Archive for the ‘gifts’ 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!

Read Full Post »

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.

Read Full Post »


As you know, the past year has not been very productive for me, at least, needlewise. Because of my state of being and events, it was almost impossible for me to use a needle.

It was January 2011 that Ernie moved to RGT (assisted living). During the week prior, I managed to make fabric cards for Ara and Ola and I danced at their party.

In April I collected myself enough to embellish grandson Josh’s jacket as a gift for his graduation.

In May I created Tangie’s bag.

In July I designed a needlebook cover and I pieced two crazy quilt blocks but I was unable to work on them during the process of moving to Vashon. I was too distraught, too overwhelmed–emotionally, mentally, and physically.

Finally, in October, after I’d gotten my new digs somewhat organized, I finished the needlebook cover.

In November I made a card case for DIL Carol.

And in December I finished embellishing one of the CQ blocks. Here are both of them on my portable design board at my makeshift work place.

I’m still working on the one on the left. Don’t yet know what I’ll do with them. Put them in a drawer with other studies? They were only intended as busy work. (The pattern is from Allie Aller’s Crazy Quilting.)

Meanwhile, I signed up for two online challenges–TAST 2012 and the Crazy Quilt Journal Project. I was hoping they would help overcome the inertia or whatever it was that was keeping me from routinely stitching.

From a stack of white and off-white silk fabrics, I pieced the first block for CQJP, which I intended to use as a sampler or showcase for TAST stitches. Even though I was feeling rotten, I made myself work the first two stitches on the block, with this result.

I had done a trial of the nested fly stitches (on the middle seam) on an evenweave doodlecloth and thought that, if I marked the spaces between the diamonds, I could do the same pattern here. Not acceptable. The next day, I unstitched that seam and started over. Here are the seam treatments using TAST Weeks 1 and 2 stitches–fly stitch and buttonhole stitch.

Better. (But the camera is cruel.)

I worked buttonhole stitch over white sequins with silk buttonhole twist thread and added tiny beads. The fly stitches are in #8 pearl cotton and a fine wool yarn. The buttonhole and fly stitches on the lower seam are also in that fine wool.

So far, though it’s a struggle, I’m keeping up.

Now, back to the question, the larger, existential question, “What am I doing here?” I mean, why am I here? For what purpose?

I thought I was coming here so that I could fully recover and so that I could be helpful to my family. I came because son Geoff invited me, saying that I didn’t have to live out my life in misery at Charlestown. He would help and take care of me as needed if I were here. I knew daughter Nan felt the same way. Ernie also wanted me to be where I could live a satisfying, productive life.

I arrived expecting to feel instantly well. I plunged into the activities available to me here–joining Vashon Allied Arts and the athletic club, subscribing to concert and lecture series, going on tours, participating in family gatherings and just hanging out with them; and I felt worse and worse. As you know, I felt so bad that I was willing to try Chinese herbal medicine treatment.

By the end of December I knew that I had to put myself back into seclusion. It became clear to me that silence and solitude were what I needed to recover from the past two years, which have been traumatic. Instead of family and fun, I need rest and being alone.

At Charlestown I could not have solitude and silence. I was living in a community where I had to be out and about. I had to go be with Ernie at RGT every day. And my ADHD wouldn’t let me just stay at home quietly. Am I here so that I can have silence and solitude? It’s what I want and couldn’t have before I got here.

When I recovered in 2009, I regained functionality and lost contentment. I was no longer able to sit in meditation, read, and stitch–those aspects of my life that give me greatest satisfaction. Since I’ve been here, my ADHD and related symptoms have almost gone. I’ve read 14 books and, as you’ve just seen, I’ve been stitching. But being around people is another thing. I feel scared and nervous–like bad stage-fright. And I am not a fearful person. Being with people greatly exacerbates my insomnia. Only being in silence and solitude can I feel calm and well.

I don’t know how long this will last. I think I did not allow for the accumulated effect of the past months, the stress I’ve been under. Maybe I will soon be just fine anywhere. Or maybe I’m here so that I can live in silence and solitude.

I’ve come to the right place, here in the forest. And Nature piled on.

I’ve been snowed in since Sunday. Not going anywhere.

Yesterday at around 5:30 p.m. the power went out. I spent last evening in front of the little propane stove in the darkness,

resting, eating a hard-boiled egg sandwich, and occasionally reading by candlelight. Without power, it was utterly silent. I was alone and at peace.

Is that what I’m supposed to be doing here?

Read Full Post »

Before I get into the WIP, here’s a work completed.

Card case

I made this business card case for my daughter-in-law Carol, using the logo on her card for the design,


Carol is a licensed massage therapist and she creates organic body care products. I use her lavender mist at bedtime, spraying it just above my head and inhaling the lavender fragrance as it descends (for sweet dreams).

After resizing the hummingbird on my computer, I transferred the design to ultrasuede using tissue paper. Except for the brown stem, it is all single-strand cotton floss chain-stitched.

Carol came for tea today and I gave it to her, so I can finally show you.

Back to WIP. Full recovery is still work in progress. As you know, I went to a Chinese herbalist last week and I was given an herbal formulation for sleep. It worsened my insomnia and made me feel sick when I woke up. After four days, I called the clinician and told her about my experience. She spoke with the doctor. When she came back to the phone, she told me to discontinue the herbal formulation (which I had already told her I was doing) and to return to the full dosage of my sleep medications. She said I should talk to my medical doctor about getting off them (which I have already done).

Then she said that my response to the herbs showed that I don’t have the ordinary or usual insomnia. Something else is going on. Well, Western doctors have been telling me that for 30 years. Now an Eastern medical practitioner tells me this. Maybe she can figure out what’s going on, but I’m not going back to Bastyr to give her the chance. I don’t want to risk taking something that makes me feel worse, and I don’t want to spend $50/week plus gas for treatment that may or may not work.

I’m going to continue with my regimen of self-care. I’m feeling much better than I was a few weeks ago.

Evidence of progress– I’m back to stitching.

In July I pieced two 8” square blocks and assembled threads to add to my traveling kit. I was unable to work on those projects until last month, when I finished my needlebook. Here’s one of the blocks, with seam treatments finished, I think. It took me two weeks, able to work only minutes at a time, just to do these seams. But toward the end, I got absorbed and worked more than an hour a couple of days.

Seam treatments 2

Here’s a closer look.

Closer look

Now I’m seeking inspiration for motifs to add to the blocks.

It feels good to be working again, and to be having ideas for things to make. I am a work in progress.

Read Full Post »