November 13, 2013
if you’re a crafter
with any internet presence,
you’ll remember an ‘incident’ in 2012
when one of my favorite bloggers, completely cauchy,
got some heat for a guest post she wrote on whipup (now, sadly, defunct)
that included an image of a quilt
with a provocative word on it.
some people went a little crazy after seeing it,
but i applauded it (and reblogged it)
because for me,
it was a work of art
and a genius work at that.
i emailed cauchy
with an idea
after a lot of emails
and more than a year of work and thought,
the quilt is now complete.
(to be clear, i only gave the word; she did everything else)
because some may consider it nsfw,
you’ll have to scroll down to have a look.
if you have a delicate constitution
or an aversion to potential controversy
now is the time to exit.
after the image is a mini interview with cauchy about the project.
after reading it, head on over to her blog where she interviews me.
on the quilt is a word that’s especially powerful to me,
and my take on it and the issues surrounding it
are likely different from a lot of yours.
so there is but one disclaimer:
you are entitled to your opinion on the piece, but this blog is my house.
if you start acting a fool in the comments
they will be deleted.
it seems like your crafting, whether it’s a deeply thought-out expression of a philosophical idea (as with the fuck quilt or the n-word quilt) or making a knitted stuffed bunny, everything is ultimately an expression of you. your life, your tastes, your thoughts, what makes you happy. what was it like to have the seed of an idea given to you from someone else? and how did you put yourself into this work (if at all)?
I’ve tried things like testing patterns (in knitting and quilting) and even a fully-dictated commission or two and found that there’s something far too confining to me in those situations. It always feels like dungeon crafting at the behest of a whip-cracker. However, you just provided the kernel of an idea by just putting one word before me. To begin, I had to check you out, observing your blog and other social media interactions to learn more about the requester. Once you seemed fairly reputable, I felt like I had to give it a try by living with the idea long enough for it to begin to feel like my own. Honestly, I don’t think it’s reached that status completely, but we’ll discuss that more later.
How did I put myself into the work? Well, the use of such a word expressed in quilt form is the beginning, of course. Not too many folks are doing that at all. But, definitely the picnic theme came from within; it’s a darkly comedic approach rather than resorting to the more obvious forms that might come to mind. That is, I played with dusty pinks and purples in a flouncy font, for example. But that seemed one-dimensional and too easy–too easy for me and too easy for a viewer. The final form is the result of a year of rumination and conveys more of my own internalization of the seed of the idea–it came to me at breakfast one Saturday, I sketched and started impulsively sewing within a few minutes.
i requested that you make this quilt after the inclusion of your n-word quilt on your whip-up post almost two years ago. i had a very visceral response to that whole internet encounter, but even more so to the quilt itself. obviously, faggot doesn’t have the same personal effect for you as the n-word but what does it make you feel? what is your reaction to it?
As a Southerner, I hear these words in my mind in the most countrified accent. Those double g’s in both words are lingered over. In the n-word, the “errrrrrr” drawls on and hangs in the air, while the ending of our f-word, the “ot!,” comes out as a hard and violent pop like a firecracker. Both words bring an element of fear since my first experiences of them were in threatening situations. And I tend to assume that one who uses our f-word would also use the n-word, actually, and vice versa. And these words tend not to be followed up with coffee and cupcakes.
The first time I heard our f-word it was hurled at a neighbor kid who was always bullied in middle school. I had no idea what the word meant nor why it was used. But the force behind the yelling and the teasing that surrounded the incident only incited fear in me. Ever the nerd, I looked it up in the dictionary right when I got home from school. It was puzzling… why is he a bundle of sticks? It took quite a while to get a full explanation out of my parents.
in our exchanges during this process you mentioned some reticence to making this quilt because (correct me if i’m wrong) the word faggot wasn’t “yours” to quilt. can you talk a little bit about that? and what ultimately made you agree to make this quilt?
Yes, indeed. I started this body of work as an exploration of my identity as viewed by others. The concept is simple. With the quilts or comforters one chooses to buy from department stores, one expresses some portion of one’s self-image. Albeit there is a limited selection (one is confined to the choices made available by current industrial-scale designers), one chooses a style and builds a decor accordingly. What do those choices project about one? And, in turn, how can one project oneself into a quilt?
The words that first came to mind for me were: oreo, bitch, princess, and the n-word. While the n-word quilt ultimately was an angry cathartic project, the others were light-hearted and playful explorations. And eventually I’d go on to give c*nt a try and that is probably the best of the series so far. These are words that are personal and for which I have clear personal experiences that give me license to use and illustrate them. Initially and throughout my one-year deliberations on our f-word, it just seemed to me that I wasn’t allowed to use the f-word. I’d even been accused of racism on that Whip-Up post, by commenters who just assumed I wasn’t black and therefore was not allowed to go anywhere near usage of the n-word. So I had to pause to think. One must quilt responsibly, right?
I gotta say that 2012 was the perfect year to be in this perpetual tailspin: the nation was finally moving forward on marriage equality. Amid daily immersion in this civil rights movement, I was making sure to steep myself in history and, at the same time, just happened to revisit Evelyn Waugh’s Brideshead Revisited, first by finally viewing the beautiful mini-series with Jeremy Irons and, second, by nipping into the novel again to recall contexts. Volumes have been written analyzing the characters, their relationships, and the religious themes of the novel so I’ll refrain here. For me this reading in 2012 brought on visceral feelings of social contrasts of all sorts and I reveled in the joy of the early moments of Charles and Sebastian’s relationship. All of this led to finally acknowledging the anger and frustration I feel about the entrenched resistance to this equality movement.
It slowly dawned on me that our f-word is part of my world and my AmericanExperience. My reticence was right because I want to avoid offending (to a certain extent) but I have a right to use this f-word responsibly for the same reasons that I defend others’ rights to use it. [First Amendment for all, my friend.]
Now, even though I claimed ownership of the vocabulary, I remain wary in ways I cannot articulate.
i know you put a lot of time and thought into this project; it’s been almost two years in the planning/making. can you talk a little bit about the process? both technical as well as what the making made you think or feel?
My “process” for quilt design differs with each project. While most are improvisational and/or impulsive, this one started out as a long deliberation that built up to an impulsive move. I started sketching whenever ideas came to me, a practice I rarely indulge in. On my cutting table, there’s a pile of old receipts, boarding passes and envelopes that explore this one concept. Each idea has some potential, but never compelled me to start stitching; see purple-pink example above.
But then one day I woke up ready, I did a mock up on my computer over coffee, and it just felt right. The only certainty I could articulate was that the instinctual simplicity of the design was what was missing in previous versions. Technically, this is traditional Quaker sampler design executed with simple and efficient sewing.
While sewing, I thought quite a bit about the bullied neighbor kid and another dear friend of the family with whom I’ve lost contact. There was so much about them that I now realize I was too young and too oblivious to understand at the time–ten year-olds shouldn’t have to know everything, of course. All I knew was they were nice folks who, in my presence, incurred wrath expressed through this word.
do you have any idea what your next “word” quilt might be?
Well, since I tend to embark on these projects impulsively, I cannot be sure. There are ideas always on my mind, but none have risen up to need to been made yet. That’s not such a satisfying answer? Let’s just say that one of these designs involves the word “fingerpainting” in an unexpected way.
thank you, cauchy, so much.
this collaboration has meant more to me than you can know.
i’ll cherish the quilt forever.
and don’t forget to read the companion post on completely cauchy!
October 28, 2013
October 23, 2013
i write at least two rhinebeck posts;
one about my time at the festival, itself,
and the other dedicated to “nips with steven”.
this year was a little different,
and so there will be just this one post.
shall we start with the nips?
ann hanson is always willing to oblige,
especially for art (bitch took at least a two finger gulp! mad props, ann)
my four-time rhinebeck partner in crime, andrea, took nip number two.
then it was you-von
who clearly enjoyed her nip.
a woman who is apparently a “somebody” in the knitting world
but whose name i forgot to write down . . .
is revealed to be stefanie japel after a bit of internet stalking.
val of the incomparable duo “flo and val” from butler, pa.
(seriously, you wish you knew these women)
laura chau, a nips with steven virgin.
(who looked at me like as if i were a crazy person but still participated)
and this is where nips with steven ends.
during laura’s nip, sonya alerted me that security had spotted me and the jig was up. though i tried to evade them as nonchalantly as possible, even happening upon an old friend with whom i hoped to hide innocently in the joy of our reunion, security very nicely escorted me out of the fairgrounds to deposit “my alcohol” in my car. thank christ val had given me her spare key or who know where i would’ve been.
i would have been fine with the whole thing,
since i guess i was technically breaking the rules,
but then it got back to me that they were gloating all over the fairgrounds that they had a caught me “chugging my whiskey.”
dudes, it’s not like you solved a murder.
you ruined our fun and censored my art.
the very least you can do
is be accurate.
i hadn’t taken a single nip.
while i wasn’t quite ballsy enough to try to sneak the bottle back in,
i refused to be deterred! and thus began:
“virgin nips with steven!”
which began with amy, a.k.a. boogie a.k.a. spunky eclectic(bitch has more names than prince)
followed by stacie, (whose husband, d, totally bailed on the hot pepper challenge this year)
and (canadian) erica a.k.a. weetsie
who is strikingly beautiful in person
and whose mild accent i find completely (and unusually) endearing.
then i encountered this guy whose handsomeness put me into some kind of stuttering fugue state wherein i lost all ability to be charming or articulate.
apparently, some time later, i took this shot
i love heather’s semi-literal take on the piece,
“exposing” herself by lifting her knitting.
so that’s it for nips.
i’m not sure if i’ll do it again next year,
but if i do, perhaps i can enlist some lookouts.
after nips with steven,
the hot pepper challenge is the most important of my rhinebeck traditions. this year, the ghost chili was supplanted by the black scorpion chili as the hottest in the world.
1. somehow, andrea and i both decided (independently) to chew on one side of our mouths only, thus minimizing the area affected and proving we are now both pros at this.
2. both of our gums and inner cheeks went numb on the side where we chewed the sample (a tostitos scoop filled with hot sauce for those of you who’re wondering).
3. one of my teeth experienced a shooting pain for about five minutes after the encounter. this worried me.
4. for the next hour, both andrea and i felt a bit . . . unsettled. as if, somehow, the black scorpion chili hot sauce were a drug.
we did not feel normal for some time.
5. while, later on, neither of us had the “sting ring” associated with eating spicy foods, we did each experience an immediate need to use the loo in the middle of the night. while i can’t say the pepper was responsible, i could “sense” it was included in the process.
the rest of rhinebeck was just icing on the cake:
this dude and his tiara.
the purple wizard whose name we found out this year is ed
(apparently, he’s legit. we always thought he just showed up in his wizard digs and walked around for shits and giggles)
beth hansenfreshly dyed and dealing nicely with a completely incompetent little girl.
i ended day one with my second rhinebeck celebrity sighting.
this time is was scott cohen of gilmore girls fame.
while he’s no uma thurman, a celebrity is a celebrity. (a big thank you to the twitterverse for a) confirming that i wasn’t crazy and this was in fact a celebrity while b) supplying the name)
before leaving for day two,
the day for last minute shopping and lunch,
we got a little silly. what follows will demonstrate
how much fun we have in the cool kids house and confirm for you
that you’re completely jealous you weren’t there with us.
rhinebeck has become a pilgrimage,
the one time of year when i have no responsibilities,
can hang with people who make me laugh, and simply enjoy being for a spell. it’s a necessary restorative and, though difficult, i find a way to make going possible. and i couldn’t be more grateful
to spend the weekend with these sickos.
October 20, 2013
i don’t have enough bandwith to do a proper post
but this is what i’ll say about today’s rhinebeck adventure:
beware the human door.
this bitch kept getting in everyone’s way at the into the whirled booth.
i and about five other women just wanted to look at some roving,
but she was not having it.
you’d reach for a braid,
she’d reach for a braid.
she was a fucking fiber linebacker;
there was no getting around her!
so beware, bitches, the human door.
she is not fucking around.
October 7, 2013
i am so. behind.
in the past two weeks or so,
i’ve been fighting off some kind of plague
and been dealing with the death of my grandpa.
it’s been one of those times when one is reminded
that being an adult fucking sucks.
(it also means there might be some big life changes in my future)
but for right now,
i have a lot of catching up to do.
so of course i’ve cast on a boneyard.
i never get bored of a plain triangular shawl.
i imagine it’s what sock knitting is like for sock knitters.
*t-10 days to rhinebeck.
September 22, 2013
because my (likely vain) pursuit of becoming an “academic”
requires a gradually increasing inhuman amount of work
such that anything that involves fiber
has been all but completely eliminated from my life
my annual trip to rhinebeck is especially important to me this year.
these are the things i love about rhinebeck:
1. the homeric two-day road trip with my fiber buddy andrea; epic driver, designer, yarn hocker, networker, and the brains (and brawn) behind yarn superhero llc. we laugh, swear, gossip, judge, eat, harmonize to joni mitchell for hours, and peep the shit out of some leaves. this drive is the initial decompression required for me to (try to) forget my real life and put me in the rhinebeck state of mind.
2. i stay at the cool kids house. while i’m not famous, and there are definitely houses with more famous yarny people in them, our rhinebeck house is by far where the real cool kids stay. fuck the ravelry peeps and their damn baby. fuck whatever cabin in the woods the yarn harlot or clara parks might be staying in. we stay here. while most of the details are completely confidential, let me just say that there’s some extraordinary inappropriateness that goes down at our house.
you wish you were invited.
but you’re not.
3. this year, my old friend, coworker, and yarn-store sibling, anna, will finally be coming to rhinebeck. she will be staying at the cool kids house. (the details aren’t clear, but i think there was a horrible death in the group that led to an opening. i don’t ask question)
4. my lack of vagina combined with intense undiagnosed sleep apnea means i get my own room. as an only child, this makes my soul rejoice.
5. the food. people have strong opinions about the food at rhinebeck. after a few years, this is what i think. the artichokes are not worth the line. the lamb ravioli with a side of garlic spinach is. i skip the shitty breakfast sandwiches and load up on apple donuts and cider. bring your own booze.
6. the ghost chili challenge. this will mark the third year of andrea’s and my masochistic indulgence at the hot sauce counter, thus making it into a tradition. the ghost chili is the world’s hottest pepper (last year, we had some fellow tasters, one of whom vomited after) but we just can’t seem to resist becoming high school boys for a few minutes to relish the feeling of doing something stupid for its own sake. this year, if memory serves, there’s a rumor that the hot sauce man has acquired the new, even hotter scorpion chili whose spiciness supposedly makes the ghost chili look like a lovely glass of milk fresh from the cow’s teet.
pray for us.
7. judging famous knitters based on their outfits.
(no elaboration necessary).
there are other things,
things i can’t put into words,
things i can’t even think of at 2:34 in the morning.
my goal is to outdo the previous year.
so if you’re going to rhinebeck,
or know someone who is,
look for me
and be a part of rhinebeck herstory.
it’s for art.
in other news,
the clockwork is on the move.
it was last seen with some new hampshire knitteratti:
right to left: thea colman (babycocktails), dawn catanzaro, diana (bestitched), julia farwell-clay. unseen & across the table were cecily glowik macdonald, bristol ivy, ellen mason (odacier), & erin m.
(who is rather immune to internet stalking so no link for her!)
photo courtesy of misa
September 13, 2013
September 8, 2013
August 30, 2013
Late August, given heavy rain and sun
For a full week, the blackberries would ripen.
At first, just one, a glossy purple clot
Among others, red, green, hard as a knot.
You ate that first one and its flesh was sweet
Like thickened wine: summer’s blood was in it
Leaving stains upon the tongue and lust for
Picking. Then red ones inked up and that hunger
Sent us out with milk cans, pea tins, jam-pots
Where briars scratched and wet grass bleached our boots.
Round hayfields, cornfields and potato-drills
We trekked and picked until the cans were full
Until the tinkling bottom had been covered
With green ones, and on top big dark blobs burned
Like a plate of eyes. Our hands were peppered
With thorn pricks, our palms sticky as Bluebeard’s.
We hoarded the fresh berries in the byre.
But when the bath was filled we found a fur,
A rat-grey fungus, glutting on our cache.
The juice was stinking too. Once off the bush
The fruit fermented, the sweet flesh would turn sour.
I always felt like crying. It wasn’t fair
That all the lovely canfuls smelt of rot.
Each year I hoped they’d keep, knew they would not.