Sunday, June 28, 2015

Stained Glass Brain 2: Straight Stitch Isn't Enough

 "Do you have a straight-stitch sewing machine, or a zigzag sewing machine?"

Fellow stitchers, what would you think if someone asked you that question? I would think: Here's somebody who once knew precisely the right question to ask about sewing machines.

But they haven't kept up. What about all the decorative stitches? Or the infinite stitch capabilities of computerized embroidery machines?  Or the high-power straight-stitch-only longarms?  "Straight or zigzag" doesn't even begin to cover it, and hasn't for the past thirty years or so.

Similarly, modern people can land anywhere along a wide and colorful gender and sexuality spectrum. Or rather, spectrums. "Straight or gay?"  is no longer nearly enough - and neither is LBGT. 

That's what I learned while working on this Bruce/Caitlyn Jenner-inspired many-gendered brain quilt. Here's where we left off last week, with freezer paper stencils surrounding a stained glass raw edge  appliqué brain. (There's a tutorial in that post.)
To backtrack a few years, I always thought that I was up on LBGT (Lesbian, Bi Gay Trans) issues, simply from reading and talking to friends.Then I spotted LBGTQ and had to look it up, Queer? Are you sure? Yes, indeed. The former insult had become a term of pride, to mean - 'gender non-conforming.'  

Years later, I stumbled across LBGTQQ -  I was sure that second Q was a typo, but just in case, checked with my teenager who had a terrific sex-ed class. Good thing I did! Q turned out to be Questioning! 

So then I was sure I knew it all, until a few months ago, I read that Facebook offers 56 different gender options! (They limit you to 10, however!?)

Not only that, but LBGTQQ had grown into LGBPTTQQIIAA+.  Did a cat step on a keyboard? No, it means (after the usual LGB) Pansexual, Transgender, Transexual, Queer, Questioning, Intersex, Intergender, Asexual, Ally. (I'm not sure what the + is for - does it mean "etcetera?")

While plotting out this quilt, it was clarified to me that when people talk about gender issues, they're talking about two different things: 

1. Gender identity. Which gender, if any, you identify with, 
2. Sexual preference, Which gender, if any, you feel desire for. 

And, like stitch length, width and shape, #1 and #2 can go together in an infinity of ways. 

So I decided to surround my quilted brain with gender identities and sexual orientations, plus a few words for allies.

I used words from friends and several different gender and sexuality vocabulary lists on the Internet. (One is here; teen-oriented list here.)  Here's the master list I compiled: 
Cis Female
 Cis Male
 Cis Man
Cis Woman
Cisgender Female
Cisgender Male
Cisgender Man
Cisgender Woman
Coming Out
Cross dressing
Dyke (like 'queer,' a former insult turned into a positive)
 Female-to-Male, FTM
Male-to-Female, MTF
Gender Fluid
Gender Nonconforming
Gender Questioning
Gender Variant
Homosexual (now considered outdated and stigmatizing)
Neutrois (Genderless)
Trans Gender
Trans Female
Trans Male
Trans Man
Trans Person
Trans Woman
Transgender Female
Transgender Male
Transgender Man
 Transgender Person
Transgender Woman
 Transsexual Female
Transsexual Male
 Transsexual Man
Transsexual Person
Transsexual Woman
Versandro/Versatile androgyne

That's about 75 terms. And believe it or not, there are many more; some I felt uncomfortable using, and some are still rolling in (see comments below).

I do not envy anyone in the unconventional category. No one would willingly go through what they endure, especially growing up, if they had a choice. So if they're a little picky about which of  75+ terms they want to be called - that's fine with me! More quilt coverage!

On the other hand, I also read that not all gender-nonconforming people like these labels. To tell you the truth, as I was stitching them out, some were a little intimidating. (I am a 'cis-person,' which sounds uncomfortable. I did once have a cyst on my ovary...never mind...)

That's why I decided to circle the borders with relationship words. Whatever the label, conforming and non-conforming people are ours. Our brothers, sisters, mothers, fathers, sons, daughters, friends, neighbors, ancestors, descendants, our beloveds.

I filled in the corner spaces with stylized neurons. (They look like starfish or sand dollars. Needs work.)

Initially, I had painted in the relationship words with "Decoulerant," a discharge product that is supposed to bleach out the words. But it didn't work consistently (I may not have used enough). When I removed the stencils, the relationship words around the borders were hard to read....

So I  painted inside the letters, using rainbow colors. I was literally painting on Friday while listening to the news announcement that the Supreme Court had upheld same-sex marriage. It felt so right.
Here's the more-or-less finished quilt. 
Incidentally, the concept of  a gender spectrum is not new. I just read an article which argues that classical Judaism has a half-dozen genders. One of the loveliest terms on new gender lists is the Native American  "Two Spirit." (Update: My friend Ellie sent me another Native American term: Berdach. Please look in the comments for more terms that Ellie sent me!)

If you don't have someone who's gender nonconforming in your life, watch this bat mitzvah kid. She is so poised and articulate, she made me cry. 

Part I of this series is here.

Congratulations to all the new potential brides and grooms (and the old ones, too)! 

Sunday, June 14, 2015

Bruce Jenner and a Stained Glass Brain Quilt Tutorial

I didn't watch the interview with then-Bruce/now-Caitlyn Jenner last month when she first announced that she is transgender, but I read about it, and one quotation stuck in my head, so to speak: "My brain is much more female than it is male."

That statement got me (and millions of others) thinking and arguing about what it means to have a brain that is masculine, feminine, both, or neither.    

Hmmm, just like my fabric stash. I have karate fabric and soccer fabric and football fabric that only depicts boys and men. 
And I have shopping fabric and housework fabric and handbag fabric with only girls or women, and/or in traditional girl colors. 

I do, however, have a golf fabric that depicts women golfers. 
(She's wearing blue pants. Is that code?)

It seems obvious to me that all our brains have masculine and feminine elements, but then again, what exactly is masculine or feminine? Is golf inherently manly? Is tea womanly? (If so: What gender is coffee?)

So, into my own brain came an idea for a quilt with male, female, and uncategorizable aspects. 

First, I looked at a lot of vintage phrenology images. Then I freehanded a brain chart on a large piece of paper. 
There are a zillion different ways to create stained glass effects in fabric. The technique I use here is adapted and simplified from Vicki Pignatelli's Quilting Curves. Great book!

 I don't have a huge ironing board, so I put it on top of a thick beach towel on the floor, to protect the carpet from iron burns. I laid black fabric (to serve as a stained-glass leading) onto that surface.

I traced the brain onto freezer paper, then pinned the freezer paper onto black fabric, shiny side down. 
I went through my stash, and found fabrics that seemed to have a gender. I made three piles: One for traditionally male, one for traditionally female, and one that could be both/neither.

Beginning at an edge, I cut out a freezer paper piece.

Placed it on the fabric to highlight the design.
Ironed it down. 

Cut a ways out from all the edges - 1/4" or more is good. Call this the safety margin. It doesn't have to be precise. 
(Now I'm switching to showing you a green piece because I didn't take a picture of the next two vital steps with the blue piece above - sorry!) 

Place the unit on top of the paper-backed fusible web, web side up, with the fabric covering the protruding fusible along at least one edge.
The upper right edge can be ironed safely, first. 

Once its partially pressed, cut the other edges off, cutting THROUGH the quarter inch margin of safety, but NOT going close around the paper pattern yet. Press again. 

Once the web is fully adhered to the back, it's time to cut close around the freezer paper pattern.
Peel away the freezer paper, but leave the paper backing behind the fabric.
Count the sides. This piece has about four. Keeping track of where you started, cut all the way around the piece again, removing about 1/4" from each of four side (does not have to be perfect). 

Now the fabric piece is smaller than the freezer paper pattern piece. This will allow the black "leading" to show. Put the piece back in position. You can see the black around all the edges.

Optional: Pin paper back in position on top of it (this is especially important if your project requires a high degree of accuracy.)
(Here I decided at the last minute to combine two pieces.) 

 Once you have done a bunch, it looks like this.
At some point, you can remove the freezer paper patterns. 
Press everything in position. 
Cut around the entire shape. 
Here's a closeup
On the left side, which I arbitrarily dubbed the female side, we have the pink handbag fabric, chocolates, bras, childrearing, a tea party, a peace symbol,  

A closeup of the "Good Advice fabric:
It says, "Act Bashful, Be Cute, Be Motherly". 
A drama comic...
and of course, the womanly art of vacuuming.
On the manly right side, I put Teddy Roosevelt, pliers, jacknives, darts, war planes, motorboats, basketballs, screws, electrical cords and the Yankees (among other things). 
Down the middle I put many things whose gender association is not so cliché maps; bicycles; mortality (skeletons). Ms. Golf.

I stitched everything in place with a zig-zag stitch in invisible thread. Next installment: Stitching it on the background, and quilting 75 gender identities and orientations into the background. Sneak preview: 
By the way, there is some science affirming what Bruce/Caitlyn described; Not only are male and female brains different, but gay men and straight women may have notable brain similarities distinct from those of straight men and gay women. (Read about them here..)
Continue to part II, here

Sunday, June 7, 2015

Need Coffee & Batik Scraps

For the last two weeks (1, 2) I've been showing quilts inspired by my coffee obsession. Here's a third one. It's made entirely of batik scraps.
There's an imaginary pipeline that leads from green coffee beans, horizontal across the top, brown beans, vertically running down. 
The lettering reads "Need Coffee." The cups (complete with eyes, to ward away the evil eye/bad coffee), beans, and letters are cut freehand. They're raw-edge appliquéd. 

For the bottom, I created a graduated strip set, Perhaps it represents foamed milk floating on coffee? (Or self-layering Jello?)
Embellished it with coffee-and-cream shaded buttons. (Milk molecules?)
Want to make your own version but need directions? Find them in Quilts for Coffee Lovers, here. For more adventures with batik scraps, start here.

P.S. I shared this link at Nina Marie Sayre's gorgeous art quilt blog. Her off-the-wall Friday project is a great way to share the week's creativity.