Friday, April 11, 2014

There IS Beauty in the Desert

Lenten Days are desert days.  Spring is around the corner, but only teasing us of the green to come. New life follows the winter’s death. It is a seasonal thing and how appropriate Easter is, to remind us of hope eternal. No matter what hardship, there is new life, no matter how long it seems that we have to wait for it.

Charles Krauthammer says that life rarely goes according to our plans and it isn’t that it falls short that matters, but how we respond when it does that is critical.  Though I am without his exact words, his message is clear and he lives it every day of his life, having been paralyzed in his young adulthood. He is living a very full, productive and successful life, complete with career, wife and family as well as awards beyond even his expectations!

I have had a lot of desert days, and I remember taking a retreat and talking to a priest about what seemed to be a fallow period in my life. “All lives have desert days,” he assured me. “It is a time that we are pushed to grow our roots deeper, but always remember," he added, “there is beauty in the desert”.

A couple of weeks ago one of my customer’s daughter’s wrote to me to ask if I would please make her a cactus pincushion.  She loves cacti.  I agreed, although coming from Colorado, where nothing but cactus grew in my neglected garden.  I wasn’t so fond of cacti, and instead always preferred mountain meadow flowers that required more moisture, and now I love living in Vermont where wild flowers and day lilies are like weeds and even neglected gardens grow well! I love making flower pot pincushions and agreed to make my customer’s daughter, Joy, a cactus pincushion, though I whined a bit about the project pulling me away from my new high of making quilts.  My daughter assured me that I wouldn't be sorry and she was right.

Thanks to my customer's request, I will now have a new line of pincushions that are some of my prettiest ever!  And how fitting it is that my new line, Cactus Joy Pincushions appear during the season of Lent, albeit the very end of this season and are to be named after my customer.  The advice given me years ago is right on!!  There is beauty in the desert if we but look around to see it and what joy it is to find it during fallow times.

I don’t think it is by accident that my husband’s luck, which had recently gone from bad to worse, following his lay-off from a twenty-two year position with a well-known, international retailer to a job, that while looked promising, proved to be anything but. Now he has two new jobs that he may not have considered a year ago, that appear to be an oasis in the middle of the desert.

It took “desert days” of thinking that we would never again be financially secure to appreciate these new and exciting opportunities to work with people that seem to be fair and honest, with little commute, less stress, good stimulation and benefits lasting even into his retirement years!  The desert makes for deeper roots, beautiful unexpected blooms and joy that may well surpass what was before! This has proven true for me as well--my chronic illness and disability allowing me the time to do what I most love: writing and sewing. There is beauty in the desert and new life that springs from fallow ground if we but keep the faith, keep on trying and remain open to new possibilities!

(These pincushions were  made for a customer, but may be custom ordered if not available soon in my Etsy Shop. Contact me if you are interested.)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Winner of This Month's Give-Away

Congratulations to Linda Viehweg, winner of this month's Give- Away. Do come back for next month's free drawing. I will be the Common Thread's Give-Away Artist for May.  Thank you all for visiting our websites and supporting our work!

Sunday, April 6, 2014

Kim Gifford, May 2014's Common Thread Give-Away Artist

It is my pleasure to present Kim Gifford as May’s Common Thread Give-Away Artist once again. The first time I wrote about Kim, December, 2012, I wrote about falling in love with her digital collage picture of her ballerina pug holding a rose.  It captured so beautifully my unfulfilled dream to become a ballerina.

My dream of becoming a ballerina was about as likely as seeing a pug wearing a tutu and holding a sweet rose. It was quite fortunate that my parents, George and Mary had more practical dreams for their daughter, and tried to ever-so-kindly get me to hang up my toe shoes shortly after I debuted on stage as a guest at the Christmas party where Clara is given the precious nutcracker doll. Thereafter she falls asleep and what ensues is a rich dream filled with all sorts of colorful fantasies. I was no prima ballerina, nor a Sugar Plum Fairy. I was part of the backdrop of a very busy scene shortly after The Nutcracker began.

My parents figured that I had fulfilled my dancer’s dream, never mind that my part didn't reach the pinnacle of success for which I hoped.  I was ill prepared to be a dancer. My training was minimal and I was less than disciplined to follow any of my dreams until later in my life. My feet weren’t light, though much lighter in my young adulthood days than now, nor did they tap to any  rhythm.  But isn’t that what dreams are often about; being what we are not or ever will be?  This is why I love Kim’s photo collages. To me, they represent the special dreams that reside in our hearts, many of which are never lived out.

This month Kim is offering a print of her digital collage she entitled, Easter Bunny, with baby chicks, curtains, theatrical make up and dress up, though in this case it is perhaps "dress down" instead, complete with a child’s innocence and total abandonment and a bunny’s tail. It is an 8 x 10 inch print on watercolor paper. The collage image is 5 x 7 inches, and is suitable for framing.

To win this print all you need to do is to go to Kim’s website, and simply leave a message any time Monday through Wednesday of this week.  In your message please leave identifiable information about yourself and the winner will be randomly drawn and announced at the end of the week.While you are there check out Kim’s blog writings and her gallery. She is a writer by education and a photographer and digital collage artist, and painter as well as a proud parent to her special pugs. Kim is free-spirited, and whimsical, but spiritual and serious as well.  Do take time to get to know her and her work!

Free give-away drawings  is our way of thanking you for visiting the websites of our Common Thread Artists.  Each month one of our artists will offer one of their pieces to a lucky winner. Next month I will be the give-away artist, so do return to visit our websites, and be sure to register each month to win a free gift! Thank you for supporting our blogs and artwork!

Tuesday, April 1, 2014

Hobby or Addiction?

We are still waiting for spring to come.  The sun is out and it is warming up a bit but the plow piles are still five feet tall and we wonder if we will ever see green. We are having a Spring Sale in our Etsy Shop hoping to push spring into happening! I have used my time to create my new Easter wares as well as to prepare for projects to come.  As you all know, I love to cut and have been having quite a time doing just that! It is hard to know when hobby becomes addiction, but I think I might be there?  I can't wait to lay out my materials to create quilt tops. You noted that I didn't say quilts? I am taking this one step at a time, so as to not become overwhelmed.  I also have a basket of ready made "kits" just waiting to be stitched.

My oldest daughter, Hannah and I have been having some sewing bees.  Her style is a bit different than mine. She has been pressing scraps, and then simply sits at the machine and starts piecing them together. Some are rather big chunks of fabric, and ugly enough to make me think that she is likely making a quilt for the dog. She smiles and lets me know that that is not so...that it will be a beautiful quilt for me and demonstrates how snuggly it is to be as she covers her heart with a scrappy piece of what is to come.

Although she is in her early thirties, she remains young at heart and loves to push my buttons with her humor.  It is making me work faster so I can show her that despite her "threatened generosity", I have no need of what I envision to be the ugliest quilt ever! Mine will be done first and then I can suggest that she give her quilt to her sister or keep it for herself instead, just in case she is serious?

Hannah's sewing has always been done in an impulsive style and if she couldn't find scissors, she would use whatever she could quickly find at hand to use, even fingernail clippers. Precision was never part of her skill set and I wonder if it ever will be?

She gets up and goes to the cutting mat we have out on the dining room table and cuts her sewn pieces. They are not the same sizes or shapes, and then she sits and sews again.  When she is done she takes them back to the cutting board for another trim or two and the process goes on.  Then she lays them out on the table and I have to admit that her project has become, if not a very beautiful scrap quilt, a most interesting one, and I am amazed how this method works for her!  The ugly fabrics aren't so noticeable, as they are cut down and not so dominating as they had been. It is random and crazy and who doesn't love the uniqueness in that? I realize how "traditional and old school" I have become...almost obsolete, I think? My prep time exceeds my sewing time and I am slow and methodical in my approach.
Zeldie, my constant companion intrigued by my sewing mess!

I took my first quilt lesson when I was about almost my daughter's age, though I had practiced some piecing using my mother's sewing scraps when I was but a child. My quilt class was taken at Bonnie Lehman's Quilts and Other Comforts in Lakewood, Colorado. It was then the home of the well-known Quilter's Newsletter. Like my daughter, Bonnie's daughter was a graphic artist.  We all made a sampler quilt top and each block was chosen to teach us the various sorts of piecing techniques.  Our quilt top was done in only twelve weeks though it took me about thirty years to hand-quilt it and it would likely still be unfinished without some help from my mom. I am not unlike my daughter and have my shortcomings too.  Besides being painfully methodical in my approach, I hate to finish projects and must work hard to motivate myself to do so!

Shortly after completing this class,  I was laid off my job.  I was a young nurse at the time but didn't want to work rotating shifts and so I took time away from my nursing career to work in this beautiful quilting store. My mother helped to support me as I got a discount on our purchases at the quilt shop which supported both me and my mom's quilting wants and needs.  It was fun to see all the new fabrics and plan quilts, though much of my time was spent working instead of quilting. Not so with my mother, who also purchased lots of material and patterns with my discount and she returned to quilting after raising her family.

Mom had learned to quilt as a child, where there was always a quilt up in a quilting frame to work on with her sisters.  She learned how fun it is to sit around a quilting frame and quilt and create something beautiful and functional while connecting with those she loved. Her new creations were beyond functional! They were works of art. Some of her sisters followed her lead and returned to making quilts as well, while others were too glad to not have a quilting needle in hand and simply appreciated the blocks that she rejected as she made them into throw pillows for all her sisters. I taught her what I had just learned and joined in the fun. It became a bonding activity for the two of us for the rest of her life.

It is so nice to spend special days or evenings with my daughter.  We talk and get silly, as we design, cut and stitch on our projects parallel style, like toddlers that are so entertained with doing their own thing while their friends do the same right next to them. Spring will come and my daughter will soon take to her garden to wile away many hours and before long we will be back to canning together and putting up produce for the winter ahead, though with snow outside still and jars of produce still on our pantry shelves, I cannot think about that yet!

I am indeed blessed to have a daughter to carry on the tradition of sewing bees and canning bees.  I haven't ruled out that my other daughter will catch on to the fun she is missing, but for now I be will content with having one daughter that enjoys these creative gatherings.

I have pulled out some of my UFO's (unfinished objects) and was so delighted to find stacks of cut materials. As mom aged she loved to do the mundane tasks that I love to do as well.  I forgot that I had given her my materials to cut to make simple comforters for my nieces and nephews, her grandchildren. It filled her days with purpose, like it fills mine now.... here they all are, waiting to be stitched. I am going to do small steps on them while leaving plans and notes in plastic sleeves, so I can go from one project to another with less struggle to figure out what is next. My days, like my mother's are filled with purpose and feeling good about my accomplishments. It is hard to know if this is a hobby or addiction, but perhaps it doesn't matter?

.....For those of you that don't know....I have been in a long term treatment program for Late Stage Lyme Disease.  By eliminating Vitamin D, my immune system has been revved up for maximum kill off of this nasty infection.  I have to stay out of the sunshine and minimize my exposure to light. A tiny light on my work is all that is needed.  I make myself comfortable right here at home and stay ever so busy designing and creating. It is my therapy, and has become my life.  Just recently I have read stories about surviving incredible odds. Being creative, and learning new skills not only keeps me active, productive and happy but research has shown it to be the best medicine ever and I hope to prove them right!
Can you find  "Waldo" and Zeldie?

Thursday, March 27, 2014


In hopes that spring is really on its way (we are having our doubts in the north east) our Etsy shop is having a sale!  Enter the coupon code EASTER at checkout to save 10% on anything in my shop!

Little House Home Arts Etsy Shop

Thursday, March 20, 2014

Spring is Here, at least on the inside!

It is the first day of spring and  I looked outside and said, "Really?"

When it doesn't look like spring, and "cabin fever" is setting in, it is important to create spring yourself and so I am....

I hope to have some of my new creations posted early next week at the latest. I also believe that when trying something new it is best to create not one, but at least a few.  That way I "have more skin in the game" and work harder to create what I envision.  We'll see how I d
Do come visit my Etsy shop for I am planning many new items for Easter and then for Mother's Day.  I am also off and running on "Operation-Cut-And-Quilt".  If I can produce fleece socks or pincushions "a plenty", why not challenge myself to create quilts "a plenty" too.

A plenty is what my Great Grandmother Kiechel would reply if anyone asked her if she would like a second helping at dinner.  She would always reply, "I have had a plenty, thank you".

When it comes to creating quilts, I have decided that although I am overwhelmed when I think of completing the seven I have already started, and have in some state of near completion, if I cut out several more, it will make seven seem less rather than more overwhelming?!  This should increase my chances of enjoying the process guilt free and change my attitude about quilts being impossible to finish.  Perhaps I will then complete them and more!
I have been inspired by Teresa Rawson's blog, Fabric Therapy. She creates a plenty of  beautiful hand-appliqued quilts.  I will not challenge myself to do the hand-detailed quilts that she is doing YET. My quilts will be simpler for now as I warm up to greater challenges, like finishing my mother's heirloom candlewicking/lace/heart quilt that I featured in my blog around Valentine's Day.

......and yes, my family is questioning my sanity (and so am I), though in truth I am having a great time planning and cutting fabric.  I am resolved to leave a detailed plan with each quilt I have in process, just in case my children inherit them in an as-is state, though I am resolved to live as long as needed to complete all I start. I may have a bit of magical thinking here, thinking I can extend my life by committing to more, not less in my future days. My plans will let another know just where to pick up where I left off should my days run short and I need not experience any guilt for cutting my fabric, as whatever is cut and planned can be sold as kits in my final estate sale.

Nothing is gained if nothing ventured and so I am stepping up my sewing plans to create more exciting sewing adventures in the days and years ahead! Don't worry, I also have many a pincushion and needle book cut out and ready to stitch as well...and when perhaps I have completed many fleece socks, wool pincushions and assorted other fun projects and quilts perhaps my great grandmother (and God) will look down from heaven, smile and comment that I have certainly done a plenty!

Tuesday, March 11, 2014

When it Rains, it Pours...or Here Comes Lent!

Fashion Lenten Footwear (booties for surgery)
Have you ever noticed that "when it rains, it pours"...... and I am not speaking of "April Showers"!

It has figuratively "poured" this last week.  I was just getting ready to dive into sewing when I got the sort of phone call that we all dread to get. It was my husband.  "I'm on my way to the hospital by ambulance", he said and his short pause here felt like an eternity before he went on, "I fell at work and broke my wrist pretty badly. Can you come?"

Is there an option? To come or not to come? I was having a pajama-day and enthusiastically ready to sew my Easter items and really on top of my game! Then the air just went out of my tires and I rolled to a complete stop! My schedule just changed.  It would be a day at our local hospital emergency room.  I took care of my mother in her final years, along with raising a family and trips to the ER had become my nemesis. Sitting on a hard chair and being in the way, no matter where I planted myself.

I called my daughter as perhaps she could get there faster than me.  "Hi Hannah, I just got a call from your dad and he is on his way to the ER. I wondered if you could meet him there? I will be there as soon as I can." I went on to fill in the details.

Her response was anything but what I expected as she is also well-seasoned to such calls.  "I think I am going to throw up!", she replied. "What time is it?" she asked, and then calculating, she replied, "Actually I can't as I am due to pick up the kids (that she nannies)." The weight of the situation just grew heavier in an instant, as it became a solo event for me!

Racing to dress wasn't something that I was used to doing these days. I started throwing some hand-sewing in a plastic bag, planning the day in a flash! Some nuts would stave off hunger. I would skip carrying a purse and I threw everything in a large carry bag. I anticipated that there would be other things of my husband's to care for as well. Now to dress and scoot out the door as my mind whirred. Would I be bringing him home tonight or not? How bad was his break?  Would he need surgery? This wasn't my plan for the day, much less the week...Expletive, expletive!! I envied the luxury of my daughter taking a moment to feel sick!  I didn't have time for that, besides which moms and wives have to be the strong ones in the middle of crisis, though we pay for it later to be sure!

I set my car on automatic and drove right to the Emergency Room, like I had a zillion times before, with just enough gas to get there without stopping!

"I am really sorry" he moaned as I walked into his room.  "It is a bad break--both bones...and I was trying to be really careful!"  It was our worst fear come true.  It seems that that is a pattern with us too; just think the worst and it happens and we can't seem to have things in place like we used to!  My husband is without health insurance for the first time in his life.  He is lying there broken and I instantly think of  our "broken bank account" instead!  Like so many others in today's world, his insurance had been dropped suddenly. We have never been in this position before and are usually over-insured and underpaid, but with his lay-off a year ago all that changed. We instantly signed up for alternative insurances, though some were not replaceable due to pre-existing conditions, and/or not passing the medical tests that were breezed through years earlier. We are simply doing the best we can, a seeming story of our lives!

He read my face and replied, "I was told not to worry.  It will all be covered under Workman's Comp." Hard to believe as he had just started this new job only weeks prior! I breathed a sigh of relief as they gave him more pain medication.

I wanted to yell and scream at him and instead I found the right words, "Accidents happen in a split second," though in my heart I couldn't help thinking that this accident was waiting to happen.  I had just told him that morning that we both really needed a vacation from the on-going stress following his lay-off just over a year now.

Trying to get gainful employment at age 64 had turned his/our life upside down and it felt like it was just taking a turn for the better and would settle-out soon, but even good changes demand energy that is lacking: new jobs to replace the one where the promised salary never materialized, loss of still another doctor after just getting re-established,  newly obtained insurances being suddenly dropped were all adding to longer do-lists, greater costs, higher deductibles, less coverage, our income still way below the one lost, and now a sick dog in the middle of this crisis!

Gratitude has been our response to our ability to absorb one loss after another, but seems to be wearing thin. My husband's pain has been high, and I truly wondered if they could medicate him to a comfort level, for he is indeed having pain  on many levels all surfacing and leaking out his broken wrist! Still all I could think of was that this emergency likely staved off a breakdown of greater magnitude. He had literally needed "a break" and had literally just gotten it.  The orthopedic doctor indicated that he would be at home for seven to ten days minimally! Despite a lack of income, I was relieved. Our savings would be stretched to cover yet another expense, but this one was for a much needed reprieve that would perhaps prevent an even more catastrophic event!

Once again God had saved us.... my husband from stress that was adding up exponentially as well as refocusing me as to what is really important. My sewing would wait a few days! We have no choice but to stop, my husband to get some pain relief, rest and heal! Another dip in our finances was the least of our worries!  We are both exhausted and needed to clear our heads to proceed with the next faze of  "Mission- Rebuild". New jobs ahead for my husband, some new directions with my treatment and sewing and new hope for making it the next fifteen months before my husband reaches full retirement age.

They say that "misery loves company" and I am comforting myself to know that we are not alone in our struggle in this economy. I remain the eternal optimist, likely a sort of denial that is permanently etched in my brain.  When the going gets tough, I seem to look for the benefits. My friend and fellow artist, Maria Wulf wrote that she thinks my thoughts about all this are Zen-like, as she said they were like "the man who broke both legs and thought how lucky he was to be spared from having to go to war" though I couldn't help but wonder if my thinking had been reduced to being totally concrete ..."a break for a break"! My husband finding comfort in my Vacation Chair was more than ironic however, it was providential!

Today he goes for surgery.  It  seems that screws and plates are what is needed to get his bones properly aligned for healing.  He has the best hand surgeon in town, and she was on-call the day of his accident. His arm is to be stronger than ever after he heals and I am wondering if I would benefit from some screws and plates in some of my joints or better yet in my head, as all sorts of screws seem to be loose there! His new job is anxious for him to return and couldn't be more supportive. We have been much blessed and my optimism is rising once again. Well wishes and prayers from family and friends along with a bit of sic humor and we are weathering this wrinkle. The dog is feeling better already, for although my daughter's nausea was only momentary, the dog's wasn't! This was likely an omen of my husband's healing to come, I hope!

Lent has started and sacrificing some time to my husband's healing along with my side of the bed for a few days and my Vacation Chair for a few weeks is likely fitting for this Lenten season and my husband's injury, a reminder that we are mere mortals on this bumpy road of life.  Healing will come and likely his arm will be lots better by Easter!  How can I miss the meaning of this Lent/ Easter season!? Some difficult healing days are ahead and then we will hopefully soon be up and running full speed ahead, thanks be to God!