Archive | September 2016

Perfect, then Unperfect…

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Yesterday I wrote “I want to make perfect squares…” And then I did.

The most perfect squares. I even love the back. Paperless piecing works. Thanks, Jude. The back is even perfect. This back would be lovely to stitch on. The frames are already there.

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Closer on the front.

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Here on my FREEEEE wordpress site my picture size choices are small, giant and super giant. Sorry about that.

I had an idea for a SUN in the middle square, an idea I was/am playing with. But, so far it’s not working right. I fear I have ruined my perfect squares and made them Unperfect.

Last night I stayed up until 1 a.m. so I could stitch together two rows, just to see what they looked like. Then I slept for a few hours and was up again. Miserable and couldn’t sleep, so I finished stitching them together, began basting onto other fabric. Maybe the unperfect thing started with no sleep. Hormones and no sleep. I hate it.

Yesterday the neighbor girls across the street came over again. I had made the mistake of being friendly and telling them I didn’t mind if they petted the cats. Somehow, that got turned into come over uninvited and chase the cats. Fukkkkk. All day I’ve been hoping they would not return. So far, so good.

It’s not that big of a deal. At least they are not throwing rocks at them like the neighbor boy. Have I mentioned I LOATHE living in town? The girls are actually very nice, and smart. I’m sure if I tell them next time not to chase, to allow them to come to you, they will understand and give it a try. Maybe their mother told them not to come over. Who knows? She doesn’t like us. We complained about her noisy dog…the unforgiveable sin. Yesterday, when the girls were here, they were complaining how they couldn’t concentrate on their (home) schoolwork because the neighborhood is noisy, their dog barks, the neighbor operating a garage out of his house was revving a car, the train… I laughed and said you guys have one of the noisiest dogs on the block. The girl sighed. She didn’t want to hear that. They’ve complained many times about the dog barking, wanting it to stop so they could play in peace. Other neighbors have complained. After over a year of complaints the parents finally started doing something to quiet him, so mostly, it’s been better. But, still, one of the noisiest dogs when he wants to be. He is lonely and neglected. Why don’t they stay home and play with their neglected dog instead of chasing my beloved cats? Hmmm…no sleep talking…

H is home and I want to go stitch, so just one more thing.

I copied down a Henry Miller quote from an article at brainpickings.

“I wasn’t hepped on becoming a painter. Not at all. I was simply wiggling out of the straight-jacket.”

I can relate. I’m not trying…or even hoping…to be an artist. I’d just like to break out of whatever is tying down my mind and keeping me from inching just a little bit closer.

 

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I almost forgot.

I had made a wish about perfect squares…and then later in the evening cut new squares out of fabric I’d never used, fabric with stars on it that I got from my old friend, Judi, who is gone now. Sometimes that cloth brings back memories of being in her shop, surrounded by bolts of quilting fabric lost on me, but still finding bits and pieces here and there I could use.

Anyway, during one of the brief snatches of sleep I dreamed.

I dreamed tiny sugar cubes and glitter were a balm for blindness…and invisibility.

Sugar cubes and glitter.

Perfect squares and stars.

In miniature.

Note to Self: work small.

Voices in thread…

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I’ve spent most of the day reading blogs listed on Jude Hill’s blog. I love seeing these women’s voices in cloth…and thread. I hear and see myself in their words.

Because I spent most of the day reading, I didn’t get many real things done. There are some fabric pieces stewing in mulberry dye. Some squares in a purloined basket awaiting stitching. And some black walnut stained fabric action happening outside. But those aren’t the real things…i.e. chores/work…I ought to have been doing.

I’ve been experimenting with some of Jude’s favorite methods, rather than going back to my old embroidery habits. The little woven fabric piece above is an example of her influence, but in miniature. I stitched it last night, just playing. When I was nearly done, I realized I had stitched what, to me, looked like the prairie…and a storm.

I don’t like working in blues, but there it is.

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Olive liked seeing what I was doing and insisted on getting in the middle of it. Experimenting. Squishing still-juicy walnut hulls onto old manpant fabric. This spring I used some old manpants as zucchini planters. H. didn’t think it was funny when I showed him, but he told the story on his radio show anyway and people thought it was hilarious. It was the question of the day: What did Mrs. NC do with H’s pants? The board lit up with calls. The winner got a free pizza.

Unfortunately, the squash didn’t turn out all that well. It wasn’t the pant’s fault. The squash didn’t do well anywhere I planted it. Crazy enough, though, I still have a healthy zucchini plant growing out back. It spits out a mature squash now and then. Soon, the frost will get it.

Reading these other women is intimidating. On the one hand, I don’t feel like I have anything to contribute. On the other hand, I remind myself I am accomplished in many ways…and perhaps soon I will post some old work so I can prove (to myself) I can do things, too. It’s always intimidating learning new things. It’s so easy to sink back into the familiar, but I won’t let myself do it. So far, one of the most enjoyable things is just pushing needle and thread through fabric, watching stitches form. Learning to appreciate the end result. Which is really about learning to appreciate myself.

I had the front door and window opened while I read this morning. First I heard the birds, and then the traffic, and then the neighbors. I listened to phases of the day while I read, wishing for a quiet life in the country somewhere in the back of my head. Thinking about the lack of friends these days, years, how odd that has seemed to me for so long, but now it’s been long enough I’m getting used to it as a way of life. Over the past few weeks I’ve told myself “I need to make new friends…I need to make new friends…” I no longer relate to the old ones. And acquaintances here are appreciated, but too conservative and religious for my taste or any real attempts at connection. I am surprised to see I have become accustomed to my own isolation after hating it for so long.

One of the blog posts from Windthread said “friends here are just as real” or something like that. The thought made me cry. I also really miss goats and seeing hers, remembering mine, made my heart lurch.

And then barking…and some writing…and a bit of sketching, which looks like a child’s drawing and today made me laugh…maybe the first step in accepting my artistic limitations. I suddenly found I didn’t care if my drawings look immature. It’s natural that they should since I never practiced, never learned. I rarely ever drew as a kid, I mainly colored inside the lines. So, this one made me laugh and I found myself liking my efforts more. A first step.

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I have 9 minutes before I have to do something real. Blegh.

I can’t wait to see how the walnut stain turns out.

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I’m going to work on this woven square next.

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Dip it in Brown!

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I couldn’t resist posting another marigold photo.

After pruning the marigold bushes of mature blooms earlier this month, the plants exploded, putting on more flowers than I’d seen so far. It was quite impressive. The amount of petals I harvested from the blooms was easily 4 or 5 times that of my first harvest. The dried petals produce a nice yellow dye. I’ve experimented with just a small amount of petals and the dye was pale. I’ll try more seriously another time.

I had some leftover walnut dye and dunked these items in yesterday. I left the pot simmering on the stove for quite a while.

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I have quite a stash of ribbon, lace and tatting, mostly left over from my crazy quilting days. I hardly used any of it because most of it was white, and I wasn’t into dyeing. I had tea dyed a bit here and there, but not much. The walnut dye is very easy to make and so far I am really loving the shades of brown it produces. Many items turn out quite similarly to a tea dye while others come out a rich, earthy brown or even pinkish-brown.

One of the best lace dyers I know once told me if you don’t like the color of something, dip it in brown! (My friend doesn’t have a website to link to, but here’s a link to a story I did about her.) I didn’t like the color of several items, including the tatting on the left and the (now) pinkish rose lace, which were both garish pinks, so, I dipped them! I love the way they turned out.

I also had some very ornate trim I’d never used, also because the color never went with anything, so I dipped it, too, along with a plane lace leaf. This was when the dye was a bit stronger before I added more water. I love the way they turned out. The trim is nicely antiqued and the leaf looks almost like copper.

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Anyway, I’m going to have fun with these.

 

The Pond

Do you ever feel like the whole world is made up of a bunch of people like the little brother on the 1983 movie A Christmas Story? On Christmas day, he runs around grabbing every toy in sight yelling “This is mine! This is mine!”

I’ve seen posts on my newsfeed lately about how the “government” – i.e. our corporate-owned leadership – is grabbing up Native American land left and right. I knew they would do it at some point, but I wasn’t expecting it now. I wonder how the Native Americans feel about ownership? Is anything really theirs?

This month I stopped at a nearby pond. The land is privately owned, but the pond has been opened to the public. The spot has been there for years and many people have visited, but I only just learned of its existence.

Living in town, I thought the pond would be a nice place to go, a place to sit quietly and contemplate my own life and dreams, maybe clear my mind and come up with some new ideas. Perhaps I could write there…or do some stitching. The day I went the weather was lovely, just turning cool at the beginning of fall. I passed a small wooden donation box on the way in, having every intention of depositing an offering on my way out.

The place was quiet – and pristine. The owner had done a good job of manicuring the perimeter of the pond where possible so you could walk around and look at the water from all viewpoints. The owner had also planted a number of trees and staked the young oak, pecan and redbud starts securely at various spots surrounding the pond. Where the path wasn’t mowed there was thick, lush overgrowth in which birds twittered and fluttered. A lone cottonwood towered over the far end of the pond, but it was close enough I could still hear the tinkling of its leaves as a gentle wind pushed through its branches.

I was more interested in the dock, which was sturdy and sound and built with new lumber. I admire people with carpentry skills, as that’s something I lack. I walked to the edge and sat down, kicking my shoes off before I did so. The water was perfectly clear. I could see painted stones on the bottom and lengths of wild weeds undulating slowly in rhythm with the pond’s gentle lapping. I took a deep earth-scented breath and every speck of tension in my body disappeared as I let go and exhaled.

The waterline was just high enough for my feet to touch. As I relaxed and let my legs dangle towards the water, my toes dipped into the cool burst. At the same time, a slight movement below the surface caught my eye. Instinct took over and I jerked both feet up and out of the drink, just as a large and ancient-looking snapping turtle surfaced, mouth agape. I had barely missed losing a toe.

Heart pounding, I scrambled away from the edge. My feet felt cold as the air hit my damp skin. I looked down. All ten toes were accounted for. But there, on my left foot, blood ran from a small nick in my flesh, mixing with water and running so the wound looked bigger than it actually was. The turtle had barely scratched me. I knew how lucky I was. As a child I once saw a snapping turtle cut through a man’s hand like a knife through butter.

I’ve lived roughly half my life in the country. I am respectful and keep my distance, but generally am not afraid of wild animals. But the turtle’s attack shocked me. I had felt safe at the water’s edge and let my guard down, but now that sense of peace and calm had flown from me. In that instant, my interest in the place had waned. I slipped my shoes back on and made my way back to the car. The donation box stood like a silent sentinel. I didn’t feel like donating now. Perhaps that was unfair, but I would leave it for another time, another visit, if I felt like coming back.

As I drove home, I realized I had probably encroached on the turtle’s territory and she had felt threatened. Maybe she thought “This is mine!”

What does this have to do with stitching and making things? A lot. I’ve lost track of how many stitching ideas, photos, tutorials, etc…I’ve released out into the world. I have no idea what people did with them, if they even used them, if they were inspired by them, if they “stole” them and used them as their own, if they ever gave me “credit.” I don’t know, because I never tracked any of them down and said “Hey, wait a minute! This is mine!” I take that back, I did once when someone posted one of my photos as their own. Did they take the photo down? No, they didn’t. They posted it as their own and didn’t give me credit. And, there was nothing I could do about it.

So what.

The other day I read a squabble on a group I’m following. The whole conversation was about ownership of created things, yarn things. What if someone steals my idea? What if someone is now copying my work and selling it? What if this is my livelihood and others start making it too? The group administrator was very upfront about the realities of making things and owning them. She said anyone has the right to create anything from something else they see. Legally, that item or project must be 20% different in order to be called someone’s own work, otherwise known as “Mine.” 20%. That’s not a lot of difference. And, I have seen this many, many times.

There is one young lady online who creates some magical garments with yarn. I saw her work and was inspired to make something of my own. I went back to her page and posted a photo of my work, thanking her for the inspiration and giving her “credit.” Other than basic components of a garment – sleeves, zipper, hood – the item I made, in reality, looked nothing like hers. When people started liking my photo and asking if I sold my work she sent me a private message. She said she would appreciate it if I wouldn’t market my things on her page, as others had tried to use her page to launch their own businesses. I didn’t have a business and my garment was not for sale, but, suddenly, I was lumped into the category of “others” who had taken advantage of her. Like the turtle, I suspect she felt threatened.

What is ironic to me, about this yarn girl, is nearly Every. Single. Motif. she used was taken directly from video tutorials on youtube! Tutorials of items created by someone else, someone else’s work, i.e. not Hers. I know because I watched the same videos and made a few of those motifs myself. It didn’t matter that she learned everything she knew from someone else. What mattered is what she thought was hers. “This is mine!”

So, here I am, sharing my work and ideas, my photos, my thoughts, my words. Any of it could be taken by someone else and used at any time. One thing I learned in my twenties is you cannot control other people. They are going to do what they want. I can put on this blog the words: all rights reserved, copyright, ownership, “This is mine!” but I won’t. I don’t like the way ownership makes me feel. If I have something that is so precious I can’t share it freely here, then I will just keep it to myself.

In the meantime, I’m not going to worry about what is mine. I’d rather spend time thinking about the women in my life who taught me things, freely and with generosity. My step-grandmother, who I didn’t really like, but who graciously took the time to teach me to embroider at age 8; my mother who taught me to use a sewing machine and allowed me to sew with a needle and thread (per my request) at age 3; my late quilter friend, Judi, who shared her own knowledge freely, even though she was running a business, just for the joy of sharing and teaching others.

I will continue to give credit where credit is due, as I have done in previous posts. Maybe I haven’t done this perfectly, but I certainly like to direct people to appropriate sources whenever possible. If I haven’t in the past, it’s been an oversight.

Maybe I will go back to the pond again, while I’m still mildly interested and while the weather is still good. But, for now, I will observe it from a distance and not get too close. I’d like to keep all my fingers and toes.

Both Feet on the Ground

This blog has been really fun to start, even if no one else is reading it.

Today I played with fabric…and flowers. A beautiful, cool day, the first really cool day in months it feels like. Such a nice break from the heat. The final break. Fall has begun. Still warm enough for mosquitos, though.

I’ve been trying my hand at dyeing. I used up the walnut and marigold dyes I made the other day. Tested them on some fabric, ribbon, crocheted doodads. There were some successes.

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It doesn’t look like much, but I really love this one. A heart-shaped doily I got from the local thrift store. It took the dye well. Not a great photo. I also like the piece underneath. It’s a soft yellow tablecloth, also from the thrift store. I dimmed it a bit with the walnut dye, then brushed it with some leftover violet Rit dye, also from the other day. I need to rinse it and see if that pink comes out.

I’m more interested in the Earth than the stars, these days. And the sun. Every day when I go check the garden, the first thing I do is kick off my shoes, if I’m wearing any. I’ve gardened barefoot all summer. Shoes were too hot. But, more than that, I needed to feel the earth. Every time I went out with shoes on I missed her. Once or twice I kicked off my shoes when I already had them on outside, and then made my rounds through the cucumbers, tomatoes, okra and flowers barefoot. My feet know the sharp places to miss.

This was today’s harvest. It made me happy. I wasn’t prepared to check at that moment, so I had to bundle everything up using my shirt. So many tomatoes had turned red. And, they are delicious.

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Even though the flowers are fading, there is still so much beauty. This little pair surprised me today. I had forgotten wandering jew (Tradescantias) can bloom.

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It was a nice surprise.

The morning glories have been some of the most interesting flowers to photograph this summer. They have so many stages of being, in just a single day. I captures this one, loving the stripes that swirl on the back. How often do you really notice the back of a morning glory? These seemed to be in suspended animation with the cool, rainy, overcast day.

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Of all the photos I took today, this one is my favorite:

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The ruined, and the new.

Without the Earth – and Sun – this would not be possible.

Beginning…

I’m beginning a new sort of work, working with thread and cloth. Yesterday I even did a bit of dyeing. I do like the results.

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I used black walnut and marigold teas. The violet is a rit dye which I brushed on. I had already started stitching when I remembered to take a photo. This is the dyed version of the nine patch block I made the other day. The fabric used is brushed or twill cotton from old pants.

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The stitching process has been fun. Technically, I’m working with fabrics that are really too thick, but for now I’m trying to use up what I have. In the next few days I’ll go to the local thrift store and try to get some softer, thinner fabrics. But this was just to begin.

I’m thinking Rit dye, used the way I have here, might be the way to go for me. I don’t know if it’s permanent in the way I have used it or not. I need to rinse my test pieces and see what happens. I don’t plan on washing this, anyway. I’d like to learn more about dyeing fabrics.

The fabric I’ve used for appliques is too thick, as well. I don’t like working with this heavy quilting fabric, but, again, I was using what I had at hand. This fabric used in this way certainly lends a raised look to the project.

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I did have fun with this piece. I didn’t care for the moon/circle I stitched in the middle block, so I covered it with some gauze I dyed in the same colors. I love the effect. It’s like an autumn sun.

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The theme of this piece is Leaves.

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I’m sure there is a story in it somewhere.

The Spider

Yesterday, as I was sitting here at the computer, I felt something plop onto the top of my head. I knew instantly it was a spider. I hastened to remove it, actually trapping it loosely with my fingers before quickly plopping IT onto the floor. Then I scooped it up in a piece of tissue and released it outside.

I’m not afraid of bugs, but I don’t like them crawling on me. I also don’t see the need to kill every bug who crosses my path. They serve a purpose. Except fleas. And mosquitos. Those don’t count. 😉

I found it ironic that a spider dropped into my hair, as I’ve been working on one for Halloween.

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She doesn’t look like much now, but she’s going to be Fabulous! You can find the pattern here. I didn’t follow the pattern exactly. I made my spider a bit bigger.

Today I’m working on some stitching projects, trying my hand at both traditional quilting (of sorts) and making dye. I’ve got some of my marigold flowers simmering as well as some black walnut husks I’ve had in the cabinet for years, leftover from when I made black walnut hull tincture. I made a ton of the stuff, but never used much of it. I went searching for the big container of tincture I had sitting around, but couldn’t find it. I think that may have gone into some detox baths. Anyway, I’m creating something with a fall theme, and the marigold and walnut, yellow and brown, might work well for dying the background.

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I’m having trouble with technology this week. Yesterday and today the computer has been running oddly, not wanting to highlight text. Today I can’t seem to get my phone to send emails, which is strange since one went through just fine. The others are in some kind of limbo holding pattern in my outbox. It’s important I get them because I’m sending myself photos I want to include here. So, for now, I’ll move onto other topics.

There is something restful and calming about typing my thoughts here, on a blog, rather than somewhere else like Facebook. I don’t care much for FB these days, other than for playing words with friends and keeping up with real friends and my fermenting groups. I rarely post there. No matter what I say it always ends up sounding trite and meaningless. I find that in other’s writings, too. They really do speak from the heart, but often the format simply cheapens their words, turning them into passing soundbites. Some days my newsfeed is full of screaming words, like political rantings and social outcries. The sound is deafening, overwhelming. As a result, I’ve turned away from doing the same, choosing to focus more on my own interests and more lighthearted sharings. This summer I’m sure I bored everyone with pictures from my garden, but it was the most fun I’d had there in a long while.

Cats. Cats always seem to find me. I’ve lived with them my whole life. We had our cat numbers down to 3, if you count the elusive Mr. Chick, who only comes around every two or three days to fill up on food.

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I adore this cat. He is so gentle and quiet. He has turned into a real gentleman. While the big girls hiss and yowl at the little girls, he remains calm and passive, even though he is largely wild. He lets them get close and sniff. In truth, the little girls are in awe of him. They stare and tiptoe around him.

Chick – formerly Chicky, but I call him that less these days – is a tom. Gorgeous, even with the mangy spots on his skin. I tried treating him earlier this summer, and now he acts even more skittish. I kept him cooped up maybe two winters ago trying to treat this weird skin problem he had, to no avail. Later I read it was probably ringworm, something young cats are susceptible to but tend to grow out of. As my cats are all indoor/outdoor, they tend to get cat issues sometimes. Who knows where they sleep?

When Chick comes around, he eats his fill and may sleep for a while on the porch. But, I find he’s always on the lookout for the asshole tortoise shell tom who is a bully and tends to show up when Chick does. The two have fought at times, but now I suspect they run together. Their personalities are polar opposites. Here is Chick looking over his shoulder. Sometimes I suspect he feels hunted.

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So, like I was saying, we had our numbers down to 3 from 5, after two left. I won’t get into their stories. I’m actually considering writing a tale about the cats I’ve known. They are all such individual creatures. The longer I live with them, the more I see them as people. It’s impossible not to, their personalities are so unique and distinctive. I suppose the more you love them and allow them to be who they are, the more expressive they become. I think that’s the trouble with lots of people who don’t like cats. They’ve never had the patience to really get to know one.

So, two left and two arrived. Two girl kittens, one from my mom’s cats who together have produced 20 kittens this summer, and one who just showed up. They have a tendency to do that. I’ve been so happy to have the first to keep me company, as the big girls wanted out as soon as it started getting warm and have refused to come back in. This winter they will refuse to go out. The other girl was a stray, wild and scared, much like Chicky when he first turned up 3 years ago. But this girl was soon tamed, probably with the help of the first who reassured her, and is so lovely. Sweet and adores being petted. She has proven to be a good pal for the first, keeping each other entertained with play.

Finally, the photos are here. I’ll post them above.

And, here is the grid I’m going to work on for that fall theme I mentioned. So far, I am loving this basic stitch work.

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I started this project because I missed stitching with thread, and because I found a blog online I wanted to follow, someone I wanted to learn from. Sometimes, between the threads and the fabrics and the stitching, she reminds me of my old quilter friend who is gone now. A quilter and a friend. She liked to teach, too. I still miss her.

I want to stain this grid with my walnut and marigold colors and see what happens. I’ll try some test squares first, to see what I get. I may also mix some rit dye along with it. Just experimenting.