Thursday, January 22, 2015

Valentine's Day Gifts of the Heart

Don't forget that Valentine's Day is around the corner.  I have several special "gifts of the heart" on- line in my Etsy shop, though I will showcase pictures of a few right here. I am extending my 10% off Winter Sale on all items and if you are interested in purchasing anything and don't care to navigate to my Etsy shop, please leave a comment below or email me at jmcvermont@comcast.net and I will be happy to send you the details. Take care and stay warm and consider warming another's heart with a gift sewn with love!
Crazy quilted wool heart. What better way to say "I'm crazy about you"!

Another framed crazy quilted heart, sewn with love!

Reading and regular glass cases. Appliqued wool, embroidered and fully lined
  
Embroidered wool pins. (refer to number of item when inquiring  about them.)
Felted Wool Folk Art Heart Pins (refer to number if want to order). 
Felted wool zippered coin purse. Hand-stitched and fully lined.
Hand made felted wool biscornu pincushion.


Button Credit Card/Coin Purse. Hand-stitched and hand-dyed wool.
Front side of Button Credit Card/Coin Purse. Button is accent only.

Zippered pouch with velcro closure. Fully lined.
Hand dyed felted wool clutch. Needle-felted design.
Velcro closure, zippered cash pocket, checkbook slots, credit card pockets.
Back side of hand-stitched, felted wool clutch.
Favorite button/wool purse.Zippered pouch holds credit cards,cash and coins.

Friday, January 16, 2015

Civil War Times and Their Quilts

Medal awarded to my Great Grandfather, John L. Campen,
I am busy dreaming and scheming of stitching quilts and have recently developed a new appreciation of Civil War style quilts. It all started when I went digging and pulled out an old medal that was awarded to my great grandfather on my dad's side of the family. On the front is a facsimile of General Custer and around the edge it says, "First Reunion Gen'l. Geo. A Custer's Command 1861-1865. It is inscribed on the back, "John L. Campen, First Michigan Cavalry--Co. 3, Falling Waters, July 13, 1863. At the top it read Canandaigua, N.Y., Aug 21-22, 1907, placing this event 44 years after the battle at Falling Waters.
Engraving on the back side.

My daughter and I looked up this event on-line to learn that it was one of the battles in the Gettysburg area during the Civil War and my husband gave me the book, Battle of Falling Waters 1863 for Christmas. This book doesn't read easily for someone who is challenged by a compass and maps, as it is all about the battle plans and what did and didn't happen.

I found another book, At Gettysburg, or, What a Girl Saw and Heard of the Battle...a True Narrative that was definitely a more understandable version of a piece of Civil War history. It was written by Mrs. Matilda Pierce Alleman who was but a teenager at the time of the war. Her neighbor thought she would be safer if she left Gettysburg and traveled miles away to a nearby relative's home, and instead of escaping danger finds herself right in the middle of battles all around her. It is her first-hand personal narrative of the horrendous circumstances of this war. This young woman was staying at the Weikert's home which was suddenly and unexpectedly used as an emergency hospital. She wrote about soldiers waiting in line to have a limb amputated or shrapnel of the day pulled from their wounds and there being fields of dead men and horses that lay rotting waiting to be buried! The Weikert family did as others did during this time, doing all they could to serve and care for the Union soldiers and worked hard to stay out of the line of fire. She ended her book with heartfelt appreciation for the huge sacrifices that were made for the civil rights of this country and reported that veterans returned to her home town of Gettysburg years later to relocate civilians to thank them for their care.

The covert of this book shows part of the famous Jane Stickle quilt.

I found myself then pulling out my Dear Jane quilt pattern book.  It features the patterns and story about Jane Stickle and her famous quilt that is located in the Bennington Museum in Bennington, Vermont.  We have been to see it and it is truly an amazing quilt. Little is known about Jane Stickle except that she made it during the civil war, and that she and her husband were separated and suffered financial ruin. Her quilt is the story of many women that lose themselves in their needlework, making something beautiful from whatever scraps could be obtained! Her quilt has 225 blocks that are each entirely different. The author indicates that if you are off in your stitching by so much as an 1/8th of an inch your blocks will not fit together. This is likely true for any quilt really, though I simply make my blocks fit together with an occasional pucker from gathering it a bit when I need to. My youngest daughter's eye always finds these spots immediately while her boyfriend admires how perfect my work is, oblivious to the wrinkles. Beauty is clearly in the eyes of the beholder, though Jane Stickle's quilt is admired by everyone and really is quite perfect!!

60th Anniversary picture of my great grandfather and great grandmother.

John L. Campen "and his hat" on the far left, my father the little boy.


From 60th Wedding Anniversary newspaper article. Note Civil War info.
I am so proud of my grandfather's legacy and that of others like him that gave themselves so completely during the Civil War. Many were not lucky enough to survive and still others did so only with permanent disabilities or severe emotional trauma having experienced the ravages of this brutal war to obtain freedom and civil rights for all people. Many fought wet, hungry and/or barefoot. In one battle alone it is reported that 8,000 pairs of boots were lost in the mud!!

I am also proud of the women of those years that stitched away on their quilts while bravely and courageously doing what they had to do, taking over running their farms caring for their families and even picking up guns to protect themselves. Their needlework is part of this great legacy and left as proof of their perseverance and tenacity to put needle to fabric when they were filled with worry.

In contrast to Civil War days, I marvel at how computers have made it easy to shop for Civil War reproduction fabrics. This week I learned that I can apply my Pinterest skills to save images of fabrics found on Ebay and Etsy and pin them to a board to see how they go together. It may not be quite as good as actually shopping in-person, but the snow is deep and the convenience of shopping stores all across the country with my fingertips on-line was too tempting to be passed up.
My Pinterest board with pins of civil war materials that I was trying to match.

I could not only see how well fabrics go together, but by shopping so many different stores, I was availing myself to more choices at better prices and if I was very careful, I could get materials sent with free shipping, to be delivered to my door and all while sitting in my pajamas in front of my computer!! I also found that notes were added automatically of the names of the fabrics, their manufacturers, and  can be simply clicked on to trace them to the various stores selling them. I could also add notes as to the price and quantity available. I will let you know how true to color the pictures are when I receive the fabrics!

If only I could cut and stitch my quilts with the same ease, though truly reading about Civil War times, I had to stop and realize that this war was fought by someone that my father knew in-person, albeit, my great grandfather was in his eighties and my father was but a small boy. But that made it very real that it wasn't that long ago! How different are the times that we live in now and how advanced our technology has become, though I realized that sadly we are still fighting for civil rights today!

I have only scratched the surface when it comes to learning about The Civil War battles and about what my great grandfather experienced. Another newspaper article went on to say that he was in seventeen different prisons during the war, though each time he was able to escape.  He did, however, spend a total of 363 days in various prisons, one of which was the Anderson prison.  Only once was he injured and that was in the battle of Gettysburg when his horse was shot and he fell, hitting his head on a stone that apparently resulted in a permanent and "a visible scar".

This same article said that when his wife, Annie Harford was a young girl, she was noted to be "a famous rider and breaker of horses". It is noted that she never used a saddle and had won 19 "premiums" and was the reciepent of a $125 prize at the State Fair for bare back riding. There is no record of her ever quilting, though I don't lack for "sewing genes" on both sides of the family and I am looking forward to getting back to quilting.  I have many a quilt to finish and will take pictures as I go. I am also seeing that there are many Civil War quilt books, with patterns and stories of the quilters of this time period.  I have added the one below to my Jane Stickle pattern book! 2015 is indeed going to be a fascinating journey of sewing and reading!
Add ca


Thursday, January 8, 2015

The Winner of This Month's Give- Away Acorn is...

This month's give-away gift.  An acorn pincushion by Jane McMillen
Congratulation to Linda who wrote, "I love the pincushion, it reminds me of fall my favorite time of year, I love fall crafts". She is the winner of this month's Common-Thread Give Away Drawing. I will email Linda as well to inform her of being our winner. I want to thank all of you who signed up.  I loved reading your feedback, which varied from nice complements of my work, which are always welcome, to interesting bits about your lives and how you related to this piece. If you didn't win, know that we have a monthly drawing each month starting on the first Monday.  It is our way of thanking you for following our blogs and artwork! Also at the end of this blog, please see acorn pincushions available for purchase.  They are not listed in my Etsy shop as yet, but just contact me if you might be interested in purchasing one.

It seemed that an acorn was a good choice for this give-away!  My readers wrote wonderful things from Acorn being a favorite name of a horse, to my pincushions inspiring someone to make their own pincushion and is now into quilting like myself.  A newly retired nurse of 46 years wrote that she needed it to hang above her mantle to bring health and wealth to her household. Another wrote that she has an acorn collection consisting of jewelry and a trivet and still another wrote that her mother had an acorn pincushion which she wasn't allowed to play with, despite being tempted.  Some wrote how they would share it with a sewing friend, and still another suggested I use a similar pattern to create a mouse, chipmunk or a vole. Great idea to be sure!

One woman commented that she would like it as acorns and squirrels make her think of her little brother that she lost a couple of years ago.  He and her father had loved to feed squirrels and where there are squirrels there are often acorns.  I was particularly touched by this entry as I lost my younger brother at age thirty-three and I too have associated various symbols to him as well as to other relatives that have passed.

She didn't know but actually the making of this acorn is closely related to squirrels.  In my blog in June 2014, Beautiful and Delicious, I received word from Emmett McCarthy, that one of my tomato pincushions that he had given to his good friend and children's illustrator, Lisa Zador, had just been eaten by a squirrel in her NYC apartment courtyard.  She had it sitting on the windowsill with her window open and a courageous squirrel tore through the screen to get to the pincushion. She caught him sitting in a tree outside of her window eating it.  She hadn't known that it was filled with crushed walnut shell filling.
Lisa Zador's squirrel portrait. check her Etsy Shop, Curious Portraits.

Another Squirrel Portrait by Lisa Zador.


Emmett was laughing as he wrote, "your pincushion isn't just beautiful, it is delicious too!". Lisa sent me the picture of this bold squirrel munching down the pincushion. I replaced her pincushion and another besides, and she in turn sent me two squirrel portrait prints that she had done, that are now hanging on my family portrait wall. (Do check out her Etsy Shop, Curious Portraits). An acorn pincushion was then ordered by Emmett as a birthday gift for her. This is how my first acorn pincushion was created.

This same woman asked if she could purchase a wool acorn pincushion, if she didn't win.  So I have taken the following pictures of acorns that are currently for sale, though they haven't yet been listed in my Etsy shop. Just email me at jmcvermont@comcast.net and let me know which one(s) you might be interested in and I will send you full details. The prices range from $12 to $28.

These larger acorns are for sale. Please contact me if interested.
These are the smaller acorns and are for sale. Contact me if interested.
Another person inquired as to whether or not our Common-Thread Art Group was a community of needlework women?  Actually, we are all writers and artists.  We all have blogs and most of us sell our work on line. Our arts include needle-craft arts, but we also have artists of different mediums, including photography.  Jon Katz is part of our group, as is his wife, Maria Wulf, and thanks to their well-followed blogs and books, our writings and art work have been shared with many more readers than they otherwise would be exposed to. We mostly live in Vermont and upstate New York, and have met through craft shows, as well as writing classes. Likely any like-minded sort of group could be formed for the purpose of supporting each other.  I feel fortunate to be in such a group.

Again, thank you all for visiting our various websites and we hope that you will continue to visit us. Don't forget that February is coming soon and we will have another give-away to thank you for following our blogs and work!

Sunday, January 4, 2015

Sign up to Win January's Free Give-Away


Sign up to win January's free give-away!  I am this month's Common Thread Give-Away Artist of the Month.  Our Common Thread Group is made up of various artists who have become friends and support each other by encouraging our followers to visit each other's web-sites. The first Monday of the month we remind our readers to sign up to win a free sample of an artist's work.  This gives our readers a chance to get to know other artists, as well as a chance to win a piece of their work completely free!  It is our way of thanking you all for following our blogs and work.

This month I will be giving away one of my new wool sculptures, a small wool acorn, that can be used as a pincushion or simply decor for your house. It measures about four and a half inches in length from tip of stem to bottom of bead and is about three inches across. It is made from three different felted wools and is stuffed with polyfil. It is embellished with feather stitching done by hand with pearl cotton and a brown wooden bead. All you need to do to register, is to leave a comment from Monday through Wednesday on my website and the winner will be drawn at the end of the week and posted.

Acorns, I learned, are the seed of the mighty oak tree, which is sacred in many cultures as it symbolizes strength, power, unlimited potential and spiritual growth. Thus they are an emblem of luck, prosperity, youthfulness and power. They also represent security and abundance and are symbols of fertility.  They have been used as a talisman against lightening if kept in a windowsill (though it is not a good idea to place anything made of wool in sunlight as it will cause it to fade). This is the reason that many window shade blind pulls are made in the shape of an acorn.

Acorns are also thought to counteract loneliness, illness, pain, preserve youthfulness and aid in longevity, and bring luck.  To plant an acorn by the light of the moon is to bring good luck and prosperity to you. Soaking acorn caps makes for a natural black dye. Soaking and grinding acorn nuts make a rich flour for baking nutritious cakes that not only have culinary properties but medicinal qualities as well. There are many fun and interesting mythological stories involving acorns that can be found on line.

I think it is fitting that a New Year's give-away gift be one of my wool acorns. Hopefully it will bring you, your family and house, all that it symbolizes!! Leave a comment below to win this acorn for yourself or a friend and please visit the web-sites of all of our Common Thread Artists, by simply clicking on their websites listed on the left as A Few of My Favorite Places. You can also see what is in my Etsy Stop by clicking on LittleHouseHomeArts under Etsy at the top left. Thank you again for following all of us.  We appreciate your support and interest in our work and whether or not you win this acorn, we wish you all a healthy and prosperous New Year!!

*I have other acorn pincushions, if you are interested in purchasing one, just leave me a comment and I will be glad to send you pictures.  They are not yet listed in my Etsy Shop.


Thursday, January 1, 2015

Kiss 2014 Goodbye and Welcome 2015!

It is time to review the past year before kissing it goodbye.  Lots of goals can be crossed off the list, and yet my list doesn't seem to get any shorter!

Despite another job change for my husband and him falling off a step ladder and fracturing his wrist bad enough to necessitate a surgical repair with screws and plates and still suffering from numbness in his fingers, we have survived another year!!  Surviving isn't an understatement as he didn't tolerate his pain medication which caused him to have apnea (periods without breathing).  Being an old, and I do mean old in the most literal sense of the word, newborn intensive care nurse, I did what I used to do with those tiny preemies and would simply wake him up with a poke! Breathing is necessary to living and he eventually came back to this world. He is now working two jobs, neither ideal, but good enough to get him to full retirement age when he can receive social security benefits and continue working in order to recover from his lay-off two years ago that prematurely altered our retirement plans.  I would love the saying, "I plan and God laughs", if it weren't so true!
Glad to have my husband's surgery done and over with!

Life isn't easy, and we have taken the hits and are still in the race! My sewing business has kept me busy and occupied my mind, keeping me focused on being productive more than on my seemingly everlasting and eternal treatment for chronic Lyme Disease, and that is good enough! I am now into year seven of the Marshall Protocol and hope that the worst is over now!

My new Joy Cactus Pincushions!
I designed two new pincushions this year thanks to special orders from customers that placed more faith in my creative abilities than I did. Thanks to Joy, I have a new cactus pincushion line and thanks to Emmett a new acorn pincushion line.
My new Emmett Acorn Pincushions!

Smaller Emmett Acorn Pincushions using a different pattern!

I also created some Easter toys that had caught my eye.  These creations weren't high sellers, likely due to the price that I put on them. I value my time as well as my work, and  I am learning some basic business knowledge.  If it takes three times as long to make, I must charge more for them.  My work has gone from the most simple to more complex wool sculptures and I am pleased with the outcome, even if it takes more time to create.
The inside- out chicken egg fleece puppet toy.  Watch Etsy  Shope this Easter!
White and pink polka dot outer egg with chick inside!


Light Blue and Turquoise diamond outer egg with chick inside!

Bright pink and yellow striped out egg with chick inside!

Purple, lavender and white zig zag striped outer egg with chick inside!

Small Easter fleece rabbit!

Primitive fleece lamb!


Felted wool fruit pincushions for the fruit pincushion give-away! Fun Entries!
I made more of my simpler pincushions and priced them lower, and stitched and stuffed my fleece sock rack full, making about 400 pair of fleece socks that I hope to bring to my customers on-line when I figure out how to list them in a way that is less time consuming. They remain a hit. They are soft and warm, ever so practical when it is necessary to turn down the thermostat without freezing!
Fleece socks...snugly and a best selling item to be featured on- line soon!

Sales did not meet my expectations, but it seems that sales were down for many of my artist friends this year. That is the nature of the art world.  Sometimes it sells well and sometimes not. I have learned to live with that.The truth is that I create because it is what I am "called to do" right now.  Creating is fun and brings satisfaction. It never was about making lots of money! It is the therapy that keeps me motivated to continue my difficult medical treatment which is too slow to watch and while it is two steps forward and sometimes three back, the overall gains in my health are accumulating and perhaps I will gain the virtue of "patience" in my journey as well. I have indeed grown braver about attempting bigger tasks like taking on my many unfinished quilts as well as other projects to complete.

When I counted my unfinished creations, I was initially overwhelmed and then I decided that if I added more to my list, my initial list would seem less overwhelming and so that is what I have done! Life is about looking forward and I have spent some of 2014 looking to 2015! Quilt stencils have been purchased along with more materials and I am excited to do some quilting!  Big projects, I figure, are just projects that take a few more steps to complete and like The Little Engine That Could my mantra for 2015 is "I think I can...I think I can..."

I hope I will encourage you, my readers to challenge yourselves in the year ahead and take on what most excites and challenges you, and that a year from now we will again look back and see all that we have accomplished in the midst of our bigger life challenges!! Happy 2015 to you all and don't forget to come back to my blog on Monday, January 5th to sign up to win January's Common-Thread free give-away.  I am to be this month's featured artist and have one of this last years new line that I will be giving away.  It is guaranteed to bring you health, wealth and luck in the new year!!

P.S.  I forgot about the Emmett McCarthy Front Door Painting Project and The Steve N. Garage Clean-up Project.  We did get a lot done this last year!!
Lavender door project in honor of Emmett McCarthy's visit!

Side porch lavender door painted in honor of Emmett McCarthy's visit!


A BEFORE shot of part of the garage mess!
And an AFTER shot of the Steve N. Garage Clean-up Project with "new" car!

Tuesday, December 30, 2014

The Duvet Covers Project

I thought I had finished the top of the first duvet cover, but wait....

If you are missing the duvet cover finale, know that I am too.  A few days before Christmas I was removing some of the blocks from my oldest daughter's cover, after all the patchwork was sewn together. I noted that the blocks that were more solidly black in color detracted from the center block that is also bordered in solid black.  I picked them out and then replaced them with other blocks.  This was quite a feat considering that I needed to sew them back together in the same order that they had been originally sewn: sewing first the seams that would connect the block to the original row of blocks and then to the side seams as pictured below. By the last one, I had this technique down pat.  I am purposely taking time to learn on these pieces.  They are forerunners to what is ahead, and mastery of skills is key before advancing to other projects!
....then I picked out the five blocks that had strong black in them.  


I sewed new blocks by sewing the seams in the order they were sewn before.


Note that I am resewing this block into the row first.

I then sewed the side seams, just as I would have sewed the rows together.
I hope you can see that the pastel colored blocks don't detract from the center.
I started sewing rows of blocks together on the second duvet cover next, and then took time out for Christmas. I was grateful that my girls are being so patient about me finishing them, though I hope to complete them in the next week or so and will photograph the steps and their completion. I am planning the details as I go.  2015 is calling me to push forward and get these finished as I have many quilts to finish this year, all in various states of completion!
Blocks stacked and ready for stitching, carefully marked in rows as laid out.

The center block all pieced together for the top of #2 duvet cover.

















Back side of block to show appliqued center block to checkered fabric.

Wrong side of center block with muslin back stitched front side to front side.


The block backed with muslin now has finished side seams ready for applique.
I hope you are like me, and are looking forward to the year ahead with many creative endeavors calling you as well!  Life never seems to lack purpose when you are driven to create! I even have a new TV to keep me company as I stitch away.  And check out this little ironing board that I found in our garage. It was one bought cheaply at a garage sale by my daughter when she was in an apartment and was getting ready to be thrown out. I cleaned it up and used one of the ironing board covers that didn't seem to fit my larger ironing board to make its own cover! What a handy little table ironing board. I am learning that when doing patchwork taking time to press as you go along is key, and since my room was a bit too full with the Christmas tree still up, I decided to try this little one out. I  try to do my projects in steps and pressing strips before pairing them to another strip, will make the seams lay flatter and this little table top board seemed to be just what I needed to do that!
My garage-sale table top board works well to clip and press rows of blocks.

My "new" old used sewing table, better sized than my first little fold up table.
My sewing table was recently purchased and is one that my daughter and I found at a thrift store for $40. It was solid and bigger than the one that I had been working on, while still being small enough to move around in my living room. Fortunately my decor is shabby chic and so it fit right in. We think it had been a table in an old science lab, and would tolerate the abuse I would give it. I gave it a good clean so that none of its marks would rub off on any of my work and checked it for any roughness that might snag material.  My husband sawed the legs to make it the right height for me.

So far the most comfortable chair to sit in for periods of time is an old chair of my mother's that is padded, but firm, to which I have added a high density foam block to sit upon.  I simply stuck it in a pillow case for now and then added a chair pad to the top. Perhaps I will create a fancier cover to it sometime to make it a bit more attractive, but for now it makes me comfortable and elevates me to sew which is a high priority.  I tried elevating the chair first which wasn't so comfortable.  Taking time to be sure that the ergonomics of your space are right for you will save you time and energy in the long run!!
My improvised sewing chair...not pretty but it works!


I am thinking that I may make some of my quilts as my mother did, quilting them in blocks or strips in a quilt-as-you-go fashion as working on big quilts is very awkward.  These covers will remain awkward to finish up, as they are to be king-sized patchwork covers to cover equal size duvets.  One is a feather duvet and the other a polyfil duvet according to my daughter's preferences.  I found them to be less expensive than purchasing extra thick comforter batting. These will not be quilted or tied which made them perfect pieces to practice sewing patchwork, and each is designed and constructed a bit differently. They will be very practical bed covers as they will be easier to launder by simply washing the covers and won't require taking them to a commercial washer, though their duvets may need washing occasionally in an oversize machine. I have learned on these projects that indeed, "mistakes do create other ways of doing things"!