Tuesday, April 30, 2013

18 Years In The Blink Of An Eye

 Eighteen years ago a little baby was about to make its way into the world.  Expecting our first child, we had spent months picking out just the right name for a little boy.  Using my full nesting powers I hand stitched enough tiny fish to string a border around the entire nursery.  Though baby would come a week before the due date, Hubby and I were ready.  And as the final push passed, and  we waited for little Ethan's arrival announcement, we heard the doctor exclaim, "It's a healthy baby GIRL!" 
Though her birth is about the only time she has been early for anything ever- she hasn't stopped surprising us, amazing us, and making us laugh nearly every day of the last 18 years.  Looking back to my journal entry on the day she was born I wrote, "Part of me is sad because she has been all mine for the past 9 months, and now I have to share her with the world."
As fate would have it, she turned out to be our only child and in ways more than she will ever know, she taught me to relax, to play, to heal, and to walk with the most certainty against the strongest currents. I now understand why so many people tell new moms, "It goes by so very fast", because indeed time gathers its moments and slips forward in a hurry. 
In the next few months, she will graduate high school and go to college.  In the afternoon, when she is not at home, I listen to the silence.  I try to imagine what this house will sound like without the whirr of a hair dryer, Nikki Minaj wars with her Dad, and her voice as it sings above her guitar strumming.  I smile thinking of her in September, venturing 300 miles away to a new chapter in a big city chasing after her dreams.
 I find myself stealing time back to those selfish lines of the day she was born. I am so overwhelmed with happiness and pride, but yet I am sad.  I am not yet ready to share her with the world.


Friday, April 26, 2013

A Good Case For Needling

I just love a good case of needles!  It doesn't matter where they come from- quaint boutiques selling reproduction books, a brightly colored vintage book from the antique store, or that estate sale bag of cast off notions sure to include the best of all cases: an advertisement!
 Fancy needle books and everyday business appreciation cases are relics of simpler times when front porch gatherings were the social hot spot and sewing skills were a necessity rather than hobby.  It was also pure advertising genius and perhaps the predecessor to branding by getting the consumer to incorporate logos into everyday life.
I am a true sucker for every needle case I see.  I linger, read the ad, open it to count the remaining needles.  I wonder about the conversations the case has heard round the sewing table.  With so much adoration, I realized I could make my own as a companion to my line of tart tin pin cushions. 
 Using printer fabric, I printed out my cases, aged with a cinnamon coffee soak, and layered over cashmere wool.  A simple herringbone spine stitch and a few needles tucked in- it's a thousand times more useful than a paper tag and leaves a lasting impression.
 With so much focus on returning to Main Street, shopping local, and restoring community, I hope to see the needle ad case come back into vogue.  For now, the needle case ad is the primitive perfect companion to up-cycled pin cushions!

Thursday, April 25, 2013

Busy Hands

Even though Baby Girl is only a few days shy of 18, when she is sick at home snoozing the day away on the couch, I can't help but pass the day by her side. I pull up the work basket, put on an animated movie and stitch as she sleeps.
So many projects needed just a few final embellishments: an eye, a snout, a few color touches.
I wasn't sure about Bubbles' snout- but with a few tips from my bestie, Ashlie Blake of Painting Bliss- he will soon suit my fancy.
The sheep chose just the right vintage leather glove for their faces.  This morning, now that yesterday's rain has passed, they are in the garden choosing their legs and then they will be ready for their Etsy slots.
I even had time to start another whimsical work.  I've ben wanting to do a pillow version of my mice using the dreamy alpaca roving I picked up on my trip to Connecticut in March.  It is like sculpting with buttah!
This wee piece will travel with me as I like to always have a project on hand.  Traffic jams, Starbucks drive thru lines, prescription pick up waits- all good times to punch in more wool and fill my need to never waste a second in this creative life.

Wednesday, April 24, 2013

Spring Prims In My Work Basket

My studio work basket is full of brightly colored farm life this week. Prim pigs, sheep and mice are ruling the roost with folk art flair.
Bubbles the Pig is back in production after being well received on his first run.  With thrifted winter woolies scarce in the hot Texas spring and summer months, I am thinking of making a summer linen version to keep the piggies happy.
Inspired by the colors of spring, these sheep are made from felted wool in teals.  They lumber quietly about the studio- lending a shady resting spot for wee mice.
Bubbles will soon be joined by his newest pen pal, Edna. Together they will laze about the pasture in the warm spring sun day dreaming under blue country skies.
Today is a gray day outside the studio windows so these colors should make for cheerful work.

Tuesday, April 23, 2013

Kemah Strolling

Morning walks along the water are so refreshing.  The salty air, sail boats and laughing gulls set a cheerful tone for the day.
Kemah is a strolling fave as its gentle currents pour itself into the Texas Gulf against a backdrop of brightly colored amusement rides hushed silent by the early hour. Morning here is quiet, peaceful, and void of tourists.
Hubby has joined me this morning on my walk.  After time in Bangladesh he is wearing off jet lag enjoying the sweet sun sunshine unfettered by the smog and filth of Dhaka. 
Spending so much time apart, Hubby doesn't mind my need to photograph everything I see.  He is tolerant of my bird watching- my fascination with the comic gulls and stoic herons that dominate the pylons.
He understands my excitement as the local fishermen reel in a large black drum fish and show it off to boardwalk spectators before releasing the large fish back to the wild.
There is magic in the morning.  The details visitors don't see.  The simple nuances of time juxtaposed by weather and wanderers. 
 Mornings are meant for the observant and I am simple a steward of the lens capturing ordinary events in all their beauty and significance. 
 For these are the times that matter most- the easy hours spent in the company of those we love reveling in simple joys each day has to offer.

Friday, April 19, 2013

Lunch At Hendley

There are few places like Hendley Market in Galveston, Texas.  On the historic Strand, visitors are welcomed in with or without dogs and shoes. An eclectic mix of local artists, antiques, vintage, fine art, witty books and penny candy canisters filled with delights for wee folk.  It is a store for all ages and the chronically young at heart.
Housed in one of the oldest buildings in town, I think some past residents were messing with my camera because very few shots came out with any clarity.  Did I mention the fully charged camera battery died off as well?  It was as if the ghosts wanted to keep Hendley's delights under wraps.  I was hoping the trade off would be a spectral figure in my photos- but no such luck.  Just grainy pics at best.
It is an honor to become part of the Hendley vibe.  Today I was invited in for a light lunch and conversation.  Amongst the fine cheeses, asparagus and taffy, I learned the ladies of the shop share my taste in music and my off beat sense of humor. Exactly the camaraderie I needed as Hubby's extended work trip has prolonged the silence in the house.
My Lydia sure is comfy in her new home, tending shop and handing out strawberries!
There is no greater feeling than becoming a part of the community in which one lives.  I have moved so often that this art of assimilation should be second nature, but I am shy at heart.  Hendley feels like a new home with old friends.  Every guest is well known and as one guest said, "Hendley is just so cool.  It's a place we all come to just hang out."
With spring leaving shop doors wide open to welcome breezes across America it is time to get out and taste the local flavors.  Artists have been working the winter away and are ready to share a story while showing off their wares.  So treat yourself to fresh stroll in a familiar place.  Support local business and increase your hometown identity. Be amazed by the many talents who share your zipcode.


Wednesday, April 17, 2013

A Good Punch

Nothing beats stress build up like punching the @#*! out of something.  What do I do with nervous energy? Needle punch punch punch punch punch! And I make a living mess while I do it!
My work table is a scattered array of roving, notions, and wool scraps at the ready.  I have fallen in love with Wisteria threads roving!  It adds just the right hues to every project!  I love to use non-traditional backgrounds when needle punching. Old woolens, linen napkins, and painted cotton lend themselves well to my schemes.
Perhaps it is my New England upbringing that has me so thrifty (ahem- "resourceful").  I believe every scrap, every cast-off has value and deserves a chance to shine again before truly hitting the trash.
Bubbles the piggy has become one of my fave de-stress characters.  His bubbles are made from old sweater wool ringed in alpaca roving. I am playing in my dye bins to mimic the color quality of the Wisteria threads- but I am no match.  Not yet anyway (insert evil laugh).  I used a backdrop of wool up-cycled from a thrift store suit atop a layer of cotton batting. The fibers, when condensed through the punch process, give the bubbles dimension.
Mini punchers are my latest craze!  Old sweater wool molded into tart tins, sugar bowls, anything kitchen- then embellished with roving for a lasting pin keep treasure!
The old adage is true: when you're looking for something you can never find it.  Even when just last week the item was EVERYWHERE!  This week I received an order for 10 tins, and of course the constant supply has fallen off the earth.  I've been scouring the antique stores, thrift shops and garage sales to no avail!  So back I go to my punching, needling out the stress and keeping the faith that new tins will emerge before the deadline.

Tuesday, April 16, 2013

When Terrorists Hit Close To Home

When acts of terrorism strike home we want our loved ones close.  We want to see their faces, understand their emotions, and reassure each other that we are safe, we are resilient, we are Americans, and we will overcome.  Watching the footage of my beloved Boston being bombed during the marathon struck dread in my heart and stained the city where I went to college.  The very street I walked everyday for seven years was in chaos.  My fellow Bostonians, my fellow Emersonians, shocked, horrified, and under attack.  This was also the street I walked day after day with the love of my life.  We were in college in those days, younger, not yet engaged, idealistic, ready to take on the world.  But in the past two weeks, this world has taken us on- and in hearing the news of the Boston Marathon bombing, I stood alone.
For the second time in two weeks I was in fear at the hands of world politics.  Like many Americans who today find themselves trying to resume normal tasks under the crushing blow of terror, I too have been living that reality since early last week when Hubby traveled deep into rural Bangladesh.  Because Bangladesh has a minimal role in world power, only the truly tragic headlines are read.  But within Bangladesh there is an uprising calling for blasphemy laws to be passed, and what was once peaceful has escalated from transportation disruption to mob mentality and fatalities.  So on a long, high bridge, in the middle of nowhere, my husband's car was met by 150 angry protestors demanding and shouting words he did not understand, caught in an uprising in which he held no stake.  But there he was with two co-workers being attacked with rocks, sticks, and bare hands.  The crowd frustration grew as access inside the car was denied. Soon the car was being pushed, rocking closer and closer to the bridge's edge. Certain his only means of survival would be a chance dive into the muddy river below, my husband's long time belief that he would die on a bridge was seemingly about to be proven true.  Just at that moment, for reasons unknown, the protestors retreated just enough for the car to pass and my husband's driver sped on as fast as one can on an old rural road.  Though Hubby made it safely to the secure work compound, in days he would have to make the trip back under worsening conditions.
On the phone with Hubby as he relayed this near death experience, I felt the blood drain from my body.  The cold knowing that I could lose someone so dear to a nation whose politics I did not mold, did not vote for, was not even aware of their social or religious motives.  My world, in that moment, became surreal.  I felt powerless to offer any help or aid.  All I could do was wait and pray.  Though we agreed not to tell our daughter what was happening, like all children, she is intuitive.  She cried for her Dad that day- missing him terribly- but still not aware that she nearly lost him. 
In the end, Hubby was escorted by armed guards back to Dhaka and promptly left Bangladesh for Singapore.  We texted immediately about the Boston Marathon bombs.  He won't be home until Saturday.  The day after his 46th birthday.  But he will be home.  We will share cake and the three of us will hold each other closer than ever before.  This same luxury will not be afforded to many who were victims while innocently attending the Boston Marathon.  People who simply were celebrating another normal day in their lives, routine, regular, happy.  Lives now torn apart by the politics, religion, or idealism in which they play no part, have no stake.  May they, their families and their friends, all be lifted up in prayer from our grieving Nation.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Russian Mice Revamp

All good ideas evolve, improve, morph into a new generation.  The Russian mice are no exception.  Initially completed with wire details, these metal arms and toes became cumbersome and twisted.  They needed a face lift to soften the iron curtain claws and enter a kinder paw phase. 
All hail the mighty alpaca roving!  Softer than featherweight cashmere and more pliable than putty, this roving rocks the wire and compacts into the sweetest paws around!
Pedicures were a must once the hands were coiffed!  Wrapping the roving around the wire as well as braiding it through the original foot loop creates a sturdy form that is easily needle punched into a solid form.
Now it's time to further evolve the fibers used in the making of the mice!  Next on tap is wool blend mohair suiting and vintage curly coat fur! 
Strawberries and Cream still needs a real name and a few final touches before she makes her debut on the Primitive Peddler April 15th!  I'd better get my tail back in the studio if she is to make her deadline!

Friday, April 12, 2013

Feeling Sheepish

   Emerging from my common cold coma of the past week I realized I had spent most of my couch time counting sheep.  Suddenly the work basket was full of fat forms with tiny faces begging for final touches. Feeling better now, I kindly obliged.
Made from an up-cycled wool/mohair sweater, Sherman Simpleton has rented out his side  for advertising.
His face is a fingertip of an old leather glove.  Vintage gloves have been one of my go-to faves for years due to their versatility and expert craftsmanship.  
A new Sherpa fluff was born while I was resting.  Wanda proudly wears her full coat knowing it will be the talk of the spring county fair! 
Wanda's face is made of distressed leather and her tie is a simple scrap of Americana calico.
Rounding out the common cold collection is the sheep trio "Baa, Baa, Blacksheep".  These wee guys are made from up-cycled garments, garden sticks and wool roving.
The beige Baas have a face of painted cotton distressed just so, whereas the black sheep has a leather glove tip face.
In addition to sheep- pigs, mice, and bunnies were found all in stuffed and ready to finish condition- just littered all over the house.  Makes me wonder if I was actually productive in my coma- or were other wee hands at work?
Hmmmmmmmmmmmmmmm... Guess we'll never know!


Wednesday, April 10, 2013

Ode To The Common Cold

O evil creeping, skin crawling, common cold
How you make me feel like refrigerated mold
Feverish chills and oh how my nose does run
Making me ignore all that needs to be done
No need to shower, no way I'm going out
With Kleenex Cool Touch lodged in my snout
Snuggled on the couch in a cherry Nyquil haze
Deadlines unmet in the slow passing days
Mail piling up, kitchen counters a littered mess
Until I can breathe again, I couldn't care less
More Nyquil please, I'm going back to bed
Gonna sleep til all my hair is matted to my head.
Oh common cold, common wretched cold go away
Don't you dare come back another day!
I've too many projects that I really need to do
I can't waste one more hacking sneezing day with you.

Monday, April 8, 2013

Playing In The Dirt

One is never too old to play in the dirt.  In fact, as we get older we hone our dirt playing skills into the fine art of gardening where we play with the hands-on wonder of a child.  Mounds are palm-sanded to smooth perfection, dirty kneecaps prevail, and colors are chosen like crayons from a fresh box.  Yes, playing in the dirt is good for us.  Every gardener knows this.  And the unspoken truth is that much more than we tend our gardens, our gardens tend to us.
Unfortunately, my body doesn't always support my child-like ambitions and much of spring's garden prep work usually leaves me in a head to toe Thermacare body wrap.  But this weekend I was blessed to have two helpers with strong backs to do all my heavy lifting, weeding and mulching.  It was the best gift ever!
  All that remained was the task of setting the flowers in place. 
Having lived in this house for a full year now, the first year plants have secured their roots and have filled in the backdrop.  I added daisies, zinnias, and vinca for color pops.  In between, coriander has exploded everywhere!  Peppers, crepe myrtle, and grapefruit tree seedlings have also been carefully transferred to sun themselves in well fed pots.
You'll have to check back to see what that spider-ish looking thing grows into.  I am constantly collecting seeds and chucking them into the winter garden to see what will take root and offer me a spring surprise. I am hoping it is from the seed pods I gathered back home in Connecticut last fall.