Sunday, February 19, 2017

My favorite things 8

I've always loved old-fashioned offices and office equipment, harking back to my earliest days of paid employment when I would work typing my father's book manuscripts and then as a secretary for low-budget organizations that were headquartered at my college.  In all these places I had manual typewriters and a motley collection of tools dating back to World War 2.  And I loved all that stuff.

My mother had a little wood file cabinet with six drawers, enough to store an inch-tall pile of paper in each one so you could keep different kinds of letterhead, plain paper, colored paper, invoices, whatever you needed for your well-stocked office.  The drawers had holes in the bottom so you could poke your finger up and raise the pile of paper high enough to pluck off one sheet without denting the edge.

She had liberated it from some office where she had worked, and it held paper in our home office.  But in later years she converted it to a jewelry case.  I coveted it.

One day, hanging out in a flea market, I was thrilled to find the identical file cabinet for sale, and took it home to be my jewelry case.  And then, after Mom died, I grabbed her cabinet too.  So I now have one in my bedroom full of jewelry and one by the back door with stuff you need as you are running out of the house -- a comb, a Chapstick, sunglasses.  And a few of the bottom drawers still have some of Mom's jewelry.

I've scored other pre-owned file cabinets over the years, but my second favorite is this little one, just tall enough to file your bank statements and electric bills.  It still has a label from its previous owner on the bottom drawer, which says "savings."  I wonder what went in that drawer, and what the top drawer was called.

I feel great sympathy for whoever was in charge of all those cabinets -- probably a woman, who was forever being called on to produce the proper piece of paper at a moment's notice, correctly typed, correctly retrieved.  She had to wash her hands frequently to keep the carbon paper and typewriter-ribbon smudges off her work; she got paper cuts too often.

Not like that in today's offices -- at least not the carbon paper or typewriter ribbons, and maybe not even the pieces of paper -- but I still feel sympathy for the workers.  Been there, done that.  Sometimes not much fun, but always great pride in a job well done, even if the boss doesn't appreciate it or understand how much work it took to make it happen.

Friday, February 17, 2017

More divestiture

Many, many years ago I made a baby quilt which for some reason I decided to hand-quilt.  Don't know why; I was never that much of a fan of hand-quilting, but it seemed like a good idea at the time.   It was actually an experiment in quilting without a frame or hoop, the first time I had tried it.  (And by the way, if I ever have to do hand-quilting again I will do it hooplessly.)

I quilted maybe two thirds of it and got tired.  The quilt has been lurking about since -- OMG -- 1990; I know this because of the neatly embroidered motif in the corner.

Every couple of years since then I have come across this quilt and said to myself, I probably should finish this some day.   Yesterday I came across it and said go away.

So I bundled it up and gave it to my friend Ann for her guild's charity quilts.  I suspect somebody in that guild will be happy to finish the quilting.  And my stitches were nice and small, so if that somebody is a quilt snob she shouldn't be too ashamed to collaborate.  Maybe she'll neatly embroider her initials in the other corner.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

Out and about!!

On Monday I went for a long walk with some friends, one of whom had a GPS device that said we'd gone 2.8 miles.

Why is this the subject for a blog post?  Because it's the longest I've walked in more than a year and a half -- and I did it without pain, either during the walk or afterward.  For somebody who has always loved long walks, this has been a very long time, during which I worried whether I would ever regain my ability to wander around all day.  It also affected my photography-related art practice, since you can't take interesting pictures if you don't go anywhere.

I bring this up in the blog because coincidentally, yesterday I read about a new study, reported in the Journal of the American Medical Association, that says if you have back pain, medical treatment may not be helpful at all.  Don't bother with an MRI, don't take heavy duty painkillers, for heaven's sake don't do surgery, just wait it out, with a bit of exercise if you can, and see what happens.  And I want to testify that they're right, at least for me.

This has been the second time in the last 15 years that I have gone through long bouts of back pain.  The first time I dutifully went to the doctor, got an MRI, learned that some of my discs and vertebrae were rough around the edges, and was sent to physical therapy.  I did three sessions, during which at least half the time was spent discussing when to schedule my next visit around the requirements of insurance reimbursement (no, not to make it cheaper for me, but to make it more lucrative for the clinic).  I quit PT and lounged around for months, walking when I could, until things got better.

Years passed.  The back pain returned. When I visited the doctor for another reason, I told her that I was having trouble walking; she said swim or do water aerobics instead.  I did that all winter.  Still had trouble walking and lounged around for a year, walking when I could.  I kept a diary of how long I walked and the different varieties of pain, trying to figure out what brought it on, whether it was good to walk or good to stop.  Never could figure out a strategy.  But around Thanksgiving it seemed that I could walk farther without pain.  I felt great.

Then I took a bad fall and broke a bone in my toe.  Six weeks of orthopedic shoe and very little walking.  Then, back in real shoes, I could do a mile, then a mile and a quarter.  And Monday, 2.8 miles!

Everybody has various mantras for life, and one of my favorites has always been "outlive the bastards".  This makes twice I've outlived the pain and emerged on the other side.  I know some day this approach is going to fail, but right now, I'm celebrating.

Tuesday, February 14, 2017

Divestiture again

Time to clean up the studio.

Were there ever more depressing, discouraging words?  Strikes a klong of dark, cold dread up and down your spine, doesn't it?

Not that I really want to clean the studio, but I need to have an electrician come in and fix up my ceiling lights, all of which were installed at the same time and all of which are dying at the same time.  And to get to the most important fixture, he will have to stand on my work table, which means the top of the table will have to be visible, which means a midden of boxes and stuff will have to be removed.  So while I'm removing stuff from the work table, I might as well simultaneously be cleaning and organizing and finding stuff that can be given or thrown away.

Still dark, cold dread, right?

My first thought was to get rid of my calicos.  Years ago I pulled out all those sweet 70s tiny prints that I will never use and put them in the closet.  I've given them to new quilters who wanted something to learn on without having to go to the fabric store.  I've sent them to internet friends who wanted to finish quilts begun decades ago in similar fabrics.  A brainstorm: one of my fiber art pals is in a traditional guild that makes a lot of charity quilts, so I asked her if they might want my calicos.

When she said yes, I started packing them up.  It felt good.

And then I had another thought -- why not also give them some of my "better" quilt fabrics?  So I started packing boxes full.

I was pleasantly surprised at how little pain I felt in parting with these fabrics -- thousands of dollars worth of beautiful cottons that had called out to me in the past and had given me lots of pleasure over the years just knowing they were there in my drawers ready for a moment in the sun.  But I realized that I would never use them, and if I knew they would be going to a good home, where people would use them and love them, I'm OK with that.

I gave my friend a trunkload of fabrics a few weeks ago, and am accumulating another pile to hand off at our textile group meeting later this week.

Of course, empty drawers aren't worth anything until you fill them with something else that had been occupying other space, such as on top of my work table.  So now I'm trying to consolidate the fabrics I still have into the partly empty drawers, and organize them more usefully for my current quilting life.  Still lots of work ahead, but seeing those boxes go out the door has been liberating.

Sunday, February 12, 2017

My favorite things 7

With very few exceptions I'm technologically behind the times, and generally like it that way.  Although both my husband and I own cell phones, we use them as phone-booth substitutes (in case we need to call somebody while away from home) and still conduct our life business by land line.

I love landlines.  Yes, it can be inconvenient to have to get up and go to another room to answer, but if it's too inconvenient I'll just ignore it.  I love the fact that landlines work during power outages, which we have too many of in our neighborhood.  Many years ago my husband was in the hospital with a hip replacement and our power went out for a week.  I went into zen state for that week, during which I went to the hospital every morning and enjoyed the generator-provided electricity and air-conditioning for 12 hours, then would stop at the grocery to buy something to eat and three cold beers.  I'd come home as darkness was falling, drink my beer and and talk with my mother on the phone in the dark for an hour or two.  Sleep and repeat.

The phone company would have you believe that fiberoptic or wireless service is vastly superior to copper wires, but just talk to one of the guys who might come around and repair your old-fashioned phone, and he'll tell you that's crap.  Copper wire is a much better system, except it does need maintenance, much like every other useful bit of infrastructure.  And like so many other aspects of our society, the phone company would rather sub in inferior technology just so they don't have to spend money on maintenance.

But I digress.  We acquired this phone in 1974 when I was running an outpost of a national news organization from my dining room, and we needed three separate phone lines.  I managed to keep the phone after my gig was over, and have loved it ever since.  That model of phone allows you to cradle the receiver securely between ear and shoulder while you type or get dressed or whatever.  Unlike newer models where the phone will squirt out and escape.  Sad.

It's getting a little staticky these days, or so my husband tells me, refusing to use that phone.  I don't notice that much of a problem, but perhaps I'm just making maternal allowances for my ne'er-do-well child.  One of these days it can go directly to the museum of obsolete technology, along with so many other of my possessions.

Friday, February 10, 2017

Two new quilters show their stuff

Today I get to share with you two quilts made by the younger generation -- one of the best things that can happen to our favorite skill and pastime is to pass it along to the kids.  Anna Shanahan writes from Australia that she and her two girls read my Rail Fence book over the holidays and chose some fabrics to turn into quilts.

Sophia, who is 11, wanted a star effect, and her mom suggested a pinwheel layout with rail fence blocks.  She liked blue and purple, and after a discussion on color theory they decided to use yellow and orange for the edge rails for a high-contrast palette.  Sophia developed an interesting technique for sewing the blocks: first she sewed a very long strip of blues and purples.  "She sewed the yellow rails onto the ends of the long strip, then cut or unpicked the blocks off the ends, and repeated the process. She seemed to enjoy it, and stuck to it pretty well. Once she had her blocks, she fiddled around with the layout, then sewed it up."

Sophia's quilt in progress

Sophia's finished quilt top

Imogen, who is 8, liked two quilts in the book that were made from very fat rails alternating with very thin.  Anna writes: "We discussed the beautiful fabrics used, and the thin rails. Then we had a look through the fabric here to see if there was a biggish piece of something she found exciting. She seized on the planet fabric, then went about choosing fabrics to insert. She'd been involved in the earlier colour theory conversation, and went about making her choices with great confidence and assurance. I was quite surprised, and frankly delighted to see the decisions and choices she made. It's been really interesting to let other people make use of the fabrics here.

Imogen's quilt top

Imogen's quilt top (detail) 

"I wasn't confident to let her use the cutter, so she marked the fabric where she wanted it cut, both for the main fabric and the contrast rails. Then she sewed the strips into blocks, put them up onto the wall, and decided what order to put them in. She was struggling with the long, pieced seams, so I put those ones together. However, she loves pressing, so did all the ironing work."

"It's been a fantastic and achievable process for everyone. The girls are really proud, and want to show their friends how to do it. I think we'll be having another workshop next holidays. I like that the quilts are so different to each other, and to what I make. It took very little input from me, despite their lack of previous experience.  And the girls are already planning their next pieces."

What a great story!  There's nothing quite so exciting as to help a child learn a new skill, and watch her use it with confidence and fun.  Good work, Sophia and Imogen!