What a Sunday! First there was LaBrie’s “Two artists clean out their basement” garage sale, where we found fabrics, watercolor palettes, fabric trims, some cool old clothes and vintage postcards. There were lots of folks and everyone found something they needed to take home.
Everyone was masked and very respectful of personal distancing, and we felt safe and happy while we shopped.
We carried our goodies home and had a snack. I realized that these trims are going to find a place in this season’s work on my “Big Map of Portland.”
I put it away early this Spring, and it seems like time to bring it out and put some more layers on. These odd bits of color may be just what is needed. Of course, I see that I still need to embroider the Steel Bridge…. And put some lovely swirly bits in the Willamette River.
A little over a week ago, I pulled out an old project to work on. It is a map of Portland done in appliqué and embroidery. I have been adding and adding, trying to recreate the intricacy I see in my head, on the fabric.
Oregon Poet William Stanford was once asked, “How do you know when to stop editing?” He replied, “When it stops feeling creative.”
And that’s where I am, for now, with my map. In the last ten days I have added dozens of buildings, streets, and trees. I have gotten braver and freer with embroidery. I even think I know what I want to do with the river.
But it has stopped feeling creative. I feel like I am adding in desperation, thinking this next tree will make the difference. And it just isn’t. So I will set it aside again for a while and come back to it later, with fresh eyes.
That ‘later’ may be next week or next year. But it will be waiting for me.
A year and a half ago, I started a sewing project to celebrate and explore my new city. I love maps, and sewing them is a way to enjoy the process of city-building.
I got the basic sections laid out … the west hills, downtown, the Willamette River, and the east side, where we live.
I started by laying in the main parks, Laurelhurst ( and the smaller Lone Fir Cemetery) in the east, and Washington Park in the west hills. I didn’t forget the North and South Park blocks downtown. The dozens of trees in Washington Park took days to pin and sew!
I decided that I didn’t want to make a block -for-block exact map, but I did lay in some main streets so it would make more sense. Then I laid in the warehouse district on the east bank.
The Willamette River divides Portland east and west, and so far I have put in the Hawthorne and the Morrison Bridges. They require a level of precision that gives me the shakes, but I like the way they are turning out.
It was at this point, about a year ago, that I ran out of ideas. I couldn’t figure out what to put in next. So I folded up the map and set it aside.
And this week, after months of painting, baking, and writing, I figured it out. The map came back out and I started putting in the Laurelhurst and Sunnyside neighborhoods, where we live. I used a blanket stitch to show the rows of Victorian houses, and added dozens more trees.
And today, while listening to the Impeachment hearings, I put in most of the buildings downtown. There will be more streets downtown, and more embroidered details as they are needed.
I’m sure there will come a time when I run out of ideas again, and will pack the map away for a while. But for now, I’m sure having fun with it!