Quilting with Woody

This is the latest post in the saga of my explorations into quilt making. I have the tops done, one of the quilts quilted with the filling and the backing and am working on the second one. As a matter of fact, I spent most of Sunday afternoon making the second quilt “sandwich.” I’m using an old fleece blanket for the filling and a flannel sheet for the backing. Honestly, I have read that you never use a sheet for the backing and that you never use flannel so I had to try both. I have also combined many different types of fabric in my quilt. The only thing they have in common is that they survived a ride in my washing machine on the brutal cycle.

The term “brutal cycle” brings back memories. My brother swore my mother had one on her machine because she was the kind of woman who did not believe in dry cleaning and liked to play washing machine roulette with our clothes. Some of them did not survive the brutal cycle.

The backing

Another project I have been working on for quite a while is taking my old LP records and making MP3 files from them. What a trip down memory lane that has been! (When I was fourteen, one of my favorite pastimes was listing to a Joni Mitchell album and crying into a cup of tea.) My musical taste is pretty eclectic but when I was a kid I had a fascination with folk music. I got John and Alan Lomax‘s American Ballads and Folk Songs out of the library over and over. I read and reread  The American Song Bag. I learned how to play the guitar. After getting some recordings by The Carter Family out of the library, I managed to talk my parents into letting me get an autoharp.  Don’t ask me how that happened.

Attaching backing to filling

But I lived in a place where we had limited access to any kind of music or art and this was in the days before the Internet. I even had to go to another town to go to the library and that took an Act of Congress to get my parents’ permission.

Layers

So it wasn’t until I was in college in Boston that I first heard Woody Guthrie’s Library of Congress recordings. Three LPs of music and interviews. The first time I heard it it was like I had stepped through a portal and into another world.

Pinning the top2
On Sunday I pulled out the box set, plugged the MP3 making turntable into the computer and listened to the six sides again as I worked on the quilt. It seemed fitting since quilts are supposed to be a peculiarly American item and Woody Guthrie is considered a peculiarly American folk singer.

Pinning the top

I was more familiar with the things Woody talked and sang about than I was when I first heard the recording at age 18. For one thing, I had transcribed extensive interviews of an Uncle who rode the rails during the Depression. I knew more about the way banks operate. I had a deeper understanding of my family history of that time. Of course, human nature never really changes but we get better tools which is how you are reading this blog post.

The top

Quilts have been described things that tell stories and that are full of memories. I think this is true even if you buy all of your fabric new. I don’t have many old clothes in my quilt that I wore, but there are some of my Mother’s place mats and napkins in there. As a matter of fact, even though the fabric came from a combination of thrift shop clothes, remnant bags, fabric samples and cut up bed clothes, dumpster dives and old tablecloths, when I look at the quilt top I feel like I have a relationship with every piece of fabric: I can tell you where it came from and how I got it.

Folded for quilting And I have used my Mother’s and Mother-in-Law’s sewing machines to make the quilts.
Stitching in the ditch 1 I even remember the day I bought those flannel sheets way back before I was married.
back seamSo now Woody is all transferred to MP3 files and I will give the box set to a friend who still cherishes vinyl.

Last And every time I look at the quilts now, I will think of Woody because he has become part of the quilt’s memory.

If a Thing Loves, It Is Infinite.

She had a positive  influence on  most of the pivotal events of my adult life.   From where I stand today,  I can look back and see that  the gifts she gave me continue to to  impact the lives of  people she will never meet.  That’s why they call love eternal.     Acts of love do not diminish the giver; they enrich the giver and the receiver.  Love lasts as long as  the  wave  it sets in motion continues to travel.   As long as her waves ripple through the years, she is still here.

                 

Love  is  Infinite

                 -William Blake


                

Ten Years On

A couple of years ago my husband and I visited friends in Montclair New Jersey. On a Saturday they took us to see the September 11 Memorial at Eagle Rock Reservation. There’s a cliff in the park on the side of a mountain and from there you can see the Manhattan skyline. It was there that one of our friends witnessed the attack on the World Trade Center on the morning of September 11, 2001.

As we walked around the memorial and looked at the names of people who died engraved in the granite wall, our friends’ six-year-old son took his father’s hand and gazed up at him with a concerned look on his face. “Why is this here, Dad?” he asked,”did something happen?” Only then did it occur to me that the attacks took place before he was born. I remembered my parents telling me about events from World War II and how I could never quite get my young mind around them. I could get a good grade on a history test but how could I comprehend the emotions my parents felt witnessing those historical events? Words were not enough for me.

View of Lower Manhattan From Eagle Rock Reservation, West Orange, NJ

View of Lower Manhattan From Eagle Rock Reservation 1999

Memorial at Eagle Rock

There are many monuments commemorating the events of September 11, 2001. But why do we create monuments? A monument memorializes an important person or event. A monument is supposed to have meaning. A well executed monument gives us an emotional connection to the person or event it is intended to commemorate. We also make monuments from sites or locations that have meaning because of a natural or historical significance. That is why feelings swept over me that were so powerful they made my knees buckle when I walked across Dealy Plaza in Dallas. The Memorial at Eagle Rock was likely the start of a little boy’s emotional connection to the events his mother witnessed from that spot before he was born, because it spoke to him like words never could.

But monuments are not the only way we hold important people and events in our memories. Ordinary things can take on significance too. The University of Pennsylvania Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology is hosting an exhibit titled Excavating Ground Zero: Fragments from 9/11 that consists of 15 items salvaged from the site: a melted computer keyboard, eyeglasses, visitors passes; mundane objects that have achieved significance because of their connection to a tragic historical event. They give a human face to the events of that day because they are things that we all use and never think about. The objects in the exhibit could have belonged to any one of us. I had a friend who was chronically late, and as he made his way into Manhattan on the morning of September 11, he and thousands of other people were turned back at the George Washington Bridge. He had been on his way to a meeting in one of the twin towers. It might have been his glasses in the exhibit.

Another friend was working on the roof of a Washington, D.C. apartment building when he heard a loud noise. He turned to look and saw smoke billowing from the Pentagon.

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These items belonged to a reporter who died covering the attack


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More wreckage

2966 civilians including fire fighters, police, the passengers on Flight 93 plus 55 military personnel died on that day. It is estimated that at least 200 people died jumping from the twin towers. People unfortunate enough to have personally witnessed the horrible events of that day carry sounds and images with them the likes of which I pray I will never see or hear. That is my prayer for everyone. I know it will not be answered but I make it nonetheless.

People will continue to commemorate the events of that day for a long time to come. Commemoration can be a way of holding onto the past, of freezing a moment in time and trying to give some kind of meaning to events that seem senseless; it can be a way of trying to gain some illusion of control. We humans tend to want to fill in the blanks whether they are in optical illusions or in cruelly random events in our lives.

But keeping memories of the past alive is key to people understanding their history and themselves. This is so important. The hope is that by remembering, such things will not be repeated. This is a huge yet noble goal. There can be another result, however, that is so subtle you will never read it in the headlines: perhaps memorializing those events will help us to become better people. Maybe. If you can’t change the world, you can tend your own garden. That counts too.

Here are some links to art inspired by the events of September 11, 2011. There is much more out there and more waiting to be created.

The Twin Towers and the City

911 Memorial Quilt

Charting Ground Zero: Ten Years After (Scientific Exhibit)

Rescue Me (Television Show)