Stitching and Neocolor pastels on cotton.
Stitching and Neocolor pastels on cotton.
We bought a house! It has a front porch AND a deck. It’s surrounded by trees, but part of a neighborhood. It feels remote (woods! no streetlights! nature!) but it’s only 15 minutes from downtown. It’s the nicest house by far that I’ll have ever lived in–the kids will each have their own rooms, plus we can have a guest room, plus a room for my art-making. The windows are big and let in lots of natural light. It’s airy and welcoming for entertaining. I can’t wait to move in.
Originally we were going to wait until spring to look for a house, but a few months ago, when the toilet backed up into the tub (that’s as gross as you think it is) and the landlord told us he felt it was our fault for “misuse of the tub,” that was the last straw for living here. Bad enough all the plumbing issues we’ve had, among other issues, in this house that had never been rented before and really wasn’t up to handling five people, but to then have the owner decide it must be us, rather than the old, weary plumbing–it was insulting. We started looking the next day. We put an offer in on this house the day before the election. It’s been hard to be excited about it as we moved through negotiations, inspections, and all the rest, what with the general state of the world. But we still need to have a place to live, and renting here is no longer workable. Yes, for a while, it was nice knowing if something went wrong, it wasn’t our financial responsibility. But the lack of control is just too hard. I will just say, this is not how we maintain a house we own, but we don’t own this one. I will miss our next door neighbors, and I’ll miss running over the Naval Academy Bridge, but I will not miss this old dusty leaky cricket-infested house AT ALL.
And every time we buy a house I feel fortunate. We began saving for a down payment the year we got married, 1999. At the time I was babysitting a coworker’s children once a week; her husband was a financial planner. I don’t think I knew of anyone who used a financial planner, and maybe didn’t even know it was a thing until I met them, and without a doubt we wouldn’t have even thought to seek one out. But there he was, and he helped us grow the money we saved faster than we expected, so we were able to buy a house before prices really exploded. When we sold that first house, we had made quite a bit, and we have put that money right back into subsequent houses ever since. We were disciplined, yes, and we hit the timing very well, but we were also connected to someone who could help us make the most of both, and that’s privilege. I recently saw an article that Millennials who own houses do so because their parents either helped them with a down payment, or with college costs, or both. We’re older than that generation, and our college cost less (and one of us had help), but we still benefited from who we know. It really does take luck on top of discipline and work.
That’s my housing story. And since this is quiltlet number 50, here’s another grouping of ten.
Not all my quiltlets are textile diary entries, but many fall under that category, and without looking back I’d guess this grouping of ten has more of those than most. It’s been a difficult year. I feel a bit conflicted, ending the year on a high personal note (yay! a house!) while also feeling despair and fear over the state of the country and the world. It’s been hard to feel positive over anything. Two more weeks, and quiltlets, to go in 2016.
This is last week’s quiltlet, using applique. (Can you see the free motion writing in the background?) As the winter solstice approaches I feel a definite connection to the ancestors who knew that this is a time of year that calls for light. Different cultures, religions, and traditions all felt called to honor light at this time of year; it’s a common human need. This year feels even darker than usual. I seek the light, in myself and others. Be the light in the darkness.
This came out a little paler than I’d meant. I of course used a resist technique (glue batik). Every day something newly outrageous occurs (many things, in a usual day). It’s hard to keep up. It’s hard not to feel overwhelmed. I need to still be outraged, though. Complacency due to over-saturation can’t be the answer.
Playing a little catch up here! All of these were sewn in their respective weeks, I’ve just been behind in sharing them here. This one is purely practical; I bought a stitch-in-the-ditch foot and wanted to practice. Then I added some free-motion quilting because I hadn’t practiced that in a while. Fabric is my own hand-dyed.
I’m white, heterosexual, in a straight marriage, and not Muslim, and so relatively safe, for the moment, from what seems to be descending upon us all right now. But I don’t feel safe. I’ve written before about PTSD and also about how one candidate, now, amazingly, our President-elect, triggered the hell out of me. I know I’m not the only one. For me, it’s how he so strongly reminds me of someone who was psychologically and, at times, physically abusive. Misogyny, racism, lying, gaslighting. Now, this person is in charge of the country. I do not feel safe. PTSD symptoms are getting harder to manage. I know I’m not the only one. But that doesn’t make me feel better; it makes me feel worse. It’s hard to write about and I’m done trying for now. That’s why visual art exists too.
I never got around to posting this here last week. I wrote about it on Instagram and find I don’t have it in me right now to write it all here as well. I’m weary.
I am behind on everything, y’all. To make things more difficult, I ended up in the ER early Thursday morning with a UTI, because those typically hit me hard and fast. So I lost a day there and now I’m on heavy-duty antibiotics that make me feel almost as awful as doxycycline did when I was being treated for Lyme. I’d set aside Thursday for dyeing but that obviously didn’t happen, so I pushed through on Friday because otherwise I’d have had to wait a week for another free chunk of time. Ta-da! Here are the results.
I decided my first experiments would be for a quilt for my daughter. She requested pink, green, and purple. I thought about how to vary the values (because we all know color gets the credit but value does the work, right?), and decided instead of varying it amongst the colors, I’d value it within each color. I used the recipe “value parfait” from Color by Accident, which I borrowed from my fiber arts guild library. Low-water immersion dyeing uses less water (at least for the dyeing part; rinsing and washing is still very water heavy), so the dye isn’t always taken up evenly. This allows for some texture and variation. The value parfait is kind of cool–you add fabric and soda ash at different intervals, so that there’s less dye available to be taken up by each successive piece of fabric. So you start with full-strength dye but naturally get a value gradation. Neat, isn’t it? I’m using just primaries, too, so the green and purple were mixed. My daughter is happy with these colors, and now I just need to decide upon a design. Also, I’m not sure I can bother making any quilts from now on unless I’ve dyed the fabric myself, help.
I began with ten yards of fabric, so for the final yard, I went for something specific for a project I have in mind. I actually could have split it up; I don’t need the full yard. But by that time I was tired and probably not thinking clearly (these meds, I’m telling you; awful).
This was dyed using mostly dark yellow dye, with a dash of red and blue and some light yellow drizzled on. This one was pretty cool to watch–the color changed dramatically once the soda ash hit it. I think there’s two ways to approach dyeing fabric. One is very perfectionist, using full-water immersion and testing mixtures, aiming for predictable results. The other is a little looser, with some “let’s see what happens” attitude. I think I may end up somewhere in the middle. I can’t wait to dye more, but I need more fabric and I need more time. As I said, I’m behind in so much right now!
I’m also wondering, because I can’t possibly use all the fabric I might want to dye, if there’s a market for selling my own hand-dyed fabric. Thoughts?
My daughter’s new school doesn’t exactly celebrate Halloween; instead, kids come dressed up as a historical figure of their choosing and share information about that person. It’s a little bit of dress up, a little bit of research, a little bit of sharing information with the younger kids. My daughter decided she wanted to be Laura Ingalls Wilder. We’ve read the series of books, as well as some biographies (and yes, we’ve discussed the problematic depictions of Native Americans in the books and how, exactly, did the white “settlers” end up there anyway). I’d originally offered to sew her an outfit, then school let us know we weren’t supposed to sew or buy, and the kids were to assemble their own costumes. I passed that on to G, who asked her teacher, who said if parents wanted to sew, it was fine, they just didn’t want anyone to feel pressured. Oh.
G, of course, was sure I absolutely wanted to sew her a pioneer outfit and wouldn’t feel pressured at all. And you know what? I kind of did want to sew her an outfit, despite the other projects and deadlines that got crunched as a result. I remember wanting to be like Laura when I was my daughter’s age. So I found a pattern at Joann’s (McCall’s 7231) and we went to our local quilt store, which has a selection of 19th century prints (apparently Civil War quilts are a thing, I’m not really sure), and she chose the fabric.
I’m a bit in love with this outfit. And despite the short time frame (I think it was 10 days from buying the pattern to having it complete), it all went well. My skills have grown tremendously as I’ve sewn for her, and so has my confidence. I looked over the pattern in the store and saw nothing I hadn’t encountered before–facings, gathering, ruffles, buttonholes, I’ve gained confidence in them all. I remember the first items I ever sewed from a pattern, pajama pants for my boys (right before G was born). I knew nothing. I didn’t even know about finishing seams, and the pattern didn’t tell me to! I have learned so, so much, by doing, and especially by taking on things that were a stretch.
I love the pinafore. I want one in my size! And the bonnet has a bow at the back, although it’s hard to see. The pattern is a size 7-8, but my 8yo is a peanut. It’s a little roomy on her, and I shortened both the dress and the pinafore, but it should still fit her for a good long time. If I were her, I’d be tempted to wear this every day, and string buttons, and make maple sugar candy, and practice my sewing while I dreamed about horses and let my bonnet slip down so the sun hit my face, even if Ma scolded me.