Why I'm Unraveled


Monday, around 11:30, filtered by dense air, the sun peeked through the branches of the pine  outside my office window.  Usually the sun comes in and warms my room all day. I knew this could be the last day our mountain was visible. As I turn away a shadow flickered in the corner of my eye and I turn back to see a siskins, or a nuthatches, dancing through the limbs. Every surface was covered with frost and the air around me was chilly. 


That night, as we drove to dinner, it was foggy, as the cold thick air was filled with humidity. By morning many trees were covered with hoar frost, the sky was steel gray, and the mountain completely obscured. The inversion had clamped down over our valley. The temperature stays between 25 (for a low) and 30 (for a high) during inversion periods. 


No one enjoys inversion season, that is unless you head up to mountains, which are bereft of snow, but are a balmy 55+ degrees! That's why it's called an inversion. (get it?}  Smith and I spent part of his day off looking for furniture (gifts to ourselves) and as we were driving home (sans furniture) the sun decided to break through for awhile. This picture may give you some idea of what we're dealing with. The air is worse than the picture shows. The weather peoples tell us a storm could be coming through this weekend (maybe) and the winds could stir the air (big maybe) and bring some relief (maybe). They do not want to get our hopes up, but we have our fingers crossed. Today, we are socked in, again. 


But, in my other world, knitting and reading, things are going really well. I put the body on hold and have started a sleeve. The color in the photo is far from true. The actual color is deeper, more berry and red. I'm reading Eva Trout and while I had trouble getting used to the language, and the seemingly choppy style of her writing, I've grown used to the rhythm. I enjoyed Elizabeth Bowen's other books more, but I think I'll end up liking the story. I wouldn't stick with it otherwise. Life is too short to read bad books. I am also listening to the last in the series of the His Dark Materials trilogy by Philip Pullman. I have had more fun reading this series than anything I've read in a long time. I heartily recommend all three. 

I'm joining Kat and gang for Unraveled Wednesday

Some Fun Stuff


Friday was a good mail day, although with my Postcrossing addiction, almost every day is a good mail day. This postcard arrived from Russia, a Russian bear in a (what must be) hand knit sweater, with the added plus that the sender had written a very nice note on the back. We're all all about connecting to the world at large. This postcard, along with another I received, was nice on its own, but a great package also arrived.


Cara had decided to do a little destashing, via her Instagram account, and I was the lucky recipient of this pretty yarn. I had to have it as it is self-stripping and I've missed my self-stripping sock addiction. I had to wind up the yarn immediately as my sock drawer is still losing more than it's gaining. Sock knitting must continue as often as possible. Stripes are easy (with Carole's Picot Edge pattern) and pretty yarn is always a plus. This is called Electric Slide by White Birch Fiber Arts. 


You were right about my need to be patient when it comes to an amaryllis blossoming. The fancy-smancy amaryllis has growth! Can you see the little tip of a leaf coming up? Kym said that fancier bulbs can take longer than the "store-bought" bulbs.  All three amaryllis are now sending forth shoots. Time will tell if that includes blossoms. 

And, thank you for your help and suggestions on the Christmas cactus. Your comments and links were very helpful as I learned about its needs and I may have narrowed down the problem. Since I bought the cactus in full bloom last year at Christmas time, I'm fairly sure it is a "Thanksgiving" cactus. All its needs seem to be met (water, cool nights, light, but one thing is lacking and that is the darkness it seems to require. I will try covering it and see if that stimulates flowering. There is always next year, but the cactus grows and looks beautiful, nonetheless, and I will keep hope. 

Cold Mountain


The mornings have been in the low 20s, the days in the high 30s. Days of the "dreaded" inversion are on the doorstep. Soon, this will become the disappearing mountain, as the clear air is eaten up with the smog and fog. Until that happens I am enjoying the sun, even through the filter of inversion, it still warms the skin and feels good on my face. I'm absorbing vitamin D as much as possible! 

Thank you the comments and links about the amaryllis and cactus. After reading through all the information I've come to the conclusion the problem with the cactus is light. I will start covering it at 9:00pm to give it total darkness until morning. The place it sits is cool enough through the night and light enough during the day, but lights are always on around it. We'll see if that works! Thank you for your help!!

Waiting, Waiting, Waiting

I bought an expensive bulb to replace the sad and sagging amaryllis that flopped. One of our local nurseries specializes in all things beautiful and this bulb came highly recommended. I have been waiting and waiting. 


Sadly, I am about to give up. Do I give up? There is no cost for staying vigilant for a couple more weeks, but I have been watching and waiting for this and the two amaryllis below to do show some sign of life since Thanksgiving. There is so much hope in both pots. 


 Can you see the tiny bit of green coming up on the right? I thought it was a bud, but it's turned out to be just leaves (again). This may not be the year of pretty red blossoms in the Smith house. Oh well, there's always next year. 


And then, there is the Christmas cactus, which I bought because of Bonny's beautiful specimen. I had hopes it would rebloom this year as I have kept it alive--which is a feat.  Even though it looks good, it shows no sign of blossoming, only a few new leaves. I am not the best at plant care. In fact, I go beyond benign neglect, sometimes forgetting about them altogether.  It's no wonder my expectations are not met. It may be too late to do much, but this week  have tended them, kept a check on their water needs, and have even considered picking up some plant food for the cacti(?).  Oh well, there's always next year. 

Tis Wednesday and I am Unraveled


Unexpectedly, my sweater growth! I am nearing the end of the body, about 5" more, then I'll put the body on waste yarn and knit the sleeves. Checking the fit and length will be more accurately figured if all pieces are as they should be. Monogamy has paid off and I expect to stick with this sweater (Brickyard) until it's finished. I am so very excited to be knitting a sweater and telling you about it, as well!

Also, I readeth. The book group I belong to, Roz Reads, has posted books for the first few months of 2018. I've read them all, but will reread, as I want to be ready for a discussion of each. In the meantime, I am reading my own choices, the first being Eva Trout by Elizabeth Bowen.  I read To the North a few months ago and just loved it. Eva Trout has been a little more difficult to get into, but about 4 chapters in (they're short) and I'm hooked. In my ear I have The God of Small Things, which is a reread, but since I read it in 2005, or so, I hardly remember a thing.

Two books the group discussed the last two weeks were, Another Brooklyn by Jacqueline Woodson and Hunger by Roxanne Gay. Hunger was an add-on group, as Roz thought it an important book. We all agreed and discussed it in depth for 2 hours. Both books come highly recommend by our whole group. I also read We Were Eight Years in Power by Ta-Nehisi Coates. You can read his essays in The Atlantic, but his commentary about each essay is well worth the time. All three authors are award winners and all three authors will make you think outside of your own world perspective. 

Two books I read for fun were Bonfire by Krysten Ritter (of Jessica Jones fame) and The Golden Compass by Phillip Pullman. Bonfire was okay, if you like whodunits, but The Golden Compass was marvelous. I will continue on with the series as I loved Lyra. 

Today I'm going to run by the library and pick up a copy of Her Body and Other Parties by Carmen Maria Machado. I've heard good things about the story and I'll let you know how it goes. 

I'm Unraveling along with Kat today. 

Deep Breathing


As I opened my computer this morning I found there were no blog posts in "draft" form and, even worse, few pictures of the weekend on my camera. So, I went out in  my nightgown to snap a picture of Happy Buddha in his fresh snow coat. He is not fazed.  

The weekend was quiet, except for the mini snow storm, which IS news, but I am saddened by the very real news  that ____ will be here to shrink Bears Ears National Monument, created only a year ago, and Grand Staircase Escalante which was created more than a decade ago. Every day feels more a horror story. I am fazed, but I think of Happy Buddha and work to find balance. 

Good-bye November!

38752556301_7f823547bc_o-2There are a couple of things I learned (relearned) from posting every day of November. I CAN find things to blog, but it takes a lot of time to write a post, especially when you have a detailed story to tell.  And, one more thing I learned was I like being here in Blogland and I like the connection of the community. There will be no more daily posts, but I will not abandon my place. I started blogging in March 0f 2004, which seems ages ago, and truly, it WAS ages ago. Talk about a journey, I'm so happy to be here. Thank you so much, friends. 

Hello December!!

November 30 - The End

Believe me, I could go on and on about my embroidery journey, as 30 years of study has filled this house with pictures, books, study guides, and books of notes and patterns. There are framed pieces on my walls, in my closets, on my families walls, and sitting on shelves. The variety of technique and design are limitless. This week of walking down memory lane has been interesting. I feel  like I have relived the life of a person I no longer know and found a life I hadn't seen in a dozen years. One thing is sure, I enjoyed sharing with you some of my best work, but I wonder how I am the one who created the amazing pieces. I certainly was another person, with a different motivation and my hands were far more capable than they are today. 


So, let me continue this last day of NaBloPoMo with my last, but perhaps my favorite phase of this embroiderers journey. In the late 1990s I became acquainted with the term "schoolgirl sampler". We all know what a sampler is, that piece of linen that may have the alphabet or a phrase like "Home Sweet Home", but finding out that museums had samplers as old as the early 1700s, and that women during Queen Elizabeth's time did exquisite embroideries, that this, the stitches of women, as our history. Women of means were taught to be good wives, to be literate, and to be poise, by way of samplers. This article from the MET site gives a brief history of American Needlework.

As my interest in Japanese Embroiery started to wan (late 1990s), the needlework shops were talking about the world of girlhood needlework. Not only were the shops filled with beautiful samplers, but more importantly, they were bringing in excellent instructor/designers, hand-dyed linens and threads, new silks and all sorts of little treasures to embroiderer. Plus, there were conventions and gatherings, and guilds, a whole accomplished community of people teaching even more people, like me, who wanted not only to stitch the treasures, but to learn about the lives of anonymous girls and women of the last 400 years.  

Let me tell you a bit about the two pictures above. The first is called The Strawberry Bag. It was designed by a local artist, Carolyn Webb. She saw a picture of a bag first created during Elizabeth the First reign and decided to create someone similar to teach. Strawberry motifs were used often in that time period, a symbol of purity, and youth. The bag is stitched in the manner of a sampler with rows of different patterns and stitches. Kept inside are a Jacob's ladder needlebook, a strawberry pinkeep, and a three demential strawberry scissor fob. Carolyn made a clay mini-strawberry for each one of us to put on the string of our bags.

The Swan Lake Bag is from a class I took in Phoenix, when I traveled with 4 friends to take the workshop from Merry Cox, the designer. We stitched the designs on our bags before the class. Two sides and a bottom fully stitched, along with each of the "smalls" that are kept inside. There is a ruler holder, a button bag (which holds the thimble and a chunk of beeswax, plus a scissor with fob. The names of each friend are stitched on the bag, along with the place and date we were there. Many memories are stitched into this project, as in all my needlework. 


How I fit so many classes, stitched the number of hours, and completed as many pieces as I did, I'll never know. I am sharing only a few of my favorites, but I have many more treasures. I traveled the country to take classes on samplers and "smalls" the little etuis or needle cases. 


This particular piece is one of my favorite as it was stitched at the end of 1999 to commemorate the year 2000, which was the year I turned 50, and the year Smith and I would have been married for 20 years. Plus, you know, it was the turn of the century. A big WOW of a year in my life. The needlebook, 2"x3", with a linen fabric count of 34 stitches to the inch.


Inside is a pincushion (with pins), linen pages to hold needles, and a tiny pair of scissors with a tassel fob, which is held in place with a ribbon and snap. Each one of the etuis are created so a needleworker has all she needs in one neat little compartment that is always handy and at the ready. This piece is smaller than a phone and would fit into any pocket. 


The etui is closed with an antique button and a buttonhole stitch loop. The phrase used "Adorn thy life with love and goodness" is typical of what would be found on a girlhood sampler, as are all the motifs and stitches.

Thank you for indulging me this journey down memory lane, this step back in time. I am humbly in awe of myself. Did I really stitch all of that? Can this journey really be mine? I know I am a different person because of needlework, because of the people I met. Learning at the feet of so many masters and senseis has been a pleasure and an honor, and while it is no longer something I want to do, or can do, I know it is where I have been and I am better for this journey as an embroiderer. 

November 29 - Towards Perfection


I met Shay Pendray when she came to SLC to teach a class in the late 1980s. She was a great teacher, a teacher who was the best of the best. When a Japanese master came to America she had taken his classes and she loved JE so much that she worked to learn the art and his way of teaching. It took a lot of convincing, but she was able to go to Japan and study for several years, learning from the master, and then, with his permission, bring Japanese Embroidery to America. 

In the picture above, Shay is on the right in bright pink. I spent 10 years of study with the women pictured and we became a formidable class. My dear friend Evelyn is in black standing next to Shay and we still meet monthly for  sushi dinner. Evelyn still studies Japanese Embroidery, but I gave it up in 2002. But, after my first class was in 1991, I was hooked. 


The study of JE comes in Phases. When I began my lessons there were 5 intensive phases designed to teach every aspect of  Japanese technique. One had to be dedicated to learning this amazing art and art it certainly is. All our supplies came from Japan, the obi silk for our ground fabric, the flat, suga silk we used to make our own threads, and the delicate metals we used to embellish our designs. The above design is Phase I, in which I learned to twist my own silk into different weights of thread,  to stitch chrysanthemums petals, cherry blossom petals, and stitch binding cords, all very important motifs in JE. Each phase would take close to the full year we were allotted to finish our piece. 


This is Phase II, a design with many more techniques, more motifs, and more hours needed to complete. In each phase you build upon the lessons of the previous phase and add multiple techniques to your repertoire. We made all the twisted threads, in varying weights needed to stitch the motifs. Some of the techniques I remember were "shippo" (design in the blue cloud), fuzzy effect (white cherry blossoms), shibori (white and red pin tree). 



Because of the varied techniques we learned in the is phase it took almost the full year for me to complete this piece. Each section took hours and hours, maybe 800-1000 hours in all. I stitched nearly every day and dedicated myself to studying books and guides. The only true way was to learn was from the teacher and the only teacher at the time was Shay. We had class over 8 days once a year. Eventually, we decided to add a second lesson, but that meant travel expenses twice a year and even more dedication to the art, and that's what took me out.

I took Phase III, but it was just too much work, took too many hours out of my day. I stalled, but went back the next year because my end goal all along had been Phase IV. I LOVED this design. I wanted to play with color and create my own pansy piece. 


And, after 4 years of study, I did. I may have had a smile on my face with every stitch I took during this beautiful journey. The pansies are stitched with perfectly laid flat silk which creates shine. Without the shine of the silk this piece is nothing. Light changes the color, depending on direction and the laid stitches. That play of light is what brings the pansies to life.


Only one color of orange silk is used in the blue/orange pansy, but the color changes with the direction of stitch. You can also see the change in the pink pansy and the yellow one below. All the leaves were stitched with twisted thread in contrast to the sheen pansies. 


The pansy Phase was my favorite of all the Japanese Embroidery I studied. I started other pieces, and stitched for hours on many designs, even took Phase V, but I gave up on it almost immediately. I had my win, the one thing that had been my drive. The Pansies were mine. Another reason was the expense of learning this art became more than I could bear. I had spent a considerable percent of discretionary income on this journey, one I will never regret, but I knew it was time to change in direction. Shay's motto was we were "Stitching Towards Perfection". Shay, and Japanese Embroidery, taught me so much about life, about the journey, about the process of living. It isn't patience you learn when following a pursuit of this nature, you have that in spades, but it takes curiosity, joy in creation, and dedication.