Search This Blog

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

Still My "Stuff"

Several weeks ago, my father moved into the Alzhimer's unit of an assisted care facility. My Dad has Alzheimer's. He hasn't recognized me for several years. He isn't my father as much as he is a frail old man whose irrational behavior patterns allow my sisters and I to laugh instead of cry. But this not my father. My father is the man who quit high school to help support his brothers and sisters during the Depression. Because he had to share everything, he began to buy two of everything whenever his budget allowed. (If one is good, two is better - our family mantra.)

My father is the man who gave me a nickname - he called me "Stuff". He never explained where it came from, or gave any of my six siblings nicknames. I wasn't his favorite child - we all agree that my older sister Becky held that position. I just was his "Stuff". He didn't talk about his job, but he went to work every day, without complaint, to support his family. My father was a terrible driver. He turned around to see the person he was talking to in the back seat. He backed up if he missed his freeway exit. My father knew one joke (one of the dumbest jokes in the known universe), and told it over and over. He sang "Bill Grogan's Goat" over and over. He recited one poem (Somebody's Mother by Mary Dow Brine) over and over.

My father was far from perfect as a father and a husband. He was vain about his looks, especially his hair. He wore white socks with a black suit, then crossed his legs so several inches of fish-belly white flesh showed above the socks. He and I drove a full day to buy my first Toggenburg goat. He had a system for everything. I cannot play Chinese Checkers without using his opening ten moves. I refused to play chess with him because he spend hours deliberating each move. He went back to night school and graduated from high school the year before I did.

My first "real" job was as a waitress at the Red Bird Restaurant in Russells Point. During the summer, when Dad picked me up after work, he would ask "Do you want ice cream?" and I would always answer "yes!". We stopped at the ice cream shop (it wasn't a Tastee Freeze or a Dairy Queen)and I would treat - taking pleasure in spending my tip money. Dad and I would have milkshakes and take a hot-fudge sundae home to Mom.

When I moved to Columbus to attend The Ohio State University, he wrote me letters, even though I was less than an hour away. One time, he tucked in a $5 bill, with instructions that I should go have a milkshake. The letter ended "Still my Stuff", and he signed it, as always, W. O. Wickersham. I still have the letter, and when I come across every now and again, it makes me smile.

He was in a car accident in 1997 and suffered a head injury that seemed very minor, but was not. Several months later, the doctors operated to relieve pressure inside his skull. He joked about his brain surgery, claiming it made him a genius. I think the head injury that led to the surgery also jump-started his Alzheimers. And what is left is his handwriting.

His handwriting hasn't changed since 1973. At my parent's house last summer, I found two large boxes of handspun wool yarn. I recognized his handwriting on the labels pinned to each skein. I don't know what Mom & Dad intended to do with the yarn. He just enjoyed spinning it. I'm dyeing some of the yarn, and I will keep a couple of skeins. I'll knit a scarf or two, and remember my father before Alzheimer's took him away.

Monday, December 04, 2006

Too Small To Keep, Too Big To Throw Away (TSTKTBTTA)

After a question about a technique that was sort_of_in_the_neighborhood_ of TSTKTBTTA was posted on QuiltArt today, I thought a quick tutorial might be of interest. I save scraps of my hand dyed fabric (Hey - it's expensive!) and developed this technique to use those scraps, which range in size from 1/2" wide to 5". I have made a number of quilts that use this technique.

Scraps of fabric. Can be irregularly shaped or left-over squares and strips. If a scrap seems too big or isn't the correct shape, I take scissors to it!

Fusible web.

Base - can be batting, Peltex, muslin or other fabric. This is a good place to use those too_thin_really_ugly_outdated_what_was_I_thinking fabrics, since they will be covered. I like my base piece to be slightly larger than the finished dimension. Example: for postcards, start with a 4.5" x 6.5" piece of Peltex.

Apply fusible web to base. OR: Use scraps that already have fusible web on the back.

Arrange scraps on base. Overlap edges slightly (1/4" at most). When you like what you see, fuse them down. In the example shown, which is about 8" wide by 6" high, I think the scrap on the top right is too big.

Optional step: sew down raw edges.

My August 2005 Journal Quilt - "I Grow Flowers, Not Vegetables" (8.5" x 11") is one of the three quilts in my pattern, Tres Flores. All three quilts use the TSTKTBTTA technique to create the background.

Once I have the base covered and fused, it generally becomes a background. Sometimes I cut it up to create applique pieces, such as the leaf in this piece.

Have fun!

Sunday, December 03, 2006

Cleaning, Creative or Both?

I spent most of last Tuesday cleaning my studio. My normal modus operandi is to clean up at the end of any project. Sometime earlier this year, I quit cleaning and started piling. Maybe it is because I haven't finished a lot of projects, maybe it is a lack of time. Maybe I'm lazy, maybe I'm depressed. Whatever the reason, the studio was a mess that I didn't want to work in. Get in, dump whatever I was carrying on the nearest horizontal surface, get out. I knew that I would be unable to be truly productive or creative until I fixed things.

I started cleaning in the corner furthest from the door. Piles were sorted and stacks of fabrics put away. I vacuumed the visible floor. I emptied the vacuum cleaner (LOVE that Dyson!) Several projects got put into their own project boxes, eliminating both haphazard piles of "stuff" and a stack of empty tubs. I updated my fabric inventory and put newly dyed fabrics away. I swapped out my barely working VCR for a newer one. I vacuumed dust bunnies and the line where floor meets wall. I did some minor rearrangement in my boxes of commercial prints, and made shelf space for all the floor clutter. I set aside a large box of fabric to be donated to my guild's charity project. I vacuumed newly visible carpet. I emptied the vacuum cleaner.

I ran out of time before I could finish, but the corner that hasn't been cleaned was the least in need of it. My space is better organized. A never-used sewing machine, several bags of batting scraps, and a big box of fabric are gone, giving me space. Things I don't use often are on the harder-to-reach upper shelves. Those odd items I might use "sometime" are sorted into "Keep or Not Keep", then put away or trashed. Photos and paperwork are filed. New purchases are out of shopping bags. Like things with like - sorted and stored. I made a list of three projects which I want to work on - play with the new dye I bought in Houston, quilt my newest quilt, make fabric beads. I haven't had any time to work in my studio since my cleaning day. But in some weird way, cleaning my workspace felt creative.

Maybe spending my time cleaning felt creative because it freed up space and resources. Maybe I'm confusing productivity with creativity. I need an organized (clean!) environment to be creative. Clutter from one project interupts creativity on another project. So cleaning is necessary for me to be creative.

My three projects are waiting for me.....