Wednesday, December 30, 2009

CHRISTMAS!

Oh what a delight! I celebrated Christmas this year with my friends' family and am still recovering from the smack-you-upside-the-head-awe-and-wonder of it. Huzzah! There were a few creations I gave as gifts, but rather than take pictures I opted to make home movies. Once I iMovie those up I can perhaps grab a still or two. In the meantime, here's a gander at one of my latest creative endeavors: jewelry-making. Don't get me pliers, don't buy me cartons of beads and findings, no. The joy for me is knotting, experimenting, working with organic shapes and fibers, repurposing antique pieces, etc. Por ejemplo...

In other news, I shall follow that blogger-type trend of posting photos of the fabric you just came home with. For me, Miss Low-Budget Bargain Aficionado, it was a painstaking process finding the same glorious remnant tucked in a bin week after week, but alas, glory like this don't come cheap. FINALLY the fabric collection went on sale and VOILA!

I hope I marry a musical man and can turn this into something significant for him... or us... whatever. :-)

Monday, December 21, 2009

Happy Holidays!

I'll be out of the state for Christmas and won't have internet access. I will have plenty of time, however, to work on my quilts and other delightful projects--so more on that when I return. In the meantime, may you have a blessed holiday and may you encounter Love in ways you never imagined possible!

For your viewing pleasure, I give you the Hanukkah Highrise! This splendidly engineered gingerbread house is the perfect addition to your chag and comes with its very own menorah! It is a one-of-a-kind original by MissMary and is sure to delight for generations...


Friday, December 18, 2009

Trees!

In between attempting to finish my best friend's Christmas present and attending very fun holiday gatherings, planning a road trip, changing jobs, etc., I have been working on my first baby quilt! It is inspired by this quilt, except I am using greens, blacks and whites and hope to stagger the blacks and whites towards the bottom. That way, ideally, the quilt can be hung over my future child's crib so baby's eyes have hard, clean lines to focus on as they develop visual acuity. Hooray! Keep in mind that (a) I am not dating anyone, (b) I am not married, (c) I have no inclination to procreate outside of wedlock, and (d) I love my life and am anxious about nothing. Sometimes I feel like I could have done alright living a couple of generations ago. Had this been the case, Baby Quilt #1 could go into my hope chest.

Some photos of blocks in progress, arranged to show the range of prints. I especially love the dollar bills print snagged from a remnant bin. My children will be the wacky ones in class insisting that money really DOES grow on trees!






Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Gifts

It's time for so many of those lovingly-made stockpiled gifts to start making their ways home to their intended recipients. In the past few weeks I have given away many birds, a scarf, a pillow cover, several sets of coasters... Tonight I had the pleasure of one of my best friends opening and exclaiming over his birds. I'd like to sit and meditate on that friendship and on the gratitude I have that he is part of my life, totally worth every stitch by hand and every bit of the inscription. What a joy to love and to give, to give what you love and to love to give!

Friday, December 4, 2009

Boids

Here are some photographs of the birds I've been working on. My favorite so far was the Button Bird, but that ended up being a spontaneous gift to my Uncle Bob at Thanksgiving. Lots of heart and love went into that bird, Uncle Bob! Keep her well! :-)

Four bluebirds representing the four members of my immediate family: Mom, Dad, Brother, Sister. These are a gift to my mother for Christmas! When my brother and I marry eventually, the family arrangement will change a bit, but four* now, here we are!

A matched set! These are my prophetic birds and their destinations and meanings shall be revealed in time. Meanwhile I love looking at them! Both unfinished birds have hand-dyed muslin elements and antique buttons.

Someone I know and love told me his favorite bird was a red-winged blackbird. He has such a big heart! This bird has heart-shaped wingtips and heart-shaped breastplate appliqued on after the bird was stuffed. Beads came from my bead box to create the hook.

Three jingle birds for the three girls I nanny. I have been teaching the older two (ages five and seven) how to sew. They fell in love with scraps of the brown fabric. I think these will be sweet Christmas ornaments, especially since they are immune to the effects of trees falling over!

My board! A length of muslin tacked to my wall with a clothesline running over it and quilting pins to tack up my favorite projects! I love to look at it.

Only four more birds to go! Up next... TREES! ;-)


Sunday, November 29, 2009

Thankful


Granddaddy kept the fire stoked from the moment he built it on Thanksgiving Day clear to the time we left. The piano sat freshly tuned against the wall, and I practiced scales and arpeggios. And when I wasn't doing that, I sewed birds with my back to the flames, or I sat in one of the fluffy lazy boy rockers in the kitchen and did the same. Listening to my father's characteristic jokes, watching my mother flutter from the kitchen to the side of the new mothers, I saw how well I fit into this odd bunch. Some of my favorite quirks surfaced--the way we debate proper pronunciations, the way we drop everything to solve number puzzles, the way some of our best work ends up on our plates and delights our palates... My mother told me how, years ago, each family would make Christmas presents for the others. That's how we ended up with coat racks, cobblers' lamps, hurricane stands, macrame and the Raggedy Ann and Andy dolls she stitched for each nuclear family. And here I was, a generation later, doing the same. I am thankful for my family and for the rich life I have because of them.

Monday, November 23, 2009

Embroidery and Avians

So my brother flies in on Wednesday for Thanksgiving which means I have precious little time to finish his Christmas gift. I didn't have much of a plan, just embroidered wherever my fingers took me. The circles are flipped-over yoyos. I still have to attach the backing, sew on the buttons and the button loops...
...and I'd much rather be making birds. The pattern can be found at www.spoolsewing.com I highly recommend! These two are named Ira and Frances and are a gift to another brother. I've had such fun making them! The line on Ira's back is a copyrighted quote from a song my brother and I are working on.
Last night I cut out three birds for a friend using my mother's sewing scissors. More on that later. I am looking forward to the holidays and documenting much for this blog. I am so blessed by the heritage and tradition I am part of! I think I'll make my family in birds, too. Each cloth represents a person in a unique way... [blissful sigh] Oh Life, how lovely you are to me!

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Works in Progress

Short update on works in progress. No pictures yet...

  • Mom's coasters
  • Demo coasters for craft night (2 sets)
  • Inedible cookie ornaments/gift tags
  • Friend's scarf
  • Brother's pillowcase
  • Dad's poetry
  • Papa D's song
  • Spinach dip for Turkey Day
  • Friend's quilt
  • My quilt

Sigh... it's not just hand-sewing that sustains my creativity, as you can see. :-)

On another note, I may soon be taking over a classroom. More to follow as things develop...

Friday, November 13, 2009

Coastin'

Just wanted to post a few pics of the coasters I finished recently. One set is for Mr. B. and the other is for the globe-trotting grandparents. Enjoy!

The tag was made from tea-dyed muslin backed with iron-on interfacing.

I basted the brown ovals and ironed them, then used the same quilting stitches to applique them so that all visible stitches run through all layers. Each coaster is backed in the complimentary fabric to the front.

Backs of Mr. B.'s coasters, quilted haphazardly.

Front of Mr. B.'s coasters. These were created by making one large crazy block, slicing it with a rotary cutter and reassembling the pieces. Then four squares of interfacing were applied to the backs, and excess cloth was trimmed. I appliqued the hearts with raw and slightly frayed edges.

Saturday, November 7, 2009

Limerick

I made a set of purple quilted coasters and didn't really know who they were for. I mused and tried to get an impression, but the details were fuzzy. So I went over to visit my best friend who just moved in with two other girls. I sometimes associate my best friend with purple, so I had my feelers up. When one of the new housemates sat beside me, I followed an instinct. "Does purple mean anything to you?" I asked. "Yes," she replied in a voice thick with undertones, her eyes sparkling. "Okay, that's all I need to know," I said. "Why?" she asked. "Um... God is talking. I have something for you. Later." "Okay! Moving on..." For the record, I love how she responded there. We work with the assumption that God is very talkative and it's no big deal that He interrupts conversations with His great ideas.

Here is a photograph of that great idea. I am not sure what it will all mean to my friend but I look forward to her response!

Now for an original limerick inspired by today!

Mysterious maker am I
I make things but do not know why
'Til a word heard in whisper
Says "Give to your sister"
Then I see its a piece of her pie

In other news, I agreed to make a set of coasters for my grandmother for Christmas. I was already heading to the fabric store to get some blue* calico for my brother's present (an abstract appliqued/embroidered toss pillow cover, selected because of the cross-country plane ride it must endure) and found fantastic matching prints in brown, cream, orange and olive, blocked batik-inspired and perfect for my globetrotting grandparents. That makes my projects-in-motion list as follows, in order of most pressing:

  • Grandmother's quilted coasters
  • Brother's appliqued/embroidered pillowcase
  • Mr. B's coasters
  • Children's artwork embroidered wall hanging
  • Top Secret Present for my best friend
  • Gray Crocheted Gift for my other awesome friend
  • Cathedral Window quilt
There's always more, there's always time for more. I love what I do, I love my life... we shall see what happens next.

Love,

Mysterious Maker

*I love the Holy Spirit. He is super-creative and knowing Him takes my art in a lot of different directions. I felt the distinct impression I needed blue for my brother's present, and the blue would be shaped in circles, so that's what we looked for! Holy Spirit was a great shopping buddy today!

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Cathedral Windows and a Future Wedding

I googled my wedding dress tonight. Seeing stock photos of it is having an effect on me. It sits its box, never worn but perfectly fitted, a sheath of white satin that looks phenomenal wrapped around my petite proportions.

Funny way to start an entry on a blog about hand-stitched goodies, right? I mean, I had no hand in sewing it, no hand in altering it, no hand in preserving it. All I did was try it on, buy it, get it fitted, and leave with it. I didn't try it on again before I left the shop. By the time the alterations were complete, I'd called the wedding off. (Thank God, that was one of the best decisions of my life! For future reference, do not agree to marry a guy you meet on facebook! Do not agree to marry a guy who is so convinced he is right for you that you are swept up in his convictions! And do not feel an ounce of guilt for all the money spent and the wedding prep down the drain. There is an infinite resource renowned for redemption, reclamation, recycling, repurposing. Nothing need be wasted. All things can be turned into good.)

So why talk about this gown now? Well, it was in that engagement period that I began my first real quilt. My then-fiance and I were planning a Jewish wedding, and some of our friends had a family tradition of piecing a quilt for their chuppah. My surprise wedding gift was to be a hand-pieced top filled with appliqued blocks depicting moments of our courtship. (Aquarium, beach trip, leaping fountains... now that I think of it, how could I have left out a scene with two college kids hunched over their laptops? ;-D) I had all the materials and maybe eight blocks completed. The borders were to be black, the back a single piece of white muslin. When I broke the engagement, the completed squares were trashed but all that glorious muslin and black cotton remained.

Choosing to look forward and believe that God had someone so much better for me, that in giving up what was good I was trading up for the best, I began a new quilt. I remembered the only quilt my mother ever made was a crib-sized cathedral window. Her aunt made quilts in the same style, and when my mother caught sight of Auntie's perfect stitches, she gave up the art and vowed never to quilt again. True to that vow, my mother has not picked up a needle and thread in a creative endeavor that I can remember, aside from the times she instructed me. Knowing cathedral windows were present in at least two generations, I decided to redeem what my mother gave up and create one myself.

Instead of using traditional white muslin, I chose to use black, white and colored "frames". I painstakingly traced squares from the remaining material of the intentioned quilt, adding to it as need be. When all was cut, I set to work on the plan. The final draft of the plan is as follows:

Elaborate, no? Time consuming, yes! But it's glorious. I have no time frame for finishing it. I began stitching last winter. Up until then I was off-and-on cutting, counting, stacking and basting. I still have more basting to do, but the center is finished. If other projects don't snow me under I may have the second tier completed by spring. We shall see. At any rate, I believe I will have a beautiful chuppah when my time comes. As of today, I am happily living life without a boyfriend, no "prospects" on my horizon but a wealth of love from wonderful friends. My heart is a long time in the making and blooms best at the first sign of spring. So too this quilt. It will be the heirloom piece of my family, countless hours in the making, full of hope and joy in its creating, and when the weather changes, it will be ready in time.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Mamaw's Thread

I'm thinking about the stockpile of presents I'm creating and how I'll document them as they're given. I'm thinking about the crocheted hat I made for a friend and about my great-grandmother on my father's side. She was the one who always crocheted. She was the one who taught my aunt, who taught my cousin, who taught me.

And then I remember somewhere in middle school I brought my new skills to my mother's hometown. I sat at my Papaw's house with thin mercerized cotton, a #10 Boye hook and the beginnings of a pot holder. My Papaw watched me for a moment, then walked away. When he returned he had something in his hands. It was the top of a broom handle poking through an oval of wood. He'd made a stand for my crochet thread.

Later he brought out several old spools of unbleached cotton and offered them to me. Poked in the hole of one of them was a piece of lace, maybe a doily, begun by my Mamaw before she died. I never met my Mamaw, but I'd been named for her. Her name was Frances, called Mickie. My mother Suzi was named for her grandmother, and so the tradition continued. But my mother didn't crochet.

It makes me wonder what my Papaw felt, seeing this namesake granddaughter engaged in something her grandmother enjoyed. Somehow the same thread traced the bloodline across generations who had never met. From what little I know of my Mamaw, it is beautiful to know this:  love blooms through our hands and works its way out in crochet stitches and lace. Though I've never seen her face-to-face, I know I am like her. I am a dream beyond her imagination, and we would have been great friends.

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Hers and Mine

The day I finished my first actual quilting was the day this blog began. In the past I'd dabbled--a hand-made tufted doll's quilt stuffed with teddy bear innards, for example--but never before had I gone through the trouble of sandwiching cotton batting between two pieces of calico and running stitches through them. My creation? Coasters! Initially I wanted an easy holiday project to do with friends. Turns out these puppies are much more labor-intensive than anticipated. I wouldn't wish them on casual sewers. However, I have stacks cut and ready to be worked into gift form. I wouldn't be surprised if five or six sets end up in stockings or under deserving trees in a few months.

For the project I chose one of my favorite fabrics, one I'd been hoarding for something special.

As a comparison, here are snapshots of Lilian's quilt. I look forward to the day where family stories are told as children trace the edges and stains:  "The orange ink is from your mother's pen. One day she left the cap off as she was writing about your father, long before you were born, but not before you were a dream in their hearts. Your mother absentmindedly set the pen down on the quilt and walked away. When she got back there was orange ink everywhere! She was so upset thinking she'd ruined something so precious, thinking of you and how she could tell you about it one day." Or so we might say.


Thursday, October 29, 2009

...Until You Know Where You've Been


Several years ago at Christmas my mother was so proud of herself. For once she'd picked out an excellent gift for both my brother and me:  our own copies of the Better Homes & Gardens Cookbook, the standard red-and-white gingham tome that was our culinary bible as children. My brother and I were thrilled! My mother doubted she could duplicate her success.

A few years later, we found ourselves home for the holidays once again. I don't remember how it came about, but the cedar chest was opened and quilts and afghans came out. The bright yellow and blue crocheted blanket my grandmother created was followed by scratchy coverlets from Christmases past. And then my mother brought out two hand-pieced quilts. One was made of tiny squares in a cacophony of colors, one was of hexagons and triangles in faded turquoise and purple. My brother fell in love with the squares. The colors of the later spoke to my heart. My mother had done it again. Squares to California, turquoise to me! What treasured gifts unexpectedly given.

My aunt knew where the quilts' history. They were made by my great-grandmother, Lilian Catherine. Lilian was half Cherokee and lived in the hills and hollers of the southern Appalachians. Her gentle stitches that grace my bed have traced a path down generations to work their way straight through my fingertips. 

This blog is in Lilian's honor and in honor of the beautiful Southern women of my family who have chosen to create by hand the pieces that shape my memories and so many others'. I hope to chronicle my own hand-sewn work as well as celebrate my mother's, grandmother's and great-grandmother's. In so doing may I weave a tapestry that both reflects my heritage and preserves a slice of sweet Southern legacy ere it pass into legend. Take your shoes off, prop your feet up and let your heart unwind for awhile. Stay around a bit--the weather's fine.