Dreaming of My Mother

Dreaming of My Mother

Laughing with Mom – Photo by John Kelly

“Have you dreamt about her?”

This was a question a number of people asked after my mother died.  But I wasn’t.  I hadn’t.  In fact I couldn’t remember dreaming about anything or anyone, until this past week.  Maybe it was because it was the first Thanksgiving since she died.  Maybe it’s because her birthday fell on Thanksgiving every 7 years and so Thanksgiving always reminds me of her or because this was her first birthday that went uncelebrated.  This past Saturday she would have been 93 years old.

When we were in Jordan, just a few weeks ago, (it seems like months already) our guide told us that the life expectancy there was mid seventies.  He then asked if I was considered old in the US. “It depends upon who you ask,” I joked.  “How about you?” I asked.

“I don’t feel old, until I look in the mirror,” he replied.  Which was just the sort of thing my mother would have said.  We laughed about that.

“Aging isn’t for the faint of heart,” my mother used to say.  She also was known to say, “Aging sucks.”

But in my dreams she isn’t old.  She can still speak.  She has shoulder length hair and in my dream last night she was wearing an emerald green bikini, of all things, with a cream colored, open lacey top that I’d crocheted for her.  Did I mention that I’m teaching myself to crochet?  I’m no where near good enough to make such a thing for anyone, let alone as a gift for someone I love, but in my dream, she looked amazing and youthful and the crocheted top looked pretty fabulous as well!

I remember thinking, “I want to look like her when I’m her age,” but in the dream I said nothing and instead just told her how much I loved her.  She gave me one of her magnificent smiles and then began talking to someone else in the room. I almost said something about how happy I was that she was wearing the top I’d crocheted her, but didn’t want to interrupt her conversation with this other person.  Secretly, I was thrilled.  After all I only just began trying to crochet in the last few weeks.  Wearing that crocheted top that I’d made for her was so typical of my mother.  She was a huge supporter of all my various passions, particularly when it came to making things.

It was my mother who taught me to knit and as she was right handed, (I’m left handed) I learned to knit right handed as well.  I’ve often wondered if I should try to reteach myself to knit left handed, but then I think, “Why?”  Besides I’m closer to the end than I am to the beginning of life, why jostle the waters? And I knit pretty quickly right handed, so there doesn’t seem to be much point.  And, added plus, any instructions and videos are always written for right handers.

My mother would have approved of my dream, though I don’t think she cared for the color emerald green, but even so, it would have made her laugh.  She loved to laugh.  So today, I will remember her laughing and am grateful to have my dreams of her when she was still able to speak, when she was still able to move about easily and painlessly, when she was happy.

Gone Dorset Button Crazy!

Gone Dorset Button Crazy!

I don’t know about you, but I absolutely love making Dorset Buttons. And like so many things that I fall in love with, I went head first down the Dorset Button Rabbit Hole and have yet to reemerge! So much so that I just taped and uploaded another Dorset Button video, which will be premiering later today.

Last summer I made my first Dorset Button video, but this winter I decided to make another, slowed down version, and then did another that is a deep dive into the dorset button and variations to it. That video is available to all my patrons who are on my Patreon page. It covers: how to secure your dorset button once you’ve created one. What to do if your thread runs out in the middle of making one, how to make all of the variations shown above, like the tree and creating stitches on the outer rim and using different threads and thread weights. So much fun!

The Dorset Button popular in the 1600’s was replaced by machine made and mass produced buttons in the 1800’s. However many of us who love to hand stitch also love the dorset button. It is not only a fully functioning button, it is also decorative and therefore can be used in a variety of ways. For my mother’s Making Waves: A Drawstring Bag (which I just sent to her yesterday) I used almost a dozen dorset buttons to embellish it. I love how it turned out, and hope she will too.

For my next design, I’ve been playing around with lots of different ideas and one of those ideas is how to use the largest plastic rings I have with some variation of the Dorset Button. I haven’t figured it out yet, but I’m going to keep playing and see what I come up with.

In the meantime, here are a few more close ups of some Dorset Buttons I’ve made in the last few weeks.

Gone Dorset Button Crazy!

1,000 YouTube Subscribers and Some Gratitude

Eight weeks ago today, I posted my first video to the YouTube Channel I created, On the Other Hand. Yesterday I hit 1,000 subscribers!

What began as an idea to benefit Left Handed people who love to sew and hand stitch, has grown into a much larger more all encompassing vision and where I demonstrate all kinds of things: tutorials for left handed embroidery stitchers, tutorials for left AND right handed stitchers, tutorials on how to do things such as make a perfect circle, emboss silk velvet, make a perfect stem, use Sue Spargo’s Spoke Easy, make a tuffet, applique tips, how to make a mask, suggestions, and encouragement to any and all who share my passion for creating, designing, stitching and fabric. And in the coming months I will be making more YouTube Videos devoted to design and the creative process.

These are two improvisational pieces that came out of my demonstrations of stitches used during my YouTube tutorials.

When I began making videos I watched a lot of YouTube videos on how to make Youtube videos. There is a certain humor in that. I also watched a great many videos giving suggestions for anyone beginning a channel on everything from how to create a banner, to how to insert links into your video, how to make thumbnails, how to edit on iMovie and lots of other topics involving the making of videos. YouTube is its own sprawling beast, with “influencers” and people who are making a LOT of money through their youtube channels. And some of the biggest influencers are people who make videos advising others on how to make videos. Does anyone else find that hilarious?

I began this channel planning to post a video once or maybe twice a week. I then decided I would post Monday, Wednesday and Friday. This plan was quickly revised to posting two videos a DAY, seven days a week! It has gotten totally out of control!!! On one day I posted THREE videos in a single day, but that was because Sue Spargo began telling me the stitches she will use on the following day’s circle for her #InstaStitchWithSue project, which I then created a playlist for, because it’s so popular and so many people are following her and it. For more about her project go ‘here‘. She is also telling me the stitches she is using for her popular Block of the Month. (I have almost finished all of the stitches she’s using in April’s block.)

My #instastitchwithsue Project

To say I’m grateful doesn’t cover it. During this time, when things are in such upheaval, when the future seems more fragile than ever before, this channel has grounded me, challenged me and kept me very, very busy! That so many people are now watching the videos I make, commenting and reaching out to me, means more to me that I can express. Yesterday morning I posted the video below to express my gratitude to Sue Spargo, her family and the people who have subscribed, watched, and followed my channel.

There is one other person who has shown me more support than anyone else, and that is my friend, Anna Bates. I’ve mentioned Anna before, but I cannot write about my channel and its growth without talking about her. Anna is the person I first mentioned my idea to, over a year ago when we were in Tucson at a Sue Spargo Workshop held at Tanque Verde Ranch by Madeline Island School of the Arts. Anna was the one who first encouraged me to go for it. Anna has continued to be my biggest cheerleader, giving me shout outs on social media, her blog,Woolie Mammoth, and on the weekly blog she writes for the Quilt Show. Without Anna I would not have more than 1.000 subscribers in just under 8 weeks. Making the adage – “Together we can do so much more than any of us can do alone” truer than ever.

Tanque Verde Ranch in Tucson, Arizona

Thank you Anna. ❤️

Gone Dorset Button Crazy!

Obsessive About Dyeing

Dyeing fabrics is an obsession.  I began with cottons as directed in the Elizabeth Barton class, Dyeing to Design, that I took over at Academy of Quilting.  I had little interest in dyeing or so I thought, and only took the class because Elizabeth was teaching it and I wanted to take a class with her and it was the first class closest to the date when I started researching her classes.  I had no idea I’d fall so completely in love with dyeing.  But I did.  After her class ended, I took her other dyeing Class – Basic Dyeing for Quiltmakers where we learned to over dye and dye just about any color we wanted.  It was thrilling to see a color, figure out what primary colors went into it and then create it!  But as is my way, I wasn’t content to dye just cottons.

I decided I had to learn how to dye wool, which is a different process entirely, so I could finish my block of the month designs (more on that in another post). So I went over to Dharma Trading, a great company that sells dyes and everything related to dyeing.  I sourced wool fabric, also not as easy as one might think, and then purchased a small amount of wools, silks, raw silks and silk/wools from a couple of different places.  I even found some lovely silk velvet at Dharma, perfect to use on my wool appliqué pieces that I began designing a few months ago.  And I began dyeing.


Aren’t they beautiful?

Here are all the cotton fabrics I dyed in Elizabeth’s class, including some of my silk screens and shibori dyed cottons…hand-dyed fabrics

Now I’m back to designing so I can use all of these lovely fabrics.  This is the beginning of Mr. Pig.  He still needs to be embellished and is one of twelve blocks for my Block Of the Month project featuring cookie jars that I’m in the midst of creating patterns and, hopefully, kits for, that will come with many of my hand-dyed fabrics as well as everything you’ll need to make each block.

Notice the cotton fabric to the far left?  That is one of my shibori dyed cottons and the green wools and pink wool and velvet are all my hand-dyed fabrics too!  Mr. Pig


Gone Dorset Button Crazy!

Fear of Dyeing

I was going to entitle this post Fear of Dyeing (and Silk Screening) but Where’s the Pun in That?  But it was too long so I just went with the edited version… a girl can have a little pun.  Okay, okay that’s enough. I’ve filled my quota of puns and I’m barely out of the starting gate.  It’s all going to be very serious from here on out.

In my last post I promised screen printing, so here we go.  All the photographs below are of techniques described by Elizabeth Barton in her wonderful class Dyeing to Design over at the Academy of Quilting.

The last and only time I did screen printing was when I worked (briefly) for the fashion designer Zandra Rhodes while living in London having just graduated from Parsons School of Design about a hundred years ago.  Zandra Rhodes is known for her beautiful silk screened fabrics as well as being the “Queen of Punk” a distinction given to her back in the late 70’s.  All I remember from that time, aside from the time she told me to clean her bathroom, was using a huge squeegee-like thing to scrape paint across the enormous screens she used.  I wish I could remember more as it might have helped me get over my fear when tackling Elizabeth’s silk screening lesson.  I have to admit I was completely intimidated reading the lesson over, so much so that I read the lesson and then didn’t do any of the exercises mapped out in it for at least three days.  Then another person in the class posted her gorgeous silk screened fabrics and it motivated me to at least try some of the techniques suggested.


Using newsprint this was my first attempt at silk screening on white cotton

Have I talked about fear during the creative process?  I know, I know, I have.  But maybe you didn’t read that post and anyway, I’m feeling compelled.  I’m always surprised when I feel fear while designing or doing something art “worthy”.  Why feel frightened when creating something?  Why should I feel anything but joy?  How does fear, even a twinge of it, make itself known through all the curiosity and excitement? And while I don’t have complete answers for these questions, I do know it isn’t unusual for artists to feel tremendous fear when creating.  So much so that there’s even a terrific book written on this very subject called Art & Fear ~ Observations On The Perils (and Rewards) of Artmaking by David Bayles & Ted Orland.   Heading up the chapter entitled: The Academic World is this quote from Howard Ikemoto –

     “When my daughter was about seven years old, she asked me one day what I did at work.  I told her I worked at the college – that my job was to teach people how to draw.

She stared back at me, incredulous, and said, “You mean they forget?”

I went to Parsons School of Design for my undergraduate degree and majored in Fashion Design.  Much of what I learned had to do with the business of fashion design and that there’s no such thing as new, that everything is recycled and that in order to succeed one must be as determined, if not more, about the business as one is about creating.  The truth is, I learned little about being an artist and more about the challenges of being a designer in the business world.  By my last year my fairy tale notion of what it would be like to be a fashion designer was thoroughly squashed and in my disillusioned state I felt only  dread at the idea that I was about to go out into the world and seek a job, much less in the fashion world.  After floundering for a few years I abandoned fashion design in favor of a series of jobs/careers that I thought might be more fulfilling and less soul wrenching.  And while all the things I tried my hand at varied, even dramatically, they were all in the “Arts” of some kind.  What I’ve learned is that artists tend to have a difficult time making a living with their art, no matter what the medium is.

There’s a wonderful quote from Oscar Wilde that begins Part II of the book Art & Fear.

“When bankers get together for dinner, they discuss Art.  When artists get together for dinner, they discuss money.”

How does one price one’s art, something that might have taken hundreds of hours to create through trial and error, through missteps, through experimentation, through FEAR?  If artists used an hourly wage system to price their work, all art would be so expensive no one could afford it.  So most of us don’t.  We can’t.  And while in an ideal world no one would have to concern themselves with making money from their art, and instead would just spend all their time making it, few live in such a privileged world.  The fear of being able to sell our work, and how that inhibits the process is a whole other topic and one most of us can understand, but there is another fear that is far more complicated.  It is the fear one feels when confronted with something new, something one has never done before, but would like to learn.  There is the fear of failure or appearing incapable or of ridicule, criticism or being seen as incompetent by others, but also by oneself.  To create art, is to be at once vulnerable and confident, and it is a tricky balancing act to not lean more one way or the other. Both carry their own pitfalls.

Creating is a messy process.  Most people never see all the discarded bits, the beginnings and first steps taken to get to that finished piece.  What I love about blogs is that people are willing to show their process.  My favorite blogs, in fact, are the ones that do just that.


Adding color to the purple

When I am starting something new I often have an idea in my head.  What I envision is always spectacular, but creating that idea takes skill, talent and knowledge, things I do not always have.  So I have to learn, practice, and explore in order to be able to get the skills to (hopefully) produce the image I envision.  Sometimes I’m successful, but more often I’m not.  Sometimes I realize it will take me years to achieve the level of expertise required to make what I envisioned.  So I have to accept that I won’t be able to do something as I’d hoped or modify what I’m doing to compensate or continue to practice, with the idea that eventually I might be able to produce what is in my mind.


Torn newsprint


For this piece I cut stencils out of a thin plastic sheet, before silk screening on top


This is the result of using those stencils that I removed for the red piece above


A technique attributed to Kerr Grabowski.  This piece has yet to be washed, so who knows what it will look like!


Another technique described in Elizabeth’s class.

Regardless of the approach I take, perfectionism is truly the greatest kill joy and, for me anyway, the root from which almost all my fear springs. While some argue that without perfectionism, we would settle for less or not work as hard, they are misunderstanding perfectionism at its most destructive. I am referring to perfectionism that lacerates, the kind of self-talk that abuses and brutalizes.  It is that awful voice that needs to be muted before anything can be created.  Free from perfectionism I am allowed to explore and play.

I have no idea what I’m going to do with any of the fabric I’ve silk screened, and in some ways that’s beside the point.  I didn’t approach this lesson with a preconceived idea.  And that’s the beauty of taking a class like this one.  The assignments require you to explore and play first and then after you’ve done that, consider what you’ll make.  Most of these fabrics have been done for almost two weeks now and I still don’t know what to do with any of them.  Or as one of the many talented and wonderful people taking this class said, “I’m waiting for divine inspiration.”