Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Would You Mend This for Me?

Check these pictures out:

My husband asked me If I would mend this jacket for him.  At first I said, “Sure!”, but after looking further, I called him back and said, “Definitely not! Go buy a new one!”

I have a sampler on my wall that reads: “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without.” I didn't know for years that the first line had been omitted and reads, “Buy it new.”

Some things just aren’t worth my time!!

Thursday, April 24, 2014

Quilters and Friends Alike...Mark Your Calendars and Come One and All...

I had the privilege of "stepping out" to a quilt show recently. Our local Maple Leaf Quilter's Guild hosted their every-other-year quilt show only a couple of miles away at the Castleton College Gym. I ordered myself a rollator and went for both days. I know that I am more comfortable with a shopping cart in front of me for walking, as I still have some balance and strength issues. I was practical and bought one with a shopping basket in front and handle bars much like a bicycle, and I was off and "rolling" for the event!

I had a wonderful time! The guest exhibitor was Joanne Shapp who is best known for her Crop Circle Quilts and several were displayed. They were awesome, as were the quilts done by local quilters! It was so fun to bump into people that I know and hadn't seen all winter. I think we were all suffering from cabin fever, and so a community event like this was a double delight-- a feast for the eyes as well as the heart!

I bragged that it was only ten dollars to go for two days, but I didn't realize that that was only the beginning of the cost of this event.  I bought raffle tickets to the door prizes, and also spent much time both days going to their fund raiser "white elephant" sale.  Patterns were selling for only five cents, and pre-read quilting books were abundant, as were notions and materials of all sorts.  What is one person's junk is another man's treasure and I came home each day with bags full of treasures!! And I must tell you that my raffle investment paid off.  I won one of the raffle baskets full of sewing notions!

As the gymnasium was filled with quilts as well as vendors, my husband used a special lens in order to get pictures of entire quilts. As any who go to quilt shows know, getting pictures at such events can be very challenging with them hung so close together and under gym lights as well, so I think he did well under the circumstances, and hope you will enjoy seeing a few of these wonderful quilts!

It was a delightful show and a great warm-up of what is to come when the larger Vermont Quilt Festival will gather quilts from New England and Canada at the end of June in Colchester, Vermont. This show is advertised as the largest quilt show in New England and they will have many vendors from all over the United States. Do check out their website and mark your calendars, and perhaps plan a vacation with your friends/ or family. It is worth a trip to Vermont.  Mind you, there is no kick-back to me to advertise for them. It is truly the hallmark of my every year and my entire family clears their calendars to make it happen. We spend a full day there, but quilt enthusiasts could easily spend several days and take classes from expert quilters as well as enjoy the show in a more leisurely fashion! Vermont is a beautiful state with many other wonderful places to visit as well!

Sunday, April 20, 2014

A Belated Happy Easter! Happy Passover! Happy Spring?

We are joking here in the East that Spring has come and gone.  It was only a three day season this year.  It is cold again, but the grass is greening slightly and the snow that came has left. Easter came, along with Passover, complete with sunshine and a bit of early spring!  And I hope you all had a nice holiday gathered with friends, and family.

Our egg dying party was held in the nick of time. One of our annual guests suggested that if we couldn't coordinate our schedules to do it before Easter, he would be willing to come AFTER Easter! I was flattered that our egg dying party is an event he doesn't want to miss, but I did let him know that I am growing old and stuck in my ways and really like to dye eggs BEFORE Easter!

It's true...flexibility isn't one of my better traits right now, though planning ahead is challenging for me as well! I went to my closet the day before Easter and again wondered what I would wear.  I am always a bit relieved when it gets cold and I can wear a coat and not worry about the rest! We live in rural Vermont and I am afraid my sense of  "dressing up" involves picking the right jacket and footwear only, and keeping warm and dry takes precidence over fashion!

I will share a few pictures of the results of our egg dying party. I am usually a spectator at this event more than a participant, but rolled up my sleeves this year and dyed my fingers as well as the eggs and so my pictures were an afterthought and but a few.

I also am there to watch over those that need watching to be sure that it remains a safe event and that my white kitchen doesn't get dyed along with the eggs! Egg dying parties are not without risks! One year my husband mixed up his drink glass with one of his glasses of dye and acquired green teeth!    I still laugh when I think back and remember a year in my childhood when my dad mixed up the hard-boiled eggs with raw ones, and cracking them that year was full of surprises! My dad had a great sense of humor and turned the event into a science experiment to see who could find the best way to differentiate between the two. I think it also became a lesson in math and I don't think the odds of being correct went above 50%.  I am sure that my mother was relieved when the Easter eggs were gone that year!

Another gathering of family and a time to appreciate that we again could come together to celebrate, though by the end of the weekend we then celebrated that the event was over.  I learned long ago that "family vacations" is an oxymoron, and have added "family celebrations" to the list.  We are richly blessed with personalities of all types! Though our family is few in number, I think we have it all and I am reminded of the line in the musical, "The Fantasticks" when they sing, "this plum is too ripe"...good to gather and nice to be back to peace and quiet!

A belated Happy Easter, Happy Passover and Happy Spring from those of us at Little House!

Friday, April 11, 2014

There IS Beauty in the Desert

Lenten Days are desert days.  Spring is around the corner, but only teasing us of the green to come. New life follows the winter’s death. It is a seasonal thing and how appropriate Easter is, to remind us of hope eternal. No matter what hardship, there is new life, no matter how long it seems that we have to wait for it.

Charles Krauthammer says that life rarely goes according to our plans and it isn’t that it falls short that matters, but how we respond when it does that is critical.  Though I am without his exact words, his message is clear and he lives it every day of his life, having been paralyzed in his young adulthood. He is living a very full, productive and successful life, complete with career, wife and family as well as awards beyond even his expectations!

I have had a lot of desert days, and I remember taking a retreat and talking to a priest about what seemed to be a fallow period in my life. “All lives have desert days,” he assured me. “It is a time that we are pushed to grow our roots deeper, but always remember," he added, “there is beauty in the desert”.

A couple of weeks ago one of my customer’s daughter’s wrote to me to ask if I would please make her a cactus pincushion.  She loves cacti.  I agreed, although coming from Colorado, where nothing but cactus grew in my neglected garden.  I wasn’t so fond of cacti, and instead always preferred mountain meadow flowers that required more moisture, and now I love living in Vermont where wild flowers and day lilies are like weeds and even neglected gardens grow well! I love making flower pot pincushions and agreed to make my customer’s daughter, Joy, a cactus pincushion, though I whined a bit about the project pulling me away from my new high of making quilts.  My daughter assured me that I wouldn't be sorry and she was right.

Thanks to my customer's request, I will now have a new line of pincushions that are some of my prettiest ever!  And how fitting it is that my new line, Cactus Joy Pincushions appear during the season of Lent, albeit the very end of this season and are to be named after my customer.  The advice given me years ago is right on!!  There is beauty in the desert if we but look around to see it and what joy it is to find it during fallow times.

I don’t think it is by accident that my husband’s luck, which had recently gone from bad to worse, following his lay-off from a twenty-two year position with a well-known, international retailer to a job, that while looked promising, proved to be anything but. Now he has two new jobs that he may not have considered a year ago, that appear to be an oasis in the middle of the desert.

It took “desert days” of thinking that we would never again be financially secure to appreciate these new and exciting opportunities to work with people that seem to be fair and honest, with little commute, less stress, good stimulation and benefits lasting even into his retirement years!  The desert makes for deeper roots, beautiful unexpected blooms and joy that may well surpass what was before! This has proven true for me as well--my chronic illness and disability allowing me the time to do what I most love: writing and sewing. There is beauty in the desert and new life that springs from fallow ground if we but keep the faith, keep on trying and remain open to new possibilities!

(These pincushions were  made for a customer, but may be custom ordered if not available soon in my Etsy Shop. Contact me if you are interested.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Winner of This Month's Give-Away

Congratulations to Linda Viehweg, winner of this month's Give- Away. Do come back for next month's free drawing. I will be the Common Thread's Give-Away Artist for May.  Thank you all for visiting our websites and supporting our work!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Kim Gifford, May 2014's Common Thread Give-Away Artist

It is my pleasure to present Kim Gifford as May’s Common Thread Give-Away Artist once again. The first time I wrote about Kim, December, 2012, I wrote about falling in love with her digital collage picture of her ballerina pug holding a rose.  It captured so beautifully my unfulfilled dream to become a ballerina.

My dream of becoming a ballerina was about as likely as seeing a pug wearing a tutu and holding a sweet rose. It was quite fortunate that my parents, George and Mary had more practical dreams for their daughter, and tried to ever-so-kindly get me to hang up my toe shoes shortly after I debuted on stage as a guest at the Christmas party where Clara is given the precious nutcracker doll. Thereafter she falls asleep and what ensues is a rich dream filled with all sorts of colorful fantasies. I was no prima ballerina, nor a Sugar Plum Fairy. I was part of the backdrop of a very busy scene shortly after The Nutcracker began.

My parents figured that I had fulfilled my dancer’s dream, never mind that my part didn't reach the pinnacle of success for which I hoped.  I was ill prepared to be a dancer. My training was minimal and I was less than disciplined to follow any of my dreams until later in my life. My feet weren’t light, though much lighter in my young adulthood days than now, nor did they tap to any  rhythm.  But isn’t that what dreams are often about; being what we are not or ever will be?  This is why I love Kim’s photo collages. To me, they represent the special dreams that reside in our hearts, many of which are never lived out.

This month Kim is offering a print of her digital collage she entitled, Easter Bunny, with baby chicks, curtains, theatrical make up and dress up, though in this case it is perhaps "dress down" instead, complete with a child’s innocence and total abandonment and a bunny’s tail. It is an 8 x 10 inch print on watercolor paper. The collage image is 5 x 7 inches, and is suitable for framing.

To win this print all you need to do is to go to Kim’s website, and simply leave a message any time Monday through Wednesday of this week.  In your message please leave identifiable information about yourself and the winner will be randomly drawn and announced at the end of the week.While you are there check out Kim’s blog writings and her gallery. She is a writer by education and a photographer and digital collage artist, and painter as well as a proud parent to her special pugs. Kim is free-spirited, and whimsical, but spiritual and serious as well.  Do take time to get to know her and her work!

Free give-away drawings  is our way of thanking you for visiting the websites of our Common Thread Artists.  Each month one of our artists will offer one of their pieces to a lucky winner. Next month I will be the give-away artist, so do return to visit our websites, and be sure to register each month to win a free gift! Thank you for supporting our blogs and artwork!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hobby or Addiction?

We are still waiting for spring to come.  The sun is out and it is warming up a bit but the plow piles are still five feet tall and we wonder if we will ever see green. We are having a Spring Sale in our Etsy Shop hoping to push spring into happening! I have used my time to create my new Easter wares as well as to prepare for projects to come.  As you all know, I love to cut and have been having quite a time doing just that! It is hard to know when hobby becomes addiction, but I think I might be there?  I can't wait to lay out my materials to create quilt tops. You noted that I didn't say quilts? I am taking this one step at a time, so as to not become overwhelmed.  I also have a basket of ready made "kits" just waiting to be stitched.

My oldest daughter, Hannah and I have been having some sewing bees.  Her style is a bit different than mine. She has been pressing scraps, and then simply sits at the machine and starts piecing them together. Some are rather big chunks of fabric, and ugly enough to make me think that she is likely making a quilt for the dog. She smiles and lets me know that that is not so...that it will be a beautiful quilt for me and demonstrates how snuggly it is to be as she covers her heart with a scrappy piece of what is to come.

Although she is in her early thirties, she remains young at heart and loves to push my buttons with her humor.  It is making me work faster so I can show her that despite her "threatened generosity", I have no need of what I envision to be the ugliest quilt ever! Mine will be done first and then I can suggest that she give her quilt to her sister or keep it for herself instead, just in case she is serious?

Hannah's sewing has always been done in an impulsive style and if she couldn't find scissors, she would use whatever she could quickly find at hand to use, even fingernail clippers. Precision was never part of her skill set and I wonder if it ever will be?

She gets up and goes to the cutting mat we have out on the dining room table and cuts her sewn pieces. They are not the same sizes or shapes, and then she sits and sews again.  When she is done she takes them back to the cutting board for another trim or two and the process goes on.  Then she lays them out on the table and I have to admit that her project has become, if not a very beautiful scrap quilt, a most interesting one, and I am amazed how this method works for her!  The ugly fabrics aren't so noticeable, as they are cut down and not so dominating as they had been. It is random and crazy and who doesn't love the uniqueness in that? I realize how "traditional and old school" I have become...almost obsolete, I think? My prep time exceeds my sewing time and I am slow and methodical in my approach.
Zeldie, my constant companion intrigued by my sewing mess!

I took my first quilt lesson when I was about almost my daughter's age, though I had practiced some piecing using my mother's sewing scraps when I was but a child. My quilt class was taken at Bonnie Lehman's Quilts and Other Comforts in Lakewood, Colorado. It was then the home of the well-known Quilter's Newsletter. Like my daughter, Bonnie's daughter was a graphic artist.  We all made a sampler quilt top and each block was chosen to teach us the various sorts of piecing techniques.  Our quilt top was done in only twelve weeks though it took me about thirty years to hand-quilt it and it would likely still be unfinished without some help from my mom. I am not unlike my daughter and have my shortcomings too.  Besides being painfully methodical in my approach, I hate to finish projects and must work hard to motivate myself to do so!

Shortly after completing this class,  I was laid off my job.  I was a young nurse at the time but didn't want to work rotating shifts and so I took time away from my nursing career to work in this beautiful quilting store. My mother helped to support me as I got a discount on our purchases at the quilt shop which supported both me and my mom's quilting wants and needs.  It was fun to see all the new fabrics and plan quilts, though much of my time was spent working instead of quilting. Not so with my mother, who also purchased lots of material and patterns with my discount and she returned to quilting after raising her family.

Mom had learned to quilt as a child, where there was always a quilt up in a quilting frame to work on with her sisters.  She learned how fun it is to sit around a quilting frame and quilt and create something beautiful and functional while connecting with those she loved. Her new creations were beyond functional! They were works of art. Some of her sisters followed her lead and returned to making quilts as well, while others were too glad to not have a quilting needle in hand and simply appreciated the blocks that she rejected as she made them into throw pillows for all her sisters. I taught her what I had just learned and joined in the fun. It became a bonding activity for the two of us for the rest of her life.

It is so nice to spend special days or evenings with my daughter.  We talk and get silly, as we design, cut and stitch on our projects parallel style, like toddlers that are so entertained with doing their own thing while their friends do the same right next to them. Spring will come and my daughter will soon take to her garden to wile away many hours and before long we will be back to canning together and putting up produce for the winter ahead, though with snow outside still and jars of produce still on our pantry shelves, I cannot think about that yet!

I am indeed blessed to have a daughter to carry on the tradition of sewing bees and canning bees.  I haven't ruled out that my other daughter will catch on to the fun she is missing, but for now I be will content with having one daughter that enjoys these creative gatherings.

I have pulled out some of my UFO's (unfinished objects) and was so delighted to find stacks of cut materials. As mom aged she loved to do the mundane tasks that I love to do as well.  I forgot that I had given her my materials to cut to make simple comforters for my nieces and nephews, her grandchildren. It filled her days with purpose, like it fills mine now.... here they all are, waiting to be stitched. I am going to do small steps on them while leaving plans and notes in plastic sleeves, so I can go from one project to another with less struggle to figure out what is next. My days, like my mother's are filled with purpose and feeling good about my accomplishments. It is hard to know if this is a hobby or addiction, but perhaps it doesn't matter?

.....For those of you that don't know....I have been in a long term treatment program for Late Stage Lyme Disease.  By eliminating Vitamin D, my immune system has been revved up for maximum kill off of this nasty infection.  I have to stay out of the sunshine and minimize my exposure to light. A tiny light on my work is all that is needed.  I make myself comfortable right here at home and stay ever so busy designing and creating. It is my therapy, and has become my life.  Just recently I have read stories about surviving incredible odds. Being creative, and learning new skills not only keeps me active, productive and happy but research has shown it to be the best medicine ever and I hope to prove them right!
Can you find  "Waldo" and Zeldie?