Category Archives: In the Company of Cloth

notes from a quilter, collage artist, fabric collector


After being excoriated by a black woman in an email exchange (one that gave new meaning to the term “blind rage”) — I am looking around.

Where do I find solace, perspective, or meaning? In nature, for one. By being outside with Finn, listening to a death-themed “This American Life” as we make our rounds — enlivened by the expanse and chill quiet of morning hours. In the stretch of light in the evening as we approach summer.

Coming across quotes I jot down here and there (these two from On Being — I may not be able to track episode down but want to share anyway):

“Your level of true belonging can never be greater than your willingness to stand alone… I kind of hate that it’s true, but it’s just what I found”.

And a working definition of ‘civility’:

“Civility is claiming and caring for one’s identity, needs, and beliefs without degrading someone else’s in the process.”

Wow. Right?

Thinking about mortality helps in the aftermath of this ugly exchange too: how I am approaching the age-year of my mother’s passing (she was 62; I’m almost 61 and a half; I’ve already outlived my father by seven years); thinking about the heart as a pulsing muscle with a finite number of beats to beat (beat beat). What do I want my beating heart to fuel?

Lastly, a pearl of wisdom from the Tarot, where The Devil showed up in two back to back readings: “The main thing holding you back is your belief that something is holding you back”.

Amen to that.

Scripted and unscripted love

After reading Fiona’s post describing the making of her banner for Mo’s project (“I Dream of a World Where Love is the Answer), I decided I wanted my own embroidered “love”. So I stitched the word on a strip of walnut-dyed cloth just below an appliquéd heart. It seemed a good spot.

Have you noticed how often typing on a phone that one mistakenly types ‘live’ when one means ‘love’ or ‘love’ when one means ‘live’?

The quirks of a teeny iphone keyboard dishing up a philosophical message is emblematic of our age — for what is life without love?

To live is to love. To love is to live.

If one is loving, of course.

We were out of town this weekend and I got to witness the tender care my sister-in-law gave her 91 year old father. Did he need anything? Could she read his cards to him? Didn’t he look sharp in yellow and how about walking down the hall a little ways? I reflected on how my manner with my sister in no way approaches such soft, tenderness; how I could NEVER get her to walk down the hall a little ways; how impatient and defended I can be.

There are lots of reasons for the differences, reasons both exonerating and out of my control, but the weekend felt like an object lesson anyway.

Because it was also Kentucky Derby weekend, the guys made mint juleps.

The visits are always short these days and all the more precious for being so.

Overcoming with circles

Thank you for all the fun ideas about how to proceed with this little quilt. I went with a variant of Hazel’s and extended the circles of the “House clocks” in contrasting threads. I like how this disrupts the idea “house” on the one hand but on the other hand integrates the large orange planes of linen.

Speaking of orange, I made a carrot cake for a special birthday. Look who’s all excited.

It’s been soooo hot here. K said last night, “I just would like a couple of days in the 70’s”. Yeah. Yeah — otherwise known as “spring”. I slow down in the heat, which is a little worrying since I’m already to the point where a run to the drug store, a vet visit, and baking a cake constitute a very busy day.

Have a wonderful weekend all!

PS. Does anyone else feel as though politics is roaring toward a cliff? What a weird world we live in now.

Look what emerged!

Okay, if anybody’s yard is going to spit up a sewing machine foot, it would be a quilter’s, but really? How did it get outside and when?

After putting up with a pounded dirt backyard for three years, we got quotes to re-sod it. I’m not a committed suburban lawn grower — there are the sustainability issues, the possibility of poisonous treatments, not to mention the huge cost of weekly yard crews. But the mud is untenable. It’s not just ugly, it’s super inconvenient (think: four muddy paws at the back door ten times a rainy day). And that’s where I draw the line. My convenience.

The quotes were astronomical, so even with tree-insurance money, we’ve decided to do it ourselves. What else is new? I get it: two or three guys, a batch of hours, plus the cost of the loam and sod (and — pretty sure — a hefty mark up for a Newton address). Ugh. What’s a couple of grueling days to us?

Even with paying for the sod to be delivered and renting a tiller, we’ll come in at $1,000 cheaper than the lowest bid, which was itself $1,000 less than the next lowest bid.

While we’re at it, we’ll reduce the size of the north bed (and straighten it) and extend the bed at the back southwest corner. The plan is to plant some fairly mature scotch pines in the corner too — both to keep Finn from going nose to nose with another dog-reactive dog and to screen the lot line where three large trees have come down recently.

After a stretch of relentless insistence on ball play, I’m happy to report that Finn finally understood that he doesn’t run the show out back. After a while, he gave it up and relaxed in the sun. Meanwhile out front some marsh mallows (is that their name?) that I never planted are thriving. I love it when that happens.

A mini-clothes line nearby affords good back light for viewing a nearly finished Village Quilt. I’m pleased with the translucent quality of the gauze backing (90 weight), but need to figure out how to better integrate the two layers next time. There was some bubbling that I’m pretty sure could have been tamed with a traditional batting/cotton backing layering. Any suggestions? Maybe an all over invisible baste first (a la Jude/spiritcloth)?

Have a nice weekend all!

Maybe by the next post, we’ll have a back lawn (but my sister will not be unpacked. That is certain). Talking abut grueling days — Thursday, Move Day, was a total grunt — even WITH a crew of three movers and her PCA present for three hours.

Walking and waiting

Last week I hit the curb hard and ruined a tire. Today I paid the price. Three hours and umpteen dollars. Waiting seemed archetypal. Waiting for the tire to be fixed. Waiting for the tires to be aligned. Waiting for spring. Waiting for my sister’s move to be over, the younger boy to settle, the vacation to get planned, then, once planned, gone on.

A small space of discovery opened while walking behind the buildings across from the tire place. Just one or two buildings away from busy Washington Street, we found a surprising and welcome quiet. I couldn’t believe how quiet it was, actually.

The angles made by industrial buildings were stark against a very blue sky. Shadows had volume. There were distressed surfaces to love.

I came home utterly exhausted. Sewed. Ate an omelet. Took a bath. Now? Waiting for K to get home.

Before I go, though, this — we walked past the rehab center / nursing home that my sister spent ten days at last year. All those visits and I never noticed the “dead end” sign. Ha! You can just make it out below, faintly visible under a striping shadow.

She, actually, was the most exhausting part of my day. Fortunately for you, all the processing of a series of ugly, ugly moments went into my Daily Pages.

A skirt with a secret

A beautiful, vintage checked skirt came in the mail. Thank you, Mo! It’s very cool.  It’s machine stitched with a ruffle at the lower edge and features a draw string waist, with no additional closure.

The lower edge is reinforced with a blue and white ticking. I love the two prints together. I also adore the hand darned repairs.

Finally, there is a secret pocket underneath the ruffle.

Since it’s too shallow for a gun and not secure enough for a set of keys, I’m guessing it was used for money. A tube of lipstick, perhaps? What do you think?

The sense of a life lived, with all its secrets and tribulations, duties and flourishes, comes through this garment. I’m imagining a small resourceful woman in command of her manse — a woman equipped with a fierce will and a few tricks up her sleeve (and money in her hem!)

I’m not sure I’ll be able to stand to cut it up. But, eventually? You know me — the scissors often win out.