March 22, 2015: “Haptic” Pleasures (and more)

Greetings!  (Warning – the beginning of my post is word-heavy but there are pictures later!)

I’ve been subscribing to “Quilters Newsletter” continuously since 1994.  The most recent issue has an interesting article, “Is it Handmade” by Thomas Knauer.  Mr. Knauer makes the case for discarding the term “handmade” and substituting “homemade” instead, emphasizing the “context” in which an object is made, over the “process” especially with many contemporary quilt makers using computers (for designing and for running the machines that do the actual quilting and embroidery) and other technology (e.g. machines that now cut out the fabric pieces) for most of the processes of making quilts.  He also expresses the hope that “we will be ready to collectively embrace emerging practices without repeating the territorial battles over authenticity that have plagued quilting over the past few decades.”

I understand the quote above at the end of the paragraph because in 1994 when I first started to quilt, the quilting community was just getting away from the notion that if everything wasn’t done by hand it wasn’t “authentic,” and starting to embrace the sewing machine for piecing and the actual quilting.  I definitely feel we are past that concern now – the majority of quilts are machine pieced and machine quilted and there is no question that they are readily accepted at all quilt shows and exhibits.  However, it doesn’t feel right to me to discard the term “handmade,” or at least there should be some distinction/recognition for those of us who do the kind of “hand work” that is implied by the term.  I’m not saying the work is “better” but it is distinctive and the difference in methodology is worth recognizing.  Following are quotes from 3 bloggers who stitch by hand in support of the joys and pleasures of hand work.

On Olga Norris’ excellent blog “Threading Thoughts” in her post of 2/8/15 she had me looking up the word “haptic.”  The dictionary says,”of or relating to the sense of touch, in particular to the perception and manipulation of objects using the sense of touch and proprioception.”  What a great word!  She says,” To my mind the overwhelming reason for using fibre, cloth, thread, etc. is because of the feel of it….I love combining ideas, thinking, drawing, and digital collage – those intellectual pursuits – with the HAPTIC pleasures of working the needle through the cloth….How lucky we makers are to handle, to feel, to manipulate, to stroke and be stroked, to use the fingers’ fine nerve endings to distinguish the subtleties of soft, to gage just the right amount of strength, pressure to use to turn, to fold, to pierce (and be pierced!) to pull – not simply to use those fingers to point and drag.  Handling fibre helps us to see in fine focus as well as in broad focus.”

Judy Martin, the Canadian quilt artist, says in an interview on the “World of Threads Festival” web site:  “For me, the slowness inherent within the creation of any type of textile work (by hand) gives contemporary society what it is yearning for.  The repeated hand touching in work made with threads speaks directly to so many….The art I like today relies as much on the process of making as it does on the conceptual idea…Imagination is important, but there is also a real and recognizable object made by real human hands.   This labor and time spent with the work is tangible and I think a powerful connection to others.   Because it takes a long time to make, because it is full of the hand’s caress, the art stirs up emotions.  It stirs the inner self.”

And just recently on the blog “The Slow Stitching Movement” (theslowstitchingmovement.wordpress.com), Lisa Binkley wrote a lovely essay on “slow stitching” by hand.  Go to the site and read the entire piece but here are a few quotes:  “Slow stitching is a way to connect with our physical selves.  While stitching slowly we can connect with our senses.  Touch the thread with which you stitch…feel the fabric on which you stitch.  Notice its thickness, texture, weight, and drape… part of the joy of hand work is the tactile experience of handling beautiful materials.”    “Marvel at your hands.  Notice not only the movement of your hands, but the bend of individual fingers and the perhaps subconscious way you do things like control thread tension with your non stitching hand….Notice the way muscle memory and control grow as you do more hand stitching and marvel at the way your hands ‘know’ where to stitch up through your fabric.”   She also mentions how hand stitching is a way to connect with generations of past hand stitchers and also how it relates to how we experience ‘time.’  “Practitioners of meditation often talk about having an experience of stepping outside of time.  The same can be experienced with mindful slow stitching.”  I know that very early on in my quilt making experience it was clear to me that hand quilting is meditative and relaxing.

I am not passing any judgements on what methods of making quilts are “better,” but I do know that for me and many others, working with our hands, making things directly with our hands, is a joyful experience, connects us to our physical selves in a positive way, and helps us be mindful of the present.  I believe handwork is an excellent way to express ourselves and a unique way to experience our humanity.

I am making headway on my projects!  I cut the borders for Joyful Noise, made the strips of red fabric for those borders, and basted them on so that I can hand applique them down.  I used my Clover bias tape maker even though the strips are not bias strips.

32215 JNborder#2%22bias%22stripmaking

 

32215 JNborder#1

32215 JNborder#3

It shouldn’t take too long for me to stitch these strips down and then I can put the borders on the quilt.

I took Joyful Noise off my design wall to make more room for my stars and this also allowed me to put up Sweet Journeys and my Improv circles to see what I have.  Here’s the wall now (click for enlargement):

32215 designwall newer

 

The improv circles were put up in no particular order just to see what I have.  I started to play a little with some of them.  Here is a “before” picture of the upper section and an “after” picture (just to the right) after I cut out a few triangles and added them to the corners of some of the blocks and after I cut out some strips of an interesting striped fabric and added those between a few of the blocks – just playing:

32215 improv unadorned32215 improv#2 playing

 

Who knows where this is going, but it should be fun!

This week’s star in the “Stars in a Time Warp” quilt along is a shade of green that was typical of the Civil War era.  I made three!!  The first one shows off the most typical green color best and I used a chrome yellow for the background.  The second one has green just in the center and a nice toile for the background.  The third one is the one I’m not sure of – not sure if this is the right color green or if this fabric is from that era since the selvage was gone – will the quilt police get me for this?!

32215 SITWgreen#132215 SITWgreen#232215 SITWgreen#3

 

Of course I had to make a few extra stars!!  One is a 6 inch star using madder for the points:

32215 sitw extra madder

And I made a 4 inch star in purple:

32215 sitw4inch purple

And I went ahead and made a 3 inch star which turned out to not be that hard to make.  I used sizing to stiffen the fabric to make sure the pieces didn’t distort.  Here is a picture of the 3 inch star and a pic of the 3 sizes all together for comparison:

32215 sitw3inchstar32215 sitwcompare6-4-3inch

I am not sure at this time whether I will continue to make  3 inch stars and whether I will stop making 4 inch stars when I get to 12 – enough for a doll quilt – or whether I will keep going and make a crib size quilt instead.   Still thinking……

I accomplished a task this week that I’ve been putting off for far too long.  When I moved to my new sewing room 2 years ago, I made a pressing board to put on one end of my Koala table/cutting board so that I would not have to take up space in the room with an actual ironing board.  I used a Sharon Schamber You Tube video with directions on how to make the pressing board.  This has turned into a fantastic decision – this amount of pressing space meets all of my pressing needs and I don’t take up limited space in the room with an actual ironing board.  However, the board had not been recovered in 2 years and was getting disgustingly dirty so I finally recovered it!!!!

32215 newlycoveredironingsurface

I wouldn’t dare show how it looked before!!!

Finally, I promised in my last post to show some family pictures for those friends and family who read my blog.  These are from my birthday on the 14th.  The first one has Stephanie, our niece on the left and my daughter on the far right with me and the grandkids:

32215 family#1

32215 family#2

32215 family#3

 

Below, I’m opening B-day cards; the cake was yummy and the “flowers” you see on the table are gorgeous origami flowers that Ingrid made for me!

32215 family#4

 

Dmitri played Happy Birthday for me on the viola after Al found the sheet music on-line

32215 family#5

Sveta holds a game that we all enjoyed playing:

32215 family#6

 

On the web site “On Being,” Parker Palmer had a beautiful essay, “On the Brink of Everything: An Early Morning Meditation” on March 11.  Go there – onbeing.org – and read it!  I’m going to steal his ending for my blog:

“Delight in the gift of life and be grateful.”  Thanks for visiting.   Gladi

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