Wednesday, May 27, 2009

Double Wedding Rings

The double wedding rings quilt pattern is one of the oldest American traditions. First published by Capper's Weekly in 1928, it came to represent the bonding of two people in marriage. During the great depression, it's popularity grew due to the fact that it could be pieced out of even the smallest scraps of fabric; some patterns called for as many as 48 smaller pieces of fabric to make a single block. For this reason, it has always been considered one of the most difficult patterns to execute.

"Real quilt enthusiasts delight in this all-over pattern but it is hardly the design for the novice to undertake."

So... it turns out they weren't kidding. I, in an embarrassing display of quilting hubris, decided to go for it anyway. My good friends Mary and Justin got hitched a couple of weeks back and I wanted to make them something special; a quilt (maybe not full size, I'm not that much a glutton for punishment!) seemed the perfect thing! Especially because their wedding was bird and origami crane themed and I happen to have just a few scraps of beautiful crane fabric left over. (Fate? Destiny? The inevitability of a Hoarder?) And since I am in the habit of documenting EVERY step of the way, here is my first attempt at a double wedding rings quilt.

Working at Viv Pickle has not done anything to diminish my hoarding sensibilities. On the contrary, I seem to find myself drape over the cutting department trash can at the end (middle, beginning) of every day pulling out scraps of fabric that are too small to use for handbags but too big to be thrown away. (The truth is that I now have several times my body weight in small fabric scraps that I have to move to every new apartment... but it just doesn't seem right to let them go!) Anyway, I have all this fabric, so I decided to use it where ever possible.

Each block is constructed out of 8 arches (4 of each color, in this case green and blue) which connect in the center by a gold square.

Then, 4 ovals and 4 underwear-shaped pieces are sewn on (shown here with an indecent amount of pins holding it in place.)

Once two or more block are completed, they fit together with the rings connecting across the surface of the quilt! Magic! At this point in the quilting, I had to come to terms with a couple of things. 1.) the blocks were damn hard to make! The curves weren't entirely impossible to navigate, but the points NEVER managed to line up right and the measurements NEVER seemed to line up! There was a lot of fudging involved... and an embarrassing amount of easing... so much so that most of rings almost look gathered when you look closely (shhhh.) 2.) the blocks were HUGE! Each block finished at about 25"! I was planning on making the quilt throw-size; about 60" x 60". Instead of the 9 blocks I had planned for originally, I shifted my plan to 4! with a nice, wide border (red recycled fabric) around the outside. 3.) No matter how I cut it (literally) I just wasn't going to have enough crane fabric to use it on the entire background. I settled for using black-themed fabrics on two of the four total blocks.

So I got it all sewn up, prepped a backing of charcoal grey cotton, and basted the crap out of it (Titty Kitty Helped. Mostly by chasing the thread. Which is actually not all that helpful, but the thought meant a lot.)

And I quilted around all the curves. It was like swimming in fabric!

And I made a lovely commemorative patch for the back. (They were married on May 7th, 2009. Get it? 5.7.9) And I blindstitched the bias tape around the edge using the tried and true Kurz Family Method.

Et Viola! Lovely! Colorful! Totally warm and snuggly!

Best Wishes to newlyweds, Mary and Justin Bloch! May your marriage be lovely and colorful and totally warm and snuggly!

And as for me... I think I might wait a while before trying another double wedding rings quilt. I think I might need just a little more practice before I can really do it well.

Saturday, May 16, 2009

The Code Quilt goes to San Fransisco!

Nellie and I are super-excited to announce that The Code Quilt will be exhibited as part of this year's San Fransisco based National Queer Arts Festival!

"Since 1998, QCC has organized an annual month-long National Queer Arts Festival. To date, these Festivals have presented more than 400 different events featuring over 2000 Queer artists including Bill T. Jones, Alice Walker, Robert Rauschenberg, Ester Hernandez, Adrienne Rich, Marga Gomez, Justin Chin, Cherrie Moraga and Dorothy Allison. The 2008 Festival attracted more than 65,000 people."

How cool is this? The festival is CHOCK FULL of amazing lectures, workshops and parties- and has been a San Fransisco tradition for 10 years! The exhibit that Nellie and I are participating in, THREADS, will be held at SOMArts Cultural Center with an opening event on June 7th.

"Threads is not just about fabric and costume but also how queerness weaves the threads of our physical, social and moral existence together into a multi-dimensional fabric of community and our selves. What are the threads that bind, mend and sometimes unravel this spectacular fabric? How do we fashion, perform, subvert or display queerness in our art and lives?

So fashion yourself high or low and don your hottest threads for the opening! There will be a photo booth and photographers roaming about capturing the fabulousness of it all with music and performance in the galleries—not to mention, food and drink. All for free and fun."

(I also love that the button for the Threads show on the QCC website is totally in the same section as a photo of one of the members of my good friend Katie Allen's Boston-based Drag group, All the Kings Men! We live in such a small community, don't we, friends?)

(Just in case you needed a reminder of how awesome the quilt is...)

Also available at the exhibition (maybe? If not, on the esty at a later date) will be the super-exciting, full color, second printing of The Code Quilt Zine: a booklet containing an artist statement, photos, and all the research/information needed to fully "decode" the quilt. (If you can't wait for yours, you can always buy one RIGHT NOW! at my etsy!)

Sweeeet. Unfortunately, neither Nellie or I will be able to attend the opening or, nay, any of the amazing events planned throughout the month of June! Nellie will be in Santa Fe working for the Santa Fe Opera again and I will be starting my class at Penland. Poo! That means that it's up to those of you who live in San Fransisco (uhm.. I'm looking at you, Jess Sum? Eh?) to check out the gallery and report back. 'Kaythanks!


Saturday, May 9, 2009

Alternative Clothing & Pocketology

Exciting Summer Announcement Number 2! Figuring it was just as easy to fill out two scholarship applications simultaneously, I also applied for classes at Penland Mountain School of Craft, outside of Asheville, North Carolina. And, yay! I've been offered a work-study scholarship to study there the first two weeks in June! The class is:

Alternative Clothing & Pocketology, with Jan-Ru Wan:

Pocket: a small pouch inside a garment for carrying small articles; a resting place for our hands; a temporary container while we travel through our lives; a transition space between our body and the outside world; maybe even an intimate space for our thoughts or fears. We will explore different ways to make pockets to create space and volume in wearable art/sculpture/installation work. We will create our sculptures on the body by recycling old tailored suits and other found materials.

I'm really excited to take this class! After reading it's description in the Penland catalogue, I couldn't help but dwell on the fact that handbags are simply portable pockets. I think this class will help me expand my understanding of the objects that I am increasingly drawn to making- and to be able to push the boundaries of what a handbag/pocket is. I also keep thinking about a pocket's inherent secrecy, privateness and, in breaking those traditions, it's sense of permission. You'd never just stick your hand in someone's pockets (or, similarly, casually enter and look through a persons's bag)- however permission to do these things is sometimes offered. Intimacy? Anyway- as the date of the class approaches I find myself waning more and more poetic about the conceptual potentials.

Aka... I am stoked.

The artist teaching the class is Taiwanese fiber artist, Jan-Ru Wan. Her complicated and varied body of work evokes a conversation about repetition, meditation, gender, tradtition and spirituality.

"By manipulating common objects I intend to re-contextualize them to be perceived with different kinds of senses creating new avenues. I have always emphasized the contrast between the interior and exterior of my work: harshness vs. softness; tension vs. freedom; free floating vs. measuring; compulsive energy vs. imperturbable silence. This gives rise to the simultaneous existence of repulsion and compulsion. All contradictions melt into a new kind of balance." -Jan-Ru Wan (exerpt of an artist statement)

Jan-Ru Wan's "The Ripple of Resonance" is made up of 800 printed plastic houses, each with a bell inside that was dipped in wax.

Jan-Ru Wan's "Sprouting Within" is made of two ikat weaves with acupuncture needles and glass test tubes.

“Weight on my shoulder”

“Weight on my shoulder” detail

“We are on the same boat"

“We are on the same boat” detail

More links for Jan-Ru Wan:

Sunday, May 3, 2009

Sheepies and Wooliness Festival '09!

This past weekend was the 36th Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival! So I trundled down to Baltimore to see my excellent friend Elisabeth and check out the sheepies and the wooliness!

The festival is held annually in West Friendship, MD, at the Howard County Fairgrounds and is, unless I'm very much mistaken, the largest Sheep and Wool Festival in the country!

We got to see lots of animals of varying fuzziness:

Baby Alpacas! With really funny haircuts.

Baby goats on lawn chairs!

Unfortunately groomed Llamas...

And, of course, SHEEPIES!! Here's Madame Elisabeth nuzzling a lovely ewe.


This is a Jacob Sheep! It has two sets of horns! It's like an extra set of handles!

I spent quite a long time petting this sheep on the muzzle... it was so awesome. And I got to feel it's horns: they were totally warm! Of course I knew that their horns were a part of their body but I really never expected them to be... warm... it was totally weird and awesome.

Oh.. and we also spotted... A nun.

A nun in combat boots.


She was so cool. She was clearly there by herself and even though I suggested a couple of times that we introduce ourselves and make friends... it almost didn't seem appropriate.

Y'know... inappropriate like getting stealthy cell phone shots of her all over the festival.

Holy woman in boots. Lovin' the sheep. And I'm lovin' her.

But besides stalking women of the cloth who love cloth, there were also hundreds and hundreds of amazing fiber booths! Yarns, spinning fibers, spinning wheels. I was in HEAVEN. (Much like the nun. What, too much?)

I even ran into the woman who sold me my spinning wheel! She was there representing the Green Mountain Spinnery of Vermont. It was great to see her and she told me that I could take a class or two from her when I'm in New England this summer! YES!! It's exactly what I've been looking for!

Oooh.. and there were these CRAZY, portable spinning contraptions...

It totally made me think of tinkers and traveling Gypsies. Awesome...

So... I bet you're wondering how much moolah I dropped, right? Not as much as you'd think! I exerted much self controll, thank you very much. I bought a pin that says "Knit Addict," a couple of note cards, a small bag of spinable sparkle, and ONLY ONE SKEIN of yarn! But, oh, was it worth it:

Oh man, it's a hand-spun yarn made of 50% recycled bamboo and 50% organic cotton... so great. Can't wait to knit it up!

Yay Sheep and Wooliness! Thanks, Elisabeth, for a great weekend!