Saturday, December 30, 2017

2017 is in the bag

It has been an odd year.

The shadow hanging over the first half of the year was that I would be having surgery again, my third in as many years. The hernia surgery I had in 2016, which was extensive and extremely painful for a very long time, failed after only a few months, plus I developed a new one. I was lucky to find a surgeon who specializes in cases like mine, and who uses better repair techniques, and had everything gone perfectly my recovery probably would have been quicker and much less painful than the original surgery. Unfortunately, I developed a post-operative infection—most likely from when they had to remove my appendix during the procedure because the old mesh had become adhered to it—and I was sick for over a month. It all culminated with a drainage tube installed in the middle of my abdomen, which I had to flush twice a day and clean and drain, and I would rather have had the pain, quite frankly. The cocktail of antibiotics I had to take made me quite ill on top of the infection and I was a useless blob for what felt like a very long time.

In the first half of the year, before the surgery, I did manage to make one quilt, The Sea of Serpents, which I wrote about here. I also did a couple small appliqué pieces.

This one is called Flipping the Bird:

And this one is Billy Rose's Aquacade:

I did a few more in the summer and fall after I got better.  The blue and green are out of order on this one, which still just kills me, but this one is called Type It Out:

A scissors pattern I found in my old computer files inspired this, The Cutter Wheel:

And this came from the eyeglass design I developed when I made my store logo. I've been having some slightly odd vision problems, and I began to contemplate (though the problems aren't that bad) what the specter of vision loss must be like. This one is Fade from View.

So, one large quilt, and five mini quilts, not too shabby. But then the bag thing started.

Oh, the bag thing.

Last year, my sister wanted to make me a bag, something, she said, that I'd never make for myself. I didn't take that as a challenge, but it kind of sat there in my brain for a while: why wouldn't I try to make that for myself? I mean, I was thrilled to get a bag made by my sister—and I still would be—but frankly I loved the one she made so much, I wanted more and I certainly don't expect her to be my on-call bag maker. I've learned plenty of other things, I thought. Surely I can learn this.

Y'all, I have made 22 bags this year, and I'm working on number 23. There are only 17 bags in the photo above because I made four more after I took the picture. The thing is, most have something pretty wrong with them, so even though I do use many of them, the ones I don't use I don't know what the hell to do with. Every bag has been a learning experience, and I am really enjoying the process of making mistakes and stepping back to try and figure out how to prevent those mistakes the next time. I am learning the limits of my machines, the properties of different materials, as well as so many new techniques and tools. It often takes me as much time to select the fabrics as it does to make the bag, and it's wonderful to be able to move slowly and yet still have a completed project in just a few days.

These are some of the bags I do use.
I'm currently working on a bag pattern which I hope to release early next year that is geared towards beginner bag makers, employing everything I've learned in the past year to make a bag that's cute and has lots of options, but won't make a newbie cry in frustration.

So, as far as actually making things, even though it hasn't been big quilts, it's been a great year.

The blog, however...

Yes, the blog has languished this year, and that is both the result of a downward trend in post frequency that really began a few years ago, and also a reflection of my own need to just step away from things for a while. The last few years have seen a lot of endings for me, and I began to wonder whether it might be time to end The Bitchy Stitcher as well. I haven't felt engaged with it for a while, and really wondered if I wanted to keep it going at all. Sometimes I like to just do a hard reset and start completely over, see where it takes me. That's how I got out of the optical business and became a magazine editor. I put aside a freshwater fishkeeping hobby for sewing and this is where I am now. If you have the freedom and the inclination (and the temperament), giving yourself a clean slate can be a great thing, and I was thinking maybe it's time.

And then I got an email. I had been asked by Maddie Kertay of Badass Quilters Society to do a monthly humor column starting in July. If you missed them here they are:

July: Letting Go
August:Meet the Candidates
September: Things You Need to Stop (to be a better quilter)
October: A Few Words About Your Quilting By Your Dog
November: Quilt the Pounds Away
December: Quilting Reality Shows

As it happened, I had been working on a second book, so I had just enough pieces written to get through the end of the year, so I thought, why not? I might get some new readers out of it, and maybe that would reignite my passion for the Bitchy Stitcher. Well, turns out it's hard to know if you have new readers when you don't really write much, but then I got this email, shortly after my December piece posted, from someone who found me through that column:

I want to truly say thank you for writing your book!  I laughed my way through every paragraph!! Your book came to me during a very recent hard time for my family and I can honestly say this is the only thing that has been able to make me smile and laugh. Your humor is my much needed medicine! I can not thank you enough.

You want to make me cry? Tell me laughing at my stuff got you through something difficult. I will cry like a little bitch. Also, you want to to make me completely rethink my decision to stop writing a blog I've been doing for almost ten years? Same deal.

So, I have a pattern to write and a humor book to finish. And while I do those I'm really going to try to get back to writing about whatever fool thing that comes into my head here on the blog. But I need your help. The only reason I keep a personal Facebook page is because you have to have one in order to have a nonpersonal page, like I do for the Bitchy Stitcher. And I keep that because it seems like the best way to keep people apprised of new posts and anything else new that might be going on. If you don't already, please like my Facebook page, which you can find here. When you go there, under the picture of typewriters at the top, you'll see three buttons: Like, Follow, and Recommend. If you click both Like and Follow, you're more likely to see when I post - and I'll always post on Facebook when I have a new piece up here or anywhere else. If you see something on Facebook any engagement at all helps more eyes see it, so likes and comments are really vital, and shares are great too but you can save that for the really good stuff. And I totally get it if you don't want your friends knowing you follow a foul-mouthed, silver-haired bag lady—but if you're cool with that your engagement helps me a lot and also lets me know that I'm not just shouting into the void.

But if, like me, you kinda hate Facebook, you can also subscribe to my posts. That's different than subscribing to the newsletter—subscribing to posts means that every time I post something new here, the entire post goes right to your email inbox. Look at the sidebar on the right side of this page and go to the last item at the bottom where it says "Subscribe to my blog posts via email." Just put your email address in that box and click Subscribe and follow the subsequent instructions. That list is used for absolutely NOTHING else other than getting my posts in your inbox. JUST REMEMBER: I curse n' stuff and if that bothers you I don't want to hear about it and why are you even here? (Yes, after 9+ years I still have to say this.)

If you want to see pics of my stitchy stuff in progress and pretty much the second I complete anything, as well as the occasional pic of my absurdly precocious children, you can follow me on Instagram (@thebitchystitcher). I sometimes link to posts there, but it's not the best place for that, so I don't do it consistently.

I have some ideas for the year ahead, and we'll discuss those later, and maybe maybe maybe, I might consider reviving THE CALENDAR. Maybe it has been gone too long to bring back, but as I say, we'll talk.

So, here's the part where I thank you: for reading this long-ass post to the end. For sticking with me for almost 10 years. For sticking with me through some rough years. I am determined to make 2018 my bitch and I hope to see you along the way.

Wednesday, December 20, 2017

A Handmade Holiday

‘Tis the season, as they say, and no matter what holiday you celebrate this time of year, it probably involves people expecting you to buy them stuff. Holiday commercialism has gotten so out of hand that even the acolytes of the demon Sa’avu are putting aside their usual blood-letting rituals in favor of Secret Sa’avu gift exchanges. And now that the Gaudiest People Who Ever Lived are in power, gift exchanges have gone from “$10 or less” to “$10 or whatever obscene amount you think will most impress people you barely know.” Lord only knows what the white supremacists are exchanging this year.

But we are makers, dammit, committed to the principle that if you have to give a gift to That Woman In Accounting Who Keeps An Unusual Amount of Empty Diet Coke Cans In Her Cubicle or to That One Person In Book Club Who Never Reads The Book But Has Lots Of Opinions About It Anyway, then it should be handmade. Here’s a handy guide to all the things you could potentially whip out with some fabric and thread that will fulfill all your social obligations and your hard-won sense of identity.

1. Zipper Pouch. At best, this is merely 4 pieces of fabric and a zipper, and if you’ve never sewn a zipper before, what better time to learn than at 11:48 pm on the night before your kid has to bring in a teacher gift or she will JUST DIE. In fact, you know what? Who needs zippers anyway? Zippers are stupid, and frankly, are just the excessive trappings of bourgeois consumerism and so you get a sack. A sack with no way to hold it shut except your own hands BECAUSE SOME PEOPLE NEVER GET ANY CLOSURE, SHEILA.

2. Infinity scarf. Because we are all at the age now where we have to make important, daily neck decisions. Instead of wearing itchy turtlenecks that just make your face look fat, you can don a graceful drape of gauzy fabric that will not actually keep you warm but will at least hide the skin you now realize is starting to resemble the skin on a ballsack.

3. Mug rug. No, Kathy. I will not make you a quilt. You are, quite literally, the most annoying person I have ever met and you make every single meeting a living hell simply by breathing near me. (It’s phlegmy, Kathy. So phlegmy.) I’m not going to make you a table runner or a wall hanging—no, I’m going to make you a glorified coaster. Because maybe, just maybe, after you set down the mug of “herbal tea” (Diet Snapple and vodka) you are constantly sipping from, you will then place the wadded up tissue into which you hork up gobs of death slime during staff meetings onto the coaster next to it and not directly on the conference table like some sort of savage. It’s a gift for us all, really.

4. Pillow. Okay, so, I had plans for this, I really did. I found this paper piecing pattern that was George Clooney’s face. Like, Out of Sight, Ocean’s Eleven, O Brother Where Art Thou Clooney. Peak Clooney, in other words. And I thought hey, who wouldn’t want to have a fabric representation of an older but wiser Doug Ross to embrace and/or throw at the dog? But then there were all these tiny, tiny parts (charming laugh lines are super difficult to paper piece—who knew?) and it was all so hard to line up, George ended up looking more like Matt Damon and that is just eight million kinds of oh hell no, so I had to burn it and then I ran out of time so I made you this instead. It’s purple. Yes, just 2 squares of solid purple sewn together with some stuffing. Shut up—it’s your favorite color and you can still throw it at the dog.

5. Pot holders. For all your acquaintances in Alaska, California, Colorado, Maine, Massachusetts, Nevada, Oregon, and Washington.

6. Vibrator cozy. Currently, there are no patterns for this in existence (that I know of) other than knitted or crocheted ones (and you know how we feel about that), so perhaps some enterprising soul could come up with a design. It would really only need to be four pieces of fabric and a drawstring. In fact, you know what? Who needs drawstrings anyway? Drawstrings are just a symbol of how we are tied down by the patriarchy and so you just get a sack, a sack that you have to hold together with your own hands because we are women and we have to give ourselves our own orgasms SO WE CAN HOLD OUR OWN GODDAMN SACKS TOGETHER TOO I GUESS, SHEILA.

7. Gift cards. It counts if you draw on the envelope.


 Peace and joy and love to you all, my friends. And Hail Sa’avu.