Monday, June 23, 2014

Rag of the Day Special Edition: Fragments

Six very tiny pieces- the ivory is two- lucky to have stayed in my pocket. I can't remember where the ivory came from, but I have the impression looking at it that it was from a squirrel nest that was being refreshed for the spring.

The blue in the top left is from a lawn at a business downtown, probably chewed up in a lawnmower last fall. The red was probably a ribbon, and had become caught on a rock on a river-side path way during the spring flood.

The plaid is from a jacket that has been pulled apart by flood water in the spring and caught up in the sand.

The burned rayon on the bottom left probably blew off a balcony at a high rise apartment, months ago, and got then caught up against a fence. I found that on May 4, 2014. 

I am not sure what to do with them yet, but I think they belong together. They make me think of ancient textiles found in tiny pieces and then reconstructed. It seems improbable these things persist. But then they are also just the right size for the creatures that might use them for things like nests, for winter homes. It's a wonder I found them at all.

So they will be something, together, I think.

Saturday, May 3, 2014

Rag of the Day Digest: Five Shirts

March 2014, Cotton flannel, spent the winter in a snow bank it had been plowed into. Cloth is heavily worn.

April 2014, snow plow damaged cotton shirt.

April 2014, cotton-poly blend shirt, in the park. Mildewed and mud stained, so may have been there since last summer.

April 2014, cotton shirt, at the curb, seems to have been damaged by the sidewalk snow plow. Probably fell out of someone's garbage.
April 26, 2014, Necktie Beach, a cuff, part of a sleeve and placket from a cotton shirt. I'm assuming this is what is left of a whole shirt, just these parts. Spring flooding brought it up on the shore where it got caught in some roots. The flowing water that probably tore away the rest of the shirt has left these bits bundled with grass, small branches and little twigs. I won't be able to wash it without deconstructing it. Maybe I can just snip some of the cloth off and leave most of the twining and wrapping intact.

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.