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Place of Birth

Photograph of a gray pillow with multicolored pieced design in the pattern of a binary tree

I remember exactly where I was when I first thought of this project. I was biking home from the grocery store in Princeton, New Jersey, almost two years ago now. I was on a bike path that hugs an old road and then juts off to the east along a pasture before entering the woods at the back of the Princeton Battlefield. It’s a place where I usually could not help but think about American history and about the soldiers in the Continental and British Armies who fought each other there, but my mind was also on what we would now call the beginnings of the European refugee crisis; it was late April 2015. And so I was thinking about what makes a person leave home, what makes a person seek a new nationality.

So often, this is a decision based in necessity: freedom of worship, as in the case of my Quaker ancestors, who settled in Pennsylvania not that far from Princeton; economic need, as in the case of my great-grandmother, who left the Canary Islands for Cuba as a young girl; or personal safety, as in the case of my grandfather, grandmother, aunts and uncles, and father, who came to the United States as political refugees after Castro came to power in Cuba.

I am proud of my family’s history. I wanted to make something that would demonstrate that pride and pay tribute to the many times my forebears began again in a new place. On that day in Princeton, I started sketching this quilt. The bottom row represents me, the next my parents, and so on. Over time, I gathered the information I needed. I picked out fabric for this version, which is only a small pillow cover, really a test version. Each fabric represents a different place of birth. (It turns out I needed quite a few different fabrics—20 for 31 people.) Last winter, I pieced it, and last spring, I hand-quilted it. Over the summer, I finished it.

I am also proud of and grateful for this country where we have ended up, a country we have helped to build. Yet I am ashamed of its current policies toward immigrants and refugees, people like the little boy who grew up to be my father, whose lives are in jeopardy because of a rash and baseless order. I can’t point to a perfect past—we have had dark days before—but these days are also very dark for me.

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Woman Bathing Her Feet in a Brook

Audrey and her daughters, who blog at Skirt Fixation, have one of my favorite series in the sewing blogosphere — Living Skirt Art. In this series, they recreate visual art that depicts skirt-wearers. A couple months ago, Audrey put out a call for guest contributors, and I volunteered. Today’s post is the result. Once you’ve had a look, go see what Audrey and company did this month!

Back in 1999, when everyone was preparing to celebrate (or survive) the turning of the millennium, the Sara Lee Corporation (as in frozen pound cake) announced it would celebrate the millennium by making a huge gift of art to museums around the world. Before they were given away, the art went on tour. One of the stops was Oregon’s Portland Art Museum, and I went, and I was very taken with a particular painting: Woman Bathing Her Feet in a Brook, by Camille Pissarro. I bought the postcard version and have toted it around for 17 years, so far. The real version now hangs in the Art Institute of Chicago; in a happy coincidence, I live in Chicago now too.

Impressionist painting depicting a woman sitting on the bank of a brook, washing her feet

Woman Bathing Her Feet in a Brook, Camille Pissarro, 1894/95

In my admittedly untrained view, it is a technical masterpiece. But its real attraction for me is that it conveys complete restfulness. There is no question that it is my favorite piece of Skirt Art, and so there was no question about what artwork I would choose to recreate for this series.

Part of the attraction of this project, no surprise, was the excuse to do a bit of sewing. In the photo below, I am wearing a new white linen Sorbetto blouse (not really visible), a pink jacket I already had, a new brown double gauze skirt (Vogue 8038), and a new-but-not-intended-for-long-term-use underskirt that I made very hastily from a rectangle of unbleached muslin. I may blog further about the skirt. For now, I will give my whole-hearted recommendation of that pattern, a Very Easy Vogue pattern that I’ve now made three times (once in the short length, once in the long, and once in between). I made it with Kobayashi Dark Brown double gauze from Pink Castle Fabrics.  I don’t have much to say about the blouse — I used the modifications that I’ve discussed before, and I made it in a very nice soft linen blend (Kaufman Brussels Washer Linen Blend) from Fabric.com, with a self lining. (The fabric was quite transparent otherwise.)

Photograph of the author wearing a brown skirt and pink jacket, sitting by the edge of a brook with her feet in the water.

Ana Bathing Her Feet in a Brook, Ana Enriquez, 2016

Planning this project and doing the sewing was a really lovely experience. I like having a focal point for my thoughts when I work on a sewing project. For gifts, that’s the intended recipient. Here, the focus was on the painting and on restfulness. I started thinking about other art that has that same restful theme. One that’s very close is the song Gonna Lay Down My Burden (Down by the Riverside). Another that I kept thinking of was the Compline service from the Book of Common Prayer, particularly its quotation of Matthew 11:28 (“Come to me, all who labor and are heavy-laden, and I will give you rest.”). I’m sort of keeping a list now — if you have any to add, share in the comments please?

If planning and sewing were restful, photographing it was the opposite — challenging and stimulating. I have been amazed in the past by Audrey’s recreated paintings, which come so close to the originals. Now, I’m really flabbergasted. As you can see, I ended up compromising on almost every detail. Still, preparing for the photographs reminded me of things I’ve forgotten (chief among them, the sheer variety of stream banks) and made me look more carefully at my surroundings. Surely that is another virtue of art.

Photograph of the author wearing a brown skirt and pink jacket, sitting by the edge of a brook with her feet in the water, with a filter applied to make it look like a painting

Ana Bathing Her Feet in a Brook, Ana Enriquez and pho.to, 2016

Modern technology can of course cover up many types of imperfection. So, I turned to pho.to for an “Impressionist” filter (see results above). The result certainly looks less like a photograph, but it’s quite blurry for a Pissarro, I think. Ah well.

Thank you, Audrey, for having me as your guest! I had a great time with this!

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Fair Use: Misconceptions and Examples

I gave another talk on fair use last week, this time at the University of Chicago Library. The theme was “misconceptions and examples,” so after giving brief overviews of copyright and fair use, I talked through examples from several important cases. Then, I asked the participants to work through a few fair use scenarios, in pairs. We got back together as a group to discuss the scenarios at the end of the hour.

Here are the materials I used: PPT slides, PDF slides, and PDF handout. The handout, in particular, is very similar to what I used in my Teaching Fair Use talk at Loyola. All are licensed under CC-BY 4.0. Please reuse and remix them!

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Shoe bags from a knit tshirt

I’ve been wanting for a while to make a few pairs of shoe bags — handy for protecting the nice shoes from the hiking boots and for keeping shoes off of clean clothes in a suitcase. A few weeks ago, I sewed up three pairs in one afternoon. All three pairs are different: one is made from a creamy gauzy material, another is made from burgundy cotton flannel, and the third is made from an upcycled tshirt. The gauzy pair has blue ribbons sewn into one of the seams of the bag — I tie them around the bag to close it. The flannel pair has a drawstring channel at the top made from coordinating gray gingham.

The upcycled pair is my favorite, and I even remembered to take pictures while I made it. So, this is a tutorial of sorts for making a pair of shoe bags out of a knit tshirt.

I started with an old knit tshirt of my husband’s. It was in my upcycle stash due to a bleach stain — I was able to work around the stain when cutting apart the shirt to make shoe bags. This happened to be a long-sleeved tshirt, but that’s not important. I didn’t use the sleeves at all (in fact they are back in the stash now).

I started by checking that my husband’s dress shoes, the intended occupants of these shoe bags, would fit inside the body of the shirt, with room to make two seams down the middle and separate it into two bags. I also deteremined how long the pieces for the bags would need to be. I eyeballed this, but if you wanted to measure it, you would measure around the shoe from the heel, along the sole, over the toe, and back across the top to the heel. Then, add half an inch for seam allowance at the toe end of the bag, plus about two inches for making a drawstring channel at the heel end. I marked off this distance with a line of chalk, roughly at the armpit level of the shirt. I also “cut off” the outer top corners, to give the bag a more rounded toe.

Next, I sewed along the chalk line, from one side seam of the shirt to the other. Since the shirt was from a knit fabric, I used a ballpoint needle and the triple stretch stitch on my machine. If you don’t have a triple stretch stitch, a zigzag stitch would also be fine.

Then, using my rotary cutter, I cut away the excess fabric — the sleeves and neck of the shirt. I cut about a quarter of an inch above the seam I had just sewn.

At this point, I had one large pocket of fabric. Its side seams were the side seams of the tshirt, and its open end was the tshirt hem. The other side was stitched close with my new seam, and the two corners at the end of it were also sewn closed and trimmed at 135° angles, for toe shaping.

The next step was to separate this pouch into two pouches and to give those pouches symmetrical toe shaping. I folded the pouch in half, matching the side seams. Then, I folded the matched side seams over to match with the center fold. Using a ruler, I marked off a “V” shape in the middle for the toe shaping. Then, I marked two stitching lines, one on either side of the center fold line, separated by about a half inch.

I stitched on those chalk lines and then trimmed with a rotary cutter close to the stitching. This gave me two identical pouches with shaped toe ends. The final step was to make a drawstring channel. If the shirt you are working with has an intact coverstitch-type hem, it may be possible to omit this step. Simply snip a hole in the hem on each side of the side seam you stitched. Thread the drawstring through one hole, around the bag, and out the other. Note that this will only work if the shirt’s construction allows the drawstring to pass through the hem at the original side seam.

The shirt I was using had a turn-and-stitch hem. No room for a drawstring. To make a channel, I trimmed off the old bulky curved hem, leaving a straight raw edge. I made one buttonhole near the seam on each of the bags, beginning about one inch from the edge. Then, I turned under the raw edge about half an inch, ironed it, and turned it under another half inch. I stitched along the folded edge, producing a channel. The buttonhole was now on the inside part of the channel. I finished the bags by threading half of an old shorts drawstring through each one.

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Fair use quiz

In spring 2013, I created a basic quiz on fair use for the students in my section of CopyrightX. When I entered the quiz into a Google Form for use by this year’s students, I saw it would be easy to make a public copy, so I thought I would do that and post it here.

Here is my quiz on fair use.

It is a simple multiple choice quiz designed to help students review their understanding of fair use. It asks them how each of the subfactors “tilts” in the fair use analysis. After each question, the quiz displays the right answer and indicates whether the student answered correctly.

I’ll say again that this is only a superficial assessment of someone’s fair use knowledge — it’s a starting point, rather than an ending point, for studying the subject. However, I think this basic understanding is very important, which is why I’m sharing the quiz here. I’m also releasing the quiz under a CC-BY 4.0 license (though I think there’s very little there that is subject to copyright protection).

If you spot an error in this quiz, I would like to know about it. Please comment here or send me an email. I’d also love to hear if there are subfactors you think I should add to the quiz.

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Adding support for Amber on WordPress.com

This blog is one of many millions hosted on WordPress.com. As a member of the WordPress.com community, I’ve just submitted a plugin request to the user forum, asking WordPress.com to add support for Amber, a WordPress and Drupal plugin that prevents linkrot.

What does that mean? When I link to something in a blog post, I expect readers to be able to follow that link later on. Of course, not all links are permanent. They can “rot,” making it impossible for a reader to find the content I linked to. Amber addresses this problem by archiving the websites associated with the links in a blog post. Then, if the links rot later, the reader can view the archived version of the page. Here’s a video about how Amber works.

As readers of this blog know, I often blog about sewing. I like to link to the pages where particular fabrics can be purchased, both so readers can purchase the fabrics themselves and so readers can see more official details about the fabric. When the fabric sells out, these links often rot, which means my blog posts become less useful over time. I don’t think I have any rotten links on my blog at the moment (let me know if I do!), but it’s something I often encounter when reading blog posts, particularly old ones.

If you would like WordPress.com to add support for Amber, please reply to my forum post. If you can add an example of how linkrot impacts the blogging you do, that would probably help. I also tweeted about this.

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Red, yellow, and green baby quilt

Here is another (I think the last) unblogged baby quilt, this one made in December 2013.

The front of this quilt is pieced from approximately 4-inch squares of three fabrics: yellow polycotton gingham, lime green cotton with small white polka dots (Robert Kaufman Pimatex Basics, I think), and red cotton with a pattern of green, red, and yellow fruits and birds. I arranged the squares into a symmetric pattern, but I no longer remember how I arrived at it. (I know I didn’t use someone else’s pattern, though I’m sure this pattern has been made before.)

I was in a pinch and couldn’t find cotton batting for the interior, so I used a pre-quilted double-sided fabric as both the batting and the back. The pre-quilted had a nice vine pattern on one side and an okay-but-less-nice scaly pattern on the other. Needless to say, I covered up the scaly side. The pre-quilted material and the other fabrics all came from Sewfisticated.

I quilted the pieced top onto the prequilted back in lines, stitching along each vertical seam of the pieced front. The offset “diamond” grid that you see in the photos is the pre-quilted grid, which doesn’t go through the pieced layer. It did give the whole thing a nice texture when I washed it, though.

For binding, I purchased a watermelon binding that matched some of the fruit in the red print. Unfortunately, I didn’t purchase enough, and when I went back for more, they were out of it. So, I made homemade bias binding out of the fruit fabric to bind the rest of the quilt. (As I recall, I didn’t have enough of the fruit fabric to do the whole thing.) I think this was my first foray into homemade bias binding.

I also made zip-top pouches for the baby’s three older siblings, using some of the fabrics leftover from the quilt and some from my stash.

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Red, white, and blue baby quilt

This is another quilt I made for a cousin’s baby. It was made in August 2013.

To make the top, I used fairly large (maybe 8-inch?) squares, arranged in a symmetric pattern in a 5×5 grid.

  • Nine of the squares are from my trusty dark blue floral print from Winmil Fabrics (also used in the blue throw quilt, the SF Bay hot pads, etc.).
  • Four are from a gray linen from Sewfisticated.
  • Four are from a red embroidered eyelet from Van’s. (I used most of that fabric to make this skirt.)
  • Four are from a blue & red homespun from Joann’s. I didn’t have quite enough of the homespun fabric, so I pieced on a bit of the navy floral, and I used that as a place to embroider the baby’s initials.

Those fabrics were all scraps from my stash. The remaining four squares, and the back, are from a red synthetic satin with large polka dots, also from Sewfisticated, that was purchased specifically for this project.

Although I quilted the front and back together, I didn’t put any batting in the middle. As I mentioned, this was for a summer baby. And, part of the quilt is polyester. So, I wanted to minimize sweatiness. I bound it with a stiff white binding I purchased at gather here. It is really nice stuff, with a bit of texture to it. White binding was probably not the most practical choice for a baby quilt, but I was in a rush to finish it and had to find something that would match the already-completed top. (This was in the dark days before I started making my own bias tape.)

This baby has two older siblings. For the (then) toddler, I made a crayon roll-up similar to this one, primarily made from the dark blue floral print I used in the quilt. (I didn’t take any pictures of it.) For the (then) middle schooler, I made a zip-top pouch.

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Another baby quilt from the archive

I got my own sewing machine in December 2012. Prior to that, I either used my mother’s machine or (while I was in college and law school and only rarely near her machine) sewed things by hand. The hand-sewing projects I’m most proud of, which will probably never get their own blog posts, are a pair of hand-quilted and hand-bound hot pads (whew — thimbles are made for hand-quilting Insul-Bright), a slipcover for what was at the time the cheapest futon at Ikea, and the installation of a new zipper on my backpack. In retrospect, these projects are definitely in an extremely practical vein.

When I got my own machine, things changed dramatically. It is a lot faster to sew with a machine than without. This made sewing gifts much more attractive, and I started sewing quilts and blankets for members of my family’s next generation. In part because I had missed making gifts for many of the older members of that generation during the pre-sewing machine era, I typically also included presents for the older siblings. (The other reason is that I’m an elder sibling, and I think becoming one is something to celebrate.) One early project in that vein is also one of the first I posted on this blog. Another such project, completed about three years ago, is finally getting a blog post of its own today.

I pieced the front of this quilt using scraps of varying age from my mother’s fabric stash (purchased in the 70s, 80s, and 90s). The fabrics included on the front are a red fabric with small regular polka dots; a solid cobalt poplin; a yellow fabric with a floral print in green, red, and blue; a solid lime green midweight; a cobalt gingham; and a solid yellow textured fabric. The green and both of the yellows were already cut into approximately four-inch squares, so I made an all-over pattern of diagonal strips out of squares. I repeated the fabrics, in order, two and half times, to get from the bottom left of the quilt to the upper right.

I got a very bright solid yellow cotton at Sewfisticated Fabrics in Somerville, MA, for the back. I quilted it diagonal lines going through the center of every other diagonal line of squares. I bound it with store-bought cobalt blue binding.

In this case, I made playdough for the new big sister, using a really excellent recipe that was distributed years ago at the Children’s Festival in Southern Oregon. I will have to post the recipe another time.

Photograph of two containers of playdough, one blue and one purple

Also, at Inder’s suggestion (thanks!) I’m setting up my blog to be followable on Bloglovin:

Follow my blog with Bloglovin

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Two pairs of hot pads

Here is another long-unblogged project. Almost a year ago, I purchased a walking foot for my sewing machine. I raved about it back here. It is a great thing, especially when you’re sewing bulky or slippery fabrics.

When it arrived, I wanted to test it out on something small, something I hadn’t already invested a lot of time in (i.e., not a pieced quilt top!). So, I started by making a couple of hot pads. I used Insul-Bright, sandwiched between two layers of Warm & Natural, sandwiched between two layers of quilting cotton. For one hot pad, the outer fabrics are just squares — one of a dark brown Kona cotton and the other of a rather goofy large-scale print featuring pioneer bears. For the front of the other hot pad, I pieced a fussy-cut square of the bear fabric into a dark brown frame of Kona cotton. The back of that is plain Kona cotton. The bear print was purchased at Sew Low Fabrics in Cambridge, MA, but I have no idea who designed it or when. Incidentally, I’ve just discovered that Sew Low has closed. 😦

Photograph of two hot pads made from solid brown fabric and a print featuring bears in pioneer outfitsI quilted the solid hot pad in straight lines about an inch apart. The pieced one, I quilted in a square around the piecing lines (about a quarter inch out). I bound both with homemade bias binding, made from the Kona cotton.

In August, I turned to the same formula to make a couple more hot pads. I used the same interior, but for the exterior fronts I used a blue yarn-dyed shirting (purchased at Mood and no longer available) and a plum Kona cotton. For the backs of this set, I used a a dark blue floral print from Winmil Fabrics in Boston that I’ve used in many other projects. (I have a ton of it.) I also bound both hot pads in homemade bias tape made from the same dark blue print.

For these hot pads, I got a little more fancy with the quilting. The plum one is quilted in a heart design, the blue one features a suspension bridge. I used plum thread to quilt both, to tie things together a bit more. Why a bridge? These were a gift for a friend who was moving to my beloved San Francisco Bay. It’s definitely not an exact replica of a particular bridge, but I was going for a Golden Gate vibe.

Photograph of two hot pads in dark blue print, with quilted designs of a suspension bridge and a heart

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