Archive for October, 2007

Farmers Market

What Ernie brought from the Farmers Market this morning. It’s extremely unusual to have kale and tomatoes at the same time of year.


That’s fresh mozzarella cheese in front of the cauliflower.


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William Blake

(June 12, 2008.) Hundreds of people find this post. I’m astonished. Must be searching on William Blake. Well, if you’re interested, I’ve written a personal essay about Blake’s importance in my life. It’s a brief introduction to Blake, too. You can read the essay here. Now back to the original post.

A couple of months ago, my 16-year-old grandson Luke and I had a brief conversation about William Blake, the great English poet-painter-printer-prophet, the great visionary artist (1757-1827). Blake was virtually unknown in his lifetime and until the mid-2oth century, when serious scholarship on him began to proliferate. Interestingly, Blake wrote to a correspondent that it would be 200 years before his work was understood, and he was exactly right. Now I find quotes from Blake and reproductions of his art all around.

I first met him in college in 1963. The next year I did two terms of independent study of his Prophetic Books and it changed my life. In fact, my first husband used to say that it was my affair with William Blake that ended our marriage. There may be some truth in that! 🙂 Luke asked if he could read the papers on him that I had written. I told him I had trashed them.

The conversation with Luke sent me back to Blake, whom I have continued to study off and on. I read some of his writing and some critical essays that I remembered from the past and decided to read, for the third time, Northrop Frye’s great study of Blake’s writing, Fearful Symmetry. Yesterday I got out my big, fat file of Blake materials and behind all the other papers, I found the three papers I had written in college!

I don’t think there will be much stitching done here as I immerse myself in Blake for a while.

Here’s a great place to see Blake’s art and read his poetry.

And here are illustrations from two of his Prophetic Books.



This is a page from Songs of Experience, showing how he printed and illuminated his works.


This is the poem on that page, Blake’s mighty condemnation of social injustices that caused such suffering in 18th century London.


Portraits of Blake, from Peter Ackroyd’s biography, Blake.


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Autumn at Charlestown

It is pouring rain here, thank goodness, as we have been in severe drought for months. So right now it is dark and gloomy, but last year Ernie took some pictures on a walk around our campus which I’d like to show you. We live in such beautiful surroundings.img_1299.jpg





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No! I Don’t Want to Join a Book Club: The Diary of a 60th Year, by Virginia Ironside, is a funny, FUNNY book. It’s the fictional diary of a woman who has just turned 60 and retired. She doesn’t want to be any younger than she is. She intends to enjoy being old. About book clubs she writes, “The thing is: I don’t want to join a book club to keep young and stimulated. I don’t want to be young and stimulated anymore.”

“I’ve done fascinated, I’ve done curious. I want to wind down. I want to have the blissful relief of not being interested. …I want to start doing old things, not young things.”

When someone tells her she is looking well, she replies that she is feeling well. “I’m sixty today.”

“‘You don’t look it,’ he said.

“Don’t know quite what to make of that. In a way I do rather want to look sixty.”

Marie Sharp, the 60-year-old narrator, has a counterculture take on aging. It’s okay to be old. It’s not okay to try to stay young or to look young or to act like a younger person. I say, “yes!” I feel the same way. Bring on the wrinkles!

From my vantage point at age 70, though, Marie seems too young to be old! At one point she says that when she was 15, 60 was old. When she was 25, 60 was old. When she was 40, 60 was old, and she’s not going to move the goal post now!

I didn’t feel old at 60, but I do now. And “free to be me.”

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Scattered shards of light


Now I can tell you about this project of last week, a card for Nina, who received it yesterday.

Remember this picture that Nina sent me last month?
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I knew when I saw it that I wanted to stitch on it, but it took a while for me to figure out what I wanted to do. After cropping and resizing the image, I printed out a page of thumbnails of it and drew three or four different designs on them. None satisfied me, but when I woke up the next morning, I thought “sequins.” Of course!

I printed two actual size copies of the drawing/painting and played with sequins on the paper images, first with colored sequins to match the colors of the print, then with just silver and gold. That was it.

Ready to begin stitching, I printed Nina’s image (cropped and resized to 4X6 inches) on silk and attached the silk to cotton backing stretched on stretcher bars.
Initially, I couched gold Rajcord over the rays, but that looked too crude, so I replaced them with Japanese gold #7. Then I attached small sequins, cut up pieces of sequins, and a few single stitches to the silk background with Rajmahal Art Silk threads in colors that just about matched Nina’s. When I was satisfied with the sequin stitching, I stretched the silk over Pellon-padded cardboard and glued it on the back. To make a backing for the piece, I printed a label on cotton that I fused to silk dupioni, then stitched a Cretan stitch border in variegated DMC cotton pearl #5. (Love those variegated pearls. Bought them in all the colors!) I stretched the silk over another Pellon-padded card and glued the two sides together. To finish this card, I stitched the edges tightly together with invisible stitches and glued gold torsade over them to cover the join. There’s a little glass bead where I tucked the ends of the torsade in between the front and back.

Here’s another view shot at an angle so that you can see more of the reflected light from the sequins and shards.






And here’s the back.































I cannot figure out how to get these last pictures where I want them! Rats!


























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I was asked what the ME stands for. This is the new name being promoted for CFS. It stands for myalgic encephalopathy and chronic fatigue syndrome. It is endorsed by the leading researchers and clinicians in this malady. Myalgic refers to the muscle aches and general flu-like achiness of this condition. Encephalopathy means a disorder of the brain and central nervous system, a neurological malfunctioning. I have had ME-CFS for 15 years.

In 1991 I began breaking down, but I continued to work, growing ever sicker, with no diagnosis, until I collapsed, unable to stay out of bed, in January 1993. Finally, in 1997, a Social Security disability judge ruled that I was “totally and permanently disabled.” Since then I have been housebound. It was becoming disabled that led to my life in stitches, the main subject of this blog.

You can read the whole story in this article I wrote for The Embroiderers’ Guild of America in response to a call for writing about how stitching had helped you recover. Well, I hadn’t recovered. Instead, NOT recovering had led me to stitching. This essay was published in Needle Arts magazine.

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Because Esther insisted that we bring some food and wine home with us, Ernie went to her apartment to return her dish. I asked him to take some pictures to show you what we saw when we got to her apartment yesterday. Here’s the approach to her apartment, headed toward ours.


Esther’s doorway, the door and shelf, are always attractively decorated for the season or the holiday. The Charlestown designers put shelves outside residents’ apartments so that we have a place to put packages and bags while unlocking and opening the door. But do residents use them for that? I’ve never seen one. Instead, all the shelves are decorated, from the artful to the tacky. At Christmas, prizes are awarded for several categories of doorway decoration and the competition is intense and delightful.

Here are some close-ups of Esther’s Halloween decorations.


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