Monday, March 30, 2015

Two Crewelwork Girls

Last fall I found these darling little girls at the thrift store. One was framed, the other had fallen out of her frame.  I am not sure if they will end up as pillows, or wall art, or what. I never buy things like this at the thrift store, but these girls stole my heart. 

I love the girls' perspectives. I love the Raggedy Ann doll, the striped tights, the suitcase....she is so hopeful, and maybe a little tentative.  Wonder where she's going?

I love her long braid and her sewing basket.  A girl after my own heart!

They will be so sweet in Annie's room. 

Sunday, March 29, 2015

The Simplest and the Best

Hosanna, loud Hosanna, the little children sang; 
through pillared court and temple, the joyful anthem rang;
to Jesus who had blessed them close folded to His breast,
the children sang their praises, the simplest and the best.

Today my husband stayed home with Annie (she had a cough) and I took over his Sunday School responsibilities; that is, I taught five little boys...until one became violently ill all over the carpet and tile.  Then I taught four little boys. 

Later in the service those boys and I handed out palm branches, and we had our annual Palm Sunday processional.  The triumphal entry! I love it every year. 

 Tonight my son called me into his room after I tucked him in.  Have you ever seen a miracle? I love his tender heart, his deep desire to believe. We talked about it for awhile.  I told him I loved his questions, loved that he's thinking.  A long hug and he was off to sleep.

And now Holy Week begins, in all its wonder and mystery and violence and beauty. 

Alabama Chanin + Downton Abbey = Circle-Spiral Applique Skirt

This skirt was my first foray into the circle-spiral applique I have seen in Natalie Chanin's books. I used a cheap and slinky (I don't recommend it!!) jersey from the big-box fabric store and cut up a random assortment of old tee shirts for my spirals, because this was a sort of 'wearable muslin'-ish experiment. 

I hand-sewed the skirt up first and then appliqued the spirals with matching embroidery thread.  Each spiral took one episode of "Downton Abbey," in case you were wondering. 

I loved it this winter with tights, a turtleneck, down vest and my warm red Hunter boots--so comfortable and warm!  I took this photo of my lap one snowy day this winter as I sat waiting for my son's piano lesson to finish.  

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Next time I try this technique I am going to do something tonal, I think, and maybe on a dress.  Maybe for the next season of Downton!

Saturday, March 28, 2015

Home Again!

Home again from our week away. I packed so lightly: one suitcase for all three of us, my small sewing tote, a tote of books, a cooler for food.  I didn't even pack a camera; I relied exclusively on the capabilities of my phone.  I loved traveling light!

 Although solo parenting was exhausting for me, an affirmed introvert, there were plenty of delights along the way: birdwatching, quantities of tea, Allison's excellent citrus-currant scones, happy children, new playgrounds, blooming dogwood trees!

When I go on a trip I like to bring something back that I can use in my home...handmade soaps, a cross-stitching project, a candle.  On our two trips to Europe we brought back a framed print from the Cotswolds and a group of beautiful photographs from Helsinki, but usually my souvenirs are considerably more quotidian.  This time I brought back a pretty journal, a porcelain tea warmer and a tin of tea.

An enchanting Patrick Dougherty installation.

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Incredible mosaic tucked into a corner of small-town south. The mirror outlining makes it glimmer and shine.

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We had a lovely time, but it is also so good to be home and with my husband again!!

Monday, March 23, 2015

The Shuffling is Done

I am all finished moving all my sewing stuff to the laundry room.  My sewing items had been spread all over the house: machine and notions downstairs, fabric in guest room, dress form in my bedroom. Now everything peacefully coexists in the laundry room, my machine is set up at the table nearby, and I have already reaped the benefits of this efficient new arrangement by using my folding counter as a gathering-and-pinning-and-button-choosing station.  The tangible reward is a nearly-finished dress for Annie--all I have left to do is make a little sash and pin on the fabric flower I fashioned as an accessory.  I completed the buttonholes and buttons this afternoon and then sat outside on the sunny porch hand-sewing the hem (finished with lace!) before coming inside to make a pot of soup and a batch of pumpkin muffins.

The children and I take a little trip this week, and I hope to finish the sash up on Saturday when we return so that Annie can sport her pink polka-dots on Sunday! But no worries: my sewing comes with me.  While I am away I plan to hem curtains for my hostess and finish my Alabama Chanin workshop project, a creamy leafy scarf.

Friday, March 20, 2015

Art for a Cause

Last year Finn and I decided to run a little fundraiser.  We would try to raise enough money to buy a sheep, a pig, a goat and a number of chickens for a family in a developing country.  We did it by turning some of his artwork into notecards and selling them.  He raised the money faster than I'd anticipated, and a gift from our church helped him meet the goal.  

It made me realize that no matter where we are in life, we can find tiny ways to help others--writing a letter to someone whose spirits are low, giving a hug, extending extra grace to the frazzled grocery store clerk, drawing pictures. 

Landscape by Finn, age 7.

Thursday, March 19, 2015

Sheer Creative Glee

"Looking at God's creation, it is pretty clear that the creator [Himself] did not know when to stop.  There is not one pink flower, or even fifty pink flowers, but hundreds.  Snowflakes, of course, are the ultimate exercise in sheer creative glee.  No two alike.  This creator looks suspiciously like someone who just might send us support for our creative ventures." 

                                                                --Julia Cameron, The Artist's Way

I bank on this every single day!

Wednesday, March 18, 2015

Ivy Green in Tuscumbia, Alabama

Homeplace of Helen Keller!

Tuscumbia is only a short drive across the Tennessee River from Florence, and the 'downtown' area is sweet. 

Ivy Green: a beautiful old home, nearly 200 years old.  White clapboard, green shutters--the exact combination of the farmhouse on our farm, with the central hall-four room layout so ubiquitous in the region where I live.  

I loved all the details inside: these intricate dresses hanging so fetchingly in the front bedroom.  The doily under the lamp. The shining floors and cozy rugs.

Helen's bedroom: Anne Sullivan slept in the bed on the left, and Helen slept in the smaller one on the right.  I am enamored with that rug. 

Love the quiet simplicity, and the light.

A reminder of the living conditions of domestic servants around the turn of the century.

Crisp and brown and wintry outside, but the grounds were still charming.

Magnolia leaves, brick walkways, and a miracle at a well pump!  

Monday, March 16, 2015

The Beauty of the Unfinished

"A painting is never finished.  It simply stops in interesting places." 

                           --Paul Gardner

Sunday, March 15, 2015

In the Laundry Room

Where the magic happens and the fabric is stored.

This antique sink has a lovely story--my husband drove 12 hours in one day to fetch it for me after I found it several states away on Craigslist.  We had our plumber remove the old rusty faucet and install this pretty one.

Laundry corner.

The fabric lives here. Most of it dwells in the cedar chest and then I have scraps and current projects in the bins. And a few patterns!

Yes, the elliptical trainer lives here too. Painting by my son, print by Mary Cassatt. 

A long view of the folding countertop.  The cabinets below store more fabric, all my sewing supplies, some pictures we have to hang, hats and gloves and my jump rope and kettlebells. 

It's a good place to fold clothes.

Saturday, March 14, 2015

The Last Snow of the Season

Our last snow is melted now, at long last, but it was a beautiful way to end the winter. One afternoon I glanced out and saw a fast fog rolling down the valley. Within minutes we could not see the pond because the fog was so thick. 

A couple of days later we had one of those gorgeous blue-and-white days.  The trees were still heavily cloaked in snow.

Now we have daffodils sprouting forth from the ground, hopeful and on-schedule, and robins filled the crabapple tree and the backyard this week.

I'm calling this The Last Snow.  But you never know: one year we got a blizzard after the spring equinox!

Friday, March 13, 2015

A Vintage Dress for Annie, and a Memory

The bodice is done and the bias strips *will get sewn on today, mark my word, or else*. 

This pattern is one of many that I inherited from my grandmother. It's from the early 1950s, when she sewed the dress, not the coat, for my aunt who was born in September 1950.  I am making it up in hot pink with white polka-dots for the dry run!

Bonus: here is my grandmother around the time she graduated from college with a double-major in English and History, at the tender age of 19.  

Her name was also Pauline, and she taught me the basics of sewing when I visited her house in Charleston, South Carolina when I was a little girl.  She was masterful, an absolute genius with textiles.  She also gave me pearls of wisdom. Once when I was an angst-filled college student studying philosophy, and she was in her final months with cancer, she stayed up late talking to me and told me that if I wanted to "find myself" I did not need to go hunting somewhere else.  "Just shake your sheets!" she said, using both hands to shake an invisible sheet in the air, "and there you are!"  

And I did, and here I am. 

Thursday, March 12, 2015

Getting at Books

"The remainder of my schooldays were no more auspicious than the first.  Indeed, they were an endless Project that slowly evolved into a Unit, in which miles of construction paper and wax crayon were expended by the State of Alabama in its well-meaning but fruitless efforts to teach me Group Dynamics.  What Jem called the Dewey Decimal System was school-wide by the end of my first year, so I had no chance to compare it with other teaching techniques. I could only look around me: Attticus and my uncle, who went to school at home, knew everything--at least, what one didn't know the other did.  Furthermore, I couldn't help noticing that my father had served for years in the state legislature, elected each time without opposition, innocent of the adjustments of my teachers thought essential to the development of Good Citizenship.  Jem, educated on a half-Decimal half-Duncecap basis, seemed to function effectively alone or in a group, but Jem was a poor example: no tutorial system devised by man could have stopped him from getting at books."

                       --Harper Lee, To Kill a Mockingbird

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Frank Lloyd Wright in Florence, Alabama: The Rosenbaum's Usonian House

We spent two full days in Florence, Alabama and at the top of my priority list (after Alabama Chanin, of course) was visiting the Frank Lloyd Wright house in town.  As a teenager I owned a book on Wright and pored over it assiduously, but had never set foot in one of his houses. 

The house tour was fascinating, I will say that.  I spent two hours with a furrowed brow, concentrating so hard that I had a shattering headache by the time we left.

The house was commissioned by the newlywed Rosenbaums in 1939 and was constructed of cypress, glass and brick.  Wright exceeded his budget by 100%.  Nine years later,  the Rosenbaums commissioned Wright again to built an addition to accommodate their expanding family.  The house began to fall apart not long after the couple moved in; the roof sprang leaks, the heating system failed, and a cantilever had to be supported by planks.

When the city of Florence took over the house they spent about $750,000 on restoration because the house had not weathered the years well at all.

Here is what you see directly in front when you walk in the door--a brick entry.

But off to the right is the main room:

The book case on the left apparently holds up the wall, which is horizontal cypress board and batten, and bows inward when not covered by books.  (!)

The boys' 'dormitory'--note the built-in storage and beds, and the tiny sliver of a door that leads to the laundry/kitchen.

The kitchen in the addition of the house, just off of the boys' dormitory. 

Note the built-in towel racks!

A bedroom. The detail in the lights overhead is repeated throughout the house. These rooms are tiny, and the doorways are 24" wide, a detail Wright stubbornly refused to change. 

A long hallway-I think this is in the addition. 

The 'workspace,' which was the original kitchen.  It is tiny!  I do not think Frank Lloyd Wright, for all his genius in design work, had any desire to actually create a kitchen space that would be truly workable for a family.

This gorgeous spot is the dining area.  The table and chairs are fairly tiny and close together. The furniture was designed by Wright, but Mrs. Rosenbaum did not like these chairs--so she got rid of them and replaced them with the popular Eames chairs. 

The "workspace" as seen from the dining area--it's tiny!

Reproductions of the original chairs Wright designed for the house (I love the blue)....

...and Eames chairs preferred by the family. 

A Wright-designed side table. 

Mr. Rosenbaum's study, which is off the main living area. 

I love this glass corner.

A beautiful spot with soul: Mrs. Rosenbaum's piano, one of the only items *not* designed by Wright.

 The Rosenbaums wanted window screens, but initially Wright refused.  They persisted, however, noting that summertime in Alabama on the banks of the Tennessee River necessitated screens.  He finally relented, and they used these gorgeous screens with a golden hue.

The house is extraordinary, and had a cool, intellectual feel...whereas I like a home with a warm, soulful feel.  Touring the house was so provocative that I could not stop boring my husband with my chatter for the next day..I know he got tired of my endless monologues on style, function, modernism, the philosophy of home life, et cetera....but it was fascinating to me!

Saturday, March 7, 2015

A Thrifting Saturday, and Quilting Fever

I hit pay dirt at the thrift and antique stores this weekend!   An afternoon all to myself, and I acquired 21 dead stock metal invisible zippers for a quarter apiece (!), 2 pairs of vintage 1960s sunglasses, a milk glass vase, Easter goodies for my children, a vintage embroidered hankie for my daughter, and a delicious 1941 book titled Charm and Personality, with details on grooming, manners, teas, wardrobing, et cetera--for $2.49.

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*And* I bought a quantity of linen, silk, cotton and wool clothing for only a few dollars apiece, because I have been gripped by the deep fever to sew a quilt for my daughter's bedroom.  I pieced one quilt top a couple of Christmases ago for my son and handed it over to a friend who is a professional quilter for the finishing. I happily decided that quilting was not my thing and I had no interest in it, ever again.

And then two weeks ago I kept getting visions of a scrap quilt in my daughter's room, so I went to the thrift store with one requirement: all natural fibers. I bought seven garments, then rummaged through my scraps and added to the 'quilt pile' from my own stash.  And I have spent the weekend obsessively thinking about quilting.

I have already started cutting strips, but I refuse to allow myself to sew the quilt until I finish Annie's vintage dress!

Friday, March 6, 2015

Alabama Chanin Scrap-to-Sunglasses Case

At my Alabama Chanin workshop we received a small swatch of stenciled fabric that could be used for practicing technique before starting our *actual* projects.  I did not need to practice, so I just stitched it--a nice diversion on the long road trip home.

What to do with it??  I had to turn it into something. Well, all last year I wanted to sew myself a reverse-applique sunglasses case (really) but never got around to it.  As it turns out, this swatch was the perfect size!  So after I finished stitching and cutting it, I just folded it, sewed up two edges and-- viola!--my long sought-after sunglasses case.  

I love to get creative with how to use what I have and make something new and interesting (to me).