Quilting bees

The other day I watched Bee Movie, a smart, funny animated movie about a young bee, Barry, who questions life in the hive and seeks adventure and friendship among humans. He discovers a great conspiracy: the sale of honey stolen from bees, fields of hives pressed into slavery. When I heard this, I couldn’t help thinking of the Quilting for Peace campaign:

“Mr. Ditchwater, the way we work may be a mystery to you, because making honey takes a lot of bees doing a lot of small jobs. But let me tell you something about a small job. If you do it really well, it makes a big difference. More than we realized. To us, to everyone.”

Quilts for the wounded at Fort Hood

I am constantly amazed by the speed with which quilters respond after a tragedy. Less than two weeks after the shootings at Fort Hood, Texas, 31 gorgeous quilts, one for each of the wounded, have been delivered to the chaplain. Cherri from Cherry House Quilts organized the effort, with the help of her son Luke, an Army Specialist based at Fort Hood. Cherri wrote on her blog, “Even among the tough military personnel, at the sight of all quilts; tears were shed. Luke had the honor of handing out the first quilt to one of the wounded in Darnell Hospital.” Home of the Brave Quilts, profiled in the book, is gathering quilts for the families of those who died. If you’d like to give a quilt, contact Sandi at homeofthebravequiltsnational at yahoo dot com.

Why bags should be beautiful

I am terrible at remembering to bring reusable shopping bags to the store with me. Having bags made of great, interesting fabric helps. That’s one purpose of design, right? When you appreciate how something looks, you remember to appreciate the object itself. When something is a pleasure to use, you’re more likely to use it. Here’s a bag I stitched up last night before bed, using Claire Morsman’s pattern (it’s in the book), two fat quarters, and a couple of scraps. I love it. And this morning it carried a couple of books I’d been meaning to bring to work for ages – I just needed an excuse to use the bag.

Quilts for veterans

People often ask me which of the causes in the book I feel most strongly about. It’s an impossible question to answer. Is global warming more urgent than homelessness? Theoretically, yes. Every day when I encounter actual homeless people, no. But the issues I feel most personally worked up about at the moment are the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq and the problems so many veterans and their families face when they come home. The number of veterans of the current wars who are unemployed equals the number of troops currently deployed. (The unemployment rate for vets is higher than the general population, and for returning servicewomen it’s even worse: 16%) A third of those returning face serious mental health problems like PTSD and depression. A third of homeless men are veterans, and the number of homeless vets from the current wars has increased dramatically recently. I’ve spent quite a bit of time with veterans and people working on veterans issues in the last year or so, both because of the book and because of a project I did for work. I’m also part of a group of advisors to a new social networking website for vets. I’ve heard numerous stories of young soldiers and marines reenlisting after multiple tours of duty because opportunities for work are so scarce and they feel like the only place they’ll be understood is in the military.

In the face of injury, PTSD, homelessness, joblessness, and despair, a quilt may seem like a small thing. But I’ve heard over and over again from quilters who make quilts for veterans and from veterans themselves, it’s a small thing that makes a real difference. So start a quilt top for Quilts of Valor tonight!

Make bags with me in NYC

I’ll be in New York next weekend for three crafty events I’m very excited about. Please come! I’d love to meet you. I’ll be showing how to make the 30-minute shopping bags from the book (pattern by the brilliant environmental activist Claire Morsman, founder of morsbags). Here are the details:

Saturday, Nov. 14, Noon to 6pm: DIY Design Day
PerkStreet Lounge @ 303 Grand St. , Brooklyn, NY 11211, L train to Lorimer // J train to Marcy
Lots of other fun projects besides mine. I’m excited to learn fabric printing with Heather Ross, author of Weekend Sewing. Also, free beer. RSVP here.

Sunday, Nov. 15, 9:15am to Noon: 30-Minute Shopping Bag Workshop
Purl Patchwork, my favorite fabric store @ 147 Sullivan St, New York, NY 10012, (212) 420-8798
The store is tiny, so you’ll need to call to reserve your spot.

Monday, Nov. 16, 4pm to 8pm: Etsy Labs Craft Night
Etsy Labs @ 55 Washington St, Brooklyn, NY 11201
I have never been to Etsy Labs. Totally excited.