Friday, March 22, 2013

General Jane’s Pity Pot Party

Fear is gripping me today and it sends me right into a General-Jane mode.  This is when I try to take command over things that I can’t control.  I get bullish and think that we just need to work harder and so I push on everyone around me!  That has been my solution to a lot of things in my life.

Years ago when I was working with a bunch of very strong-willed and stubborn people like myself, our director had to have someone external to the system come in to help us work more productively together. I learned that my mode of operation isn't to change what I do or how I do it, but to simply do more of what I do.  It doesn't take a rocket scientist to state the obvious…running into the same brick wall, just makes me bruised, battered and bloody, and doesn't gain a thing.

Creativity isn’t easy to come by when a person is submerged in fear and panic. Nothing comes of that at all, no matter how hard a person tries.  That is where I am at today and I toy with my options: go back to bed and get up on the other side; pray more; back away from a frustrating task and take on something more simple for the day?

I just wrote to a friend who is struggling with what she thinks is depression.  What did I advise her to do, that I am not remembering now for our own life and my husband's looming unemployment?  I must be some sort of charlatan for I can’t remember, and my boldness of thinking I know anything seems to have slipped away and disappeared in the night!

Perhaps my confidence is now submerged under all the snow outside?  What happened to spring coming and with it, new life….it is still winter and I have the winter blues, although I was successful at getting my husband and daughter out the door as fast as they could run today.  General Jane is tough and can drive anyone into a blizzard to get away from her!

Let me see….I think I will put on the corned beef that was on sale this week, and try for another cozy warm New England boiled dinner…but  what do I do with myself?  I still have that dreaded “eternal” comforter to work on…the one that has become a true Lenten chore. There is the basement studio to continue cleaning, the one where I gathered all the stuff that needs sorting.  Isn't it bad enough that it is snowing outside AGAIN without wading through drifts inside? And suddenly I think of the plague and how people flogged themselves in penance to please God and make disease go away? Mm-mm  it seems mid-evil to punish myself still further?  Yet I am feeling equally as desperate!!  Where did my old Pollyanna-self skip off to now when I need her most?

I have considered baking cupcakes and eating a whole batch…this no sugar, wheat or milk is just too hard…A nice cup of hot chocolate, a batch of cupcakes and curling up with an exciting book sounds like just the thing to turn me around right, or would that be “turn me ‘round wrong”, adding more pounds and compounding my inflammation…but I am on the right track…some sort of kindness is in order…this unemployment is NO fun and the worries are mounting up.

I need a triple dose of courage about now, and then face the day, and take it moment by moment.  Likely sewing on the eternal comforter will make it “get done” and my sister will be so pleased and it will give me pleasure to “elevate her” at least.

So off my computer chair and take on what will make another day more open to the creativity I lack today.  Some days are just “terrible, horrible, no good, very bad day(s)"* to get through.

Mm-mm  I might be cut out for drama after all?  General Jane is a bit like Sarah Bernhardt only, in my case my dramatic flare has burst and my serious flare seems to take on an I-Love-Lucy twist…no matter my famous line to my children of “If I am not home when you get home from school, don’t worry about me, I will be at the factory!”

I am still here and I must see my antics for what they are, merely a good old fashioned pity-pot-party that no one wants to attend!  My temper tantrum is subsiding…God has heard my complaint, and it is time I grew up NOW, “take 2 Motrin and buck up soldier” and carry on! I have regressed far enough for one day and what was it that my mother used to say and is still on my shoulder saying? “God helps those that help themselves!” It is time to shovel on and out (but being General Jane I will get my husband to instead of me)!


These pictures are real, but used fictitiously to tell about this dramatic day.  Our snow storm this last week was only about five inches deep. It just felt this deep.  And it is true that I used to dramatically threaten my children that I would be at the factory instead of being at home to mother them, only now they are not worried when I say it. These are pictures from a real factory in China that manufactured what my husband's company sells....the company that just laid him off.  My sewing is serious but never this serious!

* from Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst.  A must read for anyone suffering with such a day!

(This blog is dedicated to my friend, CC who inspires me to write about about what most would not want to read about! Thank you CC, for writing such stuff makes even me laugh and I needed that today!)

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Dreaded Tasks

I am sure that everyone has “dreaded tasks”, ones that loom larger than life.  This is such a project for me.  It is a comforter that my mother and I started many years ago.  My mother was not doing so well, but needed a project of purpose and so I brought her a stack of quilting materials for her to cut into blocks to make a comforter for my sister.

My mother was a beautiful quilter, but as she aged her skills decreased, but not her spirit.  She set about this task, as if it would be her last, and it was.  She cut out a stack of these simple square blocks with a plastic template.  All were less than accurately cut, but as serious as she was, I was equally as serious about laying them out.  Not stitching them on the machine as fast as she would like, my mother worked to stitch them together by hand.  It was her way of sewing. She  meticulously sewed everything by hand, even dresses for me when I was little.

The project had to be put away as my mother’s needs grew, and I had all I could do to take care of her, instead of finishing the comforter.  I assured her that I would get to it as soon as I could and my sister would receive her comforter.  And so, over six years after my mother died, I decided this holiday season to get it back out, determined that I would finish it for my sister.  The backing and batting were ready for its completion.  It was a simple enough task to complete it in a few days, or so I thought.  The only challenge was having a table large enough to lay it out on, as our beds are used nightly and speed is not my style these days.

My mother and I made many of these sorts of comforters in her day. Almost everyone in the family had one.  They were much loved, though they weren't like her museum-quality, hand-pieced, hand-quilted quilts for which she is most known for.  These were ones that got laid out on the floor during slumber parties, or used on beds shared by pets as well as children.  They are bright, colorful and made for every-day hard use.

I said they were simple.  This one has been anything but.  My mother’s last hand stitches would not have stood the test of everyday use.  They were not tiny like the stitches in her past, and all needed to be reinforced with machine stitching.  Doing this after it was all stitched together was more difficult than simply stitching them on the machine from start to finish.  I couldn't get into all corners to secure the stitching.  I did the best I could and then reinforced with hand-stitching up to each corner and laid it out to tye it together.

What made me call my sister that day, I will never know.  I called to confirm her present bed size and we both realized that when this quilt was started, she was using a double bed and now has a king-size bed. I had already tied the top to the bottom and had planned for a big wide border, but this border was in no way wide enough to make the quilt grow into king-size.  I would have just started another one and finished this one to be the size that it was intended to be, but this was no ordinary comforter.  It was the last one my mother had partially made for my sister.  The sentiment alone made it valuable to her, and so I stopped it right there and literally “slept” on the problem.

Days later I talked with my sister, telling her that I could add a wide striped border to the edges and make it big enough for her king-sized bed.  I went and purchased yards of more material and high loft batting, though already I was wishing it was low loft batting, wondering how I would ever ship it once it was finished.  I told her that my goal to have it done by Christmas had changed with the extra work involved.  I had to smile, for once again, what was once an easy straight forward project had grown into a major undertaking.  It seems to be “my way”, making anything twice as hard as it needs to be.

Anyone that knows anything about quilting knows that the usual process of making a comforter is making the top and then building the “quilt sandwich”by layering the backing, the batting and then the top. This one is already mostly tied and is now fat and huge, and I will have to reconstruct the top, adding borders while the backing and batting are already hooked together though the edges are raw and open.

My plan is to tear strips and sew them together on the machine and then add this striped border to the top by hand. The plain eight and a half inch black border is be at the top of the quilt and the striped eighteen and a half inch border would be added on the sides and bottom. The blocked portion of the quilt would then be centered on the top of her bed. I will miter the corners so the borders of the stripes all meet framing the pieced top.

By pressing under the seams of the borders, I will then simply whip stitch them to the top of the quilt sandwich.  I will have to take care to make my stitches tiny, invisible, and secure enough to be like a machine stitch.

None of this is difficult, only time consuming and awkward as the batting and backing are already attached up to the edges where the borders were to be finished.. I will have to baste on more batting where needed to extend it out to what will be the new edge and then do a flush edge with a tucked under outer seam all the way around. The plan is sound except that we had centered the backing, instead of leaving it longer on the bottom, so I would have to cut off the extra backing at the top and add it to the bottom of the backing, in the same manner as I had added the borders to the top.  I now know why I don’t do many bed-sized quilts as we had to add an extra fold up table and ironing board to extend my mother's dining room table, filling up the entire room to support this work..

I remember well my mother creating beautiful quilt after quilt on this same table.  Her’s were usually low-loft quilts all hand stitched together using quilt-as-you-go-technique.  This is a different sort of process. Her blocks were all individually quilted and then sewn into strips by hand using this same sort of hand whipped stitch and then these strips were stitched together, the quilt getting larger as it was being finished. I will use a similar technique only working on a very large high loft comforter the entire time.

May my mother’s quilting angels be with me, and my mother’s spirit too.  This will be a warm up to completing my mother’s last hand-quilted quilt that I promised that I would finish, now a prerequisite for me getting into heaven!  I have not been brave enough to tackle it.  Perhaps there is a reason why my sister’s bed grew and needed her comforter to grow as well.  Perhaps my mother’s spirit is behind it all, helping me to face the challenges of finishing her last museum-quality, hand-quilted quilt after I finish my sister’s. I think I will get ready and go to church before I begin this undertaking.  I know what I will pray for! It is hard to believe that I was once an avid quilter in my younger days.  Did I mention that I have several quilts of my own that need finishing? Perhaps it is a good thing I don’t own a gun!?

Sunday, March 17, 2013

Easter / Passover / Spring Greetings and Sale

Last week the four year old twins that my daughter nannies sent our family their small and precious gifts of four individual pussy willow blossoms, one for each of us. While there was still snow on the ground, they found and picked these beautiful little fur balls. These small gifts pushed away the gloom of these last gray days of winter and proved evidence that spring is right around the corner.

To me, Easter is a time of hope as it always comes with spring, a time that the earth greens and blooms with new life. I like to put packages of garden seeds in our Easter baskets along with gardening gloves.  Nothing is so wonderful than planting seeds of hope for new growth, both spiritual and physical.

I am sending you Easter/ Passover and Spring wishes a little ahead of schedule, as I am  excited to share with you a first look at my spring and Easter creations in my Etsy store. These felted wool Easter Egg ornaments have been a family favorite in our Easter traditions throughout the years.

Each is a one-of-a kind creation using hand dyed felted wool scraps. Tiny delicate embroidered detail has been added to their appliqu├ęd and needle-felted designs to make each a true heirloom treasure.  I have a limited supply as we are waiting for warmer weather to replenish our hand dyed wool stock.

I have also added another penny rug butterfly pincushion to my Easter selection as I have always found butterflies to be symbolic of new life.

I wish you all a very Happy Easter, Passover and Spring! Sincerely, Jane

Thursday, March 14, 2013


Congratulations to Rose Brougham, winner of this month's Common-Thread-Give-Away!

Sunday, March 10, 2013

March's Common-Thread Featured Artist

Maria Wulf is the featured artist for this month and will offer March's Common-Thread Give-Away.  Again, all you need to do to register for her free creation is to visit her blog ( and leave a comment anytime Monday through Wednesday. The drawing will be held on Thursday and the winner notified. As yet, only the back of the give-away is pictured on her blog, and will be revealed tomorrow!  Don't miss checking out her mystery item! I am as anxious as you to see it!

Maria continues to be a wonder and inspiration to me! She and her husband, Jon Katz now live at their new Bedlam Farm in Cambridge, New York, along with their sheep, chickens, donkeys, barn cat and dogs. Both Maria and Jon’s blogs are testimony to their life and artwork.

Maria’s creative genius literally “streams” forth when she puts her hands and talents to fabric.  Her unique patchwork and free motion quilting that she calls “streaming” create delightful and whimsical pieces that tell a story with both color and design. Maria continues to develop new techniques with fabric and so no matter what sort of artwork she will offer tomorrow as her give-away, I hope you won't miss leaving your comment on her blog and perhaps you will be lucky enough to win!

Tuesday, March 5, 2013

Desert Days of Lent

We rather dread Lent each year, as instead of giving up chocolate or some other simple sacrifice, Lent seems to find us.  No simple transformations here!  It seems that we are always touched right where we are most prideful and invested. It is a time when our cars break down, our finances squeezed or some other rather serious cramp in our style occurs.

It doesn’t always occur at Lent, but sometimes, if we have just come through a difficult time, I do wonder “What more can find us during Lent?".  I have learned to quit asking that question.  There is always another layer of pride to be stripped away and I am always reminded how little control I really have over my life.

Control over anything is just an illusion, I think. Bank accounts are too easily depleted, health too often challenged, and basically there is little insulation from powers of nature or over the forces outside of ourselves.

I may sound bleak, but being humbled is not a bad thing.  Just when you think you have hit bottom, there is always a blessing, and with it a new found appreciation for what you do have.  And then more blessings come to mind: my wools, my threads, my love of sewing. Even my renewed nursing license is a sign of hope of future days and greater health.  I look around my Little House and everywhere I turn there are bits of treasures, all symbolic of the love that surrounds me. Even in the desert there is beauty to be found, bits of loveliness everywhere, pushing the gloom away.

Lent will pass and then comes spring, every year, no matter what circumstances surround us. New life resurrects in us all.  Solutions to present problems found and we are again filled. Overcoming obstacles then seems more like mere bumps in the road of life.

I spend these days preparing for what is ahead.  Cleaning out, cutting out, and figuring out what is next.  There is little time to be idle and when I find such a quiet moment, I  pray that the clouds may lift and I can see a few days ahead.  I am reminded of what my great grandmother used to say,  “I have a plenty”!