Blogging and stitching

Having gotten out of the habit of frequent blogging, I’m finding it hard to get back into it. I’ve shown you the work-in-progress on Beau’s bag.  It’s finished and I’ve mailed it off to Vashon Island–the bag with the Kate Greenaway book inside. It just fits. Here you can see the front and the back. I stitched the CQ blocks to a ready-made canvas bag. The front has alphabet letters and critters on the patches. The back has numerals and flora motifs. On both sides I included shisha, thinking Beau would get a kick out of the tiny mirrors.

Front Back


Now I’m working on a sampler–just something to keep me stitching, as I’m still finding it hard to do so every day. Here’s Guilloche stitch for the border. It’s funny how putting a border on it makes the sampler feel more important–worth trying to do it well.


Counting threads is not my favorite stitching technique, but I like the even stitches it produces. This sampler is on Aida evenweave fabric.


Though I’ve done quite a bit of crazy quilting, piecing blocks for embellishment, it is still hard for me to do by machine.  I know how much faster it would be if I used the sewing machine. So I decided to try piecing the bag for Beau on the machine. I was following directions for what was supposedly the easiest method. First, I designed a pattern. There’s a Kate Greenaway little girl on the central patch.


Well, I spent most of the afternoon yesterday trying to match the patches on the foundation fabric. It just wasn’t working. In the end, I gave up and went to my preferred method of hand basting the patches. After basting them, I stitched the seams with invisible stitching. Here’s the result.


This morning, I looked at my work and realized that I had made a mistake. I pieced the blue patch on the right over the light tan (#3) patch below the central patch. So today I unstitched three patches and corrected my mistake. Now it looks like this.


I’ve started stitching the little girl with split stitch using a single strand of DMC floss.

And I’m trying to get myself back into the habit of blogging. So even though I don’t have much to show, I’m writing anyhow.

From month to month I can’t see any improvement in my health, but looking back six months, when I was in Shepherd Pratt Hospital, I’m very much better now.




A bag for Beau

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!

Embellished block

During the past two weeks, I’ve finished embellishing the block I pieced. The print fabric of patch #7 gave me my palette. I chose red/pink, dark green, light green, blue, and yellow fabrics. Then I chose threads, mostly #5 pearl cotton, in the same colors. I’ve been wanting to use lace on a CQ block and for this project I chose two pieces, one of which I painted light green. Finally, I put pearl beads and buttons in the patches.  I know stitchers who could finish this block in a day.


My slowness is because I’m still having to force myself to do any needlework, and I can’t stay with it for more than a few minutes or an hour. But I’ve been encouraged to keep at it until the motivation and pleasure return. The problem is that I’m working without inspiration and the results are not truly satisfying. Oh well. What will I do next?

And how will I finish this block?  Or will it just stay in a drawer with so many other projects?

Spontaneous stitching

Having finished the embellishment of my CQJP 2014 quilt and having joined all the seams, I’m now waiting for an opportunity to shop for fabric for border(s) and back. Here’s the quilt so far. It’s tacked to my design board.



For weeks I’ve been thinking about what I want to do next. This past week I’ve been asking myself what do I want to do. Today I got out a pile of fabrics and chose some for a crazy quilt block. I was also online looking for a pattern I could crib, rather than make one myself. I chose Sharon Boggon’s pattern for Block 82   of her” I dropped the buttonbox quilt.” Do click on the link to see her work.Here’s the pattern I printed from Sharon’s website. For my block, I enlarged patch #7.


Then I reviewed a method of piecing using a pattern that I have done in the past. I slightly modified Sharon’s pattern so that I could have a large patch of a particular fabric, then transferred the pattern to foundation fabric. Here’s how the back of the block looks. As you can see, #7 patch is on the left.


Because it would take time to set up my sewing machine, and because any mistakes done in machine stitching would be harder to take out, I stitched the patches by hand. Also, I prefer to stitch by hand rather than by machine, and that means I have not become proficient with the sewing machine. The stitching is easily done from the back of the block where I just stitch over the pattern lines. Here’s the front of the block.


Well, I surprised myself today. I had no plan to make anything and it just happened that I did. I wonder what will be next as I try to get myself back into regular, joyful stitching…and blogging. So far, I’m having to make myself do it.



Retreat results

The past year has been hard for me. Last year, after helping to care for my dying son, I came back to Charlestown in July in time to help care for two old friends as they died in the care center. Increasingly sick, I crashed in December and went into seclusion. I also began therapy. In April I finally got a diagnosis of bipolar disorder, from which I have suffered since 2009–undiagnosed by any of the several health care providers I consulted here and in Washington state. In May I had two scary manic episodes with a fall that could have killed me. Although I was seeing a psychiatrist, I decided to commit myself to Shepherd Pratt Psychiatric Hospital, where I spent 16 days.

There they got me on the right  medication and my symptoms ended. No longer manic and no longer sick, I felt listless and unmotivated. I had no idea what I wanted to do. I didn’t feel like stitching. I didn’t want to go back to visiting in the care center. I didn’t want to practice the piano. I made myself swim and walk miles every day. I made myself kayak from my son’s home on Middle River, spending the night there so I could be out on the water at daybreak. Knowing mentally that I was doing something enjoyable, I was unable to feel joyful. That was pretty much my state of being when Gloria asked my in the locker room how I was doing.

So I went on the retreat with her. (See below.)

The first retreat exercise for individual work was to answer the question, “What would you like to be?” Well, that’s what I didn’t know, haven’t been able to know, for months. Conscientiously, I tried to answer and what I wrote was a list of roles, for example, hospice volunteer. I wrote with no conviction, no real desire for the roles I listed. Back home, I reviewed all the exercises I’d done over the weekend and realized that I had not answered what I wanted to be. I had answered with what I could do. So I set myself to think about how I wanted to be. Eventually words began popping into my mind–energetic, enthusiastic, extraverting, excited, exuberant, exhilarated. All feelings that have been missing from my life, and they all began with E. This was what I wanted to be and needed to be in order to ENJOY my life, another E word. And more came to me over time–elated, ecstatic, and so on. Now I am working with those words as I meditate and go about my day. I’m seeking to generate those feelings in myself.

Meanwhile, I have been taking action on the list of ideas I made for things to do. Already I’ve been to the care centers twice for visits with residents whom I knew. I have volunteered to be part of an organized visitation next week. I’m hoping to identify residents who really need a regular visitor. Yesterday I began training as a hospice volunteer. I have contacted Compassion and Choices to learn how I can become an end-of-life consultant. I continue to read about end-of-life issues, about death and dying, thinking about the possibility of getting such a conversation going here at Charlestown. I’ll see whether these activities awaken the E words in my inner self. I’m hoping the joy of stitching will return. I want to blog regularly again.

Since leaving the hospital on 20 mg Zyprexa per day, I’ve reduced the dosage to 2.5. Getting off that mania-suppressant drug may allow me to feel excited and enthusiastic again. Medication is obviously an important part of my recovery and my sense of being, but the retreat has also contributed. I don’t think I AM bipolar; I think I have had a nervous breakdown with symptoms of bipolar disorder. And people do recover from nervous breakdowns.

Silent retreat

A couple of weeks ago, in the pool locker room, I met Gloria, whom I haven’t seen in several months. She asked  how was I doing and I blurted out that I’m trying to figure out what I’m supposed to be doing with these last years of my life. “Maybe you need spiritual direction,” Gloria volunteered. “I’m going to a silent retreat. I’ll send you information about it.” That same day she e-mailed me messages about the retreat and the retreat center. I knew I was meant to go on this retreat. It was not an accident that we met in the locker room. So I signed up.

This past weekend Gloria and I were at the Mariawald Renewal Center in Pennsylvania, a two-hour drive away. The center is located at the convent of Sisters of the Precious Blood, a beautiful facility on beautiful grounds. They call themselves a “bed and breakfast for the soul.” Here’s the convent and chapel.


We met and slept in a motel-like building a short walk from the convent, facing a pond. Here’s that building.

Bed and breakfast

The view from the retreat center.


One of the many small shrines on the grounds, including into the woods, where there are several trails.


The retreat was based on the teachings of Teilhard de Chardin. In the 1960s, when it was first published to much acclaim, I had read The Phenomenon of Man, so I was somewhat familiar with Teilhard’s unorthodox spirituality. Each morning and afternoon we were given materials on which to meditate and exercises for contemplative practice. The rest of the time was for individual prayer and practice in silence. We were encouraged to spend as much time as possible in the out-of-doors, and the weather was perfect.

Since I don’t usually enjoy making conversation with strangers whom I’m unlikely to meet again, being in silence was very comfortable for me. And I came away from the experience resolved to spend less time in solitude and silence and to return to visiting at the care centers. Today I made my first foray there, seeing who is living there whom I might know already. I’m also going to pursue hospice volunteering. So the retreat helped me make some decisions I’ve been reluctant to make.