28 December 2014

Which Word Is "The Word"?

"Lakedale Swans 2014"

As 2014 draws to a close I have been reading about the yearly rituals of choosing "a word" for 2015. The concept has always intrigued me, but which word is "the word"? The one word that will cast it's spell over the year to come?

I tend to be a realist as well as a bit of  skeptic, and I have never considered choosing a word or words that, almost by definition, would open me up to failure. Something like "lose weight", "be more focused", "creative", "energetic", "productive", "joy-full"? Of course I would like to accomplish all of these laudable things, but I truly dislike diets, find focus where and when I can, creativity is something that, most often, finds me rather than the other way around (ditto for productivity) and being "joy-full" is something that I aspire to every day anyway. For me, 'joy' is my "raison d'etre".

I used to wish for more time, but now that I have it, I fritter more of it away than I probably should, but I have always been prone to daydreaming. I think a bit of judicious daydreaming can cure whatever ails a person. I always wish for more energy, but that too ebbs and flows according to the vagaries of niggling maladies and various age and weather related aches and pains. No control there either.

What I can control though is my level of 'appreciation'. 

I truly do believe, and have experienced, that the memories that I cherish the most are not, ncessarily, of those 'larger than life' moments (first real job, marriage, divorce, first 'big' quilt hanging etc etc) but are bonded to the smaller, more quiet, everyday, small things. My moments are sometimes seasonal; in the Winter, I like to stop  to watch the newly returned swans gliding on the lake. I listen for the songs of returning red-tailed hawks and the strident shrieks of foraging bald eagles. I look forward to the return of the hummingbirds in March, the first daffodils of Spring and the sound of a friend's voice on the phone, or better yet seeing them once a week "at quilting". I try to remember that the ebb and flow of daily activities, no matter how boring they may sometimes seem, are the stuff that memories are made of.

During my regular work years, I had little enough time to appreciate or cherish the moments. Time did, and continues to, fly by me at a breakneck speed that is, at times, enough to cause whiplash. How is that I can so clearly recall a time in my life when I had time enough for all of life?  I had time to work, time to create, time to cook and clean, to visit and play, and all without feeling as though each moment was sliding all too quickly through my fingers. Life changes, we change, moments slide by. Time hurries on.

Last year, my friend, Janet, gave me  life changing book by Christian McEwen called "World Enough and Time". The book gave me 'permission' to appreciate the gift of having the time to daydream, to sit, to watch, to listen, to appreciate and to take in the small moments of my everyday life that all add up to the memories that I will always cherish.

There are so many things that I cannot control. Life is comprised of good and bad, happy and sad, sunshine and shadow. Not all days are productive, happy, fulfilling or positive. I cannot wave a magic wand and become thinner, younger, more creative, wealthier, happier or more productive.

What I can do is cultivate appreciation. I may not like feeling low at times, but I can appreciate that I will feel better. I cannot stop the inexorable flow of time through my fingers. What I can do is take the time to appreciate, and be glad for, the fact that I am around and relative healthy enough to have the gift of time.

I think, through the writing of this, I have found my word for the New Year. 

It is "Appreciate".

What will you appreciate in your New Year? Do yu choose a word or words? DO you make a resolution? Do you keep it? What are your personal New Year's traditions? I'd love to hear!

21 December 2014

Light A Candle Against The Dark

by Selena Fox
Make Peace on Earth, Make Peace Within
At the Suns Rebirth & 'Round the Wheel Again.

This evening I will light a candle against the dark and I will consider the blessings of the light that will soon follow.
Perhaps as a bit of an antidote to the rampant commercialism that has become our holiday season, I spent a bit of time this morning reading about the history of Winter Solstice celebrations. This year "holiday" television commercials began with Halloween. Perhaps, before long, advertising will begin on the 4th Of July! As the "season" for gift-giving becomes longer and longer I seem to become less and less excited. Is that reverse psychology at work or is just age? 
I have long considered that exchanging gifts at New Years (as they did in centuries past) might be a small way to protest against what I personally feel has become a travesty of the significance of this season of the spirit. Thus far, however, I seem to bend to our modern tradition, although I am usually such a slug about getting holiday gifts sent in a timely manner (even if they are right in front of me) that perhaps I have already edged towards that goal in a small way! 
I found this excellent article on the International Business Times website (of all places!). It is one of the best synopsis' of Winter Solstice lore and traditions that I found. The link will take you to the full article along with links (if they don't all work from here).
"......The winter solstice is the longest night and shortest day of the year. The Earth’s axis tilts the furthest away from the sun at 23-and-a-half degrees, giving all locations north of the equator less than 12 hours of daylight. This moment has been marked by mankind for centuries. 
In ancient Rome, the weeklong feast of Saturnalia honored the sun god Saturn. Celts believed the sunstood still for 12 days, making it necessary to light a log fire to conquer the darkness. During the Iron Age, the Celts and other ancient Europeans welcomed the winter solstice by feasting, merrymaking and sacrificing animals. Today modern pagans celebrate the holiday by lighting candles, throwing bonfires, hosting feasts and decorating their homes.
Early Celebrations
Celebrating the rebirth of the sun can be seen in other cultures throughout history. While these typically took place during the coldest, darkest days of the year, winter solstice traditions were celebrations that gave people hope sunny days lay ahead.
Egyptians celebrated the return of Ra, god of the sun, on a daily basis. Ancient Greeks held a similar festival called Lenaea. The Roman Empire held Saturnalia celebrations. Scandinavia's Norsemen called the holiday “Yule.”  Families would light Yule logs where they would eat until the log burned out – which could take up to 12 days. Each spark was believed to represent a new pig or calf that would be born in the new year.
Germanic peoples would celebrate the winter festival by honoring the pagan god Odin. Many believed he would fly through the night sky (on a magical flying horse) and determine who would be blessed or cursed in the coming year. Many decided to stay indoors, fearing Odin’s wrath.
Relation to Christmas
Originally the Christian calendar focused on Easter. It was only in the fourth century that the church decided Jesus Christ’s birthday should be celebrated. Since the Bible did not point to an exact date when Christ was born, Pope Julius I chose Dec. 25. It’s commonly believed that the church chose the date in an effort to replace the Roman Saturnalia with the Christian holiday.
"As the Christmas celebration moved west," Harry Yeide, a professor of religion at George Washington University told National Geographic. "The date that had traditionally been used to celebrate the winter solstice became sort of available for conversion to the observance of Christmas. In the Western church, the December date became the date for Christmas."
Besides the date, Christian leaders found ways to relate the pagan holiday to the Christian one.
"This gave rise to an interesting play on words," Yeide said. "In several languages, not just in English, people have traditionally compared the rebirth of the sun with the birth of the son of God."
Christmas traditions including dinner feasts, gift-giving, and decorative wreaths can be traced back to winter solstice rituals. For instance, for the Celtic druids, mistletoe was a sacred plant  called “All Heal.” Priests would cut the plant from the tree, hold a feast and sacrifice animals underneath it. Mistletoe was believed to cure illnesses, serve as an anecdote for poisons, ensure fertility and protect against witchcraft. Some people would hang it from their doorways or rooms to offer goodwill to visitors.
Ancient Romans would decorate their homes with holly during winter solstice. Holly wreaths were given as gifts and used as decoration in public areas and in homes to honor the sun god Saturn. Ancient Celts would have similar traditions. Many would plant holly in their homes as a form of protection since the plants was believed to hold magical powers for its ability to survive the winter months.
Modern Festivities
For Wiccans and Druids, Yule is one of the eight solar holidays celebrated each year. Wiccans see Yule as a time to spend with friends and family, exchange gifts and honor the sun. Homes are decorated with red, green and white decorations – colors that hark back to Druidic traditions.
Some Wiccans welcome the new solar year with light. Rituals can include meditating in darkness with lit candles, singing pagan carols and lighting Yule logs (either in indoor fireplaces or outdoor bonfires)....."

15 December 2014

The Calm In Hand Work

I love sewing at my machine during the day, but after five o'clock I equally enjoy the prospect of doing handwork. I look to enjoying the calming pleasure of simple blanket stitches. This simple stitch somehow manages to look so different depending upon what thread I use. It's a simple fascination!
I have become a fan of Bonnie Sullivan's "Bertie". This little flannel bird and his whimsical antics are just so dang cute! I have "Bertie's Year" which I am working on sporadically and this little project is "Bertie's Winter". The "Winter" version is what I have been working on recently - perhaps logically!

Admittedly, I am not too much of a "cute" kind of gal so it is a bit of a mystery why I am enjoying this hand stitching so much. In the past I have also not been a fan of anything that smacks of "Block-Of-The-Month", but there is, indeed, something to be said for having the pieces already perfectly cut and ready to go. I can always change fabrics, add my own wools or otherwise customize the pieces if I choose to after all!

Although this sort of project is not much of an 'imagination bender', I do find that having handwork ready to go is a soothing way to spend an evening. In the end, I will enjoy having a seasonal wall hanging - it will be especially nice since I don't do much decorating for the holidays these days. My stitching is made "as easy as it gets" thanks to Shabby Fabrics. They provide the pattern with all of the pieces pre-cut nd ready to go! I may never be a true fan of "block-of-the-months" but, I have to admit, that I am thoroughly enjoying this easy way to spend an evening in mindful stitchery. 

There are still some more blocks to be stitched and, of course, beads to add, but I decided that to make the quilting easier it would be good to wait until all of the stitching and quilting is done before the beads go on!

09 December 2014

Hexagons Are Like Potato Chips or How Red Is The New Neutral

I have to admit that I am a sucker for scrap quilts. I have always loved making them and sleeping under them! Since I divested myself of many bags of fabric last year my scrap box has become considerably smaller, and, let's face it, one person's scrap is another person's fat quarter. My scraps tend to be quite small. 

I have never considered making a hexagon quilt before. The shape has never intrigued me. When Sujata Shah's book, Cultural Fusion, came out I bought it and then I had to have a look at her website where I found her insructions for making her "Organized Chaos" quilt. I can't say that I plan to make "Organized Chaos" as presented, but I have become addicted to making hexagon blocks. 
I turned my scrap box upside down and started choosing bits and pieces. Technically one needs pieces that are 2.5" and 2.5" X 4.5". Easy... but some of mt smaller scraps made even those small sizes a challenge to find! Red is my neutral color. It goes with just about everything hat I use and so I did buy yardage of American Made Brand Cotton in Light Red.

My problem is that making these blocks is that I cannot stop making them. I have holiday gifts to finish and another project to get started on that is important, but making these blocks is like a siren song that just keeps calling to me!
I did invest in a KaleidoRuler from Marti Michell. It makes forming these blacks a breeze! I am a gadget girl and if there is a tool that makes my life easier I will try it! Her rulers are made to work - they are very well made of thick, quality, plastic and the indelible markings will last for your quilting lifetime!
Marti Michell's Kaleido Ruler (large size) - the end that forms the blocks.
The other end of the tool forms the corner triangles equally easy!
These blocks make pressing seams open crucial. With so many points coming together, you need to reduce the bulk as much as possible. I used my tailor's ham at first and then decided to try this new to the marker, Strip Stick. It really helps the pressing go quicker and more perfectly. I also like using  a regular seam roll for this purpose, but the strip stick is an excellent tool to have. It's a rounded hard wood stick covered with a padded cover. That makes it easy to get the seams to lie flat and press well. For thinner cottons, like some brands of shot cottons, I use starch as well. Of course, these tools are not at all necessary, but the do make the prssing easier and I like that!
Now that I have gone on about how much simple pleasure making these scrap blocks is providing me with, I had better get back to my regularly scheduled sewing- since projects needs completing and I need some more scraps to work with! 

Below - the bottom, flat side of the Strip Stick

05 December 2014

Recent Constuctions

I have to say that having a break from blogging was beneficial in some ways. I went about me sewing busy-ness with not a thought about documentation. I barely managed to get photos of a lot of things. Of course, that's good and bad!

I finished the quilt in the photo on top. It's from Kaffe Fassett's book, "Shots and Stripes". I had gotten he book and the fabrics for this quilt when I was on Vashon Island for "Camp" last April. It felt great to decide on a project and finish it in the same year! It's being quilted now. I had the material so I did not spend any more on this on! It measures about 79" X 96"
 The quilt above was finished and quilted and I am working on the binding now. It's from the book "Making Quilts With Kathy Doughty of Material Obsessions". I used 90% stash fabrics for this quilt. It measures about 96' X 108'. I wanted to use my reproductions fabric stash in a  modern way. I think it worked out well. I have now made three large bed quilts from my reproduction stash nd there is still more to use. It's great to reduce the amount of fabric that I have...it gives me an "excuse" to buy a bit more! I have to take a phot of it now tha the quilting is done!
This knit shawl was a mystery knit from Sivia Harding. It's beaded and pretty and I learned some new stitches in the making of it.  It's an odd shape though - sort of wedge shape - and I have not figured out how best to wear it yet. It may be remade into something else.

These are Clover Wonder Clips. I have been interested in trying them for some years now, but I found that the price was a bit high and I was not convinced that they would be any better than what I had been using. DH gifted me with these. I found them in these lovely multi colors and for a reasonable price too! I have to admit that they DO work very well, better than what I had been using for certain.  I have been using them for quilt bindings and for holding the thick layers of the bags I have been making. Plus, I love these shiny colors... offering these in multi-colors was a good move for Clover!
When I make bags I often need a lot of small tools that I like to have close by. I also tend to use two different needles sizes. I kept knocking things off accidentally with my elbow or they somehow found they way onto the floor rather than into my hand. I decided to try this easy fix. I cut a piece of shelf lining and placed it right on the side of my machine. The small items stay put, don't mar the surface of the machine, and I can easily keep the extra needle tucked into the material. No more "lost" tools and they are right where I need them when I need them!

Tilly is wishing everyone a happy holiday season... I had to laugh when I took this photo. She was beginning to look irritated that I was getting too close to her carefully placed selection of toys!

01 December 2014

Exciting News !

I have been absent from the blogosphere for some time. In all honesty, I had/have been struggling about the benefits of blogging. Let's face it. It takes time, energy and effort. Many people seem to want sound bites such Face Book. Although many friends assure me that blogging has not gone by the wayside and that they do read blogs - I was questioning it all. One of my friends even asked if I will ever blog again. So, the answer is yes! I do have some other things to share soon, but this is my biggest news right now and so I want to share the information first

I first met Virginia Spiegel quite a few years ago in Houston when she hosted her very successful "Fiber Arts For A Cause Postcard Fund Raiser". Aside from being a world renowned artist, Virginia has been an energetic fund raiser for The American Cancer Society for many years. To date, she has raised more than $240,000.00 through Fiber Arts For A Cause! 

Virginia attracts the very best works and so, when she contacted me awhile ago about being one of "The 100" for this years fund raiser I was a bit shocked and quite delighted!

I am, therefore, honored to be an invited artist for "The 100". The event will be held on Wednesday, February 4, 2015. The goal for this fiber fundraiser for the American Cancer Society is to raise $10,000 in one day.

How could this happen? 

Would you like to be a part of this amazing fund raising event? The recipients of these exclusive fiber art works will be part of a very select group. The invited artists are from the creme de la creme of fiber artists. 

One hundred patrons will be randomly assigned artwork from this extraordinary line-up of international fiber artists. As I mentioned, Fiberart For A Cause has already raised $240,000 through the generosity of both fiber artists and patrons. I am quite certain that this event will, indeed, meet its goal of raising another $10,000.00 in just one day through the generous donations of people like you my friends.

Not all of us have the funds to be able to donate what we would like to, but every bit helps. Even if you are not able to manage this particular event, please have a look at Virginia's site for more information about Fiber Arts For A Cause and Virginia's fund raising efforts. I do not know of many people who have not, in one way or another, been touched by this awful dis-ease. Every bit helps fund research efforts. We really do need to find cures and funding research is the only way to accomplish that.

Thank you for supporting Fiberart For A Cause.
When generous fiber artists and patrons join together, wonderful things happen!