Thursday, May 3, 2012

Mom always liked you best

I'm working on an essay that I'm planning to pitch to a couple of magazines about this amazing experience I had last summer when I picked cotton at Frogmore Plantation. Located near Ferriday, Louisiana, Frogmore is a working plantation where you can compare modern techniques with those of the slave and sharecropper eras. Thanks to its extensive archives, including handwritten journals, plantation logbooks and slave narratives, Frogmore brings vividly to life cotton’s harvest, slave culture and the plantation system.

I've already sold one article about how my visit to Frogmore changed my relationship with cotton, the material I primarily use. This new piece isn't so much about the plantation as it is about how moved I was to experience so intimately the lives of slaves. And, ultimately, it's about my connection with my mother, our creative lives and my first sewing machine. Like most things I write, it's not a straight line from the start to finish. You've noticed that, right?

So I've been thinking a lot about that first junior size machine and its increasingly sophisiticated successors. I love my current old-school New Home. I bought it, used, probably 15 years ago, and it was already old then; the manual is copyrighted 1976. And to say I "bought" it is actually misleading, although you're right -- it's not easy to sneak out of a store with a sewing machine under your sweater. (Are those your real bobbins?) Instead, my friend and I had intended to divide time on it, so we each paid for half. After it stayed at my house for a year and she never asked to use it, I bought out her share. Best interest-free deal I ever got.

For Christmas last year, my husband green-lighted my purchase of an embroidery machine. I've used it a number of times to embellish quilts or make feature blocks, but every time I have it on my sewing desk, I wonder if my old workhorse machine feels a twinge of jealousy. Maybe I've watched The Brave Little Toaster one time too many (more than one time certainly being too many), but I get a tug, a little sensation, that the New Home is afraid it's being replaced. No, I want to reassure it. Mom loves you, too.

Today I worked on two embroidery projects. First, I embroidered three of the same motif onto the cherry blossom quilt. This is a traditional sashiko pattern that I think enhances the overall Asian character of the piece. I'll stitch in the ditch the rest of the quilt.

There are a lot of good resources for embroidery designs on etsy and the web in general that let you download the designs immediately, which is great for people like me who can't stand to delay gratification and who are serial project-starters. Although I've purchased from several, I have two favorites: Embroitique and Urban Threads.

Urban Threads had a sale recently -- embroidery designs aren't expensive to begin with, although the thread certainly is -- so I downloaded several patterns. I was particularly charmed by their new Parisian collection. Although I'm not sure what I'll do with this block -- a pillow, perhaps? -- I adore the way it turned out. I need to cut the threads that join the areas, but doesn't it look amazing?

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