Tuesday, October 12, 2021

Retreat, sort of

My interlude is drawing to an end, this coming Friday I will begin the new job. Weeks of leisure are coming to a close, and this is just a bit sad. I was getting used to having time to travel, sew, do this and that. But on the other hand it will be nice to reap the harvest of the past three harrowing years in form of a real job, so I supposed it will all be well.

At least the leisure time was rounded off with a very nice 2-day workshop in my favorite place to teach, the Petersberg Catholic Community College to the west of Dachau. Two days of 16 happy women sewing, we didn’t really stick to the ‘topic’ as had been announced in the catalogue, but very quickly everyone started working on various projects they had brought along. Several many-years-in-the-making items were finished, we had banned conversations about the pandemic, and everybody was happy.


My friend Regine and I stayed on for another three nights. We transferred the sewing machines, design walls and irons to our ‘family room’, which offered enough space for sewing. And we kept enjoying the perfectly timed meal times supplying us with a more than sufficient amount of food, no worries about preparing, cleaning up etc. A bit of walking in the morning, including the sunrise.


Twice we could sit out on the balcony in the sunshine in the afternoons, 


only today it has turned so cool that we must inadvertently admit that fall is on its way, and no sunshine either.

I had not brought any sewing for art, but simply for sewing for fun, and managed to start and finish the blocks for this second round using my templates for the ‘Free Wheeling Single Girl Ring’ by Denyse Schmidt. This time using up leftover workshop samples and some fabrics on which I had at some point tried out  shibori techniques.


It makes for a more unified impression than on the first attempt when I was using leftovers for the ring and the background fabrics. There is still a bit of work to do, squaring up and then sewing it all together, but I am happy with the result so far, so cheerful. Iris called it 'the pool party', with all these life-saving rings floating around. I like the image!

I also finally brought out the small Elna machine I had bought a few months ago – I am ashamed to admit I had not tried it yet. 


It has a perfect ¼ inch seam allowance and sews very nicely, I am very pleased. This is going to be my future workshop machine and I will have to see what to do with the wonderful Bernina 930 I have. (Which is my all-time favorite machine ever, but which has the serious drawback that it is an American machine and therefore always needs to be connected to a converter, which makes for heavy lugging around.) I used it to try out a ruler I acquired in August for some curved piecing, and it gave me a new idea for a next workshop, when the new catalogue needs to go to print and I have to come up with a title.

please ignore the imperfect center, this was just a sample,
figuring things out that were not given in the instructions that
came with the ruler

So we will pass one more leisurely afternoon here, with a visit from Regine's daughter tonight, and then tomorrow I am heading back home, for a new phase in life beginning on Friday.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Between Paris and Berlin

 After returning from the weekend in Paris with my son I had two days at home. These had been planned as a leisurely switch from one suitcase to another, preparing for a 10-day-trip to the North Sea with a return to the Yoga hotel I had spent a week at last year July, and an ensuing weekend meeting with some of the regional representatives of the German Guild for some sewing time and getting together ('team building' we called it in our post on Instagram).

The two days, however, turned out slightly more stressful than planned because they required some sudden action on behalf of my Senegalese friend and protégé, who had now indeed found a job, been given a contract, needed the work permit, which I had feared would take forever to get because German administrative offices with regard to foreigners and refugees tend to take their time. (I think they do that on purpose to discourage people, wear them down. But of course this is a very subjective and negative opinion about the issue, based only on six years of frustration, trying, keeping at it...) Luckily, a very insisting HR person in his new firm took matters into her hands, and although it did not go quite as fast as she had at first thought, within a week of signing the contract he could start work. Yet another step taken, we are getting even closer to the finish line.

So after these two days I took a train to the North Sea and spent a good week in the yoga hotel Kubatzki. Taking long walks on the beach, 


getting massages, going to yoga classes, once I took a bike tour to the lighthouse. 


It was very relaxing. I could have stayed a lot longer. When I had to leave I was wondering why on earth I had agreed to come to this meeting in Berlin... Not once did I take out my handstitching on the temperature quilt - that had to wait for the sewing time in Berlin, in fact. The first evening I went to the Brandenburg gate at night,

the next morning I did a bit of sight-seeing before everybody else arrived. For example, I checked out the newly opened Humboldt-Forum (which I didn't like at all!), went to an exhibit with photos by Robert Capa (in English, in German) in the New Synagogue (no photos allowed). And discovered a very dangerous yarn store right in the vicinity of the Synagogue, yarn over. This was - well, not necessary, but permitted because my friend Maike from Canada and I had met for 15 brief minutes at Hamburg main station, where she had given me two skeins of yarn from a 4-skein-order I'd had sent to her three months ago. For her birthday, she got to keep two of the skeins, and had the order to bring (and then send by mail) the other two the next time she came to Germany to visit her family. Which happened to be this particular week, and while she was going up north from Frankfurt, I was going south, and we would have had 40 precious minutes at the station together, each of us changing trains. Except for the fact that my train was delayed and it all narrowed down to 15 minutes - all of which was discovered while we were already on the train, thanks to social media. Due to this particular situation and because I knew I had one type of yarn at home which I wanted to combine with this new goodie,


 I allowed myself to get a third thread to combine them all together.

Acquired in Berlin...

and swatched with all three strands held together.


That's what happens to resolutions ("I will buy no more yarn until several options from the stash have been used!") when one is traveling...

As I said, I had not done any stitching on the temperature quilt, but did get around to it during our sewing time with the regional reps. Finished a whole month plus a week in two days, then the tip of my thumb was very sore.

Still a lot to go...

Monday, September 27, 2021

A dream come true

The weekend before this past one my son and I went on a trip together. When I had asked him in May whether he would like to join me I had not expected he would be interested, but he was – as long as Mom pays the bill, and he gets out of the pandemic stay-at-home for at least a little bit...

When we got to the airport, we both agreed that we had been really missing the atmosphere of such a place. I did notice, though, that is was considerably less crowded than I have seen the Munich airport before.


And then the feeling of being close to getting on board a plane...


We were a bit limited in our duration of the trip due to the fact that he is back in school now, and I had further plans coming up, and there were only three weekends to do this at all – because we were going to Paris to see the final (?) Christoand Jeanne-Claude wrapping, of the Arc de Triomphe.

I have written about my other attempts at seeing a real live installation-sculpture of theirs here. Has it really been eight years...? So when Christo died last year and I heard that the wrapping of Arc de Triomphe would still take place, I made a promise to myself that I would go.

Negotiations with the young one were a bit complicated as to how to shape the program around visiting the Arc proper, I probably would have just sat there for hours until in the middle of the night, but you can’t do that with a 16-year-old.

So we had booked a tour of the catacombs, on the way to which I dragged him across the cemetery of Montparnasse as it all was in walking distance from our hotel.


Then we went to see the Eiffel Tower, and he was duly impressed at how big that thing is. 


A boat trip on the Seine for the highlights, passing by formerly wrapped Pont Neuf and Notre Dame still under reconstruction.

 Of course we passed a former site of Christo and Jeanne-Claude's activity, the Pont Neuf.

I loved this wooden boat which we saw from the tour boat.


And I caught this man walking along the Seine, a picture that would well fit into a series of photographs I follow on Instagram, @josetorerowalkers. Not quite as spectacular as some of the pictures posted under that title, but I think it would fit.


Afterwards when we continued our way on foot, we passed a demonstration against the most recent health and safety rules of the French government, and the youngster was impressed by the amount of weapons the attending police were carrying. I didn’t dare take a picture of that.

And then... the first glimpse ahead, behind the trees.


Coming up onto it from one of the roads that show the narrow side.


And then the full glory. 


It was absolutely wonderful to be there. We were lucky with the weather – sunshine, to bring out the reflections of the fabric used. (We managed to get a couple of pieces as they were being distributed by the helpers.) It was warm, everybody on the Place d’étoile was smiling, and we circled around a number of times.


(Imagine here another hundred photos - which you can find on the internet... I am not going to post them all!)

We even came back the next morning, he patiently tolerated this whim of mine, did a few more circles around, and just as we were going to leave, a man came up to us whether we wanted to go up onto the platform, he had tickets which he could not use, but we would have to do it NOW as they were for 11.30 and it was 11.24. Up we went, enjoyed the view, and seeing the folds of the fabric on the top.


After that we went to Montmatre and let it all peter out before we had to go back to the airport. 


We did see the cathedral, too, but two stops in coffee
houses were just as important.

We had a great time together, the youngster was suitably impressed with the fact that my French got us around (his would not have been any kind of help!), he got a decent impression of Paris, I fell back in love with it after it must have been almost 30 years... What a wonderful way to spend a weekend with your 16-yr-old...

Sunday, September 19, 2021

Temperature Quilt, 2nd attempt


For the first week in September I had the house all to myself, and at some point I developed a stage of beginning Blues. Couldn’t go anywhere because of the strike on German trains, my husband and son were away with the car, longish distance biking still not possible due to the wrist, and no other activities in the exercise realm either. It was a bit weird – because during lockdown times I had sometimes thought it might have been slightly easier if I had been in lockdown by myself, now the guys were out of the house and I still wasn’t really content. Of course, it wasn’t lockdown, travel would have been possible in principle, only I was not physically able to go anywhere, nor technically equipped to do something interesting. I didn’t mind being by myself, I can do that very well, but I did mind being scooped up in the house despite without the real possibility to move about.

I figured sitting down with sewing was the most helpful remedy and went upstairs to work on my scrap project, which had already progressed a bit since the former post about it


There is more to the right, just not shown in the picture.

After just a few minutes, however, I got very itchy because we were finally having a few nice and sunny days and I really wanted to sit outside. I searched (and relatively quickly found) my temperature quilt project, 2nd attempt. I had started that earlier in the year but put it on hold when I realized how big it was going to be as I had not really calculated what the chosen block size would add up to. It would have been over 7’ in height, and that was just too overwhelmingly large. When I reported my dismay my good friend Kathy had suggested I scale down the block size, which was a wonderful idea but also meant I would have to take apart the entire first month which I had already assembled. Of course, I am glad I had assembled that first month and made it a vital part of the production process, because otherwise I would never have found out until much later that I was facing this serious size problem.

This temperature quilt is a hand sewing project, so sitting outside on the terrace was a perfect surrounding for taking it up again. 


I made new templates, which left the quarter circle at the same size but seriously shrunk the background. That meant I could take apart the first month in complete blocks, mark the background fabric smaller and sew it all back together. The work of one afternoon, and I got a few new blocks for the second month done in that sitting as well. 


Since then, several more afternoons on the terrace have followed. I take my box, sit in the shade on an umbrella, and stitch the individual blocks, assembling them right away in monthly strips. 


Orientation is determined by whether there was a rise or a drop in temperature, and depending on whether the difference is larger in the maximum temperature or the minimum temperature of the day. (Not fretting about it, because, strictly speaking, the four possible orientations don’t cover the entire range of possibilities that can come up.)

In this respect, of course, this temperature is not wildly original, there have already been many that did that. 


But I am juxtaposing two years: the past year, when I turned 55, and the year of my birth. The idea had started before I knew that 2020 would be the year of the pandemic and there wouldn’t be a whole lot of variation in terms of days out of town. (During my first attempt at a temperature quilt I had the trip to South Africa in August, which meant it could have been a difference in temperatures. Except for the fact that winter in South Africa is not much different in temperatures, at least maximum temperatures, than summer in Germany. Only the minimum was slightly cooler.) The difficult part in this concoction had been obtaining the data for my year of birth, which took several attempts, even almost led to the abortion of the project. But I managed to obtain those, and then the size hick-up... January 1965 will be followed by January 2020, February 1965 by February 2020, and so on.

Meanwhile, the project is growing. We have had a whole row of nice warm days, nicer and more consistent than most of the summer. While I have been stitching, there have been news that it was the summer with the most rainfall in Bavaria since who knows when, the hottest summer on average in Europe since the beginning of temperature records (except that it doesn’t feel like it for me), and the EU commission is passing a weird trade agreements which endanger the Amazon Forest, it’s been Earth Hour Day, hurricanes are sweeping the Southern US.

Tomato harvest has been pitiful due to the amount of rain we have had...

But sunsets have been very pretty lately.

 This quilt contains a lot of climate related thoughts indeed.

Wednesday, September 15, 2021

Serious Destashing.

A friend of mine had mentioned recently in a message that she needed to find some ways to raise funds to buy fabric for her group which gets together regularly and makes what commonly are called ‘heart pillows’ here in Germany: heart shaped pillows that are distributed to breast cancer patients on the respective wards. I admire and respect those kinds of activities, even though I don’t participate in anything like that. So I offered her that I would go through my boxes and pick out some fabrics that they could use. After all, there is an abundance of fabric stashed away here that will never get used, at least not by me in my lifetime. And as my husband has been talking more frequently about ‘downsizing in preparation for a next move’, even challenging me by boasting how much he has done... (yes, he did reduce his huge collection of CDs the other day, and I admit I have much more stuff than he does) I figured it wouldn’t matter at all to give away some of it. This activity developed into a serious crisis for the accessibility of my studio, but it turned into a flow eventually. 

Chaos that will hopefully lead to some sort of order...


In the end I posted a package with more than 17 Kilograms of fabric to this group (the carton in the upper picture, more on the right). I could have posted at least another package of the same size, but I withheld from sending ‘all my brown fabrics’ as I thought that color is not really appropriate for that purpose. Did get rid of almost all my pinks and purples, though. Not my colors, no need to hang on to them. And – do I really need three boxes of green? I hardly ever work in green, I wonder where all that came from. Lots of green scraps, too. Anybody want any? Just let me know!

A couple of days later,  this destashing extended itself into a thorough clearing of book shelves. My son wants to use the room where my longarm is not longer blocking everything, but there are book shelves in there. Our library. He wants those shelves to take up less space, i.e. dismantle at least one or two sections.

I have always been a book lover, and I love buying and having books. For a while I was regularly going to a Women’s Bookstore whose owner was a friend, to support the business, or I was collecting literature from female authors from the early 20th century. But my husband – correctly - keeps saying we need to size down as he thinks our next living quarters will be much smaller. So I went through the shelves, pretty rigorously, taking out books in three different categories: the stack to read now and then decide whether they will stay, the stack that can go to second hand books or the newly introduced book box in town, the stack which is not likely to find any appreciants around here (mostly English language books, alas, I don’t know anybody here who reads English). 

After I went through, the gaps are getting bigger.
Now it's my husband's turn, and then things will get pushed
closer together.


The rearranging of the room as such will happen according to the Junior’s plans.

As it turns out, I started on one of the books from the stack 'read, and then decide', and it happened to be a book I bought in 1994, then still an English academic person, so it has moved at least 5 times, if not 6 or 7, it might actually have come from the States with me. As it turns out, although the author is famous, and I do admire her for her position in literary history and some other aspects, this particular book proved to be rather dated with respect to certain opinions, and racism. I could perhaps tolerated it had I still been an academic, but since I am now only a reader for pleasure, I do take the liberty to not finish books that are too backward, or that don't catch my attention. I read only one of the three stories, started each of the other two, decided against them, and then it went into the bin. So Junior's desire has been helpful indeed.

Sunday, September 12, 2021

Knighted! (If that applies to females.)

 By my son! 16 years old, definitely not wearing a hand-knit sweater or anything like that (only socks), and very sensitive to things I say and do in public when he is around - so embarassing...! But. I was shown this sad item, which he had bought from his own money and couldn't remember or explain how it had been ripped.

Strict instructions, though, it must be as unobtrusive as possible. I am observing how he is starting to develop a taste, trying for a style, and he has style (and at over 6 feet tall already he will be handsome, let me tell you!), so I knew that the fact that I was being asked was about the highest kind of leap of faith I would receive. I must not disappoint those expectations. I knew I was not allowed to do anything like either of these, which might have been what I would have chosen had it been my own piece of clothing.

Especially the red piece would have been my personal choice, but this is only hypothetic playing around, for the archives of creativity. I went ahead and auditioned three different kinds of thread color.


The fabric piece was used as a backing from the inside of the rip, which, being located at the upper part of a pocket that probably receives a lot of use from thrust-in hands, is bound to carry a lot of strain.

The outline is meant to keep the fabric in place, and the rip is fastened to the fabric with a separate outline, too. And then a bit of stitching began.

At this stage I asked him how much more stitching he wanted, and he opted for 'that's enough'. I did mention that I wasn't sure how long this would last, but he was satisfied. The finished piece looks like this:

We will see how long it will last. And how daring I get allowed to be next time he lets me mend something for him.