Monday, March 20, 2017

Dissed again in the news

Found in the New York Times last week, in a story aboutf the alternative minimum tax:

"In a tax system with enough loopholes to fill a macramé tapestry, the idea was......."

I guess "tapestry" has become an all-purpose word for something made out of fiber that hangs on a wall (and to be fair, some people who make quilts, who should know better, use "tapestry" as a substitute for the Q word).  But macrame is not tapestry, and it chops me to see the technical terms of my field continually misused by people who search for a clever simile without knowing what they're really talking about.

I was further amused at the oh-so-correct use of the accent in macrame.  When we were all doing macrame, back in the day, none of us used an accent, nor do we today.  So that kind of adds insult to injury -- not only do you misuse our words, you misspell them, in the most la-di-da way.  Kind of like the grand lady slumming in a soul food restaurant who orders chitterlings.

Sunday, March 19, 2017

My favorite things 12

Several years ago my son gave me this little gizmo as a Mother's Day present.  It has a heavy base with a non-skid gripper surface on the bottom and two arms fitted with alligator clips that bend every which way.  You use it to hold onto whatever needs holding onto -- here it's holding the end of a braided cord that I'm making out of selvages.

I've used it to hold my knotted constructions, turning it as needed to work from the back as well as the front.  I've used it to hold my Christmas ornaments while I zapped them with a heat gun (just had to remember not to touch the metal for a few minutes until it cooled down).

I've used it to hold up directions or other notes in front of my workspace and to hold the middle of a twisted cord that I needed to turn back on itself.  I can't remember what all else; my little holder lives on my worktable and gets called into service all the time.  It's surprising how many projects benefit from a third (and fourth) hand!

The little magnifying glass can be positioned between you and your work, but I've never needed it; miraculously the reading lenses of my bifocals allow me perfect focus of my sewing machine needle, my worktable, and all the places I hold my handwork.  I'm blessed to be able to thread needles, rip seams and take really tiny stitches without outside assistance.  So I have made a little felt hood for the magnifier, which serves as a pincushion and needleholder, but took it off for this photo.

My son found the gizmo at Radio Shack, it says on the base, so apparently its original use was to hold electrical components while you welded them together (at least that's what we did when I took electronics back in the olden days of tubes).  I'm told that the same kind of device is essential equipment for fly-tying, if you're into that, so maybe you could get one at the Bass Pro Shop, Radio Shack having demised.

It's one of those tools that you have no idea you need until it appears in your workspace, and then you wonder how you could ever live without it.

Friday, March 17, 2017

A week on retreat -- and not much to show for it

I got home yesterday from a week at our twice-yearly retreat, just 25 miles down the road but so far away in mental distance.  It doesn't seem that I accomplished very much at all -- mainly I read through a huge pile of newspapers, cut out this many little clippings for my daily art and other found-poetry projects

and put a foot-high stack of papers into the recycling bin. But yes, it takes three full days to accomplish that much, and I didn't even get the little clippings sorted and filed.  And I brought home another stack of papers that still haven't gotten read.

I did come across interesting things in the pile that I should have noticed months ago.  Here's one that made me crabby.

It's from an art review in the New York Times of a show by Nari Ward, a sculptor who immigrated to New York from Jamaica and who has worked extensively with themes of African culture coming to the new world.  The photo shows an installation of bricks covered with painted copper.

photo from New York Times

The reviewer comments, "African-American history is embedded everywhere. The colored patterns in the floor installation are derived from 19th-century African-American quilts....  The quilt patterns derive from African textiles."

Well, I beg to differ.  Perhaps the artist was inspired by a Bear Paw or Shoo-fly quilt made by an African-American -- those traditional quilt designs were no doubt popular among quiltmakers of all ethnicities -- but those patterns did not derive from African textiles.

It's just another example of people who don't know much about quilts being glib -- and wrong.  (And on that same note, the other day I saw an announcement about some woman giving a speech about quilts used as code on the Underground Railroad....)

Sunday, March 12, 2017

My favorite things 11

In the olden days, of course, printers had to set all their type one letter at a time.  It took a while to do a book, because you wouldn't own enough type to set more than a couple of pages at a time (especially if the book was about St. Francis Xavier or explorers' expeditions or zebras -- think about it: a font of type included lots and lots of lower-case es but only a few xs and zs).  Even after the invention of the Linotype in 1884, which allowed printers to set a whole line of type in one chunk of metal, there was plenty of single-character type in use.

But the development of phototypesetting shortly after WW2 eventually made both the Linotype and the older single-character type obsolete.  Even the smallest printshop switched to photo type (often called "cold type") as soon as possible; it cost less and required way less tedious labor.  So in the 1970s and 80s the flea markets of America were flooded with old type, both wood and metal, as old-style printers got rid of their old-style type or went out of business.

My dad was a typographer and loved type in all its many forms, and had the prescience to realize that the old stuff was going to disappear.  He bought lots and lots of type, including some really huge letters that must have come from a printshop specializing in billboards.  He gave me these big wood characters in the early 70s and they have had a prominent place in all my living rooms ever since.

The ampersand is 21 inches tall; the K is 17 inches.

The wood is still smooth, with pretty sharp edges; you could print off it easily and probably get a good impression.  But it also has the fabulous patina of years and years of use.  The printing surfaces on both pieces are probably close to their original color, although you can tell that they have a lot of ink in their history.  But the recessed background areas, which weren't cleaned as carefully because they never touched the paper, are darker and stained, with their own non-shiny patina.

I own lots and lots of smaller wood type with similar characteristics, much of which I still use to print with.  But I'd give my left arm for more of these big guys.  I'm sure if I hunted on eBay or other specialty sites I could find some, but it would certainly cost 100 times what Dad paid for these.

Friday, March 10, 2017

Feeling better about divestiture

The other day I wrote about getting rid of little bundles of fabric left over from clothes and curtains and things that I made decades ago.  I dutifully pitched the stuff, but it wasn't without some qualms -- not that I thought I would ever use the bits from garments I hadn't seen in 40 years, but it seemed so final to throw away things I had carefully saved all those years.  They seemed to be tangible connections to my past, and to accomplishments and pleasures that were very important at the time.

But then I had an inspiration.  I could save out some smaller pieces and make little people from them!

That struck me as the perfect way to retain my memories of beautiful dresses from the past, yet let the bundles of leftovers depart.

I had already put dozens of leftover bundles into the discard pile the previous week, and I'm proud to say that I didn't go back and retrieve them, but I did cut chunks of a bunch of remnants that I had just discovered.  Here are some of the little people I made from them:

Monday, March 6, 2017

Divestiture -- little bundles

I've been cleaning my studio since Christmas, taking an occasional break to make some minimal art but nothing serious.  I'm now accumulating my fourth batch of fabrics to go to the guild for charity quilts (and when I say "batch" I mean at least five cubic feet, maybe nine or ten...).  A huge pile of non-quilt fabrics is waiting near the back door for my friend who teaches high school art -- boxes and boxes of drapery and upholstery samples, fabrics too heavy or flimsy for the quilt guild, miscellaneous stuff of many descriptions.

I keep encountering boxes of things that I have carefully bundled up, sorted and packed away over the decades, because that's the kind of person I am.  (I don't think it reaches the level of "hoarder" but maybe I'm wrong.)  Like everybody I know who sewed garments, I would fold up the leftovers, tie the bundle up with a bit of selvage, and put it into storage.  My mother did it this way, my grandmother did it this way.

In retrospect, there doesn't seem to be much reason to do this.  What were we going to do with the bits?  I suppose you could theoretically make a patch if your blouse got a rip in it, but in all my 40 years of garment sewing I never knew that to happen.  But that's the way I did it.

It's been at least 20 years since I decided to give up garment sewing to concentrate on quilts, and 99 percent of the garments are long gone, but still all those little bundles were packed neatly away in boxes, neatly labeled as "silky remnants."  (Not silk, of course, but polyester...)

And last week, encountering them in my new spirit of divestiture, I realized that I should and could throw them away, as I arguably should have done in 1992 -- or maybe 1972.  I found the leftover bits from my wedding dress, and from multiple maternity dresses, and from the curtains and crib bumper pads from our first baby's bedroom.  I found many larger packages of garments that I had cut out and partially sewed together (or not) decades ago.  They all got tossed (well, not the wedding dress...)

And then in another box, just days later, I found the pattern for the wedding dress!

I kept that, too.  One of these days I expect I'll find the wedding dress itself, which I KNOW I never would have thrown out, but has been MIA for decades.