Archive for the ‘Christmas’ Category


December 12, 2012

I love made-up math days. Ever since the turn of the millennium (and doesn’t that have a lovely ring to it?) I’ve looked forward to the triple digit days. This is the last, although we still have 11/12/13 next year, and 12/13/14 the year after.

While I won’t ascribe cosmic significance to the day (even though it would be fun to try), I can say that it’s been a pretty good week. We got the Christmas tree. It isn’t decorated yet, but the pagan in me always enjoys just having the tree in the house, in all its evergreen glory.

My druid ancestors would be happy

My druid ancestors would be happy

The dog isn’t too excited, but at least she’s leaving it alone.

Such a bored critter

Such a bored critter

I don’t have my moose/reindeer collection out, mainly because the garage is full of the kids’ stuff and I couldn’t get to it. However, I bought a moose ornament over the summer, so that is representing all of its sisters.

moose ornament

Finally, I had an idea of a different kind of vase I could make when a few scraps of ribbon got piled up in the same corner.


I haven’t figured out what I want for a base yet, but I’m confident that will be revealed in good time. For now, I am enjoying a rare moment of calm, peace and joy in the holiday season. I hope y’all are too, and have a great triple digit day.

Countdown to Something

December 5, 2012

My kids may be grown, but I still buy them Advent calendars every year (chocolate-filled, of course). There’s something about opening little boxes and getting a surprise that everyone loves – or at least everyone I know. The promise of a reward is a great motivator, in work and in art.

Since it is the season of giving, I’ve incorporated the promise of reward and delight in boxes with my need to make presents. Here is the first of what I hope will be a series of treasure boxes:

chenille treasure box

I’m experimenting with chenille because the sequel to Death By Chenille should be available in April 2013. That book will be called When Chenille Is Not Enough.

The promise of reward in art is to find something delightful from every angle. The Challenge projects I showed earlier needed to reward the viewer for a close examination, so I added some embellishments. This is one of the pieces as viewed on a wall:

Alaska quilt

This is the reward for taking a second look:

Alaska quilt detail

Here are a few of the others I made:

This is how I secured the peacock feather

This is how I secured the peacock feather

Fish, moose and puffin - what more could you want

Fish, moose and puffin – what more could you want

My idea of reindeer games

My idea of reindeer games

Getting these small pieces embellished for the meeting was the first of my countdowns. There are still a few other projects with their own countdowns on my to-do list. Here’s hoping all our year-end countdowns go smoothly!

Dasher, Dancer, Discipline

November 28, 2012

I was all set to start my annual December whine about being too busy to enjoy the holidays. Then my friend Maya Madhavan asked if I would bring her projects to the Progressive Party. Yes, that’s projects, as in plural. She won’t be able to attend for three months and she got them all done ahead of time. While she’s working. And taking care of her young family. And fitting in the holidays. I have no excuse.

Maya’s projects – done ahead of time!

Instead of whining I remembered “The Night Before Christmas” – especially the line about dash away, dash away, dash away all. Dashing about without a plan is as useful as those nutrition panels on the back of candy bar wrappers (you can only read them after you’ve opened the wrapper, and once the wrapper is open you know you’re going to eat the candy, so why bother reading how bad it is for you?), but I have lots of to-do lists, which can fill in for a plan until something more reasonable comes along. Similarly, dancing is best when done with joy, even if your feet are hurting. Joy comes from within, which leads me to discipline. That also comes from within.

So, I found myself a new mascot:

My new mascot

Crows are clever and observant – and I just happened to have this one left from the Halloween decorations. My little crow will remind me to plan.

Next, I found something that represents holiday cheer:

This is the one time of year I can indulge in my love of all things shiny. If that isn’t enough joy, I’ve got a recipe for killer gingerbread cookies.

Finally, I will remember that creativity requires a certain level of discipline:

I bought these badges with small gift ideas in mind. I didn’t make any notes, so those ideas are gone. I can whine and moan, or I can pull out my graph paper and come up with a new idea. For now, I’m going to pull out the graph paper (the whining will come later when I design something I can’t sew).

Before I forget once again, Julie Royce wrote about her crime novel in progress – PILZ – last week. You can read it here. Julie’s blog alternates between her novel and her travels. Check out her stories about her recent trip to Europe with her husband.

The Herd

December 28, 2011

My reindeer/moose herd grew this year. It wasn’t planned, but I found two adorable felt reindeer and couldn’t resist.

The dining table was too full of other stuff to hold the group, so I put the reindeer candlesticks on the table and the purely decorative critters on the piano, including my flock of Christmas birds.

Lest you think I’ve been ignoring my sewing room, here are a couple of miniature tree skirts I made for my friend Paula (the one who made the knitted trees from last week):

I also made a few inspirational quiltlets for some writing friends who served on a committee with me:

And a blue star quiltlet for some friends whose son just started basic training in the Navy:

The sewing room is now in full holiday shambles mode – as is the rest of the house – but I’m not going to let that overshadow the season. There’s time enough to clean next year.

Happy New Year!

O! (pick your own holiday) Tree

December 21, 2011

The tree series is working its way closer to the top of the piles. I could say I deliberately chose to start the series during Christmas, inspired by the lovely tree my husband and daughter decorated. That would be a lie, but I could say it.

The truth is, I was programmed to do a tree series. My father loved taking pictures of trees. His mother could identify a tree by its bark. If I had more information about my family, I suspect I would find tree-huggers going back to the Druids.

Aside from my father’s photographs, I also have three other pieces of tree art and eight or nine live trees in the yard (depending on whether you call a lilac a tree or a bush). I also have a collection of tree fabric, so there is no end of inspiration. What has been calling to me most, however, is a three-dimensional tree.

I asked my good friend, writing buddy and sister fiber artist Paula Chinick to make some knitted trees for me. I gave her some rough dimensions, and told her she could use any yarn that spoke to her. I guess the yarn was chattering away, because she made me three delightful trees:


Triangle Tree


Can you see my shadow hand?


Nesting Tree

So, for all of you who make holiday quilts – Happy Chanukah, Happy Solstice, Merry Christmas, Happy Kwanzaa, Happy Boxing Day, Happy St. Stephen’s Day, Happy New Year, Joyous Ephiphany . . .


A Toy Tote for the Newest Santa Claus

December 14, 2011


My brother will be a grandfather next year. I’m not certain how he is dealing with it, but I’m thrilled. For the first time in years, I had an idea for a Christmas present for him. All grandchildren consider their grandfathers to be the next best thing to Santa Claus, so of course he needs his own bag to haul the toys, right?


I wanted the tote to be a little more masculine than my usual bag lady creation, so I showed it to my husband, who suggested a handle would be more appealing to my brother than a shoulder strap alone.

I also decided that my brother needed to have his own collection of spit-up towels for the baby. Trusting in the spirit of the season, I gave cross-stitch another chance. While I love embroidery, I have found that cross-stitch (like crotchet and knitting) taxes my basic math skills. I can’t count. I’m always getting lost in the pattern, or not finding the center no matter how hard I try. Still, I pulled out my patterns and tried a few small, simple things:

This is the first one I tried. I figured a one-color pattern would be a good warm-up, and that I could figure out how to make the letters even if I can’t count.

Next I tried a rocking horse:

Although I managed to follow the pattern, I didn’t center it properly on the towel. Oh, well, at least people will know a real live human made it because there’s a mistake in it.

Next I tried some shells:

These were more challenging than I expected, because the holes are so small. By the time I got around to the last bit of outline stitching, there wasn’t a lot of room for the needle and floss.

Last came a folk design that reminds me of Russian folk art:

My luck ran out with this one, and I did get lost in the pattern. However, after successfully navigating the other designs I decided folk art could accommodate my errors and fudged a few squares here and there. I know the baby won’t notice, and I suspect my brother won’t, either.


Big Things in the Dark

December 7, 2011

The beacon on top of Mt. Diablo is lit once a year, on December 7, Pearl Harbor Day. I’ve been doing my best to fix in my mind exactly where Mt. Diablo is in relation to where my car is on the roads around town. It’s easy enough to spot it during the day – it’s the biggest thing in the valley – but at night, everything looks different.

The reason I’m chuntering on about this is because I lost a notebook in the sewing room. Oh, yes, there are many notebooks lurking under the piles in there –

Where's the notebook?

– but this particular notebook had information that isn’t recorded anywhere else. This morning I went on a search. Since the biggest things in the room were the piles I was trying to ignore, I closed my eyes and said, “If I were a lost notebook, where would I hide?” I’d like to say the answer to that question magically led me to the ironing board, but the truth is there were fewer piles there, so that’s where I started.

And, miracle of miracles, I found it. So, I can show you two other things I worked on this week.

I decided it was time to start on my tree series. I’ve been collecting fabric for ages, and pictures, and notes. When the Progressive Party decided the next project would be fractured art, I sketched a tree that I could divide into six pieces. I’ll make one section, and the group will make the other five.

We got the Christmas tree early this year, and when I fetched the lights I also found one of the birds from last year’s table decorations. As I recall, one of the birds I used last year had a decidedly evil look to its beaded little eye. I hope this bird looks a little more friendly.

ARRGH is Good

November 23, 2011

Some of my writer friends are typing their little fingers off as part of NaNoWriMo – National Novel Writing Month. They’ve spent all of November agonizing over their plots and characters, word choice and syntax. I wanted to join them, but I’m too busy with ARRGH Time.

ARRGH Time is the quilter’s version of NaNoWriMo. We flip over our calendars on November 1, count the days to December 25, subtract the days for mailing, and calculate how many more hours we have to add in to each remaining day for the projects to be completed on time (those are the hours over and above the twenty-four that we start with).

ARRGH Time isn’t all bad. Underneath the stress is the camaraderie – every quilter you know is going through the same thing. I propose that we add one more ritual to the holidays, then, and finish up ARRGH Time with a celebration. I propose morphing the letters from a primal scream into an acryonym: Almost Ready to Receive the Group Hug. At some point in December – whatever day we tell ourselves “It’s done enough” – gather with friends and give each other a hearty “Congratulations!”

In the meantime, I am making a little progress on the projects (just don’t ask how high the pile on the sewing table is). My sister-in-law, Cindy Gorton, likes the protoype of her stadium bag and sent me a photo of her in it:

My husband likes the border for the mosaic tile project:

I also finished four drawstring gift bags that my mom asked me to make for her Christmas present.

And now, back to the sewing room. If you listen carefully, you’ll hear my scream.




September 21, 2011

I spent a lot of time messing up the sewing room this week. Aside from the usual detritus from my projects, there were kits to cut, and embellishments to unearth for Mom’s craft project. She brought five crocheted angels to finish.

Two of the gang of five

Her local craft stores hadn’t stocked wired ribbon in the patterns she wanted for the angels’ skirts, but she knew it was only a matter of days before the holiday displays would appear. Sure enough, the day after she arrived we went shopping and found exactly what she wanted.

Last year we worked on the Christmas ornaments together, but attaching the angel skirts is really a one-woman job:

Lily dressing angels

These angels can be used as tree toppers, but I might just use mine as a table decoration. If it’s up at the top of the tree, you can’t seen the cool use of a party hat to make her stand up:

Mom also brought another topper:

She decided to use up the half-skeins of yarn left over from other projects through the years. She planned to donate all the hats to a local charity, but apparently my nieces snagged the first two she made, and she thought I would like the blue one (which I do). The charity will still have plenty of hats, however, because Mom was a prolific crocheter in years past – and she never throws out anything.

And you thought my pack rat tendencies just came from being a quilter!