Thursday, April 30, 2020
I am happy that so many of my blog readers are getting a laugh or two out of the continuing saga of my new freezer. Vickie left a comment: "Sorry about your freezer, but thanks for the diversion. I love following the plot twists." Robbie commented: "It's no fun for you but it's a fun post to read!!!" Nancy commented: "Oh my goodness, I think you must be such fun to hang out with. You crack me up." Readers, I didn't want to have all this trouble but I did it just for your pleasure! So glad it worked.
Previously on Art With a Needle.... On April 10 GE Appliances said I was approved for a buyback, since they had spent a month failing to fix the freezer, and then failing to send me a replacement model. They would FedEx a check to my local trucking company, which would in turn drive over, hand me the check and take away the freezer. During the following week I called the trucking company a couple of times to see whether they had received the check and marching orders, but no they hadn't.
Then, surprise! On April 20, the check came to me in the mail! Not as promised, but hardly anything GE has done has been as promised. We were happy.
Then I did something that I probably shouldn't have done. I decided to wait and see what would happen next. Would GE's fabulous inventory system even realize that there was a freezer out there needing to be collected? Since that system could not tell whether a "temp sensor" would be shipped right this very afternoon or be on back order until August, I didn't have high hopes.
Sure enough, a week passed. Then on this past Monday, April 27, my pal Sandy from Home Depot called me to see how things were going. She was surprised, but not very, to hear that the check had been mailed instead of brought by the trucking company, and she said she would call somebody and get them moving on coming to get the freezer.
And this afternoon, they came. The freezer left, and good riddance. We've decided that pandemic or not, we can indeed live without a freezer in the garage, that the kitchen freezer compartment can indeed hold weeks and weeks worth of food. So much for our experiment in survivalism.
Sunday, April 26, 2020
I may have sewed my last mask, and delivered it Sunday afternoon. And to celebrate, I spent most of the weekend cleaning up my studio. Not that it will ever get "clean," but all the fabric from the masks has been folded up and put back in the drawers, and lots of other bits and pieces have been sorted and put away. I'm doing make-work while trying to discern what I want to do next -- sew or make sculpture. Both of them call to me, but neither voice is loud enough to drown out the other.
Meanwhile I've been doing some hand stitching onto silk scraps, some of them from the kimono project that we did in our local textile art group a couple of years ago. Here's one piece in progress:
I'm also auditioning some bits and pieces of old textiles for another hand-stitched piece. When I sent a photo of this composition to my dear friend Uta Lenk last week, she wasn't very impressed.
I wrote back: "I agree that the quilt and edging are a bit sweetie for my usual style, but you're allowed to change up your style now and then, don't you think? Maybe I need to make a smaller composition with the quilt block and edging and a little bit of something else, and save the kimono scrap and red doodad for a second piece. I guess I will let this simmer for a bit."
She responded: "I am all for developing new style -- but I think you would want to become more sophisticated and artistic and not revert to making flower pots that look like that quilt block with the basket."
Well, with that resounding vote of no confidence from someone whose artistic judgment I greatly respect, I have removed the bottom half of the composition and am letting the two pieces wait to tell me what they want to do. I hope one of them speaks up pretty soon because I need another hand-stitching project. We have piled up some TV shows that I want to watch upstairs with Ken, not down in the studio, so I need something to do while watching.
Saturday, April 25, 2020
Several years ago I got the idea to save the empty prescription bottles that had finished their careers of keeping us alive. I had a vague idea that I would assemble them into a huge sculpture, with all their different sizes and shapes (because god knows we have gone through a huge variety of medications since starting to get old). I even tried holding some together with wire, after putting holes in the bottles with an awl. Which turned out to be a lot harder than I thought it was going to be, because prescription bottles are apparently designed to withstand earthquakes, tsunamis and chain saws. The art project never has materialized, but the prescription bottles keep piling up.
Does this remind you of any art projects that may be resisting arrest in your own studio? Have you ever put things away for a specific purpose -- or maybe just a vague idea -- that never happened? I think we all have UFOs sitting there out of gas. A lot of people feel compelled to finish them, even if they don't want to. My friend Robin is in a group that has pledged to finish a UFO every month, on pain of financial penalty if they don't meet their deadlines!
I think this is kind of a dumb idea, with all due respect to Robin. Yes, I have frequently put projects aside because they aren't coming along properly, or I get tired of them, and sometimes when I run into them months or years later they call out to me to be finished. Sometimes the idea that eluded me so long ago springs to mind. Sometimes the thought of mindless but useful sewing appeals, if my emotional state needs mindless but useful sewing. But I firmly do NOT believe that there is a moral obligation to finish everything you start.
Especially as you get older. Understanding that you have a limited number of days of art left in your life, do you want to spend them finishing up some ugly damn quilt or stupid knitting that arguably you should have known better than to start in the first place? Or do you want to spend them making something that will stretch your abilities, challenge your creativity, and give you pleasure in the task? I go for the second door.
I kept saving those prescription bottles, though, even while admitting intellectually that the huge sculpture project probably wasn't a good idea, and that I didn't even much want to do it any more even if I could figure out a plan. The process of saving the bottles had taken on a life of its own.
Then yesterday my daughter-in-law sent me a text: "Do you have any empty prescription bottles we can have? A friend of ours is collecting them for part of a service project." Well, did she come to the right place!
Seems the friend, a pharmacist, is assembling care packages for elderly people in food/pharmacy deserts. They're putting OTC medications like aspirin, allergy and heartburn remedies, purchased in bulk, into the bottles to distribute.
Here's what I have collected so far:
Update: I found more:
Thursday, April 23, 2020
It's been five weeks today since we decided to not go anywhere that we would run into other people.
There are a few things that I like about being locked down. Such as being able to stay up late and sleep in as late as I like. In fact, I've been getting extremely restful and satisfying sleep throughout the plague time, plus not a single nightmare or disturbing dream about getting sick. And I think that scam telemarketing calls are down, probably because scamsters can't trust their employees to work at top efficiency if they're not right there in the boiler room.
But of course there are things I don't like. Top of the list is not being able to see the grandchildren, although the other day I returned some empty tupperware, sat on the porch swing while the kids played in the front yard and chatted at a distance with son and daughter-in-law. That was nice, but not as nice as hugs and kisses.
I realize that I really dislike not being able to go grocery shopping. At first in the lockdown my sons went to the store for me, and might call or text from the store to ask whether 2% milk was OK since there was no skim, but that stopped when they want into lockdown as well and we all started to use the grocery store pickup. Which didn't always deliver what we ordered, and sometimes delivered what we didn't order (mixed nuts with "less than 50% peanuts," yuk).
But I like to shop for groceries as targets of opportunity. I like to check the leftover bins, where yesterday's ground beef is marked down, and the getting-old produce is put at random into 99-cent bags. That's when I might decide to buy five bags of getting-old apples to make a pie and some applesauce, or two bags of getting-old avocados, to eat one of at every meal till they run out. Sometimes the red peppers look fabulous (buy a half dozen) and sometimes they look limp and pathetic (buy zero). And if I'm not in a hurry, I like to go slowly up and down the aisles to see what looks good that I forgot to put on my list, or didn't realize that I wanted till I see it. You can't do this with Kroger Click Pick.
|from the fruit stand, chosen by ME!!!|
Friday, April 17, 2020
When I last shared the story of my new freezer, two and a half weeks ago, GE Appliances had promised to send me a new freezer in place of the one we just bought but did not work properly. It was going to be delivered on April 7. At the time, I wrote "seeing will be believing." Oh, what a cynic I am, to doubt the promises of a major American manufacturer.
(Well, actually, it's a major Chinese manufacturer, who bought the appliance division four years ago, but kept the GE name because it's so well known and trusted.) (Right. As my new best friend Sandy, the appliance expediter at Home Depot said to me recently on the phone, "I hate GE.")
Guess what -- no freezer on April 7. I will spare you the gory details of my many calls and emails with GE's "customer service" people. I will hint that they changed their story multiple times, they lied to Sandy about what they had told me a couple of days previously, they contradicted their very own emails from the week before which were still appended to the new email.
|still in garage|
A week ago Sandy extracted a promise, confirmed in an email to me from Andre at GE, that "in about 5 business days" the local trucking company would show up at my door with a check for $857.65 and take the freezer away. (Well, actually he promised Sandy "three to five business days," but you know how these promises work.) And today -- guess what -- the trucking company has not received the check and therefore has not scheduled a time to come get my freezer.
But I have both made and lost friends in this process! First I thought I had made friends with Deshalique at GE, when she found the hard-to-get temp sensor in her secret warehouse and had it shipped to me that very afternoon!! Then, after she refused to answer my emails, not to mention not having the part shipped, I sadly decided she was not my friend after all. When GE send me a survey to complete about whether I would recommend GE appliances to my friends, and how would I rate my recent interaction with my case manager, I was able to rat her out by name, the only fun I've had in a while.
Then I made friends with Sabrina at GE, who promised to deliver the replacement freezer on April 7. Since she wasn't my real case manager, she didn't have the opportunity to refuse to answer my emails wondering why it hadn't been delivered, so maybe she's still my friend despite not coming up with a freezer.
But Sandy is still and always my friend. When GE stopped talking to me Sandy was able to get through and negotiate on my behalf. And she always calls me back within a couple of hours to report on what she has accomplished! I think that when and if the freezer departs, I will take Sandy some cookies, or maybe a personalized face mask.
And now I have made friends with Brian at the trucking company, with whom I chat every now and then to learn that GE has not sent the check yet.
UPDATE 1: Sandy followed up with GE and called me an hour ago to keep me posted. She reports that although Andre told us the truck would be here with a check in five days, he wasn't exactly telling the truth. In fact, GE didn't approve the check until day before yesterday, so maybe a week more.
UPDATE 2: Vicki left a comment on this post asking whether we could get a chargeback on the credit card instead of waiting for the GE check. Yes, that would be the simplest way to do it, but apparently simplest is not the way GE does business. And I hesitate to even try to suggest this to GE. I did wonder whether we could postpone paying MasterCard until we actually got the check from GE, but MasterCard is so swamped with calls that the robosystem wouldn't even put me in a queue to talk to a human being, just hung up on me.
Monday, April 13, 2020
I started out the pandemic believing, thanks to diligent research, that fabric face masks weren't effective against viruses. Then as time passed, conventional wisdom pivoted in the face of adversity and guess what, fabric face masks are wonderful. So I have been sewing masks for friends and family for a couple of weeks now.
This week PYRO Gallery, the artist cooperative that I am a part of, decided to launch a Go Fund Me campaign to help pay the rent while we're closed. We haven't been able to open the gallery in a month, and of course don't know when that will end. The show that was supposed to be up now, in which each of the 18 PYRO artists invited a guest to exhibit, was canceled a month ago. The show that's supposed to open in early May is probably not going to happen.
And then in mid-June, my solo show is supposed to start, but I don't think the chances are good for that schedule to hold. (And I'm not sure I want it to... the thought of a big opening reception and gallery talk and workshop is kind of frightening.)
As part of the Go Fund Me, I offered to make face masks as a premium for any donation over $50, and already I have a dozen orders to fill. So I'm back in the studio sewing. Decided to upgrade my mask ties from the 1970s bias binding to fancy material, since the masks are advertised as super-duper special unique artist-made, so this afternoon I'm folding and pressing strips while watching trash TV.
Saturday, April 11, 2020
The good news: the Easter Bunny is certified virus-free and can visit everyone and go anywhere without fear of spreading disease. The bad news: not so for the rest of us.
Wear your masks, people! The Easter Bunny will still recognize you.
Wednesday, April 8, 2020
Over the last couple of weeks I have made several masks, each time changing the technique and approach to make the process easier and faster. Here's my perfected technique for making a mask, although it may improve even more as I do it again. If so, I'll share my new plans.
Cut two pieces of tightly woven fabric -- I like batik because it's really dense. If you have a choice between two different kinds of fabric, hold them both up to the light. The one that blocks the most light is the one you want. One piece will be 9 inches by 8.5 inches. The other will be 9 inches by 7.5 inches. Cut a piece of interfacing 9 inches by 7.5 inches.
You will note that I left the raw edge of the fabric open. Because batik is so tightly woven, I'm not worried about it raveling. But if you're worried about your fabric, feel free to turn a tiny hem before you sew down the edge, or zigzag the seam down instead of straight-stitching it.
Turn the mask around and fold over the top side to hem it, just as you did with the bottom side. Mark the center, which will fit right over your nose. Hold the wire against the edge and eyeball where the ends will be -- about an inch and a half out from the center. Mark those places too. You are going to make a pocket to slip the wire into, just a little bit wider than the wire itself.
You will need two 40-inch strips of binding. If you don't have a piece of fabric that long, you can seam two pieces together. You can cut straight across from selvage to selvage, or parallel to the selvage; it doesn't matter. But don't cut on the bias.
Inspect the rest of the mask, front and back, and if you see any places where your stitching veered off the edge go back and stitch again to reinforce. Clip off any dangling threads. But don't be too precious about it. These masks are not going to be entered in the state fair where the quilt police would tut-tut your construction techniques.
If you didn't have two colors of fabric, write "inside" on the inside of your mask. That way if you have to take the mask off and put it back on, you can be sure to put the clean side next to your face.
Now comes the hard part -- you and your loved ones have to WEAR IT!! Wear it when you go to the store. Wear it when you go to work, if you still have a job. Wear it when you go to the park, unless you are absolutely sure there's nobody else in the park with you. Wear it when you drop groceries off for your mom. Wear it when you ride on the bus. Wear it when you pick up hamburgers at the drive-through window. Wear it when the grocery-store girl brings your stuff out to the car. Wear it when you open the door for the pizza guy.
You are protecting yourself and you are also protecting your co-workers and your mom and the bus driver and the pizza guy. And you should probably even wear it when you read my blog, because I don't want to catch it either.
Wear it in good health!!
Tuesday, April 7, 2020
First off, can we all agree that they have found a really insipid name for a horrible disease? Nobody even knows how to spell it correctly -- some people write Covid-19, others write COVID-19, some eliminate the capital C, others omit the "19." It was named by a committee, and who could possibly think otherwise? The only mystery is why it took the World Health Organization so long to come up with the name. (Imagine weeks upon weeks of meetings in which they debated endlessly between covid-19 and cordis-20 or maybe even virudi-1...)
In the past, diseases had evocative, easy-to-remember names -- Ebola, Zika, Alzheimer's, legionnaires' disease, Spanish flu -- but now such names are politically incorrect because they might bring stigma on a place, person or occupation. (Read more about this here; it's fascinating.) And don't forget, if you name your disease covid-19 maybe people will be so bored that they forget it's a plague and think it's just an acronym for Consolidated Occupational and Vocational Instruction Division or shorthand for Columbia Video.
On the bright side, I am glad that Boris Johnson, the British prime minister, is in intensive care. Not that I want him to be sick, but I am so tired of all the famous people who test positive, put themselves into self-quarantine in their nice houses and announce that they have no symptoms, they feel fine, they are continuing to work as if nothing has changed. Tom Hanks and Prince Charles, I'm talking about you. Rand Paul, whom I'm embarrassed to identify as my own senator, I'm talking about you -- and you weren't even responsible enough to stay out of the Senate dining room and gym while you were waiting for your test results to come back. (And Rand is even a physician, shame on him thrice.) Every one of these cheery episodes makes us think that this virus is no big deal
I am glad that Chris Cuomo revealed yesterday that he chipped a tooth from gnashing and flailing, because the pain was so bad one night while he was suffering from coronavirus at home. Not that Chris Cuomo deserves to suffer any more than anyone else, but it has been too easy to not think very hard about the agonies of the people who are indeed sick, those faceless people on ventilators who die in faraway places like New York City and Detroit, aka Sodom and Gomorrah, not at all like my nice safe red-state home town.
I am glad that at least 30 people who so recklessly attended a revival meeting 160 miles down the road from my home, in defiance of the governor's orders prohibiting large gatherings, have fallen sick so far, and three of them have died. I am glad that at least one of the 20-somethings who went to a coronavirus party in my own city has come down with it. Not that I want people to get sick, but I want people to realize that their bad behavior has consequences, that this pandemic is worth taking seriously.
And that brings me to my lecture. PEOPLE, WEAR YOUR DAMN MASKS!!!
In the past I wrote that I wasn't sure masks were all that effective, but now I have changed my tune. Current research shows that masks are extremely effective in slowing the transmission of coronavirus. If every person in the US were to wear a mask in public, we could lick this pandemic. So why are the clerks in the grocery store not wearing masks? Why are the shoppers not wearing masks? Why are the dog walkers and frisbee players and runners in the crowded park not wearing masks? Why are the people riding on the bus not wearing masks? Why are the guys delivering pizza not wearing masks? Why are the mail carriers not wearing masks?
And of course, why are the people standing behind the president at the daily dog and pony show not wearing masks, even as they're telling us to do so? And why is the president telling us that he isn't going to wear a mask, because it wouldn't feel right meeting kings and queens and dictators in the Oval Office wearing a mask? (No, I'm not making that quote up.)
People, wear your masks. If you don't want to take 45 minutes to make a mask, or don't have a sewing machine, watch the Surgeon General explain how to make a mask from a T-shirt in three minutes.
Sunday, April 5, 2020
My husband was determined to go to the fruit market last week, and I was equally determined that he not do it unprotected. I made us each a mask with just two layers of tightly woven batik fabric.
Then came the directive/suggestion that we all wear masks in public (good guidance for all of us plebs to follow, but apparently not good enough for the president or all the minions lined up behind him on the daily dog-and-pony show). I made several more for friends and family. My son brought me a fancy air filter that is rated effective against virus particles, and thought I could take it apart and use the innards for masks. Sounded like a good idea, so I proceeded to dissect.
I concluded that the air filter fiber is the moral equivalent of plain old interfacing, maybe even morally superior because it's more firmly stuck together, and heaven knows interfacing is a heck of a lot easier to work with than this rigamarole with the air filter.
So my second batch of masks contained one layer of batik on the outside and one layer of medium-weight interfacing next to the face. Since batik doesn't ravel much, I just turned the raw edge over and stitched it down. This time I pleated the edges before finishing the side seams, and encased the pleated edge in a fabric binding. This meant way less time in sewing and fiddling.
I also realized that stitching fabric for the ties was taking a lot of time, even after I found a lot of inch-wide bias tape in my stash, probably dating back to the 1970s. I thought maybe I could substitute tightly woven selvages or ribbon, eliminating 72 inches of seams per mask, but then I thought to look in my stash again and found some sturdy nylon cord that required only knots at each end.
After I made four masks with this model, I saw an online report that gave me an even better idea. Finish and pleat the mask as described in Plan B, up until you need to finish the short edges. Cut a piece of fabric or bias tape 36 inches long, center the mask on the binding, and stitch the whole length over on itself just once. Finish the mask and make the ties, all in one step! Why didn't I think of that? So that will be my new plan C.
I would rather be in the studio making art than making masks, but when I contemplate my non-fiber art pals, not to mention my sons, trying to produce masks without even a sewing machine on premises, I think it's time for me to step up and take one for the team. Perfecting my technique every time I make a new batch.
I'm still not sure what degree of protection these homemade masks offer. You would think it's a lot more than zero, because even though viruses are small enough to sneak through porous materials, the glob of snot the viruses are riding on should be stopped even by a simple bank-robber handkerchief mask.
If this keeps up for months and months, I fervently hope that some materials scientists and microbiologists will start testing all the different fabrics and patterns circulating out there and tell us which ones work and which ones don't. Otherwise I'm afraid that millions of sewists will have spent millions of hours making things that make us feel warm and fuzzy but don't actually protect anybody very much.
Saturday, April 4, 2020
As you may know, I am a fan of what I call "sew-off squares" -- little bits of fabric that you use when machine-sewing sewing large projects to avoid having to cut your threads. If you ever do any machine sewing, you should develop this habit! Read about it here. I often make such little squares deliberately for a certain quilt, sewing dozens or hundreds or thousands of them into airy grids, but I also make lots of them with no particular design in mind as a byproduct of sewing and quilting. Some time ago I gathered several hundred of them and packed them neatly into a box on the shelf, but a week ago I decided I needed to return to them, and dumped everything out on the sewing table. What you see here is less than half of what I started out with, because I have been using them!
Since opening Pandora's box, I have done a lot of sorting. I made some tiny grids as presents for other people:
I chose others that will eventually be mounted for display. These two sets will be on boards that I salvaged from a group project years ago, clamped resist for indigo dyeing. You can still see a few of the circles from the C-clamps.
Mostly I have been using the sew-offs for a big project. I usually make these "postage stamp" quilts with the grid quite closely packed, like this:
But obviously in these times of social distancing they need to stand farther apart! So instead of leaving maybe a quarter-inch between the bits as I sew them into a grid, I'm spacing them about seven inches apart.
What you see here are several columns of bits, each one sewed onto a spine of fishing line. When I get to the next step in the assembly, they will be spaced about seven inches apart horizontally as well.