Liz Alpert Fay – our instructor; Linda, Marisabina (Cookie) and me with our hand-work

Liz Alpert Fay – Penny Rug

The only thing that didn’t get canceled recently was a Penny Rug class I’d signed up for months ago at the Guilford Arts Center in rural Connecticut. My good friend, Liz Alpert Fay, was instructing, and I’d easily convinced two other close friends to join me–Marisabina Russo, and Linda (who, not coincidentally, lives only a few miles from the Center). I kept waiting for that shoe to drop, but since it didn’t, I took an Uber to White Plains where I picked up a rental car, then drove to the location just past New Haven minimizing exposure to any large groups while traveling.

I’m so glad I went! While it was strange to not hug such good friends whom I was so happy to see, Liz quickly engaged us eight, and made me feel embraced. The simple and thoughtful set up of the room provided comfort including a dispenser filled with her personal recipe for hand sanitizer.

One table was filled with Penny Rug Pillows Liz has created as well a few commercial pieces she had brought along as examples of the craft. She had bins filled with our supplies, tempting swatches of colorful felted wools, Perle cotton embroidery threads in multiple hues, and other items to ease our learning.

After brief self-intro’s – there were eight women in the class – Liz suggested we talk about where we are in this global journey and then leave the C-word discussion out of our day’s work. We almost succeeded, and for several hours, worldly concerns were held in abeyance. We sat, cut fabric, sewed and chatted quietly for 6 hours each day. No one was particularly hungry or moved around much. An occasional lap to the portable steam iron to press a pattern onto our wool or to the supply bin for a fresh piece of plaid to complement a design. It was an oasis which I have vowed to take home with me.

I’ve cleared my dining room table, pulled a tall light fixture over with an extension cord, and laid out my first attempt with all the accessories there at arm’s length. I did an online order for additional threads, a needle-threader and some sharper needles. I expect to be at this for several weeks.

My first attempt focusing on the placement of the hot pink “poison”

“I’ve never seen an ugly penny rug,” Liz said at the outset. With each of us given the same materials, it was wonderful to see how individualized each woman’s piece became. We were also given a penny-sized circle of hot pink which Liz referred to as “poison.” I’m guessing that the reference was that if taken in too large a dose, it can be lethal, but worked into a system actually adds vitality.

I was able to get freezer paper at my local grocery store – one of few items still on the shelf – that Liz showed us is great for transferring patterns to fabric. I also found out that cutting aluminum foil with your scissors sharpens them.

I learned lots of other stuff, too, but mostly I was reminded that doing work with my hands is soul-satisfying, doesn’t require much in the way of cost, and allows time to float by without anxiety. Also, surrounding yourself with friendship and love, even virtually, is one antidote to help us through this unprecedented time.

Please share with me any tips you have to offer for keeping yourself sane and at peace over the next several weeks.

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