How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love to Weed

Psychologists have a term—sublimation—for a process whereby certain negative urges are converted into positive behavior.

I’ve been feeling the need to sublimate.

You see, I’m feeling a lot of intense energy lately, much of it negative and a reaction to the daily news. I read what is going on in my country and the world and I get angry or scared, and frustrated.

For my own sake and for the sake of those around me, I need a way to release that stress.

I need a way to sublimate that energy.

Weeding is the answer. It has taken on new meaning for me this summer.

It’s always been an endless activity here, where the crabgrass and clover run free, amid pavers and garden beds.

I’ve always dreaded it a little, seen it as necessary evil, a fact of gardening life to just be dealt with.

Then I saw this strange little cartoon.

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I really did try to find info about this for purposes of attribution. Nothing.

At first I found it disturbing and peculiar but now, every time I kneel down to weed, it inspires me.

When I weed now, I redirect my negative energy and think about the ripping off of heads and pulling out of spines.

I know this doesn’t sounds very “loving hands at home.” It may shock you.

But I’m not advocating actual, literal violence.

And I’m not fantasizing about large-scale head ripping. I’m not imagining pulling just any spines. Just a few specific spines.

It doesn’t work for everyone–some of the people who frustrate me a great deal are immune because they are, seemingly, spineless . . .

So I focus on the others. One in particular.

It’s oddly cathartic, this directing of negative energy to the task at hand. Where I once flinched at the sight of crabgrass, now I eagerly approach it—it has the best long roots.

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If I work too quickly, the roots break and the weed comes back. Sublimation has made me a better, more careful weeder—I want that whole spine.

I finish a weeding session calmer than when I started. AND my patio looks better than it ever has.

So here is my advice to you:

Don’t hate—sublimate.

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So soon . . . autumn

Imagine my surprise when, last week, on August 15, I saw this.

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Embers where there will be flames of color soon

The signs of autumn approaching are creeping in everywhere.

Apple boxes are appearing in orchards, with harvest beginning.

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Apples are even falling from some trees.

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The reeds in the bay start to grow brown, from the bottom up, as do corn stalks.

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What’s more fun about the photos of the bay, are the herons. We see them all summer but they’re solitary birds so it was exciting to see four at one time.

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They nest very near.

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The geraniums, bottom right, are on our seawall.

Late summer on the lake . . . it’s getting quieter already.

Are you seeing signs of autumn? Or maybe spring?!

ScrapHappy: Fusion Redux

Those pretty scraps do accumulate . . .

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As recent posts suggest, I’ve been knee-deep in vintage linens. Summer is the perfect time to slog through my bins of old linens, clean them up, iron and photograph them, and get them ready to list for sale.

But as I do this, I’m still finding damaged pieces, the scraps of pretty that led to the making of the first fusion quilt.

I have many, many scraps of loveliness. And more every day, since friends have begun to bring me theirs.

I have the first quilt on a twin bed and it’s perfect, but I have two twin beds . . .  and one of them looks quite naked now.

I learned a lot from making the first quilt and like the idea of applying the lessons learned.

So, here we go again!

My scrappy happiness for the coming months will be another fusion quilt.

The basic process is really quite basic.

All one needs to do is cut fabric and batting into squares of the desired size. My squares are all 5 inches, although I cut the batting ¼ inch smaller, to reduce bulk at the edges.

Next, I make stacks composed of a pretty piece, a piece of batting, and a backing—you could use all bright shiny new ingredients but I’m using scraps of batting, scraps of random off-white fabric, and my scraps of pretty old embroidery, fancywork, lace, and damask.

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Once the pieces are stacked in the correct order (pretty piece and backing piece need to be right sides together. Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do), I just stitch around the outside, back stitching at the start and end, and leaving a biggish opening to allow me to turn it all right side out.

The process can get more complicated, since I’m using vintage scraps. Sturdy pieces can be done as described but if the pieces are fragile, like a fine old hankie, I reinforce it with fusible web. If a piece has pretty edges or cutwork, it needs a backing piece, so the batting isn’t exposed. This backing might need to be sewn to the pretty piece first. Some need both fusible web and a backing piece.

The layers all get sewn and then turned. This is where I almost lost the will to continue the first time around.

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Can this mess be saved?

Poking the corners out helps. I use a wooden skewer but only the blunt end. If you use the pointy end, it can poke through and make a hole in your piece. Don’t ask me how I know this. I just do.

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Top stitching and the blanket stitch and crochet I do around the edges will help, too, but I’ll tell you more about the process in months to come.  And it will be months—I need 108 squares . . .

(Hover over the photos in the mosaic, if you want a bit more info about the scraps)

My progress to date is:

Many scraps of fabric and batting and vintage linens, cut and ready in stacks of 5-inch squares.

11 squares finished to the point of having been sewed and crocheted. I still need to sew the crochet ends in and block the crochet.

12 squares sewn and turned and ready to be top stitched.


ScrapHappy is open to anyone using up scraps of anything – no new materials. It can be a quilt block, pincushion, bag or hat, socks or a sculpture. Anything made of scraps is eligible. If your scrap collection is out of control and you’d like to turn them into something beautiful instead of leaving them to collect dust in the cupboard, why not join us on the 15th of each month? Email Kate at the address on her Contact Me page. She welcomes new members. You don’t have to worry about making a long term commitment or even join in every month, just let Kate or Gun know a day or so in advance if you’re new and you’ll have something to show, so they can add your link. Regular contributors will receive an email reminder three days before the event.

Here are the links for everyone who joins ScrapHappy from time to time (they may not post every time, but their blogs are still worth looking at).

KateGun, TittiHeléneEvaSue, Nanette, Lynn, Lynda,
Birthe, Turid, Susan, Cathy, Debbierose, Tracy, Jill, Claire, Jan,
Moira, SandraLindaChrisNancy, Alys, Kerry (that’s me), Claire, Jean,
Joanne, Jon, HayleyDawn, Gwen, Connie, Bekki, Pauline and Sue L.

Pity the Fabric

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Pity the poor length of fabric.

So full of potential, so mistreated and so neglected.

This cloth would’ve come from a bolt of yard goods, a long piece of off-white damask linen, with bright gold stripes along the edges. The woven pattern is of pansies.

Someone came to the dry goods store, probably 50-60 years ago, and said, “Cut me 3 yards. I’ll make an elegant tablecloth for special occasions.”

But that never happened.

The fabric was left folded, folded just the way it came from the store. It got packed away, in a deep dark trunk, and the trunk got put away in a deep dark cellar, where it was damp and there were bugs.

And it sat. It gathered stains of all sizes and shapes, water stains, dirty trunk stains, stains of unmentionable acts of insects.

It sat until the lady who had purchased it died at the age of 95.

It sat as the lady’s children went through the house and opened the closets and planned the estate sale.

It sat while hundreds of people came through the sale, buying the bits and pieces of the lady’s life. But no one opened the trunk in that corner of the basement.

I went to the sale. I bought armloads of pretty linens  . . . but I never went into the basement. I asked the lady’s son if there were more linens I should be looking at and he said he didn’t think so.

I left, and still the fabric sat.

Later that day, I went back. I just knewthat a woman with a fine house like that, decorated the way it was, had more vintage table linens than I had seen.

I walked in. The sale was winding down.

The son said, “Oh, good! You came back! There’s something I want to show you.”

The basement. The trunk still unopened after two days.

The fabric. And other linens, including huge damask “lapkins” with the lady’s monogram.

I brought the fabric home. It was filthy but unhemmed so I couldn’t wash it yet.

I put it on the clothesline to get the smell out and then I hemmed it.

I soaked it, in steaming hot water, with one of my go-to solutions, for hours.

The wash water turned the color of strong tea but many of the stains were stubborn.

So I soaked it again, with my other magic solution and steaming hot water. Many more hours.

I used a spot stain remover. I put the tablecloth outside in the bright sun and sprayed it with water to keep it damp, to let the sun work its magic.

The stains faded but never fully went away.

I have grown cocky over the years about my ability to remove stains from old fabrics. I boast about my prowess. I wrote about it here.

But this tablecloth has made a fool of me—those last stains refuse to budge!

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And still, it’s a lovely cloth and the small spots that remain really do little to take away from its charm.

Finally, after something like 60 years, this fabric is released from its dark prison of inactivity, and ready to do the job for which it was intended.

Pity it no more.

 

It Took Two

A project finished.

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Where to turn next?

I needed a new project to work on in the evening, something portable and easy to pick up, and put down.

After the long months of working on the fusion quilt, I wanted a to work on something that would provide the sweet satisfaction of finishing sooner, rather than later.

But I loved working with the vintage linens so I chose to collaborate with an older friend, to finish a tablecloth she started.

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Why my friend didn’t finish this project, she didn’t say. It might’ve been that the cloth got stained and she got discouraged. I assured her that I could get the spots out.

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She used the green she loved—look at the flowers in each corner!–but she didn’t object when I wanted to add more colors.

She showed me some new stitches. Left to myself, I would’ve done the flowers with just lazy daisy stitch but her approach, to anchor the sides of the petals as well as the points, makes a prettier effect.

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I wanted to change the way we did the centers of the flowers, from French knots to a pulled thread circle, and she didn’t say no.

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She did a part that I wouldn’t have enjoyed—all that green satin stitch in the leaves and stems. And I picked up where she left off and added color in the flowers.

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I was going to do the zigzag border in the multicolors of the flowers but that looked overwrought so, in a nod to her preferences, I used a green she chose. Now, the zigzags look to me like grass the flowers flourish in.

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I also cleaned the cloth up, so we could be proud of our finished product. It took all my secret formulas to get that big stain out but now I can’t see it, even though I know where it was.

It’s such a pretty tablecloth she and I made!

I’d like to give her credit by naming her and showing you her photo.

But I can’t.

I’d love to have the pleasure of showing her the finished tablecloth and hearing her thoughts on what we’ve made together.

But I won’t.

I have no idea who she is . . . or was, since she has probably gone to that great sewing circle in the sky.

I don’t even know how her tablecloth came into my hands. I imagine I picked it up at a garage sale or it came as a part of a mixed lot I purchased from eBay.

The tablecloth has been sitting around here for what seems like forever, waiting for a new set of hands to pick it up and complete the work begun by those other hands.

We worked well together, she and I.

I’ll enjoy using our little tablecloth, made by two pairs of loving hands at home.

Have you ever finished a project begun by another? I’d love to hear about it!

Summer is a delicate balance

IMG_0239Remember when you were a little kid, when summer was unalloyed gold, just hours and days and weeks of playing and lazing about?

And then, eventually you had to get a summer job, but there was still plenty of time to ride bikes and do big splashy cannonballs into the water?

But then you grew up and bought a house, with a big yard. You became an adult. It seemed like such a good idea at the time . . .

At that point, summers changed irrevocably.

Now, summer is the best time, in this region where winters are long and fine days may be few, to do outside chores and upkeep.

We have been working like dogs!

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We have been sanding the deck and the steps and all the other outside wood, sanding it and filling cracks and repainting. We need to seal the cedar siding on the house and paint the trim and deal with the gardens and so many other tasks that can really only be done in the summer months.

But summer is also the best time to enjoy our lovely lakeside location, in the beautiful region where we live.

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It’s the prime time to bask in rare perfect days.

So, we work for the delicate balance that is summer.

We clean the house and plan meals and enjoy time with family and with friends but we balance that with time for just us two, alone, where we find ease and contentment.

We balance the time our cats spend outside, on the roof, in the gardens, lurking in the bushes, with our annual trips to the vet with each of them.

We turn our attention to the details of our surroundings, how the color of that purple iris is nothing like the color of this one.

And wonder whether frogs are like snowflakes, every one unique.

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And the first buds of the first flowers, ever, on the climbing hydrangea.

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We have flowers on the climbing hydrangea!  And they said it couldn’t be done . . .

But we also look to the wider view, the sky that seems bluer in the Adirondacks on Lake Champlain than anywhere else ever. And the dancing white sails of boats, finally set free from winter.

We balance trips to the local ice cream shop, for Outrageous Oatmeal Cookie and Chocolate Moosetrack ice cream, with brisk walks and weeding and more sanding and painting. It is, after all, bikini season (bwahahahaha!) and the best time to be outside, moving one’s muscles.

Summer is the only time, in my purveyor-of-vintage-linens persona, when I can take decent photos of larger vintage items, like blankets and big tablecloths, so I balance ironing and picture taking on sunny days with making new listings and other Etsyfying on days of gray.

Through it all, we kind of lose the idea of a lazy, hazy summer. We’re never bored.

Summer can be hard work. It can be physically exhausting. It can feel stressful, trying to fit everything in.

We balance all that with strict rules about quitting time. We meet at the fire pit, out by the lake, at 5. I might do some hand sewing but no other work is allowed.

We put our feet up. We chat. We plan the heavy lifting for the next day, we have a cocktail, we listen to the foolish kingfishers chatter, and watch the cats snack on the catnip plants.

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And these really quiet moments are all the sweeter because our bodies are tired and hands are sore.

There will be time to be lazy and hazy during the winter . . .

It’s summer now.

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