Wednesday, August 26, 2015

Visit to the Deerfield Valley Pocumtuck Memorial Hall Museum

In my summer quest to expose my teenager to art and craft and culture, Julia and I headed off to Deerfield MA on Friday. There is a gem of a museum called The Memorial Hall Museum. It features old things from our New England area. 

What was most interesting to me though were two sections of the museum. One is a permanent exhibit called Skilled Hands and High Ideals. It features needlework, metal work, woodwork, pottery and more from the early 20th century - all made in Deerfield by skilled artisans and artists. Tucked away on the third floor, it is a gem of a collection. 

If you can't get to Deerfield, you can check out the special website built just for this collection -- The Arts and Craft Moment in Deerfield. Here are my favorite pieces from this collection. All photos taken from this mentioned website.

The actual reason we went to visit this museum was to see a special exhibit called Made of Thunder, Made of Glass 2. I read this fantastic article by Tom Relihan with photos by Paul Franz in our local Greenfield Recorder and have had it sitting on my desk to remind me not to miss the exhibit. The exhibit was organized around current paintings by Gerry Biron of current Native American Indian beaded glass artists. Along with the exquisite paintings is a vast collection of examples of historic beadwork made by Indian tribes - many very old. Besides being a Fine Artist and Painter, Gerry is also a historian and collector of this incredible handmade work. You can read about the beadwork on his blog. Mixed among the old beadwork and the portraits of the artists is also a section of contemporary Indian beadwork. 

I loved the imagery of the beading and the sculptural quality of the work. The motifs are very familiar to me - flowers and leaves and geometric shapes that I often use in my own work. (Crappy cellphone photos by me - sorry about the reflections in the glass.)

If you are close to Deerfield this fall, I highly suggest a trip to this gem of a museum and to this special exhibit which closes on November 1st. Plan a trip soon. 

Monday, August 24, 2015

New Arrivals

We have a new litter of four kittens. They were born during the Saturday of the most recent retreat - July 18th. Retreat babies. This is the mother who is named Petunia.

This is Mittens who wants to be the mother. 

For the past couple weeks, Mittens has been moving in on Petunia and her kittens. For a while, we had to watch her closely as she kept plucking them up on her mouth and moving them to the attic away from their real mom. 

Things have finally settled down now and both Mittens and Petunia are mothering the kittens. Hard to believe but the kittens are nursing both females. It seems that Mittens is producing milk and the litter is happy nursing off of both females. They have it made.

This same natural situation happened last summer. At first I was perplexed because I am not much into cat behavior. Now I find it a bit comforting that both the aunt of the kittens and the real mama are both taking care of the litter. It is not unlike how human sisters will step into the role of mama when the real mama is away. Nature is a remarkable thing. 

Saturday, August 22, 2015

Loose Ends + Vincent at The Clark

You probably guessed it but I love to work. I love to make things and create products to share with others that they can then too make. When I was a kid, I was the one doing the making of the products that were out there for sale. I spent all summer sewing and stitching - it was heaven. Now it is the other way around - me designing the products for others to make.

There hasn't been much producing around here the past couple weeks. Julia and I have been out and about - visiting friends and relatives. Sure, I have worked a bit on my Chair Project but I can't say I have gotten very far or inspired. Julia goes back to school soon and she is excited about the new prospects of her coming junior year. I'm looking forward to her getting back and me getting back to work too. 

I've been craving work the past couple days but I am so distracted that I cannot get any designing or art done. I need my own time and space to create. Soon. It is happening soon. 

This past week, Julia and I have been taking advantage of some of the fantastic places to visit around here. On Thursday, we went to The Clark Art Institute in Williamstown, MA. There is a show called Van Gogh and Nature. If you are anywhere in driving distance to The Clark, GO. The show is there until September 13th. The catalog is available here although I did not purchase it. 

Wheatfield with Cypress Trees from The Clark website by Van Gogh
I asked one of the guards if I could take photos and unfortunately they were not allowed. These photos are from The Clark website. The paintings have come from all over the world and it is an astounding collection. Being an artist who sometimes works in oils, I wanted to look at the brush strokes. I was constantly being reminded by the guards to step back away from the paintings. Julia kept reminding me but the pull was too much for me. I am wondering how Van Gogh got the paint so thick. When I paint with oils, I cannot get as much texture as he did. Perhaps there is a oil paint thickener that I do not know about. (Found this - has anyone used it?)

Butterflies and Poppies from The Clark website by Van Gogh
Surprisingly, Julia enjoyed the exhibit too. We were there late in the day (hint: a guard told me it is always slow late in the day, so go then if you like to avoid crowds), and had lots of time to look around. Like any teenager, she was curious about Van Gogh's ear. And she was trying to figure out (as I was) how the heck he painted so many paintings in a year. I suppose it helped he didn't have a family to cook for and a house and farm to care for. I have read this bio on Van Gogh and maybe I should read it again.  

I asked Julia to chose her favorite painting in the exhibit. She chose this one which is from Paris' Musee D'Orsay. It is called Frittilaries in a Copper Vase. The very cool thing was that next to the painting was the actual vase that Van Gogh painted. It looked brass to me. 

If you enjoy art or color or nature - or all three - and you live close enough to get to The Clark - GO to see this exhibit before September 13th. I think it may be the art highlight of my summer. If you go, you might be able to take a ride on the Van Gogh bus! 

Monday, August 17, 2015

Advanced Crewel Embroidery Farm Retreat Wrap-Up

Two weekends ago, I hosted a fantastic group of students for an Advanced Crewel Embroidery Retreat at our Leyden Glen Farm. It was a gorgeous weekend - we lucked out once again. Clear, sunny days with no humidity. What a treat. The group spent two days learning about Crewel Embroidery in my naturally lit, sunny studio. We sat around the giant table which was covered in small skeins of wool thread and linen fabrics. A whole big pile of creative chaos. 

On Day One, I taught a whole bunch of new stitches - many of them were even new to me. That is what I truly love about embroidery - there are so many stitches to learn. Most of them are easy to grab onto and have success with. Unlike knitting, a stitch can be mastered in 15 to 30 minutes and then you move onto the next one. I guess it is a bit of instant gratification.

Here are some of the students samplers as they were building upon each little bit of knowledge they gained. 

I love a good sampler. They are little bits of knowledge that everyone takes away. Hopefully each student will continue to stitch on their own. 

On Day Two, I helped everyone work on what they wanted to. I like to combine embroidery with fabric printing. I gave a quick demo of how to print on the linen fabric I like to stitch on. Each student then decided upon what they wanted to spend Day Two on. 

Here are Cheryl's hand-printed pillow tops drying on my line in the studio window. She plans to stitch these this winter and turn them into pillows for her home.

Lee began my Circles Sampler. She worked so hard on it all day Sunday and left with a nice chunk begun and confidence to stitch on her own. Lee is one of the owners of Yarnspot in Silver Spring, Maryland and has been to the farm before for a knitting class. Her mom was one of the founders of Yarns International - one of the first importers of Jamieson and Smith Shetland Wools to the US.  It was fun to spend time with Lee again. 

Nancy was beginning a long car trip and needed something to stitch on the way home. Everyone was crazy over the Caspari fish napkins I used at teatime. Nancy has a beach house and wanted to use the fish design on a Crewel Pillow. I helped her sketch it out and plan it. After she began stitching, I suggested she apply some paint to mimic the spots on the fish so she would not have to stitch them all. Here are the handpainted spots on the blue linen. Cannot wait to see this project done. 

Cynthia brought some black and white ticking fabric to print on. I love how it turned out. I wonder what she will use the fabric for. 


Once again, I didn't do a great job with the photos - no group shot after Day One. Bummer. It is hard for me to remember to take photos while I am teaching as I am trying to do a good job teaching - not documenting. I did snap this photo of Lee and Cheryl before they left on Day Two. 

Cheryl is holding the bag she has made out of her Circles Sampler Project. The cool thing about this bag is that when she isn't carrying it, it is designed to cover up her Kitchen Aid Mixer in her kitchen. How clever is that? A KitchenAid Cozy! You can see Lee's progress on her Circles Sampler. She chose to keep the circles in a grid. It will be fun to see how it turns out. 

Thanks everyone for coming to the farm. It was a great weekend full of fun, new friendships, food, stitching and creativity. And thank you to my good friends Cathy and Cynthia who came and helped out with the cooking and food. 

If you couldn't get to the farm, you can purchase the Circles Sampler Kit on my website here. And don't forget about my Craftsy Crewel Embroidery Class. Copy and use this code to receive $20 off the price of the class:

Friday, August 07, 2015

Crewel Retreat This Weekend + Island Adventure

Tomorrow begins the first Crewel Embroidery Retreat of 2015. I've got 5 women coming and I can't wait to meet them all. Four of them are "returnees." That is pretty great because I know the students already and it will be less stressful. I've got some new stitches to share and they are really beautiful and fun to do. 

It promises to be a beautiful weekend with no humidity. I am lucking out with the weather this Retreat Season. Although ----- we really need rain. My garden is parched and the plants are looking like they can use a drink of water. With our well and country water situation (or lack thereof), that doesn't happen here. I know many of you are experiencing much worse drought so I shouldn't complain. 

Julia and I snuck off along with my Mom Nancy to Swan's Island, Maine for a few days to visit friends. It was a great trip. If I can, I'll post some photos next week. We climbed this lighthouse and saw forever!

Swan's Island is a great vacation - no stores except the little grocery store and the lobster pound where you can also buy gas. When you are there, you really get away from everything. Heaven! Maybe not for everyone but definitely for me. If you want to travel there, I suggest you check out the rentals on this site. There is one of the first of the new day letterpresses called Saturn Press on the island. Check out their cards here

Hope you all are enjoying the fleeting days of summer. 

Saturday, August 01, 2015

Project 8 from The Amazing Stitching Handbook for Kids

In my new book The Amazing Stitching Handbook for Kids, I included a glossary of lots of line drawings that kids can use for stitching guides. I stitched a bunch of them on felt from A Child's Garden. Here are some of them. 

This project would be a nice teacher gift project.

Check out the new book on my website here. Books begin shipping after August 5th. I'll be happy to sign them for anyone you like. $16.95 plus $4.00 shipping. 

Friday, July 31, 2015

Projects 6 and 7 from The Amazing Stitching Handbook for Kids

Any new stitcher needs a pincushion to store their needles and pins. This sweet little pincushion is made of felt from A Child's Dream. I wrote the word Sew and added some stars. Sweet project that will become a keepsake. 

The next project is one that goes with the current trend of framing embroidery in embroidery hoops. For this project, the dots are printed with fabric paint. Then the outlines are stitched in fun colors. It's quite nice to get kids thinking about cross-crafting like this. 

Check out the new book on my website here. Books begin shipping after August 5th. I'll be happy to sign them for anyone you like. $16.95 plus $4.00 shipping. 

George and Harry Move On

On Sunday, the new kitty mama to George and Harry came to pick them up. We are so happy that they are going to live on a farm in New Hampshire and help with the rodent population and perhaps herd chickens. Here's a photo of the two of them the morning before they left our farm. 

Such little darlings. It is much quieter here without their tearing around after each other. Hope everyone has a great weekend.

Thursday, July 30, 2015

You Can Still Come to The Crewel Embroidery Retreat - August 8/9

Just a quick note today to let you all know that I have a Crewel Embroidery Retreat coming up August 8 and 9. I still have three spaces available if you have the urge to attend or have just come into some $ and you have been dying to come to a class here at our Leyden Glen Farm.

What will you learn? We will be doing Crewel Embroidery which is hand stitching on linen fabric with wool threads. This class will be going beyond the basics -- introducing stitches that are less common than the basic 8 or so stitches that are commonly used. It will be helpful if you have past experience with Crewel and Embroidery. 

My Craftsy Class is a good primer or substitute if you can't get here to the farm. Click on the link at left to get that class at a discount

Linen fabric and wool threads are included in the cost of the class. Food included too. 

On Day Two, you will have the option to do some of your own designing including fabric printing - similar to my Paisley Pillow. 

Because these classes are small and intimate, I am able to tailor them to my students' needs and wishes. They really are a good time and good value. My studio which sits next to our garden definitely beats a generic hotel, bad expensive food, and fluorescent lights. 

Check out the information here.  

I have had people ask me about next summer classes. I do not know if I will be able to run these classes next summer. Next year promises to be a really busy year for me. If you are on the edge and have always wanted to come, I highly suggest you think about coming in 2015. 

There is one more retreat this season - a Knitting and Color Retreat on September 26/27. There are 4 spaces available at this time for that retreat. Our farm is exceptionally beautiful in September and October. Check that out here

Custom Retreats are also available for a group of 4 people. Just shoot me an email if you would like to set one up for you and a group of creatively minded friends.

Hope you all are having a great week!

Projects 4 and 5 from The Amazing Stitching Handbook for Kids

Kids love making presents for others. In my new book - The Amazing Stitching Handbook for Kids - I have included many projects that make great gifts. Here's a fun one - a little stuffed owl. 

Kids love their grandmas, their friends, their family. What says love more than a heart. Why not help a little friend whip up a heart pillow like this one. 


Check out the new book on my website here. Books begin shipping after August 5th. I'll be happy to sign them for anyone you like. $16.95 plus $4.00 shipping. 

Wednesday, July 29, 2015

Projects 2 and 3 from The Amazing Stitching Handbook for Kids

Here's another couple of projects for kids from my new book - The Amazing Stitching Handbook for Kids.

This first project is a super project for kids. They will stitch flowers or any design on felt. The embroidered felt is then sewn as a pocket to the outside of a purchased canvas bag. Makes a nice present. Felt from A Child's Dream

Project No. 3 from my new book - The Amazing Stitching Handbook for Kids - is for your kids who love their tech. 

You know how hard it is to get the tech away from the kids. Why not tempt them to make something to carry their phones and ipods? Using some homemade wool felt, a button, and a little embroidery floss they can have a sweet little pouch. 

Check out the new book on my website here. Books begin shipping after August 5th. I'll be happy to sign them for anyone you like. $16.95 plus $4.00 shipping.