Chelsea’s Shawl Yarn for Chelsea’s Law

A lot of people asked me over the years, “How do art and activism come together?”
Let me explain.
Chelsea King was a San Diego high school student who was murdered by a convicted sex offender named John Albert Gardner in 2010:

Chelsea’s Light Foundation was established by the family to create laws to protect children. Dream in Color, a yarn manufacturer, created skeins of yarn to make shawls (or whatever you want really). A portion of the proceeds from the yarn sales go to Chelsea’s Light Foundation:

Further, Chelsea King’s brother was 13 years old when his sister was murdered. He created a documentary about his experience stating that creating a documentary was actually better than therapy. I also heard that same sentiment expressed by Mariel Hemingway about her own family challenges and how she became an advocate:

This is how art, albeit making documentaries or textile arts, and activism come together. I buy my Chelsea’s Shawl yarn at Gentler Times Knit Shop in Naperville, Illinois, just a block away from where I meet my writing group. 100% super wash merino is one of the better textures for me to work with. Needless to say, my next bohemian strippy scarf will be made using Chelsea’s Shawl Yarn.

Chelsea's Shawl Yarn 1Chelsea's Shawl Yarn 2

The Remnants of Aunt Roberta’s Sunflowers Quilt

There is a magic in new beginnings. This is the last of the Janet Broxton Sunflowers Fiesta bolt of fabric. There were about 15 yards on that bolt of fabric. I bought it nearly 8 years ago when I lived in New Mexico. I made two lap sized art quilts that were used not only for art instillations, but also as charity quilts. Aunt Roberta’s Sunflower’s Quilt is traditionally known as a grandmother’s flower garden quilt. I used a hand quilting technique known as English paper piecing with an inch and one fourth hexagons. I hand pieced the top of the quilts, but had them finished with a long arm sewing machine in the interest of time. Both gala charity events took place within the same week, literally two days after the other.

After the quilts were done, this is all I was left with. It may make 14 blocks, but I am not going to be sure until I am done. But I do know that I will not be able to get another quilt out of the remnants. Maybe it will make some placemats or something? I will see.

Quilts with hexagons are known as grandmother’s flower garden quilts. I made mine with a hand quilting technique known as English paper piecing with one and one fourth inch hexagons. It takes a lot of time to do these quilts. Some people even pay other people to make them so they won’t go through all that sitting around, cultivating their patience.

These quilts are proudly displayed in the textiles exhibits of museums and quilting conferences around the world. Because of the intricate hand work, they are highly coveted. Because these quilts take so much time to create and are so intricate, I received the message from a quilt shop owner was, “Don’t sell a grandmother’s flower garden quilt. No one will ever pay you enough money for the time and energy that you spent making it.” Good advise if you are in it for the money. However, I don’t do this for the money.

I do this because I love it.

And I also stand firm with the platforms the money made from the quilts would support. I was both pleased and honored to be able to offer something that would be helpful to someone somewhere. At first, saying goodbye to these quilts was difficult. I mean, I loved the quilts as well.

Making money off of quilts isn’t a bad thing. But these quilts and I had been through so much: cross country travel, graduate school, domestic violence counseling, a job where the boss embezzled million dollars, dear friends moving out of state due to the economy, studying various meditation techniques to learn how to relax through all of this.  I tried to write a novel of mystery/romantic suspense about that one job I couldn’t stand, but I thought better of it. Making my quilts won my creative heart. I kept hand piecing until those situations had resolved themselves.

In the end, though, one thing I have noticed is this: Now that these quilts have been given another loving home, I keep approaching bolt after bolt of sunflowers fabric without even trying. The fabric is on sale. And the prints are beautiful. It is like the universe is saying, “Let go of worry and make even more. You have more wisdom now than you did then. Let the magic begin again!”

The Remnants of Aunt Roberta's Sunflowers Quilt

Purple Strippy Scarf

Purple Strippy Scarf 1This week, I have been knitting my strippy scarf from the skein of yarn I bought at Yarn Con 2015.  Right now, it measures 21 inches. I am using size 6 bamboo, 45 inch circular size needles. The purple color calls to me. Purple symbolizes so many things: first crown chakra, the ribbon color for charity, hey, even Purple Rain by Prince! What else does it mean? I have no idea.

Start Over

Windy City Donald MaassI trashed my first manuscript of fiction after literary agent Donald Maass taught a writing workshop in March 2015. I was half way through it, but I’m not mad. Seriously! I am a member of the Windy City RWA (Romance Writers of America) professional writing organization. We had been planning to bring him here to teach one of his legendary writing workshops for nearly two years.

I have had a mixed media project of nonfiction writing and textile arts in mind for years. However, I’ve spent the better part of nearly 8 years trying to fit myself into molds that were not by, for or about me. He knew about the major fiber arts based presses and their importance, such as University of Nebraska and Yale University Press. I told him about my art instillations in graduate school. He knew about the Gees Bend quilters. He also knew the names of various quilt designs. His office is block away from the Fashion District and City Quilters of New York.

I told him City Quilters of New York was my favorite quilt shop ever. I also told him there was a local quilt shop in Chicago named Quiltology (now out of business), that was heavily influenced by City Quilters of New York. He’d been to the American Folk Art Museum in New York many times. We talked about the exhibits we saw.

“The people who drive this market are all of you, the textile artists” he said. “Textiles are a very lucrative market, especially in writing.”

“I was trying to write to market,” I told him. “For me, it seemed to me like that John Cougar song, ‘I could fight authority, but authority would always win.’”

“You shouldn’t do what other people are doing,” he said. “You should do what you believe in.”

“It’s been so long to get something off the ground,” I told him.

“But would you rather keep going in the wrong direction for even longer?” he asked.

That did it. He had a point. It was a leap. It was also another setback. Almost four years of working full time and attending graduate school part time. Five years after graduation, weeks upon weeks, years of upon years of professional writing organizations meetings and conferences to get craft instruction and learn about the business of publishing. I was trying desperately to fill in the gaps that my undergraduate and graduate education left out. And it all came down to one thing and one thing only.

Do what I knew to do.

It wasn’t like it was a radical concept, but then again, it actually it was. It has been a fishing expedition for me on what to do and how to do that. This is the challenge with art. There is no clearly presented path. And either you are willing to find your way out of no way, or you aren’t. It wasn’t like I didn’t know how to do me or be me. I had done that for years. I am a writer. I am a visual artist, textiles to be exact. I was also an activist in rape crisis centers and domestic violence shelters. But the question was how to best go forward as an artist?

Another issue is that I learned all about other people’s paths both in school and out. I had tried to write a book of romantic suspense. I have respect for all writing. I was even given an offer to help with a true crime novel, but something in my spirit sensed that my own artistic path was quite different. I knew this. I needed a blog site to start off. I simply didn’t want to go into my next art instillations without one. Most people have been establishing a blog following for years.

I was just starting.