Tuesday, December 24, 2013

Gifts We Treasure

Gifts that are made especially for us have lasting meaning and are those we treasure the most.  Here is one D and our daughter made for me years ago that comes out in the winter and stays out until spring.  Every time I walk past it, I smile.  There is something so 1950's about it ("Christmas Story" anyone?) and so very much something clearly homemade . . .

This is one of the gifts I treasure.

Until after the holidays, here is my wish for you -

Have a joyous holiday with those you love - 
the greatest gift of all. 

Monday, December 23, 2013

Inherited Treasure

Did I mention that we had had a piece of furniture refinished for us?  In fact it's been in the process of refinishing for some time now.  First we had it stripped; I know, I know, Leigh and Lesley Keno would be appalled, but we're not in it for the money.  We merely want a piece of furniture that isn't terribly scarred.  After stripping we had a new piece of mahogany veneer applied on the base.  And that was a far as we got.  I think we may have thought that some day we'd put on the stain, but that day never came.  Through idle conversation with a friend we got the name of someone who could do the final step for us (good thing, too).

The mahogany library table was in my family, and I remember it as being a permanent fixture in the living room of my grandparents' home.  One of my brothers and I are trying to find out (he through my grandmother's diaries and I through research on the table itself) whether my grandparents purchased the table or whether it came from my great-grandparents.  We may never know, but I am very glad to have it.

This is the way it looks in the natural light coming through the window of the study.  It's a lovey piece, isn't it?

Sunday, December 22, 2013

Getting There

This entry will be a "show" rather than a "tell".  More progress has been made on g'son's quilt.  The following picture shows the part that is actually on the bed.  In other words, the borders that will form the "drop" have not yet been sewn on.

I am going to sew a 1" border of the greens (C's favorite color) used in the quilt on all four sides.  Then I will add one row of the 8" block used in the majority of the quilt (four triangles meeting in the middle).  After that will be the final border "Return to /Atlantis" by Jason Yenter for In the Beginning fabrics (if you Google that you might find a site with a photo).  

As Robert Frost said, "Miles to go before I sleep" though I won't do it tonight, that's for sure!

And now that the medallion is finished (well almost - there will be a clown fish over the skinny part of the seaweed on the left) you get to see what the turtles look like with their eyes!

Doesn't it feel good when the end is in site?

Thursday, December 19, 2013

Craft Store or Best Friend?

Despite succumbing now and then to the desire to do things that aren't on my list, I have been able to continue working on the G'son's quilt.  Thanks to ME.  

I was having difficulties with the thread I was using to applique (blanket stitch) the elements in the medallion to their background.  The only green thread I had that was the correct color for the turtle shells was a heavy machine-quilting thread, and my sewing machine was beginning to act like a cat with a hair ball.  Yes, I had the same thread in the bobbin, yes, I had just cleaned my machine, and yes, my needle was new for this project.  I figured that I needed either a lighter-weight thread or a quilting needle - neither of which I had.

But who wants to go to JoAnn's the week before Christmas?  Who even thinks JoAnn's would have either of the items I needed much less both?  Any hands raised?  Of course not!  So who're you gonna call?  No, Ghost Busters won't help though given the way my machine was behaving, it might not have been a bad idea.

I called my best friend ME, the self-styled "Queen of Thread".  The next time you hear her called that, Ladies, giggle no longer.  Raise your eyebrows at your peril.  For she is the one and the only QUEEN of Thread.  That lady has every thread known to mankind and much that is not.  She has cones of thread, spools of thread, bobbins of thread.  She has every color on Munsell's color wheel and some he never thought of.  You worry about thread weight?  ME can help you.  I was so overwhelmed I bowed my head in wonder and awe.  

Then she took out her organizer for sewing machine needles.  Nota bene, she has a section for each kind of sewing machine needle and multiples in each section.  Need I say more?

My sewing went like a dream today.  Thread in the correct weight and color and a new needle just in case.

JoAnn's you've met your match and then some.  Cry your eyes out!

Monday, December 16, 2013

More Sketches

Today was busy with errands and baking (2 kinds of biscotti) for our holiday tea during tomorrow's studio class.  And that reminds me: is anyone else confused about tomorrow's predicted weather?  I've heard we're getting more snow (3 - 4") in the morning getting heavier closer to noon, or frigid cold, or neither.  ???  Guess I'll have to wait.

Anyway, since there should be class tomorrow, I did do some more sketches for Raking the Hay.  First I'll show you the first one I did using all kinds of different pencils in a very fast and loose manner to get the "feel" of this scene:

I did some research on mechanized hay rakes to find out what they really look like since my photo wasn't a close-up.  Today once I thought I understood the machine, I drew this one:

Funny, I spent more time and effort on the farmer than on the rake.  I want to keep this part simple but accurate so I'll have to see what the class says.  I think I need to add to the rake to show how it is attached to the tractor.  We'll see what everyone says.

Then I decided to work on a slightly more detail sketch of the background (the lake) and add some structures and even hint at some boats.

It's difficult to see, but it will make more sense, I hope, as you see the painting develop and are able to see what I put in and what I omit.

Sunday, December 15, 2013

Progress to Date

Small gifts are ready and some are even wrapped.  Since I realized that there is no way I can get G'son's quilt finished for Christmas, a great load had lifted from my shoulders.  Oddly enough, I feel that I can proceed more quickly with it now.  Here's where that project stands:

This is the center medallion for his quilt.  It is from McKenna Ryan's "The Nerdles" (her name for the turtles, I guess).  Some of the elements that she designed for the wall hanging would be too difficult to sew down securely enough for a young boy's curious fingers.  Instead I have put in some seaweed (some of which will be pruned).  Each plate on each turtle's back has to be sewn all the way around individually which isn't difficult, just time-consuming.  While I am very happy with the fabrics I chose for them, I won't be really satisfied until I give them eyes.

How are you doing with your projects?

Thursday, December 5, 2013

It's a Start

Okay, here is the photograph of C's quilt on the design wall:

I made it big so you can't say you can't see it!  G'son is crazy about turtles so you may be able to see some fish and sea turtles in some of the blue triangles.  These blocks are from the  pattern "Liquid Assets".  It's the one I made for my great-nephew last year.  

However, this quilt will have a center medallion based on McKenna Ryan's pattern of two sea turtles, "The Nerdles".  By Monday I hope to have at least some of that under construction.  

G'son also very seriously told me that he likes green best now, not blue.  I hope he'll find enough green in the quilt!  If not, I think the turtles will make up for it.

Stay warm this coming weekend!

Wednesday, December 4, 2013


Since it is December and will shortly officially be winter, I felt a need to change my blog's appearance again. Having been unable to figure out how to use any of my own photographs the way I want to or make this blog an expression of either my subject matter or a reflection of other things that matter, I need to make it more personal by changing the look every so often - sort of like changing the curtains from time to time if you can't choose the color of the paint.  The changes to this blog are subject to my whim, the season, ennui, or philosophical ponderings (and if you believe all that, you haven't been reading this blog very long!).  

Earlier in the day, ME commented on the new appearance by commenting that it felt like winter.  Looking at the design, I had to agree with her; so I changed it again.  I'm not quite ready for a true winter look.  The current one while still feeling cold has that tinge of sunrise pink in it and early sun yellow.  I capitalized on that warmth where I could and now feel I've put my own stamp on it.

Just an explanation of why the blog changes so frequently.

Work on grandson's quilt is continuing successfully.  There are more than enough 17" blocks ready and waiting (and probably several to be used as part of the backing) as well as 8½" blocks to fit in where needed.  The center medallion is underway - well, I traced all the applique pieces onto Steam-A-Seam and so consider that a start.  

There will be photos at some point, but I've also accepted the fact that entries will be sporadic this month due to meetings, classes, appointments, and other projects to be finished.  I may not write my usual 5 days a week but will try to write as many as possible.

Good luck with all your plans and remember to take time for yourself, too!  

Tuesday, December 3, 2013


Yes, today was a day of progress and a return of previously marked "Absent" brain cells!  I feel like myself, and that too is a relief.  

We did a lot of talking during the studio class, but amazingly enough, we still managed to get some work accomplished.  As I had decided to set aside the Country Store painting that will require more time than I can give it right now, I had to go through photographs and find something else to work on.  At first I just wanted to draw without thinking about the sketch as a study for a painting, but  . . .  Now that I've started the drawing, I find myself thinking about it in terms of the painting that might follow.  It started when my teacher said something about thinking about values for the watercolor.  I thought to myself, "Watercolor????????  No way, this is an oil painting!"  Funny how I am so sure of that.  Anyway, I decided that I should probably try a landscape of this type in watercolors and see what happens.  An oil painting could always come later.  

However, before I go any further, I will share with you the rough beginnings.  Today I experimented with pencils - H and B types of lead, square 2" pieces of four-sided graphite, special drawing pencils with very soft lead (Ebony is the name of them - wonderful things!), and other pencils with broad ½" wide lead.  That was a good lesson in itself.  

At the moment this title is "Raking the Hay", and there's a funny side to that.  This is a view from way up a mountain across the lake from the side where we now stay.  I've drawn from this particular spot before but never with a farmer in the scene.  As I was drawing, I just knew I would have to do some research because I was having difficulty with the machine on the back of the tractor.  I couldn't see it well enough in my photograph and didn't even understand what the farmer was doing.  

When Sharon told me not to worry because I didn't have to include it, I was amazed and told her the tractor and whatever what the reason for drawing this particular view (I really love machinery!).  She said okay, but I might have trouble with this part.  "Don't worry," I said, "D will know what it is and what the farmer is doing with it, and then I'll be able to find the machine on line."  

He did, and I did, and now the title pays tribute to the farmer who is using a "mechanized hay rake" to rake the hay into rows.  

D to my rescue once more!

Monday, December 2, 2013

The Doldrums

After quite a bit of upheaval followed by a major holiday, I find that I am mentally aimless and suffering from an attack of the doldrums.  Yesterday I spent the day cleaning out-of-the-way cupboards and making piles of things I found.  Then of course I had to put the items that were finally considered worthy of keeping neatly away.  That used up a goodly portion of time that should have been spent elsewhere.

Today the morning was spent running errands that needed to be done but were actually another avoidance device.  Then there were things like laundry (there seems to be quite a lot of that lately), but finally I hauled myself up to my studio by the seat of my britches (hard to do by oneself, you know) where I spent time rearranging blocks that had already been arranged.  Sigh.  Sewing finally did take place, and it is possible I have actually broken the barrier.  Maybe.  We will see if tomorrow, when I return from painting, I have enough force of mind to get-to-the-Christmas-sewing-for-goodness-sake!

Mind you, this entry is being written after gathering my materials for tomorrow's painting, drawing, looking at photos, staring off into space exercise.  Having finished two subjects in watercolors, I find myself not quite up to starting another challenging piece (the one I mentioned some time ago - a Vermont country store).  I feel that I don't have the energy.  Or is it merely that I lack the intestinal fortitude to tackle something that is difficult? 

Or is it simply that I am tired?

Don't mind me.  Here is a photo of my cornucopia (maybe that will brighten my spirits).  I didn't have the usual vegetable/fruits for display so I gathered some of my red and white linens.

And here is a photo of an apple pie baked in a paper bag (the remnants of which you can see beneath it).  It was by far the best pie I've ever made, positively delicious, and I do say so myself.  That's not saying a great deal because we are not a pie eating family so my experience has been minimal.  However, if you're curious about the recipe, go to the King Arthur's Flour site and enter "paper bag apple pie".  You should be able to find it.  If not, let me know, and I'll check for the exact search term.

Wish a newly energized brain for me and an escape from the Doldrums, okay?

Sunday, December 1, 2013

Accepting Compliments

Yes, I believe it truly is an art when one practices accepting compliments gracefully, and it isn't an easy one for most women to master.  Does that sound sexist?  Bear with me.

This morning I was reading the editorial section of our local paper, the Times Union, when I came across "When thanks is enough: Women need to learn the responsibility of accepting praise" [my italics] by Gina Barreca.  The subtitle intrigued me into reading the editorial carefully.  First, if you didn't have the chance to read this one, I recommend digging the editorial section out of your recycle bin so you can.  It's worth it. Obviously the subject is women and their inability to accept compliments gracefully, a grace that I've working hard at learning and teaching to others.  But I never thought the subject through to its final resting place - what that inability does to the giver of the compliment.  And that's one part of the responsibility that Barreca discusses comes in.  The other part is that it comes with success and we should accept that.

As I read, I thought of all my friends (and me, too) who labor so hard and long at their arts/skills - especially at this time of year.  I though about how anxiously and eagerly we all await the unveiling of our work .  Will she/he like it?  Will they understand what we intended?  You know how that goes. Whether it is a knit sweater, a bed quilt, a painting, a pie, an ornament, a pot -   We wait for the look on the face, and we listen to what is said.  

Now be honest.  How many of us respond to the "Ohhh, I love it!" with a "Thank you. I'm so very glad it makes you happy!"  If you are honest, most of you have to say, not often.  

Barreca's point is that inability is not only a "reluctance to accept victory and enjoy even an earned sense of triumph" it is also confusing and sometimes painful to the giver of the compliment ("Men back away . . . swearing never to say another word").  She doesn't belabor this point, indeed, it's a minor issue in this editorial.  However, if we realize the awkward situation we create for the person who uttered words of praise, we might find it easier to say that "Thank you" that seems to stick in our throats.  At least consider that possibility as a stepping stone to get past the tendency to say, quoting many a quilter, "Well, you see the block in the upper right hand corner?  I cut the points off the triangles in that one."

I'll end with two thoughts, first, "It's time for us to stop rehearsing our shortcomings. . . we should accept congratulations with grace and pleasure . . . right along with the other responsibilities of success" [Barreca].   And second, if you don't have a set "thank you" phrase practiced and ready to roll off your tongue, go to http://www.wikihow.com/Take-Compliments (even though the site features a male, there are good ideas here) and find some notions that work for you.

By the way, I've seen your work, and it is beautiful; thank you for sharing!