Sunday, December 26, 2021

“Between the Years”

Early in December I spent a few days on Lake Constance, trying to relax after two and a half weeks of working in ICU. I went to the thermal baths, tried to ignore that I had chosen an apartment completely sub-standard (ugly and cold!), and just tried to relax. Participated in two interesting zoom sessions, read books in bed, knitted... 

Since then I have returned to the operating room, but a total of three weeks away also meant that I had to reorient myself. After only four weeks since beginning I hadn’t been acclimatised enough that this is an easy task. This pandemic is posing an additional strain on my phase of introduction to the new job.

However, I have taken myself back to the sewing maching, if only short periods so far, but I am getting back into a bit of a sewing mood. Since I challenged myself about wearing the purple pants vs. finishing the quilt, I took the purple monster off the design wall and have resumed stitching the letters.


I have already worn the purple pants, too, so I guess I have declared myself officially an old woman, according to the statement of Jenny’s poem. The strange thing is that in this short time in the operating room I have repeatedly seen people on the operating table who, by sheer numbers, are just a very few years older than I am – or my age even! – and I look at them and think, “this is an old person!” I am shocked to see them, appearing a lot older (to me) than I feel about myself. Gives me a lot to think about every time it happens. Am I much older than I think?

We have had terrible weather in terms of low fog, lack of sunshine, and ten days ago my husband and I just took off on Sunday, driving south, until we would – as pre-determined by a weather app – find sunshine. There we took a long walk along the shores of Lake Chiemsee, trying to jumpstart our vitamin D production. 


Christmas has come and (almost) gone, 


mother-in-law is staging a personal show to attract attention, my husband is working as always, and next year I probably will be working at least one of the days, too. 

Germany is going through a lot of discussion how to deal with the new virus variant, and supposedly we will end the year similarly as it started, with restrictions and/or lockdown... So it’s good to be able to sit down with knitting, or work on my contribution to SAQA Europe/Middle East’s project of the “Orient Express”.

The thing under the text is supposed to imitate this: 

I hope to be able to make it more recognizable through quilting.

And I want to take up again a regular schedule for exercising. Even in weather like this.


Saturday, December 18, 2021

"Here comes the sun!"

 It is my turn today to be featured as the week's supplyer of the SAQA Europe and Middle East's group picture on facebook and Instagram. 

I had been scheduled for this date for a long time, and for almost that whole time I had thought I would be posting the picture of my quilt that is in the Forced to Flee exhibit, currently traveling with SAQA (and which will next be shown at Bedford Gallery @ the Lesher Center for the Arts, Walnut Creek, California: February 26 - June 19, 2022). But on the past Monday, when I joined the SAQA regional zoom meeting after not having been able to for a couple of times, and they were talking about music in quilts, how music affects us in our quilting, the importance of music for our quilting, I realized that I had a rather musical quilt in the backdrop. It has relatively recently come home from traveling with an exhibition organized by France Patchwork, and I realized that it would be a perfect candidate for the group picture. So I changed my mind, and because I hadn't sent anything to Birgit Schüller yet, it was easy. Then I realized that I had not even posted anything about this quilt on the blog either, although it is part of my series text messages (which currently gives me a headache because I have lost count of how many quilts I have made, but that is another story). This must have happened because I made it in a very brief period of time, just before the deadline. Then it was accepted quickly, gone right away, and I had not even had time to get a proper photo. 

So here is a little bit of introduction to the quilt. It got started by coincicdence. I saw France Patchwork's challenge fabric at Ste. Marie-aux-Mines: a piece of linen, with a good amount of yellow. Any kind of yellow gets me hooked, and this was very fine linen. But when I asked whether I could buy a piece Catherine Bonte just gave it to me, between EQA representatives, I guess, and said "but you do have to enter!" Title of the challenge: Do Ré Mi Lin. Part of the musical scale, with a slur into fabric, should be easy. Plenty of time, the winter passes, spring rolls around, and here I am, haven't even started on the piece. But suddenly it all came together. I had this cut out sun lying around, 


which came from some other piece I was making, and definitely did not want it to go to waste. Sun always goes with yellow, I have this thing with light, I love music, and when you talk about sun and music you just have to think about the Beatles' song "Here comes the sun" (composed by George Harrison), wouldn't you agree? I know other poems and lyrics on the topic of the sun, one of my absolute favorite songs is a Swedish folk song about a sunset on Kajsa's bank on the lake, 


a few lines from Ingeborg Bachmann, something Spanish, 


and a French chancon. A couple of Afghanistan embroideries from the Guldusi project went in as well,


and it all just came together as text messages 20.

Can't believe I didn't write about this one - it was such a happy making, so easy and flow like. If all quilt making was like this, and the sun were out ...

Friday, November 26, 2021

On and on and on...

The numbers of infection are at an all-time high here now. And still rising. Last year we were talking about the 35/50 limits where severe measures would be put into place, in the spring it was 100, now we have surpassed the 1,000 and the incoming government with the newly elected parliament have put 'an end' to the 'pandemic situation' that used to be mentioned in the law. It makes you wonder whether they are completely out of their mind, or what is happening here? I am very grateful I received my third shot yesterday a week ago, because by now I have been transferred to working (helping out) on ICU, and believe me, that is absolutely no fun at all. Every single case who needs intensive care in our hospital has not been vaccinated. And I ask myself where did these people live for the past 2 years? Everybody could have been vaccinated by now, the predictions of what would come if this did not happen before this winter were out there - and still people think their 'right to decide' and their 'right to physical integrity' counted higher than their duty to contribute to the entire society's physical integrity by helping to break this virus' spread? I am so disappointed with my fellow Germans, it is beyond words. Especially now that I am working in the hospital, having to risk my physical integrity and health by taking care of these egotists and dealing with their stupidity. I am MAD. So so so so mad... And now there are reports about the yet again new and more infectious variant of the virus. That is completely disheartening.

Right now, I don't know whether it will be possible to go for my little four day vacation I had planned at the beginning of December, and for which I have booked a holiday apartment. We are supposedly facing a lockdown for unvaccinated persons, but I don't know yet how far restrictions will apply to people who have been vaccinated yet. Will they allow private tourist travel, or will that be forbidden? Will my 16-yr-old once again have to stay home, no basketball practice, but be forced to go to school? I think he is perfectly right when he says his 'social life' doesn't happen on school grounds, he wants to go to basketball practice. And why should professional soccer players be allowed to 'play', but the young people not? 

I woke up with a sore throat and a headache this morning and as we are supposed to stay at home from work with symptoms of a cold, I did that. A test was negative, which is a relief, after all I have been assigned to the ICU for the past two weeks and, althought the 'outside' relief personnel is usually the person who makes sure that personnel 'in' the cubicles with Covid patients has all the material and medication they need without having to leave the isolation room, of course that means that I am exposed to the overall environment, and in some cases I did have to dress up in all the protective gear and assist a colleague with handling of immobile, artificially respirated and/or sedated patients.

But as I got to stay home, I was able to make the most of my good intentions I had announced on my instagram account two days ago. I had planned to not spend money on the so-called 'Black Friday' on some supposedly sale item, but to dedicated my time to continue mending one of my mending projects, the light pair of pants. It had been sitting on my table, biding its time in a state of neglect since some time in the late summer.

So I took this mending project to bed and between sleeping a little and resting I got a heap of stitching done. 

The piece of fabric I am attaching here is an older piece of linen, not exactly the same quality as the pants, but I like the look of it. It is rather big, too, not only a small mend.

I went down the entire piece of linen, and then started circling around in one direction, then the other, to slightly secure the fraying edges.

And then, because I found myself in a kind of flow, I just went ahead and started on the next patch.

So Mending Friday instead of spending Friday was a good day for these pants. This is how they look from the front now.

And this is the back side.

I wouldn't exactly say they're beautiful. But they are a statement, and I will proudly wear them this coming summer, and many more.

And in the evening I went down into the basement and brought up our choir and orchestra of angels to start the Christmas decoration.

Unfortunately, no Christmas markets this year, again, so we won't be adding a new member. But it is reassuring to see these little fellows on our window sill. If I feel well again tomorrow, I will start on Christmas cookies tomorrow. Traditions are soothing, perhaps they will help tie me over this oncoming next wave of virus...

Friday, November 19, 2021

On mending matters, and on wearing purple

I don’t really own a pair of (discarded) jeans that could be used as a quarry for my mending project of the one pair of blue jeans that I started mending where/when necessary. And my son isn’t really producing jeans (yet) that I could sneak from him when he outgrows them. So just a few weeks ago my friend Regine gave me a worn-out pair of jeans for this purpose, at the same time I made up my mind that the blue pair and a light-colored pair of trousers would be my only two mending projects in terms of pants.


I believe in wearing clothes for a long time, and I do enjoy the work of mending. However, my inner critic is very strong and when I look at people who publish books about mending (which don’t teach me anything new in terms of techniques or ideas, but I just never would think about publishing a book with that topic) I start thinking ... and comparing ... Usually my jeans/pants need mending in delicate places, due to excessive bike riding around town, and an attractively stylish patch on the thigh is not the regular mend I am faced with. 

Because of the wear and tear my pants are prone to suffer,
I have also decided that I would happily turn to mending
by machine whenever possible, to save time.

But about a week ago I realized that my well-loved pair of yellow jeans is indeed beginning to get to the state where it might need mending, too, and given the path of worldly things I can figure out that the red one may be getting there, too, in not too long a time. Both of these I don’t want to part with anytime soon. So I took a trip to the thrift store and was going to buy, if possible, a pair in yellow and a pair in red, for future reference as mending materials. After all, yellow has been fashionable lately, and who knows how long that will last, I figured it would be easy to find a pair right now. The color arrangement on the rack in the thrift store, however, was so alluring that I ended up with several more than I had intended. 


And I did resist several others which would have been a wonderful color addition to this palette, you have to believe me. I was short of time when I went in there and didn’t try any of them on until later at home. Only the black and the purple fit me, the yellow and red are meant to be cut up.  The others I will send to a charity organization in Hamburg that makes design clothes and accessoires from used denims and order a jacket made from them. If they make jacket on commission, the website does not state that, only accessoires - I have sent an enquiry.

When I was a lot younger than now I had a purple blazer, which I liked a lot. I wore it on the first day when I started teaching at the university. And it helped – an older professor was already teaching in the classroom that had been designated to me, and I had to stand my ground to defend my rights. Which was easier wearing a purple blazer, believe me. Unfortunately, that blazer disappeared somewhere along the way, I don’t have it anymore, which I deeply regret.  

Last year (or was it even two years ago?) I started a quilt on the poem Warning, more commonly known under its first line “when I am an old woman I shall wear purple...” by Jenny Joseph. I have had a red hat before, and worn it – but it, too, has disappeared. When I started the quilt – which has stalled a bit because I made a serious mistake and have not yet gathered new momentum to continue after I discovered that mistake – 


I had not been considering to be wearing purple any time soon. (When does being an old woman actually begin...?) 

Now this pair of purple jeans is waiting for me. Which will happen first – the completion of the quilt, or me wearing the purple jeans?

Sunday, November 14, 2021

New Job.

It’s been 4 weeks since I started my new job, and it has been a rollercoaster for sure. All the things I learned during the past three years have simple receded into the background as a kind of white noise. Good to have as a backdrop, but not what I need for daily activities in the operating room. I need to understand the structure of procedures, learn where to find materials of all different kinds – and get a feeling for the team dynamics going on amongst a group of more than twenty nurses, the anaesthesiology team, and the doctors around them. I think the latter part of the challenge is the hardest. After two weeks the head nurse told me she was expecting me to be able to be the stand-by (without supervision) for a thyroid operation by Christmas – at that point that statement resulted in a slight feeling of panic on my side, but two days ago, on my four-week-anniversary, I thought, yes, that is definitely going to be possible.

Sometimes I get the feeling that some colleagues think I am not learning fast enough, at least their way of telling me things is not encouraging but a bit debasive, or even impatient. Some others are patient and friendly, though, so with a bit of self-empowering I think I am doing alright. However, on Friday I actually had to sit down after a morning encounter with one colleague (whom some call ‘the dragon’) and give myself a bit of a pep-talk: "It’s only been four weeks! and I am doing pretty well for that! I have learned a lot, I have understood a lot! It is a very complex field! I am doing fine, given all the circumstances!"

I don’t think it could have been much faster considering the mode of explanation and instruction, as it is all ‘learning on the job’ during a fully functioning operations schedule. I do have a mentor, but she is not there every time I am there, and after the first few days she has been assigned to a different operating room more often than not. There are many different ways of following the procedures, and every nurse has her/his own standard – and many different instructors make for a slightly longer time of figuring out exactly how my personal standard will be. Every once in a while I get to take home a bottle of distilled water that hasn’t been used up and that would have been thrown out otherwise. I will never have to buy distilled water for my iron again.


Only the fact that these plastic bottles will be on my mind after
using up the water... but I am using up the water, not just
dumping it down the drain and the bottle would be thrown
away then, too. Any suggestions for this dilemma, anyone?

As I am observing interactions between team members, trying to figure out characters and alliances, I am trying to keep a low profile. I want to work there, work well, and get along with everybody to such a degree that they consider me a reliable, trustworthy and – eventually, hopefully – competent part of the team.

When the operation is on, there can be times when not much is required of me. I watch, try to figure out the routine of instrument handling – and think of knitting patterns or yarn combinations. (That’s easier than quilt options.) A number of blog posts have been composed in my head, but never got written down, because when I come home I am exhausted. So not a whole lot of stitching has been going on. But I think I am getting to the point where I can give myself a certain routine at home after work, and will get back to stitching again. After all, some interesting developments are going on that I will be able to talk about in a little while. Right now I can say that I am making plans for a piece on the theme ‘bridge’, and I am planning to use some of the kimono fabric that I received from Kathy Loomis a few years ago. I even realized that I will make use of a piece I had begun but obviously never finished.


There is still a good sized piece of the (half) kimono
left. I can make several pieces with this...

Always good not to let anything go to waste!

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...