“I Decide.” My “Calendar Cat” Quilt Gets A New Name

The title, my signature, and the date of my quilt.

I knew we’d have to quit when it got dark.  I joked that I was glad it was the fall, if it were summer I’d be picking up old roofing shingles and throwing them in the dumpster till 9 pm.

I was 22 and newly married.  My husband and I were fixing up the big Victorian house we lived in. It was split into four apartments and we moved from one to another renovating them, as well as working on the outside of the house. It was how we spent all our free time.

I joked a lot back then.  It was the only way I knew how to be heard without getting angry, without getting into an argument.  Something I did anything to avoid.

I wondered what it would be like to go to a barbeque on the weekend as my friends did.  What it would be like not to feel the pressure of having to scrape paint off the molding in the dining room before going to my full-time job from 3-11 pm.

Back then, I didn’t know I could have told my husband that I didn’t want to work on the house all the time.  I didn’t know that I could decide how I would spend my time.  And as the years went by, and I finally spoke up for myself, it no longer mattered.  The die had been cast.

My husband and I knew the script too well and we didn’t deviate from it.

21 years later after getting separated from my husband, I was standing in my studio at Old Bedlam Farm and felt a flutter of my heart, a swelling of excitement in my chest.  It was as if I’d been emptied out, like there was space between my bones and my skin, waiting to be filled with possibility.

And I had the realization that now I would be the one deciding how I would spend my days.

I got to choose how I would make the money I needed to survive, where I would live, and how I would spend my free time. I got to decide when to get up in the morning, when to eat lunch, and when to stop working.

I felt, for the first time in my life, the responsibility for making my own decisions.  Something I’d been terrified to do up till that point.  Actually, I was still terrified but also exhilarated.   And I found that taking responsibility for myself made me less afraid than I’d ever been, to make decisions both big and small.

I was finally free.  Free to make the decisions and choices that would determine my life. Free to make good choices and bad. Free to screw up and try again.  Free to take full responsibility for how I chose to live my life.

And now I make those decisions everyday.

Dedicating myself to my art and starting my business was my first good decision, as scary as it was  at the time.   Marrying Jon, who knows me and supports me was my second.

When I’m in my studio making a quilt or potholders, I get to choose which piece of fabric goes where.  I’m not following someone else’s rules or looking to anyone else for legitimacy. I get to decide if my art is good or not.

If work needs to be done around the farm, if it’s something I can do and get satisfaction and enjoyment out of, I’ll do it myself.  Otherwise, we hire someone else to do it. And if I stay up till 9 pm blogging or working on a fabric painting, it’s because I want to do it.

So on this day, when it’s been leaked that the Supreme Court is most likely going to overturn Roe v. Wade, it felt appropriate that I would be finishing up what I have been calling my Calendar Cat quilt.

A quilt that speaks to the expectations and restrictions put on women throughout time.  But also, of women fighting back.  That part is evident in the image of the mason jar that I drew to go alongside the hand-embroidered cats doing their “women’s work”.

The mason jar is not only used for canning but is part of a device called the Del-Em, which women can make themselves and use to perform safe early-term abortions.

For me, the mason jar has become a symbol of a woman being able to make the decisions in her life that are best for her without the interference of any other person or institution.

This is why I’ve changed the name of my quilt from Calendar Cat to I Decide.  Because that’s what it’s really about. Those big decisions and those everyday decisions and women breaking free of the constructs of society to be able to live their own lives.

I Decide
One of the three mason jars I drew using my sewing
The vintage hand embroiled cat doing the Tuesday ironing
The back of I Decide.  I Decide is sold.


My “Cat Calendar” Quilt And The Mason Jars

Cat Calendar quilt

As I was working on my Cat Calender quilt, I kept thinking this can’t just be about cute cats. And they are cute, but they’re also doing all that traditional “women’s work” broken down into certain chores on certain days.  It made me wonder who made up these rules about when to do what.

I also thought that the cats, except for the Saturday one eating her breakfast in her pajamas, didn’t look like they were very happy.

Being a woman who was expected to become a secretary until she got married and had kids, I might be projecting my own discomfort on these cats.  The idea of having a preordained schedule for how a woman is expected to spend her days, makes me squirm.

I was hoping to at least slip a little irony into the quilt, maybe by my choice of fabric that surrounded the cats.  But it wasn’t happening.   So I put the cats aside not sure what to do next.

Then I read an article in the Atlantic called The Abortion Underground,  by Jessica Bruder.  In it, she writes about the Del-Em.  It’s a medical device perfected by Ellie Rothman in 1971 before abortions were legal.  Women could make it at home using plastic tubing, a syringe, a rubber stopper, and a mason jar.

It’s safe and even less invasive than how most early-term abortions are being done in medical facilities today.  Rothman went around the country teaching midwives, and any woman who wanted to learn, how to make and use the device.

I found the article fascinating and empowering. This was only one part of the “underground”, but suddenly, the mason jar took on new meaning.

I’m missing Wednesday and Thursday on my Cat Calendar.  But on one of those days, those cats must have been cooking and canning.  Suddenly, in my mind,  the mason jar became a symbol of a woman not only being able to feed her family but being able to make the decisions in her life that were best for herself.

The idea of combining the mason jars with the Cat Calendar quilt made my heart beat faster.  It’s a good idea and just what the “cute” cats need to be more than just an old way of thinking about women and their place in society.

So, using my sewing machine,  I drew three mason jars on the extra linen that I had cut away from the cat embroideries.  Then I pieced them into my quilt.

I did hesitate about bringing the abortion issue into my work and onto my blog. I try not to be divisive.  But I’m also not going to censure my voice or my art.

One of the three mason jars in my quilt

Kitty Calendar

Kitty Days Of The Week

Jonne sent me these embroidered Kitty Days of the Week.  They’ve been sitting in a box in my studio for a while. I also have some embroideries with women doing similar chores on the same days of the week that Bev sent me.

I remember my friend Mary Kellogg talking about doing laundry on Mondays. I think she even wrote a poem about it.  (I’ll have to find it.)  But except for my Amish neighbors, these house cleaning rituals seem to have vanished (thankfully) with modern conveniences.

I pulled out all the Days of the Week embroideries I have and had a good look at them,  wondering how to use them and if they all belonged together or would be used for different pieces.

I settled on working with the cats or at least starting there.

It was a challenge because there’s so much white space and I didn’t want the pieces to look boxed in.  So I sat down with my Gee’s Bend book for inspiration.  When I saw a quilt that had lots of white fabric and each piece bled into another piece of fabric with a lot of white, I knew that was what I wanted to do.

The flowered table cloth had all the right colors and a good amount of white between them.  When I laid it next to Tuesday’s kitty, I saw that “ironing board shape” and filled the diagonals in with the fabric that is a pattern for Amish dolls.

I saw shapes around the rest of that cat that seemed to work with the images too.  Most of the kitties don’t look too happy with the work they’re doing, or maybe I’m projecting that on them. Except for the Saturday cat, who I distinctly saw with an arch around her.

I’ve never sewn a curve like that before and I considered not doing it.  But nothing else I pictured would do.  So I watched a video on YouTube on how to sew a circle.  It was helpful, and as you can see it worked.

Those little cats, working so hard,  taught me something new.

There were five cats in all.  This is where I’ll leave today.  I have to get ready for Bellydancing and have just enough time to post my selfie with Biddy.


“Moons And Microbes” Potholders For Sale


Moons and Microbes Potholders for sale in my Etsy Shop.

I lost my courage.

I made these potholders over a month ago.  I sewed them up without loops, making them into hot pads because I couldn’t figure out which way they went.  I was so unsure about them, they sat in a pile in my studio until today.

I made these around the same time I started working on my I Decide” quilt.  And I had the same uncertainty about that.  I put those cats aside for weeks before I picked them up again and started sewing them into a quilt.

The timing on the quilt worked out perfectly.  I can almost believe I was waiting to read that article on the Abortion Underground in the Atlantic to find out what that quilt was really about.

Today I picked up the “hot pads” and was stunned that I had a hard time seeing which way was up. It was so obvious to me, that I took them apart and sewed loops on them.

I thought back to when I made them and remembered that it was just after I had my first Therapy session.  Talking about my past for an hour, explaining to my new therapist why I was seeing her, it brought up the past in a way I hadn’t thought about it in years.

And it brought me back to the past.  That’s where the uncertainty came from.  The indecision. That feeling of not knowing which side was up was something I used to experience all the time.

That old feeling lasted about a week, then I got my confidence back again.  But somehow every time I looked at the hot pads, doubt crept in.

Until today.

Today I looked at them and saw them for what they truly are.  I saw clearly why I made them and how they grabbed and held my attention.  It’s in the subtlety and nuances of the hand-painted yellow and purple fabric.  In the contrast of the hard edges and bold shapes.

They’re sunrises and planets, landscapes, phases of the moon and microbes.  They’re universal and infinitesimal.

They are different than any potholders I’ve made before and they inspire me.

Writing this makes me want to paint some fabric and cut it up to make more potholders like these  and like nothing like them at all.

But for now, my Moon and Microbe Potholders are for sale.  They are $20 each + $5 shipping for one or more. You can buy them in my Etsy Shop.  Just click here.

Moons and Microbes V
Moons and Microbes IV
Moons and Microbes  III
Moons and Microbes II
Moons and Microbes I
Full Moon Fiber Art