Thursday, December 31, 2009

One-Word Resolution for 2010

In terms of my word of the year for 2009, Move, it was a dismal failure. I did notice that during 2009 the word from 2008, Focus, was more in mind, so perhaps Move will carry over and I will improve in motivating myself to getting off my duff more often. I’ve been contemplating resolution words for the coming year.

My word for 2010 will be Choose: what we choose is who we are. Who we choose to spend our time with. What we choose to do with our time. What we choose to eat. How we choose to treat our bodies. In the Monthly Aspectarian's Astro-weather report, a common warning is to make good choices. In 2010, I need to move beyond habit and ruts and view everything I do as an opportunity for making better choices. I want to think carefully about each choice I make.

I like the dictionary definition, in particular the etymology that relate it to tasting and enjoying (Merriam-Webster online edition).

Inflected Form(s): chose \ ch z\; cho·sen \ ch z n\; or obs chose; choosing; chooses
Etymology: Middle English chesen, chosen, chusen, from Old English c osan; akin to Old High German kiosan to choose, Old Norse kj sa, Gothic kiusan to choose, test, Latin gustare to taste, enjoy, Greek geuesthai to taste, Sanskrit jusate he enjoys, tastes, loves

transitive verb
1 a : to select (as one thing over another) especially with free will and by exercise of judgment b : to decide upon especially by vote : ELECT
2 a : to consider or assume as fitting, proper, or advantageous especially from personal preference b : to be inclined to (as by arbitrary decision or personal preference) -- often used with the infinitive
3 now dialect : to wish to have : WANT

Wednesday, December 30, 2009

received gifts

I have lots of lovely friends and family members who have the best taste in gifts. I didn't get photos of everything but here are a few. There's an obvious textile theme.

Isn't the threadcase above amazing? The letters are just beautiful. The inside is a cardboard cover with paper pages. The skeins of silk are held in the pages with straight pins--which have aged and rusted beautifully. The book cover is hand embroidered linen. It's a wonderful treasure.There's one word for this lovely large square of hemstitched linen--potential. There are so many things it could become but right now I'm just enjoying it as it is.
I believe this fragile bit of fine embroidery is a decorative coaster. I'm not positive but it's the right size. Have you ever seen anything like this? Do you know what it might be? It may be from India. I love the lotus.This is the gift I asked my family for and they went together and got me this book. It has really nicely detailed instructions for the ten phase pieces for Japanese embroidery. It's an amazing book and now I can get on with my piece much more easily. The lovely fabrics are from Japan, gifts from my niece.

She joined us for our family Christmas via Skype. It was really, really cool and also very strange. The laptop was set on a chair in our circle and plugged into the stereo speakers. At first we sat around it and talked to the computer, rather stiltedly, but later on, as she joined in the conversations, it was like she was really there--until you remembered it was a computer on the chair and not her. I was very, very happy she was able to join us in this way. The marvels of the modern age!

Tuesday, December 29, 2009

Gift Giving

One huge anxiety with the holidays for me is gift giving. Are you as fussed about it?

I worry whether each gift is nice enough, whether the recipient will like it, whether I’m giving equally (especially a concern with family). Once the packages are open, I analyze. Did they really like it? Will they actually use it/wear it? Were they just being polite.

Sometimes I think all of this stress is because I make many of the gifts I give. I have to balance what I want to spend my time doing with what I think the intended recipient will like. But I’ve found I react much the same way with purchased gifts or, as is often the case these days, giving things that I have collected over the years. I hold my breath until the packages are opened.

Now that the holidays are over, I can breathe a sigh of relief. Whatever the outcome, it’s done. I think this year was pretty successful. I think I made good choices (although I’d really love to hear from my nephews to know what they think, since the snow prevented them from making it to the gathering).

The red washcloth was a gift to my sister who wanted one knit tighter than usual. I used the usual pattern and cotton yarn, but went down a couple of needle sizes and knit most of the rows through the back loop. It worked and the cloth is much firmer than the usual. I couldn't show it before because she'd know it was for her. Most of my other handmade gifts for this Christmas have appeared on here at one time or another: the felted entrelac bags, the 1970s chatelaine, beaded crystal pendants from last spring...

Exhale and Relax

Wednesday, December 23, 2009

Christmas is nearly here!

This Christmas card was sent by my grandparents in the 20s or 30s. I found it in a stack of correspondence. I'm just about to leave work for the long holiday weekend. I hope you all have a safe and happy holiday.These charming crocheted and felted hot pads were a gift. I love the fibers used and the way the colors blend.I didn't get everything done that I wanted last weekend but I did finish some things. I made these wallets for my nephews. I got a remnant of faux tooled leather last month and decided this would be fun. The photo shows my paper mock up that I used for a pattern. My "bad" decision was to use my rust dyed fabric for the pockets and lining. The sewing machine very much did not like that fabric. Two or three layers was fine but when it got more than that (and I think the folded pocket piece got to eight layers) it would not under any circumstances stitch that. I did what I could by machine and did the rest by hand and with fusibles.

Another could-have-been-wiser decision was to use an very fine iron-on interfacing to back the folded credit-card pockets. The idea is to stitch all the way around, slit the fusible, turn it and fuse it to the back of the pocket, holding it all in place. It's a great idea but the fine interfacing I chose was way too thin for the project and pretty much just shredded. I just slapped on more it and made sure all the edges got finished. Not elegant but it should work.This is entrelac bag #3 with the knitting complete, felting to come. It's smaller than the others and one row is mixed fibers--I was using up the leftovers from bag #1.Since I took this photo, I finished this towel and began on one with carrots. These are great fun and relaxing. Now on to wrapping!

Friday, December 18, 2009

Happy Holidays!

It's that time of the year!

This photo shows my Dad's cousin on his visit to Santa--live pony and all. I'm not quite convinced by that Santa. Some time in the 1920s or very early 1930s.

Yesterday we had the Christmas girls' day out--this is becoming the best habit! We visited Geneva, IL, and got spices at the Spice House, wandered in and out of the shops, remembered mom at Little Traveler (she loved that place), noshed at Nosh. We walked quickly past the aromatic popcorn shop (oh, the caramel corn!), past Graham's Chocolates, past the cupcake shop. We ran errands, bought presents and necessities, and talked incessantly. At the end of the day, my sister-in-law treated us all to a small glass of eggnog. We sat in my sister's kitchen, sipping, eating very good cookies (white chocolate, cranberry, oatmeal), and reveling in the company. A very good day.

It was a dull, grey day and I brought the camera but didn't take any pictures.

As is often the way with holiday shopping, I got myself a present. Embroidered Flora and Fauna by Lesley Turpin-Delport and Nikki Delport-Wepener. Here's a review. I've been looking at it for a while now, ever since Paula (formerly of The Beauty of Life, a lovely blog that is now gone) brought it to my attention. A coupon and me and a copy of the book all came together at the right time, so I got it for half-price!

It's one of those books that already has me visualizing things differently. It's not a how-to-copy this-design-exactly book. It's more--here's how we used these materials to express this. I'm not saying it well. The review above is probably clearer. Anyway, good book. I'm smilin'.

I still have a lot to do to get ready for the holidays. I've decided on several presents to make and I need to get them done. And I'd like to do a bit of baking. We'll see. Presents first. Have a great weekend.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

A Bit Frustrated...

I spent last week and the weekend working very hard to complete my crewel project that I'm going to teach next summer at my local EGA chapter. I think it's pretty cool and I can't show it off until after our January meeting (happily it's at the beginning of the month). sigh. I hope the members like it.

But it means I don't have any needlework to show and share this week.

I spent last night browsing some old Christmas magazines-Better Homes & Gardens from 1970. It kind of made me smile...all of today's talk about recycling, reusing--repurposing wasn't a word back then but if it had been, they'd have used it! The gifts were hand made--dips in bell pepper cups, cookies and candies galore, and very creative ornaments and wrappings. Wire mesh was prominent in several designs. Used plastic of all types was utilized to make interesting, creative and just plain strange decorations and gifts.This isn't a recycled project, but I've wanted to make this wax ball ornament since the 70s. Back then, I was quite intimidated by the many steps and working with wax. By the time my skills were up to it, I couldn't find the right images. One day I still expect it will all come together.This train is a marvel of creative recycling. It looks pretty cool. I'd be happy to see the candy filled cars under my tree.I made some of these. We all trooped into the local hardware store and baffled the guys by buying random legs and finials and such. Everything was antiqued and now it looks so old fashioned. We also made our own candles--I had a disaster with a sand candle where the damp sand soaked through the cardboard box. We were scraping wax off the wall for years. But if you look toward the middle left, I still think those very simple red tapers in a row of weighted blue ball ornament candle holders are lovely.I spent a lot of time in the 70s playing with paper mache. I never made a huge outdoor ornament like this (and even back then I suspected anything anyone made at home would not look like the magical vignettes in the photos), but I did make lots of big, fun pinatas using this technique. If you look by the door to the left, there are tree-like towers from pentagons glued together into dodecahedrons and color plastic inserted in the round openings. I had those paper pentagons (I was very much into geodesics and tensegrity and all sorts of 3-D geometric things)--I had a large open paper dodecahedron hanging in my room for ages. Creative repurposing at it's best. I've never had the nerve to make them (mostly because I can't quite imagine wearing them) but probably will one day. The necklace to the center left is garment hooks and eyes. The one on the center right is thimbles and tailor's thimbles (with no tops--so beads could be glued on) linked with more hooks and eyes. The purse barely visible on the right is snaps wired together.

The shawl on the left is 70s mesh fabric with ribbons threaded and looped through it--much to mundane for my tastes. By the time I saw this, I had already knit and crocheted myself several large and fringy shawls.

I generally pull out these two magazines once a year and dive into nostalgia. McCall's Needlework and Crafts and Better Homes and Gardens were staples in my childhood home. (Oh, and McCall's magazine--I was a great Betsey McCall fan!) I was well into adulthood before I realized the impact they had on me.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Finished sampler

I finished this Monday afternoon while I was home with this cold. This project was by Mary Corbet of Needle'n'Thread. It ain't great. But I learned a lot which is the point. Mary included wonderful macro photos. I wouldn't dare take detail photos of mine.

I traced the outlines before beginning any stitching and followed them for the borders. It highlights the distortions. It would have been much better well stretched on a proper frame. I did it in a hoop. I'm much happier working in a hoop and I've found that I complete projects in hand or in a hoop much more diligently than those on frames.

I also used a piece of very light-weight muslin that was hanging around. It's much lighter than I probably should have selected, but I learned from the choice. I could see the threads clearly and where I was making my stitches. I tend to stitch heavily and this forced me to try and be lighter.

For the leaves and flower and circles, this fabric was okay. For the heavier stitching, especially the Om, it was too light. I got the feel of what it would be like to stitch some of the elaborate whitework from the 19th Century, the stuff with rather heavy stitching on really fine muslin and linen, and I rather enjoyed it. I could see an improvement in my embroidery between the first square to the last leaf.

I was going to stitch the M in the center in long and short, too, but realized once I had the split stitch outline in that it would overwhelm the sampler. Since I already had the outline in, I just left it and now I rather like it.

At the bottom of the M I put my initials MEHK and 9 for the year. As I was cutting the thread from the 9, after taking my last stitch, I was distracted and the scissors snipped a V into the fabric just above the 9.

I was crushed. My husband is great most of the time when I have a meltdown and he was wonderful. It didn't help too much that he pointed out that I was overtired and sick and probably shouldn't have been pushing myself to finish the piece. But he also came up with several creative, innovative and some downright silly suggestions for fixing the problem. He also reminded me of my expertise in textile care and repair and said he had no doubt I could fix it. That confidence in me was just what I needed. He suggested I put it away and think about it.

Of course, I couldn't. I needed to work with it a bit to see what I had. First, I carefully washed it, laying the fabric on some plastic screening and laying it in soapy water and washing it (as if it were an antique). After rinsing, again carefully, I laid it between towels to dry a bit. While it was still damp, I pressed it face down on the towel. When I was done, I could barely see the snip.

And just being pressed made the piece look better. It looked mostly like a wadded up tissue for most of the time I'd been working on it--the nature of the cheap muslin in and out of a hoop for weeks. So, now it's sitting there, slowly getting mussed again as it's moved from place to place in the house. How I fix the hole will depend on what I decide to do with the sampler in the end. But I've made my peace with it--and, really, the whole point was the learning process, not the end result.

Friday, December 11, 2009

Odds and ends

This is my first holiday gift of the season. I missed the Christmas party with my EGA chapter last week because of my cold. Before I headed home from work that night, I gave a friend who was going my presents to share and she gave hers to me. I love morning glories, so this is perfect! She lined the tin, too, so it will make a nice storage box for needlework tools.

She accompanied this with tasty treats: spicy-sweet almonds and candy coated pretzel sticks. I've been noshing on both and enjoying them. Over the past couple of weeks, my carry-along project was knit washcloths. The first one is square. The second is more of an oblong. I started out to make a hexagon but then began thinking about an oblong for back scrubbing so I made it as long as I could before running out of yarn.

I'm on a roll with these washcloths. My mom used to knit them endlessly and I can see why. I finished four rows while waiting during the mammogram process earlier this week. It kind of feels like something from nothing.

Thursday, December 10, 2009

Plimoth Jadcket Unveiled Today

Today's finally the day when the reproduction jacket created by Plimoth Plantation will be revealed. I've been following this closely and it's an amazing and inspiring project. There's an article in the Boston Globe today. Beginning at 3:30 today, Chicago time, Tricia Wilson Nguyen (who shepherded this project) will be posting photos from the unveiling on her blog. I can't wait!

Wednesday, December 9, 2009


Winter weather has blasted into the Chicago area. On my ride home yesterday I encountered rain, sleet, snow and a bit of tiny hail. Mostly sleet. Today is very windy and snowish (not really snowing but almost) and the temperature is dropping.

The conference is over. It went well and people were happy. Now there's the huge aftermath, clean up, pay bills, gather forms, document continuing education credits, and catch up with things set aside for the conference. And I just want to go home and sleep.

I still have my cold. It's eased quite a bit but I'm really dragging. Today I got my annual mammogram and took myself out for a Mexican breakfast afterward. Whinge over.

I'm chipping away at it all, slowly, and making some progress.

During the conference, I knit. (I'm mostly stuck at a registration table, with no place to plug in my computer, or running around checking on this and organizing that. I need something to occupy me in the odd quiet moments--something that I can pick up and put down in an instant. Simple knitting is perfect.)At the event, I worked on a new, small entrelac bag to be felted, this with the leftover yarns from the first bag I made. At home, I worked on a washcloth. Good, easy mindless knitting. I love these colors (Lily Sugar 'n' Cream).

Friday, December 4, 2009

Oh, My!

I completely forgot I had a giveaway going on that ended Monday! Not much interest in this one but that's okay. Alena said she really wanted the canvas and hers was the only comment so it works out. Alena--you didn't leave an e-mail address so please get in touch with me. Thanks!

Thursday, December 3, 2009


I've got a few minutes lull. Tomorrow's conference plans are almost finalized. I've been on the phone (or e-mail) all day with last minute changes, additions and snafus. On a day when I can't really talk--I came down with a bad cold this weekend.I've been organizing a conference or two (or four or five) a year for about 20 years now and I've always feared this--getting sick on the eve of an event. I'm actually doing okay. I took yesterday off and slept and the world didn't end. I think things will all happen as planned. It's all coming together. My hubby's been great and even brought me the Chinese take out I was craving yesterday (not that I could really taste it, but it hit the spot anyway!). My coworkers are amazing. I am truly blessed!It's amazing to me how focused and small my world becomes when I don't feel well. So much becomes totally irrelevant. I know it can't stay that way, but it's nice to know it can be like this for a little while, until the conference is over and I'm well again.

I finished these homey projects over the weekend, before my cold hit on Saturday afternoon. (The cold wave hit here last night and last I looked it was snowing quite prettily outside.)
On Thursday we had our Thanksgiving at the zoo (followed by a yummy taco dinner). I dragged the guys to the children's zoo to watch them feed the animals.The llamas posed for me. They were quite quizzed by the zookeeper in her holiday hat--and tried to eat it!Here are the kiddies getting ready to feed the animals. For the pigs they put the food into paper bags for the pigs to break apart. Apparently that's a big treat for them. And in a quite corner, a lovely sign of the coming holidays.

We had a busy Friday, with me completing projects. On Saturday we had our family get together. I felt fine in the morning, kind of blah during the day (and I completely forgot to take pictures--a sure sign that I was not myself!) and it hit around 3:30--I needed to be home and in bed NOW! So we headed home and I crashed. I had all of Sunday to rest, too, and laze about.

Well, my last bit is here--I have to view and approve a video to be played first thing tomorrow. Then I can go home. I have to be here at 6:30 tomorrow--yikes!