Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Climbing the Walls (Part II)

... cont'd from Part I.

[Author's note:  If all goes well this evening, final installment tomorrow!]

Don’t get me wrong.  I love me some denim. Gap dark wash Long and Lean jeans are the only casual staple in my wardrobe (primarily because they have the words “long” and “lean” right there in the title).  But, sewing denim is rather akin to sewing aluminum screening (which I’ve done on my Kenmore, by the way).  It never seems to go well.  Add that to the mental anguish I conjure at the mention of denim patchwork, and let’s face it, it’s hard to imagine how this could possibly end with anything “modern.”  
Nevertheless, a week or so later, Dawn arrived at work with two pair of jeans belonging to her son, Jordan.  “They’re a little rough,” she said.  “He’s been doing a lot of free-running lately.”    

Cool!” I answered.  “Not a problem.” 

A quick Wikipedia search later, and I’d discovered that free-running is a non-competitive, extreme sport in which participants maneuver their way from Point A to Point B through a series of acrobatic tricks or stunts with obstacles they experience in their urban landscape.  Such athletes will often jump from building to building or literally flip from fire escapes in an effort to express themselves and their creativity as impressively as possible. 

Free-running scene from recent James Bond movie, Casino Royale.

Indeed, once I’d read it, I remembered being in Dawn’s office a short time before when the principal called to say that Jordan was getting detention for standing on the roof.  I thought it was strange that a student would be penalized for such a thing until Dawn explained that Jordan had actually climbed the side of the building to get there.  While there technically weren’t any rules on the books against it at the time, I suspect the “Jordan Clause” is now firmly immortalized in the local high school handbook.  

Photo courtesy of Metro, online news site in the UK.  (http://www.metro.co.uk/news/79556-free-running-teen-jumps-50-000-metres)

Suddenly fascinated with the athletic side of this nice young man I’ve only ever known to play the mellophone in the marching band, I dug open the bag to investigate.  I have a hard time imagining that denim is actually the textile of choice for this extreme sport.  On the rare occasion that I wear jeans to work, I’ve got barely enough flex to lower myself into a chair, let alone scale the side of a building.  Yet, there they were, just as Dawn described:  Ripped, stained, and enough fringe at the bottom to make Charo swoon.  Add that to the fact that Jordan weighs 98 pounds (dripping wet with rocks in his pockets), and it was clear that we were going to need more fabric.

Good pair of Jordan jeans, minus the usable parts.

A quick trip to the Goodwill store, followed by a brief stay at the laundromat (and a solid week of jean surgery) left me with this partial stack of denim fabric, and a healthy set of hand cramps.  

I’d been searching the internet for modern denim patchwork, but with the exception of a handful of rag quilts and a few high-end handbags (here and here), there wasn’t much to be found.  So, the question remained:  What to make?  Enter my talented friends from the St. Louis Modern Quilt Guild.

I had just joined the STLMQG a short time before, and was drunk with happiness scouring the Flickr feeds of my fellow members.  Two beautiful string quilts, in particular, caught my eye (here and here) created by fellow guild members Cara and Mary Claire, respectively.   I had also just received the book The Practical Guide to Patchwork, by Elizabeth Hartman , that just so happened to contain instructions for a string quilt of this type.  So, I ran my rotary cutter through a pile of aluminum foil (does anyone actually think this works?) and started stripping.    

Monday, July 25, 2011

Climbing the Walls (Part I)

[Author's note:  Check back tomorrow for the next installment...  It's kind of a long story].

A few months back, a friend from work asked if I could make her a Kevlar quilt.  Kevlar is the fiber they use to make bulletproof vests, so I was a tad curious as to what she had in mind.  I’m an organic chemist by trade, but the friend in question is not, so I didn’t automatically assume she wanted me to extrude a sheet of polymerized phenylenediamine and terephthaloyl chloride units. Maybe she picked up a sample at the army surplus store and thought a bulletproof blanket would be cool?  Or, caught a glimpse of its chemical structure and simply liked the pattern?  I suppose one could mistake that for a bunch of tessellating hexies…

The skeletal and 3-D molecular structures of Kevlar (http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Kevlar).

I asked her what she had in mind.

“I need…” she started to answer, but then scooped up her iPhone and began tapping away.  I stood there for a moment, assuming she would finish, but she kept tapping and clicking and swishing her finger across the screen, until my curiosity (impatience?) got the best of me.

“You neeeeeeeed…” I prompted, watching her finger scroll through a chain of photographs on the tiny screen.  She finally stopped, looked up, and said in a definite “Your-Mission-Should-You-Choose-to-Accept-It”  kind of voice:


Now, Dawn is a great kidder, but she’s also much smarter than I am, so I can’t always tell whether she’s serious, or if she’s joking and I just don’t get it.  So, I mumbled a non-committal, “Uh-huh,” followed by a thoughtful, “I see,” and stared kind of blankly at her for a few moments.  “From what, exactly?” I ventured, hoping she’d crack. 

“From these!”  she smiled, turning the phone in my direction.  “Bwah-ha-haaaaaaaaaaaah!”

River and Rebel

“Yeah,” I nodded.  “Ferocious.” 

Dawn had lost an elderly pet cat to illness a few months before.  She brought these two little guys home from the Humane Society a short time after.    River and Rebel, presumably named, I suspect, for reasons best not to divulge in this particular forum.  J
She said they were great fun, mischievous and busy, but that they were ripping her to shreds.  Never having owned a pet before (except for Charlie, the goldfish I won at the school penny carnival that my sister poked to death on Valentine’s Day, 1984), I wasn’t sure what she meant, so she showed me.

[Wait…  You didn’t think I was going to show you a FLESH WOUND, did you?  Seriously, one of my pet peeves.  Had to un-friend a friend from Facebook because she insisted on posting progress photos of her mother’s gangrenous wound therapy…  Honestly, people…  I haven’t spoken to you since high school.  Did you really think that was going to get me to the reunion this year?]

Where was I?  Oh, right...  The flesh wound.

Her forearm was pretty scratched up, but it was her legs, she said, that caught the brunt of it.  “They’ve taken to using me as a launching pad,” she said, “And, I was hoping you could make me a lap throw for protection.”

“Happy to!”  I replied, always excited for a new project.  “But, not of Kevlar, right?”  (Just to make sure).  “That stuff stops bullets.  I’m pretty sure it can stand up to my Kenmore.”

 “No, no…” she answered.  “I was hoping you could use denim, instead.”



Because that would be better.