Saturday, May 26, 2018

Untethered to Truth

Hand Applique and embroidered images, with machine quilted text in background.  Completed May 9, 2018.  Size 9" x 13" 

I'm a founding member of a new quilt group at Gotham Quilts in Manhattan, called Quilt Lab.  We will meet monthly and respond to challenges (experiments!)  to try a new technique or art concept.  This first challenge was "Make Gray Stand Out".  The problem with the color gray is that it is a neutral that recedes in most art.  

While considering this theme, James Comey, the fired FBI director, just published his book, and was speaking on every talk show and political pod cast, and I heard this phrase which intrigued me:  "Untethered to truth."  The phrase and the challenge collided in that I wanted GRAY to stand out,  and I also want TRUTH to stand out. 

I wanted to use the gray fabric to create stone-like, weighty letters and found an image online of the word LOVE, in this arrangement.  

This is when its handy to have an artistic family member, so THANKS to Anna for this great starting drawing: 

Next I selected fabric,  and purposely wanted to use red to prove that I could make gray stand out, even with red  (because I saw some quilts which were mostly gray and white, with the smallest addition of red, and that red hogged all the attention!)   I have a collection of amazing hand dyed fabric from my pal Sam Hunter at Hunters Design Studioso I selected this gray and this deep red. 

I checked the VALUE contrast by using the black and white feature of my camera, to make sure that the gray really was a lighter value than the red (because that's the only way this would work) 

And in typical "Paula" fashion, I only had this small piece of fabric on hand. So I was going to have to use those lighter spots strategically. 

I traced the letters, and assigned value to each piece (light, medium, dark) to retain the 3-dimensional quality of the drawing.  Then I traced off the pattern pieces onto fusible web,  which has to happen backwards for the whole thing to work out.   Here are some in progress photos:

 I wasn't happy with the value difference of each piece of this T,  so I replaced a few of the pieces as I moved forward.  Again, it was tricky because I knew I had such a small piece of gray fabric to work with. 

I traced the whole image again onto tracing paper to use as a guide,  so I could make sure the letters were placed properly. 

The tracing paper is pinned to the fabric, so I could lift it up, place letters and lay back down to check. 

 Once at the letters were created, I didn't like the lack of contrast between letters, so I decided to embroider a black outline around each piece: 

Then I asked Neil to draw one of his 'famous' balloon heads, to which I added the caricature yellow hair, which identifies the #45.  I embroidered that, with a trailing balloon string above TRUTH

Finally,  the piece is background quilted with this phrase from Comey's book: 

"our country is paying a high price for the election.  This president is unethical, and untethered to the truth and institutional values."

When presented at our meeting, I think I was successful in making GRAY stand out,  because I do think one sees the word TRUTH when looking at the piece.  

Here is a picture of all the pieces we discussed at the Quilt Lab meeting: 

Philosophically,  I'm not sure I actually believe in Capital-T Truth, as so much of our personal perspective drives what we see and believe we are looking at.  But the distance this administration has traveled from any sort of truth based in any sort of legitimate policy (even if I don't agree) is beyond troubling.


Thursday, March 22, 2018

Matzah Cover a la Adva


3 pocket Matzah cover for Passover with Selvage Edge applique and hand embroidered blanket stitch. Completed Mar 21, 2018.  Size 10" x 11"

This piece was made for the week 6 challenge in Project Quilting season 9 - Scraptastic

The challenge requirement was to use at least 12 different fabrics in a project.  I wanted a new Matzah Cover for our family seder next weekend.  In selecting fabric I might use to create it, I noticed a fun selvage edge on one piece, and remembered that my friend Adva would want that edge when I cut it off.  Quilters don't typically use the selvage edge because it is woven more densely to hold the fabric during the printing/dying process.  Here is an image of a typical selvage edge - the bit with the colored dots.  And yes, that is Pigs Flying fabric!

Adva makes some beautiful quilts using fabric she creates by sewing together selvage edges in a very creative way, like this little bird: 

So when I thought about Adva at that moment, I decided to change direction and make this for her instead, using those selvage edges the way she does, even though I had never done it before.

Here is my collection of selvage edges before I started sewing them together.  

I created 6 triangles,  then tried out various arrangements,
and finally decided to cut 3 of them down to create this layout: 

I selected this background because it looked 'spring-like' which fits the Passover holiday,  and because it was in direct opposition to the snow storm raging outside my window: 

To get a little more definition on the shapes and secure them better,  I hand embroidered the blanket stitch around each piece:

Finally, I constructed the 3 pockets needed to make this a Passover Matzah cover.   I created this offset design, by adding a bright strip of beautifully hand dyed fabric to the edges of the pockets, so they show as stripes on one edge.  Here is a close up of the pockets with matzah inserted:

Final count:  40 different fabrics used in this piece

Adva and I met through quilting, and deepened that friendship through our shared interests in travelling to quilt shows, eating and drinking at nice restaurants,  talking about and watching shows like Amazing Race and Project Runway,  gossiping about those women on the Real Housewives shows, as if we really knew them, and sharing Jewish holidays together in a town that was mostly Christian.     

She has an amazing design aesthetic and can pick colors for a quilt that go together perfectly.  When I moved to New York City 3 years ago, I left behind a great friend.  Making this matzah cover for her and her family is my way of continuing to be with her for the holidays. 

Chag same’ach Chavera Sheri (Happy Holiday my friend)



3/31/18 UPDATE:  Since this project started out as a matzah cover for our table, once I had finished the one for Adva, I started another for myself.  I liked the Spring color palette I used for Adva's, so I made the decorative element in my embroidered style  (it says MATZAH in Hebrew letters)  then created the same offset pockets.  We have seder tonight, so this will be used right away.

Chag Sameach to everyone celebrating Passover    

Sunday, March 11, 2018

Immigrants: stitched into the fabric of America

Boro repair stitching on torn jeans.  Jeans pockets on back.   Completed Mar 11, 2018.  Size 9" x 6"

This quilt was made for the week 5 challenge in Project Quilting season 9 - A Stitch in Time Saves Nine.   

The anti-immigrant drumbeat in the United States is frightening, and so ill informed.  Our country is a nation of immigrants, and each wave brings a richness to the texture of the American culture.

There is a technique of clothing repair from Japan called Boro Stitching recently explored in my local quilt guild.  In it, patches of fabric are sewn behind and on top of areas to be mended, and the patches are secured with a long stitch, which may be decorative like Sashiko, or simply straight lines.

I purchased a pair of tiny jeans from a local Goodwill shop, with a hole in the knee, and then repaired the hole with fabric from various countries. 

The red behind the hole is from Iran (given to me by a coworker who travelled home for a visit a few years ago.  The other fabric patches represent central America, African nations and Indonesia. 
My concept was to show that this quintessential American fabric (blue jeans) are made whole by the inclusion of various immigrant communities, stitched together using a technique that is at once foreign, and recognizable. 

For the back, I was charmed by the tiny back pocket and side pocket of these small jeans, so I kept that as whole as possible and used them as is. The pockets still function.

This piece is rather wonky, due to the thickness of the denim fabric, and those very cumbersome seams.  I think this represents the shaky ground we are on at this time.  As a Jew, I know the danger of xenophobia (fear of people from other countries).  Jews in the diaspora have often been blamed and then persecuted for trouble in foreign lands, and we are admonished to watch for the downward slide that begins by blaming 'others' (not your group) and not standing up in protest. 

The very real economic hardships suffered by so many citizens in our central and southern states, are being blamed on immigrants taking the jobs. This is simply not true; the traditional jobs and industries have vanished due to automation and globalization.

Immigrants from all countries have the same goal: safety and prosperity for their families.

I am an immigrant.