Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Cross Stitch as Therapy & Another Kind of Cabin Fever

Here in the US the west and northwest are still in the midst of unimaginable wildfire conditions.  Truly, the reports on the evening news are incapable of transmitting what is happening here this summer.  

After so many years of restrictions on the healthy harvesting of timber which weakened them and made them susceptible to all sorts of insects and also simply were allowed to die and fill the forest with fuels, combined with very dry conditions, what we feared would happen has happened and we find ourselves in a 'perfect storm' of wildfires.

This is what our normal view from Gracewood looks like and oh how grateful I will be when it returns.

Normal View from Gracewood
And this is what our sunrises look like now, day after day the sky is filled with smoke turning the sun and the moon blood red.

Smokey Sunrise

Every morning we check the sites reporting the fires and often find they've doubled overnight.  We are praying for rain but also that the lightning that comes with it won't start new fires.

So many have found themselves in worse conditions than we have, the fire just 5 miles from us started a month ago and being one of the first we had immediate response from the professional fire fighting teams and we're very thankful to say that it is 80% contained and not expected to grow.  Those whose fires started after that often found that there was no one to come when they called for help.

8 miles southeast of us a much larger fire complex has grown to 11,000 acres with just 5% contained.  Finally some military personnel arrived this week as well as some fire fighters from Australia and New Zealand and even though this particular fire has a lot of potential for growth, now at least we have more resources to fight it.

The air has been exceedingly bad, they are measuring levels in Spokane more hazardous than they've ever recorded.  Having asthma I have been confined to the house with air conditioner, air purifiers and humidifiers running around the clock.

And that is why I said that cross stitch can be very therapeutic!

I never have 'cabin fever' in winter since even if it is a little stroll I love to be out in the cold and snow, but now we are experiencing another kind of 'trapped' feeling as we sit inside surrounded by choking smokey skies.

Stitching the model of 'Kyoto' has been a great way to get my mind on something else and I've found cross stitch really can take you to another better 'place' while you are working a project.

Kyoto

I wasn't able to get a good outside photo of Kyoto, the background is much lighter and brighter than this photo shows, but I am very happy with these three shades of blue which are close to correct in this pic.

Jasper's 2nd Birthday

One of the sad things in all of this has been the animals who can't get in out of the smoke or who have fled one area of fire to find only more fire.  We've seen an increase in deer and bear visitors to our bird feeding area and we've been stripping our apple trees to pile them up for whatever animal comes by needing a bite.  The birds are cleaning our feeders out daily since they are finding it difficult to find their usual food in the forest.

It has also been a challenge to keep our Chessie, Jasper, in the house and out of the smoke when he is a rambunctious two year old who needs lots of exercise.

This has definitely been a stressful time, with suitcases packed if we have to evacuate and the challenges each day is bringing, but I'm reminded of the most oft mentioned phrase in the Bible - 'and it came to pass' - and am grateful that this too 'shall pass'.

Monday, August 3, 2015

Wildfire Near & a Beautiful Reminder of 'Things Unseen'

One of the great concerns of living in the mountainous west is wildfire.  After almost 30 years living here in northeast Washington state we've had some lovely wet and relatively cool summers and others that were dry and hot and this year has been one of the hottest and driest and that concern about the possibility of wildfires that are too near has come to pass.

A fire now named 'Baldy Fire' since it is on Mount Baldy began on Saturday and is now about 5 miles from Ione and we are about 1 mile south of Ione.  All weekend the helicopters and small planes flew over Gracewood and dipped into the Pend Oreille river to try and pour enough water on the fire to contain it.  It hasn't worked and quickly has grown from 50 acres to 300 yesterday and this morning the teams of special wildfire fighters are arriving and setting up a command post to determine how to fight the fire.  We're waiting for the next update this morning to tell us how much it has grown and if it is still continuing its path towards us.

We're hoping we won't have to evacuate but of course all day it runs through your head how to go about such a problematic event.  In the midst of this I read something this morning that just seemed to suit my needs at this moment and I wanted to share it.

From a new book, Things Not seen, by Jon Bloom, I found this excerpt and the whole book is available in paperback or can be downloaded as a pdf for free from this link ~


I once heard of a man who split black ash and wove baskets.
And he wove prayer through every basket.
The man wore faded plaid and old denim and lived alone high up in the Appalachians where the dirt didn’t grow crops, but it could grow basket trees.
He lived such a distance up in the hills that he really didn’t think the profits from selling his baskets would exceed the cost of transportation to some Saturday morning market. Nevertheless, each day he cut trees and sawed them into logs and then pounded the logs with a mallet, to free all the splint ribbons from those trees. Splint slapped the floor.
And the basket-making man, he simply worked unhurried and unseen by the world, his eyes and heart fixed on things unseen.
“When the heart is at rest in Jesus — unseen, unheard by the world — the Spirit comes, and softly fills the believing soul, quickening all, renewing all within,” writes Robert Murray McCheyne.
Day after day, the man cut ash, pulled splint, stacked baskets. He said that as he held the damp splint and he braided — under and over, under and over — that God was simply teaching him to weave prayers into every basket, to fill the empty baskets, all the emptiness, with eternal, unseen things.
It was as if, under all the branches of those basket growing trees, he knew what that clergyman James Aughey wrote, “As a weak limb grows stronger by exercise, so will your faith be strengthened by the very efforts you make in stretching it out toward things unseen.”
Come the end of the year, after long months of bending over baskets, bending in prayer, when his stacks of baskets threatened to topple over, the man kneeled down under those trees that grew baskets — and lit those baskets with a match.
The flames devoured and rose higher and cackled long into the night.
Then, come morning, when the heat died away, satiated, the basket-making man stood long in the quiet. He watched how the wind blew away the ashes of all his work.
To the naked eye, it would appear that the man had nothing to show for the work. All the product of his hands was made papery ash — but his prayers had survived fire.
The prayers we weave into the matching of the socks, the working of our hands, the toiling of the hours, they survive fire. It’s the things unseen that survive fire. Love. Relationship. Worship. Prayer. Communion. All Things Unseen — and centered in Christ.
It doesn’t matter so much what we leave unaccomplished — but that our priority was things unseen.
Again, today, that’s always the call: Slay the idol of the seen. Slay the idol of focusing on only what can be seen, lauded, noticed. Today, a thousand times again today, I will preach his truth to this soul prone to wander, that wants nothing more than the gracious smile of our Father: “Unseen. Things Unseen. Invest in Things Unseen. The Unexpected Priority is always Things Unseen.”
“Pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret . . .” (Matthew 6:6)
“The things that are seen are transient, but the things that are unseen are eternal.” (2 Corinthians 4:18)
It’s the things unseen that are the most important things.

Friday, July 24, 2015

Kyoto Begun, a New Collection Started & Weather Moans

I'll start with the moans, it has been way too hot and dry in the US's Pacific Northwest for this gal.  It just goes that way some years, we've had lots of cool wet summers for which I am most thankful, now I'm working, hard, on being thankful for hot and dry :(  I'm not getting very far with it though, I'm afraid, I just keep greeting each new day as 'oh boy' one less day in July, lol

One good thing about such weather is I become housebound in the air conditioning and so I do get some stitching done.  Truly, I suffer more from 'cabin fever' in summer than winter.

But 'Kyoto' is progressing and it is indeed a 'happy' stitch.  After the first few bands are done I hardly have to look at the pattern, I just glance above on all but a few of the bands.

Kyoto
I'm using Kreinik's Mori silk thread on this in three shades of blue.  It is really a lovely floss and easy to work with.

I've also been working on a new collection that will be called 'Swatchables'.  The concept is a single motif that can then be made into various patterns by either multiplying the motif, taking it apart and putting it back together in another form, or using it in something like a sampler.  Here are a few pics of the first pattern, 'Rondo'. 


From this swatch size motif you can jump off in a few different directions -

Swatch Motif and Diamond shape made by cutting swatch into triangles

Motif tiled to as many repeats as you like to fit your project

Sampler
 
An alphabet will be included so you can make the sampler your own as well.
 
Here is the 'swatch' stitched in a blue and mocha color.
 
 

'Rondo' will soon be on sale through my publisher, Creative Poppy

Hope everyone's projects are progressing well!  For those who love summer, enjoy!  For those like me longing for Fall, hang in there, this too shall pass :)

Friday, June 26, 2015

Alsace Available & New Design


'Alsace' Detail
 
Yea! Alsace is now available for sale on my website and at Creative Poppy and I hope to have it up on ICG in the next few days so that retail shops may purchase it.  The frame for it is on the way and hopefully I'll have a photo of it next post.  It was a long stitch, especially since I had to stop it in order to stitch Winter Daybreak for Just Cross Stitch magazine.

I've just gotten the model off to them and they plan to feature it in their February edition.  That seems like a long time from now, but magazines usually have their editions ready that far in advance.  Sitting here in a heat wave I can't tell you how much I look forward to that time of year, lol

Inspired by some awe inspiring winter sunrises here on Gracewood, here is the finished model.  Those are some pearl seed bead embellishments, the camera didn't catch very well. 

Winter Daybreak

Of course I can't sit here with nothing on my frame or without a needle in my hand, so I've just begun stitching the next pattern in my Vintage Textile Collection.  This time I was inspired by some of the wonderful historical fabrics from Japan.  Watching all those Korean and Japanese dramas I've mentioned, it is impossible not to be awed by their sense of color, texture and design.

There are of course many types of Japanese textile styles to choose from, including their silk kimonos to their peasant style of patchwork called 'Boro'.  But it was the homely feel of their home dyed indigos that I've chosen for the next design, 'Kyoto'.

Kyoto



I think this one is going to be a 'happy' stitch :) 

There have been more wildlife visitors to Gracewood this month, another young bear appeared at our birdfeeders and yesterday I looked up from stitching and just out the window towards the mountains was a large bald eagle lazily flying just a few feet away from the porch.   I hope the heat wave we're having won't be too hard on the critters, it isn't just me that finds it hard to thrive in summer's too hot temps.

Thursday, May 21, 2015

Celebrating Creative Stitchers!

How can it be the end of May already?  Time flows so slowly and leisurely in winter and then BAM it is spring and there is so much to be done outside and then there is spring cleaning - any wonder I love winter? lol  Even though there is surely less time for stitching during this time of year I did complete 'Alsace'.

'Alsace'
I won't be posting it for sale immediately, I'm waiting to hear from publishers and how and when they want to use it and then I'll have a better idea of when I can make it available on my website.  I'm very happy with how it came out.  It really does look like the type of French ticking fabric that inspired it.

And now I want to show you a wonderful adaptation of my 'Tulip's Praise' pattern.  A friend saw it on facebook and sent a copy of a photo to me.  The creative stitcher is Kay Jones, from the Sticklounge stitching group.  Isn't it lovely?

'Tulip's Praise' done in purples and greens on black fabric by Kay Jones
I am always happy to see someone do their own thing with one of my designs and Kay obviously has a great sense of color and her stitching is beautiful.  Thank you, Kay, for sharing your rendition of this pattern, I love it! :)

I hope to post on the blog in the next few weeks and tell you about a new idea that I hope you will like.  So many inspirations and so little time to produce them right now.

Have a Happy Memorial Day If you are here in the US.  It is the unofficial start of summer holiday season though summer is a few weeks away.  The population of Ione multiplies greatly as people come here to camp, hike, fish, swim and just get away from it all.

Though I do advise them to remember this is mostly wilderness and they may wake up as we did this week to find a 'neighbor' closer than they may find comfortable, especially in a tent!!

Wednesday, April 8, 2015

Gracewood's 'Seville' on Just Cross Stitch Magazine's June Cover

 
Just Cross Stitch magazine's June edition has just gone on sale and I'm very happy that one of my designs' is featured on it's cover.  The third in the Vintage Textile Collection, 'Seville', is a reflection of my love for Spanish lace. 


'Seville'

Inspired by a dress I wore to a prom a few decades ago, lol.  The essence of feminity, the dress was covered from just under the bust to flounces at the floor in beautiful scallops of a floral lace and since I began designing patterns for needlework it has been something I wanted to translate into cross stitch.

Just Cross Stitch made the model into a pillow and as always, I'm grateful to the editor, Christy Schmitz and her staff, for presenting their designer's work in such a beautiful fashion.

I hope you'll pick up a copy of the magazine which will be on sale through June.

Snowshoe Hare
Spring has definitely arrived on Gracewood.  This is a Snowshoe Hare that has been appearing at the birdfeeding station every morning.  As you can see he is beginning his morph from his snow white winter coat into his summer browns. 


Pussy Willow Catkins
We've had some wonderful wet spring days, here is a shot of the fuzzy catkins just after a rain.

Like the hare, everything seems to be coming out of its winter colors and it won't be long before the apple and pear trees are covered with blossoms and humming with bees.

I need to shake myself out like the new spring covers on the bed and get some tomato seeds started inside if we're going to have some getting to any size in the garden beds before fall comes back.  I hope you're enjoying the new season wherever you are!

Stellar Jay

Tuesday, March 10, 2015

Hints of Spring & a 'Mother' Develops

Hairy Woodpecker
Some of the first hints of spring are arriving on Gracewood, catkins on the pussy willows, thrushes at our birdfeeders and the suet feeding birds aren't devouring the cakes quite as fast as they did when it was freezing all day.


winter retreating in the forest


I just finished my ornament and sent it off for the 2015 Christmas Ornament edition of the Just Cross Stitch magazine.  It is amazing how far ahead magazines have to plan.  My vintage textile design, 'Seville', is going to be featured in an upcoming issue and it seems like I've mainly been designing and stitching for publications for many months now. 

'Alsace' has had to be put on hold twice in order to meet deadlines but I hope to finish it soon and I don't plan on taking any more magazine projects for awhile so I can focus on getting more designs accomplished. 

'Alsace'
And I'm happy to say that our attempt at making our own pear vinegar have been very successful!

Pear Vinegar
In order to make a true 'vinegar' a 'mother' has to form and thankfully our experiment in turning all of the pear peelings and cores into gourmet pear vinegar has been very successful.  In the above photo you can see a milky white line that is this jar of vinegar's 'mother' that I caught as it was sliding from the top of the jar to the bottom.  This is the sign that it has reached the appropriate stage of development. 

Next you strain the vinegar through cheesecloth and you are left with this alien looking thing at the bottom of the jar that is the mother and you can either add some of it to jars that haven't formed a mother yet or you can freeze it until you are ready to start new vinegar and add a tablespoon to a new batch to ensure you'll develop a good mother.

'vinegar mother'
I've already used almost a quart of pear vinegar in various recipes, it is great for making a sauce with drippings from roasts or added to salad dressings and stir fries.  The pear flavor and aroma make the dishes so delicious.  I hope you'll give the process a try, it has turned out to be a lot of fun to make our own vinegars.

Now back to 'Alsace', hope you're enjoying spring in your neck of the woods, or fall if you are south of the equator :)