Thursday, December 31, 2020

After 2 Weeks of Lockdown... (diary of recovery)

Yesterday, Germany had been in lockdown for 2 weeks, and already there is talk that it might be extended. For the first phase numbers of infection kept rising, recently they have gone down a bit, but within the last twice 24 hours record Highs of deaths was recorded. And the easing of restrictions for Christmas hasn't even shown yet, that will only come these days. Today's newspaper reportet that 'hospitals are full - please stay home and avoid contact'. (It's not allowed right now, anyway.)

Vaccination has started, prioritizing seniors in residences, their care takers and personnel in residences, and then later medical personnel. To be honest, I don’t understand why cleaners in hospitals, at least those who work on infectious wards, are not amongst the top prioritiy persons who are to get vaccinated early on, and with the numbers of infected personnel we have had in the hospital... anyway, I don’t want to turn into one of those people chirping in their opinion about the policies and measures. I try to be content that we are allowed to go outside for exercise, we have even had a few sunny days, and that is the best that can happen in times like this. 

The light at the end of the tunnel?
Well, it's just a look into our garden this afternoon.
(But with this picture I finally figured out how to put a few words of comment
under a picture, which I hadn't been able to figure out when blogger changed
their design.)


Right at the beginning of the lockdown we had yet another series of days with only low clouds while the weather forecast announced ‘sunny in higher regions’ and one day I took the car and drove into the Bavarian Forest, parked the car at the ski slope (no snow, no skiers allowed anyway) and walked up the hill, just turning my nose towards the sun.


Christmas has come and gone, and this would have been our Christmas card if I had got my act together to have one printed. As it was, we just sent cards showing one of my quilts, which wasn’t bad either.

So perhaps this will be our Christmas card next year...


Not a serious amount of stitching going on these days, but I hope to get around to quilting the piece that I made for the German Guild’s instructions. Finished the socially distanced spinning musical chairs that my spinning group  put up instead of the annual end-of-November live event. 


And I am knitting a sweater from handspun yarn, top down, and it even seems to fit. (Pattern by I hope it will be finished soon, so I can start something new.


And, as in first lockdown, more cooking is going on. Day before yesterday I made apple strudel, which I can do pretty well, given the fact that I did not grow up in an area or family where apple strudel is a standard dish. My husband did, however, and although he always is positive about my cooking (even if I am not), he is absolutely right when he says that my apple strudel is wonderful.

When you are a professional strudel maker you pride yourself on the thinness of the dough, and I do admit that is the one thing that still could be a little more perfect. That, however, is something my husband wouldn't notice... so why bother? Definitely not something worth stressing about.

Let’s hope next year is full of joy and pleasure and many many personal contacts. Wishing you all a Happy New Year!

Saturday, December 19, 2020

Shutdown, days no. 1 through 4

 On Wednesday Germany shut down. Shops except for supermarkets and ‘relevant things’  are closed, contacts are supposed to be minimized, and there even is a curfew after 9 p.m. Because the shutdown was preannounced and there were two days left before it happened a lot of people still went shopping on Monday and Tuesday. Numbers of infections and dead are still rising... I am calling it shutdown now, because we are not entirely locked in. One can leave the house, move about, during the day and with a good reason, and going for a walk does count as a good reason. And it doesn't sound quite so rigid.

Weather here has been like this, 


although I have seen pictures from luckier friends in other parts of Germany who got some sunshine. I try to go outside for a walk at least once a day, but it does take a lot of courage to venture out in freezing point temperatures with this leaden lid pressing down. And I didn’t go today, just to the market, which was so full and the lines so long that I left again immediately without having bought anything.

I was off work and fiddled around at home. Trying to give the days a structure. My husband and son set up the Christmas tree, which is very unusual to do in Germany before the actual day of Christmas Eve, but we figured, why not. Especially since Kathy’s wonderful ornaments arrived pretty quickly after she had posted them, and we put them up at the very top of the tree as seat of honor.

 Thank you, Kathy, we love our growing collection of ornaments!

I enjoyed yesterday’s SAQA live chat which was scheduled at a more accessible time for European members. It’s fun to talk to some people from somewhere else, even if we don’t really know each other, the interaction is slightly awkward because of time lapse and because we don’t know each other. It’s a change in the daily routine.

And I received the rejection mails for both my entries to QuiltCon Together yesterday. Had expected they would be accepted? hoped, yes. Was I hurt? Very little. But it helped to see some big names from the modern sphere to admit and post that they were rejected, too. It’s good to feel that one is not alone.

Monday, December 14, 2020

Facing Lockdown, strict version

 It was a weird last week at work, with quite a bit of taste of the pandemic. An outbreak amongst patients and staff on the neighboring, supposedly non-infectious ward resulted in closure of the ward and reshuffling of personnel. The ones who had not been tested positive started working on our ward, while being retested regularly, and personnel on our ward had to be tested, too. I have been tested negative twice tested again twice this week.

Lockdown is being tightened bit by bit because despite all pleas to abide by hygiene regulations, keep distance, minimize contacts outside the immediate family circle, numbers of infection and the death rate keep rising. Somehow it seems unreal, how little understanding people have developed during the past nine months. What bothers me most are those people who keep insisting on their personal rights and liberties, who refuse to wear masks and keep saying the virus isn’t real, or at least the people who are dyeing aren’t dyeing because of the virus, only, perhaps, ‘with’ it. But we have had rather disturbing articles in the newspaper, too, that it makes all sense in the world that people who are not working in the health care system don’t understand what is going on. Quite frankly, repeatedly I thought that even my colleagues don’t seem to understand the mechanisms of what is happening, either. But I kept my mouth shut, after all, I have not passed my nursing exams yet, I am not going to say much. Day after tomorrow, on Wednesday, a strict lockdown is coming. Again shops (except for supermarkets, drug stores, and a few others) will be closed. Restaurants only serve take out meals. Home office wherever possible, schools and day care institutions close down. ‘Germany is closing down’ it was called in the news this evening. Until January 10, at least. Perhaps longer, who knows. Minimize contacts. No fireworks on New Years’ Eve, and I really like that one. I have always thought that a particularly stupid thing. Blowing zillions of euros into the air, with all the dirt that needs to be cleared up afterwards, the air pollution that you can feel for days, and when I used to have a cat I would stay home on that evening anyway to keep the cat company whom I would keep inside all day if possible to have her inside when the whole thing started, when she would start to panic from the noise. Apart from keeping people apart and thus avoiding infection, it was also a condition on the side of the hospitals, I heard, which said that with all the infections going on they could not handle the injuries which always happen during that night due to incompetent handling of fireworks. So the next few weeks will be a very different kind of end of the year.

For a special reason Berlin has been on my mind for the last few days, and it seemed ages ago that I went there with my son for a weekend – yet it was only 10 months ago. 


Nobody was wearing masks then, hardly anybody was even taking the virus seriously back then. And then three weeks later we entered the first phase of lockdown in the middle of March. When I first sewed masks in April after they were finally made mandatory in shops and some other spots (and hated every minute of it!) I did not imagine I would still be sewing more by the end of the year. But here I am, even though I try to keep production at a minimum. At work we have to wear the industrial ones, and as I feel very constricted beneath them, I prefer self-made ones when outside the hospital. But I do believe in the efficacy of the industrial ones at work. At least so far I have not caught it yet...


And still I am not surprised it all happened like this. I am not an optimist, and sometimes I wish I were ... but I guess I would call myself a realist rather than a negative thinker. So, especially after learning so much about the pandemic of the Spanish Flu from my beloved book Pale Rider, this whole thing is just what I expected. And we will have to see what happens.

This morning I listened to a podcast about ‘happy pessimism’ (terrible sound quality – one thing I hate about these self-made podcasts where private people record their interview partner via zoom or whatever it is... why don’t they do good telephone connections, which we had for many years, why does it have to be online?) and that guy said something about ‘accepting what is right now’, and being happy in this specific moment, which could change within the next 10 minutes, but at least acknowledge this moment, especially if it is free of anxiety. That sounded good. We had an afternoon of unexpected sunshine (after too many days, yet again, of dark and grey), so I went walking and feel good and tired now.

I have finished the first top for the instructions I mentioned in my last post in German, of the block pattern "Burgoyne Surrounded" or "Road to California", and as I just took a commission off the longarm I should be able to quilt it soon. 


The Patchwork Gilde has not decided how exactly we are going to put it to use for the members, and until then I will occasionally work on blocks from the same pattern, but with a very different interpretation and color choice and thus a completely different kind of quilt. This picture is a computer simulation, when I had just made one block.



At that point I was not sure I would be making more, because although I do like working small somehow that first block had seemed rather tedious. By now I have made several more, am changing color and might actually be using up a lot of my light blue fabrics, if I continue. This is not art, but it keeps me busy, entertained, occupied, and is soothing to sew.

I am mending that blanket and slowly making progress.


I am knitting that other blanket, which is requiring a lot of stamina right now and I keep asking myself why on earth I had this idea to knit a blanket of HST from sock yarn remnants... Now I have counted how many there are left to do (and I even shortened it by a whole row) and realized that I need to make around 2 squares per day for a number of days to get it finished by the time it is supposed to be finished (it’s been promised for a birthday in March). And then I probably won’t have the binding finished... But I do hope the person who will receive it (who actually sees me knitting it very frequently) will appreciate the number of hours that went/are still going into this piece.



Sunday, December 6, 2020

Good Riddance – good-bye to month no. 11

 Biding Time (pun intended) is what I seem to have been doing. 


November and I don’t go well together in any normal or good year, but add a dose of pandemic, including lockdown during what would have been 3 weeks of vacation that were meant to be a first trip to the International Quilt Festival in Houston... forget it. Too much anxiety for my taste with the elections in the US ... but one can only be thankful for the result, even if so much still seems vulnerable before the transition is done. More than a complete week without any sunshine at all – something like that kills me! 


So I seem to have taken a non-premeditated break from blogging, but that is just as well. I would not have been able to write positive posts, and I certainly don’t want to be lamenting or whining here.

I was making. But not really in terms of art. I am spinning a sweater quantity of yarn I have partly carded myself with my recent acquisition of a carder.

I am knitting, several different projects parallel to each other, and it would make much more sense to concentrate on one and get it done than to be jumping from one to the other.

I taught another online class for the German Patchwork Guild, basics of HST making, and the participants were happy. And grateful to be involved in something that was getting their mind of the pandemic and lockdown measures. As it was doing for me.

And suddenly I found myself writing instructions for a project that could be run by the Guild to keep members happy. I had been caught by an image in a copy of France Patchwork’s magazine from earlier in the year, it got me hooked, I started researching, and so I ended up sewing several large blocks using a stack of printed fabric samples from an Australian company that had still been waiting in my boxes. 


I will not show the top in its entirety, although it is finished as of yesterday, as the final decision as to how the set of instructions will be put to use for members of the Guild has not been made. But I am happy with the result and will quickly put it on the longarm. The most remarkable thing about this is that I really do not enjoy writing instructions, as I myself don't like working from them, in neither medium that I dabble in. So this could indeed be considered a miracle of coronal times, on a very small and personal level. (Though I have found myself thinking 'had I known that there would indeed be a way of making some money from writing and selling instructions' as many people seem to be doing these days, I might have taken more care to make myself adept at doing so, way back then. But no use crying over spilt milk, and I am not going to start with that now any more intensively than this, for sure.)

I wanted to enter my yellow scraps quilt from the first lockdown phase in SAQA’s ‘Light the World’ exhibition. But guess what – it was too big. Not my first time... And it had not been made directly for this challenge, but it was a disappointment. Luckily I had an alternative, and entered both, the Quilt that Sewed Itself and the Mellow Yellow for QuiltCon Together. I was a day early for the deadline, so could actually get pictures of the binding, as was required for the entry. 


I am not really expecting them to be accepted, but they are getting their chance.

I am participating in an online workshop with Phyllis Cullen and Cindy Richard who have just published their book “It’s all about the face”. It was not my intention to start making portraits, but I liked the presentation the two of them gave for a regional SAQA zoom meeting in August, and now is as good a time to learn something new. And there are a few people whose portrait to make might be fun, so here I am, I bought MistyFuse (no, I don't fuse!), and I am through with the first exercise, in terms of layering. And looking forward to getting started on my own photos or ideas.

A woolen blanket from New Zealand, which came home with me many years ago when I bought a painting from a (then) young painter and brought it back on the plane has become a new mending project. 


The hole has been fixed, but there are still several areas that need reinforcement, so there is time to be spent on that. And then I can use it for my yoga blanket when I need one.

Because I have been doing online yoga with a teacher (Kristina Krüger ) I had met during my week-long stay at the Yoga Hotel Kubatzki . Kristina suggested on the first of this month that we take the remaining not too many days of this year to take a kind of inventory of the good things we learned during this strange and frequently unpleasant year. So by the end of the month we would come up with at least 31 things that were positive. I like the idea. And I am already behind on making my list. One thing that I have definitely learned is that it does me very very good to get up before breakfast and do a good yoga workout before the real day starts. Getting up in the dark, with the current mood, however, is not easy. I try. And sometimes I succeed.

Looking back on what I have written, it doesn't sound as if month no. 11 was quite that bad. Nevertheless, I do hope we will be able to travel again, soon, and I can take off during this month, see the sun somewhere and get out of here during this time of year!

Wednesday, November 4, 2020

How to Make An African Quilt (Diary of recovery!)

This post was mostly written before the SAQA Europe/Middle East regional zoom meeting yesterday evening. The meeting did not have a specific topic to begin with, but the Rep’s guiding question of ‘to do and not to to lists’ got the group talking about how we are feeling in these times of uncertainty, pandemic and everything that comes with it – lockdowns, restrictions, canceled opportunities to exhibit, to travel and to meet at venues, or workshops that had to be postponed, perhaps for a repeated time. And during that conversation I realized that the making of the African quilt that I describe in the following lines is right down that path many of us mentioned – we want to be making, but we are somewhat blocked about making art. Quite a few of us have turned to making ‘functional quilts’, at least temporarily. While I have always made a functional quilt in between or alongside art quilts, it has become more difficult to make art quilts during the past few months, and having completed this African quilt was a good step for me and my well-being.

During the last few years I have been in close contact with a few African refugees (West Africa – Senegal) here in our town, and have learned a lot from them. A better appreciation of rain, for example – “rain’s a blessing” said Mariama once when I was complaining about a rainy grey and ugly fall day as we have so many in Germany. Or that we should take things with a lighter heart, a repeated suggestion from my special protegé – but I admit that that is a theoretical knowledge on my part only (so far?) - I am not good at taking things easy. Although I am much better at it when my African friends are around who make me laugh! It is always amazing how they refuse to be brought down by the difficulties they encounter in the ‘person’ of German bureaucracy and legislation, how they maintain a smile on their face, how they easily make one laugh and are always good to crack a joke, or tell us that everything is fine (although I know by the date of the month how far the ‘water level’ in their wallet is gone down).

And I have looked at fabrics from Africa differently, too. I am in a process of using a piece of mudcloth I brought back from South Africa last year (my, that’s long ago! we could travel!). And I have another piece of mudcloth that is biding its time for a good idea an be an accomplice to this one.


I recently finished a quilt from a large piece of West African fabric I acquired at Festival of Quilts from the wonderful AfricanFabric Shop  where I always go when I get to FoQ. I have bought a beautiful basket from them, too – not a good idea before going home on the plane, but I managed.

So when one of my African friends complained that his room in the refugee accomodation, very small but his very own, was so cold because it has three walls that go to the outside of the house and the heating system is not exactly up to modern standards, I went ahead and started making him a quilt. It needed to be done quickly, and he has a slightly different preference for colors than I do, so I relied on that African fabric as the main ‘backbone’ for a free cut drunkard’s path, which you can see in the lower part of the picture.


Of course, it wasn’t entirely enough, I added another indigo-dyed West-African fabric as accocmpaniment, as can be seen in the upper half of the picture.

This is a picture as I was putting the blocks together:


I put together a back fabric from several different fabrics and a superfluous block from the front.


And I used my circular quilting templates for the quilting (only the 4” template hasn’t resurfaced yet).


The finished piece looks like this:

Of course, it is not strictly speaking an African quilt. It is a quilt made from a few fabrics that originated in Africa, and it was made for a friend from Africa, but everything else about it just makes it a quilt blanket like any other quilt blanket. But a nice one, the recipient likes it and feels warmer sleeping under it. And life goes on, even as we are confined to a new ‘lockdown’ (light version).

Wednesday, October 28, 2020

Preparing for after? (Is it still a diary of recovery?)


For more than 15 years I have been teaching patchwork workshops at a Rural Catholic Community College which provides us with perfect conditions. Recently a few things changed, however. The employee who was ‘in charge’ of us went into retirement and the successor has not been appointed yet, partly due to Corona, partly due to inner workings I am not familiar with. We were given an intermediate person who is in charge and yesterday I went to Petersberg. First incentive was to get a massage with the wonderful massage therapist who is located there, and second incentive was to talk to that person, who also happens to be the director of it all.

Before we talked I went for a little walk in the woods around the house. Fall is my absolute favorite time of year there, as the beech trees turn yellow and the woods suddenly seem so much lighter and gayer than on a normal summer day. Which in itself is nice, too, but if you look at these pictures I am sure you will understand. 



The conversation was positive enough – for the coming year two dates have already been set, and he promised to give us two suggestions within the next few days for 2022. No promises made as to how things will continue when a new employee will actually be installed, but he acknowledged that the patchwork workshops are a bench to build on: they are the workshops that fill up the quickest, they are easy to organize for the people in the house and no additional personnel is needed from their side to run the show. So it all sounded positive. And with those trees shining with light it felt like things were improving. Silver Lining!

But of course I knew that the storm was brewing, I have been following the news, the rising numbers of infections, the ‘hot spots of infection’, the scary information that nobody is able to follow anymore where people are actually getting their infections. My brother-in-law and his wife have had it, and they have no idea where they might have caught it. And I do consider them pretty conscientious people who will abide by the rules. They did not go to illegal parties for sure – some of those have been decisive in the rise of numbers in our area.

Today the prime ministers of the federal states convened with the chancellor, and they have pronounced another four week lockdown. They are not calling it that. But in fact that is what it is. Lots of places closed down, they are insisting that people stay home as much as possible, no mingling, ‘reduce your contacts’. I am just starting three weeks of vacation. Not much to look forward to, really. Can’t go visit friends or take trips, not even day trips... I guess just taking it day by day is the only thing to do. Keep stitching to stay sane, keep moving for as much exercise as we are allowed – we have not been told to stay at home, just to minimize contact with other people – and not make the mistake to start cooking elaborate meals and trying out recipes that then need to be eaten. And start on the next round of listening to my Pale Rider.

Thursday, October 15, 2020

The Quilt that sewed itself (Diary of recovery)

One of the first real-life impressions I had of Kathleen Loomis was when we were both attending a Master Class at Nancy Crow’s barn in Ohio and Kathy was showing one of her mind-boggling postage stamp quilts to some people in the room. I don’t remember whether it was “Spaghetti Sauceor  The Great Lawnbut I certainly remember what I thought when I saw her unrolling the meticulously packaged quilt of a zillion (or so it seemed) small pieces held together by thread lines: it was a mixture of sincere awe and asking myself whether she was out of her mind. (I like people who are slightly off the beaten track!) 

Meanwhile Kathy and I have become good friends, and even before I met her I did what she had done that eventually started her off on the postage stamp quilts: I used small pieces of fabric as sewing-on-sewing-off pieces to stabilize thread tension in between seams on a current project. But for a while I was getting to the point where they were accumulating and I did not know what to do with them, really. I used some on small quilts:


I used some on a T-shirt I had to mend at the side seam. I had cut out the washing instructions label and cut into the jersey fabric and did not want to throw away the new shirt, so I simply sewed two of the pieces on the side seam, a little later I also added some more on the edge of the neckline. And I have put some on certain spots of jeans that needed mending.


But overall I was at a loss – no way could I start making larger pieces similar to Kathy’s, it is so much her style that I would never have made a piece out of any number of these. On the other hand, having them at the sewing machine throat was just so handy, because it was so much easier to start and finish off a seam when using them. So when I saw a post on Instagram by Maryline Collioud-Robert / @mary_and_patch where she showed a ‘quilt that had sewed itself’ and checked up on the respective blog entry and realized that she was basically doing that same thing with scraps that she then put together into a scrap quilt, I knew that this phrase filled a need of mine.

But I took a slightly different approach. Last year I had started yet another piece with which I was going to commemorate more refugees who drowned in the Mediterranean – but with my increasing frustration about the whole situation I was growing more desperate, and at some point that quilt stalled. What use counting dead refugees by creating blue four-patch blocks…? The precuts and pieces that had been sewn already were left sitting there in a basket, another one amongst my too many unfinished pieces. And I had seen another post on Instagram, by DianaVandeyar /@dianavandeyar, whom I had met in South Africa last year. She was revisiting her many years of digital pattern designs and it included a design with four-patch blocks that set me on a track of thinking about what I could do with those blue four-patches. 

Here is where it all comes together, just in case you are wondering: I needed something to sew on and sew off, I wanted to do something with the four-patches and I liked the phrase ‘a quilt that sewed itself’. So while I was working on my lockdown-pieces, I also worked on the blue four-patches, finishing them, putting them into double-four-patches, and the whole thing grew into a large blanket. 


The process took off at a point where a number of four-patches had been finished, but it also included sewing a few last strips together, cut-offs into four-patches, and then four-patches into double four-patches with the oranges, and then double-doubles. So there were a few phases where a bit of planning ahead and preparing was needed, but I kept the planning to a minimum in order to be able to concentrate on the main quilt(s) for which this one was only the sew-on-sew-off .

Here are photos of the back in the making. I had so many double-four-patches left over once I decided I was going to eliminate the ones with yellow and stick to only basically orange for the front. Yet I did not want any leftover blocks, and I did not want to have to come up with another idea for them. So the yellow ones ended up on the back.


It has been quilted, and I do like how it turned out. Not sure yet whether it will also be entered somewhere but we will see. Now I need to get the binding on. And I have already started on my next quilt that sews itself as I sew on and off. This one is going to be a lot more scrappy, meaning there will at least for a while be even less planning needed. 

Thank you, Kathy, Marie and Diana – so much fun when inspiration is fed from different sources and it all comes together somehow!