gray faucet

Put down that roll of paper towels

Hand towels can be icky even in the best of situations. Drying your hand on a damp towel is counterproductive and let’s face it, even though we love our families, some of them aren’t the best of hand washers. 

I was introduced to the roll of paper towels in the bathroom by a coworker. And I thought it was genius until the sustainability shortfalls hit me, and I realized that using virgin paper to dry my hands and fill the landfill was not exactly aligned to my values. 

Another co-worker introduced me to fingertip towels. She was stylish and particular, and it seemed so *fancy* — I was sold. I also learned from her to have a separate basket in the bathroom seeded with a “used” towel, so guests would know what to do. Remember having people over? That used to be a thing.

I started with some pretty fancy fingertip towels. The problem was I couldn’t amass enough on my budget to get through a week. I eventually bought a bundle of low-cost washcloths and used those for a long time. Two downsides: 1) They didn’t have nicely finished edges, and they frayed; 2) they were also on the small side. 

I finally landed at a nice middle ground: six-packs of higher quality washcloths bought on sale–larger, softer, and finished edges.  We have about 24 for each bathroom. That’s not quite enough to get us through a week, so I will do a mid-week load when needed.

My cleaning routine: warm water with detergent plus vinegar in the bleach dispenser and an extra rinse. Move promptly to the dryer and dry using the sanitize dryer cycle.

Fire and rain

Fire and Rain

It’s been a tough month in the West. A couple of weeks ago I woke up smelling smoke and it was a downward spiral from there. A couple of weeks of fire danger, thick smoke, dangerous air, and devastating fires.

Today it is raining buckets in Olympia, Washington. I don’t know if I have ever been so grateful for the rain.

Whatever we are going through, it doesn’t last – good or bad, everything is always in motion.

Cue J.T.: He was 22 when this recording was made.

Also Lady Gaga and Ariana Grande:

Knot Photo by Max Saeling on Unsplash

Who I’m not

Who am I? Maybe it’s the unending quarantine, maybe it’s just a periodic existential crisis but I’ve been thinking about this a lot. 

Figuring out who I am is an ongoing process. Who I’m not is easier:
Fancy. Ambitious. Talkative. Selfish. Busy. Exclusive. Name brand. Low tech (mostly). A snob. Extroverted (mostly). A traveler. A specialist. Set in my ways. Polished. A dress and skirt person. Gourmet. Perfectionist (recovering). Particular (mostly). A broccoli eater. Lazy. 

How about you? Who are you? Who aren’t you?


Photo by Max Saeling on Unsplash

Gold Toyota Tacoma, AKA Goldie

Goldie turned 20

I am a girl who loves pickup trucks. I drove a Volvo, Toyota Tercel, and VW Rabbit in my younger days, but now it’s all trucks all the time. My first Toyota truck, Black Beauty, is enjoying retirement in Arizona with a friend who just put classic car plates on the old girl. He hopes that will keep people from following him home to see if he wants to sell her. (She’s that great.)

My current truck, Goldie, is still a few years from those plates but that’s her future. About the time that I got Goldie, I had a herniated disk that did a number on me. One of the side effects was a loss of feeling in my left foot, something that made driving a stick shift a little nerve-wracking. So I switched to an automatic: a gold Toyota Tacoma V6 with the extended cab. The power steering, windows, and locks all felt luxurious when I first got her. Do I wish she had 4WD? Why yes, yes I do. When you live in Arizona, V6 is more helpful than 4WD (hello, drive to Flagstaff). In all my other home states, 4WD would have been more helpful.  If you have a choice, go for both 4WD ANDV6! Third option! 

Small strip quilt used for a drying mat.

Practical quilts and weaving (!)

In the past month, I worked on several projects, including a long-planned pair of quilts for our kitchenette. We have two bedrooms with en suite bathrooms, and one has a kitchenette. I decided to upgrade the microfiber drying mat to a quilted version and made a companion quilt to go under the countertop water dispenser. I used varying strip widths on these, something I don’t typically do. I love how they turned out.

I also designed a woven wall hanging! Last month I finished my first weaving via a class through The Crafter’s Box taught by Erin Barrett, owner of Sunwoven. Now that I have a loom, I thought “What else can I make?” Using Mandala Ombré Yarn from Lion as my inspiration, I created a design using Adobe InDesign and pretty much finished in a week doing a little bit after work every day. I am light years away from Erin in terms of ability (follow her on Instagram!), but I had fun, and I learned a lot. 

Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash

Quilt heroes

My first quilt was a trip around the world lap quilt. I was asked to fill in as an instructor for a class and thought I should make the quilt before attempting to teach others. Why me? I do not know. Desperation, maybe. I was a long-time sewer at that point, but I had never made a quilt. I was probably a lousy teacher, but I hope that my enthusiasm and encouragement made up for my complete lack of knowledge. My second quilt was also a trip around the world quilt for my boyfriend. It was queen-sized, and I appliqued his name into the border. I went all out for quilt number two, and he was suitably impressed. Looking back, I see it was a turning point in my life as a sewist. Quilts became my primary focus and have been for a long time. I’ve taken many classes and tried all kinds of techniques making many traditional and non-traditional quilt patterns. 

Fast forward about five years, and I started making the quilts that I think of as my quilts. Pieced strip quilts combined with black sashing. The first quilts used every color. Then I did color themes, like blue and green and red and green. Fast forward again, and now my quilts don’t always have black sashing–and sometimes I forego the sashing altogether, especially in my small quilts. I have been experimenting with a close-to-zero waste strategy, sewing tiny bits together to make strips. 

This use-what-you-have strategy connects me to generations of quilters who created quilts for warmth out of what they had. Many quilts are utilitarian, but an extraordinary number of quilts are also works of art. Needle arts were one of the few creative outlets for generations of women, and quilting is now an art form dominated by women.

Last year, I read about an incredible bequest of 3,000+ quilts from the estate of quilt collector Eli Leon. Honestly, I tried to picture having a 3,000 quilt collection in my home. I told my husband I was willing to try it. 😉 Leon built a temperature-controlled addition to house much of his collection. He studied and collected quilts made by African American quilters, and supported and championed the work of quilters like Rosie Lee Tompkins.

Rosie Lee Tompkins is a pseudonym for Effie May Howard. Howard was an extremely private person and sought to remain unknown. Eli Leon suggested that Howard use the name Rosie Lee Tomkins when exhibiting her work. 

Leon donated his quilt collection, the largest private collection of African American quilts, to the University of California, Berkeley Art Museum & Pacific Film Archive (BAMPFA).

Rosie Lee Tompkins: A Retrospective is currently on exhibit at BAMPFA. Covid-19 has closed down museums worldwide, but the shutdown has inspired many great online museum tours like this one, led by Chief Curator Larry Rinder. 

Tompkins quilts have power and movement, bold colors, whimsical motifs, and unexpected fabrics. She could transform a controlled geometric pattern into something organic, transforming traditional designs and techniques into modern art. Her color combinations glow and pulse. I’ve been thinking about what she might have wanted people to feel when they saw her work: Joy. Energy. Power. Faith. Happiness. 
Read more about the exhibition in this review by Roberta Smith in the New York Times.


Photo by John Cameron on Unsplash