Archive for the ‘family’ Category

My other grandchildren and great-grandchildren have something I have made for them. Beau does not. She was born in 2010, when I was stricken with undiagnosed bipolar disorder. Try as I could, I was not able to think about what to make or to create it, but I’ve always had in mind the desire to make something for her. A couple of months ago Kate Greenaway’s illustrations came into my mind. I decided that I would try to design something that incorporated one or more of her images. At Amazon.com I found a book of iron-on transfers of her illustrations of children.Greenaway_0001

Greenaway_0002Subsequently, I searched for her books and found this compilation of selections from her most popular books, first published in the late 19th century and reprinted in 1979.

Still I did not know what I would make. Dear friend Maureen in Australia suggested a small tote bag with a book in it. Yes! Great idea. When she’s not using the bag, Beau can have it as a wall-hanging. I think I will make the bag a crazy quilt design with a Greenaway illustration on a central patch of the front of the bag.

For practice, both with ironing on the transfer and with stitching it, I made this trial cloth. It’s a good thing I did as I managed to smear part of the pattern. I’ll know better when I’m ready to do the patch for the bag.

IMG_4574_edited-2    Now to design the crazy patchwork.

I’m still forcing myself to make things. It’s too hard sometimes, but stitching this practice piece was pure pleasure–the first time I’ve felt that way about stitching in many months. It is stitched in split stitch and some satin stitch with a single strand of DMC cotton floss. You know how slow that is! Yet I was able to spend several hours yesterday absorbed in this project, contentedly. Progress!

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Wedding gift

In February, as soon as I received the “save-the-date” card for grandson Patrick’s wedding, I tried to come up with an idea for something I could make for him and Juliet. I even asked Patrick, an art photographer, to send me some of his photos, thinking one of them might inspire me.

But I was incapacitated. Daughter-in-law Carol and I were taking care of Geoff at home as he died of cancer, March 20th. For the past year, I have been paralyzed in this way–unable to stitch or to think about it, unable to practice the piano, often unable to read, and unable to write. However, I was still reading a few blogs of stitching friends.

On March 4th, Susan Elliott posted about a beaded velvet cushion cover she had been shown in an antique shop. Here’s one of the photos she posted.


I saved it, thinking that if I couldn’t create an original design for the wedding gift, I might be able to do something with this image.

With Geoff gone, I wanted to be back East, where most of my family live. Specifically, I wanted to be back in Baltimore, near sons Michael and Pete. In July I moved back into Charlestown. (That’s a story for another post.)

The wedding date was October 12th. As time passed, I desperately wanted to be able to make a gift but I remained paralyzed. I had printed the cushion photo and tacked it to my design board. By July 24th, I had cut it up and gotten this far in thinking about how to use it.


There it was and I was still unable to proceed. But I surprised myself one morning in early August by driving up to the quilt shop next door to The Stitching Post and buying fabric, including a dark brown print. Next I got out an assortment of white materials–fabrics, threads, and beads and began playing with what I had.


The original velvet cushion cover was entirely beaded, except for the vines or branches. I had no idea how I was going to stitch this design, but it wasn’t going to be all beads. Now, putting white on dark brown so that it covers the background is a challenge.  I began by thinking about stitching over padding and about appliqué and began some trials.


By the end of August, I had also traced a simplified version of the design, making notes on it about materials I was trying.


There were many more trials, more than shown here. Lots of unstitching. Also, experiments with how to transfer the design to the dark fabric.


Now it was September. Had to commit. Having figured out how to stitch the central motif, I used graphite transfer paper to get that much on to the fabric that would be the final product. I was afraid to transfer more of the design for fear of rubbing it off as I worked.


This much and the upper left corner I stitched in a hoop, even though I knew the work would be better done on a wooden frame. Again, I was afraid of losing the white transfer design as I worked.


But, after that, I put the rest of the corner motifs on the fabric, stretched it over a wooden frame, and, using a technique I learned in silk and metal thread embroidery, I covered the whole piece with a sheet of plastic, uncovering just the section I was working. It worked. The design remained.


It was mid-September. I had not yet figured out how to make the small buds. After several false starts, what I did was to cut strips of thin white silk which I threaded through a large-eye needle. After using a tekobari to make holes through the fabric, I brought the white silk strip up and back down through the fabric. Grasping the ends of the strip underneath, I used the tekobari to adjust the silk into the shape of a bud or small blossom. Then I had to stitch each end to the backing fabric to hold the shape. Don’t ask how long it took to make each bud. Below you can see the threaded silk and the underneath view.



It was September 27th. I hadn’t yet figured out how to put the names on the piece. Numerous trials, with different fonts, different alphabet designs, different threads, different ways of stitching.


In the end, I used beads for the names and trailing stitch for the date.


I wish I could get a good close-up so you could see the different stitches and the beads. Alas, either I don’t know how or my camera isn’t capable.


I delivered it to the framer on October 8th, having consulted with her a week earlier, and I picked it up on October 10th, taking it with me to New Jersey the next day, where I presented it to Patrick and Juliet.

At the reception, they displayed it as the centerpiece of their “memory table”  with photographs and memorabilia of departed loved ones.


At the reception–


I’m working again. I have just written  a post for the first time in over a year.

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Ernie’s gone

On Friday,  August 31, Ernie died. During his last three days, I was with him, joined by daughter Patti, granddaughter Melissa, and grandson Patrick.

A few months ago, as Ernie became less and less able to function, I wrote to him about Voluntary Stopping Eating and Drinking (VSED). I told him that if he got to the point where he wanted to be gone, he could decide to do this. Through conversations with his doctor, the nurse manager, and the social worker, I made sure that they would accept this decision. I also made sure that Ernie understood that he had to be able to make the decision and to communicate it to the staff. Ernie didn’t talk with me about it at that time.

In June he had a series of seizures that resulted in him going from mostly independent, taking care of himself, to being dependent on assistance at all times. With the help of the aide who was staying with him, he phoned me. I had written in a follow-up message to him, that if he decided to do VSED, I would come to be with him. He asked me why would I do that? I said I’d be there to help him, if he made that decision. That was our last conversation, in July.

After that, though he was unable to talk with me, he was still able to read my daily email messages. He made the aides stop at the reception desk as they were wheeling him to the dining room so that he could pick up my messages. He was still reading my weekly letters with pictures of my doings.

On the Sunday before he died, he had a big seizure just after breakfast. The nurse who called me said that he was aphasic and virtually non-responsive. Later I called and spoke with the aide in his room. She told me that he was refusing to eat or drink.

At  my request, the nurse manager went to see him Monday morning. By this time he had recovered enough to recognize her and to respond to her questions by blinking his eyes. She asked if he wanted to eat or drink. He indicated “no.” Did he want to see his wife? “Yes.” As soon as I got that message from the nurse, I began making travel arrangements and I got there Tuesday.

And so, no longer wanting to live, Ernie decided to die, making it possible for  me to be there with him.

He left behind every email message I had sent him over the past year, and every letter. Months ago, when he was still mostly independent, he had bought file folders to hold the messages. He’d filled two of them full and labeled them Vol. I and Vol. II, and they were in the bookcase. After that, the papers just piled up in several places–on his desk, his chest of drawers, and his night stand.

As his reading ability waned, my messages became shorter. But staff and a couple of residents told me that he read and re-read them. The receptionist told  me that she loved seeing the joy in his face when she gave him the email.

It was a long good-bye. From around 2004, Ernie’s decline, both physical and cognitive, was apparent to us both and we talked about it. In December 2006, he had his first seizure–undiagnosed at the time. After that, his decline increased. He had a few more seizures, still undiagnosed by the three neurologists who saw him over several years. Then, in July 2010 he had a  massive seizure and I was told he was dying. We were both ready. But he didn’t die. The seizures became more frequent and he became more and more cognitively and physically weakened, impaired, and struggling.

In January 2011 we moved  him to assisted living, where he was still mostly able to take care of himself and where he had no seizures until June 2012. After that, there was an aide with him 24/7, and I was in the process of having him admitted to the care center, something I dreaded.

Fortunately, Ernie died in his room in assisted living, with all his art, books, and his own furnishings around him, without having to be in the care center. And with me, Patti, Melissa, and Patrick there.

Here is the Ernie I have been missing for several years. I am so glad he is no longer struggling, and no longer missing me.

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You may remember that I moved into a furnished apartment last September. I wanted to give myself time to find out how I would be living here on Vashon, in this utterly different environment and living situation. Before acquiring furnishings, I wanted time to figure out how I would use the space.

There was a huge, high, uncomfortable king-size bed here.

You can see it in the back of the apartment. I brought the piano, the recliner, and the TV with me; and I put the bookcases in. That bed is so high that I almost needed a stool to climb on to it. I wanted to replace it from the git-go, but I thought I should have a floor plan in mind before I asked Chris to start moving his furniture out. But he told me that taking out the bed would be “no problem.”

So when daughter Nan told me that she knew of a single bed I could have for free, I went to inspect and try it out on Friday. It was in like-new condition and very comfortable. Just what I wanted. I told Chris that I had a bed and that he could remove his whenever it was convenient.

As it happened, he had two workers coming here on Saturday, and they would help him move the bed. Very convenient! It took them about five minutes to get that monstrosity out of here.

As it happened, Geoff with his van was available Saturday, and so was Nan. An hour or so after Chris had removed the big bed, they arrived with my new little bed.

Now the back of my apartment looks like this:

What a difference it makes! And the new bed is SO much more comfortable–just my size.

So now I have a 9 ft. by 9 ft. open space that may become my work space. Geoff and Nan are on the look-out for a work table and a rug. They are very resourceful hunter-gatherers.

Meanwhile, Ernie can no longer communicate with me. Of course I knew this might happen, but I haven’t tried to prepare myself for all the possible scenarios that could happen. When he was able to talk with me a week or so ago, he told me that he was not in distress and that he had “put himself in the nurse’s hands.” He has 24-hour private nursing aides. I hope he is still reading my daily e-mail love notes.

This is hard, but my family here and back East are wonderfully supportive. I’m so glad to be near Geoff and Nan. I’m making a home for myself here.

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Now I am 75.

Today I am 75 years old. My son Pete, who lives in Maryland and had been vacationing in Oregon with his wife’s family, drove six hours to be here for my birthday. He and son Geoff, who lives here, brought a Mexican lunch to my place.

Here I am, with my two younger sons, Geoff and Pete.

And we enjoyed lunch together.

After two weeks of being unable to communicate, Ernie was able to wish me a happy birthday.

And now for a good cry.

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Vashon family

Lacking the energy to post, I’m barely doing any stitching. Still in recovery mode, at least, I hope I’m recovering.

I have spent a little time with my family members, in between periods of seclusion.

I took them separately out to dinner.

Geoff and Carol

Caleb and Lauryth


In a short visit with great-granddaughter Beau, I got this video:

Beau as helicopter

Granddaughter Zoe is living in Seattle now and I haven’t seen her in months.

All for now.

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