A Bit of Gee’s Bend, Alabama in New York

February 27th, 2015
Gee's Bend quilt made by Queenie Pettway

Gee’s Bend quilt made by Queenie Pettway in Mary Ann Pettway’s guest room where I slept.

I’ve never seen an exhibit of Gee’s Bend quilts, but I did sleep under one.  When I went to stay with Quilter, Mary Ann Pettway,  last spring in Gee’s Bend Alabama, on the bed in the guest room was a quilt made by Mary Ann’s Aunt Queenie. Better than an exhibit, right, I got to touch it and cover myself with it.

But a bit of Gee’s Bend has made its way to New York.  And tomorrow, Jon and I are going to experience  it.  Thanks to an email from Miriam, I found out about the Gee’s Bend Quilt and Photo Exhibit at Lehman College in the Bronx.

It’s the Gee’s Bend quilts that inspired  me  to make art again after not doing my work for so long.  I saw the catalogue from the exhibit at the Whitney Museum, but had never seen a Gee’s Bend Quilt in person until I went to Alabama last year.

I’m really excited about seeing this exhibit tomorrow.  Ready to soak it all up and be inspired all over again. We’ll be staying over night in NYC and will be back on Sunday.  I plan on taking lots of pictures and will let you know all about it when we get back.


My Ever Changing Flock of Sheep

February 27th, 2015
Glyndalyn's Scarf

Glyndalyn’s Scarf made from Ma’s wool

Glyndalyn’s been making a scarf from Ma’s wool that she bought from me last year.   She sent me this close up of it.  I can’t get enough of  looking at it.  The texture and soft browns, all the different colors that go into making it what it is.  I want to touch it, I can imagine how it feels.

It makes me think of how our flock of sheep has changed since we first got them.  Tess and Ma gone, the lambs that didn’t live long.   The spring 2014 batch of wool I get back from the mill will have Ma’s wool and Ted’s, the ram who sired the lambs.  All the sheep were pregnant back then.  We had no clue how difficult so many of the births would be.  And I had no idea how both heartbreaking and life affirming an experience it would be.

The batch  from the fall of 2014 will have the last of Ma’s wool, not much, I remember it and Deb’s wool (her lamb) was full of brambles.  Almost impossible to clean.   But it will also have the first wool from all the lambs.  It won’t be so much, they were still small, but I can’t wait to see what it all looks a feels like.

We still have Zelda (a Cheviot) and Suzy and Socks (Border Leicesters)  from our original flock.  Since then we’ve added on Kim (a Karakul) and the lambs, Deb, Liam and Pumpkin.  All with their own personalities and distinctive voices.

It seems to be an ever evolving thing having sheep.  I have a pair of fingerless gloves that Sue made me from Tess’ wool and a cowl that Brenda made me, also from Tess’ wool.  A good and sweet reminder of my first flock of sheep.  But the new flock is a good one too.  Liam seems to be trying to take over for Zelda as the leader.  We’ll see what happens with that.  And Deb has such a big personality, loud as she was the moment she was born (She came our of Ma yowling).  Pumpkin has the sweetest baa.  Soft, like a whisper.

It does seem the older sheep have dropped into the back ground, the lambs always up front, challenging Red and finding their place.  I’m sure when the snow melts and they can graze again things will change once more.  I can’t wait to see what comes next.

Liam, Pumpkin

Liam, Pumpkin, Deb, Kim and Suzy’s butt

Sarah’s Quilts: The third one, front and back

February 26th, 2015

thrid quilt (1)

I finished tacking the third quilt for Sarah today.  Here it is, front and back.

thrid quilt back

String Chair at the End of February

February 26th, 2015

string chair

I’ve been continually working on my string chair.  I’m using the baling twine from the hay bales and wrapping and tying it around that old broken chair that was in the barn when we bought the house.

I’m getting there, not that I know where I’m going…..

Sarah’s Quilts: The Third One

February 25th, 2015

The third quilt for Sarah (that’s afternoon sun shining on the bottom of the quilt, it warmed up my studio today so I didn’t need my slippers.)

I feel like I’m on a mission.  It’s to finish the quilts for Sarah.  And it’s happening, I put the backing and batting on the third quilt today.  Tomorrow I’m hoping to finish tacking it and then I’ll be able to send the three quilts off to Sarah and her husband.

I was glad to be able to use the black flowered fabric that was a skirt and blouse.  It’s organic lines soften all the straight edges and sold colors just a bit.

Making these three quilts has taught me a lot about sewing knits and stretchy materials to cottons and each other. I’ve gotten pretty good at it. On this quilt I found it’s easier to sew them together without pins.  Especially using my Viking sewing machine with its computerized tension adjustments.  It was made for quilts like these.  And now I won’t shy away from using knits anymore.  Knowing they’re easy to sew will open up more options when it comes to fabric for me.

Long days in the studio, working continuously on one piece, like I did today,  make me short on words.  I guess I  put all my energy into the quilt and have little left for much else.

Sarah’s Quilts: The Third and Last One

February 24th, 2015
The Third Quilt for Sarah

The Third Quilt for Sarah

I started the third quilt for Sarah today.  This is what I have so far.  I decided to cut some of the logos on the t-shirts in half or thirds depending on how wide a strip of fabric I wanted to use.  (you can see it on the red strips around the checkered center)  I like the way the words and pictures are less representational and almost become just a design.   I plan to do more of this, if it works, as I finish the quilt.

I am unusually tired tonight, think I’ll go to bed early and dream of what I’ll do next.

Sarah’s Quilts: Bleach Stain Clouds

February 23rd, 2015
The "clouds" on Kim's denim shirt.

The “clouds” on a strip of fabric from  Kim’s denim shirt.

I was tacking the back of Bears and Gators , the quilt I’m making for Sarah from Kim’s clothes, when I saw the clouds.

Often when I’m making a quilt from someone’s clothes,the old worn ones, the one’s I imagine are their favorites, sometimes also have stains on them.  It’s my decision whether to cut them out or let them be.

When I was choosing the fabric for the back of this quilt, I came across one of Kim’s denim shirts that I wanted to use.  The cotton fabric was right and the color was right, but it had bleach stains on it.  I decided to use it bleach stains and all.  But I didn’t think about it after that.   Then, when I was tacking the quilt, I saw the clouds, out of the corner of my eye.   They were on a five inch strip of fabric on the back of the quilt.  They were the bleach stains that I decided to use.   I didn’t notice them when I was sewing the back together, but now I could only see them as clouds.   A soft blue sky with puffy white clouds.

The Back of "Bears and Gators" tacked with a rust colored yarn.

The Back of “Bears and Gators” tacked with a rust colored yarn.

The front of "Bears and Gators" all done.

The front of “Bears and Gators” all done.

We Adaptable Humans and the Gulag Mind

February 22nd, 2015
Deer trials in the woods behind the farm

Deer trials in the woods behind the farm

“It’s so warm out”, I said to Wendy at the post office, “20 degrees.”  The man in line behind me had a different opinion.  “It’s not warm”, he said loudly, “don’t let anyone fool you, 20 degrees isn’t warm, ever!” But after so many days of below zero weather,  for weeks and weeks, 20 above does feel warm.

We laughed about it, but it got me thinking.  About how adaptable we human are.  How we can get used to almost anything and how quickly.   And that’s a good thing because it’s how we survive. But sometimes, when it’s not really about survival, we get used to living a certain way and adapt and forget there are other ways to live.

For years, when I used to restore houses for a living, I worked all the time, seven days a week.  And I forgot how to take time off.  I forgot how to relax unless I was exhausted from a days work and having a beer or glass of wine at the end of the day.   I didn’t take vacations or even little over night trips.  It was as if I was afraid to stop working, like I wouldn’t know what to do with myself.  Back then, I couldn’t even sleep late (something I now love to do on a Saturday or Sunday morning) I’d get anxious being in bed after 7am.

For years I lived this way, got used to it.  As if I didn’t have any other choice.  I actually think I forgot that I could change it.  That there might be another way to live.  This is what I mean when I say that sometimes humans can be too adaptable.  I mean if you really have no choice, like you’re in the Gulag or something, then it can save your life, but if you’re living in upstate NY in the 21st century and thinking “Gulag” when you get up in the morning, somethings wrong.  (Although many mornings this winter when I get out of bed and it’s zero or below outside again, I think of Eugenia Ginzburg’s memoir “Journey into the Whirlwind” and am grateful for my hot shower).

So today after another 12 inches of snow fell last night, it was 20 degrees when we went out to feed the animals.  “It’s so warm”, I said to Fanny and Lulu, knowing they’d agree with me, and gave them some carrots.  I’ve obviously adapted to the weather, and that’s a good thing.  But I’ve also adapted to the idea that sometimes you just have to get away, take a break from life’s routines, even if it’s only for one night.  Which is just what Jon and I are doing today.  Making an overnight getaway to our favorite Inn in Vermont. Because, thankfully, we do have a choice and we know it.

Sarah’s Quilt, The Back of “Bears and Gators”

February 20th, 2015

back of bears and gators

I pieced together the back of Sarah’s  first quilt Bears and Gators, made from her sister-in-laws clothes.  Or some of her clothes.  I used two big pieces of fabric, the green and white plaid and the solid blue  from my collection.  The colors felt right to me.  Of Kim’s clothes, I used a skirt, a denim shirt and tan pants.

Now I’m tacking the quilt with a rust colored yarn.  It feels like the perfect work to be doing today.  Meditative and easy.

Finding New Paths

February 20th, 2015

sno shoe shadow

I  easily stepped over the fence in the back pasture, the snow up to its fourth of its six wires. I headed for the stream where Rocky used to drink.  Instead of walking over it in to the woods, I thought, If I were riding a pony, what path would I follow? 

I was trying to get to the wide paths in the woods behind our house without having to duck under trees and push my way through bushes.  Trying to find a path that a horse would be comfortable walking on. I’d have to cut some branches, maybe even some old barbed wire fencing. I know it will all be different in the spring and summer, but it’s a good time for exploring.  And it makes me think of spring and what it will bring.