Languishing: A New Art Quilt Series

Back in April I read a New York Times article by Adam Grant titled “There’s a Name for the Blah You’re Feeling: It’s Called Languishing.” At first I didn’t think it had anything to do with me. As an extreme introvert, after all, I thought I had survived the pandemic mostly intact, even thriving in some ways. But the more I read, the more familiar the words sounded.

Yep. I wasn’t depressed and still had energy, but I was kinda muddling through my days, somewhat aimless. Life became slower. Much slower. My breakfasts dragged on, and my days started progressively later. For over a year, the days of the week just blurred into each other, undistinguishable. I found it hard to remember what day it was, or if a holiday was approaching. Nothing felt urgent. And even though I derived much satisfaction from gardening and making art, finding the motivation to do anything at all became increasingly more difficult.

When the article was published, vaccines finally became more widely available, but I still found it hard to imagine post-pandemic life. I had hope, but was also afraid to hope. So many plans, after all, have gotten cancelled in the previous months, and so many aspirations have come to nothing… I felt a sense of stagnation, some emptiness, too. I was OK, but not quite OK.

Whether we want it to or not, the Pandemic was a watershed for all of humanity. For all of us, there will always be a “before” and an “after.” We’ve all emerged from the experience different in some ways. I am not quite the same person I was back in March 2019. The world had changed, and so did I. Something had shifted inside me. My aspirations for life and art took a turn. My priorities, too. Because beneath the calmness and safety of everyday life that those of us lucky enough to escape sickness experienced, there loomed something terrifying, raw and painful, a deep collective trauma. I, and maybe you, too, feel as if I am suffering from PPSD (Postpandemic Stress Disorder).

After reading Grant’s article, I made a series of four small art quilts to describe that in-between blah feeling, the pandemic brain fog. That space between joy and despair, the sensation of stagnation and emptiness mixed with pain and hope. I chose to use light and dark colors to portray the extremes, and acrylic-painted burnt red fabric to convey both positive and negative feelings.

Red has so many connotations, after all. It can express different feelings, based on personal and cultural preferences. Joy and happiness, but also fear, anger and danger. All feelings we experienced during the pandemic.

The quilts are all 10″ square. I created them out of mixed fabrics with some acrylic paint, and incorporated both machine and hand stitching.

Adam Grant predicted that languishing “might be the dominant emotion of 2021.” When I look around, at my family and friends, I realize that he might be right. Because even now, in mid-summer 2021, with a year and a half of pandemic behind us and with many of us vaccinated, new mutations are still spreading, and the illness just isn’t going away. We want the pandemic to end, even act as if it has sometimes, but the newspapers say otherwise…

Life is slowly going back to a new normal, and hopefully the languishing will diminish as we go back to our routines. For those of us wanting to speed that process, in the meantime, here is some advice.

Finishing Unfinished Projects (UFOs) Part 3: Eclipse Art Quilt

Inspiration

In August 2017 we were privileged to witness The Great American Eclipse. As noted on Wikipedia, this total solar eclipse was visible within a band of the USA that spanned from the Pacific Coast all the way to the Atlantic, something that hasn’t happened since June 1918, and will not happen again until April 2024.

To see the eclipse, my family traveled from California to Madras, Oregon, where we camped for a few days at an eclipse camp. The overall experience was memorable and positive, and the eclipse itself left a great impression, too. What I remembered most were the multiple hallows around the sun. There were also weird shadows that projected circles within circles on all flat surfaces for the duration of the event.

Beginning

When I came home, the circles stayed with me. Shortly afterwards, I started working on my third-ever art quilt (following Give a Hand and Dare!). At that early stage in my art-quit journey, I was still hung up on the idea that quilts needed to be composed of blocks. And  so, like in the two quilts which preceded it, I started this piece by sewing a nine-patch grid as the background. 

One of my goals for this quilt was to experiment with a color scheme I didn’t normally use. I also wanted to try reverse applique for the first time. After some thought, I created a composition of appliqued and reverse-appliqued circles of various sizes. I positioned them inside squares and rectangles. Then I arranged and rearranged them until I the color balance felt right. Afterwards, I spent hours hand-stitching the pieces on, and also adding embroidered details (a slow, arduous and painful process, as hand-stitching through thick home-décor textiles is not that easy…).

I ended up with a quilt top, which I named Eclipse:

Somehow I didn’t complete this piece, however, and the top ended up in my UFO pile, where it languished for years.

End

When I fished it out in January of this year as part of my UFO-completion goal, I wasn’t sure if I should finish it. My quilt-designing taste evolved since those early quilting days, and if I were to design a quilt around the same idea now, I would probably have done it differently. Eventually, after a long contemplation, I decided to finish it after all, mostly because I had already put so much work into it.

Finding a backing and sandwiching the quilt was easy. Deciding how to quilt it … not so much. I  thought long and hard, but couldn’t come up with a good plan. I consulted wise quilters in one of my Facebook quilting groups. Some people suggested using metallic thread, and I seriously considered doing that. I never used metallic thread, and don’t own any, either. I considered buying some, but realized I probably won’t use it often. And so I decided to stick to thread I already have: my 12-weight solid and variegated threads!

I eventually chose to repeat the theme of circles and sun rays in the quilting as well as in the design. The quilting took a few days and required some re-evaluations along the way, but I’m pretty happy with how it turned out.

Here is the finished piece, 23″ x 23″: “Eclipse.” 

From Hill Tribe Leggings to a Wall Hanging

In December 2018, during a trip to Thailand, we stayed for a couple of nights at a hotel in Chiang Mai. While taking a neighborhood walk, I came across this wonderous shop:

The inside of it (which the owner didn’t want me to photograph), was filled with gorgeous antique Hill Tribe textiles. A true Aladdin’s cave for textile lovers! Like a child in a candy store, I ogled and drooled. But I couldn’t buy much, because we still had a whole trip ahead of us, and because we were traveling light, with only backpacks.

I couldn’t leave empty handed, however. Combing the store, I found a pair of appliqued leggings that really jumped at me. Their colors reminded me of a Chinese minority textile hanging in our home office, and I thought these would be a good fit. There and then I decided to turn them into a wall hanging.

Based on a bit of internet sleuthing I did once back home, I’m guessing these leggings are from the Akha tribe. They were entirely hand sewn,  with applique, couching, and decorative button sewing. Since the buttons are plastic, I’m guessing they can’t be THAT old. Gorgeous nonetheless.

Since I wanted to make them into a wall hanging,  I also bought a beautiful Thai wooden hanger to go with them:

For a couple of years they waited patiently in my UFO pile. Until now.

In order to turn them into a wall hanging, I needed to open their back seam. This felt rather wrong and awkward. Like damaging a museum piece. But, I knew that I would never use them as leggings, and will enjoy them as a wall hanging. And so, eventually, I mustered the courage to unpick.

It turned out that they had a double seam. The woman who made them sewed the back seam, meant to secure the edge of the fabric and keep it from fraying, with incredibly even and tight stitches. She sewed the second seam, meant to fit the size of the legging to the shape of the leg that wore it, with bigger, quicker and less careful stitches.

It probably took me as long to unpick the stitches as it took the original artist to put them in. I tore through the stitches and marveled at them, unpicked and admired. Beautiful, even, small, tight stitches, nicer than machine stitches and even stronger. The woman who sewed these knew what she was doing. I felt close to her at that moment, through time and space, touching the same fabric. I revered up close, intimately, the work she did.

Finally, the leggings were open. A small piece of art all on their own.

I could now see the back. It, too, was neat and tidy.

I decided to put the two leggings together, mirror-image style:

On one of my visits to FabMo, in the good old days before the pandemic, I picked a large sheet of black silk for this very project. I now cut it to size and lay the legging pieces on top. Being hand made, they weren’t completely straight, so I tried to keep the edges as parallel to the backing as possible without cutting the leggings.

I added batting and a backing out of the same fabric, and pinned it it all together.

Then I took it to my sewing machine and sewed. I didn’t want to cut the original art, and left it as it was, imperfections, asymmetry, and all. But I did cover up a bit of the crookedness, to please the eye. 

Finally, I added a few tassels that I also bought at FabMo. By that I finished my new Hill Tribe wall hanging.

I hung the new wall hanging in its place. It fit in the room perfectly, and will be there for many years to come.

Backyard Critters Art Quilt Series

More than a year into lockdown, I’m finding myself spending a second pandemic spring out in my back yard. My garden, full of flowers and wild critters, seems to provide endless inspiration. Last spring, I was moved to create an Amazing Beetle quilt series, followed by 3D beetles and bird art (both art quilts and 3D). This year, I started my creative journey with the Ode to Spring series to celebrate early blooms.

I felt inclined to also commemorate the wild mammals who share the garden with us. In fact, I already made two mammal quilts in previous years. For months, I toyed with the idea of making a Backyard Critters quilt series, but didn’t find the time. Until now.

Raccoon Quilt

A couple of years ago, I woke up in the middle of the night to a noisy ruckus. It was  summer, and my bedroom windows were wide open. In panic, I shook my husband awake, jumped out of bed and went to take a peek. The night was dark, and I couldn’t see a thing. I could tell, though, that the activity was happening right outside my window, where a large tree is growing. A few seconds later my husband joined me, flashlight in hand. He shone it on the tree, and … a few masked rascals appeared:

They turned out to be a mother racoon and her three adolescent kits. They all climbed our tree to get to the roof.

That was the first time I saw racoons in our yard, and they left a big impression. I thought they were incredibly cute. I was also overjoyed to learn that wild creatures enjoyed our garden while we were asleep…

A few days later I decided to make a little quilt in their honor. I turned one of the pictures I took to black and white, cropped and enlarged it:

I then put it against the window to draw an outline:

And copied each piece separately:

I cut the pieces out, copied them onto fabric, and cut the fabric out. Then, I proceeded to put together a raccoon applique. 

I was quite happy with how the finished piece turned out, and shared it on social media:

Someone commented that I forgot the whiskers. Lo and behold, I did! So I put the quilt in my UFO pile, intending to correct it soon. It waited there, and then waited some more…

In the meantime, the raccoons kept coming. Every few months a mother raccoon (possibly the same mother?) would show up with her kits (usually three). They would make a racket, wake us up, climb the tree, and then stomp on the roof for a while before leaving.

The last time they came, shortly before Lockdown, the mother was accompanied by only one, smaller than usual, kit. The mother climbed all the way to the roof, but her youngling was too scared to follow. If you want to see videos of what happened next, you can click here, and then here.

One day, my husband went up on the roof to check something, and discovered that the raccoons damaged the house. Suddenly, they didn’t seem that cute anymore… We needed to find a way to keep them off the roof. We briefly considered cutting the tree down, but then my husband came up with a more creative solution.

So far so good.

When I finally tackled my UFO pile earlier this year, I added whiskers to my raccoon. It is now finished:

Rat Quilt

2020 was the Chinese Year of the Rat, and I decided to make an art quilt to mark the occasion: 

Little did I know that a couple of weeks later we will find a nasty surprise in the attic…

In early 2020 we had a termite inspection. When the inspector went up to the attic, he found rat droppings all over. He suspected that rats went up to the roof that winter to drink water from the gutters. That probably also explained what the raccoons were doing on our roof: the termite inspector suspected that they went up to drink, and also to hunt for rats! No, they definitely didn’t seem that cute any more…

That was how 2020 started for us. Termites and rats followed by a pandemic… Luckily, we were able to deal with the first two right before the Lockdown. The joys of living in California…

Squirrel Quilt

Like many others, I spent most of my pandemic spring and summer (and then the following winter, too, as winter 2021 was dry and warm) out in my garden. I didn’t realize until then just how MANY squirrel we had! Eight or nine of them were running around at all times, chasing each other, digging, climbing trees…

When I came to the USA as a student many years ago, I thought squirrels were adorable. Israel, where I grew up, doesn’t have any. Seeing them climb the trees, bushy tails wiggling, has always been very appealing. I greatly enjoyed seeing them in my garden, too, once I had a garden. Until this year, that is.

During the pandemic,  I spent hours and hours, days, weeks–no, months!–gardening. And the squirrels? They sneaked after me, dug out the new plants I just planted, pulled out the bulbs, ate all my flowers! And they always take only one bit out of each and every piece of fruit…

I still kind of enjoy having them as company while I work, but our relationship is a lot more complicated these days…

Possum Quilt

When I decided to finally make a Backyard Critters quilt series (2021, after all, is all about finishing things!), I knew what the fourth mammal should be.

I’ve only seen them three times in the decade-plus that I’ve been living in my house, but I know that possums are very much here.

The first time we saw them, two possums appeared outside our back door. Although they are usually nocturnal animals, they were there mid morning, in broad daylight:

I haven’t seen possums before. At first, I didn’t even know what they were! They looked really scary, being all scruffy, ugly, and with a pink rat tail! I didn’t let my kids go out to check them out. We looked at them through the safety of the window, waiting for them to leave.

Only later, when I read about them on the internet, did I learn how beneficial they are to a garden.

A few years later, I saw them again, running on the fence towards my neighbors’ house, to eat the cat food they left outside… And last week, for the very first time, I saw a baby possum hiding under one of my bushes!

Here is the quilt I made in their honor:

It took more than two years, but I finally finished my Backyard Critters quilt series:

Ode to Spring Quilt Series

 You might recall that I dedicated January of this year to finishing my big pile of unfinished projects. I was plowing along nicely, but the weather didn’t cooperate.

When I decided to embark on the UFO-busting project back in December, I imagined myself sitting in my sewing room on cold, wet winter days, looking at the rain and enjoying the warmth of hearth, hot beverage and cloth. In reality, however, January was dry and warm, spring like. Some days the temperature even went up to the higher seventies. So I couldn’t just stay inside the entire time. The garden was calling. I went out to garden.

When in the sewing room, though, I stuck to UFOs. Until February came by, that is. Another month of warm and dry. I kept finishing UFOs, in between gardening days, but the spring flowers blooming in my garden–in the middle of winter, no less–also propelled me to start a new quilt series. I worked on it in between UFOs, and called it Ode to Spring.

Ideas for quilts come about in different ways. Some quilts I plan long in advance, and take even longer to execute. Interdependent, for example, took almost six months to complete. Sometimes I plan a quilt series, but it takes several years before I actually get to it, if at all. I’ve been meaning to make a series about The Seven Lives of Trini, following the quilt I made for my sister, to try different techniques. I might eventually get to it. Or not… Some quilts happen quickly. Something triggers an idea, and I have to make it a reality right away. Let the Mending Begin jumped into my head while listening to Joe Biden’s victory speech, for example, as did Enough!, which followed yet another mass shooting. They both came together rather quickly.

Somewhere in my very messy sewing room there lies an actual list, pen on paper, with quilt ideas I want to try. Some have been on the list for a while. I thought I’ll refer to that list (if I can find it, that is), once I complete the UFOs. But then the Ode to Spring series popped out, as if from nowhere, and pushed itself to the top of the list. I wasn’t planning to make this series. I’m not exactly sure where it came from. All I know is that it was there one day, forcing me to take a break from the UFOs, becoming the first new series of 2021.

The quilts in this series are flower-inspired yet abstract. They are all 13″ x 17.” While making them, I enjoyed playing with vibrant fabric colors, and also indulged in my new, colorful 12-weight thread. All four quilts incorporate a strip of yellow silk I had left over from one of my UFO totes. They all have six repeating leaf shapes, and are all quilted in various-sized straight grids. One day I will mount them all onto canvases…

Magenta Arctotis

Amethyst Centaurea

Golden Arctotis

Red African Daisy

And here they are, all together. Ode to Spring quilt series, my first series of 2021.

Which of the four do you like best?

A Kantha Inspired Spring Jacket

Just in time for spring, I completed a Kantha inspired spring jacket!

The Inspiration

A few years ago my husband travelled to Bhutan, from where he sent us daily pictures of breathtaking scenery, interesting architecture, gorgeous handicrafts and things he knew would interest me, like this traditional loom.

Before coming home, he visited an artisan market like the one in the picture below, and got us some souvenirs.

For me, he bought four panels of beautiful Bhutanese hand weaving, which he picked right off the artist’s loom.

I wanted to save then for something special, and decided to use them (or some of them) for jackets. About a year ago, I picked one of the mauve panels, and started collecting matching textiles from my stash. But then life derailed for all of humanity, and the panel, with those matching fabrics, ended up in my UFO pile.

The Planning

I forgot all about this project until I went over my UFO pile in January. If you look at the blog post describing my resolve to finish everything in that pile, you will see that I included it in the inventory I originally took. Since I haven’t actually started working on it, however, and since I now completely reconsidered which fabrics to use for it, I decided to not officially include it in my Finishing Unfinished Projects series.

I actually returned many of the textiles I originally selected back to my stash (many were much too heavy for spring), and auditioned new fabrics instead. 

I also decided to incorporate a patchwork scarf I made several years ago as a part of the jacket-to-be.

The Execution

In January of last year I made my first patchwork jacket and learned a lot from it. I decided to use the same pattern for this new spring jacket. However, since this was supposed to be for spring, I wanted it more lightweight, and decided to have two layers instead of three. Whereas in my boro jacket I layered all the patches onto a base fabric raw-edge style, I decided to piece the outer layer of this jacket instead.

I designed the entire piece around the Bhutanese panel, and sewed the outer layer as one complete piece:

Then I sewed the entire lining:

I put them right sides together, and sewed the seams of the sleeve edges.

I turned the jacket over so that the layers were wrong sides together, and prepared for the long haul of hand stitching.

For my fall boro jacket, I incorporated Sashiko stitches with some fun patterns. For this one, I decided to stick to straight stitch only, more in line with kantha style.

I selected a variety of threads in matching colors and different weights:

And then sat down for an entire WEEK of hand stitching. I really enjoyed the slow, meditative work, and also had a blast listening to Textile Talks all the while (if you like textiles, you might enjoy listening to some yourself!). I basically stitched the top layer right onto the lining.

When most of the stitching was done, I folded the jacket to its final shape and stitched the side seams.

I then folded the bottom hems under, stitched the jacket shut, and attached the scarf as the collar. It took a week and a half start to finish, but the jacket was done!

The Outcome

And in action:

A jacket worthy of spring!

Do you think I did that Bhutanese panel justice?

On Abstract and Narrative

I went to an arts high school, where I learned drawing, painting and sculpting from teachers who were artists themselves. We learned art history, too, but our art history teacher was also an artist. She taught us to look at art from the point of view of artists: to analyze a piece by looking at its composition, colors, proportions.

In college I majored in art history and East Asian Studies. My art history professors had an entirely different approach to art. They looked at art, and tried to find hints to traumas in the lives of the artists who created it. They tried to apply stories and shallow psychoanalytical interpretations where they didn’t belong. In other words, they tried to enforce a narrative on something that addressed entirely different concerns. I never warmed to this approach, and so I ended up specializing in Chinese history.

Now, as a textile artist, I feel most comfortable with abstracts, but some of my pieces have a narrative, too. Many (though not all) of my abstracts are just that, however: a play with the different components of art. One such series was the Spark series, which I blogged about a while back. I had no underlying story when I created this series, no big idea I tried to express. It was all about colors, shapes, lines, play. I didn’t even name the different pieces, just gave them numbers.

The Question

I shared parts of this series on social media. When I came to Piece No. 7, something interesting happened.

Spark Mini Quilt Series, Quilt #7

Someone commented as follows: “It reminds me of an opulent bedroom in a castle somewhere in Europe. 🏰”

I never thought of Piece No. 7 as a bedroom in a castle, but once this person said that I could see what they meant. All of a sudden, this piece made ME think of Elsa’s ice castle in the movie Frozen. After that, whenever I looked at it that’s all I saw.

So I decided to share it in one of my favorite Facebook textile artists’ groups. I posted the picture and asked a simple question: “What does this make you think of?

I expected fellow artists to talk about colors and shapes, but got none of that. People were looking at my abstract piece, the little game I played with myself and my scraps, and saw different things. Surprisingly, many of them agreed on what they saw, and the great majority aligned with that first comment above.

The Answers

More than a hundred people commented on my post. I found their answers so interesting, that I decided to analyze the first 100 responses. I copied them all, and divided them into general topic groups.

Dwelling

Of the 100 people, the great majority–87 people–saw a dwelling of some kind in my abstract. This included a house generally, a bedroom or bed (with a significant minority seeing Van Gogh’s bedroom), a dwelling associated with water, other kinds of dwelling or a trailer/caravan.

General Room or House

Of the 87 dwelling-seers, 37 saw a general room or house. A few didn’t project any emotions onto the houses they saw:

An old house.”

House with the window. Actually just the side.”

Student living.”

Room with a view.”

Some attached a positive feel to the house they imagined:

A cozy house.”

A door and a window to something lovely.”

An empty house with possibilities.”

Home, the acceptance of things in life not being perfect, the familiarity of the imperfections of your own life – they are yours, you own them and accept them. Peace.

A house, worse for wear, but home, a refuge.”

I include in this groups the four people who were reminded of an elderly relative’s house, mostly a grandparent.

Others saw sinister tones:

Abandoned house.”

Broken home.”

A room that a tree crashed into.”

A derelict abandoned house.”

The texture and feel has a very camouflage kind like something wants to hide in greens or mountain and the roughness of edges gives a very broken feelings for me it reminds of war times broken houses and people in camouflage suits.”

It reminds me of a still from a scene in an Alfred Hitchcock type movie … an attic bedroom with the bedhead, and a dagger.” 

Bombed out houses with remnants of domestic life exposed.”

Bedroom or Bed

Twenty six people saw a bedroom or a bed. This number includes seven people who were reminded of Van Gogh’s painting of his bedroom. Six people saw a poster bed. Once again, some associated positive feelings with this bedroom or bed: “A bed surrounded by tapestry in a movie set in medieval times…,” “A warm, comfortable bed to snuggle in when it’s stormy outside.” Others had more negative associations: “Fear of the marriage bed.”

Water Dwelling

Eleven people imagined dwellings near or on water. These included entire cities or towns, like Venice or the Philippine town of Ukay on the island of Bohol. Others saw a cottage by the sea, a shipyard, a boat house or a cabin on a boat.

Other Kinds of Dwelling

Eight people were reminded of other kinds of dwellings or structures. Those included the South African city of Soweto, a Chinese village, a fishing or hunting cabin, a barn or a yurt.

RV/Caravan/Trailer

Finally, five people thought of a caravan/trailer/RV. Here, too, opinions ranged from positive (“looks cozy to me. Maybe in an RV“) to more negative (“Trailer abandoned“).

Other Associations

The reminder thirteen people thought of other things. Those included positive things like aerial/drone views, landscape, or the Golden Gate Bridge, and negative things like winter, life’s obstacles, Godfather Part 2, and murder. One person was especially nice and wrote : “It makes me think that you’re a great artist.” Thank you for that!

Thoughts

I found all the answers really interesting, especially as they were coming from artists. I was wondering what made people see things in my own work that I myself never thought of. Was it the question I asked, that implied there WAS something to see? Or perhaps it was our inherent human need to reflect our own narrative on art? Could it be that people see their own experiences even (or especially) in abstract? It could be me. Maybe my college art history professors were right after all, and it was MY experiences, as an artist, that were reflected in my work, to be seen by others but not myself?

I don’t have answers to this. But here is a thought: I created this art in December 2020, A year plagued by Covid 19, marked by lockdown after lockdown. Most of humanity was locked up at home for nine long months by the time I created this piece, and almost a year by the time I shared it in February 2021. Is it really that surprising that most people saw my work and thought of dwellings? Could people have reflected their own enclosed experiences, both positive and negative, on what they saw? Did I, sub-consciously, reflect my own lockdown experiences in this series, too? Would people’s answers have been different had I showed them this piece during a normal year? In summer?

I’ll leave that for you to decide 😉

Finishing Unfinished Projects (UFOs) Part 2: Patchwork Totes

I dedicated January of this year to working on my unfinished projects. If you’ve been following me for a while, you might recall that the majority of projects in my UFO pile were totes. Twenty three totes, to be precise (out of 58 UFOs). Three of those were patchwork totes, but each was different than the others.

First Patchwork Tote: An Experiment in Piecing Upholstery Fabrics 

A few years ago, early in my bag-sewing adventure, I started experimenting with piecing upholstery fabrics as if they were quilting cottons. As a part of that experiment I created two patchwork panels, which I intended to turn into messenger bag flaps. The experiment didn’t go very well. Home décor textiles, it turned out, were nothing like quilting cottons, and piecing them was more difficult and time-consuming than I expected. My experiment started and ended with these two pieces.

Shortly afterwards, I stopped making messenger bags. The two pieced pieces went straight into my UFO pile, where they lay for years. A couple of years ago, a good friend visited me and braved the mess in my sewing room. She saw these pieces and suggested that I combine them into a tote instead. It took a while longer, but I finally did. 

Here it is. Tote number 1:

And from back:

I’m pretty happy with how it turned out. My friend was right 🙂

Second Patchwork Tote: From Busy Work to a Memory Piece

In January 2019 I visited my parents. I really enjoyed spending time with them, but I was used to working with my hands, and really needed some fabric to stitch and keep my hands busy. My dad had a pile of torn jeans he no longer wore, so he gave me one, along with some rags. I started stitching Sashiko-style patches, just for fun. When I returned home, I added a few pieces from my scrap piles, with the intention of eventually making a tote.
 
Two months later my father passed away unexpectedly. I couldn’t touch these patchwork panels after that, and into the UFO pile they went.
 
I’ve now finished that tote, which became so much more than just a way to keep my hands busy. I gave it to my daughter, as a memory piece for my dad. She’s already using it, carrying a bit of her grandfather with her every time she does.
 
Here it is from the front:
 
 
And the back:
 
 

Third Patchwork Tote: A Tribute to Japan

The third patchwork tote bag took a LONG time to make. It started way back in summer 2018, in a narrow alley in Nara, Japan. My daughters and I browsed interesting little shops and boutiques (in the good old days when this was still possible!), when we went into an artisan shop and saw these gorgeous, hand-carved wooden handles. Of course I had to buy them! Right there and then the image of a Japanese-inspired tote popped into my mind.
 
 
We kept walking and browsing, and came into a store selling antique Japanese fabrics. I bought a bundle of mostly indigos, but also some bright red. I knew exactly what i was going to make with them!
 
 
Back home, I used some of the vintage Japanese fabric to make a Boro-style patchwork panel (I later used the remaining fabric in my jacket). I also added some fabric from my stash. I spent days (weeks?) Sashiko stitching it all over. I finished the outer layer, and then got distracted. The stitched panel ended up–you guessed it!–with my other UFOs.
 
Well, I finally completed the tote. I even added a wooden hand-made button that I bought years ago (and haven’t found use for until now!).
 
It turned out just the way I imagined it, in that narrow alley in Nara. This is the front:
 
 
And this is the back:
 
 
I’ll be giving this tote as a gift to my sister, once I can finally see her again. Something to look forward to…