Monday, December 22, 2014

The New Normal: Focusing on the Fixable

Many folks know these days that my sister Jerol remains marginally conscious with a traumatic brain injury caused by a fall on November 15.  If I'm not making the four hour round trip to visit Jerol at the rehabilitation facility where she's currently a patient, then I'm worrying about her.  Sometimes I'm doing both at once.

Whether I'm worrying or not, it's Christmas, not to mention Hanukkah, and I feel compelled to make an effort, if minimal, to acknowledge the season.

I haven't been able to  bring myself to deck my front hall this year.  Usually this bannister is swagged with garlands punctuated with gauzy gold bows.

I put the garlands on the bannister only because Jerol forces me to do it on the day after Thanksgiving.  I complain about the necessity and expectation of decorating for the holiday and Jerol says that if I want her to help I better do it while she's there visiting for Thanksgiving. And thus it gets done.

This year, no Jerol, no complaining, no garlands.

Plus, Joe and I got a tree--half-size this year to keep it away from our rambunctious puppy, Duncan--but have not been able to bring ourselves to decorate it.

The only room where I feel capable of creating any kind of holiday spirit is the dining room, where a dozen friends and family will be occupying the table a couple of times a day for a couple of days.  Here at least, in the room that will see the most use, I  could put down the holiday table topper. I made one in 2005.

This year, I put it on the table and decided it looked awful. The top and the bottom have never been flush with one another and always lie rumpled on the table.  That's because I never bothered to quilt this item.  I made the top, then layered it with the bottom, both of then with their right sides out, and no batting in between.  The bottom was 3" larger than the top on all sides around so that the extra fabric could be folded over double into a self-hem. The two pieces, top and bottom, were sewn together only at this edge.  No wonder it never stayed together right.

Every year when I lay that topper on my table for the winter, I wince at the wrinkles but, immersed in making the holiday happen, I give that chore a "Yeah, right, as if," because fixing it means taking it apart, squaring and evening out the top and bottom, and resewing them to one another, adding a layer of batting between them for stability, and finally giving it a decent binding.

This was the year. 

I may not be able to fix Jerol, and I may not have enough holiday spirit to decorate my house and my tree, but I can straighten out this crumpled mess.  Have you ever known anyone who loves to iron?  I know a couple of people who do.  I can understand the appeal of being able to smooth something out with such ease.

So I took the table topper apart, put it on my cutting table, and evened out the top and bottom, inserting a layer of batting in between. 

I got the quilt sandwich even and square, then quilted it in the ditch in only a couple of places, just enough to hold the three layers together.  At 58 inches square, it got pretty heavy once the third layer was added.  I made a simple binding and put it on the table.

Straightened and uncrumpled, with the waves removed from its edges, it looks so much better.  And I feel so much better having fixed it.  It's worth the effort of proper construction, and it's worth preserving.

I have to tell you that as I worked, with the the weight of mortality never far from my mind,  it occurred to me that my daughters will end up with this table topper after I'm gone.  That's not morbid, that's reality.

The new normal:  focusing on the fixable.

Sunday, December 14, 2014

Life, Going On

These days, many friends know that my sister Jerol, who is the last survivor of the three sisters who were on this earth when I was born, sustained traumatic brain injuries in a fall on November 15, 2014, and has been mostly unconscious ever since.

Heartache over her condition has kept me away from the blogosphere for a few weeks...until now.

Jerol opened her eyes yesterday, for the first time since November 15, and obeyed simple verbal commands.

This is major.  Major for Jerol, major for the family, and major for me, as it will perhaps start to dissipate the black cloud of despair I've been carrying around inside me since November 15.  I'm planning to drive to Lake Katrine to see Jerol again as soon as I can, bearing an I-Pod loaded with fifties hits, the better to spark those synapses. 

Meanwhile, I feel I can let out my breath and take the time to show you what I've been doing while worrying about Jerol:

I finished this piece, which I'm calling Fragile Ties.  This is my first foray into two new techniques:  collage quilting and thread painting.  I find both processes absorbing and challenging

This piece is part of an exhibit at the Hartford Public Library, presented by the CT Fiber Arts Collective, which was just hung the other day.  The show honors the library's recent acquisition of two large collages by African-American artist Romare Bearden and takes as its twin themes jazz and  the civil rights movement.

Here's Linda Martin with her stunning portrait of Martin Luther King, which she also did in the collage style

Christina Blais with pieced letters

Here are all but three of the members of the CtFiber Arts Collective at the Hartford Public Library.  L-r Carol Vinick, Linda Martin, Karen Loprete, Diane Cadrain, Christina Blais, Antonia Torres and Rosalind Spann.  Missing:  Carol Eaton, Mary Lachman, Wanda Seldon.

Everybody is invited to the opening, Saturday January 17 from 1 to 3 p.m.

What else is happening?  Our daughters have brought some new significant others into our family, and those important people will be with us for Christmas, so of course they must have Christmas stockings. I went to Pier One and bought a couple of handsome ones, but then I had second thoughts about the price tags.  So I decided to make a pattern from one of them, return them to the store, and make my own homemade versions.

So I did.

I laid the stocking out on some lightweight nonwoven material printed with a 1" grid.

I found some fabric in my stash and used that pattern to make these stockings:

 The one on the right is herringbone wool with a silk cuff. The one on the left is made of home decorator fabric.

They're both lined.  I hope you're impressed.

Outside our house, Joe Rubin put some holiday decorations up today:

I give him a lot of credit because he wasn't feeling very well . He has a bit of a cold.  I don't know how he does it.  I must say I did hear him mutter "Poop!" as he did this.  But it wasn't "poop."

He's a mensch!

So, life has gone on, Jerol is getting better, stockings are made if not hung, the black cloud is dissipating, and happiness is leaking in.

Art, History and Social Activism: CtFAC Honors Romare Bearden

Date: On display December 17, 2014-March 13, 2015
Location: Downtown Library 3rd Floor Gallery

In honor of the recent arrival of two spectacular Romare Bearden murals at Hartford Public Library, The Connecticut Fiber Arts Collective (CtFAC) presents a special exhibit that pays homage to the stylistic works of Bearden, his commitment to civil rights and his contributions to the African-American jazz and art communities. CtFAC has created a collection of works in textiles, fiber, mixed media and surface design celebrating and recognizing one of the greatest visual artists of the 20th century.

A special reception to meet the artists of CtFAC will be held on January 17, 2015, 1:00 p.m.-3:00 p.m. in the 3rd floor Hartford History Center. This event is free and open to the public. - See more at: