Saturday, October 31, 2009

Gram Werner's Ghost Stories

My Grandmother Werner (right, at seventeen) was a first generation American. Her parents came from Bavaria with three children and went on to create five more once they were settled in Pennsylvania. Gram loved to tell stories about the Old Country and I'm glad she did. So, since today is Halloween, this is for her.

Gram told me that her parents lived on the edge of the die Schwarzwald, the Black Forest, and her father was a blacksmith and tinker who worked on a great estate. In his free time, he made pots and pans that he took on a cart into the nearest village on market day. To do that he had to push his cart through the Schwarzwald where, he told Gram, it was so dark that the spooks and “haunts” lurked and caused trouble for lone travelers. He fashioned a chain lined with bells and clattering bits of metal that he hung over his cart so the noise would scare away the ghosts as he made his way to market.

Gram believed in witchcraft. The name “hexes” was commonly used instead of witch and Gram swore this story was true. When she was a little girl it was her job to take their cow every day up the street to the cemetery to graze. This was a common practice in St. Marys (the Pennsylvania town her family moved to) and she loved their cow. She said she was never afraid anything bad would happen when she was with the cow. There was an old woman who lived near the cemetery who people were deeply suspicious of. The rumor was she was a “Hex”. Gram's mother often warned her not to let this Hex-Woman come near her but one day when Gram (who was only 9 at the time) was walking home with the cow, the Hex-Woman stopped her. She said what a handsome cow and she petted it. This scared Gram because, of course, her mother had warned her against such things so she didn't tell her mother.

The next day the cow gave no milk. This was a terrible thing for a family of ten who relied on their cow for milk, cream, and butter. Days went by but the cow was dry and could give no milk. Gram's mother, Great-Gram whose name was Marie, was desperate so she consulted her neighbors about what to do. And they told her this: Go to the cow and squeeze out what few drops of milk you can. Put it in a silver cup and bet it with a silver spoon. While you are beating it someone will come to the door and ask for something. This will be the person who hexed the cow and you must ask her what she wants to take away the hex. So, Great-Gram Marie did this and, as she was beating the milk with a silver spoon, the Hex-Woman knocked on the kitchen door and asked to borrow a cup of sugar. Great-Gram Marie asked what she wanted to remove the hex and the Hex-Woman asked for a sack of potatoes and a loaf of bread which Great-Gram Marie gave her.

Gram swore that the next day the cow gave milk again and continued to do so for many years.

But my favorite of Gram's ghost stories was this one: When she was a young married woman her husband, my Grandfather was a musician who played trumpet with a band. Usually she went with him when he played but after their first daughter was born, my Aunt Jane, she couldn't do that. One night for some reason (I was never clear on this) she and Baby Jane went to spend the night with a friend named Catherine while Grandfather was out playing music. Catherine lived in a very old house that was quite foreboding. That night Gram and the baby were lying in bed and the bedroom door was open. Gram swore she saw something white and translucent flitting in and out of rooms up and down the hall. She was scared but then convinced herself she was imagining things and closed her eyes and went to sleep.

She was awakened by her bed shaking. She sat up and there at the foot of the bed stood a woman all in white with a veil over her face. Gram said she had her hands flt on the bed and was shaking it. “What do you want?” Gram asked. The lady said nothing. So Gram asked again --- still no answer. Gram was shaking but she had her rosary with her and she said, “Would you like me to pray for you?” She said she felt like the woman wanted that so she began to pray the rosary. About halfway through the apparition faded away.

The next morning Gram asked her friend Catherine about it and Catherine said, “Oh, yes, she comes and goes but if you pray for her, she goes away.”

Gram told me that sometimes when souls get stuck in Purgatory they need people to pray for them so they can move on to Heaven and, if no one remembers to pray for them, they sometimes come back to earth to get prayers. She swore this was true and, for the rest of her life, she always said extra prayers for the forgotten souls in Purgatory. And she never stayed at Catherine's house again.

Happy Halloween and thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 29, 2009

Rock On...

This picture, taken in Oak Grove Cemetery on Washington Street, is strangely beautiful to me. I guess it is the juxtaposition of the intricate spire framed by the two halves of the big boulder split in half. There are a lot of these huge boulders in that cemetery and I am sure their placement was planned. The cemetery was founded in 1854 and its most famous resident is probably the American impressionist painter John Henry Twachtman.

As you can see in the picture above the boulder is split in half and rests in such a way that it seems perfectly natural but I doubt that it is. I'm just curious as heck to know how they split this rock in two.

I love this cemetery --- I don't know why, maybe it is the proximity to Halloween, but I've been enthralled with lately and have spent a lot of time there. It's a peaceful place filled with beauty --- a welcome respite in a crazy world.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

Pretty in Pink?

Recently I purchased a HUGE lot of pretty, sparkly pink cotton yarn on eBay for next to nothing. With shipping it was around $15. The yarn is reclaimed from two sweaters and is unbelievably soft and light. So I have been trying to decide what to do with it.

I came across this very pretty lace pattern and knit up a swatch in preparation for the alpaca scarf I mentioned on an earlier post. It's a fun pattern to knit and it is growing fast even though I am knitting on #4 needles. My hands are somewhat better and as long as I stick to the Bryspun needles and light, soft yarn I seem to be pretty good.

So, the big question is, since I have it this far what should I make with it? It is lightweight and has a beautiful drape and that little bit of sparkle. I was looking through Vicki Square’s Knit Kimono book and found a couple good possibilities. I think I might try the Fan Kimono only in the lace pattern I have started rather than the one she uses.

Also, since I have so much of it, I decided to try knitting a very strange pattern I came across on the internet. Look at the swatch below:

Do you believe that is knit and not crocheted? It is a modular knit that grows, scallop by scallop into this:

I found it easy to learn but I also found it didn't hold my interest for long. Still it is a beautiful design and was fun to learn.

So that is where the knitting is at these days. I'll keep you posted on the pink cotton kimono and we'll see what happens!

I finished my Learn-to-Lace Marketing Bags and Beach Bag and got them photographed this weekend, too. Now I just have to write up the pattern and get them ready to post. It's a pretty cool idea, I think. Each bag is designed in a simple, easy-to-learn lace pattern and since they are small they are quick to knit up. If you are interested in learning lace knitting but hesitnt about tackling something big, this could be a good place to start. By the time you've made all five bags you'll be an expert at five lace ptterns and ready to move on to anything! I'll keep you posted.

Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 26, 2009

I think that I shall never see....

...a poem as lovely as a tree.

That's what Joyce Kilmer wrote and he had never seen the trees in Oak Grove Cemetery. Some of those trees are absolutely amazing:


A poem lovely as a tree.

A tree whose hungry mouth is prest

Against the sweet earth's flowing breast;

A tree that looks at God all day,
And lifts her leafy arms to pray;

A tree that may in summer wear

A nest of robins in her hair;

Upon whose bosom snow has lain;

Who intimately lives with rain.

Poems are made by fools like me,

But only God can make a tree.

Sunday, October 25, 2009

What A Day!!!

A warm, brilliant, beautiful day....

Waves on the back shore. 

The Japanese Dogwood in our yard

The surfers were out at Good Harbor Beach

Golden leaves in the cemetery up the street.


Another Angel

Spire in the cemetery


Hydrangeas drying out.

Thanks for reading.

Saturday, October 24, 2009

Rainy Day Musings

Another rainy weekend day and I'm home puttering around doing the things I never seem to have enough time for during the week. I have so many projects in the works I don't know where to start sometimes. This morning I cleaned out my two knitting bags while catching up on the news programs I don't get to watch during the week. I don't know what I find more obnoxious --- the seemingly endless crud that always collects in the bottom of my knitting stash bags or Liz Cheney.

Sometime ago I purchased a large lot of bubble gum pink cotton yarn on eBay and I have been playing with it trying to design this new lace pattern that I want to then knit in both the cotton and also in some very, very fine lace-weight alpaca from Long Ridge Farms in New Hampshire. I find that working out a lace pattern in a medium-weight yarn with high stitch definition first is a good practice. Once I get used to the rhythm of the pattern it is easier to translate it to finer-weight yarns. This is a beautiful variation on the flame pattern. I've finally started working it in the alpaca and the pattern is becoming apparent --- very pretty.

Alpaca is a challenging fiber to work with, especially in the very fine weights. This yarn is cobweb weight and, because alpaca has a natural tendency to curl and crumple as it is knit up, and because superfine weight lacks the body to resist the crumpling, you have to keep putting the knitted piece down on something like a towel with a bit of tooth to it and spread it out with your fingers to see the design. Once the piece is finished and blocked it will be fine --- and gorgeous. But if you are new to lace-knitting and knitting with cobweb weight, don't be discouraged if that beautiful lace design you are working in alpaca drives you a bit batty at first. It will be beautiful in the end.

My other projects these days seem to all be in my sewing room. Here, too, I am working with some of my favorite fibers. I love French terry cloth. It is 100% cotton and has a finer loop than traditional terry cloth making it seem almost velvety. I made 2 long-sleeved tees, one in a soft rose and the other in apple green. I like them so much that I cut out two more in black and am heading off to work on them as soon as I finish this.

I've written before about my tendency to use the same patterns over and over and over. Even though I probably own over a hundred of them, I use the same four or five all the time. Recently I came cross a very clever thing. I purchased a book titled ”Make Your Own Clothes: 20 Custom Fit Patterns To Sew” by Marie Clayton. What makes this book unique is it comes with a software CD. You decide which design you want to try first, plug the CD into your computer, pick the pattern, plug in your measurements and the software creates a pattern customized for you. Is that cool or what? It would probably be best if you have an 11 x 17” printer or you can have the files transmitted to a service bureau with large format printers if you are making a larger garment. Here in Gloucester Seaside Graphics is perfect for this. Luckily they are just up the street.

I discovered years ago that if you find a pattern you truly love and that fits the way you want it to, it is a good idea to buy a few yards of muslin, trace the pattern onto the muslin and cut it out marking ll the pieces with magic marker. Serge or zigzag around the edges then store the pieces, along with the pattern envelope and directions in a zipper storage bags. Zipper storage bags are the best things that ever happened to seamstresses and knitters.

One of the things I love most about eBay is the access to larger lots of professional quality notions that I use all the time. Recently I bought several lots that are proving a real joy in the sewing room. They included self-covering buttons, seam stabilizer in white and black, and non-fusible interfacing which I prefer to the fusible kind. I also purchased two huge rolls of black lace elastic --- one 1/2” width and 1 3/4” width. What am I going to do with all that? Well, I recently came across several yards of very soft, stretchy black lace fabric I purchased some years back for a project. I am thinking about spending a day whipping up some black lace undies. I figure I have enough materials for at least a dozen pair. A dozen pair of black lace undies? Well, why not? What else can you make on a rainy Saturday?

Thanks for reading.

Thursday, October 22, 2009

The shoemaker's children...

There's that old saying about the shoemaker's children having no shoes --- let me tell you, it has been shoeless here for most of the year. Business has been decent but do I have time to update my professional web site? What do you think? Despite the fact that I'd love everyone to think that I am able to live off my writing --- the blog, the books, etc. --- that income is only a fraction of what it takes to maintain a lifestyle even as modest as mine. So, over the weekend I set myself the task of getting some updates on my web site.

The first thing to update was the Web Gallery. I've had fewer new web sites but far more complex ones than in years past --- shopping carts, slide shows, Flash galleries, XHTML galleries. So you can see some of the new web sites here: Valentine-Design Web Gallery

I've also been doing a fair amount promotional videos to be used in trade show kiosks, posted on blogs, or uploaded to YouTube and other video hosting sites. You cn see a couple samples on Valentine-Design Promotional Video. These are fun and relatively inexpensive.

I've been designing book covers, DVD jewel case covers and labels for awhile now but this year I got a chance to make a DVD portfolio for a photographer who wanted to send DVDs to potential customers instead of the expensive-to-mail promotionalmaterial he was sending. Take a look at Valentine-Design Design.

So that's a sampling. I have more to organize but I have work to do at the moment (and don't think I'm not grateful for that!)

Thanks for reading.

Monday, October 19, 2009

Oh, brother. Nice try, Mr. Harris...

This morning David Harris, the President of the National Jewish Democratic Council, made an appearance on Morning Joe to denounce the hateful Nazi-rhetoric that way too many people are indulging in these days. It was an admirable, noble, and much needed effort to try to bring some civility and maturity into some of the carryings-on by media voices who ought to know better. Nice try, anyway. Harris opened his statement by mentioning two spiels that he was disturbed by, one by Rush Limbaugh and one by Glenn Beck, and was on his way to talking about the issue when he was interrupted by nitwit Mika Brzezinski who immediately jumped in to bring up the issue of partisanship. Now, I realize that Ms. Brzezinski is not the sharpest knife in the drawer. She's semi-cute, has a famous father (former National Security Advisor), and is excellent at saying “yup,yup, yup, what he said” to Joe Scarborough. Beyond that she's sort of just there but this morning she rudely interrupted her guest who only wanted to talk about his disgust at the hateful rhetoric polluting the airways these days, so she could drag the discourse down to “us-them”-ing.

I really wished someone would have given her a good swat upside the head.

Anyway, I felt sorry for Mr. Harris. He came obviously prepared to plead for civility and perspective in an issue central to his position and was repeatedly dragged off his topic by Mika's immature insistence on turning the discussion into a partisan debate. “So,” she butted in again to say, “are you focused only on the right only when this exists on the left as well?” Harris said no, he wasn't. “We want to say, NOBODY should be saying these things,” he tried again, “nobody should be talking this way. We're happy to call out people on either side.” So Mika chirps, “Okay, let's do that, let's call out the people on the left.” I mean it was just pathetic. She was just bound and determined to turn this man's mature, earnest appeal for civility and decency, into a verbal food-fight. I was embarrassed for her.

I don't know what has happened to us, I really don't. People have become so polarized and so attached to their “side” that they've lost sight of what the purpose of political debate and discussion is about. When I was on the forensics team in high school we were encouraged to study both sides of issues as we developed our presentations because, if we didn't honestly look at and consider both sides of any issue, how could we mount a credible, intelligent, and factual debate? These days it seems people just want to make their side, whichever it is, be the one that gets in the last shot --- usually the cheapest shot, at that. Sometimes when I watch these pathetic exchanges all I can think of is Monty Python's Batley Townswomen's Guilds re-enactments. Just put all the players in a muddy field and let them whack each other over the heads with their purses and it would make as much sense.

But I felt bad for Mr. Harris. He had an excellent point and a heartfelt plea, using the atrocities of the Nazi regime is not only utterly ignorant but it cheapens and belittles genuine atrocity. No matter how much Mika wants to point fingers, comparing the President or the Speaker of the House to Hitler is a slap in the face to the millions of Jews who lost their parents, grandparents, friends, and loved ones in Hitler's Death Camps. Those who employ those tactics should be ashamed of themselves --- should be if they had a shred of moral integrity. I was very annoyed when Alan Grayson, a man I could easily love, used such rhetoric and very proud of him for having the integrity to apologize for it.

Well, my grandmother always said you can't make a silk purse out of a sow's ear. Ms. Brzezinski certainly proved that this morning. She wanted to point fingers rather than take a chance at contributing some sanity and civility to media discourse so she did. But David Harris persevered and did his best to present his case in a rational manner. I congratulate him for trying.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

This is hilarious!!!

On a cold, rainy Sunday wht could be better than a good laugh?

Saturday, October 17, 2009

It's snowing in Pennsylvania!

My good friend-since-forever, Lois, who lives in Russell City, PA sent these photos of her backyard this morning. Glad I'm not there!!!

Meet My Glamorous Niece(s) + 1 More

One more of my nieces has a gorgeous new photo so I decided to add it here. This is Alicia who lives in Ireland:

A couple months back I posted a video of my niece Abby in a recital --- she has a lovely voice and is interested in a career in theater. Today she showed me this picture of herself and it struck me how much she looked like an old movie star. That's Clara Bow on the left and Abby Valentine on the right. Pay attention, folks, she's headed for the big time!!!

Isn't she pretty?

And this just in: my beautiful niece Emily sent me photos of her, her two kids Drew & Claire, and her soon-to-be husband Brady. Are they adorable or what?

Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 16, 2009

R.I.P. Barry Finn

Leslie Wind just informed me that Barry Finn, one of the finest voices in Gloucester, left this world early today. You and your great voice will be missed.... Rest in Peace.

Terrence Scott asks the question a lot of us wonder about...

A fourth-grader in New Orleans with a big heart and genuine faith asks the President an excellent question:

And some very insightful responses:
bedfordny I'm a Fan of bedfordny 78 fans permalink
After eight years of the disaster known as Bush. Not a birther, deather, bagger or town hall crier in sight. Mmm....wonder why?
    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 09:37 AM on 10/16/2009
I love this guy. He can turn something like this into a learning experience.
    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 09:36 AM on 10/16/2009
- New Carol Snow I'm a Fan of Carol Snow 19 fans permalink
Because they don't like having someone with Black skin in leadership. Because they don't like having a Black man who is intelligent in this seat of power. Because for years they have been told that all a Black person is good for was to nurse their children, work their fields, clean their homes, etc.
Glen Beck was crying yesterday on national television because things are not like they were back in the day when Blacks did not have the power that they do now. He showed pictures of white families in front of the television and all was happy in the world. He kept crying about how things have changed and will never be the same again. He cried and was thoroughly choked up for the cameras.

They hate the president because they have hatred in their hearts. It's really not about the president, it is about them. Hate is such a strong word as it is toxic. The people who live with this hatred inside their heart are indeed toxic, but have no insight into how it is affecting them.

    Reply    Favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 09:36 AM on 10/16/2009
- New Lowell Thompson - Huffpost Blogger I'm a Fan of Lowell Thompson 12 fans permalink
The kid's question was not rhetorical. It may be the most important question in this nation now.

Why would anyone who believes in the American idea of equality, hate the first AfrAmerican President?

One answer might be that most of the people who hate Obama - Limbaugh, Beck, Hannity, the Cheneys, Murdoch, and all their loudmouthed followers DON'T believe in the American idea of equality. They believe this is a white man's country. And they will do anything it takes to keep it that way.

There are lots of "white" folks (I'd guess about 15%) who would like to secede from the USA based on a "black" man being elected, just like they tried to secede almost 150 years ago when a man who wanted to stop the spread of slavery was elected.

So far, we're having a non-violent Civil War. But I've heard guns and ammo sales are going through the roof, especially in the South. I just hope the federal government is ready to do to these new rebels what Lincoln did to the last ones.

    Reply   Marked as favorite    Flag as abusive Posted 09:36 AM on 10/16/2009

Read more at:

Tuesday, October 13, 2009

A Sad Day in the Neighborhood

It's never a good thing to turn down your street and see it filled with police squad cars. That is a thing that has happened here on this street a few times since I've lived here and it always makes my stomach go cold. Sometimes it's a fire, sometimes an accident, sometimes something more worrisome. But yesterday when it happened I knew it was going to be sad --- you can just see that in the way people stand, heads lowered, talking quietly. Something is very, very wrong.

There are six units in the house I live in. Five of them are occupied by older single women, one is empty. All of us are are pretty friendly and look out for one another. Sometimes a couple of us go grocery shopping together. We offer to pick up things at the store for one another, we call one another to check when the water pressure is low or the heat isn't doing what it should. We chat when we meet each other on the sidewalk and sometimes stop in to visit with one another. It's nice. I like it because we respect one another's privacy but look out for one another.

Yesterday we learned that one of us had died --- she died awhile ago. None of us knew. She was probably the quietest of us all. She had a shop downtown where she got her mail so no one noticed mail piling up. She didn't own a car and though no one could remember seeing her walking back and forth to town recently, we are all fairly busy ladies and no one was keeping track. The lady who lived in the unit directly above hers had commented to me about a week ago that she hadn't seen her in awhile but, she said, she might be away. She sometimes traveled.

But yesterday we found out she was in her bedroom all along --- we don't know for how long. The policeman that I spoke to confirmed who she was but could say nothing more. The neighbors standing out on the sidewalk supplied what information they could. A merchant in an adjoining shop to hers on Main Street said he noticed the shop had been closed for awhile but he couldn't remember how long. He hadn't noticed.

How strange it seems in retrospect that someone could live among so many people and yet her absence go unnoticed. The last time anyone I talked with remembered seeing her was over two weeks ago. That's about the last time I saw her too. She was walking home from work one day as I was going out. We chatted for a minute. She told me she was tired and wanted to get to sleep early. She was one of those early-to-bed-early-to-rise folks --- the exact opposite of me. She and I are the same age --- we had talked about that.

I suppose eventually we will hear more about what happened but maybe we will never know. Two Fridays ago when I was at a neighborhood cocktail party someone asked if I had seen her lately. I said that I had a few days earlier. That was the last it was mentioned. Yesterday a neighbor from up the street mentioned she had noticed her out walking for awhile. How curious and yet how normal. You see someone and you wave hello, you pass the time of day. You don't see them and you don't really think about it. She was discovered because someone had been trying to call her for a couple days and was worried when they didn't get an answer. They went by her shop and saw the pile of mail inside the door and started to worry.

So she is gone and all of us feel strange and sad and uncomfortable that her body was right there --- right there in that room. We don't know for how long. We don't know why no one missed her.

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 11, 2009

Beautiful October

I love October.... everything is beautiful, the air is so clear and cool. The leaves are beginning to turn here though the leaves in the cemetery out back are still all green. That place has it's own little micro-climate. I've been spending a lot of time in my sewing room so I get to keep an eye on them. As I continue to sort through my endless stash of fabric I've come to the conclusion that I missed my calling in life, I should have been a queen. Heaven knows I have enough velvet and silk!

I finished the gray burn-out velvet duster yesterday and it is beautiful. I can't wait to wear it. Then I discovered another piece of stretchy velvet just begging to be made into a pullover. Since I have been reluctant to change out of the green, v-neck terry cloth tee I mentioned in a previous post I decided to use the same design for this one. The color is gorgeous, it is called “Morning Mist” and is, as its name suggests, a misty blue. Just beautiful. When I get done here and put the laundry away and make the bed, I'm going to go work on that.

I think I love October so much because at this time of year I really love being at home --- cooking, tidying up, knitting, reading, sewing. I don't know what that instinct is but in October it is so comforting and satisfying. The Venise lace appliqu├ęs I ordered from eBay have arrived and they re just beautiful. That will be my next set of projects. One of those lace-trimmed camisoles with my new black pants and the gray duster will be perfect for a lot of occasions.

Yesterday was our monthly needleworkers group meeting. The group has changed a lot over the last several years but it is still always wonderful to be there. The house we meet in is on top of a hill overlooking the ocean, Salt Island where the leaves have changed a lot, and Thacher Island which I never tire of looking at. We talked a lot and these ladies have been bringing the most amazing treats. I'm partial to deviled eggs anyway and the lady who made these sat them on a bed of fresh basil from her garden so that wonderful flavor infused the eggs. Delicious. Of course there were too many sweet treats, including a delicious zucchini cake. But once a month I guess it is okay --- especially in October.

So, the afternoon has begun. I finished a pretty blue cashmere scarf this morning --- I've been working on it forever. It is the softest thing I've ever touched, I think. I have to block it and then it will be ready for the blog. So much to do, so little time.

Anyway, it is October and everything is beautiful and I have pleasant work to do. I hope that you do too.

Thanks for reading.

Friday, October 09, 2009


Congratulations, Mister President!

"The Norwegian Nobel Committee has decided that the Nobel Peace Prize for 2009 is to be awarded to President Barack Obama for his extraordinary efforts to strengthen international diplomacy and cooperation between peoples. The Committee has attached special importance to Obama's vision of and work for a world without nuclear weapons.

"Obama has as president created a new climate in international politics. Multilateral diplomacy has regained a central position, with emphasis on the role that the United Nations and other international institutions can play. Dialogue and negotiations are preferred as instruments for resolving even the most difficult international conflicts. The vision of a world free from nuclear arms has powerfully stimulated disarmament and arms control negotiations. Thanks to Obama's initiative, the USA is now playing a more constructive role in meeting the great climatic challenges the world is confronting. Democracy and human rights are to be strengthened.

"Only very rarely has a person to the same extent as Obama captured the world's attention and given its people hope for a better future. His diplomacy is founded in the concept that those who are to lead the world must do so on the basis of values and attitudes that are shared by the majority of the world's population.

"For 108 years, the Norwegian Nobel Committee has sought to stimulate precisely that international policy and those attitudes for which Obama is now the world's leading spokesman. The Committee endorses Obama's appeal that "Now is the time for all of us to take our share of responsibility for a global response to global challenges."

Thursday, October 08, 2009

Easy Style....

Since the knitting is still slow-going --- I can only knit for half an hour or so without the pin starting again --- I have been consoling myself with sewing. Sewing doesn't seem to present the the same problems because you are always doing something different, not the same hand motion over and over. I was afraid cutting out patterns would be too taxing but the actually cutting is a minor part of the process. Laying out the fabric, positioning the pattern and pinning it down or measuring and drawing cut lines provide so much variety of movement that, so far, my hand is holding up.

As I have been sorting through my stash I'm coming up with new ideas for stuff I want to make and that is exciting. I have done very little clothes sewing or clothes shopping over the last year. I know much of it was because of the lingering sadness from last years' loss --- I just haven't much cared about myself. But things are getting better a bit at a time and I'm encouraged. I've honestly entertained the notion of just throwing out everything (except undies) thus forcing myself to make new things just to get me over this hump.

Last night I picked up one of my favorite sewing book, “Easy Style: Sewing the New Classics” by Elsebeth Gynther and did some day dreaming. That is a good thing. I actually bought the book over 20 years ago but many of the styles are so timeless that with minor variations they still look just great. The book is relatively rare. It was originally published in Scandinavia and all the styles are very European in design but someone translated it into English. If you like to sew without patterns I recommend it.

So now I have an idea. Back when I was commuting to New Hampshire everyday I passed two fabric stores on the way home every evening. I often stopped and indulged in all sorts of things. One of them was a mill ends shop so you never knew what you were going to find. I absolutely loved that. I'd buy things with no idea what I was going to do with them but, sooner or later, I always thought of something. One thing that has baffled me for years is a 4 yard length of a gorgeous rayon/velvet burnout with a little bit of stretch to it. The color is lovely, a soft dove-gray. I've thought of lot of elegant evening things but the truth is I never do much of anything that requires elegant evening things. But last night I was looking at the long cardigan-style dusters in that book and --- WHAM! ---it hit me. I want one of those to wear over a white tee or cami and black pants. I just made two pairs of slouchy, draw-string waist pants with big pockets out of this pretty black crinkle rayon I unearthed. So with a white top and that gray.... Sounds yummy.

You know, we just get through however we can when times get strange. The thing I keep consoling myself with is that I get much pleasure and satisfaction from books, writing, sewing, knitting... creative endeavors. I cannot imagine what people without those interests do.

So these cool, bright autumn days I am trying to get my work done a little early so I can log off and go to my sewing room. I need low-tech right now and I need to make things...... Staying off of eBay might be good idea, too.

Thanks for reading.

Tuesday, October 06, 2009

Oooo, I went on another eBay binge!

Sometimes you just have to do something totally unnecessary but irresistible. Over the past few weeks I have been trying to bring some semblance of order to my sewing room. The truth is I have enough fabric in there to clothe .... well, let's not go there. So last week I did a minor purge and made a stack of stuff I know I will never use --- either my taste has changed or my lifestyle and I just knew I was never going to use that stuff. I have a friend, a fellow seamstress, who was happy to have it and, trust me, it made a very small dent in my stash....... A dent just begging to be filled......

So, okay, I had a really, really good time on eBay. I spent far less than an average trip to the mall used to cost me (back when I made trips to the mall). I got some really cool stuff and, over the next couple weeks as it arrives, I'll feel like it is Christmas every time I see the FedEx truck pull up out front.

Some time ago I made two white cotton knit camisoles with pretty lace inserts in the front. This past summer I wore them constantly under my cotton knit sweaters and, since I still have tons of white cotton knit fabric, I thought I'd look for some pretty white Venise lace appliques to use as inserts. Yeah, well, I found them --- a whole lot of them. And some ivory ones, and some black ones.... Okay, yes, I went overboard but they were so pretty and so cheap and I'll use them eventually. I really will. Honest.

This did present a tiny little problem. I have enough white and ivory cotton knit for more camisoles but I'm out of black so I did a search for black cotton knit and I found some very, very beautiful cotton knit that was really inexpensive. The only problem is I had to buy five yards of it --- much more than I needed but that's okay because black cotton knit is something you can always use, right? So, okay, I bought that, too.

While I was searching on “black cotton knit fabric” I happened to notice a vendor I have bought nice fabric from in the past had some black cotton terry cloth listed. Recently I made myself a long-sleeved, V-neck terry-cloth tee in the prettiest shade of apple green. I wear it all the time so I thought, “hmmm, a couple tees like this in black would be very useful” so I ordered enough for two of them. Then I happened to notice the vendor had some of the same fabric in a gorgeous shade of deep fuschia/plum. Just irresistible. Literally.

Now eBay is very sneaky. When they notice you like something they tantalize you with similar items that they think they can sucker you in to buying --- like more terry cloth in deep violet and sky blue. So... well, okay, that worked.

As I was checking out I got a little teaser for a special value – boxes of 100 spools of thread in all the colors of the rainbow and then some. Well, who ever has enough thread? And then the “buy these lots” offer popped up and there was this thing for this huge lot of self-covered buttons in all sizes. Seriously, it was such a great price – twenty cards for the price of three.

Lucky for me the phone rang and I had to go take care of something but... well, it really WAS fun. And it didn't cost anywhere near as much as if I had actually gone out shopping. It's all stuff I can use and, well, I do have a little extra room in my sewing room....

Thanks for reading.

Sunday, October 04, 2009

Resentment, Anger, Forgiveness

As readers here know I have been trying, perhaps desperately, to understand why there is so much anger, hatred and divisiveness in American politics these days. Some of the things we have all seen --- the signs at the so-called “tea parties”, Joe Wilson's shameful outburst, the incessant raging and hate-mongering on talk radio --- are utterly disgraceful and a terrible, terrible message to send to the world as to who we, as Americans, have become. The venom toward out new president is out of control in some segments. They justify their venom with the excuse that the previous president also had a lot of rage directed at him but they don't acknowledge that the rage came several years into his administration when it was well earned.

In some cases I think this viciousness is racism, but in a whole lot more I think it is just payback, revenge for the failures of the previous administration and the outrage they provoked. But I think there is something else going on here and I'll explain it with a small example.

Some years ago, during the recession of the 1980s, I was involved with a man I cared very deeply for. Both of us worked for big corporations. We were living together and things were going well. Then the recession hit and, within a couple months, both of us had lost our jobs. I wasn't happy about it but I'd been laid off before and considered it one more hurdle to overcome. My boyfriend was devastated, outraged, furious. He was so angry it stunned me --- and made me rethink the relationship. His bitterness toward the company that laid him off festered like an ingrown wound.

Within a few months both of us had new jobs, not quite as good as the ones before but still not bad. I was happy, I liked my new company better and the commute was easier. He, however, was so insulted by the change that he became utterly miserable. His whole personality changed. He became sullen, bitter, resentful of people who had the sort of jobs he thought he should have. He sought out new “enemies” to focus his resentment on. He refused to go to a certain restaurant we had once gone to because he heard the owner had refused to hire people looking for temporary work between jobs (there was no evidence of this, he had just heard a rumor). He got very angry at me because I continued to associate with my friends from my old company because he claimed they hadn't stood up for me and saved my job. He often tried to encourage me to be angry when I actually wasn't at all. Eventually, our relationship became so toxic that we split and I began avoiding him. I finally moved to get away from him because he wouldn't let go.

Now, it is clear that he had issues that started long, long before he lost his job but that event served as a trigger to unleash all the pent-up resentment, anger, and frustration he should have dealt with long ago. I'm seeing much of what I observed in him in many of the people raging against the Obama administration and I think there is something of the same thing going on.

This is my theory. For years we have lived in a very confusing society. We are confused about religion being torn between extremes of desperate atheism and despotic fundamentalism. We are frustrated by the messages of Capitalism, that acquisition and having the right “stuff” (literally) is good while struggling to keep up and make enough money to do that is fracturing families and ruining marriages. We are confused about sex because the culture makes us feel inadequate no matter what we do but no amount of sex can compensate for our emptiness. The list could go on. Then along comes a horror like September 11, 2001 --- the blow that shook the tectonic plates of our sense of security and superiority. This was followed by escalating fear levels, wars, red alerts, threats of more terrorism, our nation sinking deeper and deeper into debt while corporate robber barons exploited our carefully cultivated consumer consciousness. Finally, a little over year ago, the whole insane bubble burst and we realized our lives were a mess --- the country was a mess, the government was a mess, our lives were a mess, our system was a mess. But, you see, we can't quite accept that this has been a wound that has been a long time in the making and so many of us, like my boyfriend, have turned to tremendous, unprecedented levels of rage. The truth is we are raging at what we have let happen but, like him, we can't accept we had any say in it so we use the trigger events of 9/11 and the current recession as justification to scream and vent and storm at the injustice of it all. We're mad at us but we can't bear the thought of that so we take it out on the easiest target, the new administration.

I watched film this morning I want to recommend. It is titled The Power of Forgiveness and it is a documentary about people who have endured terrible injustice --- in Northern Ireland and Vietnam and Hitler's death camps and an Amish community in Nickel Mines, Pennsylvania. It is powerfully moving piece and it made me think about all this. We rage and we rage and we rage against those evil people who did this to us. But there is something we need to learn, in every moment, in every hour, in every day we get to choose whether to rage and hate or to forgive and work for positive change. Nobody, not a President of the United States or anyone else, can do that for us. It is up to us.

Thanks for reading.