Thursday, November 26, 2009


kuira"Kuira" (quee rah) is a greeting of the Raramuri people of Northwest Mexico. This indigineous group lives along the rim and canyon areas of the Sierra Tarahumara and the Copper Canyon, where we traveled last week.
A ten hour train ride took us from the town of El Fuerte to Creel, located in the heart of this area. The beautiful and open expanse of this canyon area was breathtaking to behold, and the Raramuri (all ages) were ever present as sellers of their handmade goods: baskets, carvings, and sewn items. The women wore beautifully crafted traditional dress of brightly colored skirts and blouses, and babies were often held to their back in a shawl. Small children would run up with baskets of trinkets to show us, and then would head back to their mothers who were making more items right there on site.parade5
The Raramuri speak their own language and live a harsh existence along the rim and into the canyons of this rugged terrain. I  witnessed many groups of women doing their laundry at river beds, and hanging the clothes to dry on fenceposts. Their beautiful outer garments contain meters of cotton, so I just couldn't imagine doing all that washing at the local stream, soaping, rinsing, hanging to dry... this certainly gave me a renewed appreciation for EVERYTHING!
master sewerOne women gave me reason to pause as I watched her sew one appeared to be a running stitch to later be gathered on her expanse of muslin. Maybe an undergarment? Maybe some bedding? She obviously had been doing this for many years, stitch after stitch, the memory of the needle through her fingers strong and firm. I felt a small connection with her and that repetitious task, yet also knew that somehow I had been blessed with a much easier life. I don't think I'll forget her.

Friday, November 20, 2009


sewing ladies nov09 023This morning was my first return to the community center where I spend every Monday morning when I'm in Mazatlan. It was a celebretory homecoming for my friend, Bev, and I who have been working with a group of  "sewing ladies" there for several years. And what a great morning it was! These gals know how to pack a lot of punch into one event.
Initial greetings are always full of hugs and kisses and Spanish phrases I try to interpret without losing the flow of the moment. There were many. Then I was greeted by Ivan, a young man who has been teaching art to this group. He assisted me last year in teaching the women to silk paint; it was a great collaboration - Ivan with his art background and my limited but sufficient silkpainting experience. In his arms, he presented me with a beautiful watercolor he had done. It is similar in style to the large mural he recently completed at the center....colorful and full of life, displaying all of the classes and endeavors that take place at this community center in a poor colonia in Mazatlan. I felt so honored! sewing ladies nov09 052 After the greetings and casual catching up/show-n-tells of projects they've recently completed, the real guests of honor showed up. Art and Jacquie Plunz of Red Deer, Alberta, arrived to see each of the 13 women involved in the group receive one of the sewing machines that they brought down in their truck and fifth-wheeler from Canada.  Our group leader, Toy Pruneda, had been in contact with Art and Jacquie and had discussed the needs of the group, and this generous couple took it from there. All of the machines where donated through their church or community members and are in excellent condition with recent service records. Toy also told them that the ladies like to make purses and other items out of used jeans, so the youth group at church took over and collected MANY...I didn't count but saw at least 5 or 6 huge bags. Art told me that the box of his truck was packed full, and initially the Mexican border guards were hesitant to let him pass through without a tariff, but gave him the "green light" upon realizing they were from Canada. sewing ladies nov09 043One by one, each lady sat with their "new" machine for a photo opportunity.  Here is Dora Alicia, one of the most accomplished sewers, who was chosen by Toy to receive the newest machine. In her hands, she holds a photo of Sharon Dickaw, the owner of this machine, who recently passed away. Her kind husband, Dale,wanted to make sure her machine was passed on to someone very special. What a beautiful and generous act! Dora Alicia, like all of the other twelve, were so happy and so appreciative of these gifts. Each then bestowed gifts of items they had made to Art and Jacquie to deliver to their generous friends in Red Deer.sewing ladies nov09 047

Jacquie is holding one of Lola's dolls and wearing one of Magui's beautiful scarves. Art was the recipient of a great apron along with many other sewn and hand-crafted items.
But the party wasn't over. As it was Cata's birthday (29 again!), we shared a lovely meal together of tamales, frijoles, ceviche, fruta, etole, and pineapple cake (pastel de pina). She was given a pile of canned goods and household items (from tp to laundry soap), collectively donated by the rest of us, as a most utilitarian gift.
And, as icing to the cake, we were blessed with two solos by our talented singers, Ceci and Lola. My heart was full and warm!

Thursday, November 12, 2009


birthday greetings
Hey Lee, this one's for you! You're the first recipient of my birthday quilt, and I can't think of a more deserving one. May your days be abundant and full, your garden the best ever, your dog walks full of sunshine and warmth. Enjoy enjoy! Cheers and hugs, Mary and Tom
(This was October's quilt journal, with the theme of "repetition". It started as a car project during our travels, and those candles are the repetitious part. Like the hands on the clock, the candles go round and round, repeating themselves, another year, another birthday.)
It's great to have friends like Lee to share in the repetition!

Monday, November 9, 2009


observing my process
I am currently having the opportunity to observe my creative process. This all has become very apparent to me as I began to undertake my first "mystery quilt". For those of you not privvy to this activity, the directions are doled out a month at a time (as is the case in my guild), and after the 5-6 months of directions, you end up with a surprise quilt.
Some people plan a quilt or other project with great care and planning. The colors, the design, the fabric acquisition, the borders, the binding, the batting, the backing, etc., are all decided upon beforehand, much as a professional does when contracting for a job. It is not left to happenstance or midstream changes - everything is written out beforehand. Well, that is not me. I've always known this fact, but this activity has made me more acutely aware, and I actually am stepping back and watching this whole process of mine unfold. Yes, I guess I could blame my schizo life-style...half time in BC and halftime in Mazatlan. But I'm not looking to place blame here....just observe. I really don't think there's any other reasoning than it's just me.
Month #1 had a major heading at the top : "Sept. 2009 - Fabric acquisition and step 1". There were three parts to this page:  (part 1) finished size and fabric needed, (part 2) fabric suggestions for each of the 6 steps, and (part 3) directions for step 1. Here's where my trouble began - I read SOME of part 1 and then went directly to parts 2 and 3. In part one, I read that I needed 6 fat quarters that went together but totally passed over the other fabric requirements, which happened to be alot of fabric - for background, inner and outer borders, binding, backing etc. I never had a clear idea of the size of this quilt. I told myself I would deal with it once I arrived and got settled in Mazatlan. But I did follow the directions in parts 2 and 3 that told me to cut twelve 5"x5" squares from a focus or pictorial fabric (the rooster above) and then I threw together some fat quarters that I had in my stash, put everything in my suitcase and headed south.
October arrived and my second set of directions was sent by email. I was directed to make twenty 5"x5" squares using fat quarter#2 and the background fabric. "Background fabric????" I said to myself. "What background fabric?" I now go back to September's directions and see this whole section that totally passed by my attention. So now, anxious to get started, I am making myself go back to the beginning and I am putting together my fabric for the WHOLE project (well, maybe not the backing!).
And what do I observe? Reading ALL the directions and moving along step by step are challenges for me. The idea of taking a moment to visualize a potential finished project is almost foreign to me. I tend to either get in a hurry or get so focused on one little element that the whole gets lost in the process.  I can't tell you how many times one little VERY IMPORTANT element has gone unnoticed. It's embarrassing... but it's me!  I honor my serendipitous, seat of the pants, flexible, adaptive ways, but stepping back and observing my process through this mystery quilt can also be used to my benefit. Maybe I'm the mystery to be solved in all of this. I love surprises!

Thursday, November 5, 2009


After a month on the road, we finally arrived in Mazatlan. With a mountain of tasks ahead of us in setting up our house, organizing etc., I set my personal priorities: get the kitchen clean and set up, make the bed, get the phone and internet reconnected, and then dip my toes into the waters of dyeing, sewing and creativity! My few handsewing projects while traveling kept me busy but now I want to fill my life with fabric! Of course I know how to multi-task the everyday household tasks with the fun stuff!
So first things first...unearthing all my pieces to hang on the walls, setting up my studio, etc.
I have always been concerned about storing my cotton hangings in the horribly humid climate here in Mazatlan during the summer. A few years back, I found mildew on one piece, and another had some running of dye that left some unsightly stains. With washing, the first came out fine and the second had remnants of staining that I never did remove.
My current method is to set up a large diameter dowel across 2 tall objects so I can drape pieces over it. I start with a towel, and then alternate hangings with towels or pillow cases, until I am done. I never want two hangings to come into contact with each other, just in case some dye runs. All of this happens in the middle of a room in which we leave a fan running to keep the air moving. A large sheet drapes over the whole package. Everything came out beautifully except for pieces I had to fold...even with this summer's Hurricane Rick! Those creases are buggers, but I am hoping they will disappear after hanging for awhile. I'll be keeping my eye out for a longer dowel this year to accomodate my bigger pieces.
It has been great for Tom and I to connect with our Mazatlan friends, and for me to get back with my favorite quilts and hangings. They, too, are just like old friends!