Passing the Soup: A Metaphor for Being There for Friends

When I write about myself, it’s usually about my relationship with textiles. But today I’m going to share what I think is one of the loveliest and luckiest things about my life, and it’s got to do with soup.

I consider myself a pretty healthy person—I try to eat thoughtfully and moderately. I walk 3-4 miles several times a week, I do pilates twice a week, all last winter I swam between a half-mile and a mile twice a week, etc. etc. Nevertheless, I’ve wound up needing significant medical interventions in four of the last five years. It’s challenging on a number of fronts, not the least of which is because it doesn’t fit with my self-image. But what’s made it all bearable is the passing of the soup.

Pre-Soup Veggies

This past Monday, the day before I was scheduled to have significant surgery on my nose for skin cancer, my friend Emily called and said she wanted to stop by with some soup for me. She did and we chatted and she left a wonderful container of carrot-potato soup and some sweet potato pie. I had to cut our visit short because I was taking soup to my friend Greta, who had just had a baby. It made me realize how lucky I am to live where my community of friends looks out for one another in good times and bad.

This past year I’ve shared wonderful joy and deep sorrow with friends, and as much as possible I’ve tried to “pass the soup.” Often I feel guilty that for one reason or another I’m not able to make someone an entire meal and feel that the little I do is inadequate. But when it’s me on the other side, I’m reminded how there are many ways the “soup” gets passed, and how each one of those acts is meaningful and helpful.

Since my surgery, I’ve had a cadre of volunteers who arrive twice daily to walk Pearl, and who’ve brought dinner and breakfast. I’ve received flowers, take-out Thai food, cards, and phone calls. Greta’s texted me photos of her dear, sweet new baby. Everyone has their own skill set and an amount of time they’re able to give at that moment and each act of kindness adds up to an amazing whole. I’ve felt so loved and cared for during this medical incident (and the others). I hope I remember in a few weeks, when my face isn’t swathed in bandages, that no matter what I do for someone, even if it seems small, it matters. It’s worth doing.

Pass the soup. 

Yarn Bombing in Iowa

 Sunday was the culmination of a several-month event spearheaded by the Downtown Association in Iowa City. The idea was to organize a yarn bombing of downtown trees as a public art project and way to involve the community.

It was a whopping success—the first 97 trees were quickly snapped up by knitting volunteers, and Home Ec Workshop, which coordinated the yarn kits, pulled together more tree measurements and yarn with the help of other downtown businesses. The assignment was to knit a five-foot piece from the “approved” yarns (purchased by the Downtown Assn. and an anonymous donor). I misunderstood and thought I needed to try and get my yarn to go as far as it could, so I opted for simple stockinette and some stripes, but boy, oh, boy, was my tree plain compared to many. There were cables and bobbles and embroidery and myriad stitches and imagery knitting in—a spider, hearts, leaves. The results are amazing and here are a few of them.

Quilt Market round-up

Quilt Market was a real joy, for many reasons, and its location in Kansas City was certainly one of them. My traveling companions and I loved the old buildings with intricate stone and metal work, as well as the new public art interspersed amongst them.

Jacquie Gering of Tallgrass Prairie Studios signs her new book. Such a treat to finally meet Jacquie in person!

Former architect Carolyn Friedlander & her amazing quilt

Market also was a pleasure because I got to see so many old friends, as well as meet face-to-face some of the people I’ve had an email relationship with this year. And my traveling companions, Codi of Home Ec and Greta, a new designer for Marcus fabrics, were delightful, as well.

So here are a few random photos of KC and QM. I’ll post a few more next time around.

Detail of Carolyn Friedlander’s quilt
Love Cluck, Cluck, Sew’s crisp patterns in clear colors

So great to meet Vanessa Christenson in person. She’s showing off her gorgeous new fabric, Simply Color
Denyse Schmidt shares quilts from her new book at Schoolhouse
Tiles in a KC park
Anna Maria Horner talks about her new fabric, inspired by birds’ migration routes & a moth infestation
Weeks Ringle surrounded by modern quilts that use unexpected fabrics
Weeks’ and Bill’s quilt mixes David Butler and Jo Morton fabrics

End of an Era

I’ve talked previously about my inability to focus solely one “craft” and the way that I get so excited about new classes where I might try something out. I don’t think it’s necessarily a negative thing, but the downside of it is that I wind up with materials and supplies that aren’t getting used.

For two decades before I called myself a quilter, I was a weaver and spinner. A few years ago I finally sold my loom, but mounds of yarn remained. It took my neighbor Pam, who wanted to check my weaving yarn stash, to help me get brave enough and organized enough to finally sell it and a couple weekends ago we had a killer yarn sale. We sorted wool from cotton from silk and priced things at less than half the going retail rate. Pam told her weaving guild about the sale, I mentioned it at our quilt guild meeting, and Paul posted signs around the neighborhood. The weather was unseasonably lovely for a March morning, and we sat out in the driveway surrounded by tables of yarn sorted by color.

Though we were quite amused by a few of the people who read the “yarn sale” signs as “yard sale,” and stopped dead in their tracks when the saw the tables full of wool, mohair, cotton, and silk, the best part was how happy people were with their purchases. Any textile aficionado can relate to the thrill of getting a steal-of-a-deal on new materials, and I loved when people told me what they planned to make, or the way something would combine perfectly with their stash at home.

Despite having sold pounds and pounds of yarn, I was left with quite a bit at the end of the morning. I put an ad on Craigslist that night—$100 takes all. By the time I got home from dinner at 10 pm I had a taker, and she arrived the next day to pick it all up and take it home to her daughters, who were just learning to weave and knit. She sent me an email that evening, letting me know that one daughter was knitting, the other finger-knitting, and they were all dreaming of what they’d do with the rest. It was so hard to admit that it was time to let the yarn go and so it was especially lovely to know that what sat on my studio shelves for years was inspiring others to create.

How about you? Have you ever admitted it was the “end of an era” and divested yourself of supplies? Did you miss them? Or was it a good thing?

Have Letterpress, Will Travel

Kyle in the Type Truck

Interviewing Kyle Durrie was a pleasure. She’s the proprietor of a Portland printing business, Power and Light Press, and is touring the country in a renovated 1982 Chevy step van equipped with letterpress equipment. (You can read her story on my Etsy post, here, and on her blog, here. The photos in this post are hers—she’s a fantastic photographer.)

Kyle is 31 and after talking with her I was in awe—because of her commitment to her craft and trade, her thoughtful answers to my questions, and simply because of what she’s doing. I learned about Kyle’s journey when she drove her Type Truck into Iowa City earlier this summer and parked it outside Home Ec Workshop (where proprietors Alisa and Codi kept her parking meter plugged while she printed with the crowds). It was a hot, hot day and I didn’t make it to the Type Truck—and have kicked myself ever since, but several of my UI Center for the Book friends met Kyle and printed with her and had great things to say about the experience. You can read about it on Kyle’s blog, here.

After hanging up the phone, I gushed about my conversation with Kyle to my husband, but I admit to one funny comment. I said that if one of our daughters had come to us and told us she was going to do this, my first reaction would be “No way! That’s crazy! It’s dangerous! You can’t possibly!” And yet here I was thinking Kyle was such an original thinker and so impressed with her willingness to put her life on hold for a year to pursue this experience. There’s a lesson in there somewhere, about fear, taking risks, and letting go. Thanks for that one, Kyle,  for reminding me that being a visionary isn’t just for people “out there,” but those in my own backyard.

Skin applique?

I’ve not been sewing at all, lately. Lots of freelance projects, plus a few medical issues have kept me from operating at full steam ahead. But I’m sure I’ll be up and at ’em again, soon.

In lieu of actually using my sewing machine, I’ve taken a photo of something that DID require a needle: Molly’s tattoo. I’m not a fan of tattoos (just ask my daughters), but when I met Molly four or five years ago I admit that I was drawn to the sewing machine tattooed on her forearm. If someone held me down and told me I HAD to be tattooed or they would take Pearl away, this is the tattoo I’d get. But only if…

Molly tells me that she got it after a break-up with a boyfriend, as a way to remind herself to remember to do the things that were important to her. She’s got a very nice beau now (Donny) and a very nice dog (Oliver the beagle) and I’m quite lucky to have them as my neighbors. Molly still sews often, altering vintage clothes to give them a more modern fit. If you want to check out her stuff, visit her Etsy shop. If you’re in Iowa City you can also check out Molly’s “altered vintage clothing” and handmade skirts at White Rabbit

Anyone else have a sewing related tattoo? I’d love to see it/share it. Send links!

Keepin’ the clouds away…

I mentioned in a previous post that after Kaffe Fasset and I put our heads together on a design detail I felt so elated I bought an umbrella adorned with one of his prints. Because Iowa just had the wettest October on record for 100 years, I had ample opportunity to use it.

When I bought it, it seemed to me a springtime print, just the thing for lifting my mood on grey March days. But the first time Pearl and I took an afternoon walk beneath it, I realized it was perfect for an autumn day: the colors echoed the changing leaves and magnified the beauty of a stroll around my block, even on a cloudy, wet day. I took Pearl home and got my camera and captured a few shots of the view of my neighborhood, from under my umbrella.



A reader asked where to find such an umbrella. I was fortunate to find it at the Westminster/Free Spirit booth at Quilt Market. Here’s a link to the umbrella on their site. They’ve also got lists of vendors, although don’t specify who is carrying the umbrellas—guess you might have to call around (or visit a lot of fabric shops. Now that would be a hardship, wouldn’t it?)

Ball Point

Okay, so this is a stretch for a blog about textiles… wait… a stretch… get it?

In Monday’s New York Times was a story about a Florida man who has a rubber band ball 25 feet in circumference. He put it together to beat a Ripley’s Believe It or Not record. Now the Ripley’s museum has bought it from him and taken it away. Apparently the neighbors were sad to see it go. It sat out in the front yard and was a distinctive landmark. I love those neighbors! Most people would just think it was an eyesore.

I started my rubber band ball more than 10 years, with no intention other than to get rubber bands off the counter after the morning paper hit the front porch. I’ve slacked off in the past two years, as it’s gotten harder to obtain rubber bands big enough to stretch around the ball. The larger of the two is nearly two-and-a half feet in circumference and 12 pounds. The house shakes if I try to bounce it. The smaller (dubbed The Sidekick) is 18 inches around and 3.4 lbs. When I started, I made a rule that I would never buy rubber bands for the ball, but could only find or be given them. Some young men might win a mother’s trust by bringing flowers or cookies when they took her daughter on a date: my daughter’s beaus brought me rubber bands.

Sadly, the larger of the balls is starting to dry out and the rubber bands are breaking. But it’s also gotten so heavy that lifting it to put on the bands is a workout in and of itself.

We Each Stay Cozy in Our Own Way

I’m not the only one who isn’t fond of winter. Pearl seems to much prefer being indoors during this very cold (barely 10 degrees on our morning walk) December. Getting her outside is not an easy task. She’s learned that her little bed on the hearth is a warm spot, and if she can’t curl up with me, this is where I often find her.

Last week I did do something winter-related that I truly enjoyed. My neighbor Pam held a gathering on Tuesday to which she invited about 15 women from the neighborhood and beyond to partake of a holiday crafts day. Pam used to have a business devoted primarily to quilting: quilts, kits, quilt-themed cards, jewelry, etc. She also did a number of paper crafts. Over the past few years she’s sold her business to her daughter-in-law. But she’s still in possession of lots of goodies and so she set up “craft stations” around the house so that her guests could take turns making six different projects. They ranged from two kinds of folded paper stars (one is in the picture above), a fabric-covered gift box (also in the photo), a luggage tag, gift tags, and the folded-paper tree above. 
Each station included detailed instructions and materials appropriate for the project. She had a lot of the preliminary work done (squares of fabric and vinyl for the luggage tags were pre-cut; templates for the gift tags printed on heavy paper; fusible already applied to the fabric for the gift boxes, etc.). It was really the ultimate fun day: like the kid in the candy store, I had to try one of each. I’d spied the lovely little trees in this month’s Martha Stewart Living and mentioned it to Pam. Rather than make each of us measure out the graduated circles, she devised a pattern for them that included folding lines. At the end of the day there was a forest of trees. 
Everyone who attended brought something for lunch and we had everything from turky-matzo ball soup to red cabbage salad. The sun poured in the south windows at the back of the house as we sat and ate, chatted, and got to better know one another. Our neighborhood is wonderfully friendly and I know lots of folks to say hello to because I walk Pearl so often, but this provided a chance to find out about people’s kids, jobs, etc. People who worked outside the home came for whatever part of the day they could (I took the entire day off) and I felt like I was in some kind of women-friendly version of “It’s a Wonderful Life.” One of my favorite days, ever.