Sunday, February 23, 2014

Year of the Horse Cloth Update

I've been slow to update progress, mostly because it is kind of hard to update this cloth. I have been working on three of the nine sections, two of the woven sections and the pieced corner between them.  Below, the central panel (the Windhorse) is the top right corner, the pieced corner is to the bottom left, and on either side are the woven panels.

Here's a reminder of how the elements are organized, as nine distinct areas with the Windhorse in the centre.
Here's how these first four elements are coming together, with the pieced element basted down.
The woven section in the photo below is partially stitched, held together with masses of running stitch. Despite being three layers- a cotton backing, two layers of linen woven together- it is easy to sew. The linen strips that are woven into the top (the linen table cloth I showed last time) are linen napkins. The three layers together are sturdy, heavy, but still supple, draping. Old linen stitched together like this is like nothing else. I'm thinking a lot about how this cloth is from a plant, a plant that grew maybe fifty years ago, maybe a hundred.

The corner elements on this cloth are each pieced separately, and I'm stitching each on to the whole piece. This is the first one I've placed. These elements are made up entirely of found cloth. And there is an overall pattern or design for each of these elements: nine small scraps suspended in bands of identical cloth. The nine small scraps here are all pieces of lining from pants pockets, and each pulled out of the river bank over the past couple of years.

The bands surrounding these small scraps are all from this cloth below, a pink pyjama top featured in an earlier Rag of the Day post. Yes, it once was pink.

Now, pink wasn't going to work for this cloth (I'll explain that later), and so I dyed it, with a last little bit of walnut I had sitting on the stove. And it did the trick; the pink is gone, replaced with a perfectly neutral brown, which complements the stains and marks on the scraps and rags they surround. I am pleased with this.

So that is the update. I still have to explain the colour choices I am making, not to mention why there is no horse on the year of the horse cloth. But for now, this is what it looks like, this is how it is coming along. Thank you for stopping by.


Sunday, January 5, 2014

Year of the Horse Cloth, first steps

The windhorse I'm making is like a giant flag, a tablecloth-size prayer flag. I've decided to design this whole cloth like a prayer flag, with the windhorse in the centre, and the four corners each one of the four directions. That is, each of the corners is reserved for special reflection on specific ideas, qualities, aspirations, etc (more on this later...). Each of these four corners I've decided will be pieced from found cloth and applied to the cloth as a whole. The spaces between these corner elements will be cloth woven, as per this little map:
And so here are the first stages. The base cloth is a much-bleached linen damask table cloth. It is still a very beautiful and supple cloth, but the lustre is largely gone. The damask pattern is sprays of flowers. I think it may have come from a restaurant because there is a faded laundry mark in the one corner. 

Above, you can see the centre that right now is the windhorse itself, the central axis of everything. And, yes, it is a beautiful linen napkin appliqued onto the table cloth, with an astonishingly beautiful (ten cents from the Mission store) linen handkerchief appliqued on top of it. So, yes, in this picture you are looking at a hankie appliqued on a napkin appliqued on a table cloth.

These are beautiful fabrics. Every moment of putting these cloths together was a pleasure, they are so easy to sew, so nice to have in your hands. And because of this, I've decided to stick with linen to do the woven sections, pinned here. Here you can see parts of two different napkins, and below that the whole section woven.

It feels wonderful already. I wondered about cutting up the napkins, but I really wanted to see the whites woven together like this. And I really love it. More on this decision later, too. But for now, it's starting. And it will take a year. Wish me luck.

Monday, December 30, 2013

Back, and With Good Fortune

In each of the past two years, I have had a single big year-long project. The hybrid boro yogi/dragon robe which now hangs on the wall in the guest room (formerly my sewing room, until we needed a place for someone to stay).

And last year, I undertook to mend a found quilt. And following up on the dragon from 2012, I picked the Year of the Snake as the theme of the 2013 project. That project is still underway, and this is the newest snake made of turquoise silk satin on the winter side of the quilt:

I've been wondering about the next year's project, which would be some kind of cloth for the year of the Horse, if I decided to proceed along in this pattern of having a year's theme. I like this idea, mostly because looking ahead for years and years of projects is somehow cheering; it makes me chuckle. But I don't know what to make of a horse; dragons and snakes already had places in my imagination, but horses don't seem to. Except for the windhorse, which I think of as always a vessel for hope, good wishes and good fortune.

But how to represent 'good fortune', as something you hope for others and that falls upon you unbidden? It struck me this morning, after many morning walks with the dog wondering, that the answer was that cloth, itself, is for me this good fortune. A found cloth is like a blessing for me, good fortune, a bit of good luck, a spur to think and hope. And so are these, two damask table cloths dropped on my porch Christmas morning in a bag, along with a pound of home made cookies. A gift from a neighbour.

And so one of these cloths is where I'm going to start on my Year of the Horse cloth, a cloth about celebrating the good fortune of finding cloth, the good fortune of having a neighbour who walks her dog down here to drop off cookies and cloth, the good fortune I wish for this kind of place where we live.
And this is the finished little altar cloth I made to commemorate the good will of the bird rescue I wrote about earlier this summer. I guess I was starting on the same path, celebrating good fortune, and so this 2014 cloth will continue that thinking.

Saturday, September 7, 2013

Update on the Altar Cloth; Layering Interactions

The little altar cloth, inspired by Grace as a way to remember an event I discussed a few weeks ago. I realize I've made no notes about how it has progressed, haven't really been putting it into words. So I am making a stab at it here.

I have a lot of 'masters' here; plans, frameworks, ideas, thoughts that determine each step. Plots, I suppose. One is the kasaya or kesa or okesa, a ritual garment worn by Buddhists. In its ideal form (which is sometimes also it's literal form) it is a whole cloth made of collected, washed and assembled rags. It is also commonly assembled of sumptuous cloth, brocaded silks, damask. Sometimes sedately coloured cotton or linen. As long as it is built in a patchwork, following a fixed pattern, it can become a proper garment. So I collected a bundle of the smallest scraps of found cloth.

The basic idea of composing something from rags of course appeals to me. The idea of a pattern to fit these into adds something I need for this. The plot, a kind of pattern, drives the composition. The pattern I settled on, below, is to build nine sections, three by three. The process then is to fill three large panels diagonally from top left to bottom right, where the centre panel is the bird, her nest and a bee; the corners on the left bottom and right top are made up of small patches. The panels on either side of and above and below the centre panel are bars.

I wanted the little story of the bird, her nest, the compassion of her helpers, at the centre, because it is a singularly important moment. But I also wanted this piece to fit within, to be as much a part as each other part. The logic of the kesa, of a fixed plot which brings singular parts together, helps me. This singular story belongs within a story of building a life and understanding in relation. In interactions, experience. Within context. And from there, once I had started working on this cross shape, I started to fill in the other fields. Some of them with little, tiny bits of cloth.

And just as soon as I was filling up these sections, maintaining their boundaries, I didn't like it. So I started to let these filled in spots start to leak, extend beyond those boundaries. Here these impossibly small printed leaves flicker out of a piece of blue cotton into a white section.

I'm responding to the shapes of the tiniest scraps.

I'm responding to things that are already falling apart, but also coming together. So now I've collected these little scraps of abrasion and wear.

These are things that show interactions, with wind, rain, sunshine. With insects and roots.

With objects the cloth was lost with, or that was on the ground where it was discarded.
 Below is the bottom of the lining of a pair of pants, where stitches in the hem left wear, and where the back of the cuff dragged on the ground.
 This is from the same piece, at the knee. So maybe this is a record of a skinned knee.

Friday, September 6, 2013

Dying Experiments: Pattern and Chaos

Following up on Grace's experiments with dying, and inspired by her use of a tin can which made this magnificent mark, I went looking for a tin can. From a distance of a few feet, in the evening light, under a tarmac-locked black walnut tree, this thing looked like a tin can.

It wasn't a tin can, it was whatever this is, heavy, threaded on the inside. I suppose it is a coupling of some kind. But for what and from where I just can't imagine. Since it was what I found, when looking, I decided to try to use it. So I wrapped it with a 6" x 36" strip of second hand linen, pleated until it was just long enough to cover the outside of the coupling. I dyed it with a fresh walnut dye pot, made in a small (4 cup) crock pot.


And it made this mark:

A beautiful mark, what I just at first welcomed as a kind of happy accident. But a comment from Heather on my last post here made me notice that it wasn't just an accident. Yes, I didn't know it was going to look like x-rays of teeth (?) when I prepared the cloth. But I did plan something of it, pleating, tying. A ha. So I keep making them. I'm up to five, two on linen, two on what I think is unbleached diaper cloth, one on part of an old tea towel:

They are weirdly similar to each other, but also quite unique. Each bundle was tied differently, of course, a kind of randomness.

Each one I tied in the same fashion, but not in the same places or the same ways. Each set of pleats was uncounted, just enough to shorten the cloth, make a stack of pleats I could handle easily enough to tie.

The dye in the pot changes a bit each time, as well, as it interacts with the iron coupling. Today when I dropped in a bundle there was a crystalline rind on the top of the pot. The pot dyes some parts of the cloth black, some parts are still brown.

And so. It occurs to me that there are interactions here, between me and the 'stuff'- the walnuts, the water, the heat source, the metal thing-  and among those things themselves. These interactions aren't unknown, I could even investigate each further. These interactions are possibly not uncontrollable, but can I just let them be uncontrolled? There is something in the 'unknown' that I want to hang on to now, for now.

So that's the update; I am thinking about these uncontrolled interactions as productive. Thank you for stopping by.

Friday, August 16, 2013

The Altar Cloth, a new little thing

Inspired by Grace of windthread, and wanting to make something small and easy to carry around to work on, I have started to make a little cloth. An altar cloth, I guess for me meaning a something meant to concentrate thought, a focal point for reflection. The story that I have bonded to the image is the story of the robin rescue, when I was offered the chance to be part of other people fulfilling their own commitment to compassion (it is two posts down if you are interested). Sticking with this core notion- of being bound up with the life around you- I am sticking with the tiniest bits of found cloth, and gifted cloth. This is the beginning. 
The base is a gorgeous, well worn linen napkin, a brocade and a gift from my neighbour up the street. The yellow block is a gift that came from Jude Hill, just like this. It seems right for it to be whole here. Directly beneath the nest is a piece of blue jacket (found at the traintracks), again, found just as it is here, layered under a fragment of netting. I think this netting is what is left when broadloom rots away, I can't imagine anything else it could be. Beneath that is a pink cloth from a found quilt layered under a piece of gauzy cotton. And so on.
I realize making this as well that I am no longer just fascinated by found cloth, by gifted cloth, by the way these ways of getting cloth are not just 'outside of' a system of commerce. I can't quite put it into words, but there is something to composing something like this just as the cloth appears. I guess I am imagining a cloth that just keeps getting bigger, thicker. Where each new piece just fits in where there is room. Piecing itself as a kind of record of time passing, seasons changing, people coming and going. Not stopped. No fixed pattern?

I included these two images, the above is a decaying finished cement floor from a factory that was torn down years ago. The surface is fragile and crumbling, you can kick it apart with your shoe. But in places this network of rifts is visible. And it seems to me always to imply motion.

And another kind of pattern, the sun streaming in the window and reflecting on a mirror-tiled lantern my mother found in the garbage and brought to me. This only happens for about a week every year when the sun comes in the west window just right, but it reminds me of the image above, of things kind of flinging themselves apart.  Is the sense of motion I get because there is no easily perceptible pattern?

I will continue to think about this, thinking about the kind of 'pattern'- or avoidance of pattern- that I am working into this new cloth.

Sunday, August 4, 2013

Jude's Stones on the Year of the Snake Blanket

An update on the Year of the Snake Blanket. In the Fall/Winter/Resting section of the blanket, I decided to replace one of the lost plate appliques with a circle of stones. I learned to make these from Jude Hill. If you search for 'stones' at Jude's blog Spirit Cloth, you will find them.

When Jude first showed these, I loved them. I loved that they looked like stones, not symmetrical, but  neither are they just randomly shaped lumps. I loved how much the cloth I've dyed myself is really the right colour for stones. How rusted cloth is the right colour for stones. To make them you have to THINK about the shape of a stone, a river stone, polished by the flowing and just going of water. To make them you really have to THINK about the colours of stones, how different each is.

The circle of stones on the rest/stillness part of the blanket is the hibernaculum we built for the snakes- a deep hole filled with stones, mounded up, a large part of it covered with a bed of flowers. This is what it looked like when we started it. The snakes can overwinter in here if they choose, we cover it up with layers of brush.

Each of the stones one of us carried here, found at the river, by the train tracks, at one or another abandoned building, some from the lake. The biggest stone above, with the rings around it, I found on the Albany River where it meets James Bay in Mushkego, also known as northern Ontario. Each of these stones was chosen. I hadn't thought much about this, about picking the stones, until I decided that I could use Jude's stones for this blanket. I had thought about most of them getting here on foot. These below are a couple of weeks' worth collecting on the porch. With the rock searching companion's white toes.

So it's a circle of stones on the blanket, thanks to Jude. I can't imagine figuring out how to make them without Jude. Thank you Jude.

As a bonus, and thinking of stone, I want to share a true mystery. This is a photo of the base of a tombstone in the rural cemetery where my grandparents (and so on) are buried. This portion of the stone was underground until sometime last year. For some reason the stone was removed, and because the proper, once visible, portion is now so worn it is illegible, it seems no one knows where it goes. So it rests among some other monuments.

Comparing the carving here to the carving on the proper face of the stone (above the soil), this is quite inexpert; as an 'inexpert' myself, I fill up with wonder looking at these sketches, graffiti, experiments, whatever they are. But they are funny and charming and full of some kind of spontaneity.   
Thank you for stopping by- and thank you to everyone who stopped by and spoke to my previous post. I am still thinking about that project....