Thursday, May 30, 2013

pretty sure

Sometimes I catch myself whistling and wonder where in the world the tune came from. Yesterday, it was part of the soundtrack from Baby Boom and today, The Carpenters. Finding words at the ready, I began to sing, "I'm wide awake at 4am without a friend in sight..."
"Oh, how horrible," my mother murmured. I'm pretty sure she meant the lyrics and not my singing.

hope springs

After writing the last post I wandered dejectedly into the dining room and gazed forlornly at my little quilt.
There was no flash of light or peal of thunder, but I think a light bulb did appear briefly over my head.
It's not too late to add wool applique.
It isn't a case of one or the other. In fact, the texture of fused applique and heavy quilting, combined with some wool applique and embroidery might save the day.
I still need to do some hand work in the center but I am wary of doing much to a vintage block. It seems a desecration.
'Hope springs eternal in the human breast.'

help with perspective

Upon the death of her mother, my friend sorted and dispersed all of those things that fill up the corners of our lives. She passed to me a small box of fabric bits and pieces. There is a comfort in knowing the things deemed important by those we love, will in turned be used and enjoyed and she knew I loved to sew. In the box were two embroidered remnants. Two little girls in faded dresses outlined in black blanket stitching. I knew as soon as I saw them that they would go back to my friend.
I decided to make a small wall quilt or doll quilt and after pressing and squaring up the block, I bordered it generously with black fabric. My first thought, had been to add a narrow black border and a wide off white border with silhouettes of children and animals marching round the center block, but I was afraid the charm of the little girl would be overshadowed.
I also wanted to somehow say something about my friend and so I decided to applique grape vine prunings and grapes around the border. My friend now lives surrounded by vineyards.
I was pretty happy with it at this point, but of course, after stitching everything down, I suddenly realized that wool applique would have been so much better.  I could have echoed the black blanket stitch and lent a rustic air to the quilt at the same time. I would have only needed very simple quilting, perhaps a tendril pattern.
Too bad my vision didn't clear until after I had sandwiched and quilted it within an inch of it's life.
I am feeling a little dejected but in a few days, when I look at it again with new eyes, I will likely have a fresh resolve to finish it. Sometimes a little time and distance help with perspective. 

Wednesday, May 29, 2013

saying bap

My little tiny granddaughter can talk.
She can say, "Bap."
Of course, her mother the translator knows she means 'Clap.'
I am as excited as if she had recited the National Anthem.
Goodness, only seven months old.
I love those first forays into speech.
Her older brother's first word was clap as well I think, and at about the same age.
'If you're happy and you know it, clap your hands.....'

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

kissing cousin

I've always had a thing for gingham. I like to think of it as the kissing cousin of plaid. It manages to evoke a similar nostalgia and homey vibe.
Someday I want to make a quilt using all of the sizes gingham comes in, eighth inch through one inch and all of the colors that I can lay my hands on.
I think the very first quilt I ever made in my life was gingham amazingly enough.
It was a baby quilt, a shower gift, and was made using five or six colors of gingham in three or four sizes. I didn't have batting, so I substituted a thin baby blanket. I don't remember how it was quilted or bound anymore but I was pretty happy with it when it was finished.
That quilt lived a long and useful life, and was literally used up, and worn out. It seemed a fitting tribute to the homey gingham gift with its up-cycled interior.
Use it up
Wear it out
Make do or
Do without.

little bird

that system

'If you can't be a good example, be a terrible warning.' I seemed to think in quotation marks yesterday.
I was working on a small quilt project. One of those experiments gone wrong.
It had started out so well too. I had clasped my hands in admiration as I stood back looking at it the evening before. It hadn't occurred to me that I would encounter problems. More than that, it hadn't occurred to me that I would go sadly astray.
I began with a plan but when my first attempts at stitching looked shoddy I thought to overcome it by more of the same. 'Two wrongs don't make a right' came discouragingly to mind.
Taking a deep breath, I continued on, hunched over my sewing machine.
'Never decorate around a mistake,' whispered an unkind inner voice.
As one problem area was subdued, another cropped up, not unlike a classroom of overtired kindergartners.
Actually, that's not a bad analogy. I am still a kindergarten quilter.
My real mistake was to assume that I wouldn't encounter a problem; to assume that there wouldn't be 'technical difficulty.'
Skill is acquired through practice and, oh happy thought, trial and error.
That doesn't feel good; that learning through making mistakes, but it is an essential ingredient to growth. Now who thought up that system?
I worked on my little quilt until it 'became absolutely necessary for me to go.' ( that's a quote from You've Got Mail. A man is describing his dating life and states that he always takes things to the next level, and the next, until he reaches the level where it becomes absolutely necessary for him to go. For some reason, that line has entered the private vocabulary of inside jokes couples enjoy and my husband and I trot it out from time to time)
With the clock ticking and supper prep. looming, I grabbed my water colors and brushes and painted a card by way of comforting myself. I needed to do something creative that was joyous. Something that would make me feel better about the string of mistakes my afternoon had become.
It worked too.
I could feel my spirit quickly revive.
'Happiness lies in the joy of achievement, and the thrill of the creative effort.' Franklin D Roosevelt.

Sunday, May 26, 2013

up and away

I'm thinking about challenges.
The sort that quilters seem to line up for with eager eyes.
There is usually a theme that must be considered.
Criteria to meet.
Sometimes even color restrictions or required fabrics.
Barriers and boundaries.
Why does this not stunt creativity or even stifle it?
It makes me think of the expression, Necessity is the Mother of Invention.
Amazingly, forcing yourself to think within a certain parameter, to create within certain guidelines is freeing.
It is another of the great paradoxes of life.
Somehow, the challenge itself becomes a spring board that launches us into the wide open sky, to flip and turn at will.
Landings vary, but often are as spectacular as the flight.
Daily life is full of challenges and the Necessary.
They can generate for us a compressed energy and even a momentum to find a way up, up and away.

Saturday, May 25, 2013

economy and sentiment

Once upon a time, my mother was a sewer. She sat before her Singer treadle and cranked out clothing; little matching dresses and shirts and skirts and trousers and coats for her children, shirts for my father, both long sleeved and short in an endless array of plaid, and dresses for herself. Dresses crisply cotton at first, full skirted fifties frocks, then Fortrels and the assorted synthetics of the sixties and seventies and then back at last to cotton, the styles ever simpler.
Her final garments for herself were A-line summer shifts that she wore year round it seemed. My father self-medicated his arthritis by building great, hot, roaring fires in the wood stove and my mother would flit about the house red faced and sleeveless in self defense.
I suppose because fabric was not readily available as she began her sewing life, she developed an understandable tendency to buy in bulk, to stock up, to take advantage of a bargain.
Today, quilters refer with pride to their 'stash' but the whole concept of more being better was completely lost on me as a girl.
 Almost anything can be a source of angst for the adolescent. When we are young, even our parents better qualities may be viewed with suspicion.
This was certainly true for me.
Even though I knew how to sew very young, I took Home Economics along with everybody else. It was the economy part that ended up being a source of embarrassment to me though.

It seemed that no matter what garment we were sewing at school, my mother had fabric for it waiting in the wings.
I would lug the bolt of fabric dutifully off to class and cringe inwardly as the teacher and other girls stared round eyed as I hastily laid out my pattern pieces and snipped an insignificant bit off the end of the bolt.
I suggested weakly once that I preferred to whack off a piece of less conspicuous size to take to school but my mother, unmoved by either popular sentiment or my own, remained steadfast.
She felt there would be inevitable waste with my approach.
Just once, I wanted to unfold a piece of fabric, and smooth it out on the large table, and find that I had just the right amount of fabric. Just the amount the pattern packet had helpfully suggested that I buy. Just the economical amount.
Fortunately, embarrassment wasn't fatal and in time, I grew up and formed my own philosophy of economy.
Influences are powerful, especially early ones and I have thanked my mother many times for her gifts to me. For her steadfastness. For her industry and creativity and wisdom. And lately, for her fabric a'plenty.
I have been working on a quilt.
It needed a special back.
Something appropriately masculine.
Something appropriately large too.
Several meters of plaid fabric from the sixties and seventies, left overs from making shirts for my father still remained; a remnant of my mothers stash. (wow, remnant! what a pun)
This fabric has been waiting in the wings.
There was more than enough. It was the perfect blend of economy and sentiment.

off their hands

Neighbors of my sister had an old couch they didn't want anymore.
They had no truck to cart it away and so, they pushed and pulled it to the edge of their yard in the hopes that someone would take it off their hands.
A big sign declared it FREE.
A day and a night passed.
There were no takers.

Human nature was pondered and a new sign prepared.
'TWO HUNDRED DOLLARS' the new sign advertised.
That night, the couch was stolen.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

taken hold

My oldest sister is almost eight months old in this photo, the same age as my tiny granddaughter. It is a truly wonderful age, so responsive and curious and bright.
My mother was the photographer and it is no surprise that the babies eyes are fixed firmly on her.
So are the eyes of my aunt, babe in arms.
But not my grandmother's.
Not my glowing grandmother.
She has managed to upstage the baby.
There she stands smiling, her eyes fastened upon her tiny grandchild, and I find my eyes stray to her in self-recognition.
In her hand she clutches a camera.
Adoration has taken hold.
I know just how she feels.

magnified in value

Sometimes it is the less than perfect pictures that become favorites a generation hence.
I have no idea who snapped this shot of my mother and older siblings but I love it so much.
My older sisters and brother were apparently as shy as wild rabbits and that may have been a contributing factor to the photo's charm.
Clearly, the attention of a visitor with camera in hand was heady flattery.
Especially enraptured is my oldest sister and her posture has acquired that awkward frozen fate of the star struck.
Advice must have been forthcoming from the patient photographer, but only my brother, the obedient youngest, is trying in vain to smooth out his tummy on behalf of them all.

I love- the sameness of the fabric in the outfits ( so Sound of Music )
         - the scuffed leather shoes and tights ( part of my childhood uniform as well )
         - the log house and rustic step ( not as splendid as grandmas but not bad for a first try )
         - the houseplant in the window leaning toward the light ( potted up in a tin can of course )
         - the evident delight of the children ( their happiness is catching )
         - my amazingly young and stylin' mother ( what a dress! what posture!! )

Attention paid to a child is magnified in value. ( The important word in that sentence is value.)

Wednesday, May 15, 2013

even more

Brave little pansies bloom almost year round here on the coast. They are one of the first flowers in the garden centers in spring and one of the last that fall gardeners tenderly tuck in as the clock ticks ever onward.
I must admit, I have a special affection for pansies.
For all pansies.
For those giant velvet faces, eyes sooty black, for the dainty violas and wee little johnny-jump-ups. They stir the earliest of memories for me.
And although at first glance they make me think of my mother, they make me think even more so of my husband. They are one of his very favorite flowers.
Opposites attracting as they do, I joyously embrace our common love of the pansy. How delightfully simpatico of us.
This mini quilt was one of a rash of small quilts made in response to a guild challenge.

Monday, May 13, 2013

thank goodness

Soccer games roll on in spite of rain and so we huddled at the edge of the field, umbrella in hand.
The rain was eventually blown away.
And so was my little granddaughter.
She had asked if she could hold the umbrella.
"Such a fine, strong umbrella should stand up to a four year old," I thought.
But could the four year old stand up to the umbrella?
The wind was huffing and puffing.
Suddenly a gust lifted the little girl off of her feet, just like a miniature Mary Poppins.
In a perfect arch, she sailed up and away.
And then down of course.
The umbrella landed point first and my granddaughter tumbled in a somersault into the open shute.
She has big eyes, but they were even bigger than usual.
"Were you shocked," I asked the little girl? What a question. It made me think of the lame questions reporters ask victims of shocking experiences.
 P.S. There was a rib damaged but it only belonged to the umbrella thank goodness.

Sunday, May 12, 2013

hand of the wind

We went to Tanglebank Gardens and meandered past great drifts of Hellebore.
Everything looks better that way doesn't it;  looking like it was planted by the hand of the wind.

Saturday, May 11, 2013

giants three

Have you ever seen something so unlikely that your mind was not sure how to file the image.
Instead, you experienced that brief moment of suspended thought.
My daughter saw it first and sounded the alarm.
A giant frog.
There it sat, as still as a lawn ornament upon a log at the edge of the pond.
I say lawn ornament because that is what my startled mind at first declared it saw.
Such an impossible size.
And its color was so like weathered metal; only the glistening eye was bright with life. 
It had a neighbor.
A second super-frog.
"Bonk, Gonk."
And a third, its body partially submerged.
A trio.
Giants three.
Pavarotti and friends.


The lights were dim.
The auditorium packed.
We were breathlessly following the story unfolding on the stage.
The Sound Of Music is set in a perilous place and time.
For a while this afternoon we almost forgot we were watching a play.
And while we forgot, it seems someone was remembering.
The Officer of the Third Reich raised his arm in a salute and barked, "Hiel Hitler."
Directly across the aisle from me, an elderly man's face contorted and his hand flew to his mouth.

bad guy

It was during the opening act of Sound Of Music this afternoon, that I became aware of the little boy seated behind us.
"There goes the bad guy," he declared, just as Mother Superior exited stage right, her black robe swirling.

Tuesday, May 7, 2013

something white

I am fascinated by this photo of my grandmother.
Is it because I can see an echo of both her father and her mother in her face, and the shadow of my mother as well?
Or is it her steady, level gaze of quiet confidence?
Her bearing almost regal?
Well, it should be, but I find that I can't tear my eyes away from her hair.
Such hair.
So richly dark.
The grandma of my memory did not have mysteriously dark hair.
By then, It had begun its sure and steady transformation from brown through grey to white.

As I played with my grandchildren on the weekend, my little granddaughter sang out,  "I Spy With My Little Eye, something that is white."
Turned out to be my hair.
I thought in exclamation points.
My hair is just beginning its sure and steady transformation.
Isn't it?

This evening, as I flipped down the visor of my daughter's car and gazed into the mirror, I was mesmerized by the sight of strands of hair, my hair, curling up and catching the light, like something white.

yes and no

When I write a story for my blog, it is not unusual for me to post it and then tweak it back into 'Drafts' and make substantial changes. I don't know why I haven't just used the Preview feature to do this. 
What I didn't realize is that people will then follow those original links to my unedited version. What??!!
Surely not, I thought upon hearing this prophecy of doom.
I phoned my daughter and asked her to read me the first sentence of my most recent post.
My original, un-tweaked version!

Of course, anyone visiting my blog will read the final version, but those dear souls who are receiving updates alerting them to a new post, will at times be reading initial scribblings.If you have ever read a post and wondered to yourself, " Is she having an off day?"  the answer is yes and no.

Apparently, I can choose a setting that will only give a reader the first sentence and then they must come to my blog to read the rest, but that seems an inconvenience for lovely readers, so I pledge to edit in Preview from now on.
Of course, I do at times go back to a story and tweak it days later anyway......Writing can be like shifting sand.

carrying a torch

A little torch burns in my garden; orange California Poppies, their petals transparent in the bright light of morning. Looking at them fluttering in the morning breeze fills my heart with a glow of happy recollection and a strangely sweet longing.
We had happily tented on Hornby Island and were waiting for the ferry to bear us swiftly back to life on the mainland. I wandered along the dusty roadside admiring the California Poppies. They led me like Hansel and Gretel's crumbs along a winding path, out onto a grassy point overlooking the bay; the wide cobalt bay. I was surrounded by bleached driftwood, giant bones of ancient trees.  My eye was drawn back to the curve of the bay, to the grassy merge and the poppies burning brightly in drifts.
Here in my yard, nearly two decades later, I stand with the wind, is it the same wind I wonder? blowing through my hair in the same sort of cooling way. The sun is warm overhead. My eyes are again upon those orange petals, fluttering and flickering amongst the green.
I feel that familiar, sweet longing, but I have learned to recognize that feeling as a friend.
I am not regretting something.
I am not sad.
I am just feeling what we mortals are destined to feel.
Our hearts ignite at the sight of beauty, and at times of shared happiness.
That longing sweet is like a distant bell, calling us to remembrance and gratitude.

Sunday, May 5, 2013

married sort of woman

I kicked my husband last night.
Well, not really.
I prefer to think that I just nudged him with my foot.
He snores.
I do too, but I am usually asleep then and don't notice.
I admit with some shame, that my husband never kicks me.
Last night I was driven to the edge.
We only have a queen size bed, so it wasn't far enough.

The soothing sound of silence.
No court of law would convict me.
Especially if the judge was a married sort of woman.

Saturday, May 4, 2013

high volume

I remember the first time I heard a quilt described as low volume. I had no idea what that meant. Thank goodness for Google.
The answer was there for the asking.
Made sense too.
I should have just asked myself what the opposite of low volume was and that would have given me the answer.
High volume equals loud so low volume equals quiet.
Who knew.
I have a quilt top waiting in the wings to be finished that could never be described as low volume. In fact, loud would not even tell you the whole story.
It is a sonic boom of color.
I can hardly wait to show it to you.
My mother has dubbed it Pieces of Eight, after pirates gold. 
Pirates are pretty high volume guys.
Yo Ho Ho.

Thursday, May 2, 2013

finding yourself alive

Here's the link to my interview on Creative Mojo.
I have just finished listening to it.
I know I was there, but I could only seem to remember parts of the conversation. The rest was blotted out by sweaty palms and heart palpitations.
It seemed so strange to hear my own voice on the radio. It was the voice of a stranger.
Isn't it odd that we don't really recognize our own voice?
Have you noticed that too?

It was fun.
Probably for the same reason riding a roller coaster is fun; the speed, the potential for disaster, the laughter, the thrill of finding yourself alive at the end......