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forwarding address

Saturday, July 4th, 2009

i can’t keep up any more. i just can’t keep up. i want to live through each day with reflection, attentive to the magic that’s just beneath the surface of each moment and stitching helps me do that as it slows my brain down to a speed that allows for contemplation. i love picking up fabrics that are nearby, fabrics that appeal to me, fabrics that i can reach then combining them in ways that emerge and evolve in ways that surprise and amaze me. i start with a kernel of an idea; i wind up with wonderment at the end result.

i have unpacked the last box of the move, but there’s still much to do, miles to go before i’m settled . . . which means i can’t stitch everyday and having a blog that goes untended with tales of cloth and thread makes me feel miserable and kinda’ guilty, in a crazy, wonky way.


i’m saying good bye to autoquiltography, and in the spirit of wanderlust that seems to be the mark of 2009, i’m moving to the new blog i’ve created – The Barefoot Heart – a place where i’ll traipse and tell.

i hope you’ll bop on over and visit. there will be occasional escapade with cloth – i promise – because, really, while i can’t stitch every day, i just can’t live without it.



Friday, May 8th, 2009

notes to self:

#1: if you’re posting only the first part of something, end with “to be continued”.

#2: if you’re going to do a soap blopera, finish the whole damn thing BEFORE posting each individual bit, just in case you get waylaid by, well, waylaid.

hoping for some stitching time this weekend. stay tuned . . .


no need to call for firetrucks

Tuesday, February 26th, 2008

so i finally decide to trace those shadow branches i love so much, and turns out the housebound ham-cat loves them, too:


not a wrap . . . yet

Saturday, February 16th, 2008

having a bit of a blueblah day here. left my sewing machine, fabrics, threads, and other creative fiber paraphernalia at j’underneath. was only going to be here for 2 busy, filled nights, so no need to haul it home.

then the plans changed, and we stayed.

had a rather lazy day today. phoebe (our corgi child) woke up with a bloody bald spot on the right side of her face, so we put her on benedryl and have been applying warm compresses, neosporin, and powder every hour or so.

spent a good portion of yesterday blog browsing, finding myself in the personal development arena. found all these programs that promise to teach you how to create the life of your dreams. that appealed to my accomplishment-oriented self, but i successfully reminded myself that what i want now is to putter creatively without being driven to check things off my daily list. i want to scratch my creative itch.

then today i browsed fiber blogs, and fought the stinking little voice that asked what on earth i thought i had to offer that is unique and artistic and thought-provoking, but i successfully – okay, truth be known: i’m still working on it – reminded myself that this is not and will never be a competition. and anything i create will be unique to me, and that. is. enough.

since i often think better quality thoughts when my hands are in motion and because my current barely-started creative projects are in north carolina, i pulled out my thread project jar. it’s just a little something i do when i need to slow myself down: covering a canning jar with thread. i have visions of coating it with that stiffy stuff when the spool is empty, then breaking the jar, leaving me with a, well, if all goes according to plan, a thread-covered vessel.

that stinging, sniping, sabotaging voice is telling me i should say for the record that i know it’s of no practical use, this project of mine, and that i know that it’s a silly thing to be doing in the first place, but you know what – i think i’ll just show you a picture then get back to wrapping.


Muddy Ruffles

Monday, June 4th, 2007

I love looking at the ocean

I love hearing the ocean

but I hate the sand

and I hate the salt.

I’m not supposed to,

of course.

Who in their right mind

hates being on the beach?

Salt on my fingers
annoys me, too.

I like french fries,

like eating them with my fingers.

I eat a couple

then wipe, wipe, wipe

my fingers

until all the tiny annoying


are gone.

When I was a little girl,

I refused to play in the mud.

Apparently all little girls

like to make mud pies.

All normal little girls, anyway.

I did not,

and that,

like a grain of sand

or salt


my mother.


one day when I was wearing my

favorite, frilliest panties,

she picked me up,

took me out the door, down the steps, out into the backyard

and plopped me on my ruffles

in the mud puddle.

She still laughs about it,

the mental image of me crying in the mud.

I’d forgotten all about it

until she remembered it to Alison a few weeks ago.

What’s funny to me is

how different

mothers and daughters

can be.



Monday, June 4th, 2007

If Victoria really does have a secret, I sure do wish she’d share it with me.

One recent wild and crazy evening, I ventured into the local Victoria’s Secret store with my daughter. It’s been years since I was measured for a bra. Decades. Millenniums.

When we were twelve, Pam’s mother interrupted our play time one day to take us shopping. In the lingerie section. For training bras. Looking back, it’s probably a good thing she didn’t give us all the details beforehand because we’d’ve undoubtedly found some reason to escape the inevitable and overwhelming embarrassment of being presented to some strange woman in front of God and everybody to discuss our about-to-expand breasts.

“These girls need to be fitted for a bra,” Miss Betty told the woman. I swear she yelled it at the top of her lungs.

“All right,” the woman said, taking the tape measure from around her neck, “hold up your arms.”

“Why do I have to go first?” I asked, looking around for my friend, Pam, who had suddenly become keenly interested in the silky slips and fancy nightgowns on the other side of the department.

I raised my arms and the woman bent down, wrapped that tape around me, and announced to the world the results. “I think she’ll need a DOUBLE-A,” she told Miss Betty and off they went in search of. “Come on, Jeanne,” Miss Betty all but snapped at me as I headed off to join Pam. “We’ve got to get your BRA.” She was yelling. She really was.

We found the section of  little pink and white boxes then rummaged around till we found a size AA. “We’ll take two of them,” Miss Betty said. It came to a buck ninety with tax.

Once home in the solitude of the bathroom, I removed the teensy little thing (that seemed so incredibly large at the store) from the box and tried to figure out how to don it. It seemed easier to put the so-called cups in the back, attach the hook in the eye, then turn the bra around and slide my arms into the straps. The straps. My next dilemma was adjusting the straps. This was before elastic straps were invented, and it took a good little while to get the straps situated so the so-called cups covered my soon-to-be breasts and not my knees.

Two hours later with one bra on, I began to worry about other people being able to see the bra underneath my shirt. Then I realized that wearing a bra probably meant I’d soon be wearing blouses instead of shirts. And what happened when my breasts really did start growing and poked through the hole in the bra? It was covered with the flimsiest bit of stretchy flannel fabric.

Our mothers must have talked because Monday morning at school, the raciest girls were snapping each other’s bras. Right in front of everybody. Some even ducked into the bathroom before homeroom to slip into some fishnet stockings and garter belt.

My world was changing.

My breasts grew – one more than the other, for some strange reason. Children were born and fed. Gravity began to take over. I discovered sports bras, and though the wide white straps perpetually showed around my neck, they held my breasts in and kept them from jello-dancing, kept them from smacking me in the face when I ran.

That was fine for years and years . . . until my daughter Alison led me into Victoria’s Secret and right up to the young emaciated woman who worked there. “My mom needs to be measured for a bra,” Alison announced far too loudly for my taste. “Hold your arms up,” the young woman (obviously a direct descendant of the double-A woman) ordered me as she removed the tape measure from around her neck. She was able to reach around me, not having to ask Alison to catch one end of the tape  measure when she tossed it to her. I took that as a good sign.

She measured me, this numbers girl, then she walked right over to the intercom, her shoes clicking like gunshot on the polished floor, spit into the microphone to make sure it was working optimally, then announced:  “JEANNE CHAMBERS NEEDS A D-CUP.” Alison was excited. I was horrified. A D-cup is for old ladies. I’d never be able to drive wearing a D-cup. My arms aren’t nearly long enough. I’d never be able to work on my computer wearing  a D-cup. I’d never be able to walk without falling while wearing a  D-cup. 

“You might be able to use a DOUBLE-D,” she continued. “AT LEAST ON THAT ONE SIDE.” 

“Where are the D-CUPS?” Alison shouted at the young woman.

“I’ll show you to the D-CUPS,” came the loud, loud, loud reply. And as they walked over to the D-CUPS, Alison asked for an underwire version, a push-up bra. The kind of bra the “loose” girls wore in high school. Why would they even make D-cups in a push-up version, I wondered. Seemed totally unnecessary. Absurd. Ridiculous. And to top it all off, they were padded. D-cups. Underwire. Padded. Doesn’t that sound like overkill to you?

I balked with embarrassment and what sure seemed like logical common sense resistance. 

Alison got on her cell phone and began calling her friends to ask what size bras they wore and to proudly report that her mother wears a D-CUP. I was horrified. Women don’t share personal numbers, I hissed at her. How rude to call and ask such a thing. But they were all cheering for me, voicing envy at me being in a  D-cup.

I bought a drawer full of D-cups (the drawers can only hold 3 bras of this magnitude) and brought them home to try on.  While it’s true: they did make my waist look smaller and it’s true I finally understood the concept of desirability of bras that lift and separate: my chest was cooler what with the air able to flow between my breasts and my stomach, and while it’s true that it was nice to be able to wear lower-cut tops, the straps presented a problem: they simply will not stay on  my shoulders. And it’s hard to feel confident and capable and complete when your elbow catches in your bra strap. It really is.

So. I gave all those Victoria Secret fully-loaded D-cup bras to Alison and am heading back to the underwear department at K-Mart to see if they have anything in a D-cup for smaller shouldered women like me. I’m pretty sure they don’t have women roaming around with a tape measure and microphone there.


Fed at Ancestral Tables

Monday, April 16th, 2007

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

Where using the back door is a sign of intimacy.

Where we knew it was company when someone used the front door, requiring us to holler out an apology for taking so long to open the door that was perpetually locked and stuck tight.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

Where grown-ups sip Luzianne coffee

so strong it puts hair on the chest of women

and scares it off the men.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

where the women

cry silently throughout the day

and years later

decades later

lifetimes later

their children remember and wonder why.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

Where the women have their own heavily lacquered chair

within reach of the refrigerator, the sideboard, and the stove. Chairs

seldom used as the women keep plates filled with nourishment and glasses filled

with sweet tea to wash it down with.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

where the men shoot guns

and butcher hogs

while the women swap fabric scraps in brown paper bags

and sew quilts for every family member

and plant, tend, and harvest the summer garden,

cooking fresh vegetables for lunch

and stocking the pantry with canned vegetables for the winter.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

where Grandmother refused the gift of a dishwasher,

sending it straightaway to its final resting place in the back of the barn

preferring to spend however long it took to wash, rinse, and dry the considerable number of containers and utensils used at any given meal.

I’m from the Ballard kitchen table . . .

where Granddaddy told his stories over and over and over again

where Grandmother remained silent as though she had none.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m from the Hewell table . . .

where the women enjoy dressing nicely, being with men and each other.

where women earn their keep by taking care of the men in their lives.

I’m from the Hewell table . . .

where personal information is kept

tucked safely away behind closed lips

so it can’t be used as a weapon against you.

I’m from the Hewell table . . .

where it’s nobody’s business how old you are

’cause if they know how old you are, they’ll treat you that way.

Just ’cause you can count something, doesn’t mean it counts.

I’m from the Hewell table . . .

where the women hate to bother anybody.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I write at a kitchen table that belonged to both my grandmothers

and to the town library before them.

A table where Granddaddy Hewell patiently fed my

Grandmother one bite at a time after the strokes

left her arms and hands useless.

I write at a kitchen table where the leftovers

were pushed to the center of the table after the meal

and covered with a clean tablecloth, allowing

us to graze our way through the rest of the day

not knowing what was available to eat


we lifted the covering and looked underneath.

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~

I’m from women who have staying power.


I don’t think so. They didn’t bounce back as much as they persevered.



Those are words that work.


Perhaps that’s The Word I seek.

I’m from women who just kept putting one foot in front of the other


Keep moving.

“You’ll feel better if you move”, they’d say.

along with:

“This, too, shall pass”


“It could be worse.”

“Did your life turn out the way you’d imagined it would?” I’d ask them.

If not – and I’d hasten to ask Does it ever? –

Why did they stay?

Why didn’t they change something?

Or did they try?

Did they feel helpless?

Did they buy into the patriarchy-infested religion,

believing that their lot in life was precisely what they’d earned?

What they deserved?

Did they believe that some male figure sat Up There

and decided that they were worth no more or no less

than their current lot in life at any given time?

How did they make themselves believe that everything was okay?

And who am I to say it wasn’t?

~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~ ~


True Grain(s)

Monday, February 26th, 2007

True Grain(s)
The best way to find the true grain of fabric is to rip it.

Ignoring questions I hurl at myself about Why and How and What will I do with it afterwards and Who will be interested in it anyway and Where will I store it, I find the true grain of every piece of fabric in that one box. I rip fabric with images of pine cones that represent the land of my birth. I rip fabric with images of butterflies, once the emblem of my company. I rip fabric with images of stars and moons and flowers and scissors. I rip fabric of dusty pink, coral, and soft blues – fabric I now find hideous but once loved. I rip the fabric I created that day when I played in the driveway with a friend creating fabric from special solar-activated paint, the fabric I felt wasn’t nearly as pretty or interesting or good as what she created. I rip myself a pile of true grains, and when I fold the remaining fabric up, I do not fold along the well-preserved creases. I fold it a new way.

Soon – very soon, maybe even tomorrow soon – I’ll use the fabric in a new way, too. Will probably create something that has to be dusted, but still. I’ve finally started and for today, that’s enough.