Sunday, November 30, 2014

The Squish Book Saga Part Two (Venturing Into New Territory)

As we discussed in my last post, I'm making my own adapted version of a Smash Book but with fabric. I promised to tell you about "gilding my pages".

I was going to machine sew a satin stitch up each side of the squares to make a border that would be similar to the idea of gilding if it were actually a book page. Well, I hated the satin stitch after I tried it on some scrap fabric. Besides, it took a LOT of thread. I still wanted a blue border though. What I ended up doing was using a different decorative stitch on my machine but I used random spools of left over blue thread. Fortunately, it didn't matter what the bobbin thread color was so I didn't have to wind any bobbins. I also was lucky to have two spools of dark blue that matched pretty closely to use (really they were half spools left over from other projects). I swear I really will get pictures taken soon but I don't have any right now.

Anyway, I put the border about 3/4 or an inch in from the edge so it would still show if I seamed the squares together into a quilt and I let the sides overlap at the corners instead of turning a corner. That way I could run all the squares through on one side daisy chain style. It made it way faster. No, I didn't measure how far I came in. I really just set my edge guide a random distance from the needle and went with it. You could use a piece of tape as a guide for the edge of the fabric or even a fridge magnet.

So, about my pages; I started my first "page" for my squish book. I decided to embroider a wreath of daisies. I like to learn new things so I'm using a technique that has been called long and short embroidery and also called silk shading. The daisies are white with very light blue toward the bottom of each petal and, of course, yellow centers. I guess the truth I am speaking here and that I will likely be speaking throughout my pages is that I love to learn new things, constantly.

I chose daisies because I feel a sort of kinship to them. They are so perfectly wild and uninhibited. They are innocent and friendly. I'm not a perfect daisy though. I have thorns. I'm not elegant enough to be a rose so I decided to go ahead and embroider the daisies clearly but, once they are done, I will quilt on a pattern of thorns I think in the background. We will see if I still feel that way when I get to that part. I've also thought of sewing bands between the squares (I guess kind of like bookmarks) and I might make one band a quilted thorn pattern or maybe all of them.

The fabric for this square was an experiment with ice dying (I wrote a blog about ice dying.) that I did in a forest green. The resulting design looks like a sort of unfocused picture of some leaves and yellow flowers (the colors in the dye often separate when you ice dye).

I promise, next time I will put in pictures. I needed good strong light for it and the week did not cooperate as I mostly got rain until I was too busy to take them.

Tuesday, November 18, 2014

Squish Book Saga Part One (The Adaptation of an Idea)

I have always loved Smash Books. Those books that you take forever to fill with art and poetry and lists and color and texture and which help you to do your own self therapy; art self therapy. I've always thought it would be good and so cathartic to work out an issue through art to learn something about yourself through brushes and pencils and markers and so on...

My beloved and ultra creative and talented sister, Janet, offered to teach me and some of our other sisters about making smash books so that we could explore this intentional creative therapy for ourselves. I jumped right in and rapidly discovered that working outside of your preferred medium can be a right bastard of a struggle.

I decided I would like to work on a project to learn to "speak my truth". This means something different to each person but I mean to open my throat chakra and allow myself to speak up and be heard instead of just sighing a lot and feeling trapped and hurt when I am not understood or heard. Your intention could be anything from wanting to learn to eat to live and not reward yourself with food to letting go of old hurts or addressing how you feel about abuse you suffered or letting go of anger.

I began my book like this:

I started with a book of my choosing (it was suggested that an inexpensive book like a composition book would be fine and perhaps preferred so that's what I chose.)

I glued two pages back to back through out the book to make the pages more sturdy with a glue stick successfully. (So, I've got that going for me.)

I gilded the edges of the pages blue using an acrylic paint because I had it on hand and because blue seemed the right color for the project. The color of the throat chakra is blue.

I was supposed to put a book mark or ribbon in after every 8 pages. I didn't like that idea and I was struggling to find a way to accomplish it in a way that was comfortable for me. I guess I didn't see the purpose and there probably was a good reason for them but I didn't ask because I am an incredibly stubborn person. Really, really stubborn. Trust me.

I decided to skip the ribbons for now and work on a page. I was just looking and looking at that book day after day and nothing was coming to me. I decided to gesso a couple of pages to make them good surfaces to paint on and I even tinted some gesso with acrylic paint.  Still nothing.

I wanted to include this super cool quote I found on Facebook so I glued it in the book and stared at it for a while. Nothing. Just crickets, man. Zip. Zilch. I was starting to get angry with the book.

This didn't seem right so I just walked away from the book for a day or two. Then, I talked to Janet. Did I mention how super awesome she is? Not even kidding.

Sometimes what you really need to do is explain the issue out loud to someone else to come up with the solution. That's what I did.

Paper is not my medium, I realized. That's why I've been getting rid of all my decorative paper and scrapbooking stuff. I had so much and it never got used. HOWEVER, it's pretty clear I love fabric. I have drawer after drawer and bin after bin full of fabric. I love to dye it and sew it and stitch things to it and glue things to it and paint it and embroider it... FABRIC IS MY MEDIUM. It's how I express myself.

So, how do I do a Smash Book type project with fabric? That's the project I'm going to share with you; my "Squish Book". I've already started.

I'm going to need 16 squares of fabric of the same size (I picked squares of 12.5 inches but I don't think it matters if they are all the same or if they are the same shape even. That was just my choice.) and I'm going with all cotton fabrics because I like working with cotton fibers. I didn't choose the same weaves or weight or density for all of them. They are all a bit different. Some are just plain undyed and unbleached muslin. Some are fabrics I tie dyed. Some are quilt fabric I really liked.

I picked 16 squares because it makes a 4 by 4 layout and I can make that into a wall hanging easily. It would be just over 4 feet by 4 feet square once all the piecing and finishing is done. Not 100% that's the way I'll go but it's why I figured the sizes and numbers. I could also sew them all in a banner like prayer flags. That might be cool too.

The same way I glued pages together to make them sturdier, I overlocked the edges of my fabric on my sewing machine with just whatever thread I had in the machine. Turns out it was just an off white general purpose thread which worked fine.

Some of the fabrics are more flimsy so I might iron some interfacing to the back of them. More on that later.

Next time, I'll talk about how I tackle the "gilding" of my "pages" and a few other things. I'll try to post some pictures too.

Wednesday, October 29, 2014

Bones in the Winter

Not too long ago just about this time of year, I attended a Bone Mother ceremony. This is a way to help teach women to listen and to hear the wisdom of the mothers who have come before us that is carried in our bones.

Many cultures believe that some knowledge is passed down genetically in our very bodies. Scientists are starting to realize that some animals exhibit behaviors that seem to support this assertion. If we accept that this can be true, we can feel comforted that, perhaps, when we listen deeply to ourselves, we listen to the voices of all the mothers who came before us and we carry their lessons into our lives.

I believe that the gathering with our elders in this time of the year when the Earth begins to prepare for slumber, when the darkness creeps in a little more each day, when we are worrying about heating the house for the Winter and "putting by" enough to eat, is in some ways, about listening to the voices in our bones. We draw close to our own mothers (spiritual or physical) to listen to their wisdom in a time when it is easy to doubt our own voices.

For some, this is really a symbolic exercise but, for others, it can be more traditional. Maybe you all sit around and tell stories of your elders before you or you learn at your Grandmother's elbow exactly what she puts in her dressing this year. Maybe your Grandfather tells you a story about how he met and courted your Grandmother and you learn how you wish to be looked at and cherished. Maybe this year is the first year you are allowed to eat at the big table.

Maybe you learn, for the first time, the traditions of your new spouse or maybe you simply continue to learn the traditions of his family.

Maybe your lessons are less positive or happy. When the past's rusty doors squeak open, we can't say which memories slip out on cat's feet.

Still, here we are closer to death than any other time of the year, it is true. We are also closer to more lives than we normally have access to; those whose lives we carry in our bones.

Listen to your bones.

Monday, October 6, 2014

Chuck E. Chili's

My husband and I have no children, not our own nor from any previous relationships. It's a choice we made and we are happy with it. We don't hate children and they aren't evil. I handle child noise and such better than he does but even I get a little on edge with the screams sometimes.

I understand, as does he, that we cannot expect a restaurant that caters to families to ever be child free. I don't think it's a lot to ask that it be screaming-jumping-running-shouting child free. I also don't think it's a lot to expect a parent not to use in a restaurant meal time to encourage a small child to squeal loudly and shriek at the top of it's lungs. But then, what do I know?

We went to Chili's tonight. It's a weeknight, a Monday no less. Half the restaurant, literally, was empty as in no one at the tables at all. It was about 5pm when we got there. The hostess started to seat the two of us in a corner with three families with small and already shrieking children around us. We asked if we could sit in quieter area and she gladly complied but we were still on the same side of the restaurant with the families while no one NO ONE was on the other, much quieter, side of the restaurant. Hey, I get it. You don't want the limited wait staff to have to cover the whole place like a volleyball team playing on a football field. That makes sense.

Then, the hostess, who seated us in this quieter area (a relative term I assure you as the music was turned up loudly enough so that we had to almost shout to be heard) proceeded to fill all the tables on all sides of us with families with loud screaming children.

The manager asked if there was anything she could get for us and I told her a cone of silence would be awesome as I couldn't hear myself think. She laughed and said she didn't have one and I said I thought not. We finished our food as quickly as possible and left. We even discussed taking the food to go and eating it next door in McDonalds because it was actually quieter there but I was too stubborn to give up.

I get it. You want to go out as a family. I get that it's impossible to keep a small child from occasionally shrieking in delight or displeasure. It happens. I don't really want to hear it while I'm eating though. It doesn't mean I hate children. I hate noise.

Why can't a restaurant like Chili's just seat the patrons with children in the same area together and double up the wait staff in that section and then seat couples or groups of adults without children in a separate area, like on the other side of the bar? Ask the childless adults if they would like family seating or something more low key or find any phrase you like to describe it. Please, I beg of you, let me have a quiet dinner out. I now dread going back there. Loud music, screaming kids, a hostess who doesn't understand the meaning of quiet.... I want to relax with my husband somewhere where other people will cook for me and I don't have to take out a second mortgage to afford to eat.

Please understand. It's not really about the kids. It's about the noise. Whatever your arguments on what to expect as appropriate behavior from child in a restaurant, I make no judgement on that.

Just please let me relax in your establishment without so much noise and PLEASE turn down the music while you are at it. It really only makes it worse.

Sunday, September 28, 2014

There is Nothing Wrong with Me

When I was a small child, I never questioned whether there was anything wrong with me. I knew it. I was stubborn, slow, talkative, lazy... and these were wrong and and since I was these things, something was wrong with me.

As I aged, the message became increasingly more clear. It was my fault when bad things happened; sometimes even things I didn't do. Clearly I was very flawed. Something was wrong with me. Then, I added stupid and ugly to my long list of faults... to the ever growing list of what was wrong with me. I worked really hard and even got to add easy (although I'm not sure my parents were aware of that one) to the list of what was wrong with me. Most importantly, I was stupid. That was universally accepted as was, ironically, the fact that I had such potential (which, of course, I wasn't living up to).

I didn't want to be beaten and yelled at and I thought, in a tiny part of my mind that wasn't smudged up with slimy wrongness, I had a right not to be.

As an adult (legally anyway), I knew there was something wrong with me because I couldn't be Martha Stewart and motivated and cheerful and happy and eventually, pregnant.  I could not believe what others believed I could not agree with my husband's politics. I could not dress or act like a proper wife.

For years, I tried to fix what was wrong with me. I even tried to fix not being able to get pregnant. None of what I did worked.  Then, I realized something.

There is actually nothing wrong with me at all. Nothing. I was and still am, exactly what I am supposed to be. It was not easy to figure out and I had to learn it for myself because I could not hear it when someone else said it and it took me a very long time too.

I'm not broken because I have a strong will, am methodical, outspoken, sexually liberated, a nurturer with no human children, unable to force a marriage to work, sad sometimes, and don't like to wear makeup. I'm not broken because I choose to be childless. I'm not flawed for not believing what you believe.

I am a complete, slightly irregular, and yet perfect human being and there is nothing wrong with me.

There's nothing wrong with you either.

Sunday, September 14, 2014

Who You Callin' a Witch?

Smoothing ointment on my new tattoo this morning because it felt a bit raw and also needed protecting, I was looking in the mirror at what I was doing and a thought popped into my head seemingly out of nowhere. "This is why I am a witch." 

I have considered myself a sort of Hedge or Kitchen Witch for a long time but I felt kind of bad because I'm not big into spells and calling on goddesses and that seemed very "unwitchy". I'm actually more of an atheist if you want to know the truth. I'm not really superstitious but I do like to study them and understand why some superstitions exist (some evolved out of very real and practical necessity - Standing a broom on it's bristles doesn't really spill the luck out but it sure does cause the bristles to bend and make it less usable over time). I like rituals because they help shape thoughts and mindsets for the one(s) doing them. They help me empower myself to think more positively and to act in ways that are more compassionate and loving. I'm not a witch because of a pointy hat or pentacle or because I talk to plants, and the Moon, and my pets, and the Sun. 

I'm not a witch because I meet in circles with my sisters and perform rituals. I am a witch because I trust my wisdom and the wisdom of my sisters to guide me to solutions that are more in harmony with nature than the profit/loss goals of Pfiser or Glaxo-Welcome. I am a witch because messing with the normal evolutionary process of plant breeding by creating a something that would not under any other natural process ever come into being seems really really wrong for all kinds of reasons. I'm a witch because I show my love for my sisters and family with a big pot of stew or something else I have made with my own hands and not things I spent way too much money on from a store. I'm a witch because I constantly strive to know more and learn more and I can't stop myself from passing on what I know to anyone who seems to need the information or asks me a question. I'm a witch because I study goddesses because they tell me about my nature and help me see aspects of myself I'd like to develop and express and because they help me see what I am not happy with and need to work on.

 I'm not a witch because of a costume or superstition or ancestry or any other stereotype and I'm not any less of one because I don't own any eye of newt or believe for a minute I can hex someone. I'm a witch the same way I'm a woman, stout, curvy, olive skinned in the Summer, an avid reader, an animal lover and sarcastic. It's my nature.

Tuesday, August 26, 2014

Meet the Fabric Piranhas

Did you miss me? Sure you did. I really need a sarcasm font.

Well, it's been some time now since I've posted and it's mostly because I had nothing really significant to say. Well, some would argue I never do but they don't count (at least not to me).

I've been collecting patterns lately. No, not specific patterns; more of the variety that are sort of "starter" patterns. They come in books with names like "The Magic Pattern Book" and "BurdaStyle Sewing" and "Basic Black. The books all have sets of basic patterns and the instructions for altering them in several ways. That has the effect of providing you with many patterns for the price of the book. It's also supposed to encourage you to add in your own alterations and style to really make each "basic" garment into your own special thing.

I like the idea because I am someone who never actually sews something together the way the instructions would have me do and I can't follow instructions for projects without embellishing or editing them to suit my experience or materials or desires. I don't even cook strictly to the recipe except for bread but that's not cooking so much as chemistry... well, and I'm careful when I can too.

The patterns either come as a really wacky looking pull out section that has a billion lines crossing over one another in different colors and will make you blind, or on a CD or a download. The first kind has all the pattern pieces labeled and the book tells you which pieces to trace out on paper and cut out. You never cut the pullout, you just trace the pieces you need and use your tracings. This allows you to pencil in design changes before cutting and you will still have all your basic pieces intact to start from again if you want to go a different way. This way, your altered pattern pieces can be kept and used again. The second way is one not for the faint of heart. Using CDs or downloads means you print the pattern pieces on letter sized paper and piece them together and then, theoretically, you use them as the pattern. I say nuts to this. I piece them with minimal tape, trace out my pieces onto large sheets of tracing paper, pattern paper or doodle paper and then take the printout apart, mark an "X" in red crayon on the printed side and reuse the paper printing on the other side for the next printout. Trust me, if piecing all that paper together tries your patience, you do not want to try to use it as a pattern and I can certainly not see reusing it.

It's worth the effort for the money you save to have the exact pattern you want/need but it's time consuming I admit.

I've made a few things using these types of patterns and I enjoy it a lot. I am getting ready to make a cape from the "Magic Pattern" book this weekend (we'll see how far I get) and maybe even a hat to match.

This brings me to the title of this entry. My bestie coined the term Fabric Piranhas to describe us. We will reuse every scrap of fabric we can get our hands on and often buy clothes at thrift stores just for the fabric or as a base for some other garment. I shamelessly buy sheets to dye other colors and experiment on. Several yards of 100% cotton for $3-$4? Yes please! I am not at all ashamed to say that my ottoman is wearing a little more than one pair of my husband's cast off jeans. Don't even get me started on t-shirts!  My beloved SIL shared this site on Facebook today and now I have a whole new stack of projects to do: 39 Reuses for T-Shirts

I am fairly certain my well meaning friends and sisters have effectively rendered me immortal because, with this much to do before I die, I will simply not be able to, maybe ever.

Thursday, March 27, 2014

That Nice Warm Afterglow

Well, today was 4 weeks and one day. One lunar month since my uterus walked the long walk. Since it tripped the light fantastic. I bid it adieu and it is no more. I am now an altered bitch.

I wondered how much pain and recovery I would really experience after my hysterectomy and I'm pleased to say it has been an almost pleasant experience. Please don't take my experience as the norm though. I think I ended up, for whatever reason, on the top end of the spectrum for what one can expect from the aftermath of such a surgery.

Don't get me wrong. My nursing care was top notch, my doctor is no slouch, and I only had to stay in the hospital overnight. Also, I can't tell you how much it helped my morale that all my friends and family were and continue to be so supportive. All have contributed significantly to my successful and exceptional recovery.

My favorite milestone so far was the 14th of March. That was the first period I would have had after the surgery. I celebrated. I was gleeful. I was practically giddy. Some said I would mourn and should allow my self to mourn my lost organ. I didn't and I don't.

Not everyone goes into this the same way with the same reasons. For some, I can see that mourning is expected or even needed but my uterus has betrayed me at every turn. I am so happy to be free from it's clutches finally. There was nothing at all for me to mourn.

Of course now, when I behave like a hysterical woman, I put the lie to all those old theories about what made women hysterical in the first place.

Monday, February 24, 2014

On the Road to Freedom

Okay, maybe the title of the post is just a little dramatic but it doesn't feel all that dramatic to me.

You see, I've had pain nearly all my life. It's been manageable pain and you kind of get used to it but I am really really tired of it anyway. I have had menstrual cramps and bleeding of increasing severity since the onset of puberty. I told my mom but she was sort of the "suck it up buttercup" mindset and it didn't get any further than that.

When I was in my late 20's I finally had surgery to clean out the scar tissue from years and years of polycystic ovaries. My OB/GYN fertility specialist remarked that he was surprised I wasn't in more pain after my surgery; after seeing just how much scar tissue there was. I asked him what made him think I wasn't; what made him think he even knew how much pain I had experienced.

After that and after coming to terms with the fact that I wasn't going to have and didn't really want children, I suffered a couple more decades in increasing pain and with an increasing amount of blood loss every month. I was wiped out. I was useless for a good 5 days out of every month. An ablation seemed to help for a few months and then the cramping was back.

It's been a couple of years since that ablation now and, although the bleeding is negligible now it and the cramps are getting worse. The cramps are nearly back to what they were before. I'm still wiped out for about 5 days every month and I'm sick and tired of it all.

I finally have an OB/GYN who agrees that it's time to yank this sucker out. I had my last period this month... ironically it started on Valentines day. In two days, I am scheduled to have a hysterectomy. I'm getting spayed. I could not be happier. I just hope they don't slap me into a cone. That would be so embarrassing.

Incidentally, if you are wondering, a uterus (one that has never carried a child, mind you) weighs anywhere from just less than to just over one pound. You won't reach goal weight having this surgery. Still, leave it to me to be curious about that sort of thing.

Friday, February 7, 2014


I think we've been making it much more likely for our kids to end up divorced.

Now, bear in mind I have no children. I say what I say purely as an observer and survivor of divorce. I freely acknowledge that what I am about to say does not apply to all divorces and certainly there are many reasons for getting a divorce, not all equally valid or wise.

When I got married, I was 21 years old. People said we were too young. I don't think that 21 is necessarily too young to be married but I think I was too young and so was my mate. What I mean by young is, we didn't have any idea how to be independent people yet.

I don't think we teach our children how to be whole people. I don't think we do it to be mean and I don't think we do it consciously either but we do it nonetheless. What I mean is, we teach our children only half or less than half of what they need to be independent and autonomous adults. We rarely teach male children to do more than follow the directions on a box to "cook" for themselves, or to put the laundry in the hamper, or to keep their feet off of the coffee table etc. in terms of maintaining a home. We seldom teach female children how to budget or to help maintain their own vehicles or negotiate with moving companies, or fire a gun or read a map (or use a GPS). This is, I think, is a large part of why many young people get married and/or end up divorced. They need the other half of the knowledge and skills to function as a whole person today so they marry the other half.

That's fine if that's all you really want to be to someone; if you want to do the laundry and dishes and cook and tell them to take out the trash and fix your car and handle the money. It's dandy if all you want in a mate is someone who will tidy up after you and sub in for your Mom by telling you to put your clothes in the hamper and nag you to take out the trash and have you fix her car. We sometimes think that's what we want because that's what many of our parents had.

It's when we realize that we don't have much in common aside from our mutual needs for care and maintenance that it all goes south. We start realizing that our mate takes us for granted; that we just expect that clean clothes magically show up, that hubby will take the car for maintenance when it's due, that you have only to show up in the kitchen with an appetite to be fed, or that every time you go to buy groceries, the money will be there because someone always balances the budget.

I think, if we just start teaching our children not to NEED someone else to fill those rolls in their lives for them, they will look for someone who fills a bigger roll instead and that they will make better choices not based on subconscious desperation and a car making a funny noise and pink "tighty whities".

Yes, I think the majority of us do want and need a mate of one sort or another to be completely content but I think maybe if we stopped handicapping our children, they could choose that person more wisely in the fullness of time.