"To live in the world without becoming aware of the meaning of the world is like wandering about in a great library without touching the books.".....The Secret Teachings of All Ages

Thursday, December 26, 2013


To say I was not in the Christmas spirit this year is a mild understatement. That probably had a lot to do with the fact that I had been cabin bound for over two weeks due to the glacier of ice on the dirt road leading out of our place. My husband took the only ride that would get off the property, so I was stuck. No outings, no shopping, nadda. When it came time to put up the decorations, I was bitching and whinging about how pointless it all was, and why was I even bothering. At one point I even ended up sitting on the couch in tears, with Robert giving me that, "Hmmm, must be a hormonal moment" look.

But I battled on, put up some decorations, and hoped that the ice would clear up in time for the champagne brunch planned for Christmas day. Last year it got postponed until New Years because we still had five inches of snow on the ground, and the small cars my family drives would not make it up and over the little hill to get to our driveway. I was afraid this year was going to end up being a repeat, this time due to ice. It also occurred to me that, since the weather in December is usually dicey, and our road even dicier, maybe it would be a better idea if we did Christmas in July instead. I could pull out the holiday dishes and we could serve BBQ chicken instead of baked ham.

Mother Nature decided to give us a break, the temps rose to a balmy 45 (I was tempted to break out my shorts!), and the ice finally melted. The brunch was still a "go." And it turned out to be a lovely family get-together. Everyone contributed to the meal, we drank mimosas, and after the food, we all sat in front of the television and watched Holiday Inn with Fred Astair and Bing Crosby. This was a real breakthrough, since my family tend to be hit-and-run eaters. Show up for dinner, eat, and bail out before even the sauce on the empty plates has congealed. For them to hang around for almost three hours talking, and then watching (and some sleeping through) a movie was a real feather in my holiday cap.

Here is a photo of the table, before everyone sat down to eat. It's a bit cramped, since my table was originally designed to seat only six. With a little scooching, I can sit eight, but there were nine of us, so I ended up sitting on the end, with a table leg between my knees. Now that the holiday feasting is over, my dining room will revert back to a sewing room.

In the back corner is Inara, wearing my Spanish surcoat, made 30+ years ago. I have pulled it out of retirement and am making an under-dress to wear with it. I used to wear a shirt and long skirt with it, but the shirt fell apart, and the skirt is too tight (and is black with miles of gathers, sewn with black thread, and the thought of ripping all that out and trying to resew it gave me a headache), so I am making a lovely, off-white linen under-dress, which is what the garment would originally have been worn with anyway. That whole project is for an SCA Hogmanay feast (traditional Scottish New Year celebration) coming up January 4th.

As for the coming new year, I suspect it will be pretty much a repeat of 2013 = riding and mounted archery, sewing, beading, drawing, jewelry making, and going to various SCA and horse events. Maybe adding in some experiments with new art techniques or supplies. I have more costumes ideas in the works as well (too much time spent on Pinterest looking at costume eye-candy is to blame), to replace or supplement the old costumes we are still wearing, some of them looking pretty shabby.

So Happy New Year to those who stop by, and wishing you all the best in the coming months. 

Thursday, December 12, 2013

Icicles and a Another Drawing

Went out this morning and took some pictures of the icicles around our place. We rarely get these, even if it snows, but it's been so cold lately, that we now have quite a collection.

Here are a few of the formations hanging off the undercarriage of my husband's truck.


Here is one hanging off the eves of our house, right as you come up the steps to the front deck. I just hope no one is standing under it when it lets go! But I don't have the heart to knock it down. I want to see how much longer it will get. Right now it's at about two feet.

Then there is the ice out at the barn. This has become a real problem, as the water buckets in the stalls, and the troughs out in the pastures freeze over. Currently, three times a day and sometimes four, we are having to carry warm water out to the barn in a Sparklets bottle to fill the stall buckets. We recently had to give up on the pasture troughs. They are so packed with ice we can't use them, and have no way to get warm water out to them. And tonight "they" tell us it may get down as low as 10 degrees.

And, since it's too cold and icy to be outside much, I did another drawing, trying to keep to my promise to myself that I would draw as often as possible. For this one, I used a photo from a magazine for the pose.

And, that's it in the land of the frozen! Hope we get a thaw soon, 'cause I'm getting really tired of toting gallons of warm water out to the barn.

Tuesday, December 10, 2013


One of the things I really want to get back into is drawing. I have been concentrating on jewelry and hand sewing so much, that the drawing has been on the back burner for several years. So the other night I sat on the couch, and using a big book on tiaras as a lap board, and using some cheap printer paper, I started playing. This is what I came up with.

I'd seen a photo of a woman with the shapes of trees behind her and liked the image. As I started drawing this, I noticed that instead of the trees behind her, I had drawn the trees growing from her head, their roots tangled in her hair. Not sure what this means, as I wasn't thinking too hard about the drawing, knowing things would be pretty rough after all this time. But I like the way it turned out, and can't wait to do more playing with a pencil.

I will be making a big effort to draw at least one figure a day. May not happen, but no fewer than one a week. We'll see how things go.

Monday, December 9, 2013

Horses in Snow

Over the past few days temps have dropped and snow has fallen. Everything is pretty icy right now, but at least the sun it out. I took these photos of our two horses the first day we turned them out after a whole day of snowfall. They had a grand time chasing each other before finally calming down and getting to work pushing the snow out of the way so they could get to the grass underneath.

Miss snownose, Delight. 

Mr. Snowplow, Apollo.

Monday, December 2, 2013

Tales of Abandoned Art Journals

I love the idea of art journals. I love the art and creativity people display in their art journals. I greatly admire those who can stick with their journals year after year, and fill a wall of shelves full of artful books. I wish I could...but...I can't.

Oh, I have good intentions. I start them with enthusiasm, vowing to myself that this will be the year I actually fill a whole book. Out comes the ephemera I have collected for just such an occasion. Out come the pencils, pens, glue, stickers, stamps, clip art, words of wisdom, and whatever else I have close to hand. Everything goes gangbusters for about a month...maybe two. Rarely three. Pages get filled with all kinds of things, and I think, "Wow, here we go, it's actually going to work this time!" Then I get sidetracked, loose interest, don't think I have anything worth writing about, and think the previous artwork is total drivel that no one is going to be interested in, especially if it doesn't even interest me. The artwork gets less and less, and the writing about my day, which for the most part is pretty boring, is all that's left. Then I abandon the thing altogether. I have quite the collection of half-filled journals. The only one I did manage to finish was during a time I call The Year From Hell, but since it is so full of angst and bad memories, I have seriously considered ceremonially burning it.

About six years ago I got involved in an art journal exchange. Actually, over a period of three years the group did three exchanges. It was a disaster. People dropped out halfway through. Some artists went whole hog on pages, others decided a few stickers were enough, and the whole-hoggers felt cheated. Books weren't passed on time. Books got lost or were kept by one of participants who then dropped off the map. I was lucky and got all three of my books back, but many others were not, and it left a really bad taste in everyone's mouth, including mine. I swore I would never do another journal exchange, even if I was threatened with Sharpies shoved under my fingernails.

 You will notice that two of these journal from that long ago exchange have lots of dangly things from the spines. That was sort of my trademark with these, and as the books went around, other participants would add more, which was really fun. However, my last journal has no danglies, mine or from anyone else, because one of the participants decided that all those danglies got in the way of his "fine art" drawings, removed them, and threw them away. I was NOT happy when I found out, and that act of snobbery was the final nail in the coffin of me ever doing another exchange.

A few years back I joined the Art Journal Challenge web page. Every month a theme would be posted and you would do journal pages to illustrate that theme. Wow, how could I miss? A challenge thrown out there, lots of folks joining in to keep me motivated, and a companion site to show what we all had done. Did that work? Uh.....no. I did awesome, complicated pages for about two months, then...well, you know.

Many artists keep art journals as a form of therapy, idea reference, sketchbook, or as inspiration. Maybe all of the above. I have done them for the same reasons. I have some journals that have a few pages done one year, then the next pages may be something done a year later.  In some cases this goes on for three or four years, then stops, with only half the journal filled. A true testament to my inability to stick with it. And I hate to admit it, but when I see so many people out there doing journals, book after book after book, I have this snarky little voice in my head asking, "What are they going to do with all of those? What is their family going to do with all them? Are the day to day workings or doodles of most of us all that interesting? Really?" I suspect that is a sacrilegious question with most dedicated art journalists. You do it for yourself, they will say. And judging by what I saw on Pinterest when I did a search for Art Journals, there are a ton of people out there "doing it for themselves."

So, to prove that I really do have good intentions, even if they don't last, here are a few pages from my abandoned art journals. What I have discovered over the years, is that I do better with the smaller sized journals. The two large ones pictured are still half full of blank pages.

 The left page of the last one is a print of a collage I did years ago titled The Astronauts Courtesan. On the right is a photo of one of the exchange journals spread out so you can see the back and front. It was a pirate themed exchange, hence Capt. Jack Sparrow on the back and the schooner on the front.

These last two small journal pages are experiments in various imaginary writing types and styles, and forms of maps, all done as ideas for a book I am currently writing titled The Map. The last page on the right is based on old English strip maps. The black lines are the road, and you follow it from top to bottom, then jump to the next strip and keep going, reading it left to right.

Will I ever start another journal? Oh, probably. Maybe a small one. You know, hope always springs eternal. What I really need to do is go back and fill the blank pages of the journals I have previously abandoned. Will I ever manage to finish them?  Possibly, but...don't hold your breath.

Monday, November 25, 2013

A Few Winter Photos and a New Project

In my neck of the woods, Southern Oregon, winter has set in for sure. For the last week the temps have dropped into the mid 20s at night, and rarely get above 60 or so during the day. Daytime temps will get lower as the season progresses. The odd thing, though, is there has been very little rain. We have a seasonal creek that is usually going gangbusters by this time, and always before Thanksgiving. It's still dry.

Our house, since it is build up against a hill, and the hill is forested with pines, spruce, madrones, and oaks, is always dark, especially the back side. So when the light coming in through the big front window hits the living room just right, it really is lovely. It doesn't last much longer than an hour or so, but while it does, the room takes on a soft winter glow that I love.

I took these photos around 11:00. The wood stove was going, so the room was all cozy and warm, and Celeste was snuggled in on her favorite spot on the couch...where she spends most of the day. These are not "House and Garden" photos, folks, but I hope you can get a sense of the room's soft, warm ambiance. Outside it was about 45 degrees. Inside it was 74.

Oh, and my Hallowe'en decorations are still up...and stay up until after Thanksgiving.  The cover over the TV (I hate that big eyeball staring at me all day) is a quilt my mom made for me.

Here are a few photos of frosted leaves I took just this morning.

And now the new project—The Denim Duster Vest (the DDV?). This one will be a long, on-going "Something to work on while I am between other projects and will probably take forever" piece. It is a Nordstrom's  full-length denim dress with buttons down the entire front. My husband bought it at the Goodwill (for $4.99) to dress a dummy he was making (don't ask!) for a horse event we put on back in October. As it turned out, the dress didn't work. It was a petite size, but I tried it on anyway, to see if I could use it. It fit tight across the shoulders, but I figured if I cut the sleeves off, it would be fine. I liked the idea of making it into long vest, and since it has no other decorations, tucks, pleats, darts, etc. it's pretty much a blank canvas for me to play on.

So, here are photos of the original dress. Again, apologies for the darkness of the photos, but it was only 37 degrees outside, so there was no way I was going to take all these out on the deck, even if the light was marginally better.

Here it is after I cut off the sleeves and collar. I am going to leave the edges raw so they will frey out. The plan is to do some kind of stenciling around the bottom and go from there. I am also contemplating a way to take in the excess at the waist to make it a bit more fitted, and splitting the back and putting a gore in to give it some flare. It's a nice weight of denim, so I can pretty much do whatever I like with it. 

Eventually, when I'm all done playing with this, I may...MAY...swap out the buttons, but geezoh-peazoh, there are a zillion of those things, so I'd really have to be in the right frame of mind (crazy) to take that on.

So that's the latest. Any of you have Winter projects...or in the case of those Down Under...summer projects?

Monday, November 11, 2013

Filmore West Top—Complete

If there is one thing this project taught me, it was patience, 'cause things kinda went wonky as the work proceeded. Biggest frustration was sewing on the narrow banding that frames the black rose panel. Those long strips of knit fabric, despite being pinned to the fabric every inch(which caused another nightmare, as the thread was always getting hung up on the pins as I worked), walked, skooched, wriggled, and worm-crawled with every stitch. Then, after they were all finally locked down (I gave up trying to make them ruler-straight), the panel fabric started to pull loose and curl out from underneath the framing strips. First I tried doing a small running stitch around the inside edge of framing strips, trying to stabilise the panel fabric underneath. That helped...sorta...but didn't solve the problem. So, I added a running stitch all around the edge of the panel fabric. Again, it helped, but the problem never got totally solved. I suspect the first time I wash this, the two pieces will pull slightly apart and show the raw edges. At this point, I don't care. I decided it could just be part of plan...yeah...plan...at least, that's my story and I'm sticking to it.

 Center panel partly top-stitched, and the framing strips pinned in place.

This was also one of those projects where the original design idea got changed as I went along. Pretty much each time I tried the top on I tweaked something. The last change I made was to cut off about five inches from the bottom, rather than gather up the sides, as I had planned. That was another situation where, standing in front of a full-length mirror and playing around with the shirt while on, made me decide it looked way better shorter, than just gathered. Whack...off with the five inches.

What would I do differently? For one thing, I would iron the center panel and framing strips onto Heat and Bond to stabilise them, iron them onto the shirt, then do the top stitching. It would solve that whole curling, walking, and pulling away problem and make my life much easier for next time. Also, in looking at the stitching around the rose, which I did in free-form swirl patterns trying to match the swirls in the binding material, instead I think I would just do the running stitches to echo the outline of the rose. As it is now, you can't really see the swirl pattern. It just looks like random quilting stitches that don't make any sense. Lastly I would make the shoulders narrower, so there would be less fabric bunched up under the ties. 

Purposely, there are no beads or sequins on this top. Just the four buttons, which I found while looking for something else in my button stash, and thought they would work well with this. I wanted this top to be different in look and feel from the other altered tops I have done. Less glitz, more hardcore. For whatever reason, I think it has a vaguely military aura about it. Maybe it's the colors, and the fact that the swirl pattern looks a bit like camo? Not sure, but I'm okay with it. In fact, I like it a lot.

Here is the finished top on Inara. Under it is a plain black long-sleeved T-shirt, which is how I will wear it during the winter. With tank tops under it during the summer.

Materials list: Two mans T-shirts from the Goodwill, one rose stencil from the Goodwill, knit tie cord from an old hoodie, four buttons from my stash, button/craft thread, regular all-purpose thread.

Tuesday, November 5, 2013

Filmore West Top

I found this T-shirt with the "Filmore West " name on the back, and I assume what was a fairly Hippy-esque design on the front but was so faded I wasn't sure. My first thought was, could this T-shirt actually have survived in someones attic since the 60s-70s? Probably not, but the idea was intriguing. Anyway, when I saw it, hanging in the forlorn ranks of other cast off shirts at the Goodwill, I had a flashback to my own Hippy days—painted clothes, painted face, lots of beads, freakout dances with giant pulsing blobs projected on the walls—you know, all the fun stuff. At the time, I never made it to San Francisco or the Filmore where all the hot bands played, and by the time I graduated from High School it was being touted that the age of the Flower Child was already dead. But still, I found this silly T-shirt that brought back a lot of silly, and I'll be honest also scary, memories. For $2.00 I bought it, with no clue what I was going to do with it.

Then, not long ago, I came across another Goodwill shirt with a swirly design that I liked. It was also only about $2.99, so I bought that one. 

Add to this progression the fact that I recently caved and started a Pinterest page, with lots of boards full of ideas, and we get to this current project, which is a bit different from the things I have done so far.

Here are the two shirts I am using. First decision I made was to ignore the design on the front of the Filmore shirt and make the back of the shirt the front. I have already cut the sleeves off the Filmore shirt.

I put the Filmore shirt on Inara (my dress form) and started playing around with draping, which I had never done before. At one point I basted in tucks around the waist and put pleats across the shoulder seams, but when I tried it on, I didn't like the way the shirt hung and knew if I kept it that way, I would never wear it. So, I ripped out all the basting and tried just tying the shoulder seems to get the drape. That worked a lot better. With that idea in mind, after cutting the neckline a bit lower, I cut binding from the patterned shirt and sewed that to the neck and armholes of the Filmore shirt.  Instead of using embroidery thread to sew on the binding, I used doubled button/craft thread, which I actually liked working with better than the embroidery thread. Unfortunately, it comes in a limited choice of colors. I used the button thread because it's not as bulky, and I didn't want the stitching to obliterate or distract from the pattern on the shirt. As it turned out, from only a short distance, the thread disappears.

The front of the shirt was going to need some sort of design, but I didn't have anything that really look "Hippy" and in any case, I didn't want to go that way. I wanted something more urban, rock, or punk rather than Hippy or "crafty." I wanted edgy. Which made me remember the stencil of a rose I also bought at the Goodwill, for only a dollar.

On one of the cutoff sleeves I stenciled the rose, in black. The rose will be cut out in a rectangle (you can just see the lines drawn with soap on the material), and then bordered with the patterned shirt material. The whole piece will be appliqued onto the front of the Filmore shirt.

After I got all the binding sewn on, I tied up the shoulder seams with a piece of cord I found in my stash of stuff, in a color that worked, and tried the shirt on again. I liked it, and knew the applique of the rose would work great. While I was still standing in front of the mirror, I hiked up the sides in preparation for taking the shirt off, and stopped. I really liked the way the shirt draped when I pulled up the sides just a bit. That will be the last thing I do to finished the top. This is meant to be layered over other shirts, as the armholes are a bit big and would show my bra if I wore it alone. Which is fine, because I originally wanted it to be something I could layer.

So, that's the Filmore West Top—so far. This should go together pretty fast, and since the weather is rainy and cold, I'll have lots of time to work on it.