Archive for January, 2008

Well I finally found a pattern for a dog sweater I really like.  In fact I found several in a book I just got called Dogs in Knits.  There are just a couple of basic patterns in this book, but they’re done in really cute versions.  There’s even a party dress that won’t work on my large dog, but is adorable on the West Highland White Terrier model in the book.  ‘Sounds tacky, I know, but it really is cute.

I’ve decided on the Icelandic Beauty sweater for Mishka.  Having spent two years in Iceland this one appealed to me.  While it doesn’t use Icelandic wool it uses a Brown Sheep Lamb’s Pride worsted wool that looks a lot like it. 

The pattern begins with twisted ribbing at the neck that will be turned under and stitched down, for sort of a turtleneck effect.


It’s been a long time since I’ve done fair isle type knitting so I’m having a little trouble getting the tension right.  The brown pattern is a little tight, but hopefully it will be okay.

I had a hard time deciding on this pattern, because there is a peruvian style sweater in great bright colors and a Navajo blanket style in deep red, too, that I like a lot. 

This one, though I think will be very nice on Mishka.  I’ll likely make one or two of the others, though, because they look so fun.  However, I don’t know how many sweaters one dog really needs.

We got a camper top for the truck and have started putting Mishka in the back since she tries to chase cars in the cab and drives us nuts, and since it’s cold back there, she really needs a sweater, besides the cold walks we take her on.

I know, I’m trying to justify making a sweater for a dog.  ‘Didn’t think I would ever do that, but hey, Mishka’s an English Pointer and it’s not this cold in England, right?  


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This morning I put the finishing stitches on my TIF for January.  I worked quite a lot on it yesterday to get it done so I will have a few days before getting the February challenge parameters.

I used an uneven blanket stitch and separated strands of Caron Watercolours number 060 Slate to finish the border.  It really complements the backing/border fabric well and picks up the greens and violets in the overall design while adding some slate gray that actually works quite well with the rest of the palette.DSCN1286   Next I added some Kreinik Metallic Balger Braided Ribbon in a bright yellow-green (don’t know the color number), tacking it down with beads.  I placed it just as it came off the roll with a nice twist that suited my design plan perfectly, except that I took it through the center instead of off to the sides as originally planned .  I  had originally planned to use bright pink ribbon here, but found I had this green and liked it better.DSCN1287


At that point, I should have been finished, according to my design plan, but I decided the piece was just too flat.  It needed more dimension and dynamic, so I played around with the corners and decided to fold them in and tack them down, accomplishing two things:  more dimension and movement as well as another little peek at that gorgeous backing fabric, that unfortunately is mostly hidden.DSCN1288


I tacked the corners down with french knots using the Watercolour thread.

It still didn’t seem finished, though, so I took a piece of Timtex, added on some color with lots of water and Lumiere paints applied with a sponge, let it dry and made a backing, to which I tacked the quilted embroidery piece.  Now it’s finished except for a signature.DSCN1290

And I do believe I’m going to have it framed in a shadow box with glass to protect it from dust, bugs, etc. and to keep the Kreinik swirls from drooping.

Here’s my description and reflection on the concept and explanation of the symbolism I used in designing this piece:

“Who do you look up to and admire?  Why?  What is it you admire about them?” –I had to think about this for a while because no one come immediately to mind. 

I settled finally on either Pauli Murray or Alicia de Garcia, then decided to do both, because they share many of the traits I desire.  I gelled their constellation of admirable qualities into these four:

     Risk-Taker     Faith-Holder     Peace-Maker     Vision-Seer

As I’ve been working on the piece and reflecting on these two women’s lives, one more has come to mind:


I had originally planned to embroider these words on the piece, but decided that wouldn’t work well with the design.  I may still paint them on the background piece, but most likely will write them on the back once it’s framed.

Pauli Murray died on July 1, 1985.  How I would have liked to have met her!  I picked up her autobiography from the library in 1988, along with those of several other amazing women, when I was struggling with the question of how to find and make meaning in my life.

Pauli Murray was a “Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest, and Poet.”  She led a fascinating, risky life, doing things unheard of for a woman of her time and race.  She also became an elected official in Baltimore, so she was a politician as well. 

When I picked up her book, I didn’t even notice the word “priest.”  I read the entire book with great interest and admiration for her, but when in the very last chapter she writes about her ordination, I heard the first words of my own call to something totally unexpected.  It was a call I initially rejected and literally ran away from.  But I continued to remember that Murray was not ordained until she was 60 years old, and it was an unexpected calling for her as well.

I met Alicia Emelina Parmeno de Garcia in 1996 in El Salvador.  I traveled there with a group of pastors and seminary students on a cross-cultural immersion study trip focusing on “Spirituality and the Suffering of God.” 

Alicia was the leader of the COMADRES–Mothers of the Disappeared–who during the long civil war in El Salvador demanded, at great personal risk, an accounting for their loved ones (mostly husbands, sons, and brothers) who had been “disappeared” through the terrorism of death squads backed by the government. 

These women confronted power with truth and went into the city square of San Salvador by the thousands and shouted out the names of the disappeared.  They were, as Alicia said, “like biting ants.”

Although the war was ended when we traveled to El Salvador, the COMADRES were still demanding an accounting.  In addition they were spreading their activism to “teaching for peace,” beginning in the home, teaching a new way at looking at the roles of each family member.

I did not intend this piece to come out in the shape of a cross, but it is fitting that it did, since both of these women are persons of deeply held and actively lived out Christian faith.

The “zigzags’ in the mandala represent the great highs and deep lows each of these women have experienced–the mountains and valleys of their journeys.  The flower petals in the center represent the calm center, faith, and sense of conviction out of which each lives.  Although that center is frequently challenged, it remains firm and calm.  The beads in the central square symbolize how women of faith and conviction are linked together.  The bright green, unfettered ribbons flowing from mountain peaks to calm center are the leaps of faith–the risks each has taken–and the vision to see a new future even in the midst of darkness.

Although not in the original design, the folded over edges held in place with french knots represent hope for the future–seeds planted through the courage, foresight, and dedication of these two amazing women.

(Pauli Murray’s Autobiography was originally published under the title:  Song in a Weary Throat: An American Pilgrimage.  The revised title is Pauli Murray:  The Autobiography of a Black Activist, Feminist, Lawyer, Priest, and Poet.

As I was finishing up this piece I read these words in Christina Baldwin’s Life’s Companion:  Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest:

Whoever we admire mirrors what we want to learn.  We test our readiness against the standards of behavior we see in the role models we choose.  Could we be as courageous?  Could we take such a clear stand?  could we make this or that sacrifice?  How would we handle such success? such failure? such tragedy?

As a result of choosing and watching our models, and listening to our heart’s voice, we can teach ourselves to behave as we desire.  By choosing every day, even in small ways, to do what we know is right–acts that always require some level of risk–we develop those qualities of greatness we admire, and we become role models ourselves.


P.S.  Jacqui took me up on my Inner Critical/Inner Creative Voices challenge and did not one, but two interpretations of each.  Take a look at them on her January 26 post on her website, and scroll down to my January 24 post to find out more about this challenge.

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Just a quick posting of where I am on my Take If Further challenge piece for January.  With five more days left I’ve quilted the embroidered piece and wrapped the beautiful backing fabric around to the front for a border.  I’ll stitch it down with an uneven blanket stitch using this great Caron Watercolour variegated thread–color “slate”.  When separated it’s about the consistency of perle cotton.  Then there’s a little more embroidery and  some finishing touches to give it some zing.


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A couple of days ago Jacqui and Tricia commented on my “Trust the Process” post and they got me thinking more about how we get stopped in our creative processes, partially because we don’t trust the process, but also because we start listening to the inner critical voices that tell us we’re not doing it right, or it’s not good enough, or “what were we thinking when we started this?”

I’ve mentioned before my colleague Karla Kincannon’s book, Creativity and Divine Surprise, and while I was pedaling away on my stationary bike this morning I remembered an exercise she offers in the book about picturing our inner critic.

I decided to play with that a little, and although I didn’t follow her instructions exactly (yeah! I didn’t follow the instructions–you’ll see what I mean in a minute), I did two quick sketches:  First of my inner critical voice; Second of my inner creative voice.  Karla suggests just drawing your inner critic and then gives some ideas for constructive dialoguing with that voice. 

I chose instead to draw both and I didn’t do the dialoguing yet, although I may.  I spent no more than thirty minutes (although I had done a tiny bit of thinking about it on the bicycle) and I just let the pencil free flow–like free or speed writing, only free drawing instead.  Now, you need to know that drawing is one of my weakest points, really.   I do color and fabric and fiber, so I was actually kind of amazed that my drawings were something recognizable.DSCN1279

This first one, My Inner Critical Voice, actually looks somewhat like me:  Pearls, calm, conservative colors, neat–impeccable actually– hair.  I made the eyes small and close together to indicate a narrowed vision with regard to creativity.  The bangs on the hair are short, even though I wear mine long, because some people are still rude enough to tell me to push my bangs out of my eyes, at my age!  Imagine.  I like them long, thank you.

Anyway, if you click on the picture you can see some of the words that come from this voice:

“Stay inside the lines!”, “Be Perfect!”, “Follow Directions!”, “Sit Still!”, “You Can’t Do Anything Right!”, “That’s not the way you’re supposed to do it!”, and the one women always get, explicitly or implied: “Meet (AND EXCEED) others’ expectations!”.

Whew! So there’s the critical voice.  It’s good to get that one out.  Karla says hers looks like a gremlin.

Now, here’s My Inner Creative Voice:DSCN1280

Big difference, huh?  Remember, I didn’t spend a lot of time on these, I just let the pencil flow and then colored them very quickly with some colored pencils.  I did sketch in pencil first and then go over, again quickly and not exactly, with black pen, but nothing formal here.

This one has WILD HAIR which I love, because I have this problem of having to have my hair perfect all the time.  I’m working on it.

She has bright WIDE eyes, a great big smile, and she is definitely not sitting still!.  Short skirt, bright colors (would be brighter, but colored pencils don’t do bright very well), and a purple cow. 

A purple cow you ask?  When I was starting school I had to take a special test because my birthday is almost at the end of the year.  I don’t remember anything about the test except that I was told to color a cow purple.  I’m pretty sure it was to see if I could follow directions, which I have always been pretty good at.  But I like to think it was also to show me even at an early age that not everything has to be the way everyone expects it to be. 

Oh!  And the bangs are long and in her eyes!  The words here are:  “Dream!”, “Get Messy!”, “Risk”, “Play!”, “Dance!” “Color”, and most importantly, “Make Mistakes!”

My husband just walked in and asked me what I was doing and I showed him.  He cracked up laughing and then said, “I don’t think I could do that.”  I said, “Yes you can,” and challenged him to do it and I would post it. 

I don’t think he will, but here’s my challenge:








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… creating is a skill that can be learned and developed.  Like any skill, you learn by practice and hands-on experience.  You can learn to create by creating.               —Robert Fritz, The Path of Least Resistance

On January 21 Sharon gave us a link to an interesting site on antique samplers on her In a Minute Ago blog.  For some reason I haven’t yet been able to get registered onto that site, but in the meantime I asked Sharon if she had any other good sites to recommend.  Wow!  She filled her entire blog yesterday with a whole bunch of wonderful sites.  I’m still working my way through them.

I thought it might be fun to post a picture of my one and only sampler.  I made this sampler while taking a six-week sampler designing class at Shepherd’s Bush in Ogden, UT in 1987.  I got so excited that I did almost nothing else and completed my sampler between January and April.

Later that year Jo Packham from The Vanessa-Ann Collection was talking to me about some of my quilt designs when she saw my sampler and asked if they could publish it.  Much to my surprise, they purchased the design, had it professionally photographed, graphed and published in Vanessa-Ann’s Holidays In Cross-Stitch 1991.

It was stitched on raw Dublin linen and is 13 1/4″ x 23″.  It truly was a learning piece for me, as samplers at one time were, because many of the stitches were new to me, and I learned, and created, as I stitched.  I followed another tradition in sampler-making and wrote a poem that is included on the sampler:

I stitch with thread the Winter long

To form the flowers of Summer’s Song.

My hands with chosen stitches bring

To Winter’s night a breath of Spring. DSCN1271  

It’s kind of hard to see on the photo, so I’m including some close-ups that may give a better idea of the stitches. DSCN1272




















I loved doing this sampler, but haven’t made time to do another one.  I’m actually thinking about taking Sharon’s monthly themes for her Take It Further Challenge this year and making a sampler with them, beyond my monthly pieces.  It could be interesting since there’s no way of knowing what she’ll throw at us next.  Hmmm…What size fabric to start with?….Where to begin–in the middle, at the top?….Band sampler or spot or free-form?…. How to compose a poem, when you don’t know what’s coming?

This sounds like fun, sort of like an exercise I sometimes use with youth in my Confirmation classes to compose a class psalm.  I start with a line, give it to one person, that person writes a line, folds over my line, the next person adds a line, folds down the previous one, and so on and so on….  Could this work for a sampler?

Lots of ideas here standing on the shoulders of the millions of women (and men) who have composed stitch samplers across the centuries and continents.  Thanks, Sharon, for reminding me of how much I love samplers.

Oh, you know what?  I just remembered that I have done another sampler.  It’s in my long unfinished objects stash.  It’s a kit I purchased on a trip to Scotland in 1990 and have never finished because I don’t like doing the holbein stitch near the top. DSCN1277












That must have been my pink and green decade.  Time to finish this piece!

I’m also now remembering some needlepoint samplers done in the ’70’s that I don’t even know what happened to….  See what happens when you do so much of this stuff?

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Trust the Process

Thomas Merton was known for his profound spirituality and writing.  These words resonated with me today as I came across them in my reading (I don’t know which of Merton’s works they are quoted from):

There is in us an instinct for newness, for renewal, for a liberation of creative power.  We seek to awaken in ourselves a force which really changes our lives from within.  And yet the same instinct tells us that this change is a recovery of that which is deepest, most original, most personal in ourselves.  To be born again is not to become somebody else but to become ourselves.                 –Thomas Merton 

I think this speaks both to the process of becoming more spiritually aware and to the process of awakening or re-awakening our native creativity.

Sometimes we can develop these processes through time away, alone, and in solitude and silence.  Other times we need the guidance, the advice, the companionship, and the challenge of others.

The front and back of my Claret Perfect Sweater made it onto the new blocking board yesterday.  There wasn’t quite room for the sleeves, so they’ll get blocked while I’m putting the front and back together and knitting the rolled neckline.  DSCN1267

I realized as I was doing this that I have a lot of questions about blocking that none of my knitting books answer.  Knitting is one of the subjects I DON’T have a lot of books on, so I’ve ordered The Knitting Answer Book

According to the table of contents there’s a whole section on blocking, and while it won’t arrive in time for this blocking, I’m hoping it will provide some answers for next time.   One of the reviewers I read noted that we so often learn by trial and error, mostly error, and that this book helps prevent some of that by giving us answers before we fall into error, or at least too deeply.

I’ve spent some concentrated time on my Take It Further Challenge project and am feeling better about it.  It hasn’t been turning out quite as I envisioned so I was kind of discouraged, but last night I put in the center “petals” with a leaf stitch and it began to gain more character.DSCN1268

I also took out the two experiments with two shades of blue-violet threading the backstich outline of the mandala.  I’m going to add beads on the outside, instead.

This morning I added the beaded square in the center and then spent some time playing around with stitches for the purple border inside the green zig zags.DSCN1269 

  I had trouble following an “ancient” embroidery stitch guide I have  in trying to do a couple of stitches that looked intriguing.  The one I finally was able to figure out and liked needed to be done wider than what I have room for.  So I settled on a very close herringbone stitch done with a lovely variegated Caron Impressions silk and wool thread, color 006 Amethyst.  It ranges from an almost gray lavender to a dark blue violet.

I’m trying out a couple of new threads that I’ve never used before, or at least not very much.  I am using some DMC floss and perle cotton as well.DSCN1270    

I’m finding that I really like the Splendor 12-ply silk thread made in France and distributed in the US by Rainbow Gallery.  It has a beautiful sheen and works up very nicely.  I used it on the pale taupe petals in the middle and wish I’d had some for the lavender ones as well.  However, it does provide a slight textural contrast to have those done with the cotton floss.

The beads I used were some I had in my stash with the name Blue Twilight.  I love that name.  The range of iridescent colors on them works perfectly with the rest of the color palette. 

So, although I had been somewhat discouraged I’m beginning to feel better about the piece overall.  I had almost abandoned it in favor of switching to doing a stitch sampler that would incorporate all twelve challenges.  I’m still thinking about doing that, but will keep going on this piece.

I usually don’t have this kind of problem when I’m working on a creative piece.  Normally it is more exciting and I can’t wait to finish it, but for some odd reason this one hasn’t been that way.  But it’s giving me more practice in trusting the process and my own creativity to come up with solutions to those elements I’m not quite pleased with.    

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Making Things Happen

My projects for this past weekend were to construct a blocking board and finish the knitting on my Claret Perfect Sweater.

On Saturday we went to Lowe’s and picked up two loose 2’x4′ ceiling tiles.  I wasn’t sure we’d get them out of the store, because they didn’t want to sell us individual tiles, only packages of 6, but these tiles were out loose and were probably just going to be tossed anyway.  ‘Finally found someone to authorize the sale before we lost our patience.  Ten bucks plus some change.

After a beautiful drive back from Espanola along the high road to Taos and a picnic in the snow along the way, we came home and John helped me tape the edges with bright pink duct tape.  I don’t know why we had it, but it is nicer –and more fun–than the regular silver stuff.  DSCN1263

I had planned to buy some 1″ gingham to cover them with but remembered I had 3 yards of very nice unbleached muslin that I couldn’t remember what it was purchased for so I decided to use it instead and make my own 1″ grid with a permanent marker.  A little more work, but no additional expense.DSCN1264

















So now I have two very nice blocking boards that will wick moisture for quick drying, fit together for large projects, and store under a bed.  Yeah! They might even work as a cutting board, although care will have to be taken with pinning not to catch up the muslin.  Thanks to yarn maven (September 18, 2006) for the idea and instructions.

So now it’s on to weaving in the ends and blocking the pieces of my sweater.

I ran across a great quote today in my reading in Life’s Companion: Journal Writing as a Spiritual Quest by Christina Baldwin.  It’s in the chapter on “Paying Attention” about spiritual discipline and the importance of being focused, making choices, and consciously choosing to develop a discipline connected with a higher purpose.

Until one is committed there is hesitancy, the chance to draw back, always ineffectiveness.  Concerning all acts of initiative (and creation) there is one elemental truth, the ignorance of which kills countless ideas and splendid plans: that the moment one definitely commits oneself, then Providence moves too.  All sorts of things occur to help one that would never otherwise have occurred.  A whole stream of events issues from the decision raising in one’s favour all manner of unforeseen incidents and meetings and material assistance which no man could have dreamt would come his way.                                  


(Change “man” to “woman” and “his” to “her”.)

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