Monday, September 21, 2009

The Power of Cute

The World Wildlife Fund people figured it out a while ago, with their logo of the panda bear. We've been seeing a lot of polar bear baby pictures recently, as their environment melts. And then there is the ubiquitous, ultra-cute green frog from the tropics. Animals that have good public relations campaigns survive. The cuter they are, the better they do.

I've thought about this in relation to my own babies. Certainly if they weren't as adorable as they were, we would have kicked them to the curb long ago. For a while, when they were first born, they were downright rude. But those big eyes, those Charlie Brown noses. And so here they are, still here, and getting cuter by the day. I find myself at Costco loading up the cart with formula and diapers every week, despite the cost, and despite the fact that Costco doesn't take credit cards. It's all because of those eyes. Cheeks. Chubby knee-rolls.

I read a study once that correlated cuteness and survival. It measured the relationship of eye size to head size, head size to body size, and determined that lots of baby animals can be scientifically called "cute." Remember Puss 'n' Boots from the Shrek movies? He's the swashbuckling kitten with Antonio Banderas's voice, whose most disarming battle strategy is to put on his puppydog eyes. The bigger the head, the bigger the eyes, the harder we all fall.

It also works with product marketing. My Dad was constantly annoyed with my friend Carin and me in sixth grade, when we had one word to summarize what we liked: "cute" things. Dad thought it was the worst selection criterion in the world. Turns out it was the best. We bought a lot of Hello Kitty pencils because of the power of cute.

So as a new baby product consumer, I have noticed a new cutie on the scene.

The ladybug is a special bug. She's clean-looking and approachable. In Mexico, ladybugs are called catarinas (that's Katherines, for those of you who didn't get it) and are considered good luck. The graphic quality of their spot(s) makes them attractive to people who otherwise don't go for bugs. So fabric designers all over the world have gone to town with their image recently. I've never seen as many ladybug designs in my whole life as I have in the last few weeks.

When a friend of mine commissioned a baby quilt for an as-yet-unknown-gendered baby, we went straight for a ladybug theme. Lady for girls. Bug for boys. Something for everyone; universal appeal.

Because the child was going to be born to an American mother living in Ireland, we also snuck in an orange/white/green (Irish) and red/white/blue (American) color scheme. This is the result.

My hope is that the American-Irish baby will become an etymologist. First stop ladybugs. Then bees. Then spiders.

Fabric designers and artists save the world. It was only a matter of time.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009


Breaking news! She's happy I'm happy, but she's not sure exactly why.

Tuesday, September 15, 2009

The Triplets

My dear Aunt Lucy made -- yes, SEWED -- the twins and their cousin a set of matching dresses. They are made from blue and white searsucker fabric, and each girl's was sewn with a different color accent thread: red, yellow, or green. On the back were bunny and star buttons that matched each dress's particular thread.

Amazing, right? Do you know anybody who sews presents for people? Me neither!

So that compelled a photo shoot, or a reasonable facsimile thereof. It's all documented in this slideshow:

Meanwhile, here are another few pictures that needed to be posted.

The Original Fiber Artist

Every time we've tried to get the mail for a week, we have met with a spider web. We get caught in it, it sticks to our hair and hands, and we mumble a humble "sorry" to the spider. I didn't give it much thought, except to think that the poor spider was going to have a lot of heartache if she kept building her web in our path.

But last night it all changed for me. When I stepped onto the stoop, I was met with the eighth wonder of the world. A web was forming before my very eyes. The wonder was not the gossamer strands that laced our handrail; it was the spider.


The original fiber artist.

She had anchored the spokes of her net on the awning, the side of the house, the railing, and the porch light. When I showed up she had made about thirty revolutions around the edge of her web. Every revolution produced another sticky circle that linked up with the spokes, and brought her closer to the center. The outside circle might have been thirty inches in diameter. Every time she made a loop, she came about 1/4 of an inch toward the center. And so she looped and looped and looped. From time to time she stopped and reversed directions. Did she lose her place? Get dizzy? Or just decide that the corner she had just left needed some extra strength?

More amazing than the structure was the fact that she was making the materials with her own body. I know the web comes from somewhere within her little exoskeleton, but I really don't know how she does it. I would have assumed it would take longer for her to spin, though. But she raced around the circle, pausing to knit the new strand together with the spokes at the intersections, then racing on to the next spoke. The line just came. I like to think I was this impressive when I was telling jokes and tying knots with a needle in my mouth at my friend Wendy's school. But let's face it: that thread was store-bought.

As I watched her, I agonized that Charlotte and her web would be lost the next time we carelessly came in the door or got our mail. And then I remembered that I'm human, and though I can't make a web, I can do a little to change my environment.

I decided that we would make a place for our artist in residence as long as she would have us. So I put up signs to remind us and alert our visitors to her sometimes-invisible masterpiece.

This morning Charlotte has retreated to take a nap, I think, and let the web do some grocery shopping for her. I hope she knows she has friends here. Maybe later she'll teach me how to spin.

Friday, September 11, 2009

The Creative Life

Your humble Fiber of Her Being blog is going to be undergoing a make-over in the days and weeks to come. It's two dimensions will be rounded into something bigger, sweeter,

A year and a half ago I started another blog, to document our journey through infertility, and to let the world know a little about how it felt. Last summer we finally got pregnant, and this January we had our little baby girls. They'll be turning eight months old this week, and as they grow out of their little baby clothes, I think I'm starting to grow out of the infertility blog.

This is not to say that I've finally shed my infertility skin. No; I think that will stay with me forever. And it's not to say that I've forgotten about my loved ones who are still fighting the infertility fight. Nothing could be farther from the truth. It is for them that I'm moving my stories to a new forum. There are lots and lots of infertility blogs out there that now show pictures of sweet babies and toddlers, and describe the joys and trials of childrearing for all to see. Sure, they offer hope that infertility can give way to a family. But they also hurt the currently-infertile when they celebrate one more woman who got to have children. That's the way I felt when I used to see them, anyway.

So I'm moving URLs and changing my focus. We'll mark "AchievingConceiving" as "Achieved: Conceived," and bring my photos and fairy tales to roost with the fiber of my being. Turns out, there's a lot of creativity needed to raise two girls, and if you want, a TON of opportunities to sew.

Stay tuned for pictures of babies, of bibs and blankets, and all the other things that go into a creative life. And yes, there will still be pictures of artwork. It will just be a happier medium.

The Color of Papaya

Do you know what color a papaya is? If you said "yes," you're a liar. Or at least mistaken. Why do I say this with such confidence, without even knowing who you are? It's because of something I learned last month. Namely, papayas are many colors.

A darling woman, one of the darlingest I know, got married last week in Ecuador, in a wedding with a "papaya and cream" color scheme. She commissioned this guest book for friends and family to sign, specifying that the cover should be papaya.

I am a Latin Americanist. At least, that's one of the things I have called myself over time. I marched to the paper store confidently, imagining some papaya I ate once in the town at the mouth of the Amazon. It tasted a little like vomit, but at least it was pretty. When I got to the store, I found lots of sweet papers, including some envelopes in a pinkish-orange whose official color name was "papaya." I bought a big sheet of paper that matched the envelopes exactly, then went home.

When I got started on the project, I noticed that the price tag on the paper said, "pumpkin." My confidence waned. How could a pretty tropical fruit look like the thing we carve ghoulish jack-o-lanterns from? I turned to the Internet, which is a great place for worried people to get their confidence shattered. Indeed, I saw a spectrum of papayas that ranged from cool peach to cherry red, not to mention apple green. Not only are papayas different colors on the outside, but each papaya contains several different colors in the inner flesh. There is no "papaya" color. Or rather, there are infinite "papayas."

And that's when it became lucky that the darling bride had hired a quilter to make her book. I pulled out every shade of orange, pink, and yellow that I had stored under my table, and got to work on the papayaest collage my studio had ever seen. And this is the result.

Today marks six days since the wedding took place, and as far as I know, my color choices did not endanger or offend the nuptials one bit.


Award-Winning Quilt

Okay, that title is misleading. I made this wall-hanging in January, and turned it over to the client the weekend before I had my babies. Not only was I heavily pregnant at the time, but the weight of the 40+ fencing medals was as heavy a burden as I've ever sewn. The result, I think, deserves... well, you know.