It’s a question that appears at the end of every newsletter that I receive from Fr. Richard Rohr at the Center for Action and Contemplation.
Action. And contemplation.
There’s a time for both. The question is: What is mine to do?
I know a lot more about what is probably NOT mine to do. It’s probably not mine to march in the streets. I am getting to the age where pandemics and crowds are a bad mix for me. Younger people are much better at those things.
It’s probably also not mine to tell you what to think. You have your own ears and eyes and soul. It’s your work to worry about what you think.
But what is mine to do?
It is mine to listen. It is mine to raise my son to listen, to have empathy, to use his critical thinking skills. It is mine to contemplate. I have had many, many days of action. And my time of action will come again. But I can support and raise people up. I can stand with those who are oppressed, even if I have to do it from my house. From my perspective of privilege I can appreciate when it might be time to shut my mouth and listen…listen to the voices of those not like me.
Injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere. We are caught in an inescapable network of mutuality, tied in a single garment of destiny. Whatever affects one directly, affects all indirectly. –MLK
Those words were as true then as they are now, maybe even more profoundly right now.
Last year I started working on a red, white and blue quilt. It is a patchwork of many, many pieces of different fabric in every shade of red, white and blue that I could find. I once had a friend ask: Why would someone want to cut up perfectly good fabric? As quilters we know why. One piece of fabric may be strong and singular and dominant.
But a quilt made with many colors, blended together and working in harmony is a much more perfect…union. And the painful thing is that the fabric must be cut, and things get ugly and a lot of hard work must be done before anything even resembling coherence starts to emerge.
But it does emerge when we do the work. And you can follow a pattern or freestyle it. But when it’s all sewn back together as one piece of cloth, it’s special. It’s better than the sum of a bunch of single fabrics. It’s triumphant. And participating in that?
No one in our house is allowed to use the phrase “new normal” or “in these uncertain times”.
For obvious reasons.
But for reasons mostly unknown to me, I dug deep into a closet not long after the stay-at-home orders began, and I came across a puzzle we never assembled. It was the only one in our home. 750 pieces. Challenging but not discouraging. It was an illustration of a floral shop during Valentine’s Day, which, of course, had passed at the time we were assembling. But it was loaded with cheer–flowers, cards, knick knacks, doodads and color. Lots of color.
I set it out on our coffee table and worked on it during the news (which was quite a bit at first, if you remember). Then I started doing it during briefings from the task force, from governors, etc.
Then one day our teenage son walked over and started working. He was in the midst of preparing for AP Exams. In case you hadn’t heard, they were canceled in their normal form, and were replaced by a very stressful, time sensitive, online interpretation. A year’s worth of studying and work reduced to 2 questions…and half the battle was the stress of wondering if all your technology would hold up. He sometimes stared at those puzzle pieces with me.
I understand if you’re not a puzzle person.
I guess not everyone is. But if you are visual–as I am–or spatial–as I am, you very likely find them relaxing. I do crosswords from time to time. But I find I just am not that up on pop culture or TV or movie stars or Greek mythology. When I used to play Trivial Pursuit, my default answer was always “Barbra Streisand.”
Neverthless, there’s also something meditative and calming about the images. I am very particular about the images I choose for puzzles. I don’t want a loud abstract spiral of pure color. That just seems frustrating and vague to me. But a homey scene with quilts and puppies and red barns and all the reassurances of a time that was simpler? Yeah, that’s for me.
The puzzle above was probably one of my favorites. If you find it anywhere, and you enjoy doing them, I highly recommend this one. And shout out to artist Chris Bigalow. His outstanding illustration is so full of tiny details, that I found myself studying and appreciating every piece. Inside the windows? All those little scenes are tiny puzzles…puzzles within puzzles. What a fantastic graphic. From the details in the upstairs windows to the coffee mug that says “I heart puzzles”, this is just a gem.
What’s the next one in line? I decided to try having a puzzle made from one of my own images. As much as I enjoy floral photography, I prefer illustrations on my puzzles. But I did have one image that I thought would make a fun puzzle.
So this next one is a photo I took while on vacation. It’s always been one of my favorites and the color, cheeriness and general tchotchkiness (is that a word?) would be fun.
Puzzles calm me. I know that people attribute a lot of good things to puzzle-solving. But for me, when working on a puzzle, I am distanced from the chaos and scary-as-hell reality we live in. I’m wrapped up in a world of shapes and color. I used to shun them because, really, what in the world is productive about jigsaw puzzles? You spend hours and when you’re done, you put it all back in the box and move on.
But that’s become a metaphor for me. A metaphor for life. We scramble, we work, we delude ourselves into thinking we must always be productive, but when it’s all over, it’s over. And has anything that any of us done had true lasting value? Our quilts, maybe. But only if someone truly appreciates them. Otherwise, they are just a way to keep ourselves going.
We all do what we have to do.
Next post I’lll share some sewing.
But for now? We keep a puzzle on the coffee table.
So I see a lot of people taking a renewed interest in sewing these days. First and foremost to make masks, second as a hobby, and third as a new skill.
But how do we shop right now in this state of retail confusion? I looked over the websites of some of the top sewing machine manufacturers and while they are all taking somewhat different approaches, they are definitely finding ways to sell machines.
Regardless of your location, or your region’s status with regard to COVID19 (Stay-at-home or not), Bernina is offering nation-wide curbside pick up or local delivery via Fedex or UPS. So if you know of a dealer you can trust, you can call and purchase a machine and receive curbside pick-up. Or, you can ask them to have that machine delivered via Fedex or UPS. Now, when it comes to shipping, I’m not sure who picks up the charges for that…likely the customer. But don’t underestimate your negotiating ability during this time. I’m sure a dealer would rather sell a machine than argue over shipping charges. Bernina does have a limited online sales venue on bernina.com , but at the end of the day, that sale just gets delivered to a local dealer where you would pick it up. Far easier to call a dealer directly. There are a limited number of Bernina and Bernette sewing machines available on Amazon (that look to be sold directly by Bernina–not used.)
I found it harder to get information on Babylock because their consumer website does not have any updates with regard to the pandemic. I also left a message on their customer service line, and have not received a return call. However, my local Babylock dealer is taking orders over the phone and doing curbside pick-up. I have to believe that Babylock dealers are left to their own devices with respect to each states’ executive orders, and each dealer is making their own decisions. No Babylock machines appear to be available for purchase on Amazon.
Janome does not have a statement online about coronavirus or whether they have any business changes. So I imagine that each dealer is handling it in their own way. Janome does, however, have a wide variety and price range of machines available for purchase on Amazon. Is it their top of the line? Perhaps not. But the Memorycraft is available on Amazon and that’s a pretty decent machine.
Curbside pick-up is available for all dealerships that are open. Also, singer.com has a wide range of all these brands available for purchase. HOWEVER, they have a huge warning on their website that their delivery response time has slowed, and they are having some inventory issues, which they are trying to manage. This is not unusual. If you have purchased anything online in the past month or so, you know that delivery times are sporadic at best, and frustratingly non-existent at worst. Your best bet would be to contact a dealer who handles these brands, find out what they have in stock and go from there. Singer appears to be the only brand in this category that has some availability on Amazon. However, a reminder that you get what you pay for. You will have no quarantees that a $150 machine will last or will handle the sewing you require. And if you purchase online, who will service? Just some things to think about.
Once again (and I hate to be down on them because I know they have decent embroidery machines) but once again, Brother is a black hole of information for consumer sewing machines. I recognize that they are a large corporation with lots of sales and supplies to manage. They do have a generic note on their corporate site that explains that they are doing their best to manage inventory and their supply chain. What that means to consumers is less clear.Their sewing machines are available in a limited capacity on Amazon. Again, buyer beware, as brands sometimes only offer online the cheapest machines around. If you simply must own a Brother, please find a dealer and ask them how they are selling at this time.
I think it’s safe to conclude that, as always, it is best to contact your local sewing dealership and tell them which machines you are interested in. If it were me, I would put off a very high-end purchase until you are more comfortable going in to test drive the machine. Unless, of course, your local dealer is open, and even then, please try to practice social distancing.
If you are wanting to make masks, some decent machines are available for purchase online, but I would recommend spending at least $500 to get something that will be dependable. The Bernina 215 for $799 is a great machine to purchase online. It is made like a Bernina, with metal parts and sews like a dream. I would call a dealer first to find out if they have one. I bet they would sell it for less than that price, and you could just do a curbside pick-up.
Whatever you decide to do, I am encouraged that so many are interested in sewing again.
Who knew we’d all get back to sewing and growing our food?
Please, please, stay safe, stay healthy, listen to your local officials, and help each other.
Author’s edit 5.13.20: I want to give an update about the “controversy”. I have listened to scientists and have also spoken to folks in infection control who have all made themselves clear about masks. They now ALL believe that the public wearing them is the best route to limiting this virus. While they would not want hospitals to be forced to wear cloth, the public wearing masks of any kind keeps as many droplets contained as possible.I wear a mask for you, and you wear one to protect me. Every day we learn more and this is no longer controversial. I want to make that clear. It is a minor inconvenience that we all need to endure because, frankly, it’s all of us versus this virus. And the virus is virulent. (Yes, I know it’s alliterative.)Here’s an article for reference. I’m now convinced this simple change in behavior can save a lot of lives.
I’ve been asked to share my mask pattern with you and it’s so simple, you won’t believe it.
But first, I want to talk a little about cloth masks.
Don’t wear a cloth mask for more than 2 hours. Change to a fresh one.
If it gets wet for any reason, even from your own breath, you need to change it.
Put them directly into a washing machine and wash in hot water with soap or bleach.
That’s the end of my Public Service Announcement. Knowing that, if you are on this blog, you are likely someone who sews, and anyone who sews can make masks out of their stash. I did not have elastic on hand for some of the patterns I’d seen, and then I ran across this video of German women making masks. They are using what appears to be a layer of muslin, another fabric, and then the ties appear to be cotton.
I made my masks out of white fabric so that anyone using them could bleach them. Please pre-wash your fabric before you start to assemble. I’m sure any color would be fine.
I start by cutting 8 inches along WOF (so 8 x 44). Then I make four cuts of 2 inches WOF.
Trim the 8 inch fabric to 8 x 15. You should end up with 2 pieces of 8 x 15 which will make 2 masks. You’ll use 2 ties (2 x 44 each) for each mask.
Fold the 8 inch fabric in half right sides together and sew with a quarter inch seam. Turn it right side out and press with the seam at the bottom.
Start adding pleats that are approximately 1/2 inch deep. Fold it over and press. You do not have to measure, You do not have to be precise. Just keep them basically even, and you’re good. You’re making 3 pleats.
Press all three pleats down nice and secure. Then I run them under a 1/8 inch seam just to hold them in place.
I use an edgestitch foot for this, (my favorite!) and move the needle as far to the left as I can. Remember, you’re making two masks at a time with these instructions, so you’ll make 4 seams, on the short pleated sides only.
Next we’re making the ties. Take a 2 inch strip and press it with both long sides folded into the center. I usually do one side, and then the other.
Then fold down about half an inch from the top and give it a press.
Then you give the tie one more fold in the middle and press it really well. I usually use steam at this point. Next find the center of the tie…remember, it is approximately 44 inches long, so somewhere around 22 inches. This does not have to be precise. Just fold it in half and find the center. Put the center in the middle of the short side of one of your masks and wrap the tie around it. (See pic.) I use 3 clips for each side–like a binding.
Start at the very end of the tie, and sew across the top of the tie and then down along the side. Again, I use an edgestitch foot. This time with the needle moved all the way to the right. This secures the tie and attaches it to the mask. Do this on both sides and you’re done.
Again, the pieces we just cut will make 2 masks. If you’re like me, you have tons of yardage lying around that was meant for a quilt a long time ago, or that was on sale. I heated up some water for tea and Iiterally had a mask completed and my tea was still warm enough to drink.
Please keep in mind the precautions I set forth in the beginning. We are all truly in uncharted territory.
I am *almost* a senior…not quite. But you might be.
Here’s a good breakdown of hours for grocery stores.
The best advice we can all take right now is this:
Wash your hands, wash your hands, wash your hands. If you don’t remember the last time you did it, wash your hands.
Social distance. This is not a joke. Assume everyone is spreading the virus and stay away from them.
Clean commonly used surfaces regularly with disinfectant wipes or bleach water.
Don’t touch your face. Just don’t. (This is hard.)
As of this writing, we’re looking at another month or more of this isolating behavior. This is our new norm and we need to recognize that we are not alone. The entire world is battling this and it is our job to give the scientists, epidemiologists, doctors and nurses time and money and supplies to help us, and find a vaccine or cure. If my biggest hardship is staying at home and sewing, I am truly lucky.
I am also sending food via local restaurants to hospitals for the workers. This has the double effect of sending business to local restaurants and giving a gift to those on the frontlines.
I have no words of wisdom here. But with all my heart I am praying that you and your loved ones, and me and mine, will all be well.
Everyone I speak to is frightened, anxious and agitated about the future. We have no road map for this pandemic. But I think this much is clear.
We are permanently changed–physically, psychologically, financially, mentally.
Perhaps the way we were “doing” everything before was not ideal.
I’ve been thinking a lot about how I am changing my daily life. First of all, I stay close to home. I don’t run around unnecessarily, I don’t shop at 5 different grocery stores to get a little bit of everything for each person in my household.
Second, I’m not spending any money now on things that are throw-away. I’m not purchasing that cute top that I know will only last a season. I’m not buying earrings that go in and out of fashion like the wind. I’m using the fabric that I already own to make things other people need, instead of catering to my own whim and fancy.
Third, we are wasting less. Do we really need to use that many paper towels? Do we know when we will be able to get more? What about that food? Time to make something with what’s currently in the pantry or the fridge because going out for something else is not much of an option. We are eating home-cooking more.
Fourth, I am caring deeply, anxiously, and actively about others. My mind is constantly on healthcare workers, grocery clerks, truck drivers, mail delivery people, folks who keep the lights on and the water flowing and even the Internet bubbling and Netflix churning.
Of course, I am worried about all those who now have no income. Can they move their business online? Can the local plant shop or chocolate shop or quilt shop be nimble enough to move online and are we all willing to purchase online to keep our friends and neighbors employed?
What about restaurants? I don’t have the answer here, but I certainly think we should be able to order takeout. Have the days of crowded, chattering, noisy restaurants passed us by? Maybe not for everyone, but for those of us getting up in years or with health problems or compromised immune systems, the answer is yes.
What will the future look like? I think that’s the question that torments me the most. It almost certainly will not look like the past. As I said, we are permanently changed. And if we are not, then we will learn lessons the hardest way possible.
How about this paper device created by Chinese company Meituan? You can order takeout to eat at your desk, but every meal comes with this paper shield that protects your food from any droplets that might be shed by a passing stranger. I don’t know how I feel about that, but at least it’s the way China is starting to think and create, as they begin to reopen their economy VERY slowly.
The doctors are thinking that even after this first wave, the virus will head to the Southern hemisphere and then be back for round two next fall. That may or may not give us enough of a reprieve to prepare with equipment, masks, gowns gloves, respirators etc.
But for now, I am still creating masks for local nursing homes, assisted living centers and anyone who wants them at the moment. For the first time in my life, I ordered groceries for delivery. My area of the country has been identified as a growing hotspot for the virus. I have a husband who still must go in to work three days a week.
May we learn how to live a little better together on this planet. May we learn to care for one another. May we learn how absolutely interdependent we are on one another.
No matter how prepared we are, we know that something is coming that is just not what we’ve experienced any time in our lives.
Talking to my 86 year-old father, I asked him if he ever remembers anything like this.
“No!” he says with wide eyes. “This is the whole world.”
The whole world.
I watch images from Italy of people on their balconies, singing to and with each other. I see Chef Jose Andres from World Food Kitchen shaving his beard in order to serve others food while wearing a mask.I read about the elderly couple waiting anxiously in their car to ask someone who looks kind to take their money and go purchase groceries for them, because they are terrified to go into the store–they both have existing conditions that put them at risk.
I see air pollution drastically cut as factories are shut down. I see the fossil fuel industry being reduced in a way none of us could EVER have corrected on our own.
I think this virus has reminded us that we in the whole world are dependent on one another like never before. It has reminded us that we cannot control our entire ecosystem, but that we are simply a part of it. We don’t write the rules. Even when we think it’s all under our control…it’s really not.
It’s humbling. It’s humbling if we are wise enough to recognize these things.
As I write this, I am suffering from a sinus infection from a head cold I had two weeks ago (which I get every year at this time). Should I go to the doctor? Will I end up with something worse than a sinus headache?
I don’t have any answers.
Wait. Yes, I do.
We have the only answer that has ever really existed. (At the risk of returning to my sorry seventies self.)
Love is the answer.
Please take care of yourself, stay healthy, love one another, and support your local quilt shop.
Admit it. Those of us with an unmentionable amount of fabric at home (not to mention all those UFO’s) are ready.
With the onslaught of the novel coronavirus #COVID19 , we have all become either preppers or hoarders. My husband came home from work a week ago and asked me, “Are we prepared to be stuck in this house for 30 days?” I took it as a challenge to stock up and, like all good Americans, I did what Americans do during any weather event, football game, or public health emergency.
I went shopping.
What I purchased will not last very long, but it may get us through the first wave of whatever it is we are expecting to come. In fairness, I have been following a number of highly educated medical specialists and they are sounding the alarm. The CDC has recommended that air travel be limited for those over 60 or 65 as well as anyone with a fragile health condition. I have an elderly parent who lives alone in an adjacent state. I’ve driven to his house and stocked him up with at least 2-3 weeks of food.
I’ve looked around my sewing room and determined that I have enough fabric to last for the rest of my lifetime (however short or long that may be.) Even so, I ordered some fabric online and I’m expecting a delivery soon.
But here’s the thing: Even if we are not going out in public as much as we used to, or gathering in large groups as much as we used to, we still need to keep our local quilt shops in business.
So what do we do?
Some of the shops in our area already have an online presence with all of their products available. Others do not, just yet. However, I will bet that if you called your local quilt shop and asked them to mail you fabric in a flat rate box, they’d be happy to do it. I know it’s hard when you cannot see the fabric, but I’m betting that they would rather send you a pic, have your business, then go without a sale.
Many quilters are in the high risk category for this illness.
So let’s check in with each other. This doesn’t mean sharing the illness, but we can move our social gatherings online for awhile. Text, email, stay in touch. And sew your way through it.
Preppers or hoarders?
Does it matter? At our house, I think it’s a little of both. In the face of uncertainty, my family eats. And sews.
So this is the easiest garment pattern you will ever see. It works with knits, wovens, tissue knits, you name it.
It’s from Grainline Studio and if you’ve never heard of it, you might have been under a rock.or maybe just busy quilting. The name of the pattern is the Hemlock Tee. It’s available for free if you sign up for their newsletter.
I am not the fondest of pdf patterns but I managed to assemble this one without much trouble, and then used 810 gridded interfacing to trace the pattern. I got the interfacing at Joann’s with several coupons and spent, I don’t know, less than $2 for 6 yards. Seriously.
I went a size or two larger than normal, because I wanted a really comfy, swingy fit, but I think I’ll try it smaller as well.
The whole pattern is really 5 seams and then hemming. That’s it. So the fun is all in the fabric, the variations, the sizing, the sleeve length, cropped, long, whatever you want.
As far as the hemming, I was so thrilled. I have never owned a machine that does a cover stitch, and I never really thought I needed one. Until I started to use it.
This particular shirt is made from 100% organic cotton knit from Hawthorne Supply Co. The fabric is from a line called Redwood, which I just loved. I can’t pass up anything with trees on it. Honestly, the knit was a dream to work with and feels like pajamas when you are wearing it.
I used a narrow cover stitch on both the sleeves and the hem. Yes, there’s a bit of fiddling with the thread and needles on the serger, but really not bad at all to switch from overlock (which I used on all the other seams) to cover stitch and back. After having switched back and forth a few times now, it’s like changing from sewing to embroidery. Switch a few things around, change a nob or button…done.
I have a number of patterns to work on next, but I stepped outside yesterday, and GAHH. It seems too early for this! The daffies are coming! Anyway, happy first signs of spring.
I bought a new serger. I am not very good at videos, so here’s an unboxing blog. But before I get into that, let me tell you why I purchased what I did.
This is a Babylock. Babylock sergers have been the best in the industry for years. They lead the way in “air puff” technology, making it easy to thread those loopers. I trust that they know more about sergers than basically anyone else in the industry.
This Babylock serger is made in Japan, where Babylock actually owns factories.
I already own a Babylock Imagine serger. It’s a solid machine, still has a great stitch, and will become my back-up serger. But it’s well over 20 years old.
The new machine is an Accolade, which as I understand it, is the updated model of the Evolve. It has a cover stitch and that was the main selling point for me. I have never owned a serger with a cover stitch. On top of that, I got a promotion that included 15 different serger feet, handling everything from beading to ruffling to binding. To be honest, I have no idea how to use most of these features, so it will be an interesting learning curve for me. A real growth opportunity!
Of course, I purchased from a reputable dealer with a series of classes available. This is something I recommend to anyone purchasing any machine.
I was also given limited-time access to a full range of Babylock online classes, including all the instructions for my serger PLUS lots of technique and project classes.
Serger instructions are terrifying. They will frighten you. But you cannot let fear guide you. It’s just a mechanical machine, and it works more mechanically than any sewing machine you have ever used. That’s all. Mechanical machines like things done in a certain order. You can do this. Before I did anything, I watched the online video for the Accolade on Babylock SewEd. I have guide classes set up for next Saturday. But in fairness, I’ve owned a serger and after the video I only glanced at the instructions once.
It’s not as difficult as the instructions make it look. I promise.
I immediately set it up for a 4 thread overlock, my go-to stitch. I wanted to hem my husband’s pants, which were frayed from dragging on the ground. But first, a test stitch.
Ladies and gentlemen. Perfection right out of the box.
And that, my friends, is why I purchased a Babylock serger.
I went ahead and did the finishing stitch on my husband’s pants before I hemmed them on my Bernina. Could I have finished them on the serger with a cover stitch?
I think so, but danged if I know how yet.
Something exciting to learn!
In this time of slow fashion, slow food and environmental awareness, making one’s clothes is coming back around to be a thoughtful move toward sustainable living. I don’t want to throw everything in the garbage any more.
These pants and others now have new life. And I know that doesn’t change the world.
This year, since I have Kraft-Tex in abundance, I made another small project for him combining machine embroidery and a really simple bag design. Seriously, it doesn’t get any simpler than this. Here’s a link to the video from Mr. Domestic.
A couple of things:
I used a zipper foot when sewing in the zipper. I think this is just personal preference. I like to see where I’m headed and I thought it was just easier.
Two layers of cutaway, with the Stabilstick cutaway on top were almost enough. As you can see in the following picture, I still had a problem because the design had so many stitches it perforated the Kraft-Tex. It was no big deal because it was only in one area, and I stitched over it, and all was fine.
The reason this occurred is because I did not have the Kraft-Tex fit the hoop so it was hanging over the side and pulling just enough to rip the fabric.
I cut out the design in a rounded square and stitched the whole thing down onto one side of the bag.
After that, I just followed the directions in the video. Other than the embroidery design, seriously, it took minutes.
In the video, Mr. Domestic uses pre-washed Kraft-Tex, and I used unwashed. I want to try using the pre-washed at some point.
I do want to point out that Kraft-Tex is biodegradable, but doesn’t fall apart in the wash. In the ground, it detriorates after two weeks. Compare that to 100% cotton fabric, which may take around 5 months, and synthetic textiles including polyester, spandex, nylon, and rayon may take between 20 to 200 years to fully biodegrade*. Kraft-Tex is OEKO-TEX certified, which is standard in the textile industry in that the end product is certified to be non-toxic. It also holds an FSC accreditation (Forest Stewardship Council) Essentially, this means that the product is regulated to be using forestry resources responsibly as defined by the highest industry standards.
So that explains one of the reasons I try to use Kraft-Tex when I can. I wish I could make clothes out of it, but that’s for the chemists and engineers to figure out how to make it just a bit softer.
* I got this info from a website called Edge Expo. It is targeted to sustainable fashion.