Thursday, June 1, 2023

Post Postal-Upset Syndrome, and more

Still recovering from my various experiences with the post office and the arrival of quilts which were supposed to be exhibited at the Patchworktage in Dinkelsbühl ten days ago. Not all of them made it (on time), one was returned to the sender, for one I am still waiting for some sort of notification. But I am not going to go into details about that anymore - and I am not writing about Dinkelsbühl here, perhaps in a separate post in a couple of days.

Last week Friday was a big day in our family. My son received notification of his grade point average regarding his High School graduation and is now in the official chilling mode after final exams. Parents are very relieved, and a bit surprised that he reached such good results with what to us seemed so little investment on his side... But we are grateful he is done with secondary school and can now start finding his own way, outside of the Bavarian school system which bedazzled me for most of the time after he finished 2nd grade, and which I think never was a good system for him to be in. Official graduation is still a few weeks away, tomorrow he and three friends are going to Italy with our family car for a week, and the empty nest feeling is creeping in. I am not quite as much beside myself as on his first day of school, though, and still have to admit I am secretely grieving. If only I could have had a couple more ... 

During the week prior to the announcement, while still waiting after his last exam, the two of us also had a serious talk about our vague plan (my carrot, to get him through school without having to repeat a year) of going to see the next solar eclipse in the US in April 2024. That happening, however, coincides with basketball goals and plans of his, and he was honest enought to tell me that those seem more important to him right now. As April is not entirely doable for me either due to various patchwork commitments on my side either, unfortunately I won't be going to see that eclipse. But we found out that there are several total eclipses coming up in the relatively near future and normally to be expected life-span of the ageing mother, and decided to grab as many of those as possible. I even typed the list into my phone. Which feels like making plans - however vague ones at this point - with a grown-up, so we are entering a new phase in our relationship. And that helps alleviate the creepy feelings of regret for not having been able to have more children when we finally had managed to have him. 

After I posted the quilt I made for my son's birthday in my last post, with a fabric I had custom printed, my good friend Kathy Loomis suggested I could use tiny scraps of this fabric in all of my quilts from now on, as a reverence towards the importance his early drawings had in my development as a quilter. I liked the idea so much that I am following up on it. Currently working on my next piece for the 20 Perspectives group, with a reveal later during this month, I have inserted a few snippets of the fabric on the design wall.

Detail from Monochrome, as of yet untitled.

Still love working in yellow. Even if these snippets are not yellow.

Sunday, May 7, 2023

Shipping News

View from my window last night


People who know me know that I am an avid writer of letters. I love to send parcels and packages. And to receive them. Well, the latter two I think I must now say "used to". Readers of this blog probably have read previous rantings of mine on the topic of sending internationally, mostly quilts - cost increase, customs regulations, you name it. Repeatedly I have stated that the fun of sending things either to friends or to exhibitions that are not within EU territory has definitely become a costly and very nerve-wrecking enterprise. I don't want to go into great lengths about it, here, again - but...  

For one thing, I bought a children's book used to send to a friend in the US. The book (plus shipment to me) cost me a total of €3. Sending it to the US cost close to €20. Not that I regret doing this, I knew it would be outrageously expensive, compared to the material value of the book. But do you understand when I say it is no fun anymore? This was a not so serious story.

My quilt "Everyone has the right", 


Everyone has the right (text messages)

which traveled with SAQAs "Forced to Flee" exhibition for more than three years was sent to me via FedEx  - which refused to accept my documentation of how the quilt had been in my possession, more so: made by me, but more than three years ago. Bill Reker from SAQA talked to FedEx people in the US, but those in Cologne would not accept that SAQA was paying all costs entailed and wanted me to pay for re-entry. It finally got sent back, and Bill and I have arrived at an agreement that a private carrier will bring the quilt to Festival of Quilts at Birmingham and I can pick it up there. That's one serious story.

The other story is that DHL, with which I had set up an address for delivery of numerous quilts either for exhibitions for the Patchwork Gilde's AGM or the annual EQA challenge, just so that my husband would not have to face opening the door for approx. 80 different deliveries, changed the setup of the automated P.O. box just recently. It doesn't recognize my app-registration anymore, and what used to be a relatively easy and well working arrangement has turned into a nightmare and extremely stressful situation. I know there are currently at least three parcels waiting for pick-up in that box. But so far I have not been successful in retrieving them. I spent a large section of my birthday this past week trying to figure out what was going on, talking to a 'service help' in Bonn, who, unfortunately was absolutely not help at all, "I don't know why it is not working, you will have to file a comment online", managed to catch and talk to the parcel delivery person who promised that the parcels would be taken out of the box and delivered to our door step within one to three days (we are currently between work days two and three), one of them has come. Another one has been announced as 'in the box', so there are still three parcels out there. I feel terrible. I figure I am responsible for these quilts as people entrusted me with taking them to the AGM or collecting them for FoQ. I need to document and measure them and fill out forms so other members of the Guild's board can do their job filing insurance values etc. - I am letting them down - 

I haven't slept well in several days and the whole situation is completely blocking me. That was a second serious story. Currently with an open end.

I haven't been able to calmly sit down and do some stitching, I jump up after a few minutes, doing this, fuzzing about that. The only thing I managed to do, after finishing my son's birthday quilt (which he liked well enough, not going into a frenzy of excitement, but I suppose that would have been too much to expect from an 18-yr-old) was that I started a "Sweater, somewhat slanted" after a pattern by "a field guide to needlework"'s Sarah C. Swett. Despite the current and still valid regulation that I may not cast on anything new as knitting project until at least two more have been finished... but this sweater starts with a single slip knot as a first stitch, which in my opinion doesn't count as proper casting on. 


There is a story behing this project which I will talk about at some later date. The first time I saw this sweater on Sarah's feed I thought I would have to try this, but I was going to figure it out by myself, and I was going to start from the lower end of one sleeve and knit it all in one piece from there. For a specific reason I have now gone ahead and bought the pattern proper, and knitting it in between studying sessions (I have a small exam coming up next Thursday to show that I have learned the necessary basics about dialysis etc.) and fighting against metal postal boxes it is a soothing activity indeed. 


Using up stash yarn, another regulation these days.

And tonight I will attempt once more to retrieve those quilts... keep your fingers crossed for me!

Tuesday, May 2, 2023

African Fabrics and scraps of life

 As I was doing some gardening the other day, trying for yet another field of sunflowers

and preparing and sowing a space on the side of the lawn where I want butterflies and bees to hang out

and enjoying my abundance of tulips

I also encountered this water-filled wheel-barrow (with a disfunctional tyre, definitely need to get that fixed!) 


and thought about what an interesting place to put some eco-dyeing in this might be if I were attracted to that activity. As it is, I only took photos and a little video and went back to digging, listening to the birds, trying to identify them with my app ("uncertain analysis - human", when our noisy machine-prone neighbor is again running one of his zillions of machines) and thinking about life and passage of time.

Yesterday evening I sank the last threads on my baby's 18th birthday quilt

and as we were burning the birthday candles this morning

on the birthday train that has been serving us since his completion of the first trip around the sun - it has been lacking the appropriate numbers for many years now because they stop at 6, I mean, who would stop using this train when the child starts going to school? (but, note to self: it might be worth looking for additional numbers, perhaps...) - my feeling of slight melancholia at this progression in his life span continued. He is in the middle of final High School Exams, so no grand party today as he has an exam tomorrow, but he took the car entirely by himself this morning, no more assisted driving. I never gave a thought to how my mother felt as her three children turned into adults one by one on this conventional date of beginning of adulthood. I wasn't even home, I was spending the year in the US, and to be honest, I don't have much of a memory of how we spent the day there... 

In any case, this is the finished birthday quilt, with all threads sunk - please excuse the bad lighting.

My listening experiences during commutes to work have recently given me more intricate knowledge about the history of African Wax fabrics, which I have liked for a long time, albeit not used much in my quilting or making. The Haptic&Hue podcast episode on African Wax cloth is a rich reservoir of details and information that I absolutely enjoyed listening to, even though I had known some of the aspects connected with the topic. The vibrancy of the colors and the pride connected to wearing these fabrics is very impressive. I had not known the entirety of the colonization process that lies behind this story however, and it made me think more intensively about how much the world is connected, how little of our daily things we 'use' or understand as pure, or traditional or 'ours' remains just that. It makes the entire discussion around "cultural appropriation" just a lot more complicated. (There is a shop in Munich, including an online store, where you can buy traditionally cut Dirndl-dresses made from African Fabrics: Noh Nee. Which side is appropriating which in this case? The dresses are gorgeous - and if I were ever to wear a Dirndl, it would be one of theirs... I think I will take a detour on a trip tomorrow to finally go and look at this shop, which I have been wanting to do for a long time.)

When one of my senegalese friends went home to visit her family recently I asked her whether she would mind to bring me back a 'bag of scraps' from the market, because I had an idea for making a quilt. She has recently returned - and this is the bag of scraps she brought:

It's big. And sewn together.

She says she tried several times, explaining what she wanted, but the merchants would not comply, even though they agreed they would save some scraps in the next days. Every time she came back, they had sewn them together already, giving the younger sewists practising time on sewing on the maching, and wanting to sell the top. She says she had told them she would pay the same price for the weight or whatever they wanted - no chance. Finally, she went ahead and bought a whole top, suggesting I should just cut it upand make from it whatever I was planning to do. That I can't get myself to do right now - because I hate unpicking, for one thing, and just cutting it up feels disrespectful to the tailor's work. 

I may take off just two or three of the strips and cut those up for what I was planning. That way the entire piece would remain sort of intact - I could add a border? and quilt it? because it is unfaced right now - and still start on my African Scraps quilt... Well, right now there are a few other things in the pipeline, I can still think about it for a little while.

Sunday, April 9, 2023

What on earth was I thinking...? Part 2.

It is still supposed to be spring, but it has been so cold that the magnolia has frozen and there won't be many blossoms that will still open when it perhaps, finally, eventually warms up a bit.


As I am plowing through my moment of What-on-Earth-was-I-thinking I am also wearing my philosopher’s daughter hat. Recently I finished listening to Michelle Obama’s audiobook of “The Light We Carry”, in which she writes in detail about what knitting has meant to her during the early days of the pandemic, and what it can mean in anybody’s life. Yesterday that was added onto with an episode of “TheLong Thread” podcast, in which Melanie Falick is being interviewed about her book “Making a Life” and her investigations into the importance and meaning of making for our mental health and survival. I have been knitting for nine tenths of my life, with only a few years of interruption due to tendonitis, when I felt a severe sense of loss and disorientation because I could not knit any longer. That’s when I really got into quilting, replacing my yarn stash with a fabric stash. Of course, when I was pregnant I tried to knit a baby jacket, thinking ‘that can be done even when you’re prone to tendonitis’, and nothing serious happened, and then I knitted a pair of socks, and then several dozens more, and a jacket and another, and now there is a yarn stash and a fabric stash. And the fiber stash for spinning.

In terms of techniques of making, I have tried many. Sewing, knitting, crochet (not so much mine), Brussels Lace (great technique, but the results are not my style, even if done ‘modern’), macramé, embroidery, weaving, bookmaking (Loved that – might get back to it?), basket making (loved that – but it’s not easily done parallel with any techniques that require relatively soft skin on your hands), paper making…

While I am stitching my 24 full moon symbols into the temperature quilt, re-visiting some of the embroidery stitches from Mary Thomas’ Dictionary of Embroidery Stitches, which had been a beloved reference for A Scrap A Day already, I ponder about the tendency of the thread to run out just a little before the circle is complete (a parallel phenomenon to the empty bobbin in the sewing machine approx. 12 inches or so before the seam is finished). 


Or about how come that, although I really try to be careful and take precautions I think should be good enough, the needle tends to stitch through the embroidery thread at some point, jamming up, delaying the process considerably, if the mess can be undone at all. (No photo of this unpleaning situation! I refuse to photograph moments like that.) Some stitches are more prone to this malaise than others, unfortunately they have the tendency to be my favorite stitches, such as the French knot, or Coral Stitch. 

Elongated French Knot, dangerous.

Scroll Stitch, a bit dangerous.


Or whether it matters that the stitched full moons don’t seem to be very noticeable overall in the piece when seen from a little distance. Only a closer look makes them slightly more obvious.


These musings, of course, don’t compare in significance to those on the importance of knitting and making for well-being, physical or mental. In fact, I never really thought about that, I just was happy enough knitting and spinning and making and did not feel the need for thinking about this. But I do remember a sense of gratitude when reading Alice Starmore’s “Book of Fair Isle Knitting”, and particularly the first chapters, because finally there was somebody taking knitting, its history and development seriously. Not just something women did to keep themselves occupied.

And as for the unhappy tendency of the embroidery needle to stitch through the thread and get it all jumbled… there must be a way to avoid that more successfully than I can. Right now there are only 3 full moons left to embroider, and then I will put away the embroidery threads for a while again, there are other temptations out there waiting to be tackled. A new challenge for the 20 Perspectives Goup, for example. But right now, 21 full moons down, three to go.

Tuesday, April 4, 2023

What on earth was I thinking...?

 It's spring. 


It's cold. But the magnolia is getting ready, 


and the blackbird, too (sorry, not a good picture, but I did not want to disturb her more, this picture was taken with a strong zoom factor.)


It's the month when - hopefully - a bit of a new phase will start for me. Working fewer hours, earning less money, of course, but hoping for a bit more time for creativity, caring for my family, gardening, life.

It started off well enough - first three 'working days' of the month (yes, Saturday counts as a full working day in dialysis) were off, and I took the opportunity to visit my parents and squeeze in a day at Nadelwelt Karlsruhe. Travel on Friday, the beginning of Easter vacation was a bit cumbersome with canceled train, delays and very busy. 


But I always had a seat, and when I don't have any urgent appointment waiting for me at the end of the journey, I usually prefer traveling by train. Going by car would have been so much more work, and Friday afternoons is bound to be caught up in traffic jams, too.

The Nadelwelt on Saturday, where I have been a vendor with my fabrics when I still did that, but it's fun to be there just as a visitor and steward for the members' exhibition of the PatchworkGilde Deutschland. 


I was most impressed with the two individual exhibitions by Ulla Hoppe, "Eine Frau sieht Rot" (A Woman sees red - the title is a pun on the saying 'jemand sieht rot', which means 'to get very angry/lose it')

"A Woman sees (through) red" by Ulla Hoppe.


and Textperiment, a group of four women who combine found metal scraps with textiles.

"Verdreht" (warped) by Susanne Oehlschläger

After I had left a bag under the table at the Gilde's stand I went to fetch it on Sunday and turned that into a chilly but nice bike trip down from the early hills of the Black Forest to the location of Nadelwelt, trying out how macro my phone lens will go on the way.

Return journey home was much smoother on Monday, and now I have seriously taken up the needle to finish the temperature quilt. Throughout March I had participated in @amyscreativeside's 'ig-quiltfest', was most frequently a day late with my posts and only skipped one prompt entirely, but had felt a bit at a loss about posting something for the prompt 'what was I thinking?'. When reading the list of prompts beforehand I had thought of a different direction than Amy eventually suggested in her daily explanation of the prompts, which appeared in my feed later than I had posted this one. That's the thing with time difference and dates, when Europe is ahead of the US. But now I certainly have a 'what on earth was I thinking'-moment. The circles Barbara Lange and I took out when I was longarming at her house recently and messed it up are supposed to be symbols for the full moons of the years encoded in the quilt, and when it happened I thought, oh, well, not toooo bad, I will just do those by hand, a bit of embroidery is going to make it more interesting. Yeah. Twenty-four circles, the stitch holes are very visible, and must be covered ... here we go.

At present, seven circles down, 17 to go.

Sunday, March 26, 2023

How to fail...

When I was getting my Masters in English Literature, I wrote a thesis “The Function of Language in Feminist Dystopias”. Amongst the four novels analyzed was Margaret Atwood’s “The Handmaid’s Tale”, 

My well-worn copy of the book, by Virago Press.

which at that point had not been put into film yet, that followed a little later, nor had Netflix been invented and the series that everybody rages about now been made.

About a year and a half after writing the thesis, I had the opportunity to go to a reading by Atwood, and in the aftermath, of course, went to have a book signed. 


I told her that I had written a thesis on the Tale, she replied ‘Did you?’ and immediately turned to the next person in line. I was, perhaps understandably, mildly taken aback at the utter lack of interest on her side. It took me a while to overcome this reaction, which I considered a severe rejection of my groundbreaking discoveries. (Nevertheless, I did continue reading her books and enjoying her wonderful style. And went ahead and bought her newest book of stories just as it came out recently.)

Only rather recently did I understand that she was probably getting that kind of information about fifty times at every single reading she was doing, and then finally the intelligent me went on to figure out that if I had written a very successful novel I probably wouldn’t be terribly interested in hearing what any literature student who came along would analyze into it either. So I have forgiven her for the rebuff and made my inner peace with her. This was also partly due to a long radio documentary on Margaret Atwood on Deutschlandfunk radio that I listened to. It featured a lot of her original voice, even though it had the fault of voice-over translation, but nevertheless there was enough of her wit and spirit to catch beyond the translations. I have been following Margaret Atwood on Instagram (@therealmargaretatwood), and there she pointed out recently that she had started a Substack, so now I follow her there as well (In the Writing Burrow). On Substack she mentioned that she had been interviewed by ElisabethDay for her ‘wildly successful’ podcast ‘How to Fail’. While I was waiting for the episode with Atwood to be published I listened to a number of episodes with those celebrities whom I had heard about before (such as Jane Goodall, GretaThunberg, Tom Daley, Bernadine Evaristo, and others) , going backwards in time, plus a few others that happened to come up when one episode was finished while I was driving and couldn’t switch to another program.

Hearing about so many kinds of events that could be considered failures in people’s lives, but that ‘ultimately make us better’, of course, made me think about my own failures. And how I would talk about them should I be interviewed for that podcast, which won’t happen, because I am not a celebrity of any kind. Quilting related (somewhat), these three failures of mine could be mentioned (Day always asks her interviewees to provide three failures that are then talked about, though not exclusively, in the episode).

I am a complete failure at self-promoting, and therefore never managed to really get my ‘business’ for longarm quilting commissions off the ground. Although I had fallen in love with the machine, and enjoyed using it as such, I really did not enjoy quilting for others. The machine was in a small room, which was completely blocked by it and my husband finally mildly pressured me to pass the machine on to a friend. Where I can still use it when I want, but I have to make time to travel there, can’t just hop up the stairs and quilt for an hour, and, of course, I have lost the bit of practice I had attained. Last week I did go to her place and quilted my temperature quilt, which is bound to be shown in exhibition in May and still needs some work. 


A lot of things went wrong, including that I failed to pack the batting I had chosen, had to go out to buy some at the local store, which was of a completely different quality and forced me to change the planned ‘destination’ of the quilt. It will be a quilt to put on the wall. Ripping out 24 circles followed, and the realization that the lack of practice leads to a less satisfactory appearance in the end. Oh well – it will appear in public once, and then be a private thing.


 After all the work that went into handsewing the blocks, however, there is a bit of a disappointment to be felt, I admit.  

Second failure: Last year I learned that SAQA was putting out a call for an exhibition “Color in Context – RED”, and really wanted to enter. I have an idea, I have collected things and fabric that were going to go into this quilt – but I failed to even start it. By now the deadline is well past, the entrants have been chosen. I have heard that there were around 500 entries, out of which approx. 46 were chosen. At least this failure saved me from failing to get into the show. And I can still start at some point, without the pressure to meet a deadline because I do want to make that quilt.

Third failure: Recently I finished the top for my son’s 18th birthday quilt. This is supposed to be more grown-up in appearance than the one he himself designed when he was smaller and I had finished a lot of HSTs in blue and orange, and he wanted a quilt for himself.


For this new top I had fabric printed on demand with a photo of a piece of paper with his handwriting on it. The design is nothing fancy, just using the Free Wheeling Single Girl template set by Denyse Schmid once more, to make them their money’s worth. 


It’s a wonderful top, nothing of a failure here – but sometimes I feel like I have failed to install some of my personal values in my son’s brain. Of course, he is a different generation than I am, has grown up in a completely different world than I did, and it is not that he is a troublemaker or drug addict or anything of the kind. He is a good ‘big boy’ now, he still talks to me (sometimes), although it feels like it is hard to reach into his inner thoughts, he is finding his way. In a manner that is quite different from especially my husband’s imagination of how the son should be going about, then the husband laments about this to me, which increases my feeling of failure, although I figure the boy just needs a bit more time, he will be a great success at some point. But he’d rather take the car anywhere than go by bike – I strongly prefer to take the bike anywhere I can possibly go rather than taking the car, he is, as I said, finding his way. And I am failing at being patient, letting him go at his own pace. What can I do about this? Keep calm, quilt on, and have another go at the longarm for his quilt, hopefully without major catastrophes this time.

Saturday, March 4, 2023

Too many temptations!

There are many things on my plate right now. Perhaps a few too many, to be honest. And yet I feel the lure of temptations over and over again, to start yet another project. It takes a lot of strength and energy to resist these temptations, to say ‘no’ and concentrate on things that need to be finished, or finally get around to making real projects I have been planning for a while already.

No, it is not a good idea to sign up for a 4-meeting online course at weird times due to the person offering the class living in a completely different time zone. (For one thing, I would have to negotiate about my work schedule and make sure I could really attend those sessions.) No, I don’t need another set of rather expensive plastic templates for a difficult pattern, thank you, although I like the pattern that could be made with them. (That decision concerns template set no.3, I did cave in with one ruler that I had sent from the US and paid dearly customs fees for, 

The HuRTy by Latifah Saafir, my newest posession.

Precuttings that I am using instead of sew-on-sew-off squares
right now, which will result in another quilt that sewed itself,
in due time. That's the intention, at least.


and another set is being brought to Germany from Australia via personal carrier, my many-years-pen-pal’s daughter who has just arrived here for a year abroad during her university studies and will use the set as incentive for her first trip to a German post office one of these days.)

And yet I have to admit that I did commit for one thing and sort of committed for another. The first one I haven’t started on – it’s the Swiss Guilds “Round Bobbin”, for which I have received the bobbin, and the list of prompts, and even THOUGHT about an idea what to do for the first one, ‘paper’. 


The other, ‘sort of committed’ is that I am participating in the German Guild’s Sew-Along 


which started recently, with the topic of Sea/Ocean, combined with the Alphabet. I did make a personalized version of the first block, an island. 

I won’t make all blocks suggested, as they seem to be rather appliqué-oriented and I am not much into that technique. However, I am planning to substitute for those I omit by making other ocean-related blocks. I may even make some of the letters, but not sure about that yet. The sew-along is free for anyone to participate – if you are quick. For one week each pattern will be freely available on the Patchworkgilde’s website here. After that the pattern is moved to the members-only-section and you would have to be a member to access it. (Instructions in German.)

I am happy that I could send off ‘Mellowed Yellow’ three weeks ago, as it got juried into the German Guild’s Tri-Annual Show “Tradition bis Moderne”. I had entered two different quilts, and out of the two I prefer that Mellowed Yellow got chosen. The show will open in April in Dinkelsbühl, Germany, where it will be on display throughout and beyond this year’s AGM and Patchworktage. After that it will travel through several German towns for the next two years, and it will be shown at EPM in Ste. Marie-aux-Mines in September. 

Mellowed Yellow, started during Corona lockdown to keep my sanity...


One thing on my mind that is not strictly quilt-related is the fact that my ‘baby’ will turn 18 in the beginning of May. He has grown very tall and is going to graduate from High School in June (although I sometimes fear that his chilling attitude is just a little bit too chilling, but…) Of course, in a way that is quilt-related, too. I have been meaning to make him a grown-up quilt for his birthday, to substitute for the little-boy-colors one he himself did the layout for several years ago. I have started cutting the new one,


including some fabric I had printed from a picture of a notebook page with his little-boy-handwriting I found amongst some discards along the way. 

But if I do want to present him with at least the finished top I better get to work on this one seriously. No time to give in to temptations of various kinds! How good that I have reduced my work load and will only be working three days a week starting in April.