Tuesday, August 23, 2016

not Fall

But it's right around the corner. I'm back in the studio this morning putting together a few fat baggies that need shipping.

This morning FB showed me a memory of this date with a picture of my swimming pool in a lurid pea-soup mode, typical for this time of year. It takes huge chemical and labor heroics to bring it back to blue and in late August I usually decide to let it go back to nature.

Not this year! It's still Caribbean blue and clear, but as the leaves start to fall, it calls for a daily hour of cleaning that can only be accomplished wet. Such a suffering. And that sums up why I've been missing from here. In another week or two, things will change and I'll get down to business indoors.

The Last Harvest pieces are all gone and will be on their way to the UK soon. Some scraps from that lot went into the tubs I'm working from now.

With no sense of sorrow, I've decided to give the cloth studio an entire makeover and will be selling/giving/transforming a lot of stuff in the coming weeks. Tools, books, and lots of cloth, of course. Finished art will be on the block, too. It's "Make Me an Offer Time!"

It's crowded in this chrysalis and I'm looking to break out.

Saturday, August 20, 2016

lenses on the past

Antonina Catalano and Antonio Mercurio
Charles Henry Useted Sr.
I have become the family archivist.

While I was in NY, my sisters and I spent an entire afternoon going through one large tub of my mother's photographs. They tell me there are many more.

We went through the stacks of pictures and sorted them based on who should get them. In many cases, we had no idea who the people were. These were in the keepers.

The newlyweds are my mother's mother and father. I never met that Nana and only Poppa once when I was maybe seven. He did not make a favorable impression.

The character is below is Pop, my father's father. I thank him for all that good hair. He spit tobacco juice on my bare feet to comment on not wearing shoes.

He also taught me how to strop a razor and use a whetstone to sharpen any kind of blade. Some skill for a little girl. He was a man of very few words and when you were around him, it was a good trait to adopt.

Thursday, August 18, 2016

August 18

Since the late sixties, August 18 has been an auspicious day for me, some years more spectacular than other, but always the day has dished up personal magic. This morning I watched the full moon set through the trees as I pulled into the parking lot at Charlie's house.


This is happening outside right now, even though Colin shot this video a night or so ago. This was what August 18th has done for me in years past.

For the years to come, that full moon slipping us all into Aquarius had me draw these for myself. Why leave it to fate when excellence is at my fingertips?

Monday, August 15, 2016

wandering scraps

Now what to do with that hastily scrounged sewing kit that I smuggled past the TSA twice without thinking about it. I never took it out of the plastic bag while I was there. There was no time or inclination.


I know a lot of people travel to see and experience places. I go for the people. You get the places, no matter what.

This is my nephew, Dallas holding his new little brother, Memphis.

New York was hotter and more humid than Georgia ever thought of being and I remembered, it got like that in the summer sometimes. Fierce.

I met a few old friends over great food and better conversations.

And below, my sibs. The four of us took ourselves off to the beach in Rhode Island for a day. Alone. No kids or partners - something we've never done before. It was an enlightening experience. Everyone had a good time.

Friday, August 12, 2016


One of the side treats of coming home to New York is seeing pieces made and gifted away after years of
service or just display.

Sunday, August 07, 2016

the shift is on

 I'm heading to NY for a visit with family.

In a move towards changing course from the direction of stagnation, I'm curating a sewing project to take with me instead of hauling the laptop along.

It's taken a while, but I've discovered the theme of my book is touch and connections.
I'm not sure how knowing theme matters when the thing is already manifested. I sure didn't think about it going in.  Themes are funny things.They sneak in over time and one day, you flip back a shutter and there it is, a sleeping bat clinging to the wall, it's eyes scrunched shut and muttering "Good. She can't see me."

Not much of a reach for a stitcher, this tactile thing. There's just no denying it.

Wednesday, August 03, 2016


I found a stack of that creamy card stock that I bought to make direct prints from the fabric with.

Digging the originals out of hiding and hauling them to Kinkos over the weekend for more prints. They mesmerize.

Monday, August 01, 2016

A special Charlie Monday

Hi! I'm Charlie and this is Nana.

This, of course, is not a steering mechanism, it's her HAIR which, she reminds me, is attached to her BRAIN.

I get it, cause I pulled my own hair once or twice and, yeah, it's attached.

but sometimes, I think about the RODEO we watched on TV

and I just gotta say "YEEHAA!"

Sunday, July 31, 2016


 I've been packing up the last harvest in baker's dozen bundles and getting them shipped off.  There is not as much of this cloth as a half day of ironing lead me to believe.

The light at the end of this tunnel shines on everything in the studio and has kindled some interesting thoughts.

The zeitgeist of the publishing threads that have floated by my screen recently has been about cover art.  At the most recent writer's group meeting, there was some talk of the experience of holding an actual book as opposed to some e-mode.

To me, it's like the difference between champagne and distilled water. It's all about how many senses are engaged while the story takes over your life.

While I was looking for something else, I found a folder with some of the reprographs I made a few years back. I've been cutting them up into postcard sized pieces and using them as bookmarks. They are just the right weight and size and the backside plain paper is perfect for taking notes.

Fortunately, I leafed through the folder before I cut this one up. It's the last and the original was sold. This print is all I have left.

After looking at dozens of "BEST BOOK COVERS" according to I don't know who, it occurred to me that I have all the cover material I could ever look for right at my fingertips and should I not find something suitable, I can thread a needle and make that happen too.

Tuesday, July 26, 2016

"just going" with the last harvest

To that end, I decided that the last two harvests needed to be showcased, so I did the unthinkable! This morning there was IRONING!!

I always tell my customers to iron the damask scraps before they decide how to use them because the heat, steam, and pressure brings out an entirely different character inherent in this cloth.

Using the first morning light through my north window I've done my best to capture some of that character. Iridescence is very difficult to capture digitally, but I think you'll understand. You can click through most of these pictures to some very large images.

I confess I was thinking about something else altogether while I was ironing. (If you don't do that yourself, something is wrong.)

                                      All will be available here while they last.

Proceeds from all this glory will be funding a trip to my first writer's conference in November. Yes! I won the scholarship, but there's airfare, lodging, and even writers have to eat!  It's a big step in a different direction, something I'm very excited about!

Sunday, July 24, 2016

It's a Wrap.

That dye session was quite impulsive yesterday. I haven't reflected on what possessed me given the general lack of planning and state of unpreparedness. Still, it's done and over.

Everything has been rinsed, rinsed and washed and is tumbling in the dryer right now. That mechanical cat purr makes me want to curl up and go back to sleep.

I don't know what this batch will be like after the machines are done with them.

I cut/ripped this strip of vintage damask from a large table cloth as I was getting things ready yesterday. I tied it around my forehead to keep the sweat from getting into my eyes. In a lifetime of performances, this bit of cloth served well one more time.

 This morning I'm marking it just a bit to commemorate my last dye session.

Although things have been turning out beautifully and have been well received by people wanting the cloth to incorporate into their own art, I finally have to admit to myself that the passion for doing it is gone. We all know that work without passion is just, well, work.

 For a time there were echoes, but no more. So it's time to let it go.

Saturday, July 23, 2016

dye day

I've been sorting and straightening in the studio and came across a big basket of things waiting for dye and some wretched things just dying for another chance at color. It's hot and murky out, so why not. The dye deck has been a mess so a hasty clean-up was necessary, but I powered through most of it before falling into the pool.

I pulled a couple of pieces out of the soup late in the day and it looks like the dyes, even though they've been in the house, have lost a lot of their kick. Nuff said. Rinse, wash and dry tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 19, 2016


There's nothing like a long heart to heart with an old companera to get a fresh set of eyes on things. I can only hope the good was reciprocal.

Time passes and a weight has been lifted, and the way is clear for great and wonderful things. Nothing like giving oneself the gift of a good reading.

Monday, July 18, 2016



When you start seeing random images of things in an around a studio, it's a pretty safe bet that nothing much is going on.

I started another one of those little flings today, just to get the cobwebs off the machine. And yes, hands, fingers, and feet seem to be remembering production work.

Monday, July 11, 2016

this from 2005

The Real Reason Why Kids Refuse To Go To Bed.

I am planning a quilt based on the Truth (as I perceived it) behind a common childhood prayer. You know the one I am talking about... I can clearly remember thinking "If I should WHAT before I wake?? Wait just a minute here...". And then, if you forgot to bless someone you cared about at the end, they would die. How could a kid sleep with that kind of anxiety?? 

My solution to dying or being killed in my sleep was to NOT sleep- willingly, that is. I can remember every single detail of the view from my top bunk and when we moved to the house in the suburbs, I would creep down the hallway and hide under the lace-draped dining room table just behind my parent's field of vision and watch TV until after the Tonight Show. Something about Johnny Carson made me feel safe. And he looked a lot like my Dad. 

Sunday, July 10, 2016


I spent some time sorting scraps this morning, setting these aside for a gift. The phone rang and I was gone from the room a few minutes.

Cloth. A world of purpose.

Friday, July 08, 2016


The events of the week, national and personal, have been enough to make me want to sign up for a stint in an opium den. Can't stitch, can't type, can't write or read three lines in a row without dropping the reason for opening the book.

 I don't know why, but at some point this morning, I tried to say the Pledge of Allegiance. I got to the second phrase “...and the United States of America” and... nothing. The problem is that I learned it before they slipped the God business in there. The anticipation of the gap was preying on me. I was never able to stay in sync with the rest of the class, always finishing ahead of them. I had one teacher scowl and call me a Heathen.

Fearing early onset Alzheimer's, I tried again with something simpler with deeper roots. “Now I lay me down to sleep. I pray the Lord my soul to keep. If I should die before I wake..” that's the one that kept me from getting a decent night's sleep from the time I was two or three when my aunt, grandmother or mother sat chanting that to me at bedtime waiting for me to join in. I never did.

“If I should die??? wtf?” Problem solved. Do not close your eyes. I don't think I willingly fell asleep until collapse before I was a teenager. Not to mention that whole 'bless this one, and that one' and so on, because if you missed someone, they were dead meat. It wasn't too long before I would deliberately leave someone off the list if I was tired and a looking forward to tomorrow.

My mind properly misdirected with pious drivel, I took another run at the Pledge. I made it to “the Republic” and again, the yawning silence. 

A little voice inside my head said, “We are so fucked up.” I knew that voice. You can always count on Jiminy Cricket for the truth.

Then a TV sound bite chirped, “God, help us!”and Jiminy answered from my disordered mind,

“Do you think I'm a damn vending machine? You put your money in the plate and I fix everything to your satisfaction? Nah! I'm done with your stupid shit.
You'll have to solve this problem on your own. The lesson endeth here."


Sunday, June 26, 2016

Hurry up and flounder

Sunday morning is prime creative time for me, but today I checked the calendar and realized I have about three weeks to finish and ship a quilt so, no writing today.

Colors and cloth were already chosen but I had to ditch the original plan that included a lot of hand appliqué and substitute a technique I used once a long time ago. Pretty straightforward as machine sewing goes, but when I sat down at the Janome I discovered that I was suffering from a combination of Shriveled Skills and residual deficits from the NOT stroke or some other dire diagnosis that had me in the hospital for a week exactly a year ago. 

My left hand is clumsy and not steady and I had to slow down to avoid stitching my fingers together. Not good with a white base cloth.

We won't talk about the machine needing a good cleaning, oiling and new needle – things that were new project standards in the past. I had to think hard about how to use the bobbin winder, thread the thing, and when it did glitch (of course it did) when I looked into the bobbin nest I didn't recognize it and kept visualizing the innards of my long gone Kenmore. 

All in all, a disturbing few hours but, I won't give up on the machine if this project turns out the way I hope it will.

Saturday, June 18, 2016

wandering scraps

On my last run to the post office to ship off a fat baggy, I couldn't cram it all into the envelope.

I brought them back in the house and they'll get included in the next shipment!

On and on

I bought these flowers on June 4th. I'm beginning to think that stuff in the little packets they give away with the flowers might be either the key to eternal life or the cause of zombies.

Thursday, June 16, 2016


...is what it takes, something I have never been awash in. Still, it's never too late to change.

I've started committing my best hours -between wakeup and tennish- writing. I have a not quite first draft that's leprous with issues and has never been seen by a beta reader and I cannot waste one more of those precious minutes on anything that doesn't matter as much to me. November will be on us before we know it.

Sometimes I long for the mindless hours I spent on cloth. Not really mindless, just a completely different place in the brain at the helm. An autopilot who had a great sense of color, was a fair hand at design and technique and had all the confidence in the world that what she was doing would turn out okay, sometimes even great.

Deep in the stash closet, I came across a batch of old school cottons. I think it's the last of the Thompson muslin that I rescued from a wholesaler who pushed  bolts of cloth around with a small bulldozer on the concrete floor of a musty warehouse. It might be the last cloth that company made with American-grown cotton.

Anyway,  I can see I was intent on getting as much dye into the cloth as possible. It has a wonderful hand and I'm looking forward to all the hand applique I have planned even though the deadline for this project is about a month away. Family obligations are the best kind.

Charlie moving all his worldly goods into the playhouse. Moments later, everything was transferred back to the crib. (Repeat cycle four times before lunch.)