Men Only?

It was the fall of 2005 when I took a beginning quilting class.  At the time there were few men interested in quilting.  Heather was taking classes and making quilts.  She’s done a number of art quilts and wall hangings.  She does wonderful work.  There is just something about the patterns, colors, and textures that I find interesting.  I’ve seen some stunning work out there.

The classes that Heather was taking were all women.  Quilting has traditionally been the domain of women. The notes that the instructor of my class had “Men Only” on the title of each page.  There was a lot of basic information there that I assumed the ladies were expected to know.  That is changing today and you’ll find more men involved in the art today.

One day Heather and I were in a shop buying fabrics when I mentioned that there should be a “Men’s” quilting class.  The owners of the shop thought it was an interesting idea and a short time later they announced that one of their instructors was willing to get a class going for us guys.  The class was five of us men trying to figure out the sewing machines in the classroom. We were given class notes that had on each page, “Men Only.” I still have the notes and the book we used in the class. I have to say that it was a fun time and I ended up with enough blocks to make a quilt top.

Sadly, I was also in my senior year of my English degree at San Jose State and time wasn’t something I had a lot of.  Heather ended up taking my blocks and finished a wall hanging which is now in our guest room.

I made the blocks. Heather completed the top with banding and did the quilting.

After that, time seemed to blur, I graduated and went back to work.  Time was still in short supply so I never made it back to a sewing machine.  I would still go to quilt shows and would go with Heather to buy fabrics.  I do help her from time to time with feedback on her designs as her “color consultant”.  It’s fun to work on ideas for a new art piece she’s working on.

In 2010, I found a website on Marquetry and found that there was a local club.  I joined and dived in.  I loved being able to work with the veneers and making artistic things that used my sense of patterns and my woodworking skills.  Over the years I’ve made a lot projects and have even ventured into scroll saw work. 

After being exposed to both art forms I’ve noted a number of similarities.  They both involve taking pieces of different colors, hues, and textures and combining them together to create a pattern or picture.  Simple patterns are geometric and go by a number of names, nine patch, flying geese, log cabin, pinwheel, etc.  In quilting the basic nine patch is the foundation of a marquetry checkerboard – the basic piecing methods are surprisingly similar between quilts and marquetry.

Louis cubes can be mystifying whether they are done in fabric or wood.  I’ve made a Louis cube box top and it’s magical to watch the pattern emerge.  Someday I hope to try this with fabric.

Even the tools share similar qualities.  They need to cut long straight pieces and join them together with precision.  I have two of those green cutting mats, one next to my sewing machine and one on my marquetry bench.  Several of my marquetry hand tools I bought at quilt shows.

Look at a sewing machine and then here at a scroll saw and you notice that they have similar shapes – an arm supporting a tool that material (wood or fabric) can be pushed through.  In the case of a sewing machine it’s to join pieces and with a scroll saw it’s to cut pieces, but how you push material through feels the same.

My new Janome machine. I’ll be using this for piecing. Right now the only thing I know is that the peddle goes on the floor.

One of the best marquetrains I know has often told me that she thought that women who sew are natural at the scroll saw because of the similarities between the machines.  Heather has often told me that she thinks I’d be good at free motion quilting because of watching me at the saw and noting how those moves look like what she does quilting.

I’ve long held that both art forms share a lot.  Sure there are differences.  You don’t get the same range of colors in marquetry and things like seam allowances change the math between a quilt and marquetry pattern.  Still, I see where there are commonalities.

One commonality that I am starting to see in both art forms is the mix of men and women is changing.  Our marquetry group has seen a steady increase in women members and I see more men doing quilts.

I like to see how things can be combined and am intrigued by the idea of attempting the same picture in both mediums.

But first I need to gain some skill on the fabric side and get the sewing room fully set up.

After writing about this, I wonder if I should pull in my other artistic outlet and for each picture include a poem …

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Friday Wisdom – Cold Weather

It was so cold this morning I had to scrape ice off my windshield.  The only thing I had was my supermarket loyalty card – only managed to get 10% off.

The house was so cold this morning, we didn’t clean it, we defrosted it.

It was so cold, my shadow froze to the sidewalk.

It was so cold that politicians had their hands in their own pockets.

What is the name for a cold ghost? Casp-burrr


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Wednesday Kitties – Afternoon Kitty TV

We need more cat pictures.

On these warm autumn afternoon, we open the glass door to the patio so our cats can watch (and smell) the birds that come to our bird feeder.  I call it Kitty TV.  They watch and sniff intently for an hour or so. Then it’s their dinner time and they lose interest.

Sadly the days are rapidly getting cooler and it won’t be that many more days that Kitty TV will be with the door fully closed.

Here’s Mr. Socks and Ms. Boots watching the action:

Kitty TV. Most of the action is at the table with the bird feeder.

Wow! A bird flew away! So exciting!!!

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Of Fingers and Crowbars

What this post needs is a really great opening line.  It could also use a tight outline, a thesis statement and at least one coherent idea to hold the whole thing together.  Then there would be a killer last line that would leave you all asking for more.

I don’t have any of those today.  Makes you wonder why I should write a post at all today.

What I do have is a slightly smashed right pinky finger that is sensitive to hot water and from time to time makes typing the letter ‘p’ or quote marks a somewhat interesting experience since sometimes I hit the little tiny bruise just right to cause just enough pain to say, “I did something to that finger.”

Of course that means that my brain is spinning out reasons to use quotes, ‘p’s in large numbers.  I have noticed something odd just now about typing – I don’t use my pinky finger to hit the backspace key.  Nope, I use my right hand ring finger.  I’m sure that’s not the one your supposed to use, but seems I do.

Guess you can call it muscle memory.  I’ve been noticing that a lot more lately – you know, you do things with your hands that you don’t really give conscious thought to.

Quick, which hand do you use to turn on the water tap? Which direction is on?  Right or left? Up or down?

The other weird typing thing today is that I have a bandaid on my right thumb and I can’t really feel the space bar when I hit it.  I see spaces appearing on the screen but don’t actually feel my thumb doing it.  Weird.

That’s another thing my muscles just do on their own.  I think “space” and one appears.  There is no conscious, “move right thumb.”  It just happens.

Kind of like why I have a bandaid on my thumb.  You see, earlier today I was moving some lumber around when I felt a stabbing pain and looked down to see a rather large splinter sticking out.  Next thing I’m pulling out and not trying to bleed on anything important. It wasn’t really a big deal, but I’ll always remember my first workshop boss and his wise words to me when I was just 20 years old, “Don’t bleed on the equipment.”

Since then I’ve done my best to watch where I bleed.

Now I am proud to say that when I smashed my pinky finger yesterday that it didn’t bleed at all.  I do have an impressive bruise there which gets back to why I’m doing so many quotes and ‘p’s in this post.

Okay, I’d better answer this before you all ask in the comments.  You see I was in the backyard digging out this very large Russian Sage bush with roots that are only slightly softer than concrete.  I started with a shovel, then moved to a pickaxe and finally thought a crowbar might help lift that one pesky root far enough away from the rock wall it was up against to get a good swing at it with the axe part of the pickaxe.

Note that by this point I’d used both pick and axe parts and wasn’t afraid to give that bush what for.

Sadly for my pinky finger, my hand slipped off the crowbar and my finger rapidly jammed itself between the end of the bar and a rather hard rock.  Then to make sure I didn’t fall forward into the hole, I leaned backwards, fell on my butt, crowbar went flying and I became alarmed that I might have broken my figure or worse started to bleed.

After all, I was wearing a nearly new pair of gloves and was really close to tools.

Much to my relief, it wasn’t that bad just a smash and a slowly building awareness that I’d just done something rather stupid.  Looking at the situation, I knew that I shouldn’t have tried that maneuver, but it was too late.  Personally, I blame muscle memory for encouraging me to get the crowbar.

So with all that I don’t really have a post to share this week.

Maybe next week my muscle memory will have something better to say.

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