Someone is using my sugar bowl and stealing the spoon.–a 2011 tweet from a knitter friend who was disgruntled about a workplace foul.

The gears in my head spun like crazy on this delightful tweet and I immediately asked her for permission to make a quilt out of it. It was a quick patchwork, that 2011 version, and yet the longarm quilting went less than great. A blog post then about my disappointment and my drastic decision to scrap it garnered my first deluge of over-assuming, patronizing, and demonizing commentary catalyzed by quilts. The words on the quilt were obscured, no one knew; I felt attacked. It was a good learning experience that helped me find my footing, clarify my values, and dare to go on.

I circled back this summer, determined to work this one out again. Just starting out literally. Sugar bowls weren’t a prominent feature in my life, although suddenly I neeeeeeed one.

There’s still some left.

The color palette I chose is inspired by these traditional (sorta minimalist( sugar bowls. But then I threw in some handdyed orange-pink as a color foil–a bit of Sweet ‘N Low, maybe?

There’s still some left.

Found this staid stack in a resale shop, Sew Green in Rochester, NY across the street from the place where Susan B. Anthony illegally voted in 1872. They are a wool suiting with a beautiful strand of blue thread woven throughout, a rough weave of creamy wool, and a cotton linen blend in blue. (The pink pops in below.)

There’s still some left.

Abandoned the suiting because it’s cute but filled with spandex. Later found a similar (though lighter grey) Italian suiting without stretch. Whew.

But what about those words?

If you shake it all up and think about sugar in society and relationships, you’ll start to make the connections. It’s a statement about sugar, sugar in bowls, spoons, control, ladyparts, sex, control, sugar, sweetness, control,…whatever you like. But it’s about sugar bowls and ladyparts. And it’s about the Atlantic triangle trade, of course.

Let’s get explicit. (Heh.) It’s all about the blues. Let’s start with “I Need a Little Sugar in My Bowl” sung by Bessie Smith in 1931.

Lyrics:

Tired of bein’ lonely, tired of bein’ blue
I wished I had some good man, to tell my troubles to
Seem like the whole world’s wrong
Since my man’s been gone
I need a little sugar in my bowl
I need a little hot dog on my roll
I can stand a bit of lovin’, oh so bad
I feel so funny, I feel so sad
I need a little steam-heat on my floor
Maybe I can fix things up, so they’ll go
What’s the matter hard papa
Come on and save your mama’s soul
‘Cause I need a little sugar, in my bowl, doggone it
I need a some sugar in my bowl
I need a little sugar in my bowl
I need a little hot dog between my rolls
You gettin’ different, I’ve been told
Move your finger, drop something in my bowl
I need a little steam-heat on my floor
Maybe I can fix things up, so they’ll go
Get off your knees, I can’t see what you’re drivin’ at
It’s dark down there looks like a snake!
C’mon here and drop somethin’ here in my bowl
Stop your foolin’ and drop somethin’ in my bowl

In 1967, Nina Simone sang her own much sanitized version.

I’ll spare you a narrative on the various forms sugar and sugar bowl songs have taken in music in the past century. Rest assured, friends, I’ve started a brief informal dissertation on this topic. [Do send along your favorite sugar song if you get the chance.] There are more earworms than one might imagine with such a sliver of a musicology inquiry.

There’s still some left.

Of course, my interpretation is also ancestral and personal. This comes out in the spoon too. The spoon is the vehicle for moving and/or using the sugar. It’s about control and exploitation, among other connotations.

There’s still some left.

[the back of the quilt is some reproduced feedsacks]

See this work and others in a show, Passing Bittersweet inspired by Ross Gay’s Book of Delights. The show will be in the Williams Center Gallery on the up-top campus at Lafayette College. Jan 7-Feb 9, with opening reception on Jan 12. [Details available through that link.]

There’s still some left.

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The Details
Title: there’s still some left
Materials: cotton, linen, wool
Techniques: handdyed, improvisationally machine pieced, hand quilted, hand bound
Finished size: about 36×49″
Started: October 2019
Finished: December 2019