Sunday, December 11, 2011

Stars on my tree

I've been a jolly old elf today -- I've spent this crisp and cool Sunday decorating for Christmas -- Finally! These past few years, I haven't felt much like going all out and decorating every square inch of my home, but I can't resist a Christmas tree. And although I admire the glitzy, glamorous trees I see in magazines and other people's homes, I'm just not a glitzy, glamorous gal.

So every year, my tree tends to be woodsy, natural and -- okay -- somewhat plain. No doubt I'm influenced by nature right outside my door and the woodland I'm blessed with. This year, I used plenty of new fairy lights on a real tree, rested berry floral accents on its branches, and nestled many hand-cut paper stars into its needles.

Every year I make more and more paper stars, and I always seem to find places for them.

To me, these simple paper stars suggest so many ideas -- Jesus Christ, the light of the world; the increasing darkness leading to solstice, the longest night (December 21); the wheel of the year and celebration of the seasons. I seem more contemplative at this time of year, when diverse belief systems share so many symbols and rituals.

If you'd like to make your own paper stars, you can find instructions at this website:
Enjoy your winter rituals, my friends, whatever they may be.

Thursday, December 1, 2011

Of Songbirds and Bluebonnets

I've been in a quilting frenzy lately, having made a Halloween quilt

and a Grinch Christmas quilt (forgot to take a photo before it whisked off North!) for my little red-headed pixie of a granddaughter!

But when I saw these fabrics (Moda Wildflowers)

at Painted Pony and Quilts in LaPorte, TX, I knew exactly who would love the images. So this quilt

is going under her Christmas tree, because she so very much loves Texas wildflowers

and songbirds.

It's pieced, padded and backed. Now, Santa better get busy and start quilting!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

A walk through rainy woods

This morning, curled up in my chair with my second cup of coffee, I heard an almost-forgotten sound: the sweet patter of raindrops. Blessed rain -- a welcome visit from a long-lost friend after the horrendous drought that Texas has endured this summer. The Navajos would call this morning's rainfall a female rain: Silver beads fell straight down, softly nourishing our parched earth, without the bluster and boom of male rain.

I couldn't wait to get out and breathe the damp air, and walk through my beloved woods. So I pulled on my wellies,

whistled for my big boys to tromp through puddles with me,

and headed down a forest path.

This path leads in roundabout way to the site of my future studio. I love this wooded glade. Lately I've found myself wandering out here just to listen to the wind in the trees, and dream of a white-walled studio filled with colorful fabric and beads. (Soon, very soon, let it be!)

A few steps away is an ancient tree ladder which today looks softened by the rain.

All manner of fungi have popped through the damp earth where yesterday there were none at all,

and the rain knocked loose some Sasquatch-size acorns.

The birds' abodes are soggy but still seem water-tight,

and I can almost hear my flowers singing after their shower.

Just as I was returning home, the sun broke through clouds and gave me a peek of blue skies.

There's a nip in the air; I think the cold front heralded by this morning's rain is knocking on our door. Maybe this will be a hot chocolate evening. I hope your evening is peaceful, friends. Have a blessed Thanksgiving, however you may celebrate.

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

Penguins in sweaters? I'm in love!

How cute is this??
(Photo credit: Toby Zerna/Newspix/Rex USA)

Skeinz knitting shop in New Zealand sent out an S.O.S. for "jumpers" (sweaters to Americans) for blue penguins that have been caught in the recent oil spill. Until the penguins are well enough to be cleaned,the jumpers keep them warm and prevent them from preening (and ingesting oil). I can't make the link work, but the Skeinz blog is found at The post which gives instructions for penguin jumpers is dated October 11, 2011.

Now, the folks at Skeinz say that the donated penguin jumpers have reached critical mass, but at last post they will continue to stockpile jumpers for future use. (I think toy penguins dressed in donated sweaters would be a great fund-raiser to benefit all wildlife impacted by oil spills. I'd buy one in a heartbeat!)

Tuesday, June 28, 2011

Bead-embroidered Fairy Cuff

(Click on the link for fairy music; then scroll down for my post!)

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I can't believe it's been so long since I last posted! I've been so busy. We are traveling to visit family quite a bit this summer, and between trips I'm fighting the horrible drought that is threatening to kill our yard. Seems I'm constantly dragging a water hose around, trying to rehydrate plants. Please please please let it rain soon!

During the hottest hours of the day, I've been staying indoors learning a new beading technique -- bead embroidery -- and I'm addicted! A new book by Sherry Serafina started me down this beading path. This book is gorgeous and worth checking out, even if you don't bead. Sherry Serafina's work is incredible eye candy! I love the freedom of bead embroidery. You can plan your project in advance or just go with the flow and see where your design takes you. Basically, you stitch individual beads onto a foundation (very heavy Pellon interfacing for this project). My first project was a bit too free-wheeling and I wasn't crazy about the end result. I'm vain and so won't post photos of that "less-than-success". But I learned a lot which I applied to this second project, a cuff bracelet for my daughter:
My daughter loves fairy images and all things Celtic. The focal piece is a fairy art print under a glass cabochon that I bought from an artist on -- Glass Art Cabochons.
The band is a Celtic knot pattern, found free online, which I worked in glass Japanese seed beads.
The closure is a brass button that I bought at my daughter's favorite knitting shop -- Knitche in Downer's Grove, Illinois. I think the brass color is just right with the colors in this bracelet: After completing the beading, following instructions in Sherry Serafina's book, I trimmed the foundation, leaving a narrow border, and then stitched it onto a backing. The backing I chose here is brown ultrasuede, so the bracelet feels really good on the wrist.

If you click to enlarge the pictures, you will see my biggest mistake -- I failed to color the Pellon foundation before stitching on the beads. Enlarged as these photos are, you can see the white foundation, but it's really not noticeable on the bracelet itself. Still, next time I'll remember that additional step.

I hope my lovely daughter likes her bracelet. But if it's just not her style, she knows she can give it back to me without offense -- Anything beaded is definitely my style!

Friday, May 13, 2011

Fabric De-Stashing

My husband's away on business, so I'm sewing into the wee hours every night -- something I don't do when he's home. After going through my fabric stash, I have to wonder what I was thinking when I bought this:The blue fabric is a lovely sheer, with distressed coppery foil dots which look a bit like random thumbprints:

And I suppose that explains why, on the same day, I bought the copper-colored silky fabric:But whatever should I make with this? Possibly a loose tunic-length, caftan-like top with the blue sheer, to be worm with a spaghetti-strap chemise made from the copper silky? Let me know what you think -- Honestly, these aren't even my colors. I was seduced by the copper foil dots, I think.

While sifting through my stash, I came upon a remnant of ivory silk which I bought at High Fashion Fabric in Houston. If you are a fabric-loving Texan, you must visit this store -- stores, actually: One building houses a mind-boggling array of fashion fabric, and the building across the street holds four floors of home decorating fabric! (Sorry, I digress; just thinking of High Fashion Fabrics makes me want to head for Houston.) Anyway, I had just enough for a floaty tank top:It's cool and light as angel wings. But the sheerness of the fabric allows the facings to show, so I'm going to stitch this trim around the neckline:
I think it will look lovely when finished, and may even go with this great Carole Little linen jacket which I bought at a vintage clothing store:This jacket is in pristine condition, and I absolutely love the details:When I bought the jacket, I didn't know that the original Carole Little designs are getting increasingly harder to find. That makes the $14 price tag even better! I'm thinking the tank and jacket might look good with a pair of slightly distressed jeans, and some strappy sandals.

Here's hoping you have a wonderful weekend, friends! My sewing machine will be whirring!

Friday, May 6, 2011

Truly Present

"[T]o be truly present. . . . involves letting go of our constant preoccupations, immersing ourselves in the here and now, and giving ourselves wholeheartedly to whatever is at hand. . . . It’s about becoming more aware, alert, awake to the fullness of the immediate moment. If we are with another person, it means engaging with him or her with all of our heart, our mind, our soul, and our strength. . . . [I]t is one of the greatest gifts that we can give to those around us." -- Trevor Hudson, A Mile in My Shoes

My daughter's hands wrapped her baby girl and buckled her into a stroller last Christmas Eve for our walk in the park. Then, her gloved hands tied her baby's hat securely under her chubby chin, to protect tiny ears from the chill. Look -- really look -- at my granddaughter's eyes. Her focus is so intent on her mother. Her face is relaxed, content, peaceful. Even at this young age, she knows her mother loves her and will care for her . . . and encourage her to stretch her wings . . . and embrace this beautiful world with wide-eyed wonder.
Being truly present in my daughter's life is the greatest gift God gave to me. And now I see the gift given to my child, with her child, and my heart soars. Happy Mother's Day, my own precious girl. Be truly present in all those moments to come.

Sunday, March 27, 2011

Deconstructing a Blouse -- A Sewing Experiment

Yep, that's me -- Nothing to Wear, that looks good anyway. In this terrific book, Jesse Garza and Joe Lupo advise you to throw out everything in your closet that no longer fits, and I thought, "Well, why not? I've waved bye-bye to menopause and the need for a working wardrobe." (not that those two conditions are inclusive -- but come to think of it, they're both pains!) So, to my closet I trudged, and believe me when I say I donated BAGS of stuff to charity. But midway through all the tossing and cursing, I started looking at those clothes in a different light. Why not use some of them for sewing patterns? I mean, it's the devil you know -- right? I can't tell you how much money I've wasted on commercial sewing patterns that were never meant for short, plump people like me.

So I collected some likely pattern experiments: pants that fit just right but for an extra inch or two in the waist and high hip; jackets that need just a dab more fabric in center front and back; and blouses that fit my shoulders and arms perfectly but strain across ye olde bustline.

Making a pattern from a fitted blouse was first on my list. Here's a "before" shot of a blouse identical to the white one I ripped apart for a pattern: Gapping, pulling, stretching -- I feel like a sausage stuffed into a casing.

So to begin: On the white blouse, I marked my actual bust point on the blouse front. (That's the black dot in the picture below, way below the blouse's bust point -- Who do these companies use for fit models? Teenagers??) Then I took the garment apart completely -- removed the sleeves and collar, ripped the seams, and opened up the darts. I ironed each piece to fusible webbing (Wonder Under) because I'm going to have to add fabric here and there:
Then I trimmed away all the excess fusible webbing from the edges.
Now to alter the front so that this "pattern" will fit my peculiar figure. Because I have more junk in the front than in the trunk -- and because all that junk has headed south with age -- I had to change the blouse's front. I used the excellent instructions in "Easy Guide to Sewing Blouses" by Connie Long: and drew boxes around both front darts, which are supposed to end about 2" from my bustline and actually point to it. I also reshaped and shortened the vertical front dart:
I removed the paper backing from the Wonder Under, cut out the dart boxes and repositioned them. I also enlarged the front by cutting along the side seamline and moving it over about a half-inch at the bottom. The sleeve and arm opening fit fine, so I didn't want to change the upper side seam. Next I had to extend the horizontal dart into the new side seam allowance. Then I ironed the front with repositioned bust darts and side seam to a piece of muslin:
With that done, I trimmed the excess muslin, leaving 1/2" seam allowances all around. This gave me a stable pattern piece, with all alterations glued in place by fusible webbing:

I didn't have to alter anything else, so I just added 1/2" seam allowances to the back, sleeves & cuffs, collar and collar stand. Then I was ready to cut out my new blouse. I bought this fabric at JoAnn's -- It's a pretty cotton lawn from Lisette Co.:
And I stitched, using Connie Long's excellent instructions. Here's the result:
I've been sewing since I was a very young teenager, and this is the first time in MANY years that I've been so pleased with the fit of a garment I've sewn. This blouse is very comfortable with just the right amount of ease. I have three more pieces of Lisette fabric, and some gorgeous turquoise silk that I've been saving -- I can't wait to get started on my new blouse wardrobe! If you sew also, I hope my experiment helps you!