Advent, My Way #20

img_5715-1

–designed and created by Pat Rooney; do not use without permission!

Sometimes, a Christmas card is more than a simple greeting at the holiday.

Sometimes, for the maker of the card and for those who receive it, the Christmas card has a larger message of hope and healing.

This year, 2016, has been difficult for America and for Americans, especially the last couple of months. Although we are finding ways to move on, we are very aware that there is much work to be done, to rebuild trust and a sense of hope for the future, given our current reality.

Like many of us, our friend Pat Rooney was dismayed at the tone and the tactics of the recent presidential election. Pat is an artist and retired art teacher, and she used her skills to create a Christmas card that addresses her hope that we are on a path to healing, as a country composed of people who are pretty darn divided right now.

For her card, Pat combined the Buddhist practice of creating a healing mandala with Christian images of the Nativity, and added a little bit of Hebrew Bible/Old Testament, from Ecclesiastes 3:3, to create a card that transcends a specific religious holiday and speaks to a shared desire to move forward, to heal, to hope.

The design is specifically inspired by Buddhist sand sculptures, those designed to be meticulously created and then washed away in water. According to Buddhist scripture, “sand mandalas transmit positive energies to the environment and to the people who view them,” and are designed to promote healing.

The interior of Pat’s card, expresses this message:

The Tibetan sand mandala is an art form constructed as a vehicle to generate compassion, realize the impermanence of reality and a social/cosmic healing of the environment.

The card serves to remind us that, no matter what religion we adhere to, or to none at all, we share a lot. We all desire security and peace of mind, we recognize impermanence and know that change is inevitable, we seek ways to stay positive, to adapt to changes, and to work with other members of our communities to find common ground and, simply, to like each other again.

It’s a time when we must make a conscious decision to choose healing.

The United States is not the only place, right now, where there’s uncertainty and discord. For many, the Christmas season of 2016 finds them in terrifying, sad, dire straits.

Wherever you live, whatever your religious beliefs, whatever wounds you might seek to heal, whether your own or your community’s or the world’s, Pat and I are sending you her mandala, as a sign of hope.

Celebrating the Process, and a Giveaway

The process or the product? The doing or the done?

Have you considered where you get the satisfaction in your making? Whether you bake or garden or write or craft in some fashion, do you do it because you love the doing or is it the finished product that thrills you?

I’ve come to realize that I’m process-oriented, perhaps to an unusual degree. I love the doing and seem to care little for the done.

When I recently wrote about finishing the marathon yoyo coverlet, many readers asked what I was going to do with it. I was stumped. The absolute truth is probably nothing much.

Part of that is purely practical—the texture of the coverlet would make it a magnet for my cats.

But it is also true is that I’ve already sort of lost interest in the coverlet.

It was interesting as something to do, to make, to immerse myself in, but now it’s just another quilt in the house. Even my all-time favorite quilt, the 1812 cot-to-coffin quilt, is simply folded up now and stored in an armoire. The wool throw I wove? It’s in the cedar chest. The silver jewelry I’ve crafted? Tarnishing in the jewelry box.

The bottom line is that it’s the process of making that engages me, challenges me, makes me feel alive. The products sort of seem like just more things in the house–pretty things, but things nonetheless.

It’s the interacting with the materials, the touch, the skill, the focus, that I love.

The yoyo coverlet will get dragged out for the biennial show of my quilters’ guild, because I like warm fuzzies as well as the next person, but it will probably live in a cupboard or cedar chest until then.

I think this is also what leads to the Etsy shops I have. I love the process of making chocolates but don’t want to, and shouldn’t, eat all of what I make. What to do? Give some away and sell the rest.

I love weaving but one person can use only so many kitchen towels and scarves. But I feel driven to weave—I love the process. What to do? Give some away and sell the rest.

So, in support of the idea of giving some away and to celebrate the opening of, and the first couple of sales in, the newest Etsy shop, Woven Together, I’m going to have a random drawing for a handwoven kitchen towel.

So far the towel looks like this.

img_4877

Do you love it?

The winner of the drawing will be asked to tell me what colors s/he would like to see added to the towel and, when all the pieces on the warp are complete, I’ll send the towel to the winner! It might be a few weeks before it’s finished . . . because I’ll be enjoying the process.

Anyone can enter, from any part of the world. To enter the drawing, I ask you to tell us, in the comments, whether you are process-oriented or product-oriented—what motivates your making/doing? Try not to just say “both” . . . .

And, if you’re inclined, visit Woven Together, and give me some feedback about what you’d like to see more of in the shop. This latter is optional, though!

The deadline will be midnight on Tuesday, November 8. As our Election Day, that’s a very important day here in the US. I will be voting, to enjoy the process and also, I am hopeful, the product of that particular action!

Busy, Busy . . . Happy

Autumn is always this way.

We realize that time’s a’wastin’, that soon we’ll be hunkering down for winter, and we try to pack a lot of living into these perfect days.

Chores abound. The perennials are being cut back. The outdoor furniture needs to be stored.

A quilt is basted, waiting to be finished this winter. The yoyos are almost, almost, sewn together and finished. Two other quilt projects wait in the wings.

The looms are momentarily naked but plans have been planned and one warp has been wound, a yummy wool for fall.

It’s time for chocolate, a new and different venture on Etsy, and, always, vintage linens.

It’s the time for spending quality hours with family snowbirds who are ready to fly away and it’s time for a little travel of our own, to enjoy autumn in New England.

Busy, busy. Happy, happy. And you?

 

Our Weaving Ways (Summer 2016)

The weaving continues, con brio.

We’ve made an addition to our pride of looms. It’s big, it’s beautiful, it came from a good friend who’s an excellent weaver—great karma! It’s not the loom’s fault that I feel a little intimidated . . .

IMG_4088

Since I’ve indulged my ego in my most recent show-and-tell, I’ve woven quite a lot.

A bunch of cotton towels like this, with varying bands of varying colors. Many of them have already been given away.

IMG_3966

A set of these towels, heavy on linen, to practice some of the skills I learned at weaving school. You can see one of the handwoven hanging tabs that make me go “squeeee!”

IMG_3974

A blanket and coordinating pillow for a baby girl who was so excited to see the gifts that she came 5 weeks early!

And this set of Monk’s belt towels and a runner—you got a glimpse of these when I cut them off them loom.

My husband, Don, has been weaving, too. He made this pretty runner and has two more huge and gorgeous runners waiting to be hemmed and wet finished.

IMG_3975

He wove part of the baby blanket, too, since it was a gift from us both. He has been spending a lot of time on a big, non-weaving project that I’ll show you soon!

So many projects, so many plans . . .

Did you have a productive summer, doing your favorite things? Have you done your show-and-tell? If so, leave a link in your comment!

For All It Represents

IMG_3811

I love this dresser scarf. Or is it a table runner? Or a doily?

It doesn’t matter what we call it, I love it all the same.

Do I love it because it’s pretty? Not really. I can see why some people would find it lovely but it is not my aesthetic at all. It’s a little too fussy, a little too pretty and flowery and girly, for my taste.

Do I love it because it’s rare and seldom seen? Not at all. This sort of hand embroidered fabric, meant to decorate a dresser top or sideboard, is pretty much, literally, a dime a dozen. In the world of vintage linens, the only items more plentiful are crocheted doilies.

Do I love it because it’s practical? No. It comes from an era where women seem to have felt compelled to cover blank surfaces with “décor.” Antimacassars, doilies, runners, piano scarves—the philosophy seemed to be “let no piece of furniture go naked.” Some of these items had an ostensible purpose—antimacassers on the backs of upholstered furniture, for instance, were designed to keep a popular male hair product—macasser—off the fabric. But, really, most of these items were just meant to look pretty.

I have lots of reasons not to love this runner and yet I do love it.

I love it for what it represents.

  • A woman seeking to beautify her space. Whether this was made by a Yankee, to hold dark winter at bay, or an Okie, facing dust storms or a lonely road west, this woman wrought her own scene of beauty.
  • A woman with enough leisure to time to be able to think about beauty. Whoever did this piece had done enough of the daily chores, the must-dos, to feel justified in taking her leisure on a want-to-do. I’m happy she found that time.
  • A woman who found a way to “be productive” while sitting quietly and beautifying her world. I can relate to this and I know some of you can, too. If you are a person of action and you like to point at what you’ve accomplished, you relish a job of work that can be done while sitting in the shade and allowing your mind to wander.
  • A woman who took pride in something made by her own hands that would So much of women’s daily work was work that was undone—beds made that were unmade each night, clothes washed and dirtied again, meals made and eaten and made again. To embroider something or stitch a quilt was to create a lasting object, something that might, even, outlive the maker.
  • A woman, perhaps denied other ways of asserting her individuality, finding a voice in her handwork. She chose the pattern, the colors, the embellishment. It was unique and it was hers.

This little dresser scarf packs a lot of meaning for me.

I also love it because I saved it.

Those of us who have pets will probably admit that the ones you saved from a grim fate always seem extra special. The stray one, skittish and fearful, the abandoned one, in pain and alone, those pets have our hearts in particular ways.

This runner came in a box of linens found, as usual, under a table and ignored, at a garage sale. The box actually held many pretty and quite exceptional items but, there, at the bottom, was this country cousin of a runner. And it was stained and filthy. It was a stray, unlikely to be noticed or to find a forever home.

I soaked it for hours in three different washes. I progressed from regular washing through my big guns, the Biz and Cascade combo. It was still stained. I did the Biz and Cascade again and added boiling water to my already very hot washing machine. Finally, the stains faded and disappeared. I ironed it carefully and spiffed it up for its glamour shots.

And now the runner is beautiful.

Was it worth the time and energy? It was not, at least not because it was exceptionally lovely or rare or useful.

But, yes, of course, it was worth it! It was worth it because of all it represents, because of the woman who crafted it and all the women like her, and like us, who make our marks by making a mark with thread or yarn or fabric or paint, or any of a multitude of other media.

I won’t keep this little runner—a person can’t adopt every stray and be fair to them all. I’ll show it to friends and see if there is a worthy home among them. At some point if need be, I’ll list it on Etsy in order to match it up with a good home.

One way or another, I’ll find it a place where it’s appreciated for what it is and for all it represents.

“It’s All About Me” Monday: The Unfinished Object

IMG_3616

Is there a crafter alive who has finished every project she has started?

If so, I’d like to meet her; I’d like to shake her hand, and celebrate her fortitude and single-mindedness and self-discipline.

In the words of the legendary Bob Dylan, “It ain’t me, babe. It ain’t me you’re looking for . . .”

I’ve left so many things undone. Some have been too hard for me, some too easy, some just didn’t take. Some have been around so long that the colors and style are sadly out of date and some have been attacked by insects or mice or something else unthinkable. Some have simply fallen by the wayside when another shiny-new, exciting project has come along.

I’m not proud of this so most of my unfinished projects have been disposed of, gone and forgotten, so they can no longer haunt me and make me feel undisciplined.

But one piece endures—I love it in spite of its unfinishedness. I think it’s lovely just as it is.

This kit depicting scenes from Aesop’s Fables came out in 1979, the same year I finished a cross stitch sampler. I imagine I felt flush with that success and wanted to keep the feeling going.

This was back when crewel embroidery was cool and you could buy beautiful kits, complete with good instructions and quality yarns.

This project was big and ambitious and gorgeous—I thought so then and I still think so 37 years later.

And yet I didn’t get far with the project. I can’t remember why but it was right when I started grad school and had bought a spinning wheel and . . . who knows?

But I got far enough that I have thought this unfinished object was still worth seeing. It doesn’t make me feel bad in its incompleteness. In fact, I kind of like the effect of one bright, embroidered panel against the subtle line drawings of the other panels.

IMG_3601

It’s been with me all these years and has hung on a wall most of that time.

I’ve never intended to finish it and wouldn’t have known where to begin, even if I was inclined.

And, yet, weirdly, recently, even as I had the idea for this post in mind, I came across a plastic bag, in a plastic bin, in an overcrowded garage, along with other unfinished projects.

And look what was in it . . .

IMG_3613

Yes, the directions and the yarn. Is this a sign of things to come?

But, enough about me! Let’s talk about you. How do you like my unfinished object?

Do you finish everything? Do your unfinished projects ever make you happy, just as they are?

“It’s All About Me” Monday: The Balsam Pillows

IMG_1404

Nothing revives the past so completely as a smell that was once associated with it.
–Vladimir Nabokov

When I was a child in upstate New York, I took naps on a sunny glassed-in porch at the farm. On my couch was a special pillow. It was small and floppy and not soft. In fact, it was lumpy and sort of scratchy but . . . it had the most amazing smell.

The smell was faint, just a hint of something special remained. If I squeezed the pillow, I could coax a stronger breath of it out but just for a moment. The fragrance was of all outdoors and mountains and pine trees. It spoke of my grandmother’s house, of the farm, of the region, that place of my birth.

The small pillow was filled with needles of balsam fir. Then, and still now, these small pillows can be found all over the northeast, and especially, it seems, in the Adirondack Mountains of New York and in Maine. They were, and are, sold as souvenirs of a particular kind of wilderness.

I’ve had a thing for these balsam pillows all my life. I wander around my house and can count at least 35 of them—some are vintage, with corny sayings, like “I pine for yew and balsam, too,” printed on the pillows. Some are newer, made of bright Pendleton wool, embroidered cotton, and even one of velveteen.

Of the pillows lying around, probably 10 or more are ones I’ve made over the years. I can buy balsam needles locally for $5.50 a pound. It’s fresh and aromatic and condenses forest-mountains-lakes-sun-breeze-summer into one sniff.

I have usually made my pillows using a quilter’s technique called Cathedral Windows. A solid-colored fabric is folded and sewn in a particular way, until small bits can be turned back to frame an inserted scrap of special fabric, which is featured like the glowing pieces of stained glass.

5425741848_a74569f995_z

A Cathedral Window quilt. Photo by Kristen

Over the years, my featured fabrics have been of Adirondack images—apples, acorns, and pine cones—but my most recent pillows are a little different.

Of all the vintage linens that go though my hands, some of my favorites are classic, hard-working, striped linen dishtowels. They look tailored and efficient and elegant in their perfect design for a job of work.

But some of the towels I handle are damaged by a big hole or dark stain. It pains me to throw such a towel away so I use scraps to decorate my balsam pillows. Some plain muslin fabric, a small square of dishtowel, a random old button—together they make a perfect envelope for that special fragrance.

These are very small pillows, less than 4 inches across. I can use them as sachets and tuck them almost anywhere so that, unexpectedly, I’ll walk through a room and get a hit of that astringent fragrance, evocative, not too sweet, full of memories.

When I smell balsam, it’s always summer and the sun is always shining onto fir needles. I’m a small girl again, taking a nap in a cozy, secure place in the country. When I smell it, I smell home.

But, enough about me! Let’s talk about you. How do you like my balsam pillows? If you craft and make things, is fragrance a part of the making? Is there a smell that transports you back to childhood?

IMG_1405 (1)