OK, not really.
The Memory Box

I'm not done yet

The Truth of You

I just need to get these posted. I may or may not have something to add in the future.

The last time I made the New York -> Vermont -> New Hampshire -> Massachusetts -> Connecticut -> New York run

wait... gotta clarify that:

  1. Period of isolation, length determined by current statistics prior to exiting the house
  2. 1 tank of gas from New York to Vermont. Vermont destination epitomizes isolation
  3. 1 tank of gas from Vermont to New Hampshire. Not quite as isolated as I'd like, but... reasons for risk
  4. 1 tank of gas from New Hampshire to home, non-stop states irrelevant. It's still a little freaky

I'll cut to the chase. The last time I visited Aunt Annie in Rochester, NH, we went to church. Going to church with my Aunt Annie is one of the best things ever. I may not share her sentiments about religion, but I sure do love forty minutes in her light. It's like the walls fall down and the light that she is just gets on everything. We sit very close in the pew. We couldn't sit in 'her' pew last time because it was roped off. Most of them were roped off. We sat two back and that was just fine.

I think Aunt Annie is most likely to remember who she is when all that light washes over the congregation like soft, lapping waves in a Mediterranean sea, and then all that light washes right back on us. It's lovely. I wish everyone could go to church with my Aunt Annie.

Why am I visiting my Aunt Annie as frequently as possible these days?

Because my Aunt Annie, 73 years old, way too early for this shit to be happening, is losing bits of herself. When we are together she comes back a little bit at a time. I'm never sure exactly what I'm going to get, but it's always something wonderful. Most Beloved Cousin tells me she stays up for days after I've gone. Sometimes weeks.

The last time I sat on the couch with Aunt Annie, we talked for hours and hours, by which I mean six or seven of them. Just before her done button popped (over-stimulated, needs to be dark and quiet for a bit, maybe a nap, maybe just alone), we were talking about knitting and, as she often does, she self-deprecated the hell out of herself. I listened to her talk about the imperfections in her work and I was sad because most of these things are irrelevant unless you're really attached to perfect.

She told me she couldn't even remember how to cast on and I said, I'll show you. I stood over her with my hands on hers and helped her move the needles. She was doing something I didn't understand until I realized she was left hand dominant. Except she's not. Not even remotely ambidextrous. Like many of us, someone in our family put a pair of needles in her hands and taught her to knit. Unfortunately, this someone was left handed and she'd been struggling for most of her life. 

Sit down and I'll show you how to start right handed, OK?

Oh, Heather, I'm so tired.

Oh, Annie, it's OK. We'll do it another time. 

A little bit of that light ebbed and flowed from her pores. When I got home I decided to make her a book. That's it, up there. Aunt Annie's Book of Love and Loops. It starts as a guide from the very beginning, because when our neurons are misfiring, dying off, going to sleep and forgetting to wake up, doing things with our hands and our heads can slow that process down. Sometimes things can be repaired. You just can't ask somebody to do something they're afraid of, or can't, or anything. You cannot ask it of them. 

So I made it a love letter instead. Every couple of pages I'd drop in a photograph with a caption that read:

You are the reason...

As with most creative things, I have a tendency to go charging off course, inventing new things, adding, changing, repairing, and eventually I'm done. But it can take a while. When I realized the tutorial I'd built had enough loose items (knitting needles, stitch markers, training wool, workshop samples (what your square may or may not look like), I decided it all needed to be mailed off in a bag. I looked around for a suitable bag. Bupkis. But wait! I have a ridiculous stash of quilting cotton, lots of batting, a perfectly serviceable sewing machine, and a bag can surely be made! Right? Sure, Heather, have at it. All I can say is thank dog for the interwebs. More stitches were ripped out of what turned out to be a rather large quilted could have been if not for all the pockets, reversible bag. It was beautiful and I learned a lot. 

There are literally zero photographs of this bag or the contents, aside from the book which will live on Shutterfly until the end of time (ostensibly). I didn't buy two copies because the damned things are NOT cheap. I do wish I'd spent the extra dollars on the binding that lays the pages absolutely flat. 

And she was very happy. 

We talked on the phone for over an hour which is not a thing either of us manages well. She used to, I never did. Too much, too much and all that. But for over an hour I heard her light and she told me stories, as she does, and it was wonderful.

I looked around at the rest of my stash, draped across chairs, the ironing board, the dining room table which is Elizabeth's school desk (oh, she was so mad and it got a lot worse) and wondered what I should make next.

I could have made a perfectly serviceable reversible bag without much effort. Like I said, I learned a lot. I decided Lucia needed an oversized drawstring bag with a zippered internal pocket. I had no idea how the hell to make a recessed drawstring bag but I figured I could fake it. I went online and looked for fabric more appropriate for Lucia. While I was out there, I found some fabric for her husband. He'd need a bag too, for sure, and it had to be silly and Godzilla like and then I thought about Elizabeth and Mike and I started sewing. 

Elizabeth's bag came first. It ended up being a birthday bag. I had a fat quarter (sort of) of really lovely upholstery fabric purchased many years ago to be the lining inside a knit dance bag. It never happened. My sewing machine blew itself up and I couldn't get a needle through two layers without blood. I have learned a little bit about sweet talking non-commercial machines into doing things they know perfectly well are bad for them. There were a couple of times I really thought it was going to rollover and present its smoking belly. Or go out of alignment. That's a death sentence. $189 to fix or $225 to add to the landfill and order up another. I don't like doing that and I am NOT going to pay some dick to overcharge me for what I know perfectly well is a ten minute fix once you've got the machine apart. 

Elizabeth defines elegance.

Elizabeths bag

I think of it as Breakfast at Tiffany's if Breakfast at Tiffany's decided to move to NYC, 2019. Take a good, hard look at that fabric. Maybe you can tell which parts of the pattern are more likely to break a needle. 

Flamingo pockets

When Elizabeth saw the pink flamingos, intended for her sister, she wept, and begged, and I said, oh, no, not for you. There was another lining which turned out to be completely inappropriate in that it destroyed all existing structural integrity. I cut up a black chiffon blouse I never liked that I would have been hard pressed to continue wearing. I have a hard timing throwing those things out and they don't donate well. I am happy to find ways to up-cycle. It made a beautiful lining but I wasn't willing to have the bag flop all over itself. Interface on chiffon is unfortunate. Just don't. However, the ruffles around the bag are the neckline of the blouse. I am very happy with this bag and I will never, ever, ever work with that sort of fabric with this sort of machine again. 

Lucia's bag was a bloody disaster. In the end we called it the bag with poor posture. I'm sure she'll make it work.

Scary Ladies Bad Posture

Here, it's sitting on the ironing board all shapeless and flopped over. But the fabric! It's fabulous! However, bags should be lined with light colored fabric. I almost attached a small flashlight just to help her find shit. I can't honestly say I regret the pink flamingos. 

Scary Ladies Drawstring

I did not understand that I could not attach a recessed drawstring to any part of the bag other than the top. Well, fine. The ribbon is pretty and maybe she'll just tuck it inside and leave it be. Except if she does that, she'll never see the VERY DOG DAMNED GINORMOUS ZIPPERED DETACHED FREE FLOATING EXCEPT FOR THE ANCHOR POCKET. Bummer.

Scary Ladies Hang copy

It has a square bottom but it's too big to be that shapeless. Even with the light interface, it's still a bit cumbersome. Good news: Lucia did not seem to care. Must be the scary ladies.

I decided to shake things up with the guys. I may have gone a bit too far but it's hard to say. Mike doesn't emote much and it doesn't take a lot of Godzilla to get that guy going. 

Bucket bags. OK, so, yeah, I get it now. 

Godzilla Front Flopped

Me and zippers. Not so much. But would you look at that bouquet of pink flamingos?! And why a vertical zipper? No one has ever liked them, they're an absolute pain in the ass but I thought it would be more fun to cut him in half up and down instead of side to side. Also, I gave up on any sort of quilting standards. It was barely recognizable no matter what I did. In the end, I ironed on some interface, cut him out, and ran the machine around him until he stayed in place. Those frayed edges. Yeah. Whatever.

Godzilla Back

I love the little dino. He loves the little dino. Fuzzy or no fuzzy, the little dino stays.

Godzilla Interior 2

This is where the little dino came from. Please avert your eyes when you get to the bottom of the bag. 

Godzilla Hangs

He hangs pretty much OK, but those grommets where a bitch. For some reason, the two I put in for Lucia were easy peasy, this guy, not so much.

Mike does have a sense of humor, I'll give him that. And there is a history/story behind the Tonka Trucks. The short version is that in either 1988 or 1989, the Tonkas all turned a horrid, tragic plastic. My mother, wandering through a Toys R Us for whatever reason, came upon the last of them. She bought him a fleet and it was an epic fleet. So many Tonkas, so many sizes, so incredibly durable and we rode them, he and I, in the driveway. Perched precariously on the largest of the fleet, I followed him in circles as he scooted around on one Tonka after another. 

So that's why.

Tonka Unzipped

Still with the butchered zippers.

Tonka Fold

Um. We are only viewing the little truck just now. OK? Nothing else.

Tonka Pockets

I love making pockets and I am aware that I don't need to make so many. Also, you may examine the bottom of the bag. It does not suck quite so horribly. 

Tonkas Back

This is my favorite part. Tumbling trucks chained together (because I got tired of stopping and starting with each truck), and an little, bitty upright tractor just out of sight, pulling them down and away. 

He also hangs fairly well.

Tonka Hangs

I delivered these bags on Christmas morning. It was a stop, drop, contactless Santa run. It was Christmas morning because THAT'S HOW LONG IT TOOK ME TO WORK THIS SHIT OUT.

And then I got in trouble. First, a word about those god awful colors. I ordered 8 yards (2 yard minimum of each) of what I believed to be quilting cotton (that's a very high thread count) in four very different shades of yellow, blue, salmon, and off-white. 

Right. When Joann Fabrics has a clearance, sometimes you need to question why or how a yard of cotton could cost less than a dollar. It's not a remnant, people. When the fabric arrived, I wept. I'm not even sure we could call it broadcloth. If I sent it back and reordered, I'd have my fabric in February. The store nearest me had nothing in stock other than mostly full price. Also, I hate going in stores.

So I worked with it. And then I got in trouble. In an effort to avoid giving Elizabeth's dad a ridiculous bag, I changed it up. Elizabeth's dad has a very good sense of humor and an amazing sense of the absurd, but he's not going to use a ridiculous bag. Not for anything. 

So I made little bitty, laptop shape and size quilt.

Tumbling Blocks

The blocks are almost entirely hand pieced. Putting those diamonds through the feed dogs was more effort than it was worth. I sat and pieced the hexes and then I pieced weird shaped blocks, and then I was done. I used the sort of interface you use when covering furniture. It goes between the foam and the fabric and it's thick as shit. I had a bunch of it leftover from the window seat in Chappaqua. 

Did you know that if you iron the shit out of that stuff, you can make a fairly thin, incredibly dense, and very durable lining sheet? I had no trouble machine quilting through those three layers. The fact that Stitch in the Ditch is a near improbability is barely relevant. I love this best of all. I cut up a very soft, very black cotton shirt and quilted matching blocks for the back. After a day or two of watching the lint rent out rooms on the back I gave up and drove to that blasted store.


It's a little darker grey than the photo's admitting too, but you get the point. Neoprene! And the machine don't hate it. This is not where I got in trouble. I got in trouble with... THE ZIPPER!!!! AHHHHHH

I've torn this thing apart four times. I've destroyed three zippers. I finally changed my zipper size and style and successfully made a  zipper panel. To answer your question, yes, I do have a nest of zippers in my stash. Shut up. 

Zipper panel

Do not discuss my inability to stitch anything in a straight line. 

I don't like basting. I consider it a waste of time and thread. Well, now I consider it absolutely essential because I'd far rather rip out basting stitches than the alternative. This is very serviceable, assuming it's connected to the collar and the bag correctly.

The point is to have a recessed zipper that is at the top of the bag, not two inches down. First, I need all that space for the hardware, and second, the collar is going to have grommets, of the sort you hammer in, for handle webbing. 

Design, design, design on top of exquisite functionality. That man IS design and functionality. I cannot hand over a brute forced object the way I'll gladly toss them toward my very forgiving children. I just can't.

Blocks and collar

Sometime today I'm going to attach the collar and zipper panel to the front and back of the bag in a way that will look, um, good. Let's call it good.

The last time I sat on the couch with Aunt Annie, we talked for hours and hours, by which I mean six or seven of them. Just before her done button popped (over-stimulated, needs to be dark and quiet for a bit, maybe a nap, maybe just alone), we were talking about knitting and, as she often does, she self-deprecated the hell out of herself. I listened to her talk about the imperfections in her work and I was sad because most of these things are irrelevant unless you're really attached to perfect.

Yes. I do hear myself.


Page 1 of Annie's book:

Who, When & Where:         My great grandma, Mamie, circa 1972, McKinnley Avenue, Westwood, NJ. 
Boots:                               Elizabeth's
Throne:                             Lobby chair at The Saint's Hotel in Key West. Yes, it really is that big. 
Jack:                                 My grandfather, Mamie's oldest
Betty:                               My grandmother, married to Jack, spawned Annie and my dad
Original footprint:              Elizabeth, sitting just like her great, great grandma ;)



Feed You can follow this conversation by subscribing to the comment feed for this post.

Verify your Comment

Previewing your Comment

This is only a preview. Your comment has not yet been posted.

Your comment could not be posted. Error type:
Your comment has been posted. Post another comment

The letters and numbers you entered did not match the image. Please try again.

As a final step before posting your comment, enter the letters and numbers you see in the image below. This prevents automated programs from posting comments.

Having trouble reading this image? View an alternate.


Post a comment

Your Information

(Name and email address are required. Email address will not be displayed with the comment.)