Category Archives: Dye

The Barn

Having this quilt on my wall for a while meant a couple of poor color transitions had time to prick at me. When I decided to give the piece to my brother for Christmas, I decided to tackle those spots before shipping it off. It’s not always advisable to attempt “improvements” of this kind.

First, I added some yellow in the foreground to pull the eye foreword and interrupt the blockiness of the patchwork.Stitched a few dark patterned strips on either side to lend depth and to interrupt what had been a distracting light area to the barn’s left.

And finally, I applied more hand quilting here and there and added some red bits to adjust the perspective lines on the cupola and far right eave (not terribly successfully).

The tweaks are okay. Maybe not what I hoped for. With additions like this, you always risk of either disrupting the spontaneity of the original design or of creating new problems while fixing existing ones.

This piece ran the additional risk of spoiling the (possibly impressive) fact that it’s almost entirely pieced.

Anyway. The upshot is that my remediation, successful or not, has whet my appetite for learning. How come I never learned perspective? Really? And, maybe it’s time to learn how to manage transitions more skillfully by attending to color values.

Wounded pattern, healing stitch

Here’s my finished contribution to Mo’s “I Dream of a World Where Love is the Answer” project. I wish making this pennant had afforded some answers. Instead, the embroidery mostly forced one queasy question after another. How will we move past this riotously awful period of history? Why are we being so battered by destructive ‘policies’, nihilism, and retroactive social ideas? How can seemingly intractable differences in world views ever be reconciled? Why do we live in a country where a sizeable percent of the population doesn’t think fact matters? How much of our republic will survive the hate-fueled attacks on its very fiber? Just getting through a news cycle anymore is fucking exhausting.

Mine is a pretty solitary life in a town that is, for the most part, progressive (and unfortunately, almost exclusively white). My relatives, with one exception, do not drink the Kool Aid (and by ‘drinking the Kool Aid’, of course, I mean watching Fox News). Even my media contacts tend fairly uniformly toward the liberal.

So, if one healing route is to find others with opposing views and have conversations with them*, count me out. Not doing that. Nope.

(Honestly, even though I understand its instructive value, I cannot even watch Fox News now and again to get the lay of the land).

I read “Hillbilly Elegy” last year and yeah, it was somewhat instructive, but I still don’t have the time of day for Trump supporters, in this case specifically, for coal miners who condemn others for receiving state assistance when they themselves are doing the same. I don’t understand, nor want to understand, defending a dying, polluting industry at all costs. Nope. Not my conversation to have. (And by the way, if JD Vance ultimately runs for office as I suspect he might and chooses to make facile references to ‘East Coast elites’, I will be the first to remind him that he graduated from the same ivy league law school as Hillary Clinton).

I read “small great things” by Jodi Picoult this summer. The novel tells the story of an African American nurse banned from touching a white supremacist’s newborn baby. It doesn’t go well. It was really hard to find any measure of sympathy for the racist characters in this book and not just because I happened to be reading it the week of Charlottesville. It’s because I have no sympathy for Nazi’s or any other form of modern day racist. Why would I want to talk with them?

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image by CNN

So, okay, skip dialogue. Prayer, then?

There’s also education.

The research I’ve done to set a novel in SC in the 1740’s has convinced me that without courageously facing our history, we are lost. We have to become aware of at least some of the gruesome details of American slavery. Then, we can acknowledge the lingering shadow and the ongoing harm. Otherwise, we will forever be torn apart by the history of human bondage’s after-effects.

Catch phrase: To deny racism is a form of racism.

The more I learn, the more convinced I am of this. In the introduction to “The New Jim Crow” Michelle Alexander makes the argument that white supremacy is a many-headed monster with regenerative power. When you cut one head off, another rears its ugly and savage face.

After education (and reflection), naturally, action must come*. Catch phrase (to quote Leslie Mac at an anti-racism training): “At some point, if you’re gonna dig a hole, someone’s gotta pick up the god-damned shovel.”

I used red seed beads to represent the blood of Africans who were kidnapped, transported and sold here. Their blood is a permanent feature of our landscape, as is the legacy of their labor. There is heft to this history. The fruits of enslaved labor are visible in many, many features of our built landscape, so it’s fitting that the lines of red beads are prominent and that they define whole areas.

The stitches took on the attributes of surgical repair in some places and of tailor-repair in others. I like how the stitched-down folds created texture when top lit and beautiful shadows when back lit. Imaginatively, the stitched repairs and the resultant shadows came to sometimes resemble a map and at other times, a scarred body. The act of integrating the dark cloth with the light cloth seemed at times to mimic the kind of healing process we all long for. 

In two places, I carefully ripped open the top silk to more clearly represent injury. Like the blood-red beads, the bands that resulted from the long tears suggest that our wounds are a permanent part of the American psyche. Stitching the edges gave me the hands-on, hopeful sense that maybe there is some vantage from which our nation’s wounds show up as things of beauty. The spirals were inspired by the carved stones at Newgrange, which I have personally visited. They suggest reverence for the earth, awareness of our small place in the universe, and mystery. Surely, healing will not come strictly from the mind, much as I might try.

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image by CNN

I cannot wait to see what Mo does with all of these — it’ll be extraordinary, that I know!

* Recent TED Talk called “Removing Your Filter Bubbles” by moveon.org founders made this very suggestion. Perhaps you need to be an extrovert and someone who moves in wider social circles than I do for this suggestion to have any possibility of success?

* On 2018’s To Do List: make sure none of our mutual funds invest in private prison corporations (if they do, shift money); offer frequent flier miles to a couple of Cambridge Black Lives Matter activists; continue to read black authors and buy their books; continue to follow and support criminal justice reforms here in Massachusetts; continue to oppose the totalitarian, racist regime in the White House with protests, calls to Congress, and more; learn more about the Louis D. Brown Peace Institute in Boston. Maybe (finally?) attend the Annual Slave Dwelling Project Conference. Continue with financial contributions to: the Southern Poverty Law Center, the NAACP, the Royall House and Slave Quarters (here in Mass.), the African American History Museum (in Washington, D.C.) Most importantly, to me personally: finish my novel featuring enslaved and elite characters to the best of my ability.

PS. I was reading Judy Martin’s blog this week and found a post full of so much process that I found familiar that it was almost spooky. Her poetic musings are wonderful and provocative.

PPS  In my fabric win, Deb Lacativa included four bobbins of her specialty threads. I am enjoying using them in this piece.

A Nutty Bonanza

And no, I’m not talking about my family (could be, but I’m not). This year, our two black walnut trees have produced a bumper-bumper crop. This, after two years of worrisome sparse production. Look how many have yet to fall!


Don’t you love their spicy scent? For me, a buoyant appreciation for the trees is somewhat corrective. Without even really knowing it, I generally direct a muted ire their way. Why? Because their roots emit a toxin that kills a remarkable number of shrubs and perennials — even hardy natives. I won’t enumerate the losses, but suffice it to say, that if my efforts over the years had thrived the street corner’d be better screened (a view rendered even more naked by the recent felling of my neighbor’s four dead hemlocks).

img_8908Initially, I used the squirrel-smashing rock to roll the nuts free of their hulls. But since I squatted in view of a driveway full of already smashed hulls, I gathered those. The popping sound of nuts under moving vehicles is a distinctive fall sound around here. This year, I’m determined to serve a bowl of the nuts at Christmas. Never have. There will be washing, air drying, and stowing involved and then it appears, a fair amount of work to reveal the meat. It’s an awful lot of labor for a mouthful of nut, isn’t it? So far, using the hose on “jet spray” to rinse the nuts is the most wasteful part of the process. I might add a soak prior to cleaning to see if it abbreviates rinsing.

The improvised drying rack might better be called “Squirrel Buffet”!

We are enjoying yet another incredibly beautiful fall day here in New England. I hope you all have wonderful weekends!

Unmoored


Laying down a strip at the base of Moon House quilt just now, I set the structure momentarily aside. And it struck me how apt that is: known angles canting off, the roof tumbling away in willful contrary movement, the house either about to crash back to earth leaving a splintered, uninhabitable pile of refuse or to improbably float off into the ether.


I think I’ll stitch it there. As I do, it will be a chance to sit with a conundrum. For what is anchoring down with thread that which is in free fall but a conundrum? Finn returning the ball poses a glad image of being airborne. I wish you could experience his grace, his enthusiasm, his boundless joy, how effortlessly he dwells in the moment. The house tipping over vs. the dog flying back to me for another throw.

Connecting 

 It is such a pleasure to stitch these Hearts for Charleston quilt squares together! It seems that there is an organic order. I’ve moved them around a little but the actual joining has easy.  Some line up. Some overlap. Most quilters added a healthy margin around the square which, as it turns out I’m including to some extent. This means that Mo’s square, which is exactly 10″ square, needed some additional cloth. Today I stitched it to a dark blue checked cordoroy that I cut from an old shirt. It won’t show much, but the color and checks will blend well.

 Tomorrow some friends come by for a first blessing of the squares. We will probably do this again in December.  

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

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?!