Friday, October 17, 2014

Finding Direction

As some of you will know, if you have been following my blog, I have been searching for a clearer direction for my work for some time. All of the research and introspection I have been doing has, finally, born fruit. In addition to making a decision about the types of products I will offer and the use of primarily re/upcycled and/or vintage materials, I have narrowed down my design focus to the environment and endangered species. It has been a long process to get to this point, but I expect making the decision will free me to be more prolific.

I have, finally, been able to get another of the pieces I had been working on finished. Decisions about the quilting kept holding me up.

Until next time, I wish you peace and all good.



Thursday, August 14, 2014

World House

I know I’ve been quiet for an awfully long time. It seems I really needed to take a break from the blog to do a little . . .
 Bird watching . . .


Check out the flowers . . .
And watch some wildlife . . .
I also took a trip that included this . . .

In addition, I have returned to something else I’ve been putting off for a long time.

Many years ago, when I was selling my crafts at local shows, one of my sisters asked me if I would collaborate with her in creating 1/12 scale dolls. The scale refers to a size that equates to 1” = 1’. Though I was nervous about my ability to make clothing for such small dolls, I agreed to try. She would create the dolls from porcelain. So began my introduction to the world of miniatures.

About the same time, I was reading a book by Peter Menzel called Material World. He went on to do another called Woman in the Material World with Faith d’Alusio, which I also read. The books show the real life situations of up to 30 statistically average families from various countries around the world. You can find out more about it here:

Also about that time, I came across statistics for a world portrait, if the earth were populated by 1000 people. That, in turn, combined with the miniatures and Material World information led me to design a 1/12 scale house I call the “World House.” (Since then, the statistics have been updated several times. The current ones, for a world population of 100 people can be found here: ) While the statistics have changed slightly, they are similar enough that my design still works.

In the house, I have a Chinese grandmother, Hispanic mother, African father, Bhutanese teenaged son, Italian child daughter, and an Indian baby boy. This is my solution for the problem of how to people the house in a way that models the ethnic and cultural population of the world. The “people” also conform to other details of the statistics, such as religion and education. While the house is an American dollhouse and I am still working on it, it has space apportioned according to the real world situations, material goods for each “person” as they would have in their respective countries, and the “people” have occupations similar to their counterparts.

In the intervening years, I have not had much time to work on the house, as other things have taken precedence. However, I recently began going through my materials, and then, got information about the upcoming Chicago Miniatures Show, both of which reignited my drive to continue. Many of the pieces I use or plan to use are made with recycled materials, giving me another way to conserve resources and avoid having things end up in a landfill.

Have you ever thought about what the whole world looks like in terms of human population or wondered what life was like for someone in a different country? What would your choices be if you were designing a World House?

Until next time, as always, I wish you peace and all good.

Friday, May 23, 2014


I have been enjoying the changes in the landscape and visitors to my little space in the world.

Lots of flowering bushes and trees . . .


A lot of familiar showy personalities . . .

And some that are not so familiar, but lovely to see.

I have been working these last few weeks on moving forward with projects and identifying next steps. It has been much more difficult than I expected it would be (when I left the day job) to settle into a routine that works and find my motivation. That frustrated me, since it seems to take so long to get from point A to point B. For example, yesterday I began working on the survey I mentioned last time I blogged, but found it will take a much longer learning curve than I expected for me to get it done. So, I am rethinking that aspect of things.

At the same time, I have been doing some experimenting with techniques and finishing up some loose ends, so I do seem to be making a little progress. Finally, I have been reminded that I promised myself I would do more to create from the heart and allow myself to play. I suspect there will be some changes coming.

In the meantime, I wish you time to play and enjoy life.


Tuesday, April 29, 2014

Setting up a Schedule

I've been spending a lot of time in recent weeks trying to work out a manageable schedule. In addition to deciding how much time to allot for each of the things I want to accomplish, I have also been trying to come up with a direction for my activities. Sometime, soon, I hope to have a survey available for your input about some of the decisions.

In the meantime, I thought I'd share a few of the things we have been enjoying the last couple of weeks.

A lot of these . . .

A few of these . . .

and even a pair of these . . .

Until next time, I wish you, always . . .

Peace and all good

Wednesday, April 2, 2014


Last week, Salley Mavor had a post about the “Needle Arts” magazine cover featuring one of her pieces: In the post, she included a link to Mary Corbet’s post about the issue, so I had to take a look. After looking at Mary Corbet’s website, where I found a lot of well written articles on tips and techniques in addition to the other things she offers there, I was inspired to inventory some of the additional supplies I have in my studio, starting with patterns and embroidery threads. I also began looking through my stash of “Quilting Arts” magazines for ideas for experimental projects. That led me to begin looking at the other items in my inventory: specialty threads and yarns, fixatives, buttons, and more. I have been able to consolidate some supplies and organize others better.

What I have been thinking about, however, is ways to use more of the supplies that I have to create. At the same time, since one of my sons challenged me about how many projects I already have in process, I have also been thinking about how to make sure I put in time to work on those. I want to apologize here for the somber tone of the information I am about to impart. I hope you will bear with me.

The last few months have been difficult, both because of the weather and how the grieving process affects me. It has meant that I have only completed one piece since last November. Years ago I did some research on the grieving process. What I found was that, while each person ultimately addresses it in their own way, it generally takes five years to go through all of the stages of grief. Since I have lost eleven family members in the last eleven years (seven in the last 4-1/2 years alone), it is a significant issue for me. In addition to the grief, I have also been facing my own mortality in new ways, as two of the last three family members who died were quite close to me in age. In terms of my work, it means that I am considering how that affects my priorities. Since I recognize that none of us ever know when it will be “our time” to go, I could have decades ahead of me or no time at all.
Also within the last week, I came across this story about transforming wedding gowns into something for premature babies who don’t make it home from the hospital: It is a subject close to my heart because, 28 years ago, we had a son who lived for only a day. When we went to get him a burial outfit, even the smallest clothing available was huge on him, since he was only about two pounds. While the news story is about an organization in Texas that is doing this work, neonatal intensive care units (NICUs) throughout the country are often in need of something similar. If you sew, I encourage you to consider whether this is something you could do. Additional ways to help are listed at such places as:  Newborns in Need, Grahams Foundation,  Bev's Country Cottage - Peds page.
I am off to work on that priority list and decide what to do next.
Until next time, I wish you peace and all good.

Saturday, February 22, 2014

Simple Living

I have been thinking about simple living, especially in the contexts of minimal impact on the environment and slowing down in our fast-paced world. All kinds of things have contributed to this process, such as: Jude Hill’s blog, Maya Donenfeld, my concerns about the environment in the midst of this strange winter, Kimberly Palmer’s new book The Economy of You, “Frontier House,” the amount of time spent indoors due to the weather and illness, and my attempts to discern next steps.
I’ve been reminded recently of our search for a house when we moved to our current location. According to the realtor (and the bank), we could have afforded more in a mortgage than we were comfortable undertaking. In the almost 25 years that we have lived here, our decision to buy a smaller house and live with a lower mortgage has proven to be a wise one. We have had lots of expenses that would have been impossible to cover otherwise, including college costs for three children and ourselves.   
My husband went back to school to complete his degree after being downsized. I was already in school completing mine at the time. Thankfully, I was able to get a full-time job at the university I attended, which allowed us to cover our expenses for the time it took my husband to finish his degree and find a job, me to finish both my BA and MA, and one of our sons to attend college. We had a picture window to replace when a son’s stone-skimming attempt turned into a fractured window.
There was the lower-level flooding that required new flooring, cabinetry in the utility room and a bath, and new drywall; the spring storm that required a new roof and air conditioning unit and led to replacing the furnace, too; and a multitude of other expenses we couldn’t have foreseen, as well as the normal expenses inherent in raising three children. 
It is apparent that, in many ways, we have lived more simply than many in our society. Simultaneously, we live with a lot more than many, both in our country and around the world. At one point in my life, I was feeling somewhat deprived because I was comparing what I had to others in my circle who had larger houses, fancier cars, and other luxuries that I did not. When I made the conscious decision to compare my life and possessions to another friend whose home was about half the size of mine, I felt rich. I realized, then, that much of the discontentment in our society stems from the idea that we are entitled to the absolute best rather than a search for what makes us feel good about our lives.
While we appear to have practiced simple living more than many people, I have been encouraged by the number of people who appear to have embraced the idea recently. In addition, I have been trying to do even more. One of the things I have been doing is imitating my mother, who used to give things away when their usefulness to our family was over. Another is to follow the admonition, made popular during the Great Depression and WWII of “Use it up. Wear it out. Make it do or do without,” which my grandmother used to repeat often. I try to make many, if not most, gifts. Additionally, when I do need to purchase something, I try to see if I can get it used or can make it with materials on hand. I anticipate downsizing our home in the next few years, too.
I am curious about whether you have considered the idea and, if so, what steps you have taken toward that goal? How do you feel about it?

Sunday, February 9, 2014

Reclaiming Leftovers

One of the things I am committed to is striving to keep as much as possible from going to waste and ending up in landfills. We reduce our use of many things; compost as much as possible; reuse paper, plastics, aluminum, etc.; recycle everything our local system accepts; donate reusable items; and try to reclaim anything that can be used in new ways.

Like Christmas cards
Bubble wrap 
Magazines & wallpaper
Recently, Ami Simms posted a blog entry challenging people to use leftover fabric. The 2014 Crumb Quilt Challenge

It included a video from one of her classes. It was about how one of the students uses the leftover pieces from quilt blocks. Crumb Quilts

About the same time, I happened to see a video of Noriko Endo on The Quilt Show with Alex Anderson & Ricky Tims describing how she creates her pieces with what she calls “confetti.“ There are two videos available onYouTube: Confetti1 and Confetti2
I started thinking about using up the fabric scraps I have been accumulating over the years.  

Since I often work on projects that require coordinated fabrics, I tend to forget about all the bits and “crumbs” available to me. While I’ve considered techniques like Noriko’s in the past, I haven’t done much with them. These videos seem to be a wake-up call to think about them in different ways.
How about you? Do you have additional ways of using up those pieces? If not, do the examples spur any new ideas? I'd love to hear how you would use some of your scraps to create new works of art.

Until next time, I wish you peace and all good.

Wednesday, January 8, 2014

Creating from the Heart

The events of the last month, including the snow and cold, forced me to slow down and take some time to think about things.
Snow - Day 1

Snow - Day 2

Like many of you, I find myself contemplating the events of the last year and making plans for the new one. In addition to other things, 2014 needs to be a major decision year for me with regards to direction of the business. By next year this time, I need to have decided whether or not to continue because of certain actions that need to be taken then.

This post at pomegranatesandpaper really spoke to the kinds of feelings I've been having about the process this time. I find I need to step back from the push to create for the market and do more to create from my heart. Whether I will end up spending more time in the studio or less remains to be seen. I plan to work on a number of things in 2014, including gifts, my book, downsizing the stuff I own, and experimenting with techniques. As often as possible, I plan to share my progress with you.

After making the quilt and quilt top I showed you in November, I pushed forward on three additional gifts. None of them was completed in time, though I showed pictures of their progress to their recipients. So, I can show you, too.

This is a Mill Hill Pin Whimsy kit, called "Dazzling Dragonfly."

This table runner, which has not yet had that border attached, let alone the binding, is from a kit by Sally Holzem, called "Tuscan Nights." I did alter the border strips. 
Finally, this table runner is my own design. I'm currently working on the quilting. I am using a variegated thread and hope it will help the border to blend more with the center panel. There were also two pot holders that go with it, but I did not get a picture of them.
In hopes of giving you a little something to smile about, I'd also like to share this portrait of a little fellow who was enterprising in his search for food he knew was hiding on our patio.

Wishing you peace and all good.