When COVID hit New York City over a year ago now, death was no longer an abstract idea. People we knew were getting really, really sick, a few of them died, a few are still not 100%. When the mobil morgue parked just blocks away from our building to handle the overflow of dead bodies, it marked a turning point for me. This wasn’t some bit of horrifying news that I read or heard about, this was happening and it was happening all around me. At the time I was just starting my YouTube Channel and it hadn’t occurred to me to video tape the empty streets, void of cars and humans. I wish I had, but I didn’t.
Once we had a vaccine and my entire family had been vaccinated, I decided it would be a good time to visit my mother and sister, neither of whom I’d seen in almost two years. It was wonderful to see them after so long. And of course there was the added benefit of being surrounded by dogs…
with lots of great places to take a little walk…
Death brings perspective. None of us are getting out of here alive. Our time is short and it seems to get shorter the closer to the end we get. All the more reason to enjoy things like this bee.
The Dorset Button Workshop, which is for those who’ve never made a Dorset Button or do not feel entirely confident with making one yet, is this Saturday! There are still some spots available, so don’t hesitate in signing up as I will not be giving this workshop again. We have a lot of fun and I demonstrate and go over all the different places where you might run out of thread and how to attach a new thread, how to wrap the ring, how to center those spokes, how to make the center and then we veer off and add some other things and stitches to the traditional Dorset Button. By the end of the workshop everyone will have made at least a couple of them.
For those of you who’ve been following along with my husband and I, we are leaving for Las Vegas today and will be flying home tomorrow just in time for my Dorset Button Workshop. Don’t forget to sign up!! I will be sending out the link later and for those who sign up in the next 48 hours, I’ll send out the link no later than Saturday morning.
Traveling is an encapsulated version of life. I’ve always wanted to be one of those people that greeted each day with their arms wide open. Someone once said or maybe I read it somewhere, I can no longer remember – if you want to be a _____________ person, then act like that person. In order to be the kind of person who greets each day with open arms, then act like a person who does that. Which means a healthy dose of gratitude, being present, seeing the upside to each moment, having compassion and the ability to see the humor in almost any situation. And then making the decision that whatever is going on, is best faced with open arms. It’s a kind of practice really and, for me anyway, requires a degree of vigilance as well. Also laughter. Did I mention the laughter part?
This has been an amazing trip. We did push ourselves, but I wouldn’t have done it any differently. Okay maybe suggested to Richard that he wear socks when we did The Narrows, but honestly who knew to suggest that? Not me, anyway. I didn’t wear any socks and was just fine, so…
After a bumpy beginning we are now in full travel mode as in we-have-to-cram-as-much-as-we-can-into-each-day-or-we-might-miss-something. This is how R and I travel. We are the same in this way and as a result we travel really well together. Even when things go awry, and they almost always do, we still keep going, joyfully, yet determined. We are very determined. However we have been forced to slow down quite a bit because of the lacerations on R’s feet brought about on our 3rd day slogging over slippery rocks in the river bed that makes up The Narrows. If any of you are travel bugs and want to see a day to day video travelogue of our adventures, I made up a playlist on my Youtube Channel, A Travelogue, but will add the videos below.
Day 1: Getting to our destination. Spoiler alert – it was a rough beginning.
Day 2: Discovering the unexpected, and the reason we love traveling.
Day 3: A great adventure!
Day 4: Exploring and taking it easy, which for us means we still pack a LOT into the day!
Day 5: Slot Canyons and a small detour.
Day 6: More detours, kittens, yes I just said that, and getting back to our base. Video will be posted tomorrow morning.
Day 7: taking it easy, ie recalibrating. That’s today. Who knows what today will bring!?
The whole thing about traveling, in my experience, is that the most wonderful things happen when I’m able to be open to them, whether that’s meeting interesting people along the way, finding little caves to explore, the glorious feeling of seeing a vivid blue/green striation amidst grey beige rock, the massive and majestic rock formations that are everywhere you look in this part of the world, that vivid pink flower on a cactus in an otherwise arid landscape, the list goes on and on.
Inevitably unexpected things happen that force us to change our plans. When we went to Iceland, it was my shattered elbow. We didn’t let it stop us, but we did have to recalibrate a bit. On this trip it’s R’s lacerated feet. We’re having to slow down and not do quite as much as we had planned. In the end we come face to face with our own frailties and mortality as human beings. This feeling is what drove us to take this trip now and not wait any longer. We aren’t that old, but we’re not that young either. We figure we have so many places we still want to see on this planet of ours, we’d better take the opportunity to do as much as we can, while we still can.
I love a good zippered pouch. Preferably one that I can take on an airplane, large enough for a tablet or small sketch book, a needle roll, small pair of scissors, and project, but not so large that it becomes cumbersome. I began looking around at what is already out there and found many lovely bags, but finally decided to design my own. It measures 12″ x 12″, has a slightly curved top with a tassel for the zipper pull.
Years ago my husband and I came upon this beautiful African Rhino and decided we had to have him. This became my inspiration for the design on the front of my bag.
As many of you know, I re-found hand stitching through Sue Spargo. I fell in love with the way she used traditional embroidery stitches, but used all kinds of different threads, to add another dimension to wool appliqué. I responded to the “folk art” style of her designs, but also to the layering she employs in her work. Using wool as her base, she then might layer another piece of wool, which is then layered with a smaller piece of silk velvet, cotton print, linen, cork, ribbon, beading, whatever best accents her design – the options are endless! That was five years ago…
Today, I’m honored to call Sue my friend. She gives me endless encouragement, suggestions, helpful tips, and is one of the kindest, most generous souls I’ve ever met. She also happens to be one of the hardest working women I know, is a smart business woman and runs a thriving brick and mortar store as well as online business at suespargo.com, all while teaching year round all over the country and world. If you haven’t taken a class with Sue, you are in for a treat. Sue is patient, helpful, encourages everyone to put their own personal touches onto their pieces, is incredibly talented, oozes creativity and did I mention how kind she is? Kind. Just incredibly kind.
So when I decided to design my own zippered pouch I immediately sent it off to Sue to get her okay. After all I’m using her techniques, her wools, her threads and never want to take credit for any of that. She, of course, being Sue, told me she loved it and so here it is, ready for others to make if they choose.
If you want to make this pouch yourself, you can purchase the pattern, templates and detailed instructions, including tons of step by step photographs to help you, as well as a list of materials you will need from my Etsy Site. I even added instructions for us lefties out there, so that our zipper will be on the opposite side! All the wool, fabric, and threads you need to make this pouch are on Sue Spargo’s website except maybe the zipper. It’s a one-stop shopping experience. And who doesn’t want a zippered, fully lined pouch!? Also – if you don’t want to make the wool Rhino top, you can use the pattern templates to make the whole thing out of cotton fabric or bark cloth or canvas or linen or whatever you like!
When I was designing my pouch, I first made it using all cotton fabrics and added Soft and Stable to the whole thing to give it more oomph. I swear that’s the technical word…
I also re-designed the curve so it was gentler, with the added plus being it is easier to sew in the zipper, and I added fabric tabs to the ends of the zipper, which gives it a nice, clean finish.
Tell me what you think. Post your finished bag on Instagram and tag me and/or on Facebook. Don’t forget to tag me so I can applaud your efforts.
You’ll notice it’s been awhile since I’ve written anything here, but not for the reasons you think. It became necessary to give up my studio when we made the decision to pull my youngest child from school and began homeschooling. That was over two years ago. We felt we didn’t have a choice. There is nothing, absolutely nothing I can create that is more important than my daughter’s education. We are all happier as a result.
Which leads me to this blog. Just over a year ago, last May of 2015, to be exact, I signed up for a Craftsy class. Do you know about Craftsy?
Craftsy is fantastic. There, I even added the link for you to go check them out. No, I am not being paid, nor do I, in any way, get anything for writing about them. This is my opinion and experience. Okay, so I took a class on Craftsy called: Embroidering Texture and Dimension by Hand by Sue Spargo and it changed my life. I loved the way Sue used stitches on layers of wool and fabric. I loved how she created something so different from what I was used to seeing. She didn’t “embroider,” not in the way I was used to seeing embroidery done, but instead created a whole new three-dimensional textile. I was utterly enthralled.
I knew nothing about quilting. When I signed up for her class I did not know that her work was considered quilting. In fact when I took the class I wrote her and asked what all the stitching was in the background, was it done by machine or hand and when and how did she do that and, by the way, why and how was it all so puffy looking? Someone helpfully suggested I take a beginning quilt class and my first thought was – “huh, I didn’t know a quilt could do that!”
But back to Sue Spargo’s class. It began with a download of one of her lovely designs, a butterfly sampler, but as I have a strong independent streak, I decided to design my own piece and use what I learned in her class on my design.
A few weeks before I found Craftsy and Sue Spargo’s class, my husband came home with a photo of a West African Long Tailed Hornbill that was perched on a railing at the Central Park Zoo. He, the bird, not my husband, though my husband is also fabulous, was so captivating I decided to use his image in my piece. Here’s the photo my husband took.
A West African Long Tailed Hornbill. Look at him!
C’mon, admit it, he’s adorable. So here’s what I started to do and you’ll notice I got way too involved with everything BUT the bird, which was the focus… and again, this is something I also tend to do – do everything but the thing I’m trying to focus on. Look, squirrel!
He began to take shape…
I gave him some much-needed feathers on his head, because he was getting cold, I could tell.
A little hair/feathers/plumes, whatever are good, but he definitely needed more…
More, more, more and while we’re at it, let’s toss in some black beads. I am a jewelry designer after all.
There, that’s better
And some more circles, because honestly who doesn’t like circles?
Circles can go anywhere I always think and I wanted to try my hand at all the different circular stitches from Sue Spargo’s class.
And if one or two circles are good, well many, many circles can only be better, right?
Okay, so maybe I got carried away….
And here it is, the final piece. As an ode to my beautiful daughter I call this piece Thunder Bubbles.
I used every single stitch Sue Spargo taught on this. It really should be called, “Thunder Bubbles Sampler.” Because I knew nothing about quilting I didn’t know that you should leave an edge so that you can bind, face or otherwise somehow finish it off. I also took a hand quilting class at the local quilting shop and did my best to hand quilt more circular shapes. I didn’t know to iron in between, so the back isn’t as flat as I would have liked and the weight from all those drizzle stitches on his head pulled the batting and backing fabric into a kind of crater. Anyway here’s the back of my very first hand quilted piece!
Next week I’ll write about where all of this has taken me and what I’m doing now.
Often an idea comes in the form of a doodle, literally! Which is why having a sketch book around is so important. Doodles are like little dreams… they seem to come out of nowhere and if I’m lucky I catch them as they appear. Not all sketches are pretty, sometimes I’m in the subway or on my way somewhere and so pretty isn’t the goal. Capturing the idea, the image and getting it down so I won’t forget it, is. So something that begins as this….
Silver Models for Earrings
Turns into this… silver models for what will eventually become 18 Kt Gold earrings.
From the model a silicone mold is made… like this one…