Sunday, July 27, 2014

About Acorns

Recently I was asked to create an acorn pincushion.  I never make just one of anything, especially if I am creating something I have never made before.  I have joking said that my process is about "just cutting and going from there".  I don't have to tell you that this is not necessarily the best method. It can create waste, though I don't believe in failing and it takes making at least a few to master the execution of any item, and so I will tell you how my acorn pincushion came to be born.

Where to start? I thought about a pineapple pincushion that I had tried to make. That shape would be good, but mine came out to be a lovely pumpkin instead so I also thought about the small strawberry pincushions that I have made, their shape being similar and then I would add a top. I proceeded to cut out several in different sizes.


I then thought about my egg ornaments and how they were constructed as well as my other less-round fruit pincushions and decided that enlarging my usual fruit pattern, but using only three sides instead of four and then cutting it in half might give me an acorn nut shape and I would then simply add a circular cap with an attached stem to the top. This too wasn't difficult, though stuffing it's cap and attaching it "straight" on the nut did become an issue, until I turned it upside down to pin it to the nut portion and perfected making it "even" much like I would the hem of a skirt by "measuring up".  I must confess this took me back some years for it has been a very long time since I have worn a dress or a skirt!

This trial and error process is what is both fun and annoying about creating my own patterns, for in my case I don't know what I have till it is done, unlike my other designer friends that better "plan" and perfect their patterns before executing them.  I just "make" it and see what happens.  Worst case is that it creates something else and I start over! I also confess that much of my work is less than perfect, especially the first ones.  I call such rudimentary beginnings "primitive"!  They aren't perfect, but they are "handmade"!

When I sewed my own clothes, "handmade" was a derogatory comment and meant "much less than professional".  Now in the world of primitive art, stylized versions that are not realistic are sometimes valued more and imperfections announce to the world that they were individually made.  I have also come to learn that there is no account for individual tastes.  Beauty is in the eyes of the beholder and anything sells at the right price, and my customers let me know right away how to adjust them. If they are priced too highly, they don't sell, or if they sell too quickly I know that I have undervalued my work.

So here are my versions of wool acorn pincushions.  Some are stuffed with ground walnut shell and others polyfil depending on how tightly their wool felted. While offering my customer and friend first choice, I looked up acorns and their symbolism and found lots of information on-line. I included this brief compilation of what I found. There is much more for those of you that are interested. Their symbolic significance was very interesting to read about and I thought added much meaning to the gift for his friend.

"About the acorn: Being the seed of the mighty oak tree, which is sacred in many cultures, the acorn symbolizes strength and power and unlimited potential and spiritual growth.  They are an emblem of luck, prosperity, youthfulness and power.  They have been used as a talisman against lightening if kept in a windowsill (though that is NOT a good place to keep wool as wool fades in sunlight). Apparently many window shade blind pulls were thus acorn shaped.

Acorns are thought to counteract loneliness, illness, pain and aid in longevity, luck and preserving youthfulness. To plant an acorn by the light of the moon is to bring good luck and prosperity to you. Passing an acorn to someone used to be a way of silently communicating that you were a witch.  Soaking acorn caps makes for a natural black dye. Soaking and grinding acorn nuts yield a rich flour for making nutritious cakes that are good for survival. Acorns have medicinal as well as culinary properties.  There are great mythological stories about acorns as well.  So your gift of an acorn is a symbolically rich gift to be sure."

(My acorns are not listed in my Etsy shop and so if you are interested in purchasing one, please leave me a message and I will be happy to be in contact with you.)

Sunday, July 20, 2014

Whoops--"Don't forget to move the butter dish!"

Years ago we had a little space heater.  It wasn't working properly and our small apartment was getting cold. Although we were newly weds, we didn't generate enough heat and so fixing the space heater was a task needing to be done.

Right after dinner my husband placed the dirty and dusty space heater on our kitchen table and began his work to repair it, but he forgot to move the butter dish. I don't have to tell you that the butter attracted all the flying dust off the heater as he worked!  Now we have a standing joke about "moving the butter dish" before starting a project and it really means, "clean off the table" before getting started on whatever project you are undertaking.


This is a picture of my rather pricey, but wonderful Goddess Sheet. It is a special teflon fiberglass coated ironing sheet designed to use when fusing fabrics, but seeing as how I forgot "to move the butter dish" when cutting out my fabrics with this underneath, I now have two Goddess Sheets, albeit smaller ones.

I am posting this to remind my fellow sewers that they can prevent accidents like cutting the tablecloth underneath or perhaps a very dear Goddess Sheet by clearing your work space first!  Of course, no one would be a silly as me and forget like I did?!


Thursday, July 17, 2014

A Special THANK YOU to All and A Winner Picked!

The winner of Karen's little soft-sculptured lion Common-Thread Give-Away for this month is Barbara.  She will be contacted by Karen and will soon receive this precious little hand-made toy.  As a special THANK YOU to us all, Karen is offering us all a 10% discount on any purchase in her Etsy Shop.  Simply use the special code, THANK YOU when ordering. It was truly a pleasure to get to know Karen Heenan and to feature her as this month's guest artist.  I always enjoy getting to know other artists and I have enjoyed reading her blogs and visiting her Etsy Shop and On-Line Lawn Sale and hope you did as well.  Our monthly Common-thread Give-Away is our way of thanking our readers.  We appreciate your interest in our blogs and work!

Sunday, July 13, 2014

Karen Heenan is our featured Common-Thread Guest Give-Away Artist for July

This is your chance to win Karen Heenan’s unique soft-sculptured lion toy.  All you have to do to win is go to her website and leave a comment for her Monday, July 14th through Wednesday, July 17th. The winner will be chosen randomly on Thursday, July 18th.  While you are there, take time to read Karen’s blogs, visit her On-line Yard Sale, and then check out her Etsy Shop, Useful and Beautiful.

I am just getting to know Karen, but have really enjoyed her writings. They are humorous and I love her ability to cut-to-the-chase and tell-it-like-it-is manner, not like my Pollyanna-Jane style that is often sugar-coated. They make me laugh and I appreciate her frankness and honesty.

Her crafts are very fun! She talks about collecting, recycling, and re-fashioning, which is very creative! Her variety of wares in her Etsy shop includes: quilted potholders, soft sculptured unique animals, children’s clothing, women’s apparel, handmade Christmas stockings, decorator pillows, purses, bags, and accessories! She has it all and at reasonable prices as well! I loved her On-line Yard Sale items too!!

Unlike myself, Karen is a woman of the world and shares her travels as well as classes that she takes, her chickens and gardening with her readers! My world just got a lot bigger! Thank you Karen and thank you too for being our guest Common-Thread Give-Away Artist for July!  Good luck to our readers and enjoy getting to know Karen as I did!

Wednesday, July 9, 2014

The Visitors

Penny Rug Pineapple--the symbol for hospitality.
I have not written often these past couple of weeks.  I have been busy cleaning.  It took Emmett McCarthy coming to visit me over the 4th of July holiday to address what I had avoided for several months.

I have also been working on a special order for him and as with any of my special orders, I never make just one but several to play with my ideas to decide which pattern(s) I like best. I cannot take pictures or even give a hint as to what it will be as it is to be a special gift for one of his friends. Secrets are hard for me to keep but know that when I am finished  and the chosen gift is received, I will post pictures on my blog. I am anxious to get back to work and see them finished.


"My Version of the Hospitality Pineapple--Less than perfect!?"
I have learned some new things in my preparation for Emmett's visit:

1) I have found out that I can tackle projects that seem big and overwhelming by doing a bit each day. Emmett suggested that getting "a babysitter" is helpful.  When I inquired as to what this meant, he said that having someone there to encourage me to face fearful tasks can be most helpful. I think he spoke from experience.  I have my daughter and husband, but as their spare time and energy is limited, I created an imaginary "babysitter" in my head, that same one that I consult with sometimes when there is no one there to tell me what to do, I call her "Jane-girl" now, though once upon a time I thought she was my imaginary friend "Kath-een", a friend that I created when my friend Kathleen wasn't available. Whatever her name, she was actually most helpful!

2) Ann Rule true crime books proved to be the perfect reward to help me accomplish my end goal of clean studio spaces. A little reading time, along with a rest, each afternoon provided a perfect escape followed by a nap that re-energized me to go at it again!

3) Tiny tasks helped too. I think I will forever be a do-list maker, and dividing  the tasks into littler ones means I can cross more off my list. Crossing items off my list is always satisfying!

4) I have also learned that I don't want to "keep house" on an on-going basis. I have a monthly house cleaner, and I am going to return to tolerating the usual "friendly" clutter that surrounds my work and reserve cleaning for special projects and events. It takes too much energy to keep my house clean all the time.  I think I am not alone in this method, judging by all the quips about sewing instead!

5) I have also learned that there is purpose in everything. If my urge to do something is strong, give into it. I never know what surprises may be in store!  My efforts to put my studios back in order was nice for Emmett's visit, but right after his visit my older brother called to say that he and his wife would stop to pay us a visit too and we were prepared and ready to roll into entertaining more company.

"Summer Hospitality"--serve watermelon!
Our visitors came and went too fast! Special meals and whirl-wind tours of my studios and projects were part of my hospitality. Consensus seemed to be that I have enough materials to last a lifetime and perhaps into the next! And the cartoon on my studio board expresses my style, "Let's just cut and we'll go from there"! Emmett was most encouraging when he said that he thought cutting out a project was to have accomplished half the work. I like his thinking seeing as how I have baskets everywhere with projects cut out and ready for sewing!

It is nice to have had visitors and thanks to them, my studios are well-ordered once again and I am ready for another stint of "serious sewing".....ready until I get visitors again!


Monday, June 30, 2014

Prayers and Well Wishes for Jon Katz

Little House is calling for all prayers and well wishes to be sent to Jon Katz this week. None of us never imagined the last time we saw Jon at he and Maria's Bedlam Farm Open House the weekend of June 21 and 22, that he would be hospitalized a week later and scheduled for major bypass surgery tomorrow, July 1st. I would refer all my readers to Maria's website where she is keeping us all posted on his progress. Jon refers to her as Nurse Ratched for she is working hard to keep him entertained and in-line with all he needs to do to get better!

Jon Katz is the heart behind all artists in our Common Thread Group, as he most generously shares his huge readership with us and supports blossoming writers and artists alike through his inspiration, writing workshops, interactive blog on facebook, personal friendships and he and Maria's Open Houses and Art Gallery.  As most of you know, he is a New York Times Best Selling author and many know him through his beloved stories about his and Maria's animals they have rescued, though his history in the journalism world is not to be dismissed!

Jon currently writes Bedlam Farm Journal that many of us follow as our choice of daily, alternative, good- news from their Bedlam Farm in upstate New York. In it Jon shares the wisdom of Simon, his donkey; dedicated hard work of Red, his sheep-herding/therapy dog along with the day to day happenings of their other dogs, cats, sheep, donkeys, and chickens on the farm. Many of his pictures and stories feature Maria, his dearest sweet, strong, country, farm/artist wife. His writings seem to glean what is most essential about life regardless where we live. Seeing the world through the lenses of Jon's camera and heart is to see and taste life anew. Jon doesn't believe that aging need curtail having a meaningful and on-going life well-connected to all that surrounds him including his interesting friends and passions. He supports everyone to make the most of their life by the example he sets as he takes each day and embraces the experiences that come his way.

We hope and pray that Jon's surgeons know just what to do to fix him, as those of us who know Jon know that he has lots more living to do! Take care Jon!  You are in our thoughts and prayers for a full recovery and we are glad that Nurse Ratched is by your side to keep your energies directed on your healing! We hope that you are back at your computer soon, despite needing to carry a lighter weight camera for a while!

With love from us all at Little House, we are praying for and wishing you a speedy recovery!

P.S. You can leave your personal messages for Jon on Maria's website, at FullMoonFiberArt.  Maria will likely not be able to respond to them now, but know that she and Jon would appreciate your love and support at this time!

Friday, June 27, 2014

Little House is Getting Some Attention!

Although I have a house cleaner that comes for a few hours each month to vacuum, do a bit of scrubbing and change linens, there are areas that simply wait for me.  Likely you have noticed that house cleaning does wait for you, unless you have someone that does it all.

I have enjoyed taking a break from sewing as it takes me to the basement where it is cool when the rest of the house isn't. The basement is the infamous catch all. It is very frightening sometimes to go to this den of iniquity to deal with all has accumulated there. But every year there is a day of reckoning and it has been almost a week of it now. There is also a double car garage that is used for much the same purpose, but that will be a story for a different day...enough is enough and just busying myself with my basement studio and storage room behind it is quite enough!!

I have also showered my silk flower arrangements. Those of us that don't have green thumbs resort to such fake blooms that don't need watering and never die!! They do however start growing layers of dust, the remedy of which is to shower them to wash it away!



I only rarely polish silver and there are things that are too much of a bother to be dusted with regularity...like my thimble collection. These special treasures can't be feather-dusted, and so I occasionally do the dirty deed and wash them all, polish the silver and brass ones and then clean their tiny compartmentalized printer tray display racks.  Now I can finally take their picture without announcing to the world that I would rather be sewing than cleaning!  I don't think that I am alone in having this attitude...there are more important things to be doing with our time, like cutting, sewing and quilting!! I don't do a lot of cooking either now if I can help it!!





And did I mention that Hannah's flower and vegetable gardens are looking good and for my birthday, she treated me to the lavender doors I have wanted for the past few years!!  Are they beautiful or what?!!



So this is what is happening at Little House. I will then put my feet up to rest for a day before going to The Vermont Quilt Festival in Essex, Vermont. We plan to go on Saturday and spend the whole day!! I hope to see you all there!