Wednesday, January 29, 2014

"All Patchwork", even when I'm not sewing.

Yes, I cannot wait to get back to quilt-making.

What has intervened? Let me provide a visual metaphor.

Let this ratty ironing board cover stand in for the kindle wars, marked by scorched-earth kik messenger battles, staying-up-all-night ambushes, and explicit-music-download skirmishes. I have had random command support functions (e.g., driving B. back and forth to school when she was kicked off the bus for a week). I was also self-recruited to a nonviolent body-piercing resistance movement and the snow day Special Forces team. Yes, foster parenting in the dead of winter has been quite the riot.

There is some progress. The Roxy quilt got finished up by my friendly long-armer, and delivered to a very appreciative recipient, who (great news!) has started courses at the community college and feels that things are finally looking up (if she could only get that homeless family out of her small apartment, where they're "doubling up"):

Look at that rich, ruby-red, wide-wale corduroy backing! Thank you, Zenia Rene, for encouraging me in that bolder choice.

I also had an apron order to fill for Wheatsfield Co-op in Ames. I've been making double-sided aprons with a "locally stitched" label for at least two years, maybe three. This has been the source of my scrap bounty. I've adapted two different patterns, the Chef Style and the Domestic Diva style, to fit one yard of fabric on each side (for ease of fabric purchasing). I usually get 2-3 square feet of scraps from each apron, although the shapes are curved and wonky.

(In case you sewists out there are wondering, yes, you are welcome to steal my business plan, which is: buy fabric for aprons, earn back cost of fabric by selling aprons, get 2-3 free square feet of scraps!)
Up next, I am excited to begin FMQ-ing the BF quilt. No, not for the boy friend. He fell by the wayside a long time ago. But the best friend has remained a stalwart presence and a "B. buffer" for me. I am so grateful to her. To remind you, here's the "snowball" top I made, plus a fun backing I bought -- yes, BOUGHT -- for the project (she deserved it).
As my friend Roxy likes to say, "Peace Out!"

“We are all patchwork. And so shapeless and diverse in composition that each bit, each moment plays its own game. And there is as much difference between us and ourselves as between us and others.”

— Michel de Montaigne


Sunday, January 12, 2014

Inventory Reduction

Today I attended a baby shower -- my second ever. This was a great chance not only to see some good friends, but also to reduce inventory (my whole purpose in life, remember?)!

This little jobby is made of a linen-cotton blend, so soft! The pattern, as you can see, is a wee bit vintage. I made it on a whim this summer, but had stopped short of the back fasteners (I chose Velcro) and a placket to sew them to. Now it is finished and has found a home!

I had a farmer's market booth this summer. My ambition to sell a line of children's clothing is one of the reasons I have so much fabric to burn through.

I had noble reasons behind the ambition. I wanted people to think about how much of our stuff is made in sweatshops where work conditions are disastrous. I wanted -- still want -- a 'local clothes' movement to grow, just as the local foods movement has grown. In fact, my "company" name is "locally stitched". Not only that, I wanted to encourage "reusing" and "recycling," and discourage "throwaway", so rampant in our society.

The idea of selling cloth diapers came from the Lakota reservation. I was being called every other week and asked to wire $20 so two teenage mothers who'd run out of money could get diapers for their children. On one occasion, I heard that those two mothers (sisters) were fighting over baby wipes. It seemed absurd. I made some prototype cloth diapers for them, developed the pattern further, and introduced the diapers to my market stall. I bought yards and yards of cute PUL (polyurethane laminate) fabric at an online shop specializing in all fabrics baby-related. Unfortunately, I found that the average customer didn't want to pay $15 for one diaper, no matter how much use they might get from it. The teenage mothers on the reservation didn't want them either, even though it meant not having to buy disposables. We've become that much of a throwaway society. 

Given this experience, I knew presenting reusable diapers to today's honoree would be presumptuous -- especially from someone who's never cared for a baby herself! -- so I stitched up this waterproof zippered bag of PUL instead. It's about 12" x 15". Surely a mom could make use out of this:

In the bag, I put a stack of flannel cloth wipes, single layer with serged edges. These can be used with a homemade cloth wipe solution (scented with your favorite essential oil!), and washed and reused instead of disposed of :

As a boon, an art teacher in attendance mentioned she'd prefer her kids to use cloth towels instead of paper towels for their cleanup. Maybe that can be a way to use up some of the excess fabric in my sewing room!

At some stage of this de-stashing program, I'll be making diapers or zippered wet-bags to use up the PUL, and you'll get to see that process in detail.

Saturday, January 11, 2014

To sew or not to sew...

I am struggling with a bout of melancholia...

First, as for the Star Quilt, my Lakota family did not receive it in time to give away at the funeral. The wake started at 5 p.m. on Wednesday and went through the night, with the service held the next day. The quilt arrived at the post office box at 9:05 a.m. Thursday, but my creation was not retrieved nor was it missed. Here is a picture of the casket, with the other, much more beautiful quilts decorating the hall:

A disappointment, but that is not all. I have been feeling stress about how much time I spend in my sewing room. My foster daughter complains to the therapist that all I do is work. My mother was the same way, and I had the same feelings about her, but I did not have the guts to complain about it. I just developed solitary habits, and went to my friends' houses. As an at-risk kid in foster care, with friends who we perceive to be largely "on the margins", B. does not have that luxury. We do not have that luxury.

If I had the choice, would I have had my mother be less of an artist and more of a mom? I don't know. The question causes sharp pain. I felt our home was a cold place growing up, but I am grateful for the richness of what we can share as adults...

I have been going through a bag full of woolens I scored from my mom's attic back in October to participate in Carli Heinrich's Crazy Quilt Sew-Along 2014. Here is my first block (I plan to do more embroidery:

The black-watch-plaid skirt I sampled in the corner is the uniform I wore to the Columbus School for Girls, through 12th grade. The white plaid in the upper right-hand corner comes from a ruffled shirt my mother sewed for herself from Viyella. The plaid in the middle and the two grays were the ends of legs the tailors removed when hemming my father's dress slacks (he was rather short). The colors and patterns, the smell and the scratchiness all brought me back to the 70s, when woolen plaids were in style, and wool rugs decked our floors.
(Even the drape of the lace echoes my mother's clothesline. She is 76 years old and has never owned a dryer!)

You can see I am deep in a state of longing for simpler, happier times. Or maybe those times were not that much simpler or happier; I just knew who my family was (and what I was supposed to do). My husband says, just wait it out; your mood will change. My dad would say, if he were still here to say it, "Sorry you're just feeling sew-sew." Oh, what a cut-up he was.

Tuesday, January 7, 2014

Family, Extended

I made this star quilt of denim to send to Green Grass, South Dakota for a funeral. My Lakota family lost a beloved sister / mother / aunt / grandma in the last week of December. They will give this quilt away to a guest at the funeral, as I was given a star quilt when I attended the funeral for Morris.

I had the pleasure of Brittney's company during the all-nighter it took to complete the quilt. A pair of her jeans, as well as several of mine and my husband's, are part of the quilt. She even helped tie some of the knots holding it together.

I hope it arrives in time for Thursday's funeral. If not, I know that the intentions of comfort that quilts carry will be felt by whoever receives it.

(The theme of roses comes from the deceased's name, Rosemary. I was told that Rosemary loved "small delicate roses". So, for the quilt's backing, I used this fabric that my mother had recently retrieved from the next-door neighbor's house and sent to me. Nettie Emig passed away in the late 70s, but some 12 yards of this high-quality cotton was still in storage. Growing up, I remember Mrs. Emig and her son as a constant presence on the other side of the shrubs, tending their generous flower beds or mowing their immaculate lawn. Once a year, they shared their love of flowers with the kindergarten class at the local elementary, but I got to visit anytime--peony season, iris season, and of course, rose season. I am grateful for the Emigs' neighborliness, for their extending the invitation to walk with them in paradise.)

Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Out with the Lint, in with the New Skills

I told you that my husband went off for the thread so that I could FMQ the Franken-quilt. Here was the conversation:
Him: I heard you might need some thread. I'm going into town.
Me: Why, I do. Thanks! Buy a big spool of Guterman. I could use a very light lemon yellow and a royal blue.
Him: That's all? Don't they have numbers or anything?

Ummm...I couldn't tell him how many yards a "big spool" is. I couldn't tell him what weight of thread ("just the regular kind"). I did know I wanted polyester, because I am afraid that cotton thread would shrink (any insights on this, quilters?). My husband, on the other hand, lives in technicalities. He is, in fact, a techie. He also likes a clean home. Why he chose me as his mate is still a mystery.

(Note: my friend and fellow-blogger Zenia turned me on to Connecting Threads, evidently a great source for inexpensive, high-quality thread. I placed a big order while my husband was out shopping).

As I quilted the Scrappy Solstice, a.k.a. Frankenstein quilt, I noticed a white skin of lint on all the dark fabrics. Evidently, as I was busy FMQ-ing the quilt, it was busy cleaning up my sewing room ('cause I sure wasn't). Sewing the binding only amplified this experience. Imagine encountering this monstrosity:

I admit housekeeping is a bit of a deficit. And I know that this not only impacts my family, but also impairs my machine's operation:

So I have decided for the new year: Out with the Lint! (better housekeeping) and In with the New Skills (like learning how to clean my machine! and paying attention to needle size, thread weight, etc.). After all, I just gained a new skill, FMQ! And one before that, blogging on BlogSpot! So maybe I shouldn't consider those other skills out of my reach.

So now, If you'll excuse me, I'd like to resume Operation: Dust Bunny Eradication. (My first mission was washing and drying the completed Franken-quilt.)

The "Scrapter-piece" back:

Close-up of FMQ:
(this is called the "meander" stitch. If I keep this up I'll need a bumper sticker that says, "she who meander is not [necessarily] lost!" or something like that):