These Hands Make Things

If you follow any of the social media surrounding the current wave of feminism, you’ve probably noticed that we are beginning to see photographs of real people with little electronic alteration – a trend I find so welcome.

The latest version of Vanity Fair is the yearly Hollywood issue, and right in the middle of all that impossible glamour is a group of pictures taken by Chuck Close. The stars were instructed to show up without stylists and entourages, and Close shot the images up close and personal in his usual fashion.

My favorite of the group is this one of Helen Mirren:

Helen MirrenI love that she seems to not have messed with her beautiful face (that smile hints of delight and mischief), but more than that – I love the realness and honesty of her hand. It looks like a hand that has lived.

Which got me to thinking about hands in advertising… all those perfect hands with perfect nails. That always seem, somehow, to not actually look like they know what they are doing in the ads. They don’t look like they’ve ever slathered peanut butter on bread in a hurry. Or cracked a nail while grabbing keys off the counter. Or endured the tiny stabs and pinpricks of a daily life in the needle-arts. They might be real, but  they just don’t look it – anymore than those perfectly polished cover girls we’re trying to debunk.

Which then got me to thinking about my own hands:


I like these hands. I’m proud that, after 52 years and counting, they’re still working pretty well. They have made many beautiful things, and they bear the scars of a rich life. That knot of arthritis in the last knuckle of my right index finger is a present from grad school (along with bifocals) – the incredible volume of writing, researching and making did a number on that knuckle and it bumped up in defense. You can see a new burn on the same index finger – I’m still getting used to the oven in my new digs.

right hand

There’s also a cut on the side of my left index finger, a snick in a quick moment of making dinner for a friend. On the palm side of my left hand is a web of scars from a disagreement with a blender a year ago (I’ll spare you the picture with the stitches) along with an almost 30 year old scar from a minor surgery to remove a pesky cyst. And you can no longer see where I machine-sewed through my finger on one of those doing-too-much-too-fast days. And freckled over all, the salt and pepper of age spots.

But let me tell you other stories about these hands… they changed a bunch of diapers on a really sweet kiddo who is soon to turn thirty. They have hugged and hugged and hugged so many wonderful people. They’ve written serious term papers and typed silly statuses into social media. They’ve made oodles of shortbread. And they have made quilts. Lots of quilts. Hundreds of quilts. They have started a pattern business, designed a bunch of sassy buttons, and written a book. These hands are CAPABLE. They might not be cover-girl smooth anymore, but they know how to MAKE things. And that, to me, makes them beautiful.

So show me YOUR hands on the HDS Facebook Page and tell me a story about them. And if you’re using Instagram let’s give them a #thesehandsmake hashtag so that we can see them all together!

(With thanks to my friend Annie for the photo assist… hand selfies are not easy!)


THEY Are $ew Worth It – a Challenge

I recently joined a knitting group through When you’re new in town finding a tribe of fiber peeps is a great way to meet new people, so I bravely grabbed my project, put on a cheery face and got my patootie to the coffee shop.

HH in Orange

Although I’ve been knitting since my teens, I still consider myself a fledgling knitter. Thus, I tend to knit relatively simple things, especially when in a social setting. I want to be able to interact with people and not be desperately counting (or ripping) stitches! The scarf above is one of my favorite simple patterns – it’s the Hitchhiker*, and so named because when finished, it has 42 points. You can buy the pattern here on Ravelry (a lovely site for the knitting community).

Anyway… back to that knitting group. Soon after I sat down, the discussion turned to another pattern on Ravelry. It seems that the designer had initially offered the pattern for free, but was now charging a dollar for it. And just to be clear, that’s $1.00, one whole dollar. And this group of knitters was bitching about that dollar.

Poor gals…. they had no idea that I’m the torch bearer for We Are $ew Worth It. So I waded into the conversation and it went a bit like this:

Them: It used to be free.

Me: Offering a pattern for free is a marketing tactic… designers use it to introduce themselves to new buyers and drive traffic to their site.

Them: If it was free, they shouldn’t charge now.

Me: Why not? They made a product, they have a right to be compensated. You still buy other things like toilet paper when it’s not on sale, right?

Them: Well, it was a simple pattern, knit two purl two for a certain amount of rows and repeat. Like it needed a pattern.

Me: People like me appreciate that designers write out simple things because it all looks hard from here.

Them: But it was easy.

Me: But she still created it, figured it out, tested it, wrote it down, photographed it, took the time to distribute it. And even if you could do it without the pattern, there are a bunch of us that need such help.

Them: But it’s a dollar.

Me: And all of that effort isn’t worth a dollar in your eyes? How much was your coffee?

Them: Does anyone have a copy I can have?

Me: That’s a copyright violation. The law says that when you copy a pattern it is STEALING. If you wouldn’t steal a purse, why would you steal a pattern?

Them: But it’s simple, and it used to be free.

Me: Those socks you’re knitting look simple. Can I have them for free?

Them: NO!

The room was quiet for a while. And needless to say, I haven’t gone back because after that exchange, it obvious that these ladies are not my tribe. I’ve since found a different and lovely knitting group, so all is well!

So I’m issuing a challenge to you:

  • Pay for the patterns that turn you on, regardless of their complexity.
  • When someone asks to copy your pattern, ask them to buy it to support the designer.
  • When you see people swapping copies of things, remind them that they are effectively stealing from a designer, and that the designer deserves to be paid if they’re that interested in the pattern.
  • When you want to borrow a pattern from a friend – borrow it for a peek like you might a book, but if you make the article, buy the pattern.

Yes, in the past I have copied my share of patterns, and I know that in the karmic balance, mine are surely being copied. But no more. I challenge us all to not do this any more. It might not be easy, and it might not be popular, but it’s the right thing to do. Let’s support the artists so that they will keep designing things for us to make. Because THEY Are $ew Worth It too.

BTW – Did you join my mailing list yet? Do it here. I’m dreaming up groovy exclusive stuff for you!

*For the non-geeks in the audience, 42 is the answer to the Ultimate Question of Life, the Universe, and Everything according to the Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy, a delightful book by the late Douglas Adams. Which, if you haven’t, you really ought to read :-)

JCP is ripping off an artist – UPDATED with GOOD NEWS!

Excellent news – JPC is working with the artist to sort out the copyright violation. See Kal site for an update.

Huzzah for a big corporation doing the right thing by the artists!!!


Original post:

To be in the arts means we are a maker of things. To make a business of art means we need to sell those things – and the internet is an effective way for most of us to do that.

It also means that the things we make are visible, even to the people that have no intention of parting with their money to own something beautiful that we made. The lesser beings in this karmic soup take the idea of another and run with it.

Kal's stolen work

It would seem that JCPenney is selling bags whose fabric in an unlicensed and un-permissioned copy. Kal Barteski, the artist whose work has been appropriated, writes about it here:

First up – DON’T BUY ONE OF THESE! Don’t support the theft of other artists’ work.

Next up – head to my FB page and pick up the post about it, and please, please please, forward it far and wide. Let’s help Kal get this issue VISIBLE. There is power in numbers.

We artist must ALWAYS have each other’s back, especially when dealing with huge corporations with lawyers on retainer. We Are SO Worth It.

Workshopping with Dingbats!

A couple of weeks back I visited with the Camarillo Quilters Association and they chose to have me teach Dingbats at their workshop.

Cover Template Top Banner

Dingbats is one of those sneaky patterns… on first look, you think there’s a set-in circle to contend with. But nope… it’s all straight seams. I just quilt it to look like circles! If you can sew a straight seam with a mostly consistent 1/4”, you got this!

The Camarillo ladies are a friendly and talented bunch, and they took such good care of me. Everyone showed up with great fabric, and we started the day talking about fabric values and contrast. We took the first hour of the day to really look at everyone’s fabric choices as a group and discuss different options. One of my favorite parts of any workshop, as a teacher or student, is checking out everyone else’s fabric… there is always an unexpected combo in there that knocks my socks off, or challenges me to look at a color that I don’t love so much (hello PINK!) in a different way. And was there ever a lot of PINK in this group!

We got to cutting and sewing. And of course, lunch and chocolate. And then back to sewing… and all but one person was well into their second block before they left.

IMG_4431Above was the same Kaffe Fassett stripe, cut in different sections.


Above was the surprise palette of the day… the deep, espresso brown background was a perfect choice for these funky stripes.

IMG_4435This striped fabric had fish and seahorses in it, and we played with fussy-cutting it for maximum effect against the perfect confetti background.

IMG_4434A sweet pink that will become the center of a baby quilt – the perfect solution when you only want to make one block!

IMG_4429Setting the stripes along the arms of the Dingbat – lovely visual movement!

IMG_4428A beautiful textured background that let the striped fabric shine.

IMG_4427And another cheerfully bright color combo!


And the “almost got it done” block!

Ladies – thank you for a lovely day!

Want me to come teach at your guild? I would love to! Go here for the info and get in touch!