Tuesday, November 24, 2015

Embroidered Thanksgiving Wreath Card

This weekend I decided to make my mom an embroidered Thanksgiving wreath card.  I had seen several embroidery designs I liked on Pinterest and decided to design my own.  In the past I have had good success sewing on cardstock (corn, pumpkin, valentine, valentine pattern) but it is always risky because you have to put a fair amount of pressure on the card when pulling the needle through the paper.  In order to avoid tearing the paper I usually make the holes with a hole punch first. This is especially important when using thicker thread like I did on this card. 

One thing you can't tell from a photo is the feel of an embroidered card.  Usually when you are done the sewing stiffens the paper and with this card it began to feel almost basket-like.  Another thing you can't see from the photo is the whole card is rather thick.  I usually either sew a card to the back to hide the "wrong" side or, in this case, I used tiny brads to attach it to a thick cardstock.  You might have to use extra postage if it gets too thick (since this card is square, it did need extra postage).

If you would like to make this card you can download the pattern here.  Print on 8 1/2 x 11'' cardstock, trim to size, punch your holes, and you are ready to start sewing.

Image from Stitch, Craft, Create

The night I started this card I went to bed after sewing for a couple hours.  I think my brain was still thinking about this stitch because I woke up at four and had the most profound thoughts about it.  Now, not all my four o'clock revelations stand up to the light of day, but I thought this one was interesting. 

The stitch I used on the wreath is a form of "Lazy daisy" stitch.  It is a very clever and beautiful stitch because the loop on the surface is held in place by the exact same thread that goes below and pops up in another place to catch the loop and hold it down.  And when I woke up in the middle of the night I had the thought that our lives are just like this stitch.  We are the only things holding ourselves down. It appears that other people or things are holding us back, but really it is just ourselves if we look below the surface.  It is quite ingenious because once you see this you realize you have the power to untangle your knots and set yourself free.

I never knew there were such insights to be gained from sewing!  But aside from my four o'clock musings I also wanted to tell everyone who reads this blog that I am so thankful for you.  I send you much joy and love and wish you all a very Happy Thanksgiving.

Tuesday, November 17, 2015

Mutter Gottes Church Sketch

Last week I met up with my "sketchy" friends to draw Mother of God Church in Covington, Ky.  The name of the church in German is Mutter Gottes Kirch.  We sat really close to the church so the perspective was challenging.  In the end I thought my turret looked like a stack of wobbly pancakes.

It is always fun to see everyone's different style of drawing.  You can see Christina's sketch here, Jeb's sketch here, and Robin's sketch here.

Wednesday, November 11, 2015

Water on Leaves

"When you see a diamond in a drop of water you realize that being rich is a matter of perspective."
-V. Sorensen

Today on my walk I thought I saw a leaf with something sparkling on it, but I kept walking and thought it must have been a leaf with water on it.  And then I passed another similar leaf and had the thought, "I should stop and take a picture," ...but I continued on my way.  Until finally I saw a leaf that truly made me stop in my tracks.  The whole leaf looked like it had diamonds laying on it and was so brilliantly lit by the setting sun that I had to kneel down to make sure what it was.  And to my amazement it was simply water on leaves!

After I photographed the first leaf I took a few more steps and there was another one.  And then another and another!  They were all around me shimmering in the setting sun.  I must have looked like a crazy girl running from one to the next, kneeling down and admiring them up close.  And when I looked closely at the water on the leaves I could see that each one was like a miniature magnifying glass revealing beautifully intricate leaf patterns.

I have walked this same route around my neighborhood hundreds of times and never seen such a thing.  Each leaf was truly a delight to behold.  Some were brilliant and showy...

while some were subtle and muted. 

When I finally arrived home and looked at the photos I felt such gratitude for the experience.  What greater joy in life can there be than to see a diamond in a drop of water... to find the extraordinary in the ordinary?

Wednesday, November 4, 2015

Tip-toeing through the Ginkgo Balls

You in the very immediateness of your present awareness, are in fact the entire world, in all its frost and fever, in all its glories and its grace, in all its triumphs and its tears. You do not see the sun, you are the sun; you do not hear the rain, you are the rain; you do not feel the earth, you are the earth.
- Ken Wilber

I think that makes me a stinky ginkgo ball!  But I am happy to be one because they are quite beautiful with their soft blush-pink skin and golden yellow mouth.  And laying on top of the gradient green-to-yellow fan-shaped leaves...it is quite a visual feast! If they weren't so stinky you would want to eat them! 

After tip-toeing through the ginkgo balls there were other treasures to be discovered on my walk.  A mushroom cap, a star-burst seed pod, and sunlight pouring through tendrils of grass so fine it looks like cobwebs.  These slow, fall walks feed me in so many ways.

Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Orange & Green

Last week I was walking through the kitchen when I was stopped dead in my tracks by the incredibly gorgeous color combinations of Pyrex bowls and fruit.  I don't think George consciously meant to fill the bowls with the opposite color fruit because when I pointed out his genius he said, "Oh yeah, that's neat."  Sometimes I think he is a design prodigy and he doesn't know it.  After I noticed it I just had to stare at the bowls of fruit for ten minutes and instructed George he was not allowed to eat any of the fruit until I blogged it.  Luckily I got around to it the next day so no fruit was lost due to blogging (which is not always the case). 

“Serendipity: Such a beautiful word describing the occurrence of events by chance. I like to think it’s the energy you put out into the world returning your energy with love.” ― Steven Aitchison

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Creative Juice Retreat

Last weekend I headed out to Adams County for a retreat with a few women from my Creative Juice group.  The goal of the retreat was to get away with other amazing, creative women and to create, sleep in, hike, cook, and connect.  We did all that and more!

Our first project was a collaborative stop-motion video. Michelle is a talented singer songwriter and we used the lyrics from her song "When a Flower Meets a Butterfly" to make a video.  Margot downloaded an app that allowed her phone to automatically take a photo every fifteen seconds so we had to work quickly between shots.  We are still editing the video but below you can see a still from the project.  I will link it up when it is done.

On our hikes we all collected various items that caught our eye.  As you can see below Margot collected foliage for a beautiful flower arrangement. 

We also collected a datura pod which I thought looked perfect on these bottles. The house where we stayed had all sorts of vintage bottles and antiques to hold our collections (Thank you Mal & Jen!).

One day we ventured out to an amazing antique barn off Tater Ridge Road.  The owner, Herb Erwin, collects millstones which I am madly in love with; but to my dismay he won't sell them.  I should have taken more photos of his giant warehouse full of antiques, but I was too busy oohing and aahing over everything.

I also kept coming across incredible textures like the ones shown below.  I thought the patterns on this rusty barrel were beautiful.  I am never disappointed when I stop and look closely at things.

Although the creative part of the weekend is fun, my favorite part is connecting with other creative women.  At times I am so in awe of their beauty it makes me want to laugh and cry at the same time.  There were also times when the connection was so palpable that it made my heart soar.  There were tears, uncontrollable laughter, mysterious dreams, heartfelt stories, and food made with such care you could taste the love.  When I got home I was exhausted but so filled with gratitude for the time I spent with these women.

"To be a woman is to have interests and duties, raying out in all directions from the central mother-core, like spokes from the hub of a wheel. The pattern of our lives is essentially circular. We must be open to all points of the compass: husband, children, friends, home, community; stretched out, exposed, sensitive like a spider's web to each breeze that blows, to each call that comes. How difficult for us, then, to achieve a balance in the midst of these contradictory tensions, and yet how necessary for the proper functioning of our lives. How much we need, and how arduous of attainment is that steadiness preached in all rules for holy living. How desirable and how distant is the ideal of the contemplative, artist, or saint -- the inner inviolable core, the single eye.

With a new awareness, both painful and humorous, I begin to understand why the saints were rarely married women. I am convinced it has nothing inherently to do, as I once supposed, with chastity or children. It has to do primarily with distractions. The bearing, rearing, feeding and educating of children; the running of a house with its thousand details; human relationships with their myriad pulls -- woman's normal occupations in general run counter to creative life, or contemplative life, or saintly life. The problem is not merely one of Woman and Career, Woman and the Home, Woman and Independence. It is more basically: how to remain whole in the midst of the distractions of life; how to remain balanced, no matter what centrifugal forces tend to pull one off center; how to remain strong, no matter what shocks come in at the periphery and tend to crack the hub of the wheel.

What is the answer? There is no easy answer, no complete answer. I have only clues, shells from the sea. The bare beauty of the channelled whelk tells me that one answer, and perhaps a first step, is in simplification of life, in cutting out some of the distractions. But how? Total retirement is not possible, I cannot shed my responsiblities. I cannot permanently inhabit a desert island. I cannot be a nun in the midst of family life. I would not want to be. The solution for me, surely, is neither in total renunciation of the world, nor in total acceptance of it. I must find a balance somewhere, or an alternating rhythm between these two extremes; a swinging of the pendulum between solitude and communion, between retreat and return. In my periods of retreat, perhaps I can learn something to carry back into my worldly life. I can at least practice for these two weeks the simplification of outward life, as a beginning."

-- From ''Gift From the Sea''by Anne Morrow Lindbergh

Wednesday, October 14, 2015

Hurd Orchards

Last week I visited my sister in Rochester, NY and she scheduled us for a luncheon visit to Hurd Orchards.  When we arrived we entered the sweetest little store you can imagine.  Baskets and dried flowers lined the roof and fresh apples, pears and quinces were piled everywhere.  They also sold fresh flowers cut from their fields right behind the store.  I couldn't get over their perfect orange dahlias!

Our lunch was a maple-themed lunch.  As you can see below they had decorated with a maple theme and all of the dishes served had maple elements.  I think my favorite part of the lunch was the spinach salad served with a fresh pear with blue cheese and walnuts drizzled with a maple-apple dressing (above right corner).  My sister loved the homemade muffins with pear-almond jam (directly above left).

The photo below does not do justice to the amazing, huge flower arrangements.  The red maple leaves and the gigantic dahlias were breathtaking!

I was truly impressed by the care and attention given to every detail of our lunch and the store was adorable. If you are ever near Rochester it is well worth a visit to this amazing family orchard.    They grow over 70 different varieties of apples and offer all sorts of different themed luncheons, including Appleblossom, Lilac, Peonies and Old Roses, and Blueberry Buckle Luncheons just to name a few.  But if you can't make it out there they also ship their apples and preserves.  Hopefully next summer we will return for another amazing, fresh feast.

“And when you crush an apple with your teeth, say to it in your heart:
Your seeds shall live in my body,
And the buds of your tomorrow shall blossom in my heart,
And your fragrance shall be my breath,
And together we shall rejoice through all the seasons.” 
- Kahlil Gibran

Tuesday, October 6, 2015

Wyoming Baptist Church Sketch

Today I went sketching with Robin and Jeb in Wyoming (a suburb of Cincinnati).  I had a lot to do today and I felt agitated when I was sketching.  None of my lines were right and I had to erase a million times in the beginning because my proportions were all wrong.  In my defense the church had some funny angles, but nothing too crazy.  Somehow, instead of a drawing the happy, white church before me I ended up infusing it with agitation.  Funny how that happens some times.

"What comes out of you when you are squeezed is what is inside you." - Dr. Wayne Dyer

Wednesday, September 23, 2015

Hand-carved Stamps on Furniture

When we bought our house we inherited some pieces of furniture from the previous owners including the rustic shelves in the basement (shown below).  For twelve years now I have wanted to paint these shelves and I finally did it!  And not only did I paint them but I stamped them and added cupboard doors to the top shelf with matching stamped curtains!  Sometimes I get a vision in my head of what I want to do and come hell or high water I am going to do it.  This was one of those occasions. 

I began by priming and painting the shelves with a white semi-gloss.  While waiting for paint to dry I worked on coming up with a design in Illustrator.  (For those graphic designers out there I used the polar grid to draw the seven petaled flower and it worked great.)  After printing out the design I transferred it to the Safety-Kut carving material.

Next I carved my design into the Safety-Kut.

I then cut the designs out to form my individual stamps.

Below you can see I rolled out the paint onto plexi-glass and used my brayer to roll the paint onto my stamp.  I used the same acrylic semi-gloss paint that I used to paint the white base of the shelves and I had to keep rolling fairly often because the paint would start to dry if I let it go too long. 

As you can see below the stamp gives a rough effect.  I wasn't so sure I liked it in the beginning and was very nervous to continue. 

But after I added the blue leaves it started to look better. 

I also stamped fabric for the cupboard curtains.  I used cotton and it took the stamp beautifully.

The hard part was making sure I stamped my design to perfectly fit inside my cupboard windows.  I ended up drawing the windows in Illustrator to scale which then helped me figure out where to place my stamps.  Even though I meticulously measured and used my specially-made template, it took me about four times measuring and re-measuring out from the prints for me to end up with a rectangle with the same dimensions top and bottom.  I was ready to pull my hair out.  Then my bobbin thread ran out and I couldn't unscrew the sewing arm.  At times like that I start to question my sanity but I just keep pushing through. 

I had to be extra careful when sewing the curtains to allow enough room for dowel rod pockets.  I carefully measured around the dowel and gave myself extra for the seam.  I always carefully figure it all out on paper and then somehow reality is never quite the same.  This time, after I sewed the dowel rod pocket I had a little too much extra fabric and was worried you could see the extra seam through the fabric.  But luckily it stopped right above the window.  

I planned on hanging the dowel rods from cupboard hooks both at the top and bottom.  I was a bit frazzled after my sewing experience and was not very happy when I realized I didn't buy enough hooks.  And on top of that the drill broke.  So after another run to Home Depot I was super thankful that George attached the hinges, cupboard hooks and magnetic closures.  I also want to thank my neighbor John for giving me these doors.  They have been sitting in the basement for a decade waiting to be used for some project and it makes me super happy to finally use them.

Below you can see a close-up of the final shelves.  The shelves are still full of pock marks, old nail holes, hinge depressions, and gloppy paint but the painting and stamping has breathed new life into these old shelves.  When we attached the final door and stood back I was grinning from ear to ear.  

As you can see I went a little crazy with the stamping on the piece of furniture shown below.  This was another inherited piece from the previous owners.  Luckily I had painted it white years ago so all I had to do was stamp it.  If I had to do it again I would probably only stamp the top. 

I also ended up stamping a bench we have on the back porch.  It is dangerous to have a wet stamp in your hand!  You start to wander around the house looking for anything that might take a stamp!

I don't know why I started obsessing about painting the crappiest piece of furniture in the house.  I think I liked the idea of it being crappy because I wasn't afraid to ruin it.  I started off wanting to try rosemaling (the art of Scandinavian folk painting) and decided it would be easier to carve some stamps since I had all the tools from my printmaking projects.  Although I didn't know how the stamps would work on furniture it was a good experiment and I am happy with the rough-looking result.  This was also a test project because I would like to do some folk painting on our basement stairs.  Give me enough time and the whole house will be covered in joyful folk designs!

“Be brave enough to live creatively. The creative is the place where no one else has ever been. You have to leave the city of your comfort and go into the wilderness of your intuition. You cannot get there by bus, only by hard work, risking and by not quite knowing what you are doing. What you will discover will be wonderful: What you will discover is Yourself.”  ― Alan Alda