Sunday, March 1, 2015

March's Common-Thread Give-Away Artist

This month's Common-Thread Give-Away Artist is Maria Wulf.  Most who have frequented my blog know Maria Wulf and her husband, Jon Katz.  Both are "the hub" of our Common-Thread Art Group. We are all bloggers and artists, that have banded together to support each other on line and all of our websites can be accessed on the right hand side of my blog simply by clicking on them.

I have done many blogs about Maria and never tire of telling others of the various things I know about her. She never fails to amaze me!! She knows that I both admire her work as well as her life. She is a "hardy farm woman" which is a great compliment to her. Few have the courage, grit and determination that hallmarks Maria's character.  She is a very strong person, in every sense of the word.

Despite weathering some difficult events this last year, as her husband's urgent heart surgery, the loss of her beloved dog, Freida, as well as Simon, their cherished donkey, and Lenore, Jon's sweet black lab, Maria continues to make her Gee-Bend style quilts, special one-of-a-kind quilted potholders and her "free-streaming quilted art" as well as her creative sketches.  All her work tells the story of what goes on in her busy life and complex mind. Her writings reveal even more.

Maria's love of animals is manifested in this 50" by 60" fleece blanket that she is giving away to the lucky winner of this month's Common-Thread drawing.  It is the replica of the banner she made for Blue Star Equiculture, The Working Horse Sanctuary.  She has described it as a symbol of the ancient bond between people and horses and the importance of keeping that relationship alive.  The proceeds of the sales of these "Restore-the-Bond" blankets were given to support the horses at the Blue Star Sanctuary and horses around the country, and this month the lucky winner of the Common-Thread Give-Away Drawing will receive one of these special blankets!

All you need to do to register for this drawing is to go to her website at Full Moon Fiber Arts and leave a comment for her anytime Monday through Wednesday and the winner will be announced at the end of this week! There is nothing better than a fleece blanket to keep you warm in these final weeks of winter, and this is one that will warm your heart as well.

Our monthly free Common-Thread Give-Away drawings are our way of saying, "thank you" to our readers.  We appreciate you frequenting our websites and exploring our special hand-made artwork. Register now and do stop and see what she still has available on her Art for Sale Page or simply browse through her website and blog for other items that she has recently posted. It is always fun to see what she creates as well as read about her rural life and community that inspires her work.

Don't miss our other Common-Thread Artist's websites as well! We hope that you will enjoy our blogs and between all of us, we have a wide variation of art work and gift items for sale. Thank you again, and don't forget to register to win by going to Maria's website and simply leave a comment for her.

Saturday, February 21, 2015

Unleashed Potential

In college my girlfriend and I used to say, that there seemed to be nothing heavier than a great potential. I think that is changing for me....

A new collection of Civil War Materials--dreams yet to be realized.


I awoke this morning once again to find myself immersed in a familiar nightmare, but this time it had a slightly different twist. Instead of realizing at the end of a shift, that I had forgotten to take care of a patient I was assigned to, this time I had left the floor to go to a secret room to sew during my break and got so into my sewing that I forgot to come back to take care of my patients for hours! This dream seems to show signs of psychological progress.  At last my dreams are admitting that I prefer to sew than nurse, despite still having some guilt about giving up nursing.

It is interesting that Veronica Hallissey and Maria Wulf, both writers and fabric artists have recently posted blogs that address the sacredness of the person, and the violation that occurs when one is not supported to be who and what they are. I may be over-personalizing their words, but they triggered in me my own issues of being steered by a well-meaning parent who wanted to be sure that I had a career to "fall back on".

Rolls of strips of materials to be stitched into a simple 9 Patch -9 Patch Quilt
I used both nursing and teaching to help support my family, and have only become the "artist" that I have always want to be, after I became too ill to work. It is noteworthy that my favorite doctor once told me that a person can get ill simply from stifling their need to be creative, if they are so driven. Could that have been the case with me? I have been out of nursing almost seven years, due to illness, but I was so reluctant to "let go" of my nursing license that I renewed it in New York as current practice hours are not a prerequisite there as they are here in Vermont and living close to the New York State border, this seemed a reasonable way to keep licensed.

Strips pinned and ready to sew. A modern fast method of piecing blocks.
The truth is I was "programmed" to be a nurse. From the time I was a little girl,  every time I would utter dreams of my future life, my father would add, "you can do that if you become a nurse". I can still remember telling him that I wanted to work in a circus and imagined myself as a flying trapeze artist and instead of taking me for acrobatic lessons, though that would have been the fastest way to extinguish that dream, for I was anything but athletic, he simply replied, "You could do that if you were a nurse"?  His answer was the same when I imagined myself being a missionary, and feeding starving babies in Africa, never mind that I didn't belong to a church with such missionary zeal.

Pretty and how easy!
The truth was that my father had little imagination at all.  He was a civil engineer and would pull his hair out building structures designed by creative architects. I still have a little plaque that his friend in the insurance business had made for him as a personal joke, that reads, "The disaster That Did Not Happen on Concourse B at Stapleton International Airport" 1962.  My dad was sure that the unusual design for the "tent-topped" building could never be constructed safely. He must have suffered from nightmares about this just as I do with my nursing dreams, and he must have told his friend.

Buildings needed to be square, according to him,and his work was to provide and construct the steel form-work to support them. His creativity was all done with a slide ruler, including addressing any emotional or personal issues that I had in growing up. He also found it fun to dicker over my allowances, wanting me to defend myself and learn negotiating skills. It only made me feel guilty for needing his money and made me cry.


A simple set up for pressing and hanging my strips. One of three work stations.

To my father's credit, he was an excellent businessman, loved his work and provided well for his family, but fell short when it came to supporting the artist within any of us. I even used to wonder sometimes if my real parents were tied up in a closet and the ones that raised me were "look-a-likes". I was definitely a child that came from a different mold, or so I thought then. My best grades were in art, and sewing.

My mother was a stay-at-home mom who made the house pretty, and did the cooking and ironing. She was an artistic person, who would have been a fish out of water if she had had to conform to any particular workplace environment.  He didn't seem to notice that his philosophy of throwing out Crayons, didn't work at our house...my mother loved to color as much as we did, and every one of my school papers got graded higher for the artwork that accompanied them. I delighted in convincing him every year that instead of a box of 24 colors, my teachers "required" we have the extra large box of crayons and colored pencils as well! It was not true, but I so I loved all those colors!! He respected my mother's artistic abilities and was pleased that I had acquired her talents as well, but he took his job as Dad seriously and he prepared us kids for the real work world, where art had no business.

Trying freezer paper applique on another project.
He supported my education and gave me the choice of becoming a teacher, nurse or secretary, all to be used as an insurance policy should something happen to my future husband, as mostly likely I would be a stay-at-home housewife too, or so he thought. Little did he know the anguish I would go through being both a nurse and a teacher, as neither really met my needs to be creative. Pounding my round artistic peg into these well defined square holes never really suited me, despite my dedication to each profession.  Artists, he told us, usually starve. I must have focused on being sure that I didn't starve, for I have always struggled with being overweight, but I did "starve" for opportunities to express myself creatively, and did so at every chance I got when I wasn't too busy being a nurse and/or teacher to help support our family. I also invested to keep our craft cupboards filled with art and sewing supplies to feed our creative minds.

 "New-to-me" glue technique for applique, making for more greater precision.
These past six plus years I have been very busy creating from the supplies I gathered during my entire life.  When illness threatened to shorten my days, I decided it was now or never to actually use them and I haven't stopped using and collecting more since. Sewing and art books, and now the internet fill my head full of ideas. I am like an alcoholic in a free tasting room and am quite busy unleashing my potential, I am intoxicated with the freedom to create as I always wanted to do. While I regret not having the energy that I once had, I delight in planning quilts and sewing projects as if I am going to live forever! Grandma Moses is my inspiration. She started painting her famous pictures well past retirement age and lived to be very old! Should I be so lucky!?

So far, so good!  This is Daiwabo Japanese Fabric.  Is it awesome?!!
Well, back to sewing, though I can't wait to write to you all about some inspirational quilters who have discovered and shared ways to better organize their studios to facilitate being as creative as they can be.  I am following some of their advice and making changes in my own studio spaces.  I am also learning how to capitalize on my strengths and weaknesses!

I think my nursing days are over. In my future, I will likely get brave and let my nursing career go altogether.  It has served me well to support my family as well as being an advocate for my own health and the health of my family, and that is more than sufficient use of it!  I don't need to hang on to my old careers but instead, unleash my artistic potential. It is a dream that I wouldn't have realized had my health not necessitated it. It is nice to know that God knew my heart and worked hard to redirect me to living the creative life I have always wanted to live. 

Dear Dad,may you RIP. I got your determination and drive and will not starve!


Thursday, February 12, 2015

When cookies and tea don't warm you, try these...

At last I am offering my fleece socks on-line.  They have been my best sellers at craft shows for years and they are priced to warm your heart as well.  The children's socks are $4 a pair, $6 a pair for youth sizes and adult sized socks run $8 a pair, Shipping charges are NOT included in these prices and will be $2.00 per pair.

My socks feature an elastic free cuff, wash well, return to their original shape and are soft and warm for winter.  Many use them as bed socks, but others, including myself use them in or out of shoes. My daughter works outdoors all winter and swears by them.  They make great ski socks!

I have named them Great Feet for Great Feats and have testimonials that when worn, not only are your feet warm, but they can perform miraculous feats. When I was a child, it was tradition that the Easter Bunny brought us Keds--remember those?  In new Keds I could run faster and jump higher! Mine were usually red, which I think added to their power. And so I have made my fleece socks in all colors and patterns, so you can pick whichever you feel will give you the greatest lift. Believe in them and they will do just that!!

One of my most special birthday presents was a big box of "toe socks" in all colors and patterns! It was the cheeriest gift ever, and so are my fleece socks.

I first made fleece socks for my young adult daughters for Christmas a few years ago, and before trying them out, they simply pushed them aside, believing them to be one my my weird home-made-"special" gifts that round out their Christmas every year. They then asked if I would be offended if they "re-gifted" them. Their friends liked the socks so well, that they came back and requested more. My girls soon tried them out themselves and now place their order every Christmas for themselves and their friends!

Sock sizes run according to shoe size.  Order bigger if you want them to fit looser (as a slipper), and smaller if you want them to fit tighter (to wear inside shoes).

Children's sizes $4 a Pair: 0-NB (newborn), 0-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, and 8. (I am phasing out size 8-9 that has a slightly longer cuff, but I have four remaining pairs.)
Click here for Children's Sock Selection

Youth Sizes $6 a Pair:  9-10, 11-12, 13-1, 2-3, 4-5
Click here for Youth Sock Selection

Adult Sizes $8 a Pair:  M 4-5 and W 6-7; M 6-7 and W 8-9; M 8-9 and W 10-11; M 10-11 and W 12-13; and M 12-13 and W 14-15
My adult socks are unisex, and their sizes are marked in both Men (M) and Women (W).  
Click here for Adult Sock Selection

Wide Socks are available as a special order. Most socks will fit a range of widths.  If you are concerned please contact me to place a special order. (add $2/pair for special orders)

To Order: Please comment or email me at jmcvermont@comcast.net with your selection by size and number. Because they are one-of-a-kind, I will fill orders on a first come, first serve basis.

Methods of Payment: I accept Paypal and personal checks.  (Socks will be mailed when payment is received.)

Children Size Socks

Sock sizes run according to shoe size.  Order bigger if you want them to fit looser (as a slipper), and smaller if you want them to fit tighter (to wear inside shoes).

Children's sizes $4 a Pair + $2/pair for shipping: 0-NB (newborn), 0-1, 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, and 8.
(I am phasing out a size 8-9 that has a slightly longer cuff, but I have four remaining pairs.)
Size child 0-Newborn

Size Child 0-1 
Size Child 2-3

Size Child 4-5

Size Child 6-7

Size Child 8

Size Child/Youth 8-9 (with bigger cuff)





Click here for Youth Sock Selection
Click here for Adult Sock Selection
Click here to For More Information About My Socks

Wide Socks are available as a special order. Most socks will fit a range of widths.  If you are concerned please contact me to place a special order. (add $2/pair for special orders)

To Order: Please comment or email me at jmcvermont@comcast.net with your selection by size and number. Because they are one-of-a-kind, I will fill orders on a first come, first serve basis.

Methods of Payment: I accept Paypal and personal checks.  (Socks will be mailed when payment is received.)

Youth Size Socks

Sock sizes run according to shoe size.  Order bigger if you want them to fit looser (as a slipper), and smaller if you want them to fit tighter (to wear inside shoes).
Youth Sizes $6 a Pair (plus $2/ pair shipping):  9-10, 11-12, 13-1, 2-3, 4-5
Youth Size 9-10

Youth size 11-12

Youth Size 13-1

Youth Size 2-3















Youth Size 4-5


Click here for Children Sock Selection
Click here for Adult Sock Selection
Click here to For More
Information About My Socks

Wide Socks are available as a special order. Most socks will fit a range of widths.  If you are concerned please contact me to place a special order. (add $2/pair for special orders)

To Order: Please comment or email me at jmcvermont@comcast.net with your selection by size and number. Because they are one-of-a-kind, I will fill orders on a first come, first serve basis.

Methods of Payment: I accept Paypal and personal checks.  (Socks will be mailed when payment is received.)

Adult Sizes Socks

Sock sizes run according to shoe size.  Order bigger if you want them to fit looser (as a slipper), and smaller if you want them to fit tighter (to wear inside shoes).
Adult Sizes $8 a Pair (plus $2 shipping/pair)
M 4-5 and W 6-7; M 6-7 and W 8-9; M 8-9 and W 10-11; M 10-11 and W 12-13; and M 12-13 and W 14-15
My adult socks are unisex, and their sizes are marked in both Men (M) and Women (W).  
Adult Size M 4-5; W 6-7


Adult Size M 6-7; W 8-9
Adult Size M 8-9; W 10-11

Adult Size M 10-11; W 12-13

Adult M 12-13; W 14-15


Click here for Children's Sock Selection
Click here for Youth Sock Selection
Click here to For More Information About My Socks


Wide Socks are available as a special order. Most socks will fit a range of widths.  If you are concerned please contact me to place a special order. (add $2/pair for special orders)

To Order: Please comment or email me at jmcvermont@comcast.net with your selection by size and number. Because they are one-of-a-kind, I will fill orders on a first come, first serve basis.

Methods of Payment: I accept Paypal and personal checks.  (Socks will be mailed when payment is received.)

Friday, February 6, 2015

Taking Comfort from the Storms

Storms come in many different forms: blizzards, hurricane winds, thunder and lightening, or torential rain, but they also come in other forms too.  Accidents, illness, and financial hits are but to name a few.  It is winter in Vermont and though we were spared some of the snow that Boston got, I still look out and see oceans of white with gray skies. I am mostly shut-indoors, preferring to stay home where I can stay warm and comfortable.

I have chronic lyme and seem to be on a never-ending treatment program and add to that, we just saw our tax man last night to work on our income taxes.  It seems his software wasn't producing final figures in line with our income, and so we are waiting for him to see his software representative to be sure that there isn't some error? I couldn't figure out why my husband was so nervous about it all and then I remembered that he has lived all his life with what he calls "The Luck of the Irish". If it weren't for bad luck, he might not have any at all!! Of course if there is some penalty for working hard enough to throw us into the next tax bracket by a dollar or two, it will happen to us. Our spirits now seem to be matching the storms--rather gray and dark!!


Comfort comes in many forms too: fun fabric and threads,patterns to last a life-time, Pinterest to stimulate even the most creatively challenged, good TV programs and books, and of course, good food! Although I am supposed to be on a special diet, I have discovered that I can make gluten-free cookies that are good enough to fool even my dubious family into thinking that they are tasty treats and a couple of cookies with a hot cup of tea bring immediate psychological comfort.

When I made these I didn't have all the needed ingredients and my husband wasn't about to brave the mounting snow to get what I needed and so I cut up prunes to substitute for raisins in my gluten-free oatmeal raisin cookies.  Fortunately I did have gluten-free oatmeal and gluten-free flour. I call them "The Get-Loose-with-Jane Cookies" and don't have any problems being "regular" now!

Being short of butter, the molasses cookies were made with shortening and I measured it like I measure butter, by the stick. I discovered later that I had twice the amount of shortening, and so I guesstimated the amount of ingredients needed to make a double batch, though not before trying to correct my error by adding more molasses and brown sugar.They were delicious, and likely never to be repeated again.

The ones in the back tin were made of coconut, egg whites, sugar, salt, and vanilla...and I forgot to read the entire recipe, after reading that I was to whip the egg whites until frothy, NOT whipping them more after adding the sugar to form stiff peaks. Everyone thought they were like Rice Krispy Treats that I had simply made with coconut instead of cereal, and the more they spread out the crispier they became...again, a successful one-of-a-kind failure!

I am moving back into the kitchen, after my daughter resigned as the head cook and baker.  It was a position that she held for the past several years. I am rusty, but my skills seem to be slowly returning! I am learning that sometimes it is good to add an extra egg to better glue my baked goods together when using gluten-free flour, though I think I recall that Xantan gum is the real substitute for the glue in the gluten? No chance of any of that on hand! If only I could make them sugar-free as well, but then that would take the psychological comfort right out of these treats!! Sugar, my mother taught me, represents love, though in truth it only increases inflammation and pain, but old lessons die hard!

I now hope that my quilting skills will return as easily as my baking skills! Working with cotton is different than working with wool, but with a bit of practice and getting some lessons on-line, perhaps I can create quilts much like I did these cookies and with a bit of trial and error, my quilts perhaps will turn out as sweet! Safe harbor from storms = sweetness, love and comfort! So now onto stitching!