Tuesday, August 22, 2023

Work, and its pleasures

Last time I wrote about something relating to my work life, in the first half of 2022 (about knitting pink socks, my absolute non-favorite color, for somebody whose favorite color it was) that post resulted in a conversation with the head nurse, who is a friend in fibers. Subsequently I took the post down, but the conversation had also shown me how many aspects of the work situation there were not contributing to me feeling satisfied. Follow-up conversations with my husband led me to start looking for a new job. Which I took in July 2023, and where I was pretty happy in the beginning. I am still content with the overall feeling within the team in total, although by now some dampening of my initial enthusiasm has happened, regarding organizational aspects, the head nurse’s behavior in general – I do think she is a bit of a brat with less than good manners, and I do not hesitate to say that here - and a few other things that must not be spelled out in detail. Some of these aspects caused me to cut back on working hours in April, now only 3 days a week, some others, more dissatisfying ones, have occurred since, and I am again considering options. Of which there are not many, as I don’t want to go back into a hospital, I do like the fact that I don’t have to work night shifts in dialysis, nor Sundays.

With three days a week it has gotten a lot easier to arrange a few days off by placing early requests so that more flexibility arises to move around. Thus I can go and take care of my ageing parents, or plan a trip to a quilt festival, for example. My trip to Birmingham was possible by using up only one of my vacation days, for example, although I was gone for 5 days altogether.

It is amazing, though, how much of one’s life quality is affected by that environment you encounter in your workplace. Perhaps I was naïve because I had not been involved in a lot of work environments with many people – academics in the field I was in tend to work individually, after that I was self-employed as a fabric dyer, and the other part of work environment was the family at home. I didn’t have to deal with the issues I am facing now. Perhaps I am too old to be disrespectfully kept on at by somebody who is only a bit more than half my age and lacking leadership qualities. Perhaps I am getting a bit sensitive in this regard, but most of the other team members are saying the same thing. Perhaps …?

I cut back on the working hours in April because I thought I had found enough of a footing in the field that I could now turn back to having a bit of making time in my real life. As it turns out, it is not easy to start being creative, with these things going on in the background, even on the days when I am ‘not working’. I still make as in knitting, spinning, fiddling small pieces of fabrics around paper templates for a wildly oversized something so I can fondle fabrics, but that is far from the kind of quilting I used to do. I have lost my former ambition for marking my spot in the art quilt world.

But when I decided I wanted to enter a piece in the competition for the Prague Patchwork Meeting that has now moved to Brno, and took note of the entry date, I finally returned to my sewing room and the design wall. 


The entry guidelines call for ‘unusual materials’ to be used in the piece, and I have a certain range of options that can be included. I had forgotten how it feels to be piecing fabric together, getting back up to the design wall, putting it where I thought it would go, seeing that it might not have added up in exactly the way I had thought it would. 


And how it feels to sit and look at the design wall, waiting for an idea how to move on. That is the real kind of work that is enjoyable. I hope it will tie me over the other stuff, and give me strength to just bide my time there until we find out about my husband's health, and possible changes on his side.


Sunday, August 13, 2023

'Meeting' somebody via Zoom

I don’t know how it happened that at some point Sarah C. Swett appeared in my instagram feed a few years ago . But I do know that I was delighted by her posts, enchanted by her comic drawings and always had a smile on my face when I had seen a new post of hers, or read a blog post. Making yarn out of coffee filters. A Sweater, somewhat slanted. Making yarn out of milkweed plants by meticulously securing the fibers, spinning these - and then weaving tapestries from them… Stuff like that. Things I find absolutely fascinating to read about, being able to go part of the way with them (I mean, I do spin, I quilt, sometimes I hand-sew large quilts, I have hand-quilted large quilts, I knit…), but not all the way entirely. (I don’t do hand-spindling, for one thing.) Sarah has meanwhile changed her mode of publication from her blog of many years (a field guide to needlework) to The Gusset on Substack (find it here) and is continuing to delight readers with her adventures in fibers, weaving, comics and the new-in-her-life dog.

When the topic to be covered for the German Guild’s magazine called for ‘Strafarbeit’ (work/chore as a punishment) I knew I wanted to get in touch with Sarah and write about her. The things she does are nothing like a Strafarbeit for her, I knew that before I talked to her, but I know there are many people out there who would consider these activities exactly that. (I mean – when you knit in public, how frequently do you get comments about the amount of work, the time it takes, that the person commenting would never know how to do that nor care to do that either?) Perhaps not too many people like these appear amongst the members of the Patchworkgilde, but even there you can find some who would be appalled if you tried to talk them into doing a bit of English Paper Piecing, for them EPP is very close to a Strafarbeit indeed.

I got in touch with Sarah, she was gracious enough to grant me two extended zoom interviews, supplied several pictures of her works, explained a lot of details about finding, harvesting, stripping, preparing, weaving milkweed, doing the coffee filter thing and other aspects of life that I considered myself to be a very fortunate person indeed, having to write on the topic of Strafarbeit for the guild. It was like meeting a soul mate, and it felt as if I had found a friend out there in the depths of Idaho. Talking to her came easily, and it wasn’t even necessary to prepare a series of questions to exert any information from her because it all was one easy-flowing conversation about common interest matters. I could have gone on talking to her for hours, hadn’t it been via computer screens.

Of course, I am only one of her zillions of admiring followers, and living far away that is what I will remain, an admiring follower from the distance. But it was an interesting experience to feel such a degree of connectedness merely on the zoom platform.

The issue I am talking about will be published by the middle of September, and I am not going to show any of the photos here, merely a wip-photo of my Sweater Somewhat Slanted. It hasn’t made a whole lot of progress in the past few weeks as I was busy spinning for the Tour de Fleece and with all the other things going on lately, but I am planning to get back to it soon-ish.


The pattern can be bought via Sarah’s shop on her website, or on Ravelry, the free website for knitters, crocheters and fiber artists .

Sarah had a wonderful article in the spinning magazine Ply a couple of years ago and she was recently featured on this podcast.

Instances like this make me happy, being a ‘writer’ for the guild magazine is certainly enriching in many aspects.

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

EQA (European Quilter Association) at FoQ (Festival of Quilts, Birmingham)

 Last Thursday I got up almost as early as I would have, had I been going to early shift at work. However, I was more fortunate, took the train to the airport, boarded a plane to Birmingham, and got to spend four lovely days at the Festival of Quilts, 20th anniversary edition. 


It was the first time for me in a while as I hadn’t been back there yet after the pandemic, so I assume 2019 was the last time I was there, just before I went on to South Africa. This year I did not enter a quilt myself, as I am still not convinced that shipping to FoQ after Brexit has become feasible again. One member of the German Guild’s report on her difficulties in getting her quilt there on time, indeed, at all, has merely increased this conviction of mine. I was there mainly for the EQA meeting and exhibition, and as writer for the German Guild’s magazine, looking for interesting topics and possible future interviewees.

It was interesting to be back and see the differences. It feels a lot better with the additional space in the aisles between the vendors. The ventilation system must have been improved dramatically because it was almost drafty and sometimes near on cold in the halls, which I don’t remember from earlier visits, which used to be a bit stuffy, very crowded in the vendors’ area, and not a whole lot of space between display walls for the exhibitions of the competition quilts.

A number of the interesting vendors I would have liked to shop with were not there – some of whom I know have gone out of business. Overall, supplies on offer did not fulfill my needs, I only bought a few pieces from Leah Higgins and four African fabrics fat quarters.

One thing I noticed was that there seemed to be fewer international visitors. I believe last time I was there I could hardly move from one place to the other without running into several people that needed talking to, this was not the case this time around. Yes, I did meet some people, but it didn’t seem so numerous. And I must say, I was not particularly impressed with most of the First Prize winners. I am not sure whether that results from the fact that by now I have seen so many quilts in my life that not much will give me a ‘wow’-effect-reaction. Similar as with the yearning to be able to listen to Johannes Brahms’ Requiem or Antonin Dvorak’s 9th Symphony for the first time again and repeat that feeling of awe and admiration.

But as I said, I went there for the EQA-meeting, and although we had some serious business to attend to, 


we had a good time together. 


The exhibition had been put up by a few other international representatives, 


I came when the festival had already been officially opened, and stayed on to take the exhibition down after the closing on Sunday afternoon. When I remembered the amount of work (and anxiety!) that had gone into preparations for this particular exhibition earlier this year, I was very pleased that the final effect turned out to be so convincing. We were showing a carpet of flowers, and visitors were delighted at the overall appearance.

Taking it down is always so much faster than putting it up!

Finished - Mary Hunter (2nd from left) took them directly to the
airport and proceeded to put them up in Ireland the next day,
i.e. yesterday. That must have been the fastest turnaround of any EQA exhibition

 The future of EQA-exhibitions at FoQ is everything but certain, and we are trying to figure out how to proceed from here. It will take negotiations with many players, everything burns down to the question of costs, and right now we don’t even know whether we will be able to go back next year. It is rather difficult to integrate the amount of volunteer work, outside effects and appearances created by that in quilting communities – how much of a pull factor is a small quilt hanging in Birmingham for an ‘ordinary’ quilter to come and visit, and does that justify the amount of hotel costs we have been granted so far? – with a strictly business-oriented organization that sets up the festival. We will see.

A bit of 20 Perspectives was thrown in as well – 


Allison James (left) and Ildiko Polyak (middle)

and I met Joe Cunningham in his exhibition, whom I will visit in his gallery in November, 


so it was a time with many different and interesting encounters.