Wednesday, July 25, 2012

Oilcloth—A New Story in UPPERCASE

UPPERCASE #14 is out and I've got a story in it about oilcloth. As always, I learned a lot while researching the story.

One of my favorite factoids was that the biggest producer of oilcloth in the mid-20th century was the Columbus Coated Fabric Company in Ohio. When they went out of business, their equipment was sold to companies in Mexico, which is why when I was in Oaxaca I saw stacks and stacks of oilcloth in the markets. Some of the same copper rollers the Columbus Coated Fabric Company used for their most iconic prints—the apples and pears, for example—are still being used to print today's oilcloth. Of course there are lots of new patterns and designs, but I think a lot of what people love are the vintagey, mid-century prints.

While I'm pleased about my article in this issue, there is so much great stuff in UPPERCASE #14 (and in every issue). This time there is a lot on children's book illustrators and children's toys, and great graphics of chevrons, artists' studios, and lots more. Check it out. And in my next post, there will be an oilcloth-related giveaway. Stay tuned!

Monday, July 23, 2012


Brucie, me, Susan, and Paula
Today's Etsy post reminded me of an old friend and as I worked on the piece about the AIDS memorial quilt this weekend I thought of him repeatedly.

Brucie was the first person to ask me out in college. We met at a party and he invited me to another. He ended up dating a friend of mine longterm and during that time brought around one of his closest friends and that friend and I ended up getting together. Ultimately I married that guy, and 36 years later we're still together.

Brucie came out some time during our junior or senior years of college. He spent several semesters abroad and I think it was there he felt free enough to acknowledge who he was. At our mostly white college he already stood out and worked hard to keep color lines open, fraternizing with both the largely separate groups of white and black students. Adding "gay" to the mixture undoubtedly complicated his life.

Brucie taught me a lot about politics—I was so naive I didn't know what apartheid was, for example—and he taught me a lot about fun. The man loved to dance, loved to throw back his head and laugh, and  live in the moment. We spent a lot of time talking in British accents about someone named "Pamela," making up stories about her horrendous behavior. Dancing with Brucie in gay bars in Chicago after we'd graduated, in the years before AIDS, was some of the craziest fun I've had in my life.

Brucie was devoted to his family and when his sister had a baby, he was the most proud uncle. His brother went to college across town and my husband got to know him, too. After we'd graduated we stayed with him in DC. Another smart, savvy guy.

But it's Brucie I knew the best, and Brucie I still mourn after nearly 27 years. We hadn't heard a lot from him in the year or two before his death—he'd signed on as a flight attendant and was traveling the world. But I know that were he still around we'd be a part of one another's lives.

The loss of Brucie—his potential, his dance moves, his fake British accent,  his political wonkiness—comes upon me periodically. I try and remember all the good—so much good. His brother died of AIDS a few years after Brucie did and I can't imagine how his parents bore it. I hope they know we've never forgotten their lovely, lovely sons.

Wednesday, July 18, 2012

The Older, the Better

The Midwestern weather has been abominable, with temps well over 100 and no rain. It was especially bad right around the 4th of July, so we decided to head to the annual Hansen's Grove antique sale early, before it was too miserable. I shared photos of this sale a couple of years ago, and thought I'd do the same today.

I bought only a set of three Pyrex bowls in citrusy colors and Paul beefed up his collection of creamers—those miniature milk containers you used to get with your coffee in restaurants. But mostly we looked.

There were a few things I would loved to have had—the little doll family, in which the tallest was maybe 3 inches. But $60 seemed a bit much, and I constantly remind myself that I don't want to become an adult woman with a house full of dolls.

I also loved this hand-carved head, but again, the price was a bit steep.

And I absolutely loved the fabric I found on the back of an old quilt, but didn't love the quilt itself so much. We decided there is lots of pleasure to be had in just looking. Enjoy!

Wednesday, July 11, 2012

Sewing in Usual Circumstances

This past weekend proved a turning point for me. I went the entire weekend without the need to take a nap. I even planned to invite people over for dinner. My usual energy level seems to have returned. I'm still on meds, still have the PICC line, but things are moving in the right direction.

Since the people we wanted to have over couldn't come, I decided to take advantage of the evening and sew. It's been a long time since I've had a Saturday evening to stitch and I loved it. A 4th of July sewing date gave me a start on these blocks, but on Saturday I got them all stitched and arranged on the floor--too lazy to put up my portable design wall.

The pattern is Off Track by Cluck, Cluck Sew (loved her booth at Quilt Market), and the fabrics are mostly ones I'd gotten when I had the crazy idea that I'd make the Farmer's Wife quilt—I made about five blocks and realized templates are not me. I added a couple of other fabrics for scale and color—a bit of Lotta Jansdotter and some Heather Ross dogs. I'm making a baby-sized quilt, so only made 20 blocks, rather than the 35 called for for the lap-sized quilt. Next I need to stitch those blocks together, because Pearl continues to gleefully run over my neatly arranged layout and it's a mess. Thank goodness for digital cameras, so that I can remember what it looked like before doggie mayhem ensued. 

Tuesday, July 3, 2012

Binding in Unusual Circumstances

If you check the foreground of this photo you'll see hair clips holding a strip of fabric, a sure sign that I'm binding a quilt. There's nothing so unusual about that. But if you look at the far right corner you'll note a blood pressure machine. Yup, I was binding my quilt in a hospital bed. I mentioned that I'd been ill while traveling. Once home I decided to check in with my doc, since I didn't feel quite right, and after a lot of tests, etc., I was told I'd be in the hospital for "a few" days. So I gathered up as much stuff as I could think of that needed doing and brought it along—notes to write, knitting, quilt binding. In the end, I stayed three days and the binding was the only thing that got accomplished.

Fortunately I'm now home and recouping quite well. It turns out I had a nasty infection—MRSA—and how and why I got it is a mystery to my docs. Luckily it's one that responds to IV antibiotics so I have a PICC line in place and twice daily I trot down to the basement (renamed "the clinic") to dose myself with the appropriate meds. They figure I'll require about four weeks worth of antibiotics and I just wrapped up the second week. So the end is in sight!