My friend D just had back surgery. This is the third time she’s had surgery to alleviate extreme back pain. By all indications, it seems that this might work. All her friends are certainly hoping so.

While brainstorming what to do long-distance to let her know we care, I was reminded that D has made what she terms ‘hang-on-ladies’ – little clay figures of mature women hanging on for dear life to a beaded cord. She usually gives them with a card that says: “At the end of your rope? Tie a knot and hang on!”

D needs her own hang-on ladies from her friends!

About an hour after that thought struck, I happened to be in my sock drawer pulling out a few items to get ready for our trip north for the Thanksgiving weekend. One of the socks I was going to use had a big, gaping hole in the heel. Just the thing for a h-o lady!

So, with scissors, needle and thread, a few buttons and a bit of yarn, I changed my useless sock into a charming (at least I think so!) hang-on lady for D! (And I’m having trouble getting it to show properly on this blog – darn!)

Well, with Thanksgiving around the corner, I wanted to do something with chocolate and pumpkin – just have a craving for those two together – so I threw some canned pumpkin pulp into a brownie mix and added pumpkin pie spices. Topped it off with a melted white chocolate icing. Not too bad, except the brownie part is pretty dense. I kept telling myself I like dense as I ate my way around the edges. Gotta save some for T-day.


Oooohhh, I ache!

Yesterday I got a call from a neighbor – they were pulling some grapevines out of trees in the pasture and wanted to know if I would like them. I’ve used grapevine in the past in my basketry work, but haven’t collected in a couple years now. It’s been a combination of not enough time, too many other interesting things to do, and the diligence necessary to make sure I don’t bring any poison ivy or powder post beetles home in the vines.

I caved and said yes. Even though in the back of my head I’m telling myself that there is bound to be poison ivy there and I should just politely thank them and offer to pull next year with them.

So, after finishing the quilt top yesterday, I headed out into the countryside before it got dark. The neighbor had the vines pulled and laying in a pile in a semi-wooded/meadow area. In among the grapevines I discovered a distinctly NON-grape vine. It was either Virginia creeper or one of the 27 different varieties of poison ivy that we have growing around here. Some ivy looks almost identical to creeper so I try not to touch the stuff unless I can count the leaves. Unfortunately, the leaves are all down and so was the vine. The neighbor nonchalantly said “Oh, yes, that’s poison ivy” and kept bundling up the grape. I hate people who aren’t affected by the stuff! I kept covered as much as possible and stripped/washed as soon as I got home.

Today I wrestled with the stuff. Some of the vines are of Tarzan size and quality. Tough babies. Figured I might as well use them for a potential outdoor installation coming up next June – I’ll make sure everything that touches the vines is washed well and I’ll wash the vines in the spring. The installation proposal is based on orbs – lots of them of varying sizes. I was able to wrangle some of the smaller vines into one modest size piece; the rest of the thick vines became two sort-of orbs: one is sort of squished and the other is flatish with an opening at each end. They probably won’t get up into any trees – they are sooooo heavy! – but they were fun to do. It felt good working with the grapevine – such a solid and sturdy material.two orbstwo hole orblarge orb w end holes

The material is so large that I worked outside on the driveway. I wind up putting my whole body into the weaving when working with the large diameter vines. They need to be “coaxed” a whole lot more than the smaller vines. The two larger pieces stand about 3 feet high, to give perspective to what you are seeing. I’ll need to measure them officially, but not now.

Now I just want to sit back with a glass of wine, maybe soak in the tub. Oh, wait! We have company coming for dinner! Guess I’ll just go with the glass of wine.


I don’t consider myself a quilter, but I’ve spent the better part of the last week doing just that. In an effort to help my SIL with her nonprofit quilt center, I volunteer some time one day a week doing whatever is needed at the center. Sometimes I vacuum and take out the garbage, sometimes I cut fabric and batting, sometimes I actually sew.

This past week there was a push to create some quilted holiday table runners to have as a fundraiser for the center. So, I created my first designed, pieced and quilted project. Three different red/green/white fabrics with a center red bird picture, minimal amount of meander stitching and a self binding using the backing material – not too shabby! (oh, sorry – no picture!)

The three hand-stitched quilt tops that the center has promised to machine quilt were also crying out to be finished as they are wanted for gift-giving soon. Somehow, using the Grace frame with free-arm capabilities has turned into my job. I got so frustrated with the sewing machines that were set up to use on the frame – all sorts of tension and skipping and breaking problems. We finally got the mid-arm machine fixed – and the first top was a breeze to do with the machine working well. Wound up doing a meander and what I considered to be a wind pattern (some of the material in the top had wind-looking marks on it). I actually did a little celebration dance when I finished the first good row! Not so outwardly jubilant when the whole thing came off the frame today, probably due to the fact that I had to go back and unstitch the first actual row I did that still had all the tension problems visible. But, my part is done on this first quilt and my SIL will take care of the binding.

I think I’ve got one of the best parts of the whole quilting process – I get to play on top of someone else’s piecing without having the agony of designing it, putting it all together or finishing it at the end. Don’t get me wrong, there is still enough agony with the free-arm quilting as I don’t want to mess up someone else’s work. It’s just so fun and freewheeling “driving” the sewing machine over and around the quilt.

Hmmmmmm, I better start repeating to myself “I am not starting another fiber process, I am not starting another fiber process, I am not…..”

Think that will work?!?!?


Boundaries. Limits.

Among some recent research on creativity issues and exercises, the idea of placing boundaries and limits is suggested as one way to help move you into a creative vein. Limit your time, your material, your size of project, whatever. It is suggested that having everything too wide open can actually stifle creativity: where to start and what to do?!?!?

The problem I have with thinking in terms of boundaries and limits is that I usually associate a negative connotation to them. They bring to mind blocking and barriers, the extent to which something can be done – beyond which is usually a dire consequence. The barbed wire fence around the pasture which we were not supposed to cross for fear of the bull on the other side.

Roget’s New Millennium Thesaurus gives the following as synonyms to boundary: beginning; compass; fringe; frontier. I like these terms much better – so much more positive in nature.

Surely the beginning of something is the nearest ‘boundary’ and the farther and farthest limits can be considered the fringe and frontier to be reached.

If I think in terms of my creative process and the work that comes from it, and place a limit on it in some fashion – e.g. use only the color orange – that gives me a starting point, a beginning without really defining the end boundary. I can go beyond orange into the whole range of tints and values and shades and textures, etc. By limiting access to the rest my box of crayons, I can concentrate on shape and size and sizzle.

Having a boundary actually gives me a compass for my work. It defines my starting point and steers me in a direction that may or may not be similar to what I’ve done before. The end result is not a foregone conclusion; I may actually make it to that frontier or veer off to a fringe area.

The best part about having a boundary or limit, is the ‘going beyond’ the limits, the breaking out of the box that we all try to do that gives our work a distinctive look and feel. The thought that gives the spark to try something different, out of the ordinary, unplanned or unusual. Those ‘a ha!’ moments when it all comes together and feels right.

I usually wind up pushing limits when I find myself asking “what if…” in the middle of something, knowing full well that I’ll never be able to try all the possibilities I come up with. But the what ifs, the compass directions, often don’t come until I’ve already got something started.

I’ve been putzing around for several weeks now, not really getting anything accomplished in my artwork. Guess I better set some limits!

Fall signs

It’s real. Fall is definitely here. The telltale sign is being able to see the lights from the neighbors’ houses behind us and across the valley/road. Sounds complicated, but basically, the leaves are off the trees and we are not hidden from view – nor are the neighbors. Definitely fall. We won’t be hidden again until spring. Good thing for the neighbors that it will be too cold to run out on the back deck in my skivvies.
Another sure sign of fall is the turkey festival coming up at our church. Today was spent cooking the turkeys – 170 ten pound turkey rolls. Three to a pan, two pans to an oven, 18 ovens pumping heat. Turkey temperature thingees stuck into each one looking all the world like a tiny bull’s eye – or a belly button. Saturday they all get sliced and Sunday delivered steaming hot with dressing, mashed potatoes, gravy, beans, cranberry sauce and your choice of dessert! Sunday I’ll be washing silverware and coming home with prune-hands.