Category Archives: Pontifications and Ponderings

Happy New Year…

…about 14 days late. But the sentiment is heartfelt. To each one of you who takes the time to stop by to read my ramblings, may this year hold blessings unimagined for you and those you love.

This is a difficult post to write, not because I have any portentious news or because I am out of words (those that know me well will tell you that seldom happens) but because I am at a crossroads in my life with needlework.  It’s funny how much I’ve been thinking about stitching, since it’s been close to a month since I picked up a needle of any kind. What a sad state of affairs. Sigh… The need to create flows deep in me and I get CRANKY when I can’t stich!

But this post isn’t about being cranky. That will pass when I pick up my needles. It is more of a philosophical wandering. As I look back on a half century and look forward to whatever years God chooses to give me, I think about what I’ve learned and what path I want to follow for the decade ahead. I want my fifties to mean something. Like most everyone, I would like to leave a positive mark behind me as I pass through life.

So many choices (a blessing) and so many options to choose from…all with their own positives and negatives.  As I look at needlework, this beautiful, glorious hobby of mine, I know I have to decide once and for all if my needlework is to be a vocation or if it should remain a cherished avocation.

Do I want to open and run a store? Not really. I have spent enough years in retail to know how the business has changed. Besides that’s not really where my heart is…not anymore. Where is my heart? I think my heart lies in teaching others what I know before this beautiful artform (counted thread, needlepoint, knitting, free embroidery…take your pick) goes the way of the trolley and the pony express. And sadly, there are fewer and fewer young people who grace the doors of the local LNS and the guilds I frequent. When I ask why someone is not interested, all too often the answer I get is ‘I’m too busy’.

Although it’s a bunny trail…I think I need to respond to that sentiment.  We all make time for what is truly important to us. I know very few people busier than my sister-in-law, Paula.  She is single mom, holding down a full time professional position. She and her daughter are active in church and in the community. And guess what? She stitches! She makes time for those few moments of beauty and peace in her life at least weekly, sometimes daily. She’s teaching her daughter to stitch. She gives the gift of herself in her time and in her beautiful art. I also know there are hundreds of others here that do the same…day in and day out.  This to me is proof positive it is possible to make time for stitching, even in the midst of busy lives.

Now that I’ve written that paragraph I have to look at my lack of production in the needlework department over the last month and re-evaluate my excuses 🙂 Between the holidays and another sojourn at North Memorial, I have chosen to focus elsewhere…how’s that? And I need to get back to the soft, sweet rhythms of silk and linen posthaste!

Anyhooooo. back to my topic. How do we assure that handwork sees another dawn?  I may not have all the answers, but I know where we start. We teach. We encourage others to teach. We become the evangelists of the threaded needle. We support the  DMC mentor program and all of the fine EGA, ANG and local guild classes that welcome both novice and expert alike and reach out to the community. And we take the time to share what we know…whenever and however the opportunity presents itself.

So where am I in all this rambling? Well, the answer of vocation or avocation is going to take some further thought and some research. But as I look forward to 2009 as it pertains to needlework…I am looking forward to a year focused on two things. Finishing projects and teaching whatever I know about various forms of needlework to whomever will listen. (Mom—I am NOT giving up! 🙂 ) I want one of my legacies to be sharing the pleasure, peace and friendships needlework can bring to a life.

I”m probably not alone in having stitching-related resolutions and I am looking forward to getting back to reading and finding out what 2009 resolutions this on-line community has put forth.

My wish for each of you this New Year? May the threaded needle (or yarn and needles or yarn and a hook…whatever:-)) bring  you many hours of joy.

Blessings,

Julie

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If you live in the United States…

…today is election day. Please exercise your right…the gift…to vote.  It is easy to become jaded watching commercials that spew hatred (mostly unrelated to the issues at hand), reading articles and even blogs that make fun of an individual’s personal characteristics without listening to the message and perhaps even wondering if this system, cumbersome as it is, could ever work. But…for over 230 years, it has worked. And it has worked because people care. It has worked because, instead of attacking their leaders, they have supported them in deed and (for those who believe in its power) in prayer and where disagreement was necessary, it was couched in terms of the issues, not the individual. It has worked because ‘we’ supplanted ‘me’.

Whomever we vote in today has an enormous responsibility.  My message…my plea to everyone is to consider what it is you can do to help this man, to help our congress, to be a conduit for positive change. This nation and this world has enough of hatred, of violence and of apathy. To those of you who share my faith, join me in committing this day, the candidates and our new president to God-since both candidates claim His Sovereignty in their lives.

Off soapbox. 🙂

Just a quick note, since I am off to go vote, I PASSED my submission for the Master Needleartist Program and have been invited to commence work on the next phase. 🙂 More on that and a new link coming soon.

Have a truly blessed day!

Julie

I cannot believe…

...that the inscrutable universe turns on an axis of suffering;  surely the strange beauty of the world must somewhere rest on pure joy! –Louis Bogan

Does this quote speak to you as it does to me?  I look around at the beautiful colors and see a God Who knows the meaning of the word ‘joy’.  Indeed I see a God Who invented the emotion of pure joy.  I experienced that emotion through the power of nature this past week.  Let me share with you a bit of my walk in the woods last Monday. It was a glorious day…

Colorful tree at Elm Creek

Colorful tree at Elm Creek

and…

Glorious shadings

Glorious shadings

and…

sumac on the trail

sumac on the trail

and one more:

A passing season...

A passing season...

Doesn’t a part of you want to dance for joy at the lovely colors? Think of Snoopy, arms waving in the air, eyes closed, feet a tappin’.  That’s what this day make me feel like…tap dancing in the leaves. Some of you will be grateful to know that I refrained :-).

No stitching to share today.  I have been working with words rather than plying my needle. I have a submission coming up for the Master Needle Artist program, I’ve been trying to get my library listing updated and in so doing realized just how many books I have yet to catalog. 😦 and I’m even trying to get back into the habit of daily posts here.

However I plan to remedy that ‘no stitching’ issue.  Tomorrow I am off to enjoy a day retreat with some very good friends.  The retreat actually goes all weekend, but because I work on Sunday, I am doing it for only one day.  I plan to bring my Meadow afghan, my Emie Bishop Hardanger piece and a Pine Mountain Pillow-Chick’s Rule! I will be gone from early morning to late tomorrow night and am planning on having a rip-roaring good time.  I really enjoy both the time to work on existing projects and my time with these precious women.

I’ve added a few more books to my library listing and…finally…listed some October goals.

I hope everyone has a wonderful…JOY filled…weekend!

Blessings,

Julie

Good morning…

…er, make that good afternoon. I had good intentions of writing early and I did…but not here. I was working on my ‘Artist’s Way‘ morning pages. It is surprising how writing three standard sized sheets of thoughts and ideas longhand can necessitate a re-scheduling of one’s whole day. At least this one’s whole day 🙂 I think it would probably be easier were I not severely allergic to 6:30 a.m. (I am much more comfortable at 2 a.m.) Instead I get up around eight and feel like I’m already behind.

As you probably have guessed I did start the Artist’s Way curriculum by Julia Cameron.  Why?  Well, to be honest I get a lot of almost, but not quite feelings about my needlework. Feelings that I want to take it further, to design, to teach, to run a studio.  Feelings that I want to move needlework from an avocation to a vocation.

This isn’t an impossible dream, in fact it is very possible, but I never seem to quite move from dreamer and artisian (as I stitch someone else’s designs…sometimes changing colors or fabrics) to designer, writer, business owner and artist. Action on my part is required and to be frank I’m feeling a little paralysis as I seek to move ahead. The ‘Artist’s Way‘ is Julia’s process for nurturing creativity, for being able to view your desired path in a clearer way and for removing personal roadblocks to success. The curriculum sounded like what I needed, was reasonably priced and it was a step forward. (There have been a few more since…more on that later. 🙂

Having been in the corporate world for some time, I have seen a lot of these..self actualization (for lack of a better term) seminars come and go—some with good results, some far overpriced for less than stellar content.  So far, I think the ‘Artists Way‘ is proving to be one of the former.  Week One alone has given me a lot to think about and work on as I plan the second half of my life. Just what I needed in the way of a kick in the pants.

So…have I been doing anything to pursue my art?  The answer:  Not as much as I’d like, but progress is being made, mostly in the realm of JE.  Since I don’t want more than a few days to go by without working on my Japanese Embroidery (I don’t want to forget what I’ve learned), I’ve left the frame up and have now finished one ENTIRE clump (wooo-hooo) of pine needles.

Here are my first progress photos of ‘Mile High Shochikubai‘, my phase one piece for JE:

Plum Blossom and Pine

Plum Blossom and Pine

I have also worked on a flat silk plum blossom:

Flat Silk Plum Blossom

Flat Silk Plum Blossom

Some Bamboo:

Bamboo

Bamboo

and some cloud pine in two different techniques:

Cloud Pine

Cloud Pine

I know…it scarcely seems possible this is the result of HOURS and HOURS of work, but bear in mind, JE is also about learning a discipline.  There is a right way to do each stitch and departure from that way really does impact the appearance of the needlework. I have frogged more on this project alone than I have in years.

Still, I can honestly say, I love when I settle in to work on JE.  The silks are beautiful to handle and to use (okay, so flat silk is still a bit of a pain and I still manage to shred it in a rather magnificent fashion on occasion, but the results are sure worth it. :-)), the silk ground fabric is also lovely, the frame holds the work beautifully tight and I usually have some soft, instrumental music on as I stitch.

I’m not at the point where I can relax and let the needlework speak, but I can see how practice will eventually make a difference.  Most of all, I simply love the look…the artistry of the finished pieces.  There is so much history and so much beauty all created with a needle and thread.

Apart from JE I’ve been knitting away on my Meadow Afghan, with high hopes for a finish by the end of the month.  I am also feeling the urge to do a bit of needlepoint. More on what I choose to work on in my next post. 🙂 I have a lot of WIP’s to choose from…and I think this time it might be one of my kimono designs by Jinice.

I have also added to my library and will update that page sometime today as well as my page for goals.  I have been absolutely terrible about keeping track of my hours, so I may just have to start from where I am and go forward, since there is no way I can remember every hour worked. Suffice it to say, needlework is a huge and wonderful part of my life.

Well, right now I’m off to buy a light at Joanne Fabric.  I need a new desk lamp for my stitching room and since their stock of Daylight lamps is 40% off this week, it seems the time is ripe.  The older I get the more important lighting becomes and I’ve been spoiled by spectrum corrected bulbs. 🙂

That’s all for today.  I think often and with great gratitude of this this online stitching community.  There is so much inspiration and so much to learn as stitcher’s share.  Thank you all so much!

Blessings,

Julie

Peace…

….Shalom, Paix, Мир, 和平, Frieden, Pace,平和, Paz, 평화, Vrede, سلام, शांति, Fred, Rauha.

How many more lives are to be given? How many more resources wasted? How many more atrocities committed? How many more families decimated? How many more photos like this affecting every country on this extraordinary planet we all call home?

Dear friends of the threaded needle who share a conviction that prayers matter, please join me on this anniversary of a very dark day in my country’s history in a prayer for peace…not only on American soil, but in every land. How much could be accomplished if we lived together in harmony? If we accepted differences? If we looked for what is right, rather than the wrong in each other?

May we never forget the victims of violence all over the world. May it never cease to be something we are horrified by yet may we always find a way to hope.

My path to hope is remembering that one of the names of God is Jehovah-Shalom…the God of Peace. I find it comforting to know that peace is part of God’s very nature and one day this is the promise…

He will swallow up death for all time,

And the Lord God will wipe tears away from ALL faces,

And He will remove the reproach of His people from all the earth;  Isaiah 25: 8 (emphasis added)

May all who read this…irrespective of their beliefs, language and location…have their lives touched by peace this day. And…because I am an American and love this land I call home, may God bless and have mercy on this beautiful country and her people.

Peace,

Julie

A philosopical post…

…so quit reading here if you are expecting spectacular news about needlework.  Actually…I did have the sisterhood over on Saturday so I put needle to fabric…and FINISHED the kloster blocks on my hardanger piece. More about that when I take a photo.

First I need to ask those of you who have emailed me about stash for sale to please be patient with me a little longer.  I’ve gotten to the point where I can navigate around my stitching room, but digging bins out of the closet is still a few days a way. I have to first clear at least one horizontal surface…not the one holding my laptop 🙂  Apart from some of the Lori Birmingham pieces listed which have been spoken for, most everything is still for sale.  I just need to make certain they made the move and I can lay hands on them.  I promise I will be in touch within the week and I do thank you for your interest.  Between moving, traveling and company…not to mention work at this moment…life has had its little challenges.

And…speaking of challenges: (How’s that for a connection? )  Something that has been on my mind a lot the last few weeks is how much more freeing the phrase ‘I can’ is as opposed to ‘I can’t’ and it’s close cousin ‘I’m afraid’.  ‘I can’t’ narrows my world far more than heart disease or age.  ‘I can’  or it’s cousin ‘I going to give it my best shot’ keep me engaged…living while I have life.  I will probably stumble, I may even fall (although I don’t really want to think of that in the context of the following paragraphs)….but at least I tried.  This is even Biblical, although I confess I thought about that only this morning after two weeks of tossing these ideas around in my head.  Paul said “I can do ALL things…” and then he goes on to explain how…I can do ALL things THROUGH Christ Who strengthens me.’

Okay…little less comfortable here.  This tells me where my strength is (or should be) sourced.  Not in my own fortitude, but in God’s. In His will, for His glory. Oh. Gulp.  I guess that probably means I should drag my sorry butt out of bed on Sunday morning and seek Him in His house with other believers. I guess that probably means my beloved Inductive Study Bible should alter its role of being an impressive paperweight.  I guess that means I need to work on my vertical relationship….to assist in all the ‘I can’s’ I have on my list, not to mention to deepen this most important relationship of all in my life.

Does God care that one of the HUGE goals in my life is to walk the Mackinac Bridge?

Where did THAT come from you may ask (quite legitimately, I might add).  Here we are talking theology and now bridges? Zoooooommmmmmm. You might even be thinking I’ve lost it.

But it was a visit to the Mackinac Bridge that started this whole train of thought.  The week before Labor Day, I was in Upper Michigan. I can’t be in Upper Michigan without being drawn to that spectacular conglomeration of cables, pavement and towers spanning the Straits of Mackinac.  Bridges are a passion of my life. I have driven the Bay Bridge at Annapolis…that’s the Chesapeake Bay Bridge, folks. The UBER bridge of the DC area. The bridge even my brother is afraid to drive over and he’s not afraid of anything!  And I have driven it 4 times (2 round trips). Not only have I driven it, but I got a rush out of it. (Whilst hanging on to the wheel for dear life:-))

And…just to show how passionate I am about such things, I have detoured hours out of my way to do the Mackinac….and others of its kind.  In fact, if I believed in this sort of thing, I would be a civil engineer in my next life! I love bridges…the higher the better and my favorites are suspension bridges.  And…it just so happens that every Labor Day they close two lanes of the Mackinac and 70,000 people walk its one way five mile length.

Isn't it GLORIOUS?!?

GLORIOUS

This is my dream. I want to be right in the middle of that 70,000 strong crowd.  I want nothing between me and the bridge but my feet. I have wanted it for years. I can walk the five miles…even with the incline. I can do this…I will do this…even when people look at me like I’m bloody nuts…it is a dream…a goal…a…

Well…except this last time I was over it the love affair seemed to pale.  IN fact, I swear the bridge grew. It was a whole lot higher than I remember. In fact, it was dizzyingly high. Questions started to come.  How many cars have gone over the side?  I WANT DETAILS!!!!!!!!!  Okay, pause, breathe…this is a walk I’m considering. No cars involved. Whew.

Oh…the little voice started again…but what if a really big wind comes up in the middle of aforementioned stroll across the water?  A tornado? A HURRICANE!? (In Michigan???) Or even worse what might happen if a mongo huge ore boat manages to give up acres of open water to aim directly at a supporting pier while I’m blissfully swaying 250 feet directly above?

I started to listen. I didn’t even look up at my beautiful towers. This wasn’t me, was it? Normally, I beg, plead and endure endless teasing because I’m willing to pay six dollars a lap on this beautiful, swaying, useful creation of man (mostly in the form of U.S. Steel American Bridge division and the brave members of the Bridge Builders Local 212 (not accurate, but you know what I mean).

Six bucks…lunch…not only lunch, but given the number of laps I usually like to do maybe even a nice dinner. A new knitting or needlework project. Think about this, people…how much more of a passion can it be when I would give up more colored string to cross this bridge when I don’t even need to get to the other side?

But be that as it may, this time the what-ifs kept it to a simple back and forth and I was ready to move on to something…more grounded. In my mind, fear prompted me to whisper a sad goodbye to the walk dream and left me feeling…well…a little older.

I was halfway to the next destination before this really started bugging me. I mean REALLY!!! I was riled. Am I going to let my world be narrowed even further by stupid fears of what might be?  Come on…I’ve had my heart stopped, cut open, a vein from my leg sown in and had it restarted…by someone who was little more than a (very) gifted stranger.  How can I be worried about a measly little ore boat. Sheesh!

Psalm 139 says that God Himself has numbered my days. That means that when it’s time for me to go out I am going to go out wherever I am…fulfilling a wonderful dreams, stretching my boundaries or cowering in a corner. And no matter what is going on…even if it’s the most wonderful thing in THIS world…I don’t want to be here one moment outside of God’s plan.

My conclusion?  First I’m going to get my sorry butt out of bed on Sunday to work on that vertical relationship. Second, God really does care about my dreams…because He’s the one who made me.  Third…see ya next year Labor Day on this really long, high bridge. I’m looking for anyone willing to travel that road with me (in defiance of wind, errant boats and swaying cables)

Next time I’ll be here with photos of my new stitching room, photos of travels, a few progress notes on (gasp) stitching and e-mails to all those that are faithfully waiting.

Here’s to ‘I CAN’!!!!!

Blessings,

Julie

“If you always do what interests you…

…at least one person is pleased.” Katharine Hepburn’s words, not mine. But there are a lot of similar sayings out there…remember, ‘do what you love, the money will follow? I’ve been thinking a lot about this over the past few years of my life.

Don’t get me wrong, I like my job, I do it well, I am…oh, we’re back to this again…I am comfortable. But as people change, as lifestyles change, as attitudes change, it is becoming less and less satisfying to spend my energies on something so ephemeral.

I believe it is this search for what is solid and meaningful in life that has made me a woman of faith…because through faith I find hope for something beyond the clutter. I believe that’s also why I stitch. When I put needle to linen or canvas, I am creating something that will, in all likelihood, outlast me. It’s also a mute statement of my values: The value I place on handwork in this day of transitory pursuits, the gift of time in a world filled with busy work, my desire to excel in my chosen fields of endeavor, my love of color and texture and even the beauty I find in quiet, solitary pursuits (um…I suppose I should also confess my less than admirable desire to avoid housework must be included in this list). In some small way, my needle and thread form a part of the portrait of my life.

Stitching has helped me through painful days and hours. It has helped to pass the best of times and the worst of times (with a nod to Charles Dickens). It has brought me friendships so dear I can’t begin to imagine life without each one who is bound to my heart with stitches of gold. It has lent a certain luminous beauty to the walls of our home. It has taught me more about the great joy of giving. I can’t number the hours I’ve spent stitching for others. The minutes pass in pleasant thoughts and memories of dear ones near and far. I pray, laugh and sometimes even cry as my needle shares a part of me that will soon pass to another.

One day I hope to leave the ‘comfortable’ realm of my career and instead, trust that love, hard work and a lot of prayer will form a foundation as I teach others this marvelous art form. Yes, that’s my goal…to teach, to create and to teach some more. I hope I might even find a way to make a small living without having to find a patron. 🙂

A dream? Yes. But that’s okay…Dreams can form the foundation for tomorrow’s reality, right?

I have so much more to share that is directly related to my stitching (for a hint see 2008 finishes :-)) but WordPress isn’t cooperating. I can’t upload photos at this time so tomorrow will have to be soon enough.

In the meanwhile…happy stitching!

Blessings,

Julie