Sunday, June 17, 2012

Here's a photo of my Confetti Cats project  
It has been way too long since I last posted to any of my blogs. I have kept in touch on Facebook and liked the short sweet way of connecting with stitching friends while I sorted out problems I had with the blogging process. It happens, now that my savvy technicians have prevailed, that I had an insidious virus that made it nearly impossible for me to access my blogs. Add to that the changes blogger has undergone, AND my terrible case of procrastination and you have my list of excuses.

As creative people we tend to keep a stash of reasons and excuses for not getting into the sewing room or not finishing up those most boring aspects of making a project -- just stitch on the binding and be done with it!

Since my last blog entry I have become catless. All three of my darlings died. Two of them were 20 years old and were brother and sister and died within a week of each other. We had been expecting it for several years, but our Bernie seemed to keep them young. When he died unexpectedly (heart attack on blood clot, we think), the other two began their decline. These past few months may be the longest time in my life that I have remained catless. When we lived in the middle of farm country some friend or farmer would provide a new feline for our household. Or some beautiful fur baby would simply show up at the doorstep and move in. Often family members gifted our sons with cats as birthday presents. But our geography and cat circumstances are different these days and no cat has come knocking and I don't know any farmers within a 1200 mile radius.

But, as someone who does not relish house cleaning, I find a hairless home rather inviting. I keep telling myself that as soon as I eradicate the entire house from the last of their cat hair, I will get another cat -- or two. I haven't rushed into cleaning. I may have a fear of commitment or it could just be procrastination. That fear may extend into sewing projects because I haven't even been knitting lately and haven't touched the sewing machine in far far far far far too long. Maybe I have a virus, too....

What I am doing is reading. And I'm finding books that I enjoy and draw inspiration from and books that cause me to think. Right now I have three books open at the same time -- The Historian by Elizabeth Kostova, A Heartbreaking Work of Staggering Genius by David Eggers, and Ill Fares the Land by Tony Judt. All are amazing in their own ways.

I'll admit that The Historian has been on my shelf for a good long time. I had heard from friends how good it was, but I thought I didn't want to read about blood thirsty vampires. So far it is about the hunt through history for such a creature -- Dracula -- and the writing is quite good. Perhaps what changed my mind was reading A Discovery of Witches by Deborah Harkness. Decent writing, a rather lean plot, too much tea drinking and sniffing of each other, but an interesting love story and history lesson that involved witches and vampires. It was a much improved version (in my opinion) of Twilight by Stephanie Meyer. I only managed to get through the first book of that series. Harkness is writing a trilogy and I'm looking forward to the second book. I do hope she can afford a better editor for the second book.

Friends have been extolling the virtues of Eggers' book, a memoir/fiction combination if he's to be believed. And I must admit that the writing style has drawn me in, although I can't seem to find affection for the characters. But the stream of consciousness kind of writing, the way the story flows and stops and flows and changes direction and yet works, really works, has me reading to see how this works. The storyline of an older sibling taking a much younger brother to raise after the death of both parents within weeks of each other due to cancer also keeps me reading. The honesty or apparent honesty of the voice is also inviting, but 20 year old self-indulgent young men really aren't my favorite characters, so I'm lapping up parts of this book and tolerating others. Yet I recommend it, especially to writers who want to see a book put together in a different way.

Ahhhh and then we come to Tony Judt's book that taught me, within the first few pages, the difference between  liberals and social democrats. Perhaps the one thought that has drawn me into this book was

"Something is profoundly wrong with the way we live today. ...We have made a virtue out of the pursuit of material self-interest: .... We know what things cost but have no idea what they are worth."

So for anyone who has had the same feelings that I have -- that there is something profoundly wrong with a country who worships making money rather than providing services or making a product -- you might find this book fascinating. So far it is an easy read. I like his informal style. But for me it isn't a quick read because I stop to savor and ponder and consider and weigh what he's saying.

So this is what I've been doing lately. This is what has kept me from the blog, from  the sewing machine, and from my dear fabric loving friends. I hope to do better at multi-tasking. 

Saturday, January 28, 2012

Strange Thoughts and Golden Eras

What would you carry with you
if you were homeless?
 Strange thoughts tromping through my head today.

I'm still trying to find the hook for my Subversive Stitchers: Women Armed with Needles fiction series. All suggestions are welcome. This morning Hannah came to visit me. She's evidently a new character trying out for the cast of the first novel. I admit that I find her to be a very fun person and someone I'd enjoy getting to know better. Actually Hannah wasn't alone, she brought Jake with her. They are homeless or perhaps more accurate, living on the streets. I say 'more accurate' than homeless because I think that they have made a home wherever they are.

I like that Hannah, a woman of many glares and few words, is a knitter. She uses her needles to create warm, unique and versatile gloves for Jake, items to sell in the consignment shop at the artist factory. And when attacked, turns her needle into a weapon to defend herself. She's just crazy enough that no one wants to mess with her -- at least not more than once. Instead of the Southern Grotesque, maybe Hannah and Jake would epitomize the Midwestern Grotesque? Ahhh those literary references make me feel so 'intelligent.'

Note this exquisite dress and surreal setting
from Midnight in Paris

She and Jake fit nicely into my Subversive Stitchers group and I'm so glad we became acquainted this morning. Her appearance motivated me to place a question on my facebook page. "If you were homeless, what would you carry with you?"

My first thought was that I'd be the street librarian because I couldn't leave my books behind. But some more techno savvy friends said they'd bring their Nook or Kindle. Some traveled light, some brought their SUVs or RVs, giving 'homeless' a whole new spin. But we all agreed that we would never give up our art, our crafts, our needles....

Mixed in with these strange thoughts of homelessness and new characters is the afterglow from watching the Woody Allen movie "Midnight in Paris", starring Owen Wilson. (Ever notice what a weird nose he has?) My husband who prefers action to anything artsy or cerebral fell under the films enchantment and we watched it a second time this afternoon. There's something about the dream of finding our 'golden era' or visiting our favorite artists and writers and for me and I guess many others, the Paris of the 1920s seems like a rich age of art and exploration. There's also something to the dream that life never ends, that somewhere these people live on....

The movie is done so well. And anyone who dreams of Paris will appreciate the collage of Paris views that open the movie. It is definitely a film made for Paris lovers. And for some reason one of my favorite moments is when Zelda is contemplating suicide by drowning and the modern day Gil Pender offers her a valium. It made me think about the lives that might have been saved or soothed by modern drugs.... There was something so sweet for some unexplainable reason about that scene. Anyone else fall under this movie's spell?

And if that wasn't enough -- the costumes. Present day, 1920s and the La Belle Epoque with its grand gowns and embroidered waistcoats and feathered hats. So delightful. The beaded flapper dresses, the jet beads, the headbands that are works of art all by themselves.... I admit that every time I think of the 1920s  I think of Mom who came of age in the 1920s-30s. Did she pay any more attention to what was whirling around her than we do? Each era had its own fabric art. Today of course seemed the least appealing, yet the fashions chosen for the few females in the modern setting were appealing and had their own original touches.

And people conversing across several languages. Kathy Bates as Gertrude Stein conversing in English, French and a bit of Spanish all mushed together. Makes me want to order my Rosetta French lessons right now.

This may seem like a strange blog for a stitching page, but part of the delight of the movie and my novels will always be the fabric, the fashions, the art. I also want to reference another blog entry I made here a few years back about 'crazy art.' It features some of Zelda Fitzgerald's work and I kept thinking about it every time she was on the screen.

I like the theme of golden age. Finding a time that we think would be a better time to have lived. I'm infatuated with the 20s-40s; but there are others, none of them quite so exciting as before I was born.... Sometimes it seems all too clear that I am always late, missed the heyday, the best times, the golden days. Do you have a time when you wished you lived?

Tasha Tudor in a kinder gentler era
When I was a writer for The Lima News way back when, an author came to visit the area. I was assigned to interview and write about her. She may have been my first profile.

She wrote children's books and gardening books and memoirs. She had a strong following of women who wished they lived in a time before electricity, when things were simpler, more agrarian and pastoral. The author -- have you guessed? Tasha Tudor.

In fact several families in the area substituted gas lights for electric and turned off electric service to their ranch style homes. The women wore long dresses and aprons and baked their own bread. The draw is there for that era as well.

Each era seems ideal, one must try hard to think of something one might not be thrilled about. If only Zelda had had vallium....

But it is such fun to dream.

Saturday, January 21, 2012

Of beeps and cats, slipcovers and courtesy

Oh dear God, save me from beeping things!

Have you seen that commercial on TV? I think it is about a car battery or a car, but it shows a guy on a ladder caught between beeping smoke alarms. Well, that was my night. I awoke about 1 a.m. to a kind of weak beeping noise (does that sound like the old lady in Christmas Vacation 'What's that squeaking sound?').

Could it be the door alarm?

Earlier in the evening, yesterday, a young man had come to the house after dark and knocked (rather forcefully) on our front door. I'm a rural Midwesterner by birth and my Mama raised me to answer doors, phones, and questions with dispatch and courtesy. My instincts kicked in and I arose, but it was after dark. For some perverse reason I turned on the porch light and then peeked out of the window. When I saw a stranger, I turned off the light and went back to my chair. It was rude. He could have hurt himself in the dark (although he made his way up to the door by the street light's glow). Still it bothered me. It was discourteous and I could have made him angry. Maybe he returned.... And those are the thoughts that sprang to mind when I heard the beeping sound.

It could be the door alarms. It could be the security system. It could be my husband's breathing machine telling me he was in distress. It could be the smoke detector.... At 1:15 a.m. I prowled through the house. Nope, nope, nope. Nope. None of the usual suspects. Back to bed and up again at 2:15 a.m. By 3:15 the beeping was getting stronger and seemed more like a whistle. And then I realized it was the low battery warning on an overhead lift contraption we have in our bedroom. Since my husband has ALS and since the disease will eventually make his body totally turn on him, not allowing him to move even a toe, the system will eventually be my best friend. Right now it stands guard over us from a far wall until it is needed. And as I remember this happening once before with the only solution to buy and replace the batteries, I knew it would be a long beeping night. And no my dear husband didn't awake. He slept blissfully through it all. 

I certainly didn't need the beeping sound nor the sleepless night. My pillow turned hard as a rock and I couldn't get comfortable. The blankets were too few or too many. I flipped them on and off. I rolled to the left, rolled to the right, sat up and then flopped on my stomach. I finally flipped back, giving up and staring at the dark ceiling.

Marcel and Bernie in happier times

Except while waiting for the next beep, I started redecorating the living room and came to the conclusion now that our last pet -- dear Marcel -- has died, I can have furniture with upholstery unsnagged by cat claws! Its been more than 30 years since I've lived in a cat-less house and the concept is new to me and dare I say engaging. I'll miss furry hugs, whisker tickles, and his body snuggled next to mine on the couch, but maybe a house without cat hair might be novel.

Marcel died peacefully after a stroke and several weeks (maybe months) of feeding him with a spoon and straw and cleaning up after him as he lay motionless on a towel. I carried him from room to room, and we watched movies together (I think he got quite addicted to Downton Abbey). His final moments were on our porch, soaking up the warmth of a sunbeam. His struggles are over and he looked quite peaceful and free of pain.

But back to my beeping night of redecorating thoughts. I had seen a house on an episode of Foyle's War. Doesn't everyone get their inspiration from old British movies?

It was a cheerful yellow, white trim and bright touches of color from the orange family -- burnt orange, I think. I'm thinking I would like to live in a house with those colors. It seems cheerful and soothing at the same time. Bright. Maybe kind of traditional in flavor? It would work well with my beloved Jacobean designs? So this morning I saw this wonderful little chair in this cheerful bright room and all of my genes that are looking for home are shouting at me "This is it, this is home...." (See photo above).

So, now that I have never made slipcovers or reupholstered furniture, I am contemplating jumping in with both feet. I've made pillows of course. And the back and seat of my chair and loveseat are loose pillows. But I'm not sure about the frame.... Any tips or suggestions?

Wait, wait! I hear that beeping sound again. That damn lift! No wait. There's a chorus of beeps. A harmony of chirps. Listen. Ahhhhh a good beeping sound. The coffemaker is telling me that the morning elixer is prepared.

Happy Saturday everyone and may all of your beeps be happy ones.

Monday, January 16, 2012

Winner Announced for the latest Rayna Gillman book

I'm pleased to announce that Beth Mastin of Rumney, New Hampshire has won a copy of Rayna Gillman's latest book, "Create Your Own Free-form Quilts"

When she heard about her good luck, Beth responded,  "Wow! What a great surprise!!! I've really been wanting to get this book, especially after one of my friends brought it to our last Fiber Divas meeting! Can't wait to tell them that I actually own a copy!"

Congratulations Beth. I'll be sending the book within the next few day.

Tuesday, January 10, 2012

"Quilts in the Attic" by Karen S. Musgrave --flaws and all

A beautifully made book arrived at my house today. It is a complimentary copy of Karen. S. Musgrave's "Quilts in the Attic." This collection of 30 stories of great quilt discoveries includes the story of my fish and baskets quilt.

When I first saw Karen's call for stories, I submitted mine. I've written several times about this quilt myself and sent her a copy of one of my articles. I was thrilled when she said she wanted to include it in her book. Karen is quite involved in the S.O.S. Quilts project and Alliance for American Quilts. She's been collecting people's stories for years.

The book itself is beautifully made. Smaller with quality paper, nicely bound, hardcover and quality photography. Nothing too imaginative, artsy or creative in the layout. It is solid and plain like many of the people and quilts featured in the book. Just holding it is a thrill. I don't often see books so finely constructed. It would make a beautiful gift. A quality gift. If you go by the construction of the book itself.

Sadly the content is flawed. My heart broke when I read what she'd written about my Fish and Baskets quilt. Perhaps it is only my story that is screwed up. But I suspect that there were other errors made in other stories. To hold this book with any kind of historic or truthful, factual accuracy in the recounting of these stories would also be an error.

I exchanged several emails and photos with Karen to provide her with the information she needed for my story. Yet some of the information I supplied was either misunderstood or overlooked. According to Karen I am an only child, much to my brother's surprise and our mother goes by the name Leah. She despised that name and always went by Gladys. I emphasized that time and again. And yet again. She also said Mom had three brothers, no they were step brothers and her mother was 48 not 42 when Mom was born....

It is a shame I wasn't given a galley of the final story for me to correct.

My Fish and Baskets Quilt
Karen also discounts the belief that Mom and Grandma shared. The belief that nothing was perfect but God's work. It was perhaps said tongue in cheek, but it was an often used belief that other women in the community shared. They all used it quite often as an excuse to dismiss or not correct mistakes. But hey, I guess Karen knows the conversations that went on in our household better than I do.
It is sad that such a lovely book has to be so badly flawed -- at least in the story that I'm most familiar with. I can't speak for the other stories, they may be perfectly recounted.

I'm a writer and I specialize in profiles and I know how frustrating it is for writer and subject to be misrepresented or facts reported incorrectly. I'm mourning these mistakes because I had really wanted this book to be an heirloom that I could give to my sons, to my brother, so that a part of our history would be forever written. But sadly my family would laugh this story off as a joke.

Sad for us and sad for Karen because I know she worked very hard to compile this information. I'm just sorry that she couldn't maintain the accuracy that such a lovely book deserves. There are, sadly, typos that went uncorrected. I guess this is an example of one of those 'only God makes perfect things.'

For quilt lovers who are not familiar with the facts of the stories in this book, it would make a delightful read and a lovely gift. I just can't read it with any trust in its accuracy.

NOTE: Still a few days to leave your comments on the previous blog for a chance to win a free copy of Rayna Gillman's newest book. Drawing will be held Jan. 15, 2012.