Archive for December, 2007

Last of TAST

Stitches I missed doing. It’s 5:50 p.m. EST here in Baltimore and I’m determined to get the last of the stitches posted before the end of the year.

Because I need to make some potholders, being unable to find ordinary cotton ones to buy, I thought I would use this project to stitch the TAST stitches I had not done. I took a piece of denim from an old skirt I had cut up and drew lines on it for faux patchwork. My intention was to embellish these mock seams with combinations of the stitches, but several things got in the way.

First, I came across some forgotten fabric in a closet that I prefer for the potholders. Second, learning the new stitches took much longer than I expected. It was all I could do to work this much before the year ended.

If you click on the image, you will go to Flickr where you can see the stitches identified in notes on the photograph. They include chained bar, Spanish knotted, berry, chain braid, knotted cable chain, Pekinese, Spanish feather, twisted satin and beaded twisted satin, and reverse buttonhole. The stitches are crude because I definitely hadn’t mastered them and just pressed on to finish. I think I may continue stitching on this sampler, maybe even unstitch and do some over. But, anyhow, I finished TAST. And, as Sharonb says, “I’m still standing.” 🙂

I’ve just reviewed the whole year of TAST. Although I began the challenge with a lot of enthusiasm and motivation, that drained away as I felt increasingly pressured to work with a new stitch every week. Initially, I produced some interesting small pieces, but later in the year, it was all I could do to practice a few stitches on a practice cloth. With my diminished energy level and limited time for activity, keeping up with TAST became more duty than pleasure.

I found, also, that I enjoy experimenting with familiar stitches, seeing what I can do with them, more than I enjoy having to learn a new stitch on schedule. As the year progressed, the stitches became more complex and it took me a lot of time to figure out how to do them. Then there was no time to use them in any pleasing way. So I got frustrated.

I’m glad I participated in the TAST challenge. It brought me some new friends, the chance to see lots of wonderful stitching done by others, the encouragement to blog, and additions to my stitch vocabulary. But the pace was too fast for me. Much as I once enjoyed working under pressure and meeting deadlines, I don’t any more. I prefer working at my own slow pace, taking as much time as I need to get the results I want, and not having to be on a schedule. Also, TAST left me no time for projects I’ve long had in mind and want to work on.

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Gloria’s poem

You may remember my account of our New Year’s celebrations with neighbors Esther and Gloria. I want to share with you one of my favorites of Gloria’s poems. It was published in this book:


All my photographs of Gloria disappeared with the computer crash, but here’s the one on the back cover of her book.


And here is the poem.

The Maple

All summer the young

maple displayed her dense

foliage richly green

as the grass beneath.


she is a rage of yellow, orange,

rose-red. Autumn has come.

From where leaves have

unstuck themselves, the powder

blue of the sky outlines

her partially clad limbs, pencil-dark


She presents

herself as beauty’s abstract.

But I know better. Hers

is a fury whose blooded

offering all misread.

Each day she struggles

against her seduction

by the sun’s amorous attention,

by the wind’s passionate whisper.

So strenuous have been her efforts to lift

and flourish, that she strains

to resist Nature’s summon

for winter rest.


know, what she has forgotten

to remember: Her sleep

is but renewal. She

will green again come April.

She will quit the womb

of her imposed dormancy

and lift, fertile with leaf

amid sensuous air, her ladder

of being graduating farther


That will not be said

of me. When I lie down

life’s door closes. Who

but the Son of God

has ever been known

to return and rise?

(Sorry, Gloria, I couldn’t make WordPress space the words as they appear in the book.)

Isn’t that a lovely poem? I love the colors and the image of the tree as “pencil-dark, pencil-thin.”

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Ernie’s quilt


Ernie sleeps under this 10-year-old hand-stitched quilt every night of the year. The edge had become frayed, and it had sprung some leaks where he grabs it to pull it up under his chin. We like this quilt a lot and believe that it would be hard to find an equally satisfactory replacement, so I’m trying to preserve it. That’s my most recent needlework.

Here you can see a bit of the frayed edge.


In the picture I showed you yesterday, I had begun putting blanket stitching along the edge, using Tiger Tape to keep my stitches even.

Ten years ago I had made the two green check pillow covers.


Fortunately, I still had some of that material which I used to make patches for the torn spots. Since this part of the quilt is now against the wall, these patches don’t show.


This pillow I made for Ernie about 12 or 13 years ago. It’s done in counted thread and blackwork because Ernie likes precision and neatness. I charted the letters using an alphabet from Iva Polansky’s wonderful book, Cross-Stitch Calligraphy.


Ernie’s bed is against the same wall as mine, so we sleep together with just a wall between us. I’m hoping I can make the quilt last at least as long as he does.

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Missing needlework

Nina wrote to me that she is missing seeing my needlework here. She said that she guessed that I was working on something that I hadn’t shown you yet. She’s right!

Now this is what I think they call in television broadcasting “a teaser.” Can you tell what I’m working on? Click on the image to enlarge for a closer look.

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Ernie and I no longer celebrate Christmas, but we do celebrate the Solstice. It has a special meaning for us. Fifteen years ago at Solstice, we were in the process of going into retreat, spending the night in a motel about 25 miles from our new home, while awaiting the arrival of the moving van.

Because I was breaking down with undiagnosed symptoms, we had sold our house near the Inner Harbor in Baltimore and everything else we could sell and bought a house on a remote wooded lake in the hills of West Virginia. There, away from the stresses of work and family responsibilities, I expected to get well. Our new home was 100 miles from Baltimore, 50 miles from the nearest family members, and 20 miles from the nearest town. It was the beginning of a new life, a very different life, for us. We lived there, in solitude, silence, and simplicity, for five and a half years–a beautiful retreat.

And so, last night, we celebrated our 15th anniversary of this new way of living, which we continue here at Charlestown, with champagne and a typical Maryland meal–crab cakes, French fries, and cole slaw, prepared by Ernie. Music by Dave Brubeck, “Just You, Just Me.”





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Thanks to Kathy, I now have 12 ounces of shelled pecans.


You may remember that Kathy contacted me after finding my blog to tell me that we were neighbors. She has been making textile art all her life, and she brought some of her work to show me. When she read about my misadventure with the 2 3/4 pounds of pecans, she emailed an offer to shell them for me. Can you believe that? Here’s what she wrote:

“If your pecans are not already gone, give me a call. I’ll pick them up, crack them and return them to you sans shells.”

Although our trash bag with the pecans had already been put outside our door for pickup, it was still there. I retrieved the nuts and emailed back to Kathy. She picked them up, and true to her word, brought them back shelled. What a neighbor!

Today I went to return her container and take her a thank-you gift—-and to see more of her fine work. Here’s Kathy, knitting in hand. Her husband built the grandmother’s clock behind her.

She does all kinds of needlework besides knitting–sewing, hand embroidery in several techniques, machine embroidery, felting, and recently she acquired an embellisher. Although she has done traditional work, she now is more interested in contemporary textile art. Here are a few pictures of her work.

Needle-felted bag


An early embellisher project– fabric postcard with machine embroidery also


I think this postcard also featured embellisher work and machine stitching. The grasses are floating free above the surface.


Machine embroidery on another postcard. It looks to me as though the foliage is made of slips that had been machine stitched, then attached, but I don’t know.


A small quilt wall-hanging. I forgot to ask Kathy whether she had dyed the fabric. I know she does that.


Kathy knit these angels. Notice the knitting angel, with real stitches on her needles.


I didn’t need to look for the apartment number when I saw her doorway.


A closer look at the postcards on her shelf


And if you’d like to see some more outstanding doorways decorated by residents, click here and click Slide Show at the top. Since I had my camera with me as I returned home, I couldn’t resist taking a few more shots.

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Christmas at Charlestown

Charlestown is elaborately and artfully decorated for Christmas, both by staff and residents. Yesterday on his walk around the community Ernie took pictures of decorations in public areas–lobbies, hallways, and dining rooms.

In the corner of a stairway


On a table in a hallway


In the lobby outside of a dining room. Notice the man at the organ. Residents play the organ and pianos in several lobbies.


To see all of Ernie’s pictures, click here, then click on Slide Show at the top.

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