet and might never get there. The suggestion was emphatically made by one woman that it was outrageous that the press made so much of Charleston’s forgiveness — yet another example of how it is so much easier (for us white people) to hear about forgiveness than righteous anger.

You can watch the entire program here: PBS, America After Charleston.

IMG_1285IMG_1286 IMG_1289 IMG_1290 IMG_1291 IMG_1292Here are a few more things I want viewers to notice about this beautiful block:

  • the feather stitch that surrounds each white silk heart — delicate, formal, sweet, and somehow heart-rending.
  • the double row of stitches bordering the open/broken/central heart, providing definition.
  • the skillful use of patterned fabric:  the scale and color of the paisley print of the big heart keep it from being overly busy or disappearing and add so much interest; two horizontal floral strips in the bottom third (red, white, and blue, by the way) create a visual ground that is literally populated with flowers; a navy and white boldly-printed African fabric makes the background dynamic, inviting the eye to travel over the entire square.
  • how the white running stitches traveling horizontally bind the strips, while the rust-colored stitches within the open/broken heart are chaotic, swirly, and a contrasting rust-colored, looking if not bloody, then at least stained.
  • how those stitches make a distinction between inner and outer.
  • how the heart’s form is not a closed form… leaving us to decide whether the split down its middle is a rending wound, a means of keeping the heart open to the world, or both.
  • how each of the floating white hearts along the side are embellished with the initials of the deceased: Clementa Pinckney, DePayne Middleton Doctor, Daniel Lee Simmons, Sr., Myra Thompson, Susie Jackson, Cynthia Hurd, Ethel Lance, Tywanza Sanders and Sharonda Coleman-Singleton.
  • how the inclusion of red silk vertical strips references blood without contaminating the purity of those elegant white hearts along the side, or even, the strength of the central heart.
  • how the back reveals the patient application of an invisible basting stitch in black — creating a completely applied grid on the reverse that is not visible on the front.
  • finally, I love how distinct and almost naked the large heart appears on the back!

Thank you, Kristin, for this beautiful contribution!

To read more about this project,
please refer to the the sidebar category:
“Hearts for Charleston Quilt”

To investigate this style of quilting more
(most of us are students of master stitcher/storyteller Jude Hill),
please visit “Spirit Cloth

P.S. For those of you with eagle eyes, the top heart initially featured the letters “CH”. Kristin sent thread for me to change them to “CP”. There is another “CH” further down the line of hearts.

My Own Magnificent Clutter

IMG_1124Thank you for all the bed bug wisdom and sympathy! I deleted a few things here and have moved on to my own mess. The bed bug professionals are up in Salem today, taking care of business and my sister is here visiting. It’s a beautiful fall day.

You might be shocked to know that this disarray of fabric is AFTER giving away about 25 LARGE bags of fabric over the course of the last two years. Furthermore, the picture above shows only three of six shelves. Further, there are seven dressers with their drawers full and bins on the floor!!

IMG_1125This is to the right of the picture above. That glorious paper shelving was a garbage pick. Over the years I have found so many wonderful things on the curb, but this bed bug event of my sister’s may have forever changed my view on that, sad to say.
IMG_1126These shelves were thrown up the week we moved in as temporary storage. They’ve been useful for twenty plus years. But I had K remove these two so that I could move in a dresser from the garage. This killed two birds with one tiger saw — making more space in the basement AND the garage.

  All empty!!! When did less start to feel so good?
  There is the ‘after’ shot. Not a huge “TA DA!”, but something.Enjoy the day! I plan to.This book will occupy some of my morning. Pad and paper the rest. We are going back to 1744 – the year of Eliza’s marriage to Charles Pinckney. Hmmmm, I wonder what she wore…

Tease, Ta Da, and Eclipse

First the tease.
IMG_1285Just when I thought there might be little left to say about the Charleston quilt blocks, I spent some time with this panel. It was stitched by Kristin McNamara Freeman, of Montana. I can’t wait to share it with you this week.

  Now — the first of two Ta-Da’s. One of the ‘undone’ from the “last September post” is now done!
It’s one of two “LA Circle” quilts — inspired by sunny, warm visits to my brother in California, where I also picked up one of the key fabrics (a burnt velvet of pink and black).  

   I went for fairly uniform sizes and was pleased to discover that they’re pretty close.
IMG_2442ALSO:  I found the book by Stephanie Camp on resistance by enslaved southern women (whose opportunities to move about their confined geographies were more limited than the men’s, thus changing the nature of their rebellions). It turns out, I had in fact read the entire book. TA-DA!IMG_2412Meanwhile, the garden is as dry as a bone. It feels like it hasn’t rained all summer.
For some reason, it felt like the eclipse last night signaled the real end of summer. We stepped out to look a few times.Our attention was episodic, rather than sustained or worshipful (as it might have been).

But being out on the curb in the moist night air was something, and hearing crickets striking their chorus prompted me to say to K, “I feel like we just stepped into another life.”

He said, “I know.”

As a child, this was common — smelling the earth, hearing the insects and marking the change in seasons by them. I am too much inside.  Last week I had dinner with C — a friend from eighth grade! I used to walk across the cornfields that separated our developments at all times of day and night and In the summer, we rode our bikes to the pool way on the other side of town — things I’d never have let my boys do at the same ages.

(In fact, when I read the novel “The Lovely Bones” a few years ago, I pictured the crimes taking place in that cornfield  —  a kind of retroactive terror?)

C. laughed about my stay-at-home life. She has never married or had children and the contrast yawned between us. “Back then, you really pushed the edges,” she said. I laughed. But I wonder too: “how did I get here?” and “do I belong?” Meanwhile, I continue with the writing and let it take me places, which is an adventure of a kind, for sure.

“Fell out of my hands”

  Even  with a focus on finishing, this will happen — “things falling out of the hands” (as Mo would say).   Was looking for binding fabric. Found a moon. The bottom patchwork presented itself with what was on the ironing board and design board. Voila. Not quite finished. But composed. It is a Middle Passage quilt for reasons that I’m sure are not all that apparent.   

That’s another post perhaps. 

looking back to look forward – September cloths


Sometimes it seems to me that my catalog of cloth pictures reads like a stream of unfinished projects. Actually, it turns the stomach, sometimes. Proof of need for an intervention!

I’m going to look back ONE YEAR and find a couple of featured projects and finish them roughly within that month (I mean, September is 2/3’s gone already). This is going to be ‘my thing’. I want to try this as a tool, though, and not as a ‘thing’ (i.e. “My Year of Finishing Work”, blah blah blah).

A little structure. A little time pressure. In conjunction, the two COULD work.

I hope that this process will be a lot like deciding not to grocery shop in my husband’s absence this week. Instead, I made do with what little was in the fridge. How gratifying it was (absurdly gratifying?)!

Sometimes, I will first have to FIND the thing. But’s that okay, and probably good and necessary.

IMG_0462The one above just needs a binding and dowel sleeve (well, and the intention to finish — that’s the point here).

IMG_5272Furthermore (and this is critical!), I here before you pledge not to get bogged down in the “PROBLEM” of what to do with the finished pieces.  My Etsy store is deadsville and I can’t quite bring myself to sign up for any sales this fall. In fact, my domain name is up for renewal in a few weeks and I’m considering letting the website go. I mean, I never go there. Does anyone else?!!

Streamlining, focusing, empowering.
IMG_0433Huh. And not to get too, too ambitious here, I have the same need with books. So, I will embark upon a parallel process with those.

There! A pledge. Two pledges.

And, of course, the Hearts for Charleston Quilt takes priority.