Friday, January 08, 2010

Must Glue-Cut-Glitter-Stitch Something

It's almost overwhelming how crafty I feel. Not sinisterly coiling a handlebar mustache-kind of craftiness. I need to make something.

Maybe I should sinisterly coil my own mustache. Bitter Betty is crafty that way.

Unless I clean my office/studio/nerve center first, I will be putting the cart before the horse, but it's almost overwhelming how crafty I feel and I cannot wait. Something whimsical is bursting to get out of my head. And inspiration is calling.

And if my crafting is justified and purposeful, something hyper organized for say... next Christmas, then I can have fun and relish that elusive sense of accomplishment.

I'm going to do something. Seriously. Must. craft. create. make. I'll download Lady Harvatine's "O, Holy Night" and start basting and snipping to her lovely voice and the ukuleles strumming...

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Thursday, November 12, 2009

Special Delivery

M is for Most generous.
Most kind.
Most delightful.
Most unexpected.

This is the bed that Geoff and I saw in a resale shop. I think it was about 18 months ago, and we knew we were not going to find a better fit for our romantic and feminine daughter. With no place to put it, but the garage, we brought it home. You know how excited I was about putting this in a room for Maria... a room of her own? I waited her whole life to make a beautiful room just for her.

Waiting. In the middle of waiting there can be so much angst and frustration. And I think it is strange how suddenly it can seem that the waiting is over, and now we find ourselves where we were waiting to get. Home. What a journey. What an arduous and challenging journey, and yet we are done waiting and the things we stored in our hearts, and garage, can be unpacked and fulfilled, put in place and enjoyed.

The difference between preparing a baby's nursery and setting up a little girl's room, is that one is all about anticipation and personal choices, and the other is all about knowing who will live there and what she would choose and love. Maria loves pink. And for several months she has been acknowledging that her color preferences also include red, "which is like dark pink," and green and yellow and orange and blue. She delights in the realization that we do not have to restrict our color favorites to one shade. She swoons over lace and ribbons, tulle with sparkles are cause for dancing, flowers make her sigh, rainbows and hair bows make her exclaim her adoration.

There is no end to the manufactured glitter and glam in the decorating world, but I wanted to create a room with homemade touches and natural femininity, where her own imagination could build a fairy tale and rainbows. I imagined gathering the art and furniture from here and there, seeking vintage charm and meaningful images to surround her. I was busy packing and moving and keeping things, as best I could, in working order, so I was not sure when or how I was ever going to achieve this vision. Yet the vision of a homemade room, with personal touches and Maria-esque flavor was always on my mind, right down to the quilt I hoped to make for her bunny bed.

We were still learning how to find one room from the next, still opening closet doors and discovering the best corners of our Bird House, when we heard the first knock on our door. It brought the first package.

My heart my paused.
My thoughts paused.
I remembered a blog giveaway, a contest. I remembered something about vintage sheets cut in squares for quilt making. I remembered when I left a comment on the blog, thinking "I have no business coveting fabric in the middle of this moving madness."

Maria and Max didn't pause and they eagerly assisted, opening the big package in record time, while I tearfully began to comprehend what had happened. Tearfully, because I can never get over how kind "strangers" can be, because I was stunned by how delightful and perfect Tara's gift is. Tears because it was all so very unexpected. And thankfully, Max and Maria knew these were happy tears. They were stunned and delighted as well, as I explained where this beautiful gift came from.

Thoughtful, busy, talented and generous Tara did not send me cut squares for me to stash away until I could maybe some day make a quilt. She knew my situation and she sent us something she had already made herself. Pink and yellow and green and red and orange, feminine and charming, vintage and handmade, and complete with an M for Maria. The pink M monogram has a bunny print, a perfect match for the bunny bed.

Doily heart... so sweet.

No one knew about the bunny bed waiting in the garage, and it had been a long time since I wrote anything about wanting to decorate a room for my daughter. I wish I could really convey that sense of enchantment I feel about what Tara did, how she brought magic to our home. She rejuvenated my dreams and gave my hopes flight... And you really mustn't think I am over stating this, because sometimes when we least expect it, when we are struggling, we can be overcome with gratitude and wonder and it's good to try and find the words to express that joy and awe.

Thank you Tara. It's so beautifully made. I love the soft fabrics, the nostalgic look of those sweet prints. All combined, the old sheet squares make such a comforting and gentle quilt, sure to keep Maria smiling, even in her sleep. It is just what we needed, in so many ways.

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Monday, August 17, 2009

Happiness In Every Stitch

After my last sewing episode, I admit it seamed unlikely that I would ever return to the cutting board and straight pins. But I cannot resist. I may not always get the results I am seeking, but when it comes to making children's clothing, quilts or yo-yo's, I cannot resist playing again and again. And even more surprisingly I find it really helps me cope with stress and anxiety. Figuring out "real" patterns adds to my stress and anxiety, which is why I am happy to discover that I can make simple things by making it up as I go!

All the sewing I did for Maria, her Chickens Abroad-Summer wardrobe, held up very well, so I thought I would play around with the dress and skirt and make clothes that she can wear in to Autumn. Plus... she grew! Her clothes still fit, but they are shorter than they were at the beginning of Summer.

On this new dress I used seam binding to finish the sleeves and the hem, and I even added a strip of it at the edge of the yoke, where it meets the skirt. It's a loose fit and will wear well with tights and an undershirt. I've almost got this homemade pattern fine tuned enough to call it a "real pattern!"

More Kaffe Fassett fabric from Starry Night Hollow! Another nice thing about sewing for a little girl... half a yard goes a long way!

She's doing a hula for us.

Maybe not the best image of this skirt, since she had been wearing it a lot already. Excuse the wrinkles. I think this was half a yard and I just stitched it from one end to the other and then gathered it with the elastic waist. The rick-rack hem was irresistible.

Cousin Izzy got one of these skirts too. A fun Summer print for sure! Maria wore it to preschool on "water days." She especially loves her mermaid pocket. I used my quilting skills to add a fun contrasting fabric around the waist. It's such a simple way to add interest, and I think I will play with this idea a bit more in the future.

But enough about Me and my sewing obsession, Maria wants to dance! She told me she wants to be a mermaid for Halloween! How's that for a sewing challenge?! Then again she also said she wants to be Dorothy... I don't think she remembers the first time she went down the Yellow Brick Road. We both saw Christmas fabric from Sew, Mama, Sew! I'm sure it cannot be too early to plan a holiday dress or two.

Obviously we both love to play... aren't we sew lucky?

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Friday, December 19, 2008


We have mice!
It's our own fault. We actually invited them in and we've been having a lot of fun with them. The cats like them even better, especially after they've been bouncing around in the catmint. A few mouses in the house is alright, as long as they don't mind being batted around, tossed and pawed, but I'll be sending the rest away.

I dreamed them up and could not wait to stitch them together. Maria loves to help me plunder the scrap pile, choosing the mousiest prints. I cut and sew and she turns them right side out.

Together we stuff the hungry mice with plenty of fluff. As I stitch their ends shut, Maria chooses and cuts yarn for their tails.

We've been so amused with ourselves and our mouse factory. When they are finished we toss them in to the nest, where they scurry around in the organic catmint, and that's when we have to keep an eye out for Chango and Benjamin! The kitties play blissfully and wildly with their new found friends.

This may finally be a sewing project I could make a tutorial for. It's easy-peasy, lemon squeezey.


While I am here, trying to accomplish all of my elf duties and pleasures, some of you are performing actual holiday miracles... creative and generous! I am at a loss for words, but of course I am going to try and say something here... My children see these packages coming in and they join me in awe. We are amazed and delighted, and we marvel at the talent and kindness of our friends. We have friends all over the planet, many of whom we have never even met in person. Thank you! Thank you for thinking of us. Thank you for your comments on Chickenblog, for sharing your encouragement and thoughts. Thank you for making the time to connect with us. Thank you for making bears and purses, aprons and doll quilts, pincushions and needle books, earrings and necklaces and more. Thank you for sharing your gifts with us... these amazing reflections of your time and skill. Throughout the year we are blessed by kindness that is sweet and unexpected. Amazing.

Last night the children discovered a new delivery of Christmas cheer, in the form of a package from Chapter III. Lesley recently posted about making coasters and I was happy to recall the red fabric she was looking for when we were at a quilt show together. She's made these gorgeous mini quilts, coasters, and she sent us a ribboned bundle. She really raises the bar with these. They are so nicely made and so lovely to look at and hold.

Wait... is that a...?
Yes, my friends know me well!

Lesley also sent us Winter provisions... chocolate! I have had these chocolates once before and I know they are exceptional. William, Alex, Max, Maria and I gasped simultaneously when we saw the box and I immediately declared this box sacred. Too precious for immediate inhaling or hasty consumption. We are going to wait for everyone to be home. For the house to be semi-clean, for a fire in the fireplace, Ave Maria playing on the boombox, candlelight and everyone bathed and lovely... then, and only then, will we reverently and solemnly share this very delicious gift.

I almost wish I were home alone when the box came, but truthfully, I believe good things are even better shared.

In the meantime they ask to smell the chocolates.
I am so nice to oblige them.

Yes, unusual, unexpected and delicious.... even just to smell. We'll post a post chocolate summary soon

Thank you Lesley!

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Thursday, December 18, 2008

Baking, Making and Thanking

Did you hear that?
That was the sound of the days whizzing by.
It may have also been the sound of the rivers rushing by our home as we begin to dry out from some rather impressive storms.
Lake Garage Mahal is as high as ever!
The chicas added water waders to their Santa lists.

Holly and Rich opened there home up for high production cookie decorating. They had everything in order and ready for us when we went over last week. Every color of frosting was represented and all kinds of sprinkles and fancy tips. I think Izzy and Maria were at the longest... reveling in creative, frosted abandon.

Yes, there were classic shapes, like trees and stars, but Max was drawn to the Christmas rhino. He brought back the once extinct chocolate rhino... of course how long do we expect a chocolate rhino to last in the wild?

Nick and Izzy, Tutu, Maria and Rich... we all took turns laying on sweet layers.

Even with traditional shapes, Alex find creative expression. Tasty expression.

Aloha! I was sentimentally decorating an Island lady, resplendent in her floral muumuu. Holly and I did not compare notes or coordinate, but we were still in synch. It's true aloha between these 2 sweet beachcombers.

Thank you everyone for your wonderful comments and feedback about the aloha memory quilt. My pride was more about relief in having completed it, but all of your praise helped me appreciate the success of it... it is pretty! You should see it now... Ruth gave it the place of honor on her beautiful pineapple bed. It's a perfect fit. The size is right and the colors fit too, matching the window treatments and the family braided rug on the wood floor.

I know I've mentioned these before, but I have to share more! They aren't necessarily easy to make, but they are very satisfying and fun... simply because it looks so cool when it's done.

It's fun to choose and coordinate the fabrics, then to fill each slim pocket. And next comes waiting to see what the children will think of them. I realize markers and pencils cannot always find their way home, but I think having a nice place to go will help the clean up process.

Sewing, baking, and lots of driving south and north and around and around, and crocheting.

I know I have been modest about my yarn mania. Honestly, I am limited in my skills, but I have been highly productive. All my girlfriends got hand crocheted and comfy-soft face cloths and lovely bars of homemade soap... the suds came thanks to my talented sister-in-law, Gretchen. There are hats and scarves everywhere. I've sent some off to parts east and north, and I am still hooked! I have got to find a friend to sit by my side and teach me how to ripple! I would love to be as Cozy as a Posie!

First Tami surprised me by sharing her color wrap pattern, and that felt like an early Christmas. Well, the surprises keep arriving, and it's awesome! Just look at what came from Mamasparks... now why would anyone think to send me a cute little chicky bag?! You may recall that Mamasparks is the amazing quilter and thoughtful friend that made and sent Blue Aloha... I feel I've hardly begun to thank her for that kindness, and now she is at it again. Maria and I had such a happy giggle about this purse. It's like a bit of origami... folding and opening to reveal 3 separate pockets. Pam, it's beautiful, and so is the clever pocket purse... am I guessing correctly that it could keep sewing needles? Thank you Mamasparks, and by the way, Maria wants me to start right away on the chicken quilt... lol!

"Fresh Eggs." Fresh eggs on my new bag and in our kitchen, all thanks to Lady Betty Orpington. If there were a reasonable way to share them, I would bring some to Pam and some more to Jennifer. It would be a heartfelt gesture of thanks for the love they have been sharing with our family.

At her blog, "Infinity More Monkeys," Jennifer posted about her handmade holiday efforts. Our family received an entire family, a clan? of her beautiful polar bears. Each of us has a bear to represent us on our Christmas tree. It makes me almost glad that we can't access our old ornaments, because these wooly friends are perfect on our little tree and they deserve center stage. Thank you Jennifer, for the bears and the music CD, for being so close and dear, even from afar.

Yes, the days are whizzing by. Not everything is done. I doubt it ever will be, but I feel blessed and hopeful, even in the midst of the frenzy. I think the holidays can be crazy, but the craziness is good when tempered with good friends, and moments spent in quiet contemplation of all that is sacred and uplifting. The fun has begun and there's more to come, as the boys will soon be out of school.

Ahhh... a break in the clouds and a chance to feel the warmth of the sun. Whoosh! Here we go!

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Sunday, December 14, 2008

Made With Aloha

I miss Kalopa. I miss Jim. I miss the dreams and plans that Geoff and I were trying to fulfill there, with Ruth and Jim. I miss an almost infinite number of little details that fit in between those thoughts and feelings... like plumeria fragrant breezes, and the sight of Jim, Corm, making repairs on his rugs or preparing to ride his bicycle to work, the incredible sense of belonging Geoff and I felt when we were in Hawaii. I still cannot come to terms with all that we lost last February. It has been a hard year, or more... just too many sad losses.

Ruth gave us Corm's aloha shirts, favorite ones that I imagine she could not bear to part with or, at the time, to see. In fact, none of us can look at these shirts and not think of him... him tending his orchids or reading a Jane Austen novel, Jim cooking turkey burgers or watching rainbows from the house he built, sipping port, embracing his beautiful wife. I can hear him... like a teenager with a crush, like a man with certain passion, talking about Ruth. He would tell me how he adored her and needed her, how he loved her with all his heart. He lived that way, fully, with his body, mind and spirit engaged and purposeful. Weren't we fortunate to be a part of his life, to enjoy his lively discussions and share in his journey... yes, we were.

Jim's shirts were a size too small for Geoff to wear, and the boys might have fit in them, but it became obvious to me and Geoff that they were and always will be Grandpa Corm's aloha shirts and we didn't want it to be any other way. So what do you do with beautiful shirts, shirts that are a powerful remembrance of a good man, a man that studied sailing and woodcarving, music and Buddhism? I knew almost immediately what I could try to do.

From the moment I decided to make a quilt using Corm's shirts I was embarking on a journey... a journey that I may never be able to fully describe. Designing and planning took months, and when I finally made the first cut, I had no plan at all, except to try and make something dignified and beautiful, something to honor his memory, a quilt to comfort us and to symbolize the love and passion he shared with us... I cried every time I worked on it, and at first I could hardly make any progress at all, because the emotions would overwhelm me.

It was a meditation and a prayer, and I let the fabric show me the plan. Blue and rose shirts made a balance of color and feeling. I centered those squares. Hawaiian shirts often use either the bright side or the faded sided of the fabric, another vision of balance, and so I chose to use both the faded print and the bright print in the design.

And every time I thought my plan was going to fall short, run out of fabric or be poorly constructed, I found what I needed. Maria was by my side for most of the work, and she cut scraps, sitting in her chair next to mine. Once or twice I had to retrieve those scraps that I would need after all. She called it Grandpa's Quilt... it will always be Grandpa's Quilt.

Working in the garage, with a 3 year old to help, crying every time I thought about why I was making this quilt and trying to make order out of pieces and bits... some times, many times, it felt like an impossible journey.

I would go back to my books and other quilt designs.

And some days I would take a break... breaks that could last for weeks.

Then it began to take shape. I made enough squares. I added more squares, as a design began to show itself.

I do love quilting, but I cannot say which part is an actual pleasure. It can feel insurmountable one day, then ridiculous the next. Planning is nerve wrecking. Cutting is frustrating. Pinning and basting... yeesh! Maybe I like the actual quilting part best, but my poor fingers would protest. And when it feels like it will never be done, I still can't help but imagine being wrapped up in it, and planning the next one!

I left some elements of the shirt in the quilt, and by this time I knew that I would hand quilt it, even though it was going to be a big undertaking.

Geoff helped me pin the 3 layers together. I love that everyone helped in some way or another. The boys each gave me helpful feedback about the layout and design, and they offered their encouragement and praise. And working with Geoff by my side, placing all of those pins... that was very nice.

A basted quilt is like seeing the finish line. By the time it was ready to be quilted I was feeling relieved and grateful. I could see that my idea was going to work. Geoff thought I was a bit nuts to still be thinking of hand quilting, but those stitches and doing my best seemed like an important part of the journey. Corm did his best... his work, his love, his way of living was about dedication and steadfastness... I could not expect less of myself for his quilt.

I stitched a unique motif in each square. The upper corner squares are pockets. The green and rose aloha shirt was one Geoff used to wear... we like the idea of Geoff's old shirt keeping company with Corm's and the color balance worked out nicely. Even the binding is cut from a shirt. The sashing is new fabric... a little blue aloha.

We gave the quilt to Ruth. I know it evokes strong emotions. I know it's still difficult to... to even say what we are feeling... I hope some day to find the words to express all the love, sadness, joy, gratitude, pain and healing that were part of me and this journey... in the meantime, Grandpa's Quilt speaks for me.

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