Wednesday, February 15, 2017

Why I protest

“When the artist is alive in any person, whatever his kind of work may be, he becomes an inventive, searching, daring, self-expressive creature. He becomes interesting to other people. He disturbs, upsets, enlightens, and opens ways for better understanding. Where those who are not artists are trying to close the book, he opens it and shows there are still more pages possible.” – Robert Henri

Most of my art is “pretty.” I like showing people the miracles I see in the natural world. I think that is because at heart, I am an optimist. I choose to turn my face to the light. Even in troubling times, I try very hard to keep my chin up. 

It’s been hard lately. I look at my country, which I love so much, and I see so much discord and hate and fear. So much failure to communicate. I believe that if we do not figure out how to start listening and talking to each other, our country is doomed. And I believe that art is an essential part of communication.

I am a complex person, and there is more to me than my beautiful fiber art and photographs. I know who I am. I have strong emotions and strong opinions. And I am not afraid to speak them. This, apparently, makes some people angry. Very, very angry.

When I posted the Call for Entries for “Threads of Resistance” on social media, and each time I posted updates, I got nasty comments. Some contained offensive names for our former president, mocked Hillary Clinton, and dripped with vitriol, with tones by turn scornful, angry and jeering. Sadly, the long presidential campaign season has hardened me to this kind of language. It is the language of Donald J. Trump, now made acceptable, and echoed by millions of Americans. I expected it. Im used to it by now. 

What did baffle me were the comments that basically told me that my role was to provide eye candy and keep my mouth shut. That I was using my “platform” to undermine the government,” that quilting and politics should never mix, that I was making people sad or disturbing the sanctity of the peaceful quilting community. Or that I was being unpatriotic by not completely supporting the president or “giving him a chance.”

Ummmmm.... what? Here are my thoughts on those points:

1. It is not my job – or the job of any artist – to make pretty pictures that make people happy. Sure, I do that most of the time. But I also don’t put my head in the sand and ignore what is happening around me. I make art about what moves me emotionally, what I am passionate about. Yes, I keep my face to the light. But I will not ignore the creeping shadows.

2. Quilts can be art. Throughout history, artists have used their work to protest. For a quick look at some protest art, try googling "protest art" images. Women, who have throughout history had fewer options available to them, have long protested in their needlework – embroidery and quilts. One could argue that Betsy Rossfirst American flag was protest art. Women have made quilts in the cause of many protests: temperance, women's suffrage, reproductive rights, anti-war, and civil rights.  
 3. Telling me to keep my mouth shut and my opinions to myself is flat-out intimidation, and it is wrong. It is especially wrong if it is said in a rude or threatening way. It would be very easy for me to keep my mouth shut right now. I am taking a risk, and I know it. I am willing to do it because I think the risks – to me, to my children, to Americans, and to democracy itself – of not speaking out are greater. If I dont speak out, I am complicit.

First they came for the Socialists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Socialist.

Then they came for the Trade Unionists, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Trade Unionist.
Then they came for the Jews, and I did not speak out—
Because I was not a Jew.
Then they came for me—and there was no one left to speak for me.
– Martin Niemoller (1892-1984), pastor and outspoken public foe of Adolf Hitler

4. Protest is patriotic. Theodore Roosevelt once said, “Patriotism means to stand by the country. It does not mean to stand by the president or any other public official.If Americans had not chosen to protest, we would still be a colony of England. We would still have slavery. People of color and women would not have the right to vote. “Coloredswould still be using separate drinking fountains and bathrooms and going to separate schools. People would not have the right to marry the people they love, regardless of gender. The list goes on and on...

I am not advocating a violent overturn of the government. (One of the commenters suggested that I sided with Madonna, who said that she thought about blowing up the White House. I do not; I think her remark was wrong.) I am merely exercising my right to speak freely through art – a right given to me as an American under the First Amendment:

“Congress shall make no law respecting an establishment of religion, or prohibiting the free exercise thereof; or abridging the freedom of speech, or of the press; or the right of the people peaceably to assemble, and to petition the Government for a redress of grievances.”

When things that are important to me come under fire – truth, a free press, religious freedom and separation of church and state, the influence of hate groups in government, to name a few – I will always speak up. 

• • • • • 

At its core, art is communication. It is an artist’s way of saying, “Look at this! Please… see what I see!” Sometimes that is beauty. Sometimes it is pain. Sometimes it is a viewpoint. It is my hope that the fiber art in the “Threads of Resistance” exhibition will make people think, make people feel, make people consider another perspective. 

For more information on “Threads of Resistance,” please go to the Threads of Resistance website

Tuesday, February 7, 2017

Threads of Resistance

The Artist Circle presents “Threads of Resistance,” a juried exhibition of work created to protest the Trump administration’s actions and policies.

We invite you to consider the theme “Threads of Resistance,” and create work – fiber art, art quilts, modern quilts or traditional quilts – to convey your passion, anger, or sadness about an issue that concerns you. Your work can be either positive (encouraging and unifying), or negative (portraying anger, sadness or discouragement). Possible themes include:

Refugee crisis
Climate change
Black Lives Matter/racism
Attack on science
Gag rules on federal employees
The Women’s March Jan. 21, 2017
Sexual violence/sexual assault
Equal rights/equal pay for women
Women’s reproductive rights
LGBT rights/gay marriage
Freedom of the press
Fake news and lies
Supreme Court nominees
White nationalism/supremacy
Electoral college
Border wall
“America First” policy
Income disparity
Freedom of religion and worship/religious discrimination
Gun control/gun violence

General information
  • You may submit up to three pieces of work. Multiple works by a single artist may be accepted.
  • Entry will be through an online system.
  • The entry fee is $30 for up to 3 pieces.
  • Each entry must include an artist’s statement that will accompany the piece in the exhibition(s). Curators reserve the right to edit artist statements for clarity and length.
  • Submissions must be a minimum of 20” wide x 20” high, and a maximum of 48” wide x 60” high.
  • Nothing can hang off the bottom or sides of the piece.
  •  No sharp or fragile embellishments.
  • Each piece must have a 4” fabric hanging sleeve on the back. (Further instructions will accompany acceptance notifications.)
  • No mounted or framed work can be accepted.
  • No material in your piece may be copyrighted.
  • No work may include a call to violence. (But it may portray violence, or include profanity or nudity, as long as it supports the theme of the piece, and is not gratuitous).
  • Information about the exhibition is available at, which will eventually feature works and artists in the exhibition. 

Other issues still under consideration:
  • We are seeking venues, and do not know how many venues might be interested. Information about this will be announced on the blog. 
  • We are unsure about the size of the exhibition (the number or works that will be accepted) because this is dependent on the venue. 
  • Entry fees will be used to cover the online entry system, marketing, and as much of the return shipping costs as possible. Exhibitors will be responsible for covering the cost of shipping their entries to the exhibition venue. Any excess money will be split between the ACLU, Planned Parenthood, RAINN (Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network), and IRC (International Rescue Committee).  
  • We are planning to publish an exhibition catalogue.
Important dates
Feb 14, 2017: Online entry opens
May 1, 2017: Online entry closes
On or before June 1, 2017: Acceptances/rejections will be sent out via e-mail.

E-mail to put your name on the e-mail list to get news when the online entry system goes live.

The Artist Circle
Sue Bleiweiss
Susan Brubaker Knapp
Judy Coates-Perez
Jane Dunnewold
Victoria Findlay Wolfe
Jamie Fingal
Lyric Montgomery Kinard
Melanie Testa
Leslie Tucker Jenison
Kathy York

Wednesday, February 1, 2017

Pussyhat Quilt: Free Pattern

I am making this quilt to commemorate the Women’s March on Washington, D.C., on Jan. 21, 2017. I participated in the Charlotte, NC, march, and wore the pussyhat I knitted. (For information on pussyhats, please visit

The Pussyhat Project was designed to give people participating in the march a unique collective visual statement – a sea of pink hats with pussycat ears. The word “pussy” is intentionally provocative – it’s a reference to Donald Trump’s admission/bragging on the “Access Hollywood” tape with Billy Bush that he sexually assaulted women:

“I moved on her and I failed. I’ll admit it,” Trump says, “… I did try and f**k her. She was married. I moved on her like a b***h, but I couldn’t get there. And she was married.” [Trump and Bush see actress Arianne Zucker.] “I’ve gotta use some tic tacs, just in case I start kissing her. And when you’re a star they let you do it. Grab them by the pussy. You can do anything.” – Donald Trump

NOTE: I am personally offended at the use of the word “pussy” to describe women’s genitalia. I use the word to take it back, in the same way that some African-Americans are using the word “nigger” to take ownership of it, and make it less powerful as an insult. During the election, several women I know who supported Trump got very upset at people using the word “pussy” and were dismayed that their school-aged children were hearing it. I pointed out that Trump’s use of this word, and more importantly, his admission that he had sexually assaulted women, was the reason for the word becoming so common. It is very difficult for me to understand how someone could vote for an admitted sexual predator. 

One of the reasons I marched was to protest sexual assault. I have many friends who have been sexually assaulted. One was sleeping in her graduate school apartment when a man broke in and raped her. One was groped by her boss at work. I know women who were raped as teenagers, and in fraternity houses at college. Women who were repeatedly sexually molested by family relatives when they were teenagers. Late in her life, my mother told me that a handyman forced her to sit on his lap and touched her genitals when she was about five years old. I had some close calls myself.

So yes, it's time to talk about the “pussy grabbers.” And when the pussy grabber becomes the president of the United States, it’s time to scream.

Here are the directions. I’ll post a photo of the whole quilt, and create a free, downloadable PDF of the directions, when I finish the quilt. 

My pussycat Wicked oversees construction of the Pussyhat Quilt

Pussyhat Quilt

My version is 5 hats wide and 7 hats long, and measures 51" x 40". It’s easy to add hats to the width or length to make a bigger quilt. 

Since each of the hats is made from a different fabric, I found it easiest to cut the fabrics into the appropriately sized squares or rectangles first, and then cut the individual pieces from them. (The sizes are indicated in the directions below, and in the diagrams.)

Diagram 1: Bottom Row (whole hats)
Use 12" x 8" piece.

For each of the 4 whole hats in the bottom row, cut from a different pink fabric:

  • One A - 2-1/2" x 8-1/2"
  • One B - 5-1/2" x 8-1/2" 
  • One C - 2-3/4" square cut diagonally in half to make 2 C triangles

Diagram 2: Bottom Row (ends)
Use 7" x 7" piece.

For the 2 half-hats at the ends of the bottom row, cut from a different pink fabric:
  • One E - 4-1/4" x 5-1/2"
  • One C - 2-3/4" square cut diagonally in half (You only use one half for the ends)
  • One F - 4-1/4" x 2-1/2" 

Diagram 3: Hats in all other rows
Use 10" x 10" piece.

For each of the 27 whole hats in the other rows, cut from a different pink fabric:
  • One B - 5-1/2" x 8-1/2"  
  • One C - 4" x 4" square cut diagonally in quarters to make 4 Cs
  • Two D - 2-1/2" squares

Diagram 4: Ends in all rows except bottom row
Use 7" x 5-1/2" piece.

For each of the 6 blocks (half hats) at the ends of other rows, cut from a different pink fabric:
  • One E  4-1/4" x 5-1/2"
  • One C - 2-3/4" square cut diagonally in half (youll only use one)
  • One  D - 2-1/2" x 2-1/2"
You will also need to cut C and D pieces for the very top row, to go between the ears in the block. You can cut these from scraps.

Each hat is designed with a band at the bottom that is designed to look like the ribbing on the hat (or the cat’s neck). I made my quilt so that it looks like the crowd of people at the Women’s March wearing pussyhats. So the first row (at the bottom) is at the front, and shows all the ribbing, but the other rows are partly covered over by the ears of the hats in front of them. (You could leave off the bottom row, the ribbing, if you prefer.)

I recommend that you lay out the pieces for each row, and sew them together before adding the next row of pussyhats. Work just one row at a time. Because the hats are staggered, they have two different fabrics between the ears, and it can get confusing unless you lay the pieces out where you can see them and make sense of the arrangement.

1. Lay out the pieces for the first two rows of blocks at the bottom, alternating lights and darks and different shades of pink until you get a pleasing look.
2. Ribbing row: Sew together the A pieces. Sew an F piece on each end. Press seams in one direction.
3. Faces row: Sew together the four B pieces. Sew an E piece on each end. Press seams in opposite direction from step 2.
4. Ears row: Sew C triangles together as shown in the diagram above, press toward the ear fabric, then sew them to squares in the order of the design. Press seams between triangles toward one side.
5. Sew the ribbing row to the faces row and press toward ribbing row. 
6. Sew the ears row to the faces row and press toward faces row. 
7. Repeat until you have sewn all the rows together.
8. Layer with batting and backing, and quilt. 
9. Bind, and add a label. 
10. Snuggle, enjoy and dream of a time when sexual assault is taken seriously by our society and we don’t have a president who is a sexual predator. 

Want to make a difference? Please contribute to RAINN.
Rape, Abuse & Incest National Network is the nation’s largest anti-sexual violence organization. RAINN created and operates the National Sexual Assault Hotline (800.656.HOPE, y in partnership with more than 1,000 local sexual assault service providers across the country and operates the DoD Safe Helpline for the Department of Defense. RAINN also carries out programs to prevent sexual violence, help victims, and ensure that perpetrators are brought to justice.”

Monday, January 23, 2017

Tyvek Explorations: An online class coming this spring

I’ve been working on my very first online class, “Tyvek Explorations,” which I plan to launch this spring. I’m hosting it on the Ruzuku platform, which I’ve taken classes on before, and find very flexible and intuitive to use. It allows you to post photos of your work, and get feedback, suggestions and support from me and your fellow students. I’ll provide weekly lessons in the format of videos, photos, and detailed information in PDF format that you can print out and save, so you can go back and do the lessons even after the online portion of the class has closed. 

The class will include six lessons covering:
  • basic information about different kinds of Tyvek
  • safety precautions for melting Tyvek
  • melting with an iron and heat gun
  • creating beads
  • making pins and embellishments
  • stitching through Tyvek before and after melting
  • manipulating Tyvek before melting to achieve special effects
  • creating a “November Leaves” art quilt
  • creating a “Cairn” art quilt
  • making Tyvek bracelets
I’m still working out a lot of the details (including pricing), but if you’d like to get more information about the class, please pop me an e-mail at, and I’ll let you know when I open registration.

Here are photos of some of the things we will be doing in class:

“Cairn” quilt
“Cairn” quilt (detail)
Tyvek beads
Tyvek beads
Tyvek beads
Necklace with glass and Tyvek beads
Stitched and melted Tyvek
Tyvek embellishments and pins
“November Leaves”
“Celtic Crown” (detail)
“Celtic Crown”

Wednesday, January 11, 2017

Photos from QATV Series 1900

With the release of the DVD and digital download of “Quilting Arts TV Series 1900,” I realized I’d forgotten to share some of the photos I took of the shoot in September! Here are photos of our guest artists: Leni Levenson Wiener, Ana Buzzalino, Susan Lenz, Mary Lou Donahue-Weidman, Heidi Lund, Ann Loveless, Kristine Lundblad, Teresa Shippy, and Ellen Lindner. Other guests in Series 1900 (shot previously) include Joann Sharpe,  Melissa Averinos, Wendy Butler Berns, Jane Davila, and Grace Errea. 

The show airs on more than 400 public television stations in the U.S.; if your station doesn’t carry it, you can purchase the DVD or download on Quilting Daily.

The set, ready to roll.

My shirts and jewelry hanging in the dressing room.
How we keep track of what I'm wearing for each episode.

The fabulous Jeanne Cook Delpit, our Bernina representative on set.
Kristine Lundblad gets ready for her segment.
Producer Kathie Stull and Quilting Arts editor Vivika DeNegre look at Leni Weiner’s work.
Leni Weiner
A piece by Leni Weiner
Work by Leni Weiner
Me, with Susan Lenz
Susan Lenz’s acorn cap basket
Lovely embellished edging by Susan Lenz
One of Susan Lenz’s pieces made from vintage linens.
A Bernina machine set up for one of Susan Lenz’s segments
Work by Susan Lenz
Work by Susan Lenz
Susan Lenz prepares for one of her segments with Kathie Stull and Vivika DeNegre.
Work by Susan Lenz
Work by Mary Lou Weidman
Me, with Mary Lou Weidman
One of Mary Lou Weidman’s faces in progress.
Work by Mary Lou Weidman
Work by Mary Lou Weidman
Work by Mary Lou Weidman
Work by Mary Lou Weidman
Teresa Shippy with Jeanne Cook-Delpit
One of Teresa Shippy’s "Cool Rides” pieces
Teresa Shippy with Karen, in makeup
Me, with one of the wonderful Bernina machines!
tin tile used by Teresa Shippy

Rubbing by Teresa Shippy

Ana Buzzalino prepares for her segment

Work by Ana Buzzalino
Work by Ana Buzzalino

Work by Ana Buzzalino

Different metallic effects by Ana Buzzalino

Work by Ana Buzzalino

Work by Ana Buzzalino
Me, with Ana Buzzalino
Ann Loveless with her work.
The crew hanging work by Ann Loveless
Work by Ann Loveless
Me, with Ann Loveless
Ann Loveless’ step-outs
Ellen Lindner
Work by Ellen Lindner
Work by Ellen Lindner
Me, with Ellen Lindner
Work by Heidi Lund
Work by Heidi Lund
Work by Heidi Lund
Heidi Lund confers with Jeanne Cook Delpit
Detail of work by Heidi Lund
Work by Heidi Lund
Work by Heidi Lund
Goofing around with Heidi Lund