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Posts Tagged ‘craft’

Cat and Quilt

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So I’m back on the wagon, both with the blog and with the work. I’m not making promises anymore about how often I’ll post here – I’m trying to do my best to surrender to the wack-a-day rhythm that is my life, and just go with it. It’s nice finally to be working on something that isn’t a secret; something I can show to the interwebs!

I started this quilt in 2007, I think, or even 2006. Most of the fabrics came from Kaimuki Dry Goods in Hawaii. I visited in January of 2006, and bought half a suitcase of stuff with a vague plan in mind and not much more. I spent months staring at the fabrics before I finally worked up the courage to cut into them, and then made a small amount of progress before my brother and sister-in-law announced their engagement. I very carefully labeled all the pieces and put them away in a box so I could tackle the wedding quilt that would take two years to finish. When that was all over, I hadn’t exactly forgotten about this beauty, but I didn’t have any more quilt in me.

Since I have mentally declared 2013 as “The Year of Wrapping Up Loose Ends,” it was with satisfaction but some trepidation that I pulled that box off the shelf a few weeks ago. I’ve made several more quilts in the intervening years, and gotten much better at making the seams line up and the corners pointy. I was worried that I’d look at the old blocks and hate them. Luckily, I have declared the previous work “good enough” and thrown myself back into it, with an even clearer idea of what I want the finished product to look like.

Making a full-sized quilt with a cat around is harder than making a quilt without the cat. Inara loves to help with any project, but I’m having a hard time convincing her that the hot iron is not something she wants to smell and that I really just did wash all that fabric and would like to keep the cat hair content to a minimum. When we can declare a truce, she likes to hang out behind the machine, blessedly out of the way, and snooze. I’ve built four more blocks in the last three weeks, and progress in continuing apace.

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She walks in beauty, like the night

   Of cloudless climes and starry skies;
And all that’s best of dark and bright
   Meet in her aspect and her eyes;
Thus mellowed to that tender light
   Which heaven to gaudy day denies.
One shade the more, one ray the less,
   Had half impaired the nameless grace
Which waves in every raven tress,
   Or softly lightens o’er her face;
Where thoughts serenely sweet express,
   How pure, how dear their dwelling-place.
And on that cheek, and o’er that brow,
   So soft, so calm, yet eloquent,
The smiles that win, the tints that glow,
   But tell of days in goodness spent,
A mind at peace with all below,
   A heart whose love is innocent!
George Gordon, Lord Byron

This poem, dredged from old days as an English major, has been playing through my head for the last couple of days. The celebration of these two are always the most problematic for me, because I think they’re the least straightforward. Flowers, jewelry, dancing, even luxury are open to a certain amount of interpretation, but in the end pretty concrete. Love and beauty, however, are notoriously difficult to pin down. Every year these two lead to a great deal of introspection and a certain amount of navel gazing, and in the end I do them a little differently each time.

Today I thought about beauty all day long. It ranged from the simple – putting on a favorite shirt and my moonstone earrings – to complex thoughts about the nature of art (or Art) and finding beauty in the most mundane parts of our days. I set aside the never-ending parade of chores for a few hours (work that produces its own kind of beauty) and concentrated on some projects that often get neglected but are the essence of the person I think I am. That person is a Maker, a crafter of beautiful objects and ideas, a sculptor of light, and a fashioner of grace from old, unwanted, and broken things. My workroom has been piled under a combination of junk and treasures for the last few months and essentially unusable; I’ve been working hard to get it clean for the last few weeks and I’ve finally reached a point where it’s not clean, but it’s livable. Today I played with yarn, washing and blocking the swatch for the green sweater, winding off some skeins for my next project, and putting things away. I opened up one of the boxes of my Great-Grandmother’s linens and washed a few things, and looked at how to clean and use a lovely piece of woven wool tapestry that is damaged and fragile. And I read some Byron, and thought about the ideals of beauty that people have had and changed for the last umpteen thousand years.

Yesterday was my day of Love. In Vodou, there are many Erzuli and each has her own complicated relationship with the idea of love. Erzulie Freda wears three wedding rings, one for each of her husbands. Erzulie Dantor embodies mother love, and is a protector of women and children – and often associated with lesbians. Other Erzuli deal with hiding secrets, revenging wrongs, or helping women though childbirth. Some are fierce and some coquettish, some dangerous and some nurturing. All of them love passionately, though, and all of them weep tears of pain and sorrow for the heartbroken, the wronged, and the downtrodden. I think that for all the celebration, the central image of Erzulie is of a lover with a complicated relationship to the things she loves. The practitioners of Vodou recognize with their Spirits the realities of love that are sometimes overlooked in other religious or philosophical contexts.

Love can also be controversial. All we have to do is open a newspaper, turn on the radio or tv, or do a little web surfing to find people from all ideological camps arguing about who may love whom, and how, and whether or not it is up to God, society, or individuals to even make those decisions. I certainly have strong opinions on the subject, and I’m not shy about them.  R and I are planning a September wedding, and we think it is a travesty that many of our friends and family who will be in attendance cannot enjoy the same privilege in most of our country. The entire point of the American Dream is that we strive to be more free, not less – and we certainly shouldn’t try to make others less free. Yet in the US we have a long lineage of “moral” tyranny including slavery, indentured servitude, Jim Crow, miscegenation laws, disenfranchisement of the poor, the indigent, and the different… the list goes on and on. The United States isn’t alone in this history by any stretch of the imagination, but we may be the biggest hypocrites, since our nation was founded on the preservation of individual freedoms. In Minnesota, there is an amendment to the state constitution on the ballot in November that would codify institutional homophobia here. These so-called “Marriage Amendments” have been cropping up in states all over the country, and in every state to this point the people have decided to ban same-sex marriage. It’s hard to guess what will happen here. The Twin Cities are two of the most gay-friendly in the US, and yet they’re ringed by the suburbs that elected Michelle “Pray-The-Gay-Away” Bachmann to the US Senate. People in the Upper Midwest are conservative by nature, if not by politics; I fear that those are the people who will take their uncertainty and distrust to the polls with them this fall.

I’ll wrap up this already-too-long post with a lighter note: a Litany of What I Love. These are the things that were circulating around in my head yesterday as I mulled all this stuff over.

  • R, the idea of getting married, and the joy of having a partner in life
  • The Kitties, who are still trying to kill each other but getting better
  • My family who keep me honest and my friends who enable me
  • God, in the complicated way that you come to after many years of disagreement
  • Having a job where they pay me to play
  • Having space of my own and time in which to work
  • And last, myself, my journey, and the gratitude I have for life

Thanks for hanging through this whole thing with me. See you tomorrow for DANCING!

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I’ve been kicking this idea around for some time now, wondering what I could add to the blogosphere that isn’t already there. There are dozens of great knitting blogs (I know, I read a lot of them). There are industry-specific blogs and blogs about wedding planning and “here’s my life, look at how I run it really well” blogs. In other words, I’ve held back because I didn’t think I had anything to offer.

So why now? Perhaps because I’ve gotten to a point where I don’t journal the way I used to, but I still have the urge to write things down before I forget them. Maybe because the on-line format lends itself well to adding in the photos and video that punctuate the words I write, and make the ideas and memories all the more visceral. Maybe because all the cool kids are doing it. Maybe because I know there’s a community of like-minded, completely disorganized people JUST LIKE ME out there.

Last night in martial arts class, our Shifu was talking about training in deep internal arts, and asking us how it is that we know chi is moving, how we learn to trust what we feel and see when everything in Western culture tells us that invisible energy is stupid. After doing a couple of exercises trying to manifest an external representation of an internal process, we decided as a class that the answer to learning to believe in chi is to have others, outside of our own experience, witness and describe to us the same things that we’re feeling. Knowing that chi is there comes from the validation of our community. Perhaps this is a part of why the art of the blog has come so far in the last 10 years, and why I am taking back to the screen for the first time in a very long time. We seek to validate our existence, our choices, and our experience with the love, support, and commiseration of our community. It’s great to share our joys and sorrows and disappointments and triumphs with others.

So welcome, bienvenue, salut! It’s great to have you here tagging along with me as I figure this all out from one day to the next. Please feel free to leave a comment or ask questions or let me know if I get boring. I’m just going to be as honest as I can, and share the stuff that I think is fascinating.

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