The New UTube

I have my own SilkQuilt channel on UTube where I have shared such memorable birthdays as my eighth, my 60th birthday schlep and my granddaughter’s first with all of my family and friends.

Under the administration of Google, who has owned it since 2007, UTube recently received a very smart update. Every user has a customized page create with favorites, channels, history and links to facebook.

The UTube blog explains how the redesign will make it much easier to find and watch the videos of interest and really it’s about time. The old set-up was so random; now we will be able to find and keep track of what we want in an organized efficient system that can keep us engaged with meaning.

This is one Google innovation that works.

Fabrics Included = Many Memories

Sew together four half-square 5″ triangles for each finished 6″ block. Make 120 blocks, ten blocks times twelve blocks, for a 60″ X 80″ quilt top.

Fabrics included:
Rayon print vest, two JJill hemp pants suits, Heath’s pin-whale corduroy shirt, Dad’s golf hankie, Billy Siegal’s mola remnants, Slave Boy remnants, Sun Dog Shirt, Mom’s 75th creme silk birthday suit, Dad’s navy blazer, Hannah project remnants, MaryAnn’s batik skirt, Lilith Fair Hemp Jumper, three of Mom’s silk shirts, WWI Flag of Jews Praying on Yom Kipper, Sadye and Howie silk applique found by Dana at Triftique, cotton Indian kurta and pants, many different CP Shades shirts and pants, two pair never worn pajama pants, Israel hand-embroidered kaftan, Indian embroidered bag, Sue and Jeff quilt, Batik flower patches from SilkThread, First cashmere sweater, three Panache pants outfits, Blue Chambray pantsuit, Ethnic Indian shirt, Mom’s poke-a-dot silk dress, Heath’s pinstripe nightshirt, handwoven remnant, Dana Buckman vest worn at Eli’s Bar Mitzvah, black linen pants

Use the process to bring joy.

Free Bubbe, Mandela, and the 99%

My almost four-year-old granddaughter is constantly asking questions about jail. In an effort to change her focus from people who are imprisoned for doing bad things, my son, Eli, informed her that her Bubbe had spent time in jail.

That’s right, I, Louise Silk, Bubbe of Maya Elizabeth Silk, made the front page of the Philadelphia Inquirer in 1972 when I was arrested and taken to jail along with ninety-eight other members of the Philadelphia Federation of Teachers. We accepted arrest rather than comply with a court injunction banning picketing during a six-week teacher’s strike.

I am the short one with the hippy jeans on the right. We spent one day in prison and they let us out at dinnertime so that they wouldn’t have to feed us.

In contrast, Nelson Mandela, former President of South Africa, spent 27 prison years with the floor his bed, a bucket for a toilet, doing hard labor in a quarry. His prison experience became the crucible that transformed him into the leader who created a democratic South Africa. This photo was taken during South Africa’s millennium celebration when Nelson Mandela revisited the Robben Island Prison after he had been the President from 1994-1999.

To date there have been over 3000 arrests around the country connected with Occupy Wall Street, the nonviolent protest that began with men and women of all races, backgrounds, political and religious beliefs representing the 99% who want to end the greed and corruption of the wealthiest 1% of America.

In the words of Occupy Wall Street:

The beauty of this new formula, and what makes this novel tactic exciting, is its pragmatic simplicity: we talk to each other in various physical gatherings and virtual people’s assemblies … we zero in on what our one demand will be, a demand that awakens the imagination and, if achieved, would propel us toward the radical democracy of the future … and then we go out and seize a square of singular symbolic significance and put our asses on the line to make it happen.

Whatever It Takes

This weekend I will be an artist-in-residence at Allegheny College in Meadville. Two talks, four classes, one workshop makes for a productive experience for all of us.

My visit is part of The Year of Sustainable Communities at Allegheny College, a series of activities, workshops and events aimed at inspiring the campus and community to examine what provides a good quality of life for its citizens and enables them to be resilient in the face of challenges. For our quilting inspirations we will look to the Quilters of Gees Bends.

To be a full time professional artist requires many different income streams. Traveling, exhibitions, commissions, consignments, lectures, teaching, and writing all work hand-in-hand. If it sounds like a juggling, it is!

It’s exciting, it’s creative, it’s lots and lots of hours and it’s what I do best.

The Quilts of Gee’s Bend

In 2003, the Whitney Museum of American Art in New York introduced American to the dynamic quilts created by a group of women who live in the isolated, African-American hamlet of Gee’s Bend, Ala.

Gee’s Bend is located in southwest Alabama on a sliver of land five miles long and eight miles wide, a virtual island surrounded by a bend in the Alabama River.

Gee’s Bend was named after Joseph Gee, the first white man to stake a claim there in the early 1800s. The Gee family sold the plantation to Mark Pettway in 1845. Most of the approximately 750 people who live in Gee’s Bend today are descendants of slaves on the former Pettway plantation and many of the unrelated quiltmakers have the family name Pettway.

Isolated geographically, these inspirational quilters transformed the necessity of warmth with whatever materials were available into some of the most brilliant, improvisational approaches to quilt composition I have ever seen.

While I am the artist-in-residence at Allegheny College this weekend as part of The Year of Sustainable Communities at Allegheny College, a series of activities, workshops and events aimed at inspiring the campus and community to examine what provides a good quality of life for its citizens and enables them to be resilient in the face of challenges, we will look to the quilts and the quilters of Gee’s Bend for our inspiration.

From Anger To Affirmation

In August, I discussed the importance of creating an anger list to uncover the many repressed emotions that lead to self-sacrifice, self sabotage and self blame. Now, being so successful at list building, I find myself overflowing with spontaneous anger that often feels explosive and unregulated.

Enough! I am ready for the middle way where I will channel my anger using this definitive list of personal rights to engage actions, feeling and behavior that are as positive as they are assertive.

My Personal Bill of Rights:

  • I have the right to be uniquely myself.
  • I have the right to make mistakes and not be perfect.
  • I have the right to follow my own values, standards, and beliefs.
  • I have the right to ask for what I need.
  • I have the right to say no to requests I can’t meet.
  • I have the right to express all my feelings, positive or negative.
  • I have the right to say no if I am not ready, it is unsafe, or it violates my values.
  • I have the right to determine my own priorities.
  • I have the right not to be responsible for others’ actions, feelings or problems.
  • I have the right to expect honesty from others.
  • I have the right to be angry with someone I love.
  • I have the right to feel scared and say I am afraid.
  • I have the right to say I don’t know.
  • I have the right to make decisions based on my own feelings.
  • I have the right to my own personal space and time.
  • I have the right to be playful.
  • I have the right to be healthy.
  • I have the right to be in a non-abusive environment.
  • I have the right to make friends and be comfortable around people.
  • I have the right to have my needs and wants respected by others.
  • I have the right to be treated with dignity and respect.
  • I have the right to be happy.
  • I have the right to be assertive as long as I do not violate another’s human rights.
  • I have the right to be left alone.
  • I have the right to change my mind.
  • I have the right to be successful and independent.
  • I have the right to make decisions in my best interest.
  • I have the right to change and grow.

Transformed Remnants

Many years ago, I caught Steve going though my garbage removing the discarded ends of t-shirts cut away in the process of making memory quilt commissions. He thought it was a crime for all of that unused fabric to go into a landfill.

That brought me to the potential of these remnants and with that I began my personal mission to make productive use of every single t-shirt commission leftover.

I’ve made functional quilts, art quilts, yoga bags, purses, shopping bags, and pillows from the bits and pieces but as compulsion rears its ugly head, my remnant piles continue to multiply beyond the space I have to house them.

With continued determination to use every piece, I am always on the lookout for new products, so I was thrilled when my daughter Sarah showed me a shrug from American Apparel. This summer I made a first sample in white.

Last week I made a second shrug using the black remnants and included the American Apparel Circle Scarf. Stay tuned for many many more. This is the tip of the iceberg!


I really wish I were less of a thinking man and more of a fool not afraid of rejection.

Billy Joel

The business of an artist is a tough road fraught with multitudes of rejection. Artists have to have tough skin, not take it personally and keep searching for the right showcase for the work.

And so it is with mixed feelings that I introduce you to the book: Jewish Threads: A Hands-On Guide to Stitching Spiritual Intention into Jewish Fabric Crafts with thirty Jewish fabric craft projects to celebrate milestones. Among the projects showcased in the book are quilted challah covers, a knit seder plate, biblical Purim hand puppets and wall hangings for various holidays.

The one project not chosen for inclusion in the book was this Rail Fence Signature Table Cloth that you can make before and take to a big birthday, wedding or anniversary celebration for all of the guests sign. After the event the cloth stays with the recipient as a usable permanent keepsake sustaining the memory of a fleeting event. You can commission me to make one for you or you can use this pattern to make one for yourself.

Project: Rail Fence Signature Table Cloth

These instructions make a 54” table topper. The number of blocks may be increased to accommodate a larger table. Rail Fence pattern is a simple one to make. It is a square divided into three equal rectangles. It has a great 3-dimensional look when constructed with the right combination of light, medium and dark valued fabrics.

Supplies for a 54” square table topper:

  • 1 ¼ yards of light cottons
  • 1 ¼ yards of medium cottons
  • 1 ¼ yards of dark cottons
  • 2 yards 60” wide 100% cotton flannel
  • Sewing thread to match cotton flannel
  • Assorted permanent ink markers


  1. There are 81 6” rail blocks. Each rail is cut 2 ½” X 6 ½” and finishes 2” X 6” using ¼” seam allowance. To cut the rails cut 2 ½” strips across the width of the fabric and then cut those into 6 ½” segments. Cut 81 rails of each light, medium, and dark value fabric.
  2. Piece the rails into blocks, each block with a light on the left, a medium in the middle and a dark on the right.
  3. Piece the blocks into rows alternating the direction of the rails for every other block. There will be 9 rows each with 9 blocks.
  4. Using the quilt-as-you-go technique, sew the rows together and at the same time sew them to the backing.
  5. To bind the quilt, trim the backing to be 1½” bigger than the patchwork on all four sides. Turn the backing in to meet the patchwork and then again to cover the raw edges and stitch through all of the layers.
  6. Gather friends together to sign your quilt. Be sure to include your name, a date, and a blessing of your own on the quilt.

The Loss of A Mother

Today, my cousins are here from California to bury their mother in our family cemetery. This is also where my parents, our grandparents and our great-grandparents are all buried. Having a family burial plot is an important part of our legacy binding us together.

If we are fortunate enough to live according to nature’s cycle of life, we will inevitably experience the profound life-changing event of losing of a parent. There is no substitution for that first human relationship that becomes the foundation for all others. When she’s gone, there is nothing that can replace her. Age doesn’t matter. I know. I lost my mother ten years ago when I was fifty-one and I still think about her every single day.

The grief is wide and deep. We need to allow the pain and express the heartache with understanding and compassion, to accept that this loss will impact our relations with remaining loved ones and everyone else. We will have to find the mother within us and learn the overwhelming skill of self-care.

Without a mother, mortality begins to rear its ugly head. It is our time to step up to the plate and take our best swing. If we are fortunate to have this opportunity, we must do our very best. It’s our job, it’s our humanity and it will make Mother proud.

The Good With The Bad

Here’s the good news: My “Tree of Life” quilt from Quilt National 2011 was purchased by one of the jurors, Eleanor McCain. It’s great to sell a piece and particularly exciting that the person who judged the competition picked my work to be worthy of her collection.

It reminded me of time in 1984 when Nancy Crow selected me as an “Emerging Quilt Maker” and in the early 90s when I received a juror’s award for this “Auto Quilt” from Tim Harding.

Nu, what could be bad about receiving recognition that validates the work?

Because in an anti-container fashion, it fuels my desire to create more, to find more, to buy more, to seek more, and to do more all in the effort to out do the latest accomplishment and receive more.