Tuesday, January 29, 2013

After the Rain

The pine thicket.

White-tailed deer


Lichen garden

Loyal, faithful friend.
Such a lovely walk this morning, after the rain.  The rain brings out the best in everything.  Colors and scents are deeper and more intense.  I couldn't resist a visit to the pine thicket.  The fragrance of a pine thicket after the rain is indescribable.  I wish they would make a perfume that smells like it.  I would never wear anything else.  It is sweet and earthy and fresh and well....just wonderful!  I can only imagine how it must smell to the dogs.  Of course, they probably prefer the scent of the rabbits who live up here to the damp earth and pine trees.  Shep has gone off to follow the scent of a cottontail rabbit, but dear, sweet, faithful Smokey stays close by my side.  He sits down and waits patiently for me to snap photos, and only moves on when I am ready.  He takes his job so seriously.  Bless his soul.  God bless Smokey.  I love you, boy.

Saturday, January 26, 2013

The Secret Garden

Do you remember falling in love with certain books when you were a child?  For me, there were many - Black Beauty, Anne of Green Gables,  Comanche, and just about all of the Little Golden Books series.  But, perhaps my most favorite book of all was The Secret Garden.  I first discovered it when I was in about the 4th grade or so.  I remember checking it out from our school library over and over again.  For me, it was a magical book.  I think it was one of the first books I read where I remember really feeling like I was there.   I could pick up that book and escape into a beautiful, magical garden.  I often pretended that I was Mary.  After all, I had thin, straggly, blonde hair and I often felt lonely and unloved.  I, too, found solace in nature.  Still do.  This book struck a deep chord in me as a young adolescent, and it still does today.  I read it again in the autumn of last year, and I knew that I wanted to create something to honor my nearly life long love of this wonderful story.  I began poking around on the internet and found this wonderful version of the story illustrated by Inga Moore.

As you can see, her illustrations are simply stunning.  So, the plan is to create a series of embroideries inspired by this beautiful version of one of my all time favorite books.  I know that I won't be able to "duplicate" the detail and richness of Inga Moore's illustrations, but they will serve as my guide and inspiration.  I have already begun the first one.

I decided to start with the hidden gate that leads to the secret garden.  It was always a very magical part of the story for me, and seemed a logical place to begin.  I did lots of research on garden gates, and settled on this design.

Overall, I'm satisfied with how it's looking so far.  I intend for this to be a very long term project.  I want to make a series of embroideries depicting different elements from the book that have the most personal meaning for me, and that I feel I can comfortably execute given my skill level.

I fully expect to be working on this series for a very long time.  I often find myself floundering around in between projects wondering what to do and where to go next.  This project will be sort of an anchor for me.  Something I can always go back to when I need something to stitch.  Unlike all my other projects, I will not be in any hurry to complete this one.  It will be an ongoing project sort of always running in the background.  I absolutely hate that lost feeling I get when a project is completed, and I have no idea what I'm going to do next.  Hopefully, with this project, I won't have that feeling for a long, long, long time!

Well, the sun is up now, and the woods are calling, so I'm off to strap on my hiking shoes and take a long walk.  With all the hours of stitching I have ahead of me, I need to get plenty of exercise to balance out all the hours of sitting!

Happy weekend everyone :)

Saturday, January 19, 2013

Signs of Spring

Spring comes early in the Deep South.

Flowering quince, one of our earliest bloomers

Dianthus with frost
Frost laden moss
Moss flowering (?)
Rather, it comes in fits and starts.  The first of the week the temperatures were in the '70's.  On Thursday we had sleet and snow.  That's just how it is here.  We can have 3 seasons in one day's time. Winter is a very brief visitor, if it ever really comes at all.  By mid-February we will be full on springtime.  For those of my friends who are still snowbound, I thought you might enjoy a peek at what's to come your way!  And I am trying to embrace whatever season it happens to be today :)

Happy weekend!

Wednesday, January 16, 2013

Upcycling : How to Make Fingerless Mittens From a Felted Sweater

I've been having great luck at the thrift store here lately.  Last week I found a 100% cashmere sweater that some poor soul had either tried to launder or had accidentally laundered.  It was already partially felted, and since it was only $3.00,  I decided to get it.  I already had plans for it before I even got it home!  I decided to make myself a pair of fingerless mittens for when I'm stitching or surfing the net and my hands get cold.  So when I got home, I tossed it into the washer and washed it in hot water and then dried it in a hot dryer to felt it even further, and then I got busy making myself some mittens.  Here's how I did it.

First, I tried it on for size by sticking my arm in and measuring about how long I wanted them to be.  For me, this was about 8 inches.  Next, I marked where I wanted the thumb opening.  I cut the hole at the point where my thumb knuckle bone sticks out, and it was perfect;  but this is largely determined by how much of your fingers you wish to cover.

I ended up turning them wrong side out because the outside got all nappy looking during the felting process.  The inside remained nice and smooth and looked so much nicer, but now I had to deal with a seam.  I decided to dress it up with a little blanket stitch.  I also finished the cut edges and the cuff with blanket stitches as well.

Then I dressed it up with a sweet little flowery heart of lazy daisy stitches.

So there we have it!  A pair of super soft, warm and cozy cashmere mittens made from a recycled felted sweater.  I would have modeled them for you, but it's awfully hard to take a picture of your own hands!  If you discover you have accidentally tossed your wool or cashmere sweater into the washer and dryer, why not recycle them?  I think I even have enough left over sweater to make myself a cozy hat and maybe even some ear warmers or a headband.  Then I'll have a matching set!

Happy stitching! (and recycling) :)

Sunday, January 13, 2013

Candlelight and Calm

Do you ever feel a little bit like you've lost your way?  I do.  Sometimes.  Or rather, I feel like I'm not quite sure where to go next.  I have lots of creative ideas swirling around in my head, but can't seem to decide which one to go with.  Like the needle on my creative compass is spinning around and can't find true north.

It's an unsettling feeling - a sort of anxiety that sets in.  I want to be busy creating, but I just can't seem to decide what to create.  When this happens to me, I sometimes find it helpful to write in my journal.  It helps me to pin my thoughts down so that I can sort them out.  I find it particularly helpful to journal in a very calm, quiet atmosphere.  My favorite little ritual is to set out some pretty candles surrounded by my little treasures that inspire me.  The treasures I gather on my walks in the forest.  And my wise little owl whose wisdom I hope will point me in the right direction.  I can honestly say it always helps.  Even if I don't come away with a specific solution to what's bothering me, it is still comforting to lay it all out on paper.  Many times, I do find the answers I'm seeking from these little conversations with myself.

Does this ever happen to you?  And if it does, how do you sort things out?  I would really love to hear your thoughts and to find out if I'm the only person who frequently finds themselves searching for the next path to take.  And if you pray, would you mind saying a little prayer for me?  The future is very uncertain for me right now, and I'm having a hard time being brave today.  Thank you :)

Saturday, January 12, 2013

The Fortune Teller's Cup

I wanted to share with you the treasure I had the "good fortune" (teehee) to find at the antique mall yesterday.  I had done some shopping there before Christmas and had already bought myself a little present which I told you about here.  On that visit, I saw this wonderful fortune teller's teacup and saucer and wanted it, but I told myself I just couldn't afford it.  Well, I have been thinking of it ever since, and yesterday I decided to pop in just to see if it was still there and it was!  Yay!!

Apparently, tasseomancy, a divination or fortune-telling method that interprets the patterns left in the sediment at the bottom of the cup, was once a very popular pastime.  You can still buy books on the subject.  I don't think I will be trying to tell the future at the bottom of every cup, but I admit it will be tempting!  For now though, I think I will just be enjoying its quirky prettiness.  As a matter of fact,  I think it's about time for a cuppa!  Won't you join me?

Thursday, January 3, 2013

Winter Woods

Silvery sentinels :: silver and gold :: this year's brush pile :: buckeye bush :: ghostly dogwood

Oh, how I love winter!!!  The silver-clad tree limbs.  The soft, golden whispers of the tall brush sedge in the meadow.  Without the protection of the leaved trees, the grasses are at the mercy of the winter wind, and oh how beautiful it is!  Golden and swaying to and fro in great waves and shudders of movement.  It's like watching a very secret, sacred dance.  I can completely understand why the Native Americans who used to live here believed in a wind spirit.  I think I believe in it too!  The bare trees are so delicate and fragile-looking.  But, it occurs to me, that it is perhaps now when they are their strongest.  Turning inward.  Drawing strength from within.  Maybe that's why I love winter so much.  The quiet.  The stillness.  The time for reflection and looking inward.

The last photo is of one of my favorite winter time trees - the dogwood.  The bare branches remind me of deer antlers, and I often use them in holiday decorating.  They look beautiful tucked in between evergreen boughs.  I took this picture at dusk.  It was too dark, and I had to use the flash, but I love how it looks.

For my friend Margaret.