Uncovering a thousand threads...


In 1917, some text was written about this work, The Emblem:

This fine example shows us a beautiful and graceful lady in a rich interior seated at an embroidery frame.
Her face is half turned to us as she raises the cloth covering the work.  The attitude is reserved,
as of one reluctantly disclosing a secret; and indeed she does not show too much,
for her flowing sleeve tantalizingly hides the greater part of what she has uncovered.
Pictorially the work has great charm; and though there is no story to it, it suggests an idea.
We are to suppose that she has been long at work with cunning needle in secret, making a splendid banner,
emblem of a great cause and destined to be borne at the head of its supporters.
Such an object is worthy of the labour consecrated by love that she has given to it.  
But the time for its display is not yet, and for the present the secret must be jealously guarded.

Sir Frank Bernard Dicksee, English painter and illustrator of the Pre-Raphaelite persuasion, seemed to know a little about the ways of women, don't you think?  I wonder why, or how.  He's caught this furtive moment with perfection ~ that hesitancy to reveal.  We've all felt it at one time or another...isn't it quintessentially just like this?

I've had a whole year of this feeling and was not even aware of it until now.  I am unsure what this means and I'm uncertain what to do about it or even if it needs having something done.  But some things are percolating.  My time to focus just received a rather splendid calling card.

The events in our lives happen in a sequence in time,
but in their significance to ourselves, they find their own order...
the continuous thread of revelation.
~ Eudora Welty ~



Small reminders...


Sometimes that's all we need,
a little reminder to make us pause
take another look
reconsider a season.

Quite some time ago, I hung this bookmark from the wall lamp above where I read & stitch, tied in that particular spot so I would not forget its important message.  It has never even seen the inside of a book.  When the window is open it flutters nonstop in the breezes but now that it's winter and the windows stay latched, it's catching shadows from the late light instead.  I snapped it fast, didn't see the 'Rule of Thirds' or even the shadow it cast of itself.  Just the lacework wallpaper and how calm it all looked illuminated by that light.

And then I did what I have done a hundred times before.



First Friday and some other firsts...


Every month in nearby Old Town Anacortes, they have what's called 'First Friday Art Walk.'
Galleries, shops & eateries stay open late and the main drag buzzes with activity.
Have you ever been to one of these?  Oh so much FUN.
But there's something extra special about the First Friday in December.
The holiday season seems to infuse it with such a festive spirit
and a festive spirit was just what I was after.  

A clear, cold night perfect for those with warm winter coats, like dawg,
who came along for a night on the town.
Although a rural woofer, she'll never pass up an opportunity to prowl for pats.

The Samish Gallery of Native Arts was filled with stardust!
Ok, window reflections from the street trees but that would make for a good story, wouldn't it?

Glass snowflakes...


and little antique shops with scents of mulled wine & hot apple cider
wafting from the doorways, not to mention the baked goods heaped on trays.
Ok, we won't.  But that led to this...

THE BEST restaurant in town.
For starters, a to-die-for Thai tomato bisque soup followed by
seared scallops in lime butter, sauteed organic kale with garlic
sided with a scrummy potato croquette,
all washed down with a local red.
Yup, the feelin' was quite festive indeed.

By morning,
the sun brought these...

long, glorious shadows after days & days of gray-upon-gray.
The first sun of December!

Upstairs on the worktable, there was a little weather happening.
Some rain was falling...
T's soft rain, all the way from Australia where they are having summer
and where I like to imagine their stories are being stitched into storycloths, too.

Sending heartfelt wishes of good cheer and festive spirits to all!

Note: all night photos were taken with the trusty phone (aka Batphone)


She was bookin'...


I think of Chad Alice Hagen as a redheaded whirlwind.  Best to get a lot of sleep before one of her workshops  ~ you will definitely need the stamina.  And you probably won't be dozing during demos, won't be nipping out for *whatevers* because you will have stood in front of a table like this with your mind a bit blown and like most of us in her workshops, chomping at the bit to learn just HOW Chad makes these merino felt(ed) beauties.

"Resist Dyeing and Book Making" was held on our little island last summer.  Chad traveled all the way from her Asheville, NC digs to teach for three glorious days.  She only brought a few things with her  ;>}

Day one was about learning to resist dye the merino wool pre-felts using a huge assortment of binding, pinching, clamping, clipping and banding objects.  Our dye station was set up outside, the perfect spot for three of these:

While the Dye Master (Chad, in the yellow apron) kept the dye pots cooking, the sorters were kept busy.  Each bucket held all the bundles from one student which had to be separated between successive dye baths.  This is when the anticipation really started to build ~ waiting to unwrap our precious bundles was grueling!

By the second day, our felts (laid to dry on tables overnight) were ready for some serious scrutiny which included a whole lot of oooohing and aaaaahing and, "Can I have that one?"   I think I actually told someone that one of her pieces was going to disappear off her table overnight, HA!  The goal was to pick two pieces to embellish for book covers.  Chad made the rounds, offering her own share of ooohs & aaahs & "oops, that one fell in my pocket"...

Then came the hard part (for me anyway)...the bookbinding.  I don't think I have hands built for the task so I fumbled, grew a tad peeved with myself and decided in the end that stitching and beading were softer alternatives.  Book making is best left to stronger hands.  Sometimes it is just as important to know what we shouldn't be doing as it is to know what we should, right?

Here's a group view below of the covers for our coptic books, embellished with stitching and beadwork and ready to be filled with pages. That stunning black & blue one (2nd row on the right) belongs to my good friend Robin A., who came over from a neighboring island to join us for the workshop.  She wrote a wonderful post on her blog Beadlust, about this workshop.  If you aren't already familiar with Robin's extraordinary beadwork, leave a few moments to peruse the rest of her blog, too - it will not disappoint! 

Although I didn't complete my coptic book, I did finish my little wrap journal.  The binding on the spine was quite easy to get the hang of and I adore Chad's version of the bone and leather closure.

For Chad's own tales of her time out west, don't miss her post about it over on News from Studio A & B.  I think she liked it here.  She is threatening to come back.

In the meantime, check out Chad's Flickr photos of her FeltBooks and be prepared to drool.


Reaching a little milestone


Blogfriends, let's celebrate a little, shall we?!
How about a toast in light of this small, yet momentous occasion?
{{{{{{{ drumroll }}}}}}}
this wee blog is turning


When I began, I had no idea how many blogs were out there.  I am so glad that I found all of you and that you found me.  Many of you visit regularly ~ that's just so darn wonderful!   You continue to listen to me yabber on about this & that, then you leave some heartfelt thoughts, share what's happening in your neck of the woods, make me laugh, enlighten me when I start to drift.  And greatest of all...you encourage me incessantly with your kind words, whether you know it or not.  For this I am sincerely grateful.  

Today there are seventy nine followers over there in the sidebar ~ oh my goodness ~ from points all around the globe. We are really not so far away from each other after all.

Better sign off now before I get too soppy.

But let's keep going!  See you soon, and thank you.




An odd word, mimicry.  Doesn't roll off the tongue very well.  And what I'm doing with it here, in stitches, isn't rolling off the needle very well.  Frustrating but I keep going.

Thought I'd see what would happen if I tried to imitate the "feeling" of fabric pattern with embroidery thread. Maybe that's an echo and not a mimic?

Works a little better in some areas than others...

Helpful to pull back, see it in a photo...some of these stitches need to be carried clear across a few bands of fabric rather than be kept contained in little areas.  I'll send some off to wander wildly like their patterned cousins.

Really not sure what is going on with this one.  Went a bit *swooney* when I saw this post over on India's blog.  I thought she was posting some very fine examples of Australian textile art but as I read on, nooo, they were contemporary indigenous paintings. wow. 

Could that feeling, that pattern play, be translated into stitches I wondered.  Someone can probably do it but I'm not sure it's me.  Can't get this anywhere near where I'd like it to be quite yet ~ may even start over.  May stop.  Still, the process has been worth all the effort so far.  I've had quite a few conversations in my head with whoever this artist is...I want to know WHY they made those marks the way they did.  Maybe then I could better understand why they speak to me so loudly and why I feel the need to stitch them.  Maybe then I COULD stitch them.

Mimicry...defined as "the act or art of copying or imitating closely."

HAPPY HALLOWEEN, my friends ~ now go mimic some ghosts & goblins!

The Old Hall, Fairies by Moonlight; Spectres & Shades, Brownies and Banshees
~ John Anster Fitzergerald, c. 1875 ~


Her garden...


'Her garden'
~ by Catrin Welz-Stein ~
All Rights Reserved

The hazy idea for a post about my garden was brewing for a few days.  You know how that is, when you can't quite pinpoint what it is you'd like to say - or how.  I keep a bookmark called "Inspiration" for just these moments and that's where I went, looking for some clarity.

The image above, 'Her garden,' wowed me the first moment I saw it.  And there it was, safely bookmarked, wowing me again.  I immediately wrote to Catrin Welz-Stein to ask permission to use it as the lead photo for my garden tale.  Such a metaphor for so many things.  Hauntingly beautiful...perhaps a tad disturbing...breathtaking...definitely otherworldly.  A world of bounty revealed.  Or so it is to me anyway.

Have a look for yourself - for more of Catrin's amazing digital art, see it here.  

*  * * * *
Disclaimer: the following post is written from
the viewpoint of a confessed flower floozie.
Continue reading at your own discretion. 

Autumn, and the garden is winding down.  As it readies itself for a rejuvenating winter's sleep, I've been taking stock.  There's time to think, tending to the multitude of late season chores and I've been remembering the bountiful displays and all the joy my plants  brought this season.  

So I thought a little pictorial celebration might be in order in honor of this, my first garden at my first home.  Assembled here are a few of the pretties that, well, how shall I describe it, put on their best dresses.

Camas lily 
Camassia leichtlinii

Last fall I planted several patches of these bulbs - they came up splendidly in June.  They naturalize when they're happy so I'm keeping fingers crossed the little colonies will multiply.  Native to the island where I live, they are no longer a common sight due to all the usual environmental reasons.  Once an important & abundant food source for the Native Americans, they are now hard to find.  Trying to change that at Chez Sweetpea...

Rudbeckia 'Cherry Brandy'
Rudbeckia hirta

Fell in love with this little redhead!  I'd never met her before but I'm definitely having her back again next year...she was a knockout. Bloomed her silly head off the entire summer.  And she's not entirely gone.  There's a tidy little packet of snipped redheads tucked into the freezer drawer awaiting a dye day.

Heirloom sweet pea 'Marion'
Lathyrus odorata

Oh, the scent from these beauties was indescribable!  Grew about 16 plants on a 4' wide by 6' tall willow teepee and what a sight they were, what with their delicate purple edged ruffled-ness.  Growing to EIGHT feet tall, the mass of them was positively intoxicating.  My nom de plume...

Coneflower 'Tiki Torch'

Planted some Tiki's in front of dark purple salvia 'Caradonna' - they were good companions, showing each other off in that opposites-on-the-color-wheel way.  With so many new coneflowers on the market these days in an ever widening choice of (bizarre?) colors, I was charmed right up to the checkout stand with this one because Tiki is -- are you ready for this -- f-r-a-g-r-a-n-t.  Sweet, like honey & citrus.

Pincushion flower
Scabiosa 'House Hybrids'

One of my cottage garden faves and an outstanding bee magnet (so important in North American gardens) ta' boot, this House Hybrids selection sort of blew me away with their stature...we are talking flowers atop three foot stems!  And it's the middle of October and they are still blooming.

Hummingbird fuchsia
Zauschneria garrettii 'Orange Carpet'

What an orange carpet this was, a non-stop bloomer for the entire summer and every hummingbird within miles must have dropped by for a swig.  The House Hybrids are at the top, peeking out just to right of center. This photo was taken at the end of August, when the variegated Sea Holly was also in her full glory...

Variegated Sea Holly
Eryngium planum 'Jade Frost'

'Jade Frost'...now wouldn't that be a tantalizing name for an ace female detective in a Miss Marple mystery? 

Poppy 'Black Peony'
Papaver somniferum

Excuse the underside but is this poppy not *magnificent* from under here?!  The color was somewhat like burnt grape juice -- a purple/red so dark it truly was almost black -- with blooms about five inches across, what a statement.  In tandem with those glaucous-blue stems & leaves, these petals stole the show...however briefly.  Almost ephemeral, no friend to wind, the windfall blew right into my freezer  :>}

And one more, the brightest beacon of my fall garden...

Dahlia 'Orange Hybrids'

A species dahlia that needs no staking and gets no mildew and greets you every morning with a very loud, "HELLO."  Did I mention the foliage is bronzey?  If you think you might not be able to live without one, Annie's can send you one of your own.  

I used to work there back when dinosaurs roamed the earth so I can say these things...

So if you've made it this far, I thank you for joining in the celebration with me.  And thanks again, Catrin, for inspiring with your beautiful work.



Waiting for calm...


Had a lot of words about this once, but I am feeling more quiet at this moment.  I first spoke about this story cloth in a July post when I was working on a raggedy fabric collage for a workshop that Jude Hill of Spirit Cloth was teaching...now it is September and like the season, "Waiting for calm..."  has come to fruition.  Finished for now...words in place, beading done. 

I am grateful for teachers that encourage by their own doing/making/marking.  While I stepped out of anything comfortable for me on this one...pastels, PINKS!, newly learned stitches and soft combinations...it is exactly where I needed to be.  Calm was there.  So I followed it.

Started here...

journeyed this (other continent) direction...

ended here...

Hesitation can be an enemy.  It certainly is for me (let me count the ways).  I'm thinking we shouldn't underestimate the POWER of teachers to inspire!  At the risk of sounding trite, follow those pure notes (they give) that can make your heart sing.  Those notes have stories yet to be told...

Tell them.