Lessons from a housewife…

My 88 year old mom (I think she will be 89 on the 2nd) lives in an upscale senior living community in a Maryland suburb of Baltimore with her husband of 13 years.  A few years after my dad died, mom went to a high school reunion and reconnected with someone she dated in HS, and within the year they were married.  A fairytale in her mid 70’s.  No one thought that they’d both still be alive 13 years later.  I know my mom gets frustrated, her eyes aren’t what they use to be, she barely quilts anymore, and her arthritis in her hands keeps her from doing many of the crafts she loved, but she is safe in her little apartment with her husband, and they go up to the center a couple times a day for companionship and fabulous meals.  ( I can attest to the quality of the food, better than most restaurants I eat in…)

Anyway, mom usually calls me Saturday mornings.  Oddly I didn’t hear from her and I worried.  I know they are on severe lock down in her facility, no one is allowed to leave their apartment except for medical issues, physical therapy, doctors appointments, etc.  They get meals delivered, and can supplement with groceries, which my beloved sister, who lives about 45 minutes away from them delivers whenever mom asks.  My sister can no longer even bring them to her door, she must leave them with the staff at the center and the staff delivers them to my mom.  

Anyway, last evening around dinner time, I called my mom to see how she was doing under lock down.  It was the brightest and most confident voice that greeted me on the other end, I almost didn’t recognize her voice.  She was cheery and chipper and when I asked how things were going, expecting to hear sad tales of how hard it is to be quarantined, she was all over the situation, taking charge and doing what she has done best for most of her adult life.  

Mom was married at 19, in an era when the goal for most women was to marry, raise a family and care for that husband and family with everything you had.  It was her job, it was her only job, and she did it exceptionally well, I never heard a complaint from her, she was a master at keeping a spotless house, keeping three nourishing meals on the table within a tight budget, making all of our clothes until we could make our own, and even sewing all of the drapes and slipcovers when necessary.  My dad wanted for nothing.

My mom now lives in a center where meals are provided, housekeeping services and laundry in their apartment are provided, and none of the things that defined her for most of her life are needed anymore.  I never really thought about that, sort of like really retiring and having all those things available to you, must be, I don’t know, the ultimate reward?  Maybe not…

So imagine my shock when mom was telling me with all of the enthusiasm of a 60 year old, not an 88 year old, that meals are now delivered, she makes sure they always include the soup, which she then stores for the next day, and with half a sandwich each, she can make lunch for both of them.  She now has to clean her own apartment, because sending in housekeeping is too risky.  She was all over that, “I clean one room a day, very manageable.”  She told me that they deliver the bed linens now, but they can’t come in and make the bed, but that’s not a problem.  She certainly knows how to make a bed.  I have this vision of my mom saying, “Hold my beer, I’ve got this…”

I’m really proud of my mom, she has amazing life skills, and even at 88, she knows how to be organized and work with what she has.  I have been haunted by her enthusiasm and her ability to take charge of a situation and have replayed her upbeat and confident conversation many times in my head.  I want to be her when I grow up.

As long as I stay away from the news and social media, I actually can function as if life is moving forward.  I’ve always been the kind of person who does best with intense pressure.  Probably my most creative award winning fabric was designed the week my husband was dying, because I was so desperate to do anything to distract me from the tragedy that had befallen my family, I grabbed yarn off the shelf and turned on the computer and designed like my life depended on it.  In a way it did.  (You can buy the draft on my website, click here.)  The piece is called Chaos.

I’ve said in the last couple of blogs, that in all of this chaos right now, death toll in NJ is up to 4,200, that I’m very very grateful for the gift of time and the ability to stay hidden in my lovely studios and 1) Make stuff, and 2) Work feverishly on digitizing as many patterns as I can before the quarantine ends, travel starts again, or I actually succumb to this virus.  The bias top is up on the site, the vest with armhole bands is almost ready to launch.  Just waiting on final edits on the directions.  I hired a friend, who has written sewing manuals and edited a sewing magazine, to proof all of my documentation.  She is thorough and sharp.  I feel like I have a great team on this, and my daughter is just miraculous, even though she gets really cranky when I tell her stuff still isn’t perfect.

We started this weekend on the dress.  The directions are into the third rounds of edits before they go out to the proofer, and we just did the second round of edits on the pattern.  

And I took all the leftovers from the dress I talked about in my last blog post, and cut out a motorcycle vest.  The leather was a bit challenging, and I made a major mistake this morning, connecting the wrong edge of the armhole bands together.  With leather there are no mistakes.  Fortunately I had enough leather left to re-cut the right armbands.  I was annoyed with myself.  I told a friend that I’m use to making stupid silly mistakes that can easily be fixed, but I rarely if ever make mistakes that cost me fabric, especially leather.  I was dwelling too much on my conversation with  mom?

Anyway, I finished the vest this evening, except for anchoring the leather facings inside, so they don’t move around, that has to be done by hand.  And it is wonderful.  I tried on the original again, as I was starting to sew this one together and realized that I’ve put on a few pounds, oops, and so I tweaked some of the seams to give me a squish more.

Though I’m hiding in the basement, I’m still able to connect with people, there is this blog of course, I cherish all of your comments.  The board of directors for my guild was able to meet, virtually (I’m the treasurer so on the board as well), we used Zoom and I gotta say, I really liked the format.  We had a preprinted agenda, we followed it, I didn’t have to drive 45 minutes to the president’s house, and sit and look at delicious baked goods and dips and cheese and crackers for the 3 hour meeting and try to show some self restraint.  I sat looking at the computer with my tea, might have had a little wine, and we accomplished what we needed to do.  

I also had a Zoom date with my 81 year old musician friend, we set up our phones near our music  stands and played recorder music together.  It wasn’t the same as in person, but it was great to play with another person.  And last night, we ordered chicken bacon ranch pizza from the local restaurant in town, they are doing pick up and delivery only, and the driver came, left it on the porch, and it was the best pizza I’ve ever eaten, I enjoyed that so very much, and the margaritas we made helped a lot!

I’m sure my house isn’t as clean as my mom’s, and I really have to get outside and pick up all the dog poop, it is getting bad out there.  But I vacuumed my bedroom this morning, and cleaned my toilet and sink.  And I keep the kitchen clean as I go.  The kids, well, their standard of cleanliness and order is very different from mine.  They are much more their dad, so sometimes it is a battle, but I feel like I was trained by the best, and I’m embracing this, because of course my housekeeper can’t come and clean, but I’ve got this…

Stay tuned…

Working Really Hard…

First, a huge thank you to all of my sewing friends who have stopped their lives to make masks.  I feel hugely guilty I’m not participating, because, as I explained in the last post, I don’t have any materials, my daughter used them all a couple months ago for Australian Marsupial pouches for all of the injured critters in the fires.  I’d have to go out to the store to procure supplies and that would really defeat the point of hiding at home.  My daughter was able to find a small pack of elastic in the bottom of a craft bin, and used some scraps to make masks for us.  She has a fine metal’s bench and rolled floral wire for the nose piece.

And so I’m working harder than I’ve ever worked, or so it seems.  The big news is I actually managed to, after running a test by a bunch of trusted sewing friends, launch a pattern today.  I started with the simplest one I have, to see how this all works.  I edited the directions and the intro to the pattern about 19 times.  To the point where I just didn’t care anymore, which is a dangerous place to be, I can assure you.  So for better or for worse, you can purchase the PDF download of my bias top.  More patterns to follow.

The pattern is available for purchase here, and the directions, which will continue to be free, are now on my website.  It is easier there to keep updated.  And while I was there, I redid my Extra’s page, because the amount of stuff on it was becoming untenable.  Found some fun stuff I had forgotten about, like this essay I did on making paperdolls as a kid.  

I’m always open to opinions and edits.  Obviously the pattern will work for commercial fabrics, but I have always been a handweaver who works with the handwoven community, so yardage requirements are specifically for handweavers.  We are working on the 500 vest now, as I write,  that’s the one with the armhole band. We are into the fourth round of edits.

Meanwhile, we are fixing puzzles like crazy, I always have one up in the living room.  The latest one, a lovely gift from my sister, is really challenging, I’m sorry to say not my favorite.  It is all shades of grey. Dalmatian puppies.   Except for a couple little areas with pink feet.  I much prefer color.  Lots of it.

I finished my dress.  This was a challenge as well.  Just about everything in my life right now is a challenge, but we weavers are made of stern stuff, and we know how to pick up a shuttle and carry on…

I want to say it takes a village, and after my last blog post, and how I wasn’t sure how I felt about the leather, one of my long time friends, Sheila O’Hara, extraordinary weaver who wrote the book on weaving contemporary Jacquard, before digital Jacquard looms became available, casually commented, “Why don’t you embroider on the leather?”  Yeah, no.  Embroidering on leather would be really really challenging, because you can’t sew into leather easily, usually it involves pliers.  BUT…  I could couch yarns, like the kind I wove with…  This was a nail biter, I did samples and tests, but small ones, I didn’t want to waste the precious leather, and once I started in, there was no going back, you can’t rip stitches out of leather because the holes will show.  This was quite the nail biter…

I’m so happy with how this turned out.  And the closure on the back worked out brilliantly.  One of the couched threads as it came off the back neck, I was able to crochet into a loop, and couch it back on to cross the upper back again and end up back at the neckline.  Oh, and the dress has pockets!

The dress fits like a glove.  It actually isn’t supposed to, but I’m packing on a little weight here, because all I’m doing is eating and sewing and sitting on my butt by the computer rewriting directions and intros and cover pages.  I really have to go back to online yoga, since my local yoga studio is shut down for the quarantine.  And stop eating cookies and drinking wine…

And so I was able to cut out the many pieces to make this motorcycle vest in the leftover fabric from the dress and the leftover leather.

I still have almost a full skin and a half to do something fun with.

I’m having fun sitting and sewing, and the 16″ metal separating zipper arrived today from WAWAK.com.  

And so dear readers, I hope you stay safe, more than 2300 people have died in NJ, many of them first responders, EMT’s, hospital staff, store employees, police officers.  I hope where you live it all seems overblown.  I can assure you, it isn’t here.  We are a dense state, and are suffering for it.

Play with yarn, do whatever it takes to be as distracted and productive as you can.  I’ve actually started to pick salads from the garden.  There is something renewing about that.  Stay off never ending news, it is really really painful.  For those of you making masks, I bow down with respect.  

Stay tuned…