My Old-Time Religion

I grew up in a family committed to missionary work. One aunt was a Christian missionary in Mexico, another aunt and uncle were Wycliffe Bible translators in Vietnam.

I spent last weekend witnessing as well, proselytizing and evangelizing, but not for Christianity.

Those who follow along here may have a vague memory of me announcing that I’m an atheist, but that doesn’t mean I’m not religious in my beliefs.

It’s just that my religion doesn’t have a god . . . but its heaven is most inviting, or at least it’s the place for me.

It’s a small sect, with few faithful adherents. Some are the equivalent of C&E (Christmas and Easter) Christians—they practice the faith but casually and only on their own terms.

My religion isn’t well-represented in this region; we few members seek each other out and rejoice when we find another believer.

It’s a fundamentally old-fashioned belief system, slow-paced and beholden to the olden days.

My religion, it seems, is hand quilting.

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Last weekend, I spent two days at the biennial show of the Champlain Valley Quilters’ Guild, sitting at a quilting frame–demonstrating, teaching, talking about quilting by hand–and looking for converts.

Like all missionaries, I got a variety of reactions. Some people walked by and laughed, and walked on. A couple of hand quilting atheists shook their heads and called me crazy.

But my slow work, with the serene smile on my face and the peace in my movements, drew others. They sat, they watched, they picked up a needle and joined me.

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Some people were curious—they seemed to come looking for a new kind of meaning, a place of belonging.

Others were already true believers. We spoke in almost spiritual tones and words of how we felt about the hand quilting. It has a soul; it carries the spirit of our ancestors; it allows us to transcend the mundane, to find a peace unavailable through a machine.

I asked them to look at the three or four quilts, in a show of 400, that were quilted by hand, by members of the faith. We could all see and sense the difference, even though we admitted that the quilts done by machine were often awe-inspiring in their own ways.

We agreed that, while we’d never go to war or start an Inquisition to defend our faith, we’d never foist our beliefs on others, we still agreed that our ways suit us best.

Everyone needs to believe in something, I guess. And I believe in taking it slow . . .

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One of only three or four hand-quilted quilts in our guild show. Maybe next time, there will be more!?

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I Wander As I Wind . . .

IMG_8789I’m winding warp. By the time the day is out, I will have 7 more bundles like this, all for a set of towels.

Winding warp is kind of boring, kind of repetitious, kind of mundane, but without it no weaving can be done.

When my mind wanders as I wind, I think of possibilities.

Because winding warp is all about possibilities and all about anticipation.

In this warp I see Christmas, of course, and winter. Snow and brisk winds and the cozy fires of home.

I see strong fabric where there is now simply thread.

I see useful objects that will please people who have values like mine, who value function and form and the imprint of the human hand.

I see hours spent watching the cloth grow, watching candy cane stripes wend through white, fresh and crisp and pleasing.

Through the occasional stress and struggles and bad news of daily life, I see making and becoming and creating.

So, I will go wind warp.

The Not-So-Boring Begats

When I was a child, I went to church.

In that church, we read the Bible. The whole Bible.

Or at least that was the idea, the goal. We were encouraged to read the whole thing, as well as memorize the names of the books of the Bible (which I can still reel off with weird precision 50-ish years later, for the first 20 or so).

Parts of the Bible were interesting. But then one would get to the boring begats, the long lists of genealogy, like this one in Genesis:

[7] And Seth lived after he begat Enos eight hundred and seven years, and begat sons and daughters:
[8] And all the days of Seth were nine hundred and twelve years: and he died.
[9] And Enos lived ninety years, and begat Cainan:
[10] And Enos lived after he begat Cainan eight hundred and fifteen years, and begat sons and daughters:
[11] And all the days of Enos were nine hundred and five years: and he died.
[12] And Cainan lived seventy years, and begat Mahalaleel:
[13] And Cainan lived after he begat Mahalaleel eight hundred and forty years, and begat sons and daughters:
[14] And all the days of Cainan were nine hundred and ten years: and he died.
[15] And Mahalaleel lived sixty and five years, and begat Jared:
[16] And Mahalaleel lived after he begat Jared eight hundred and thirty years, and begat sons and daughters:
[17] And all the days of Mahalaleel were eight hundred ninety and five years: and he died.

And on and on. Who were these people and how did they live so long? These were the sections I skipped.

I find, now, that my life is full of a different sort of begats. I think of this as the crafting begats, the way one project begets others.

These begats are anything but boring!

Each weaving project begets new ones. I start with one color and think what a different one would look like. Or one treadling pattern and imagine others. I work on a scarf and want to see how the structure would translate to towels or a baby blanket.

Each quilt begets new ones. As I work on the redwork squares to reproduce the antique quilt I have, I think of ideas for a modern version, with blocks that reflect my current life.

This weaving project begets ideas for a quilt—wouldn’t this look pretty in pieced fabric?

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I work on the quilt I am making, with quotes about women’s rights, and think of embroidering a short phrase, a few words, to represent every day of my year, a stitched journal.

I iron vintage linens and inevitably find pieces with damage that makes them unsellable. I put them aside because, in my mind, they beget a quilt made of the pretty bits pieced together. Or they beget rag rugs, woven from strips of the usable fabric. Or they beget special buttons . . .

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I imagine this organic moving from one project to the next, each unique but related to something that came before, happens to us all—gardeners, bakers, painters, potters . . . makers.

With my making begats, I’ll never be bored.

My projects are fruitful and they multiply. How about yours?

Advent, My Way #20

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–designed and created by Pat Rooney; do not use without permission!

Sometimes, a Christmas card is more than a simple greeting at the holiday.

Sometimes, for the maker of the card and for those who receive it, the Christmas card has a larger message of hope and healing.

This year, 2016, has been difficult for America and for Americans, especially the last couple of months. Although we are finding ways to move on, we are very aware that there is much work to be done, to rebuild trust and a sense of hope for the future, given our current reality.

Like many of us, our friend Pat Rooney was dismayed at the tone and the tactics of the recent presidential election. Pat is an artist and retired art teacher, and she used her skills to create a Christmas card that addresses her hope that we are on a path to healing, as a country composed of people who are pretty darn divided right now.

For her card, Pat combined the Buddhist practice of creating a healing mandala with Christian images of the Nativity, and added a little bit of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, from Ecclesiastes 3:3, to create a card that transcends a specific religious holiday and speaks to a shared desire to move forward, to heal, to hope.

The design is specifically inspired by Buddhist sand sculptures, those designed to be meticulously created and then washed away in water. According to Buddhist scripture, “sand mandalas transmit positive energies to the environment and to the people who view them,” and are designed to promote healing.

The interior of Pat’s card, expresses this message:

The Tibetan sand mandala is an art form constructed as a vehicle to generate compassion, realize the impermanence of reality and a social/cosmic healing of the environment.

The card serves to remind us that, no matter what religion we adhere to, or to none at all, we share a lot. We all desire security and peace of mind, we recognize impermanence and know that change is inevitable, we seek ways to stay positive, to adapt to changes, and to work with other members of our communities to find common ground and, simply, to like each other again.

It’s a time when we must make a conscious decision to choose healing.

The United States is not the only place, right now, where there’s uncertainty and discord. For many, the Christmas season of 2016 finds them in terrifying, sad, dire straits.

Wherever you live, whatever your religious beliefs, whatever wounds you might seek to heal, whether your own or your community’s or the world’s, Pat and I are sending you her mandala, as a sign of hope.

Celebrating the Process, and a Giveaway

The process or the product? The doing or the done?

Have you considered where you get the satisfaction in your making? Whether you bake or garden or write or craft in some fashion, do you do it because you love the doing or is it the finished product that thrills you?

I’ve come to realize that I’m process-oriented, perhaps to an unusual degree. I love the doing and seem to care little for the done.

When I recently wrote about finishing the marathon yoyo coverlet, many readers asked what I was going to do with it. I was stumped. The absolute truth is probably nothing much.

Part of that is purely practical—the texture of the coverlet would make it a magnet for my cats.

But it is also true is that I’ve already sort of lost interest in the coverlet.

It was interesting as something to do, to make, to immerse myself in, but now it’s just another quilt in the house. Even my all-time favorite quilt, the 1812 cot-to-coffin quilt, is simply folded up now and stored in an armoire. The wool throw I wove? It’s in the cedar chest. The silver jewelry I’ve crafted? Tarnishing in the jewelry box.

The bottom line is that it’s the process of making that engages me, challenges me, makes me feel alive. The products sort of seem like just more things in the house–pretty things, but things nonetheless.

It’s the interacting with the materials, the touch, the skill, the focus, that I love.

The yoyo coverlet will get dragged out for the biennial show of my quilters’ guild, because I like warm fuzzies as well as the next person, but it will probably live in a cupboard or cedar chest until then.

I think this is also what leads to the Etsy shops I have. I love the process of making chocolates but don’t want to, and shouldn’t, eat all of what I make. What to do? Give some away and sell the rest.

I love weaving but one person can use only so many kitchen towels and scarves. But I feel driven to weave—I love the process. What to do? Give some away and sell the rest.

So, in support of the idea of giving some away and to celebrate the opening of, and the first couple of sales in, the newest Etsy shop, Woven Together, I’m going to have a random drawing for a handwoven kitchen towel.

So far the towel looks like this.

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Do you love it?

The winner of the drawing will be asked to tell me what colors s/he would like to see added to the towel and, when all the pieces on the warp are complete, I’ll send the towel to the winner! It might be a few weeks before it’s finished . . . because I’ll be enjoying the process.

Anyone can enter, from any part of the world. To enter the drawing, I ask you to tell us, in the comments, whether you are process-oriented or product-oriented—what motivates your making/doing? Try not to just say “both” . . . .

And, if you’re inclined, visit Woven Together, and give me some feedback about what you’d like to see more of in the shop. This latter is optional, though!

The deadline will be midnight on Tuesday, November 8. As our Election Day, that’s a very important day here in the US. I will be voting, to enjoy the process and also, I am hopeful, the product of that particular action!

Busy, Busy . . . Happy

Autumn is always this way.

We realize that time’s a’wastin’, that soon we’ll be hunkering down for winter, and we try to pack a lot of living into these perfect days.

Chores abound. The perennials are being cut back. The outdoor furniture needs to be stored.

A quilt is basted, waiting to be finished this winter. The yoyos are almost, almost, sewn together and finished. Two other quilt projects wait in the wings.

The looms are momentarily naked but plans have been planned and one warp has been wound, a yummy wool for fall.

It’s time for chocolate, a new and different venture on Etsy, and, always, vintage linens.

It’s the time for spending quality hours with family snowbirds who are ready to fly away and it’s time for a little travel of our own, to enjoy autumn in New England.

Busy, busy. Happy, happy. And you?

 

Our Weaving Ways (Summer 2016)

The weaving continues, con brio.

We’ve made an addition to our pride of looms. It’s big, it’s beautiful, it came from a good friend who’s an excellent weaver—great karma! It’s not the loom’s fault that I feel a little intimidated . . .

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Since I’ve indulged my ego in my most recent show-and-tell, I’ve woven quite a lot.

A bunch of cotton towels like this, with varying bands of varying colors. Many of them have already been given away.

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A set of these towels, heavy on linen, to practice some of the skills I learned at weaving school. You can see one of the handwoven hanging tabs that make me go “squeeee!”

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A blanket and coordinating pillow for a baby girl who was so excited to see the gifts that she came 5 weeks early!

And this set of Monk’s belt towels and a runner—you got a glimpse of these when I cut them off them loom.

My husband, Don, has been weaving, too. He made this pretty runner and has two more huge and gorgeous runners waiting to be hemmed and wet finished.

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He wove part of the baby blanket, too, since it was a gift from us both. He has been spending a lot of time on a big, non-weaving project that I’ll show you soon!

So many projects, so many plans . . .

Did you have a productive summer, doing your favorite things? Have you done your show-and-tell? If so, leave a link in your comment!