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.



Sunday, February 25, 2018

Not Enough

100's of hand embroidered French knots, machine quilted.    Completed Feb 25, 2018.  Size 14" x 8". 
This quilt was made for the week 4 challenge in Project Quilting season 9 - Yellow.  

After yet another school shooting, in Parkland, Florida on Feb 14th, I knew I had to address the problem - its this gun - the AR 15.  Thoughts and Prayers are not enough.  Better mental health services are not enough. Reporting troubled people is not enough.  Active shooter drills are not enough.  Armed guards in schools are not enough.  BAN THIS GUN - and others like it. 

The challenge theme is "yellow", so I selected a solid yellow fabric, and various yellow embroidery threads. I had seen this sort of embroidery, a dense working of French knots that leave a word or image in the negative space, like the image below.  I do lots of embroidered work and wanted to try something new.  

I traced an image of the AR 15, and then transferred it to fabric, on my window 'light box'  - then I basted the outline as a way to create a mark that would not brush off while I worked the knots.  This is the first time I did that step, and I'm really glad I tried it.  I'll do that again! 


I started the French knots, trying to balance the various colors as I went around the outline of this beast.  At the end, I added some color a little more in the gold range, to give definition.  And then finally added the 17 red knots, commemorating the 17 dead at Marjorie Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.  I learned after I started working on this piece that one of our cousins was at the high school that day.  I'm so glad Dani is ok  (link to her Good Day LA interview)   The quilting (pop pop pop pop) is based on something she said, "we heard popping sounds", which I've heard in other interviews.  This gun doesn't 'bang',  it pops. 

Here are images of this piece in progress.  The color change of the background is completely due to lighting used when photographing.  That's a whole other interesting exploration.


The AR 15 is the beast responsible for many of the mass shootings in the past few years.  The damage caused by this weapon is horrifying, as attested to by survivors and first responders (police, ER doctors).  Even veterans who used this gun in battle explain why we don't need it on our city streets.   I'm not a gun enthusiast so I don't know the exact words to use:  is this an assault weapon, a machine gun, an automatic weapon.  I have no idea.  But if you are going to start arguing semantics about this gun, then you are part of the problem. 

EDIT:  My friend Jesse Rabinowitz stated it this way 
 "Your ability to avoid dealing with the murder of innocents with a haughty, faux-expert lecture on the nuances of high-volume murder weapons betrays either an emotionally-ignorant, completely-numb, tone-deaf response to our frequent mass-shootings, or a calculated willful ignorance of the mass-murders of innocence, in a hopelessly morally-withered clinging to an adolescent notion of liberty without responsibility. If you think that liberals give a flying fuck about the fine distinctions between ARs, assault rifles, automatics, semiautomatics, or fucking rocket launchers, or that we are too dumb to know the differences, you are deeply mistaken. If we stumble in murder-weapon syntax, it's not because we couldn't study gun magazines, it's because we know high-volume killing machines when we see them and don't bother getting wound up in anal distinctions about weaponry while missing the carnage that people like you gloss over."

I'm NOT advocating for complete gun control.  I understand why some people like to shoot guns.  I'm just not one of them. 

Its only February.  These 17 deaths make it 53 THIS YEAR.  If you add in the physical injuries that's 137.  In February.  And that doesn't count the PTSD - all those people who are traumatized by the popping sound a gun makes,  by the rattle of a classroom door handle,  by a kid in their school who threatens violence.  And it doesn't count all the family members who are traumatized by the loss of their children, parents, siblings, cousins, friends. 

Enough is enough.  We must do something to protect our citizens in schools, at concerts, in night clubs, on the street.  There is simply no reason for military style weaponry to be available to civilians.  I hope the kids pushing for change  are successful, and shame on us adults for not taking care of this for them.  The agenda of the NRA has morphed from 'educating people about gun safety' to selling as many guns as possible.  This is why their answer to this shooting is to  arm more people.  NO!  NO MORE GUNS. Enough already. 

Now more than ever, peace,

PS:  thanks Flaun Cline for the stats on deaths and injuries so far this year.  Tragic stuff.

Sunday, February 11, 2018

Malala - Bravely pursuing an education

Hand embroidery, machine quilted.    Completed Feb 11, 2018.  Size: 13"x9".

This quilt was made for the week 3 challenge in Project Quilting season 9 - Bold and Brave. 

Malala Yousafzai is a Pakistani activist for girls' education, who was shot by the Taliban as a teenager because of her views and has gone on to earn a Nobel Prize and continue the good fight for education. 

For this challenge, I started with the red background, as a bold color. Then I wanted to find a synonym for brave, to learn something new just as Malala would want for all women. I embroidered "Impavid", meaning fearless,  on a book outline.  

None of this said "Malala" to me,  so since it was only Friday and I had TWO  WHOLE DAYS left of the challenge, I decided to add a quote and an iconic image of this brave girl. 

I found this image, and manipulated it into black and white, so I could trace it. 

I've been developing this raw edge color blocking applique, and I really like it here again. I think I didn't get her nose quite right, and I lost a bit of her beautiful ethnic quality, but her head scarf and hair are just the look I was going for.

Finally this quote, speaks directly to how Malala fits this challenge about bravery. 

And I included a version of her  signature. 

Ultimately,  I don't think this is a strong piece visually;  It looks like one of those internet memes, rather than a cohesive art piece.   But it does fit the theme of bold and brave for the challenge this week.

Mostly I liked thinking about Malala Yousafzai in every stitch.  What a brave girl to blog about the closing of girls schools and the exclusion of women from the public sphere in general.  The Taliban retaliated by shooting her in the head.  She was treated at military hospitals and ultimately moved to the UK, where she now lives and writes.  

In our own country, our education system is under attack by an American  religious right wing that denies scientific fact, favoring religious parables (Evolution vs Creationism) and is anti-intellectual at every turn. I'm a life long learner.  I'm a reader and a talker and a listener.  I'm a sesquipedalian - a person who likes big words - and a Malala supporter.


Sunday, January 28, 2018

Triangle Shirtwaist Factory Fire - the birth of modern workplace safety

3D cotton blouse (shirtwaist), fused applique logo, hand applique and embroidered flames, machine quilted.  Completed Jan 28, 2018. Size: 9"x9"

This quilt was made for the week 2 challenge in Project Quilting season 9 - Triangulation. 

This quilt refers to the Triangle Waist Company Factory Fire, in Manhattan on March 25, 1911.  When fire broke out in the building, 145 women and girls died due to improperly maintained safety features, such as doors locked from the outside, and insufficient stairwells and fire escapes.  The doors were locked to prevent stealing and unauthorized breaks by the sweatshop laborers - working 12 hour days, 7 days a week.  Although fire safety laws existed, regulators were bribed to look the other way. After this tragedy (the worst workplace death toll until 9/11) stricter fire standards were enacted by strong unions working with Reform party politicians in New York State.   

For this little quilt, I started with the logo of the Triangle Waist Factory Company, seen here in this historical photo. 

A "Waist" is the term for a women's blouse of the era, also called a shirtwaist. 

Since I used to make costumes for theater in California, with my friend Lynn McQuown, I had a lot of experience with clothing construction, and thought that I could actually make a miniature blouse. 

  I found an image of a mutton sleeve pattern, and set about to draft one in the size I needed. 

Yes, those are miniature, gathered, set in sleeves! 

I drafted the company logo to a size that worked with the finished blouse, then auditioned flames drawn on paper, to see if that would be a good element in the design. 

Next, in keeping with the theme of the challenge, I cut triangle shaped flame blocks and arranged them at the base of the logo and then hand embroidered the curved flame shapes over the triangles. 

The little blouse was also embellished with pink pearl beads, to represent the way these would have closed with a row of buttons.  The shirtwaist represents a more modern woman, one who dresses herself, able to button the blouse on her own, rather than requiring help to dress.  The blouse is fashioned like a man's shirt, a big move for the modern woman of the 1900's. 

Although not previously a big union supporter, my jobs in state universities in both California and now New York, are union jobs.  I now understand the value of union representation and the efforts made on our behalf in the workplace.  I know that were it not for unions, workplaces for our most vulnerable workers (women, immigrants, minorities) would be more dangerous and exploitative. This fire led directly to the formation of the ILGWU (International Ladies Garment Workers Union) and enactment of stricter fire and other workplace safety laws in New York. 

The current federal administration is rolling back as many safety and environmental regulations as possible to make the US 'attractive' to domestic and international manufacturing concerns.  If we can't manufacture items while keeping our workers safe, who benefits?

Unite!  Resist!