Saturday, November 19, 2022

dataspejlet opening

it's been awhile since i wrote about dataspejlet - an art project at trapholt museum in kolding. i submitted my embroidery and our weaving group submitted our woven length of fabric back in june. and today, the final artwork, imagined and created by danish artist astrid skibsted, and stitched and woven by more than 600 people, was opened to the public. it was a lovely day, with mimosas, speeches and plenty of time to see the work. i want to go back again when there are less people there and really experience it. the energy there today, with all the creators there, was amazing, but  the work needs pondering in a more solitary way to appreciate the significance of all the stitches and threads.  

Sunday, November 13, 2022

i learned a new thing today!

i went to a course today to learn løbbinding. i keep learning stuff in danish and then not knowing what it's called in english. i had to search løbbinding on pinterest and hope that it showed me some pins in english too. it did. they're coiled baskets. it was fun. 

first, you make a coil of fabric bound in some kind of fun yarn. i had a piece of an old duvet cover and i chose some glittery, hairy yarn for texture. you wrap it around, making a kind of rope of the fabric. 

then you choose some other fun yarns and start making the coil for the bottom of the basket. you wind the yarn around and use a large, blunt needle to sew it fast to the yarn underneath. you want a good, solid bottom.

my bottom. i imagine once i've made a few more, i'll look back and think this wasn't really tight enough, but it seemed pretty good to me today. and i loved the colorful, hairy yarn. yup, i'm gonna need more yarn. 

after some time, i changed to a different yarn to try out a different effect. i learned that it didn't look as good when you wrapped it around as it looked as the ball of yarn. but it was good to vary the design, so i used it anyway and let plenty of the sparkly hairy yarn i used to wrap the fabric show through. it had a pretty good effect.

i couldn't help myself and i took a basket of colorful yarn along, even though materials were part of the course. the last two rounds, i used some of it, to try out another effect.

i liked it! the pink was some kind of toweling that wouldn't be easy to sew, so i wrapped it around my base coil and then sewed it to the bowl with some orange thread that has a few sequins on it, for a bit more sparkle.

it's fun because it's perfectly ok to finish it off a little bit knobbly and wonky, and so i did. of course, i have loads of fabrics and yarn and other lovely things at home, so i can make more. this definitely seems like something i could easily work on while watching tv in the evening and would be a much better use of my time than playing homescapes.

everyone's baskets were so different, even though we all had the same starting point. i think you could see everyone's personality reflected in their work. and how different, diverse, colorful and lovely they all were! i can't wait to make more!

Sunday, November 06, 2022

the wrong stitches?

a fascinating aspect of the experience of sharing my great grandmother's quilts in an exhibition at my beloved little museum is the conversations with those who stop by. many of those conversations are magical, as i point out details on the quilts - like the light circle in the middle of this photo that has a dark circle of fabric on it, where my great grandmother sewed together a small piece of fabric to make up the circle - ensuring that nothing went to waste. or the fact that many of these fabrics were actually flour sacks that came in colorful calicos. here in denmark, people are a little incredulous at that, as apparently they only came in white or natural fabric here. 

a number of people i talked to, including the other person whose quilts are part of the exhibition, have expressed some surprising things. multiple people have said that we are showing the wrong side of the yoyo quilt above. we are most definitely not, as i know which side my grandmother considered the top side - and it's as it is above. the way that people tell me this is quite condescending, as if i'm a small, dull child who doesn't know back from front. and yet, this is the beautiful side of the yoyo quilt. 

the other surprising thing is how judgy people can be. there are four of these unfinished quilt tops that are perfect little 2x2-ish squares. they are completely hand sewn and they are the ones my mother remembers helping sew. her grandmother had had a stroke and couldn't get around, so she sat in her bed with piles of squares around her and sewed them together. and now, 80 years later, some danish ladies who otherwise know their handicrafts, inform me that she sewed them together wrong. they look utterly perfect to me, but her method was apparently a different one than the one they know, and so they characterize it as wrong, rather than being interested in a different technique. and it rather amazes me how much they seem to want to tell me this.

and it has me thinking about the slow stitch movement i followed back in the old bloggy days. they were that way too - very judgemental and condemning of those who did things differently than them. i wonder where the need to do that arises? why not just be fascinated by the way my great grandmother did it? why the need to judge it and deem it incorrect? why can't we embrace the amazing world of handiwork and appreciate the stories that we stitch into the cloth? why not be in awe of a woman who had had a stroke, but who could sit in her bed and stitch together small squares into perfect patterns. i know i couldn't do it. i love making quilts, but i need to lay them out and look at them and move the squares around and walk away and come back and move them around some more before sewing them together with my sewing machine. i am in awe of what she could do. and while i am interested in how she sewed it together, i don't think it could possibly be the wrong. after all these quilts and quilt tops are all still here after nearly 100 years, so she must have done something right.


Saturday, November 05, 2022

stitched stories

this is the text i wrote to go with the exhibition of my great grandmother's quilts.

these quilts and quilt tops were made by annie barnhart (1863-1946) of salem, south dakota. she was my maternal great-grandmother. i think she would be amazed to know that her rather prolific handiwork found its way to denmark with her great-granddaughter. 
my mother told a story from her childhood, of her grandmother, ill and bound to her bed at her daughter’s home in sergeant bluff, iowa, sewing away on these quilts. she had stacks of squares of different colors and she just spent her days, sewing them together. mom even said her eyesight wasn’t so great anymore, so the color combinations and the designs are even more amazing considering that fact. and i can’t even begin to count the number of hours that went into them. 

mom was born in 1939 and if her grandmother died in 1946, she must have been a small girl. she told me that she got to help do some of the stitching, so she had very fond memories of her grandmother working on them. i’m so glad that i know that and that she shared it before she lost those memories to alzheimer’s in her later years. 

i look at these quilts and i think of all the memories that are stitched into them that i don’t have access to. the stories behind all the old dresses and flour sacks that were cut into squares and sewn together by hand. some of the fabrics are surely 100 years old. i wish they could talk and tell of the occasions they were worn to – dances, parties, church, everyday life. i wish i could access those stories. 

sometimes, i feel like if i sit very still and i’m quiet enough, i will be able to hear them whisper their stories to me. i think one of the magical things about quilts is that they are very representative of their times – the fabrics used, the way they are stitched. they are quite literally the very fabric of their time. and they tell us a story even if we can’t necessarily hear the stories they tell. 

i feel privileged to share them all with you in this very magical place, across an ocean and a world away from where they were made. i hope that great grandmother annie is looking down and smiling. 

and i hope she likes the small mini-quilts that i made, using fabrics gifted to me by two friends, each with their own stories – mini quilts that i feel are a dialogue between me and those amazing women, continuing the tradition of telling stories through quilting in our family.