Hands in the garden

Hands in the garden

Hand quilting

Hand quilting

“If there is any one thing that’s unhealthy in America, it’s that it is a whole civilization trying to get out of work — the young, especially, get caught in that.  There is triple alienation when you try to avoid work:  first, you’re trying to get outside energy sources/resources to do it for you; second, you no longer know what your own body can do, where your food or water comes from; third, you lose the capacity to discover the unity of mind and body via your work.”
—  Gary Snyder, from The Gary Snyder Reader:  Prose, Poetry and Translations

I am of two minds about people (affluent people) who hire housecleaners to clean up their messes at home or laborers to mow their lawns and pull weeds.  On one hand, I think people should clean up after themselves.  And I hate the sense of my time being more valuable than yours, so you do the dirty work.  On the other hand, if you can afford it, why not hire people so that your time is freed up to focus on the things that are most important to you.  And hiring people creates jobs and extra income for entrepreneurs.

What do you think?

“Some of the most common ways in which a craft object attains meaning for a respondent are through information coded into the object by the maker; through the experience of discovering or acquiring the object; through a personal connection with the maker; and through provenance or projection. The object may acquire meaning at first contact — it may, as one passionate craft curator recently said to me, ‘touch your heart’ — or it may accrue meaning over years of use. However it happens, objects ultimately possess meaning to the extent that they affect or confirm the stories through which a respondent constructs his identity and orders his world. The more central those narratives are, the more meaning the object has.”
— Peter Korn, Why We Make Things and Why It Matters: The Education of a Craftsman

“Objects carry both history and desire.”
— Priscilla Long, The Writer’s Portable Mentor: A Guide to Art, Craft, and the Writing Life

“Anything a hand has touched is for some reason peculiarly charged with personality.”
— Richard Holmes, Footsteps: Adventures of a Romantic Biographer

Bear Paw quilt block

Bear Paw quilt block

Finished quilt top, ready to hand quilt

Finished quilt top, ready to hand quilt

Quilts represent my love of handmade things.  I chose as my ninth “life object” this unfinished quilt that I am making.  The top has been pieced for several years.  I have yet to sew it to batting and backing and hand quilt it.  I have a good track record of finishing projects like this, so I trust that someday this quilt will be ready to use and display.  The unfinished aspect of this object reminds me that, for me, the creating and making are just as rewarding and pleasurable as owning the finished product.

“The profit of work is in the doing of it.”
— Richard Quinney, Once Again the Wonder

My mother sewed clothes, but she did not quilt.  I don’t remember my grandmothers making quilts either.  But my oldest sister Sandy, a home economics major, was and is passionate about quilting, and over the years she has passed on some skills to me — how to make my own binding, how to miter corners, how to applique using Wonder Under, how to cut and piece using Square-in-a-Square, etc.  So my quilts connect me to my sister, which is very comforting.

Quilting appeals to my frugal nature.  I like the idea of taking scraps and leftover fabric and sewing them together to make something useful and beautiful.

“The act of piecing a patchwork quilt is both utterly practical and powerfully symbolic. It’s an act of reclaiming, saving, mending, and unifying. The result, the quilt itself, solves a basic problem — the need for warmth — but it represents much more: the quiltmaker’s resourcefulness, wishes, and fierce opinions; an attempt to make something beautiful out of what otherwise might have been wasted; and the desire to make some kind of peace.”
— Katherine Bell, Quilting for Peace: Make the World a Better Place One Stitch at a Time

And I like the contemplative nature of quilting, its rhythms — repeating color blocks and stitches — and the lessons it teaches me about taking large projects a step at a time and, in time, accomplishing something quite wonderful.

“When we work with our hands and build something, we learn how to sequence our actions and how to organize our thoughts.”
— Robert Greene, Mastery

“I had often wondered if there was some neurological link between the gentle repetitive action of your arms wielding a broom or your hand stirring a pot and the ideas that filtered through to the front part of your mind; some fusion between physical action and creative ignition.”
— Debra Adelaide, The Household Guide to Dying

“It’s only when what we learn while we’re doing what seems to be basically routine that really counts; how to endure, how to produce, how to make life rich at its most mundane moments.”
— Joan Chittister

Several years ago, I created a private blog, “Handmade by Rosemary,” for the purpose of documenting the quilts and quilted things I have made over the course of two-plus decades.  I kept it private because I made quite a few references to family in it.  But I’ve just edited the blog to make it available for public viewing.  There are 46 posts in all.  (No recent posts because I haven’t been quilting lately!)  If you want to view the entire series and see the quilts I’ve made, you can link to the first post above and then make sure you scroll all the way to the bottom to see the links (arrows) to the next post, and the next, and so on.

I’m at a point in my life where I am deciding whether it is time to get rid of my boxes of fabric scraps and maybe even make gifts of some of the quilts I’ve kept.  I am not sure whether I will want to make more quilts in the years ahead or whether I will instead pursue other creative projects.  You can see from my blog archive above that I have plenty of quilts to last my lifetime!  Do I need more?




Patching Blue Jeans

March 2, 2012

Newly patched blue jeans

Time to patch another pair of blue jeans.  I had worn a hole in the knee, but denim is such a durable cloth that the rest of the jeans were still serviceable.  The colorful, log-cabin quilted patch will give new life to these jeans.  This patching project was quick, pleasurable, and satisfying.

Hole on the knee of a pair of blue jeans

Finding fabric for the patch from the scraps of my scraps

Sewing a log-cabin quilt block from the scrappy strips

Big enough

I used adhesive bonding to hold the patch in place.

Then I machine-sewed the patch to the jeans along the outside edge of the block.

Finally, I hand-quilted along the inside seams.

All done. Patched jeans. Ready to wear again.



My Latest Quilting Project

February 3, 2012

“Any day spent sewing is a good day.”
— Author unknown

Twilight Village place mats

“Our lives are like quilts — bits and pieces, joy and sorrow, stitched with love.”
— Author unknown

I finished piecing and hand-quilting another project, two placemats.  The pattern is called “Twilight Village” and I found it in The Thimbleberries Book of Quilts by Lynette Jensen.  The placemats will be a gift for a young couple as they start their married life together.

Detail of house and star blocks

Signed by the quilter!

Re-Purposed Dresses

October 17, 2010

My daughter wearing a dress given to her by her Samoan host family

When my daughter was in high school, she took a school-sponsored trip to Samoa where she stayed with a host family.  During her stay, they sewed and gave her several cotton dresses.  Now that she has graduated from college, my daughter has started going through her old things, deciding what to keep and what to donate to Goodwill.  Among the things she was ready to pass on were several of her Samoan outfits.

I know that she will likely never again wear these dresses, but it seemed hard to just give away such lovely gifts.  I decided I’d take one or two dresses and re-make the fabric into table runners and placemats, so that she can still have a keepsake of her trip, but in a usable form.  Here are the table linens I pieced from a blue print dress:

Pieced table runner and place mats from Samoan fabric

I used the “Safari” quilt block design that I found in the quilt book, New Cuts for New Quilts: More Ways to Stack the Deck by Karla Alexander.

Piecing a quilt top on my dining room table

I accomplished one of my goals — piecing a quilt top — during the library’s unpaid furlough week.  I started this project years ago, and finally got 16 Bear Paw blocks pieced.  The pattern, called “Big Bear Lodge” by Country Threads, actually called for 35 Bear Paw blocks, but I decided to make a wall hanging instead of a bed quilt so I could stop after 16 blocks.  And then those 16 blocks sat in a pile for even more months.  It definitely was time to finish this project.

I set up my sewing machine on the dining room table, plugged in the iron nearby, and got out my stash of red and off-white fabric scraps.  Then I sewed for a good part of three days.

First I sewed the 16 blocks together in a square separated by narrow strips of sashing.  Then I sewed 124 Flying Geese blocks, in assorted reds, for a border.  Each Flying Geese block is 1-inch x 2-inches in the final quilt, and it took me one full day to sew all these tiny blocks.  Finally, I sewed the Flying Geese blocks into strips and sewed them, as a border, around the Bear Paw blocks. 

I finished the piecing, but I’m still not quite done.  I still have to find batting and backing and hand quilt it.  That will be a project for this winter.

I think this is one of the prettiest quilt tops I’ve made! 

Sewing the Bear Paw blocks together with sashing

I always press each seam as I go.

Piecing 124 tiny Flying Geese blocks

The dining room floor while I'm working

We can't eat at the dining room table while I'm quilting.

Starting to sew the Flying Geese blocks together, then pressing flat

Assembling 31 Flying Geese blocks into a long strip for the border

And here's the pieced quilt top, called "Big Bear Lodge" by Country Threads