inhale...exhale...relax your shoulders...repeat as often as needed

Saturday, January 31, 2009

air drying

Here's some of my summer laundry, drying in Vermont. Our place is near the top of the ridge and the wind/breeze is amazing!  Things dry in minutes!  When the weather's wet, we resort to setting up our enormous drying rack our family dubbed "the Paul Bunyan" that we ordered from Lehmans.
Lehmans is a "non-electric catalog", and their storefront is in Ohio's Amish country (I need to stop there sometime...).  The Paul Bunyan rack is also a great place to hang wet snowpants, scarves and jackets that accumulate after tobogganing and snowshoeing.  The benefits of air drying are many.  Did you know that an electric dryer uses 10 times the electricity of a washing machine?  Laundry dried on a clothesline has a scent that no drier sheet can match.  In the winter, our laundry, hung on racks and banisters in our house, helps humidify the air, too.  

I made these fun clothespin bags from directions in The Impatient Patchworker . I gave them as Christmas gifts to some of my friends who are line drying devotees. 

I've heard that some towns have ordinances against clotheslines.  "Unsightly". Ha!  As the green revolution gains momentum folks will realize that clotheslines are "yard art"!

Friday, January 30, 2009

a thankful heart

"A thankful heart is not only the greatest virtue, but the parent of all other virtues".  -Marcus Tullius Cicero

This is the little notebook I keep near my side of the bed. (It is very easy to personalize a blank notebook with scraps of fabric or paper) I try, every night, to spend a few minutes centering myself and collecting my thoughts.  I write down a few "gratitudes", a few accomplishments of the day and a few "intentions" for the next day. 

Sometimes the gratitude is as simple as "the warm weight of Henry (my cat) on my lap".  Sometimes it's celebratory or profound or silly. But there are always things to be grateful for. And writing them down, putting them into words makes them matter more.  Each day that I account for them, they accumulate and increase my awareness of the blessings in my life.

The accomplishments of the day allow me to affirm simple things as well.  Maybe it was preparing a healthy meal for those who gathered around our table, maybe it was making progress on a project.  Maybe it was finally tackling something I'd been putting off for ages.  You get the idea.

The intentions I jot down becomes a list of things to do, but with a twist.  I try to see them as opportunities rather than chores or obligations.  Can I do errands in an efficient way, taking the shortest route possible and being friendly to those I meet along the way? Can I attend that meeting (that I don't want to go to) and listen for some new insight I would miss if I didn't attend? Perhaps an intention is as simple as checking in with a friend who has been on my mind.  

The economic downturn has hit very close to home this week.  In several ways.  It has not been easy.  At night, while I sit with my book I realize it is even more important to be grateful these days. Despite the setbacks, my life is full of abundance.  The contrast between my life and that of my sisters and brothers in Gaza, the Sudan, Afganistan, and many other places on the globe is remarkable, and indeed I keep them in my thoughts.  

 Thanking and Blessing-the sacred art by Jay Marshall has been an inspiration for me.  Jay's message is Christian based, and because my faith invites me to explore and find value in many religious traditions, I am able to extract what's useful to me, personally.  I appreciate the rich diversity of ideas and aspirations in the work of many authors and so I encourage you to check out Jay's book.  

And just to lighten your day, check out this website where the philosophy is "All creeds, all breeds, no dogmas allowed".  Did I mention this charming place is in Vermont? (Thanks, Mumsie, for reminding me of this little slice of heaven).

Thursday, January 29, 2009

Karen's snow day

Last week as I was downing a mocha, I noticed this quote on the side of my paper cup, "Anger is contagious".  Hmmmmm...I thought, there's a project in those words. So I rinsed out the cup, cut out the quote and stashed it in my studio. Yesterday I set three goals for the project.
  1. practice free motion quilting
  2. try a different color scheme than my usual favorites
  3. take no more than an hour and a half to complete it
So, voila, here it is.  With a detail of the quote and my prescription for it, below. 
It was a fun challenge.  Now that I am paying attention to my coffee cups, I have another quote in mind for my next "playtime".

And I also CLEANED AND TIDYED my sewing room/studio.  What a difference it makes!  I can walk around freely, find what I'm looking for and the wicker chair is even empty for someone to SIT in!

Love them snow days.

Gretta's snow day

Gretta made a quilt top yesterday, once it's done, she'll send it off to project linus.

Gretta's last Linus quilt was made for a young child.  This time she wanted to make a "boyish" quilt, and so picked these fabrics.  Her corners match so nicely, must be all that dang pinning. Next comes basting and quilting...

Wednesday, January 28, 2009

winter harvest 2

It's still early at our house, so I had to use a flash for this picture.  It's a "snow day" here in CT!  No school for Gretta, so she is where any normal 17 year old should be...snuggled under the covers.  Peter will work from home today.  I'm thinkin' oatmeal for breakfast. Later, Gretta and I will dig into projects in my sewing room/studio.  One of the things I will miss when our house becomes an "empty nest" is the cheap thrill of a snow day.  The weather man reported that there will be "10-12 inches in the whites and greens today". How  lovely it would be if we were at our place in VT today, looking out at the Braintree Range of the greens, but now I am being greedy.

Check out my friend Judy's blog, her amaryllis is beautiful!

Stay warm and if you have to venture out into the world, be safe!

Tuesday, January 27, 2009

hot off the press!

Such excitement!  Gretta (17, and our youngest daughter) and I found copies of this new book in a package in our mailbox this afternoon.  About a year ago, our friends and mentors, Jane Davila and Elin Waterston invited us to submit pieces for consideration for inclusion in the student gallery section of their new book.  We were honored and delighted!  

(Have you seen their first book, Art Quilt Workbook ? I am lucky enough to have a few pieces in that, as well.  Such kind friends, Jane and Elin.)

Anyhow, this new book is visually beautiful and full of great ideas.  Check it out!

old clothes

An old linen shirt+a bit of Liberty of London lawn+a Sashiko panel from my projects "archives"=a fun pillow.  Front button placket from a repurposed shirt=easier than a zipper.
Trying to look at things in a greener way these days. How about you?

Monday, January 26, 2009

snail mail

Sending mail via the USPS may not be thrifty, given the current cost of a first class stamp, but here's an idea to inspire old fashioned correspondence. (Valentine's Day is coming...).  The Envelope Mill, by Haila Harvey includes 3 different sized plastic templates and instructions to help you recycle old magazines, calendars and catalogs into envelopes.  Before I drop said publications into the canvass bag headed to the recycling center, I flip through them and tear out anything that might work.  While I'm watching TV or having a cup of tea, I'll trace a few templates, cut out the envelopes and glue them.  Soon I'll have a stack ready for thank you notes, get well cards etc.  Electronic mail is great, and you can tell I enjoy blogging, but once in a while a hand written note is in order.  These envelopes reduce waste, create something lovely and reconnect the sender and receiver over the miles that divide them.  

Sunday, January 25, 2009

the sabbath

Rest and laughter are the most 
spiritual and subversive
acts of all.
Laugh, rest, slow down.
-Anne Lamott

Saturday, January 24, 2009


Years ago, my buddy Franny (fairy godmother to all four of our kids) and I each bought a gingko seedling.  She planted hers at her house in Sommesville, Mount Desert Island, Maine.  I brought ours back to CT, where I put it in the sun by our front doorstep.  Our silly family named the tree "Gary Ginkgo".  (We also had "Sammy Sequioa" for a while, but alas, his is a tragic tale). We took very good care of Gary, snugging him up close to the house in the winter, banking his pot with dry leaves from the lawn raking. But we knew that like many good things in life, he belonged in Vermont.   As he grew bigger we gave him bigger pots.  He grew heavier and harder to move. This went on for a very long time. When we finally found our spot in VT a year and a half ago, Gary was one of the last things we loaded onto the U-Haul truck.  His arrival in Vermont was celebratory and we auditioned him in several locations in the yard. He spent a few months getting used to a spot across from the front porch and just before the frosts came, we planted him in the ground. We are sure that his roots, confined to a pot for so long, relaxed into the delicious soil of the great state of Vermont.  To our relief, in the spring he sprouted green leaves.  In the fall his golden leaves shed into the magic of the foliage season.  

The zippered bags shown above go together fairly easily.  I used a fun little book, The Impatient Patchworker, by Jayne Emerson, which includes "20 great projects you can make in a hurry". Stitching these is a nice way to use up smaller pieces of leftover fabric.  

Please forgive the awkward placement of the photos on this post, the goofy "?" icon on the last one and the varying quality of the photos.  I learn best by doing, and so I forge ahead with this adventure.

Friday, January 23, 2009

winter harvest

ItalicMy husband Peter (a.k.a. Batman or PPDO (Pizza Pizza Daddy O)), has an elaborate system that he sets up in the fall.  He pots up flower bulbs, nestles them in plastic bins and puts them on hold in our chilly garage for a few months.  When the winter days become longer and longer, he brings the pots up a few at a time and sets them on sunny windowsills. Check out the flower, waiting in its translucent green bud.  Magic.   These are paperwhite narcissus flowers- he also pots hyacinths, amaryllis and mini daffodils.   He is a spring person, and this fall ritual builds a bridge for him,  across the cold days of winter.  We also bring forsythia branches in from the hedge in early spring, put them in a vase and watch them bloom in our dining room.  Smith and Hawken publish a lovely book called  forcing, etc for information on the how to's.   

Thursday, January 22, 2009


I collected these pebbles from the beaches of Lake Michigan in Arcadia, Michigan, and from the rocky coast of Acadia National park in Maine.  (Interesting  Acadia/Arcadia thing going on there).  A lot of my spirituality comes from looking for the sacred in everyday moments and finding beauty in simple things.  This little basket of pebbles sits on a chest in our living room, inviting play and creativity.  One of my favorite artists is Andy Goldsworthy.  I love how his work connects nature and intention and the fleetingness of life.  I also love the work of Yann Arthus-Bertrand, whose aerial photographs are remarkable.  

"I think we would be able to live in this world more peacefully if our spirituality were to come from looking not just into infinity but very closely at the world around us--and appreciating its depth and divinity." -Thomas Moore

Monday, January 19, 2009


These are the birches that welcome us to our home in Vermont.  They grow along the top of our property, between our driveway and the road.  They inspired these ATCs (artist trading cards). The birch bark I used in these pieces is from downed branches (stripping bark from growing trees does them no good).   I love the colors and texture of the bark.

The birches also inspired this little study of the road in the winter, done in February 2008.

The natural world inspires a lot of my work.  My Dad was a transcendentalist at heart and growing up, we spent many weekend afternoons hiking as a family at local Audubon sanctuaries.  He helped us notice the moss, rocks and wildflowers and the way sunlight filtered into the woods.  We canoed on the Neponset and Charles Rivers, and I remember how the water coming off the paddles created graceful swirls and eddies in the river.  We even listened to birdcalls on Roger Tory Peterson LPs.  My Dad's true church was in the woods.  His watercolors hang in my house as a gentle reminder of his legacy.

My Dad's grandfather died before I was born.  He was a dentist, and like my Dad, painted as a hobby.  This is one of his pieces.  And look, it's birches!  Reminds me of the Frost poem "The Road Not Taken".

getting started

Life shrinks or expands in proportion to one's courage. -Anais Nin

I believe that for anyone to create one's world in the arts takes courage. -Georgia O'Keefe

To dare to be aware of the facts of the universe in which we are existing calls for courage. 
-Wilfred Bion

For so many reasons, I am feeling courageous today, as I launch my blog.  I'm a techno dinosaur, and have a lot to learn about the nuts and bolts of blogging. Not sure who might find their way to it, who might read it...but I am putting SEW AND SOW LIFE out into the universe to see what happens. My intention is to post often, with pictures of what I've been working on in my studio, kitchen and our place in Vermont.  I'm hoping to become more  accountable to myself for the time and energy I spend in this world.  By recording some of it, in a public space, I may make connections with some of you, with similar aspirations.  I am blessed with a bunch of wonderful kids, a college sweetheart husband and close friends and family and I'll invite occasional posts from some of them, too. 

And my sense of courage pales in comparison to a certain someone in Washington, DC right now.  I am filled with relief and hope on this inauguration eve.

For all of us, "Somewhere something incredible is waiting to happen". -Carl Sagan