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Stitching Like A Drunken Sailor

I've been itching for some time to play with needles, thread, and material. Just plain itching to play. But - I grew up when you took Home Ec in high school, and when cross stitching was the rage. Everyone, every teacher, particularly Anna Hamilton, my high school home ec gal, emphasized precision. Each and every stitch needed to be just so: the perfect exact length, the perfect spacing, and by God, what ever it was I did had to look just as good from the back. My backs were a holy mess, designed to make poor Anna shudder in dismay.

No one had yet to embrace the wabi sabi approach. No one liked, yet alone loved, wonky stitches.

My work always looked like a drunken sailor had gone at it.

Now, no offense to sailors, drunk or otherwise. "Like a drunken sailor" happens to be one of my dad's pet phrases. He took great delight in using it, especially when he viewed his offspring's and their children's first attempt at navigating kayaks. Since dad dropped out of high school to join the navy during WWII and told stories of his youthful escapades while on active duty, I suspect he knows a great deal about sailors, drunk or otherwise.


Then, just a few weeks ago, I found Liz Kettle and slow stitching. My Lord, I love this woman. She embraces wonky stitches, explaining that each needle went in and out just where it was supposed to be. She emphasizes that your stitches can be differently sized, uneven, crooked or more. And, as you can see, I embraced this process with a passion.

Liz just follows a few basic rules:

  1. Don't spend more than two or three minutes picking out you fabric remnants.
  2. Never, ever, rip out a stitch. It's fine.
  3. It doesn't matter what color thread you use. Just grab one and get started.
  4. The piece will let you know when it's finished; trust your gut.


Liz's slow stitching is her meditation, her way to ground herself each morning. She completes a square each morning before she goes running. I complete one every few days.

Stitching is so new to me; I did cross stitch, but there are wonderful little grids to follow when you cross stitch. I stand a fighting chance to make respectable looking stitches, at least on the front. Just don't look at the back, okay? Miss Anna Hamilton will be shuddering in her grave if you do that, and she'll claim no knowledge what so ever of me.

True confession time - I break Liz's rules.

I can spend a long time choosing my fabric, playing with one color after another, mixing and matching my pieces. This morning, for the first time, I managed to choose quickly. Maybe it comes with practice?

I loved her class at Artistic Artifacts in Alexandria, VA. (If you are a fabric and thread lover, this is your place. It's like going to heaven...fabrics from all over the world. Heaven in the form of colors and textures!)

I loved the class, but I tried to kind of hide myself. This group of women seriously knew what they were doing. Awesome, tiny, straight stitches completed in a heart beat. This newbie stood out and not in the star of the class type of way.


Another part of my confession: I rip out stitches. They're still wonky, they're still looking like a drunken sailor took this class. But, the more of these little babies I do, the less ripping out I do.

I'm learning to live with the wabi-sabi-ness of it all and have managed to deafen my inner critic (aka Anna Hamilton). And the stitches are getting smaller, tinier, and just looking better. Not great, but better. I can live with better.

And, even though these ladies overwhelmed me with their talent and expertise, they were a friendly bunch, and never criticized my feeble attempts.

Thank you, ladies!


As I worked my way through the class, fortified with a bit of wine, (These ladies know how to have a class on a Friday night. The wine certainly didn't help my stitching, and I never came anywhere near the drunken sailor level, but it helped with not completely despairing of it all.) I learned a lot.

I learned that cheap needles will create headaches. They don't go through the fabric as smoothly; they tend to snag. I now own some Tulip brand needles.

I also learned that crewel needles are awesome; no matter the size of the needle tip, they have a really huge eye. For those of us whose own eyes are lacking in sharpness, crewel needles are a blessing.

I learned that I love these little square works of art. They're 4" X 4", so that they don't become a "project."

And, I learned that I love fabric, and I love hand stitching.

Right now, I'm pretty focused on making the needle do what I want it to do, but with 4 pieces down and 1 started this morning, I'm finding a rhythm, and things are going more quickly and easily.

Even though I have to work at it, or think about it, there's a calmness about it all, and a timelessness as well. It's certainly a one of a kind result.

If you're intrigued, Liz has a wonderful video on the whole process, and she explains it far better than I can here. You can find her video at: http://www.textileevolution.com/index.php/easyblog/entry/stitch-meditations (Sorry, it doesn't seem to want to hyperlink!)

The site is a wealth of info on stitching, hand and by machine. Liz has published some great books, and you'll also find samples of her own squares.

A few notes:

I didn't include my class square. That poor baby just wants to hide her pathetic-ness away from the world. I'm keeping her to remind me of how far I'm coming, but I'm letting her hide.

The squares appear in the order I've completed them.

Square 1: that awesome piece of netting like material comes from an old bridal gown donated to a thrift shop. The gown was so badly stained, that the shop could not sell it. I got it in another class, where we ripped up that gown and used ever bit we could. This netting comes from the crinoline under the gown! Lesson learned: I need to haunt thrift shops to get my fabric stash where it needs to be.

Square 2: the material that forms the smallest dotted rectangle is a piece of an old scarf. Fun!

Square 3: Ah...fibers! I can use funky fibers that I love, but that I have no idea what to do with. I've never mastered knitting, crochet, etc.

Square 4: The blue piece with black "flowers" is a piece I created in a fabric gelli printing class. It began as white muslin.




Hands Out of Your Pockets!


Here's to Day 4 of walking! I've been needing to move this body of mine. I know it and friendly advice givers have reiterated it...several times. Mother Nature's provided glorious weather, so no more excuses. I'm hoping for enough of this weather to create the habit; knowing my own inclinations, let's just say that things will go much more smoothly if Ma Nature continues to co-operate. Even though I am thoroughly enjoying it, I can come up with excuses to not walk far too easily.

So, I'm walking. A few more minutes and a few more steps each day. I'm a bit sore, but it's nothing really. Just the devil on my shoulder urging me to "Rest a bit. Take a day off."

And, I'm looking for color, looking for spring. I've spotted a few crocuses, a few snow drops in a world of brown. But the sky has been stunning, inviting me to look up, relax, and breathe it in.

Most days, I meet one or both parts of a lovely elderly couple. Yesterday, they were both out walking - rather slowly, tentatively up a hill. I stopped to chat for a bit; they both smiled beautifully, and the woman grinned at me and said:

"I keep telling him - hands out of your pockets. Stand up straight and watch where you're going so you don't fall down."

Not bad advice on all counts.

Stand up and pay attention; look at the beauty that surrounds you.

Hands out of your pockets; look alive!

And, oh, yes, always watch where you're going. In my case, stop looking up, even though the sky is simply gorgeous.

Or, at least, stop and then look up!

I grinned at the man and advised, "Better listen!"

He grinned back, rather cheekily, and I sensed she had a bit of a losing battle on her hands.

I'll keep walking, and before I know it, spring will throw at me all the color she possibly can. So much so, that I really won't know where to look.

In the meantime, I'm bringing the color inside.


A few fallen tulip petals next to an old blue mason jar. I'm not scooping them up, not just yet. They still have beauty to share, to make me smile.

And, do you remember Annie, my ever so slightly confused Christmas Cactus? Well, she's in full bloom...


...gloriously, fully in bloom, alive with color. Thanks, Mom!

My Apolgies, Cherry Ames


Dear Cherry Ames,,

I loved you growing up...just loved reading about you and your adventures!

I think part of it was that you were a brunette. An honest-to-goodness brunette, just like me, in a world of blond heroines. It wasn't until many years later, with the help of a good stylist, that I ever could hope to be blonde.

So, there you were, something to strive toward; a woman, seemingly on her own, having great adventures. (Had a great chuckle, rereading some of the titles...department store nurse? Not in this day and age.)

I nervously chewed on my fingers, reading page after page, nervous to see you graduate and get your first job. Now, really, what was I thinking? There were 20+ other books in the series! Honestly, you were going to graduate, and I could have saved myself some anxious moments. Oh, but you drew me in.

For the longest time, I aspired to be you. I wanted that crisp white uniform; I wanted to earn my nursing cap. I even became a candystriper (a now extinct species, I think) in my ever so perky (ever so ugly) red and white striped uniform with my very own cap.

But, Cherry, I'm sad to say, that somewhere along the line, reality set in; I discovered that I hated needles, and that vomit induced the same in yours truely. I began to set my sights in a different direction, despite my father's pleas, that "I would always have a job."

And, Cherry, just in case you were wondering if I should rethink nursing as a new career, now that I'm retired from teaching...

Well, no. A huge resounding, "NO!"

I've spent the last several days tending to my sweetie after his knee operation. I couldn't have asked for a better, less demanding patient. There wasn't even much blook and no vomit! But still..

I just didn't like it. I absolutely love the patient, and I did it because I love him and want to see him well. Mind you, I have a huge respect for and am grateful for those who nurse, but...

But, not me!.

Sorry, Cherry, but that's the way it is.



P.S. The artwork has nothing to do with you, Cherry. Just a bit of fun and play on an an index card in between bouts of "nursing." Far more appealing.

Photo-Heart Connection: January

Over at The Kat Eye Studio, the "photo-art" connection is in full swing! I've spent the last few days revisiting January photos, from a New Year's Day celebration to a one year old's birthday to my own birthday and more. Quite a few photos grabbed my heart, especially those of that one year old. But, I kept coming back to this one:

January 2012 158

Meet the one year old's mama. The sheer happiness on her face grabs my own heart. This mama worked for her happiness and her little family's. A difficult induced deliveryand a newborn who landed in 3 hospitals in the first month equalled one whopping care of post partum depression and feelings of self doubt, which of course leads to more problems. Therapy, support groups, and sheer grit to become healthy followed. Now, she simply dotes on her baby and is reaching out to other young mothers. Not techincally a great photo but it is one that works my heartstrings big time!

And, just a bit of an aside. The above photo button is the first one I've successfully "grabbed." I knew it had to be easy, since these buttons are here, there, and everywhere, but they eluded me, that's for sure! With Kat's help, and the good folks at Typepad, I did it. It's shamefully easy, and I'm a bit embarrassed that I avoided it for so long, but at the same time, I'm patting myself on the back. One tiny fear conquered!


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It's war today...me and technology.

I've won a few and lost a few battles over these past several hours.

So far, technology's winning the battle of trying to upload a journal page scan to share with you.

That battle's being fought on the downstairs computer. It just occured to me to wander upstairs to see what would happen.

Downstairs...the scanned image will NOT upload.

Upstairs...this picture uploaded almost instantly!


Should I mail the image to myself?

At one point all computers in this household (and there are far too many!) were networked. Ever since FIOS, only certain computers will talk to each other. Sort of like families...right?

So, admire this picture of the sunset, taken just a week ago yesterday. Don't you just want to sigh?

The colors are true...I didn't do a thing in photoshop but add juat a tad of contrast.

As the saying goes, "Who can improve on Mother Nature?"

Juicy Watercolors

So, watercolors and I have an ongoing love/hate relationship. I absolutely love what others create using them. I hate the results when I try to recreate the look. Talk about not being in control! Diana Trout's little video below had me hauling out the watercolors yet once again, just to play!


Juicy 1037 

You can see the results on the right...more about the page in a bit.

I used a photo I shot of a tulip a few years back to create the background for the left side of this spread. The lady comes from one of the Somerset Publications which I cheerfuly cut up for journal fodder once I'm done reading them. I journaled with a white Sigma pen.

The little tiny page in the upper left corner of the right side of the spread began its life as a cover for a Strathmore drawing pad. I created this journal in a class with Diana, and I love all the recycled bits and pieces that found their way into it!

Juicy 2038 
I used another Somerset image on the back of the bitty page. You can see more of the watercolor play here. I created the white lines by lifting off the color with clear water, a technique in the video above. I'd won another fun little journal and some juicy pens from Dawn Sokol, which I hope to share later this week. I'm terribly behind here. Dad's ongoing issues from the stroke have all of us on a real roller coaster ride, and I seem to be putting out "fires" of one sort or another each and every day. I'm trying to play catchup, but I feel like the queen in Alice in Wonderland...I'm running as fast as I can just to stay in place! Every now and then, though, I squeeze in a bit of play!

Paint. Cut. Glue. Repeat. WONDERFUL THERAPY!

Sunday's Musings

Outside my window there's a beautiful blue sky. Pansies are appearing outside stores and are begging me to take them home.

I am thinking how very much I have to be grateful for, despite all the craziness and despair around me. I am thinking that I really need to hold onto all that is good.

I am thankful for lazy Sunday mornings with Phil and time to journal while waiting for my dye job to take.

From the kitchen fresh strawberries and blueberries await, along with a chicken to be roasted.

I am wearing a pair of Chico's clearance jeans ($9) and a yellow tshirt.

I am creating pages in my journals and am glad for the time to sort life out a bit.

I am going to be typing up a math practice test very shortly.

I am reading Sing You Home by Jodi Picoult...just beginning it, really.

I am hoping to get through this Daylight Savings Time bit without too many headaches.

I am hearing the steam cleaner from downstairs where Phil is doing the carpet.

Around the house all is clean and tidy. Phil, God bless him, cleaned while I had my hair done.

One of my favorite things is a trip to Anthropologie for some visual inspiration.

A few plans for the week: type and correct math tests, get some packages into the mail, and begin to clean out a closet or two.  Oh, and of course, make some art!

A picture I'd like to share...

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Alex and Uncle Chris share a smile.