Wednesday, August 5, 2015

This Day

I decided that for my first *real* blog post, I’d share a recently completed fiber art piece that I call This Day: The Strength Within. The remarkable thing about this appliquéd and quilted fiber art piece is that it’s made with… wait for it… single-ply paper towels. That’s right, I said paper towels!

The genesis for the piece began during a several-months-long period this past spring during which I was experimenting with dyeing, painting, printing, and inking various fabrics and papers (papers such as dictionary pages, coffee filters, deli wrap, leftover tissue papers, and Sumi-e and other art papers among them). During all this experimentation, I used several rolls of some inexpensive paper towels on my drying rack--to help with the paper-drying process in particular (and to avoid a certain wicking that occurs, and that I don’t like, when I dry paper or fabric directly on the gridded rack).   

I am always mindful of the environmental impact of my art making, and now I had created a rather enormous pile of wet and randomly dyed paper towels left over from all that work.  So, rather than sending them straight to the landfill via my trash bin, I started tossing that wet mess of paper towels—much like you’d toss a salad—several times a day over a period of several days until the pile was dry. Then, neat-nick that I am, I smoothed out each individual paper towel (now separated into single-ply sheets) and stacked them neat and tidy in a paper bag, which went into my studio closet to use again another time.  

It wasn’t long until I started using those leftover papers towels. I started messing around with a variation of mono-printing onto papers and fabric (including saved facial wipes—another blog post, perhaps) by creating a short stack of these leftover paper towels, spraying them with a water-filled mister, then dripping and swirling dyes and inks onto the stack—which became my makeshift print plate. And THAT’S when the beauty of the inks and paints and dyes on the paper towels really started to intrigue me. It wasn’t long before I had an enormous pile of richly saturated papers, some of which you see here.   

Now… what does one do with beautiful, but very fragile, single-ply paper towels? Well, I experimented and found a way to add strength to them—enough strength so that I could sew them together and quilt them!  

Here is a full view of This Day: The Strength Within.
This Day: The Strength Within (copyright 2015 Katie Winter Art)

About the same time I finished the top for This Day, I had also just mastered free-motion machine quilting a feather pattern. I had always admired these quilted feathers on other people’s quilts and I aspired to add them to my quilting repertoire; but I could never quite master the design, never quite control the part where you stitch back over a line you’ve already stitched. Now, I know there are other patterns where you don’t sew over a line you’ve already made… but I wanted to make them just like this. So I kept trying:  off and on, for 15 years! (That’s tenacity, right?). And finally, I got it! 

I decided to quilt This Day with my new feather design and then fill in the rest of the area with my favorite quilting pattern, the stipple stitch.

Here are some detail images of the feather quilting pattern and stippling.

This Day: The Strength Within (details #1)

This Day: The Strength Within (details #2)

This Day: The Strength Within (details #3)

So, what’s the message here?  If you’ve made it this far in my blog post, you may be interested in what This Day means, and there is a backstory.
In 2012, I received a cancer diagnosis. And like nearly everyone who hears the three words, “You have cancer,” I was really afraid. I spent a lot of time worrying. I worried about dying. I worried about my prognosis; the stage and spread of the cancer; tests and test results; physical disfigurement; long-term health consequences; treatments; surgery; radiation; pain, then every other little pain; the future; and recurrence, recurrence, recurrence (you never really stop worrying about that—even if just a little). I worried about what caused my cancer. I worried about hormone disrupters like the chemicals in cash register receipts (true); the water in plastic bottles; the makeup I wore; the containers I stored and reheated my food in; and on, and on, and on...  
Then, one day, very soon after my diagnosis, I read this: The time you spend regretting yesterday and worrying about tomorrow robs you of today.” And I heard that message loud and clear. That’s when I started using the two words, “This day,” as a meditation to remind me that all I have is today. This day. And that if I live fully in today, I will have lived. But if spend my days depressed or worrying about tomorrow and regretting things from the past, I will miss what's happening right now. And in the end, whenever that comes, I will not have lived as fully. So, “This day,” became my meditation. It saw me through the dark days of cancer treatment, I still say it every day still.  
Cancer also taught me that I have reserves of strength—physical, emotional, intellectual—that live deep within. My art quilt, This day, is made from paper towels that seem like a fragile material at first (like you feel when you get a cancer diagnosis), but these paper towels, there’s a strength within them. 

So, that’s the back story.   

Oh, and by the way, I am very healthy today—in fact, I am strong, healthy, and I feel better than ever! 

And here’s your reward for reading to the end--the back of This day.




  1. Thanks for sharing your story. I only knew a little about it. We all need to embrace This Day. Thanks for the inspiratIon. Let's celebrate and make some art! Lisa Marie

    1. Btw Im on Blogger as Gypsy Gyrl and not sure how to follow just as a public person. I signed up a while back but didn't have the guts to put myself out there. I'm not seeing anyway to follow. Lisa Marie.

  2. Beautiful story and beautifully written. Nice start to your blog. Adding to my favorites

  3. Thank you so much for your beautiful story. Having lost my husband of 44 years a few months ago and in agony with the roller coaster ride of grief, reading your "This Day" story reminded me to make the most of every moment of every day.