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Books for Everyone!

1 October 2021

Turkey Tracks


The first patchwork quilt that I sewed was called Turkey Tracks. It’s the last pattern in the quilt book entitled Small Quilts by Marsha McCloskey.


And, of course, it is the most difficult design in the book!


I embarked on this starter quilt during my pre-nuptial phase of life, while working In The Office. I was so enormously busy during those months that it took me nearly a year to complete the creative feat. By then I was a married woman, still employed as a tech writer/editor with the federal government. Most likely, I’d been inspired to select this historical American quilt design because of a sign, taped onto the office wall by my economist-friend-co-worker.


That sign, in the mid-1980s, queried:


HOW CAN YOU SOAR LIKE AN EAGLE WHEN YOU’RE SURROUNDED BY TURKEYS?

It’s a question asked even more today, by Americans everywhere — well beyond the federal enclaves of the Potomac, but maybe even within the Beltway bastion of Turkeydom.


In Sacramento, at the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, I had an “in” regarding the real truths about the high ranking and rank morons who worked in Mecca, since I’d worked among them prior to relocating to the River City:


At the top, perched on the highest roof of any agency, the turkeys roost. From time to time, they are forced, by the crisis of their corrupt incompetence, to trot. They leave behind them only the tracks of everyone else’s tears, and their own tv-displays of oafishness.


Do not be at all alarmed on this day by the vast numbers of turkeys trotting and flocking to the media studios embedded in Mecca! They overwhelm the swamp-landscape, but mere numbers, as we are learning, can be utterly deceiving, even falsified.

Those turkeys that you monotonously hear, and might force your eyes to see, they are the overpaid birdbrains of the Snews and Faux Fed Rule. The bonehead birds peck at the nuts (of the Snews and the Faux Fed Rule) among them. The real workers and intelligent minds of free enterprise, even of government non-capitalism, soar over the turkeys. They are not weighted down by work, even by their drudgery of assigned, and unassigned, tasks.


We eagles build muscle, stamina, fortitude, backbone, and a delightful sense of humor that way.


To return to the tracks of my first patchwork masterpiece, I was so engaged in completing this pioneer masterpiece that I was a bit late in starting The Baby Quilt for The Firstborn. Dear Husband got rather antsy about the due date of completion for that crib coverlet. I assured him that his heir would not arrive sooner than the final seaming on this legacy-in-the making.


And I kept my guaranteed pledge of his destined paternity!

It was hellaciously hot in mid-May when I finished sewing the satin seam binding on the lap quilt that had become burdensome, over the rotund tummy. I was so happy to be free of that job! My doctor’s appointment that next week nearly became a stitch-up. Dear Doctor asked me how I felt about a June baby; I asked him how he felt about a punch in the nose!


Dear Son arrived after Memorial Day to lay claim to that textile heirloom. I, however, had to part, about a decade ago, from my first pieced quilt, the Turkey Tracks. The all-cotton fabric was faded, and the puffy synthetic batting had not worn well. I tried to preserve a piece of it, a quilt square, in a special envelope. After a while, though, I bade adieu to those tactile sentiments of the past.


You’d have thought I was reverently putting to rest a worn and torn American flag!


That initial realization of a hand-made quilt, in a historical pattern, had been, for me, a symbol of my nation when I’d sewn it. The color of the tracks was a solid dark teal, set into a tiny flower-bud print of burgundy and gray, against a background of ivory. The third color was a solid red, in the wrong nuance, a warm tomato-shade, not a cool red. The color values were off, which showed how much I still had to learn about textile hues in graphic textile design!

I’d given up painting to take up the less messy art of quilting during my early years of homemaking. That transference of artistic skills is precisely what Marsha McCloskey had done! I learned all that I needed to know about this art form from this inventive woman from Eugene, Oregon. Her aesthetic sensibility and mine matched perfectly:


"Quilts speak to us of our collective and personal history-- hardship, perseverance, caring, the good times and the bad, the work ethic, and creating beauty from scraps of fabric and bits of time." — Marsha McCloskey, Wall Quilts, 1983


I’d already dabbled in sewing quilts, of a sort. From scrap fabrics, I’d hand-sewn one of those yo-yo quilts, which perfectly expressed my existence during the non-romantic relationships I’d endured prior to my marriage. After liberating myself from too many Mr. Awfuls and Boy Wrongs, I hand-stitched a Crazy Quilt. The every-which-way layout matched my state of mind at the time.


My mid-century “modern” apartment in mid-town Sacramento was located on the second story of a building constructed in the 1950s. That living arrangement pre-dated, by about three decades, the rage of every Hipster in America to replicate, expensively, a life-style that I’d had to accept out of sheer necessity and poverty.

As I approached entering into the quaint traditions of marriage and motherhood, a more artistic and structural use of textiles intensely appealed to me. Marsha McCloskey — with her extraordinary and refined sense of color, alluring ancestral American composition, and practical ideas and approaches to quilting — became my #1 and only instructor in this revered textile art form.


I swiftly worked through crafting the patterns of her Small Quilts book; and then, by the late 1990s, I progressed to her book for larger, classic quilts. Amidst my homeschooling and homemaking days, and nights, I sewed happily away, although I’d become increasingly frustrated by the ever-increasing price of high-quality quilting cotton, and the lengths to which I had to drive to find a store that sold them. In fact, the ONLY quality material was quilting cotton. I sewed dresses and skirts for Dear Daughter with those yardages!


One by one, fabric stores in my region of northern California began getting gobbled up by Joann, Inc. I was such a frequent and valued customer of some of those smaller retailers that I even knew some of the saleswomen personally!

They were horrified at the demise of Portland-based Pendleton and Fabricland, followed by the advent of Cloth World in those square footages. Cloth World did not remain sovereign for very long. Joann gobbled up that company in 1994. In 1998, Fabricland became, briefly, Cloth World, which, in 1999, became Joann.


Are you feeling the crazy-quilt vibes?


Those quintessentially American textile stores were a vanishing breed in California. They were ominously replaced by corporate crafting stores that offered cheap, often gaudy fabrics, with the nauseating odors of synthetic fibers, as merely a part of the overall inventory of Chinesium. In 2010, Joann, Inc., the lead-footed matron of the leveraged buyout, was itself gobbled up by the Private Equity Firm aka Leonard Green. Green is based in Los Angeles, the sprawling ramshackle metropolis of stacked-up container ships and The Container Store.


This not benign development began during the late 1980s. By the time that I’d created the heirloom baby quilt for Dear Daughter, a mere three and a half years after my astonishing construction of that first Baby Quilt, not all of the fabrics I purchased were Made in the USA.


Those cotton fibers were not as thick. The Puss In The Corner coverlet of Dear Daughter displayed definite differences in the fabrics, for the worse. I could detail the manufacturing declines that have taken place in America since the 1990s, but that history is becoming, well, history!

I do discuss some of those fabric-woes in my essay Sewing Project.


To celebrate Happy October, I joyfully announce that the art of tailoring, of dressmaking, of needlework, and of stitching; and the joy of the seamstress have begun to recover and to rebound, magnificently, from the hideous fall of the greedy betrayals of American women, American men, American girls, American boys, America — by the turkeys of this nation.


(Maybe Ben Franklin was prescient when he championed the turkey as the national bird, although I do believe he was speaking of the wild turkey, a grand and glorious feathered creature.)


Reasonably priced small batches of bolts of quality threads, and of cotton, linen, and blends of those natural fibers, are for sale on-line in admirable shops. Those businesses cater to the discriminating designers of things made with fine fabrics. Miss Matabati offers Japanese textiles that recall the bread-and-butter days of textile manufacturing in that island nation. In Texas, Kimberly Jolly and her Fat Quarter Shop remain my decade-long online source of fabrics and — cotton and woolen batting Made in The USA!

In Lithuania those Baltic Threads have filled up a major portion of my empty closet. That wardrobe space was furiously emptied this past year as I went on a literal tear of commie-garments. I threw out of my life the cheap, synthetic, slave-made clothes, hanging crookedly on plastic hangers.


My ethically-sourced attire are tenderly and gaily positioned on wooden hangers for those all-natural clothes of a lifetime. Even if those hangers are made within the Asian Rim, I’m content in my belief that, one day, woodworking in the USA will include more than a customer’s considerable investments in Amish furniture.


There are millions of turkeys in this nation, running around like chickens with their heads cut off. The sight of them is an insult to the true turkeys who proudly move inexorably across your land, over your roof, onto your patio, and down the lane to the next foraging feast in the forest. They’ve got class, and they’ve got style. A fashionable set of feathers!

I’ve not heard a single gobble from these genuine wild turkeys, birds that are native to North America. Maybe the gobbling comes only from the phoney pretender turkeys, a parasitic breed that owes its allegiance, and its feeding times, to the coddling of foreign dictators.


As for me, I’m pleased as punch to place a much more recently sewn (1996), but nonetheless vintage, Turkey Tracks quilt on my new monitor. That digital screen passed the consumer test this morning at the local Best Buy. The brand is LG, a South Korean company. Those globally sourced parts were assembled in . . . Mexico!


It’s fun to buy from the USMCA!