"Strength does not come from physical capacity. It comes from an indomitable will."
Mahatma Gandhi

Wednesday, February 18, 2015

WINTER IN NEW ENGLAND

Unless you are living under a rock, you are well aware that we are having a fabulous winter here in New England.  We live on the North Shore of Boston, which has been the bullseye of many of the storms.  Records have been broken, ice dams are abundant, and every day I am awed by the beauty of the landscape.   I am a true New Englander.  

The view from my sewing machine.  Our fence is 5' tall.  


Heading down our street after the most recent storm.  

That's our home, behind that tall snowbank!
The thing I love the most about a good New England winter
is that the sky will take on a color that you rarely see.
This photo captured that color perfectly.  

Home sweet buried Home.
Anna's puppy Lila and my Cassy Girl.
Obviously, Lila is a New England Girl, even
though she was born and rescued in California
It's not all lollipops and roses, just ask Dave

There is a whole lotta misery going on in people's homes, because of these
delightful formations called ice dams.  We do not have water back up into our
home as a result of our fabulous ice dams, because our gutters are a foot
away from the house with a large eave.  Others are not as fortunate.  


Not lost on me are the difficulties that this weather has brought to the lives of thousands of people.  It definitely is not all lollipops and roses.  The public transit system in Boston is shut down and people cannot get to work.  A vast majority of those people are not going to receive any type of pay checks for all of those lost days.  Billions of dollars have been lost by businesses.  Peoples' cars and homes have been damaged, people have gotten hurt, some have died.  

Now it's time to pray for a slow, moderate melt.  If that's not the case, then the winter of 2014-2015 will continue to give and give, in the form of drainage problems and flooded basements.  We have a drainage system surrounding the outside of our house, and in our basement we have a perimeter drain and sump pumps.  We will not flood.  Others will.  

IN THE SEWING ROOM

My sewing room is at times my most favorite place on earth and at other times a place I can't bear to step into.  I lean towards rather complicated designs, and that is why there are times when I just can't bear to walk in and remind myself of my insanity.  

But, walk in I do, no matter what.  And, the results can be pretty amazing.  I am not afraid to tackle a quilt that may take a year, or even two.  I have to step away from those designs every once in a while, and that adds to the time element.  During those breaks I may make a table runner or a dog blanket, something simple to remind me that I can, in fact, finish a project.  

I have been afraid to look back through my blog and see exactly when it was I finished The Paw.  All I focus on is I started it and finished it, and it is amazing.  Who cares how long it took?  I would have been sewing something anyhow!

And, here it is.  

I had it custom quilted and am very pleased with that decision.  And, of course, it has my
usual machine-embroidered label.  
 As I was finishing up The Paw, I was beginning a batik quilt for Paul.  It is ready to go to the quilter now, and I can't wait to get it quilted, bound, and into Paul's hands.  
The Center of the quilt is the pattern, using Tonga Treats Blueberry Pie Batiks (now discontinued).
The pattern made a quilt of a size that made no sense at all, and so once I finished the center,
I got to designing borders to enlarge the quilt to a queen size.  Well, that was a whole lotta work
and math and in the end very rewarding.  Here you can see the first and second borders--thin
strip of the dark blue, with a border of 4 patches.  Ignore the large piece of blue fabric to the
right.  That was me dreaming that I could actually do an easy border, silly me.  

Here's my audition of a different fabric for a final wide border.  Nope, not that either.
I had to do something smashing and dramatic to finish it off, and I did.
But, I can't show you now, since Paul has not seen the final whole picture and
his next view will be of it quilted and bound.
Here's a teaser, the quilt top from the back side, waiting for a lift to the long-armer.

Now I have actually started something simple, what a novel idea!  My nephew and his wife just had their third baby girl, and I made a quilt for baby #1.  I decided that's not nice at all, to skip the second and third girls, so am working on a quilt for baby #2 and then will make one for baby #3.  Since I hope my baby quilts get used well and dragged around often, I make them a lot simpler than my big quilts.  I have enough of the fabric from baby #1's quilt to make the quilts for baby #2 and 3.  
I love these fabrics together.  They holler "sweet and simple" to me.  
Such a simple design can bring a lot of impact with the right fabrics.  
And that's it, folks, that's what's going on in the sewing room.  I am kind of bored with the process of this simple baby quilt.  In all things, I tend to challenge myself, reaching perhaps further than I should, and that personal quality shows up in my big quilts.  

In the spring I will be getting a copy of Natalia Bonner's new pattern book of modern log cabin designs.  From that I will choose a quilt to make for Anna.  And, there's always more to plan beyond that one.  So many quilts, so little time.  

Tuesday, February 17, 2015

MY DAD -- PHILIPPE A. MICHAUD -- FEBRUARY 17, 1922-AUGUST 28, 2000


Today I drove over a bridge that connects Beverly, MA to Salem, MA and spotted the tug boat pictured above, breaking up the ice in the river.  This scene took me back to a very special morning I spent with my Dad, in the mid-70's or so.  Since today is the day of his birth, I decided to write down that memory, and so I did.  First I shared it with my 3 siblings, and now I share it with you.  

Coming over the Kernwood Bridge today I stopped to watch a large tug boat breaking up the ice near the bridge.  It reminded me of a Saturday morning many cold winters ago when I was a single girl in an apartment in Salem. Dad called me early that day and said there was something he wanted to go watch so "dress real warm and I'll come pick you up."


I did as instructed and he drove us to the bridge near the School for the Deaf in Danvers. The fuel depots are there and because the river was frozen all the way to the Beverly bridge, barges could not get through. I don't know how Dad knew, but the Coast Guard had dispatched two of its biggest breakers to open up a path through the ice.


We parked and found a spot for good viewing, and drank coffee from the thermos he had brought. After a bit, the breakers appeared in the distance. We watched them bash their way through the ice, and we stayed until they had completed all of the breaking and tied down at the dock.


Dad and I were absolutely mesmerized by the forces of nature and man that morning. His wonder of nature and the world are a gift he gave to all of us, and it is a big piece of me, every day.


I'm glad I pulled on my ski clothes and sat by that bridge that day, with our Dad.


There are so many more things I could share about my Dad, that he grew up cold and hungry in the Depression, that he was at Pearl Harbor when it was bombed.  So many stories in a life well lived, but stolen too early.  The most important thing I can say about him, though, is that he was a great Dad, and that is not an easy thing to be.  


He gave to me my love of the outdoors, my endless curiosity and fascination of all things, and he gave me the strength and wisdom to live life well.  


The next time your Dad calls you to go off and do something together, you go.  You could be receiving the gift of a memory that sustains, such as I received one very cold day by the side of a river.  

KNITTING

Carrying on with the update of my life here in New England, I'll share the knitting I've done while I've been ignoring my blog.  

My Mom formed a 4-H Fiber Arts club when my sister and I were quite young.  I didn't realize then what a great gift she gave us when she decided to teach a bunch of young girls the fiber arts she had grown up with.  For my mom, it was a necessity--the sewing of wardrobes, the knitting of sweaters.  There was no money or desire for store bought clothing, including winter coats.  

Now, those arts that she taught me keep me going, especially during these New England winters when the ground underfoot is too icy for me to chance.  So, I knit.  And, I love it.  The rhythm of the needles, and the excitement of the pattern emerging from my needles is something I now cannot live without.  My hands do not work as well as they once did, but my knitting does.    

I've had some starts and finishes over these cold months.   

Of course I made a Christmas stocking for Anna's puppy Lila.  

I had a bunch of Martha Stewart craft yarn left from previous projects,
a bit of this and a bit of that.   I decided to use it all up to make a blanket
for Project Linus, and to use this corner to corner pattern, the same
one I use to make my cotton dish cloths.  I just grabbed a ball at a
time and knit until it was gone, so there is no rhyme or reason
to the stripes.  When I was nearly done, Anna
remarked upon how much she loved the blanket and could she give it
as a gift to a friend who will be having a baby boy in April.  So, I made a
hat to match, and now it's a personal gift for Anna to give.
I think this is my go-to pattern for all baby blankets now.
With stripes added, it has a lot of character and it is delightfully
mindless to knit.  

I finished this lap afghan for myself, and it is perfectly warm
and bouncy and soft.  I am addicted to Chevron patterns right now
and will probably crank out a Chevron quilt in the sewing room
before too long.  

My favorite scarf----Hitchhiker, available on Revelry.
I had this luscious hand dyed wool sitting and waiting to be put
to work, and it has been.  I've now finished this scarf to give
as a gift to a friend as thanks for her great kindness over the years.
I know she does not expect anything in return, and will
be surprised and thrilled to receive this.  
Presently on my needles I have another corner to corner baby blanket.  I've been digging through my yarn collection and using all that I have on hand, and I've made a pledge to not buy any yarn until that collection is gone.  This will not be easy.  The fingering weight hand-dyed yarns that are easily available and popular right now call to me.  But, they are expensive, and I have enough yarn in my stash to keep me knitting for quite a while.  

Monday, February 16, 2015

TIME TO BLOG

It has been far too long since I have spent time on my blog, and I miss it.  It is time to catch up and to start writing again.  Piece by piece I will do exactly that.  

First, the holidays.  Joyful, wonderful.  With Anna again living on the East Coast, not the West Coast, it was an especially sweet time.  The four of us spent a peaceful lovely few days together, doing what we traditionally do.  

Making cookies, baking rolls, building a gingerbread house.  Such simple acts that have bound us together year after year.  




Every year we buy Paul and Anna a "toy" to play with.
This year it was a 3D puzzle that made a useable vase!
We had a lovely Christmas tree, decorated simply and tastefully by Anna.  Tied to the wall,  it did not get knocked over by any of the 6 critters (4 dogs, 2 cats) in the house.  Poppy's black and white look beautiful amid the Christmas finery.  


Anna added a new member to our pack this year, Miss Lila,
and so of course a new stocking was added to our display.   
And, here they all are, all made by me, except for the two with
the Santa faces, which were originally made for Dave and me
by my Auntie.  She loved animals and so I'm sure she wouldn't mind
that we passed them onto the cats.  We now have more stockings
for critters than for people.  

The best holiday photo of all?  Our dear Paul and Anna, of course.  

For Christmas, Paul gave Anna some fabulous Red Solo Cup re-usable
stemware.  Our two New England kids in their Christmas flannel shirts
drinking wine from their Red Solo Cup stemware.  
Since the holidays, I have been spending a lot of time in my sewing room and with my knitting needles.  I look forward to sharing those starts and finishes.  

For now, it's Christmas memories that stand alone and come first.  It is a great blessing every time the four of us are able to gather together.