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.