Monthly Archives: March 2013

Block Thirty: Broad Arrow

Okay, fun subject today… let’s talk about prison uniforms, those items of clothing that were designed with a two-fold purpose: as a mark of shame and to make escape and avoiding recapture difficult.  (yippee-skippy)

Great Britain once used the Broad Arrow symbol, either stenciled or sewn onto clothing, to mark a person as a convicted criminal.  Here in the United States, stripes were the usual mark of a convict.

Either way the uniforms were decorated – arrows or stripes – they instantly shouted ‘prisoner’ to anyone that saw them.  So how does this relate to last week’s block in the Grandmother’s Choice quilt project?

In Great Britain, as here in the US, many suffragettes were willing to risk imprisonment to draw attention to the movement.  Once released from the prisons or workhouses, the members of the Women’s Social and Political Union turned the Broad Arrow into a badge of distinction, proudly wearing replicas of their uniforms in public displays to draw even more attention to the fight for women’s rights.

Mrs. Pankhurst and Christabel Pankhurst in prison dressWhen deciding on fabrics for my Broad Arrow block, I wanted to include a stripe as a nod to the women in the United States who used the same strategy – demonstrations utilizing passive resistance that resulted in arrest, conviction, and imprisonment to promote public awareness of their demand for the right to vote.  (oops… the queen of run-on sentences strikes again)

Broad Arrow Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's Choice

Take us home Mr. Sulu.  Full impulse power…

In other words, I’m going to make a sharp left turn away from reality and let you have another peek at the way my brain works.

Whenever I ponder prison stripes – and I don’t really ponder them too often, but when I do – my thoughts often wander over to memories of Krazy Kat, a comic strip created by George Herriman, that ran as a daily from 1913-1944.  Ahem… that was before my time, but my thanks go out to the many devotees who kept the strip alive until I could stumble across it.

The strip took place in Coconino County, Arizona, and the storyline revolved around a love triangle between Krazy Kat, a mindlessly happy creature who absolutely adored one Ignatz Mouse, and Offissa Pupp.. who was patently ignored.

Ignatz absolutely despised the naively curious Krazy Kat, and the one joy in his life was to “Krease that Kat’s bean with a brick.”  Krazy Kat always misinterpreted the brick bombings as a sign of Ignatz’ love.

Krazy Kat at Wikipedia

Meanwhile, Offissa Pupp – the Limb of Law and the Arm of Order – was always on the lookout for a chance to nab Ignatz and toss him in the pokey.  The strip would often end with Krazy disconsolate and alone, muttering, “Ah, there him is playing tag with Offissa Pupp, just like the boom compenions wot they is,” and Krazy Kat, the poetic clown, is left pining for her “L’il Ainjil.”

Of course the strip had many other wonderful characters that popped up here and there:  Mrs. Kwakk Wakk and Bum Bill Bee, Don Kiyote (an aristocratic coyote) and Walter Cephus Austrige, just to name a few.  But I know what you’re thinking… how much fun could it be reading about a perpetual victim of abuse where everyone uses an idiomatic vocabulary?  Lots.  You always knew how the strip was going to end – love always finds a way – and the joy, as in many things, is in the journey.

To our softhearted altruist, she is the adorably helpless incarnation of saintliness. To our hardhearted egoist, she is the puzzlingly indestructible embodiment of idiocy. The benevolent overdog sees her as an inspired weakling. The malevolent undermouse views her as a born target. Meanwhile Krazy Kat, through this double misunderstanding, fulfills her joyous destiny. — e.e. cummings

If you’ve never before heard of Krazy Kat there are several books out there that celebrate the comic art of George Herriman.  Who knows, you might just enjoy the antics of Krazy, Ignatz and Pupp as much as I did do.  Here are some other sources you might find interesting:

Krazy Kat (overview at Wikipedia)

The Comic Strip Library

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Block Twenty-Nine: Australia’s Star

A seven-pointed star for Australia.  You figure out the geometry on this block, I can’t, it’s well beyond my poor math skills.

Australia Barbara Brackman Grandmother's Choice Fight For Women's Rights

This is version two – my first try ended up in the trashcan accompanied by a stream of invectives you’d do well not to even try to imagine.  I’m sure that a few choice words are still lingering in the sewing room, there’s a cloud shape hovering up near the ceiling, violet streaked with black.  Occasionally a rogue syllable comes tearing out of the cloud, goes bouncing off the walls, and just generally has fun hearing its own sly echo (insert gremlin-type cackle here)… oh the shame.

I’m glad I gave the block a shot – two shots to be precise – but I’m happier still that the block is complete.

Block Twenty-Eight: Ocean Wave

Ocean Wave Barbara Brackman Grandmother's Choice Fight For Women's RightsThere isn’t a lot that I can say about this block.  Out of all of the blocks we’ve completed so far, I can easily say this one is my least favorite.  It was a super easy block to do, and maybe that has something to do with my apathy.

I may have to break down and rummage through old quilt books and patterns for a substitute, though I’d prefer not do that.  A little voice… er… my own particular form of logic suggests that there’s no way of knowing what Ms. B has in store for us in the next twenty-one weeks and I’d surely hate to duplicate a block.  I think I’ll leave it for now and try not to look at it much (so shut up little voice in my head, okay?).

I’ve finished the Easy Street top, and of course it was misting the day that I had the time to photograph it.  I will, however, get that done this week – pronto.  I’m so ready to get back to work on several other projects that are pending, but that’s not news.  What quilter doesn’t work on multiple projects simultaneously?

Since Easy Street is off the design wall, I put up the Grandmother’s Choice in its place.  Bad news: I’ve scotched the orange fabric, it just wasn’t cooperating as I’d planned.  I’m now in the process of re-working seven blocks that had orange in them.  Not a lot, true, but so many of them have Y-seams, it may take me a bit to wade through the stack.

But not this evening.  The sun is over the yardarm an hour earlier today (Spring Forward – yesss!), so I think, perhaps, that I’ll declare the cocktail hour officially open.

Tumbleweed Or Russian Thistle?

Trust me, it’s not a “Ginger or Maryann?” kind of question.  There’s a third alternative, some folks just a stone’s throw south of us call them Texas Tribbles.

I’m a roaming cowboy riding all day long,
Tumbleweeds around me sing their lonely song.
Nights underneath the prairie moon,
I ride along and sing this tune.

In case you young’uns don’t recognize the lyrics, that’s the opening stanza from a Sons Of The Pioneers classic.

You may or may not recall a passing remark I made a few weeks ago about a fair breeze blowing and how it was a good opportunity to toss out a few tumbleweeds to let them move on down the road.  I think I also mentioned that as soon as the wind turned, they’d probably be back.

Well, the wind turned, and they’re back, and they brought friends.

When I went out to the truck this morning, I got the impression that all of the tumbleweeds in the county came over for a party last night, passed out, and never left.

We had 50 mph (80.47 kph) winds yesterday evening.  Not a hugely big wind, we see wind speeds like that on a regular basis – not bragging, it’s just a fact of life in this corner of Oklahoma (the land is very flat out here you know).  But I have to say that it was an odd, swirly kind of wind that caromed off the eaves of the roof, hooted down the chimney, and apparently made it easy for the tumbleweeds to go airborne.

Hotie & PepperThe donkeys don’t look too happy.  It could be because of all of the tumbleweeds cluttering up their pasture, or it could be they’re hoping that tonight is the night for a ration of sweet feed.  I know for a fact that there’s a fence lurking underneath all of the tumbleweeds piled up just behind them.

paddockIt doesn’t look too awfully bad in this photo, but maybe I’m just setting up for the big finish.

dogsntmbleweedsOur two yellow dogs trying to figure out what happened to the gate.  They used to be able to squeeze right through, but tumbleweeds are terribly prickly, and that makes the gate an uncomfortable proposition.

OLYMPUS DIGITAL CAMERAThe boys finally got into the pasture, only to find themselves stymied once again.

weeorchard3Now I know that the last time I was out here there were a couple of peach trees.

[sigh]… Looks like we’ve got our work cut out for us.  There are far too many tumbleweeds to toss into the next high wind, so maybe I should change my name to woman-who-sets-fires?  And maybe that sounded too much like something from a bad Kevin Costner movie, so I’ll come up with an alternative… later.

Block Twenty-Seven: Grandmother’s Dream

Grandmother's Dream Barbara Brackman Fight For Womens Rights Quilt Grandmother's ChoicePlease don’t even ask me how many Y-seams are in this block, truthfully, I lost count.  Careful marking and pinning, s-l-o-w machine stitching, and a constant reminder to breathe got the block done.

It seems to me that my version of this block has a bit of the rosary about it.

All Barbara Brackman had to do yesterday morning was mention Caroline Garlinghouse Houghton’s three daughters: Katharine, Edith and Marion, and all thoughts of women’s suffrage fled my fluffy little head.

That was the exact moment when my brain vapor-locked, because I knew that the eldest daughter, Katharine Houghton Hepburn (a suffragist), just happened to be the mother of Katharine Hepburn (of silver screen fame).

I dutifully finished Barbara’s blog, but much as I love writing about the women’s rights movement, I love old movies more, and I absolutely adore Kate.

Yeah, I could have gone for one of the glamour shots, but Kate was so much more than just another pretty face.  On second thought, I don’t think that pretty is an adjective that should be used to describe her… pretty she wasn’t.  Kate was a handsome woman, her angularity was striking.  Her unique looks set her apart from other actresses of her era and was just one more item in her bag of tricks that she used to great advantage.

Of course her movies can make me laugh and they can make me cry, and sometimes I’ll even find myself doing both simultaneously, but Kate was exceptional at involving the watcher – if only vicariously – in an emotional gauntlet.

How about a top five list, done in no particular order?  Trust me, picking only five was tough, because all of her movies are personal favorites.

What’s not to love when Hepburn and Grant are teamed up?  Holiday (1938) is a classic meet-cute with an angle.  Boy meets girl, boy falls in love with girl, boy meets girl’s eccentric sister.  This was definitely a movie that made me laugh with delight, but if you screen it, keep that box of Kleenex handy.

While watching Alice Adams (1935), I suffered acute embarrassment, the kind where you’d just just as soon melt away, somewhat like the ice cream Alice serves up to impress Arthur Russell (Fred MacMurray).  Spoiler Alert: ice cream was not an outstanding choice for a leisurely dessert in a pre-central air summer heatwave.

I was so embarrassed for Alice that I was tempted to change the channel just so she could have some privacy.

Suddenly, Last Summer (1959): screenplay by Tennessee Williams and Gore Vidal (who had an uncredited appearance in the movie).  Oh, and what a supporting cast – Montgomery Clift, Elizabeth Taylor and the always eerily odd Mercedes McCambridge.  This movie has more dark twists and turns than a roller coaster, and Kate nailed the performance of a cold and calculating woman.   She was the personification of an overprotective, controlling mother, who always managed to turn a blind eye to her only son’s many faults.

The realization of what lengths people can go to when spurred by avarice, even turning against family, absolutely chilled my heart.

Lucky you, I’ve shared two stills from Sylvia Scarlett (1935).  One of Kate as Sylvester…

…the second of Kate as Sylvia, and why yes, that would be Cary Grant costarring again.  [Note: Hepburn and Grant teamed up a total of four times in Sylvia Scarlett, Bringing Up Baby, Holiday and The Philadelphia Story.]

An undercurrent of fear brought on by helping an embezzling father stay one step ahead of the law, a naive first love, and perhaps best of all, a comedic line that dances throughout the movie.

Kate costarred with Burt Lancaster (yowza!) in The Rainmaker (1956).  A snapshot of a  single day in the life of a plain woman who reaches the conclusion that a lonely life stretches ahead of her.  Galled by bitterness when she realizes just how much her father pities her, and with no one to call her own, she sees herself an outsider, locked into a spinster’s limbo.  Lizzie Curry is a woman empty of hope until Bill Starbuck, an outrageously flamboyant flimflam man steps into her life.

Now your mileage may vary when it comes to favorite movies by Kate The Great, and some of you will wonder at the absence of a single Hepburn/Tracy vehicle – even though they teamed up in nine outstanding movies – but a major consideration in my selection process was the thought, if someone had never seen a Hepburn movie, which five would I recommend?

So t-t-that’s all folks, all that’s missing is a fade to black… but I have always favored a big finish whenever possible.