Category Archives: Continuing

Such good news!

I received intensely good news on Thursday, news that’s galvanizing my revised deadline.

  • (New deadline: January 6).

Are you ready? A friend pitched my book to a friend of hers who happens to be a literary agent, someone legit. The agent is “very interested,” loves the topic. Will read the manuscript when I’m ready — (“she’ll know when she’s ready”). She said, “It’ll all come down to the writing.” Well, yes — I’m ON IT!

The Universe is on notice. No more weeks lost to health issues — please! — mine or anybody else’s! Holidays — gotta be simple this year — for real! No travel til next year.

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Just prior to this incredible news, I’d set up an altar to my ancestors for the first time ever. Interesting, eh? What began as an exercise in learning about African American tradition already lifts my spirits and powerfully furthers my goal.

I’ve always known my parents would root for me and think me up to the task, but this is different. It’s faith-based and operates within non-linear constructs of time.

 

  • That’s me in the B&W. It must be in Rome, Georgia, because I look to be about two?
  • In the second photo (taken at Jones Beach, perhaps?), my mother wears plaid and my father is to the left. I wonder who that guy is to the right? Leaning in like that? This would’ve been some summer in between semesters at Pratt Institute (Brooklyn, NY — where they met).

Too big a wobble

Do you see the big wobble on the right? It got me thinking
about the improv method of quilting.

If you are not a pattern follower, chances are you’re in possession of a certain amount of ruthless decisiveness. Ruthlessness is not, as I may have previously thought, a virtue — something akin to bravery.  It’s more of a necessity.  With the improv method, you simply have to be willing to cut, re-order and switch out sections, live with uneven edges, and throw shit out.


It can be frustrating — abiding by the tweaking redo’s that don’t work, the major botches that can’t be saved. There is frequently the feeling of running in place, or worse, traveling backwards. Photo-documentation, while a boon for recording the process & sharing online, has the unfortunate capacity to reveal that previous iterations of your quilt were better (sometimes, way better) than what your repeated tinkering’s produced.

If you work this way, there’s no point in getting too hung up on these frustrations because the alternative is too awful to bear (i.e. following a pattern (even your own), upholding precision as a goal, suppressing ideas along the way). Plus, for some, it’s simply impossible to do it any other way*.

Have you worked on a quilt for two months and suddenly need to see how it takes to the indigo vat? Hold your breath and dunk! Fed up with the progress on a large pieced Global Warming wall quilt, perhaps also two months in the making? Cut the fucker up! Can’t sort the edge of a composition? Walk away and work on something else for a while.

Cutting off worked sections of cloth to true up an edge is routine and I generally do it without much more than a twinge of regret. This week, however, the idea of removing an inch of edging along half the quilt’s length feels like sacrifice. Sacrifice.I’m left wondering what to do.

Have I changed? Has my cloth-making changed?

I can pinpoint two material reasons for my hesitation. One, I am piecing smaller bits of pattern together these days. A corrective slice now potentially subtracts an entire little world of color and geometry! Ouch!

Two, I now apply hand-stitching to pieced sections as I go, meaning that a long cut-away would cut through rows of stitching, with unknown result. Anchor later? With what effectiveness?  It’s a quandary.

I’ve slid two pieced sections under the edge to see if I could avoid the cut. One section came off the top of the quilt and the other came off the bottom, so the cloth is consonant with the rest (there’ve been times when I’ve had to use poorly matching fabrics to fudge something). But, even well-matched, it looks like shit.

 Is there any way to tinker with a long stretch of raw edge applique on a quilt that is otherwise pieced so that it doesn’t look like a botch job? Any ideas? The moon is the only other appliqué. 

*This is actually, for me anyway, an oversimplification. Even as I’m finishing this piece, I’m drawing on a photo that may become a pattern.

In the cool deep

“Let the breath take you deeper:” a reminder.

I can’t believe how much I enjoy being down in the cool sanctuary of the basement right now — whether machine piecing a village quilt, pawing through bins, or vacuuming up cobwebs. It’s a great complement to writing upstairs.

The process of piecing up house patterns keeps me going, but something is missing. A theme? A selected recipient? An internal challenge? Something. And, do I care?

Here are some pictures from today: paper collage, unearthed fabric WIPS, and in-progress shots of current work.

Here I went w/theme. Too heavy handed

Still damp from spritzing

An unearthed sampler from one of Jude’s classes

This old cut out from Newsweek will go upstairs

SoulCollage card composed a while ago but this week seems about the draft envt’l report

Misbehaving silk and designing cloth 

For weeks, the top half of this little piece has been pinned to the design board. I eyed it now and then. Was it done? If not, do I have more fabric in that spooky palette? Yesterday, while listening to Weasel Sessions, I started attaching the lower section.

Two challenges arose: 1) that goddamned silk on the lower right. It will not behave! The buckling, sliding resistance to my organizing stitch may be more than I can stand this week. Then, 2) there’s that disruptive brown strip in the mid-section. It’s so distracting, it cannot stand — so integrate or undo?

Sometimes these challenges ask to be met. And maybe I did myself and the little quilt a disservice working on it with the Senate Intelligence Committee hearing on. That’s its own kind of problem.

But really, I think the spooky, little horizontal beginning might be trying to tell me something, like ‘leave me alone’. Maybe it is already a piece unto itself?

Back to the board for consideration! As Jude recently said, “cloth needs to rest, too”. Actually, maybe this isn’t the cloth resting so much as the design-process resting.

In the meantime, behold my first spoonflower experiments.

When ordering both swaths, I significantly tweaked the repeat into a smaller scale, but that somehow didn’t get transmitted. So disappointing, but definitely worth another go.

The heat has broken. Windows are flung open and the fan whirs fresh air into the house. Thank god! 

My sister is doing much, much better but her heart is beating too fast. I just talked to her and she reported pain from last night. The 15 people rushing in. All the machines she’s plugged into. They may do an ablation today. Must google and pray. 

Out and about

A trip to upstate New York. Hours spent in the rehab wing of a nursing home to visit my father in law. Thoughts about care: his, my sister’s. Unavoidably depressing.


The weekend also featured a 60th bday concert (for my brother in law, who’s in the band). Pretty amazing to get out on a Sat. night and well worth the effort. It was really fun.

More generally, drab weather has conspired with the news in maintaining a grim outlook. Day after grey day of clouds and rain and cold. Day after day of astonishingly bad news.

But! While sweeping out leaves and dirt from the garage on Sunday (because making decisions about STUFF was beyond me and because I needed a job with tangible results), I listened to a freakonomics podcast about the psychology of gratitude. Take away: we tend to notice headwinds more often and more readily than we notice tailwinds. So, notice the tailwinds. Interestingly enough, it’s not the same as cataloging things one is grateful for. Try it. The practice dovetails with attending to white privilege, if that’s something you’re thinking about.

And there was this, too: sitting next to my father in law in his wheel chair, watching the AHCA go down in flames (yeah!), knowing he hates Trump as much as I do (yeah!). And yesterday, there was the morale-boosting weekly teleconference call with my small Indivisible group. We offer each other accountability and support.

The free form appliqué experiment (“keeping to the original idea”) has turned surprisingly disappointing. Turning over the question, ‘why?’

I pinned up two little house quilts last night that may be reactionary. They offer straight lines and recognizable forms — pleasing, even if trite and familiar (or maybe because they’re trite, familiar?).

It’s all a process. I’m curious and engaged.

Could really use a day of sun.

Let your freak flag fly

This work-in-progress garnered the comment, “I love it when you let your freak flag fly!” on Instagram yesterday. After pressing back to make sure it was a compliment (it was), I’ve decided that the phrase makes a pretty good working anthem.


Maybe articulation will follow, but for now I’ll rely on that old Supreme Court ‘definition’ of pornography: ‘I know it when I see it’. Probably something about voice and style.


Is this square with woven strips and indigo moon ‘letting my freak flag fly’? No. Or, not yet. It is too derivative – persistently, dismayingly derivative. On the other hand, the newly assembled cloth collage below lets me announce: “I’m letting my freak flag fly!”

The early stages of composition nearly always more closely capture my ‘style’, such as it is. I have to figure out how to bring more of the free and pleasing (to me) beginnings forward. This is a question of technique, but not exclusively. To be continued…

Saying no and snow

Two or three inches fell. It felt like a surprise but it shouldn’t have.

It was a week of honoring my basic preferences and screwing up the courage to say ‘no’ in order to do so. One small ‘no’ helped me say a much bigger ‘no’ a few days later.

Both refusals created a feeling of spaciousness and relief. Confirming feelings.

Itchy ambivalence can usually be resolved in favor of one’s own need, experience, and felt sense of the world. To not do so is to stay itchy.

Pretty basic, especially for a sixty year old, but it’s amazing (and common?) how quickly clarity can be clouded by others’ needs or by anxiety about self assertion.

I don’t need to say more now. Just this: it was a week to remember that I bought my first book from Shambala press in 1973. I still have that volume (by Chogyam Trungpa) 43 years later, which is really saying something — do you know how many books didn’t make the cut?

What happens to you when you don’t honor your basic preferences and how do you course correct?

Bitterly cold here again today and I hear that more snow is on the way.

Have a great weekend!