Though it drives our sixteen year old daughter crazy at times, our family often has “deep” discussions after watching movies, plays, musicals and sometimes after viewing art exhibits and the like.
We finally (in our fast-paced-first-world-lives one week after opening seems like “finally”) saw the new Into the Woods movie last night.
I’ve been thinking about various themes from the show —
People make mistakes. So many mistakes.
Even when you think you are doing “the right thing,” people often get hurt.
Stand up for yourself. Stand up for what you believe is right. (Doing this is easier if you don’t have to do it alone; see #4).
Being “in the woods” is confusing, sometimes scary, and often dangerous. Take a friend; don’t go alone.
Actions often bring unintended (far-reaching, severe) consequences.
It is impossible to protect everyone from evil and danger. Bad things happen; even to good people.
Getting what you thought you wanted will not necessarily make you happy.
Lies, deceptions, greed, stealing — never the best way to go.
Beauty does not guarantee a happy life.
Stay on the path? Get off the path to smell the flowers? Not an easy decision. “Isn’t it nice to know a lot? And a little bit….not.” One of my favorite lines!
And I know things now,
Many valuable things,
That I hadn’t known before:
And take extra care with strangers,
Even flowers have their dangers.
And though scary is exciting,
Nice is different than good.
Isn’t it nice to know a lot!
And a little bit not.
from “I Know Things Now” from Into the Woods, by Sondheim
I by no means exhausted the list of themes from this show. I would love to hear your thoughts and ideas.
At this time of year, I’m always on the lookout for gifts that are more than just gifts. If I can give something beautiful, handmade, or artisan made that gives back to either the artist or the community where it originated — then I’m more willing to purchase that item.
During recent years, Mai Handicrafts has established itself as the primary marketing agent for artisans from neglected families and women. It practices a model of social development in which social service cannot be separated from economic self-reliance. Mai Handicrafts sales fund various community development activities, including clean water projects, vocational training equipment purchase and teacher wage subsidies.
Our goal is to holistically equip people living in poverty with the skills, education, and resources to change their circumstances forever. Work provides worth. Education breeds innovation. Mentorship nourishes relationships. Through this multifaceted and measured approach we work with each beneficiary to create a path toward independence.
Accompany, a site that features products that are fair trade, philanthropic and artisan made. I chose just one example to share here. There are lots of very interesting and lovely choices.
Introducing global curation at its finest. We scour the globe for the coolest, most beautiful and one-of-a-kind finds, and filter them through a range of style lenses— to create unique boutiques that contain both an eclectic mix of cultures and a well-edited point of view. Each and every piece we pick has a story behind it, and embodies exemplary design. Handmade pieces and ethically sourced items, that bring human impact and fashion impact together to create feel-good goods through a look-good lens.
I learned about this next site through a comment made on last December’s post featuring gifts that give back.
Napada handicrafts employs women from this low-income community enabling them to better the lives of their families while forming community with Christians and learning the truths of God. Some of the women had low paying jobs and some had no work opportunities whatsoever prior to becoming a part of Napada. Napada provides a creative outlet for these women while seeing them come to know and love how they are a part of God’s great creation and plan.
As professionals in the international development field, Catherine Lieber Shimony and Joan Shifrin traveled to impoverished areas around the globe to support community-based economic initiatives. Time and time again, they met dynamic women that were producing beautiful, handmade goods, yet lacked access to sustainable markets in which to sell their products. Catherine and Joan saw first-hand how women in marginalized communities throughout Asia, Africa, and the Americas were able to advance their families’ well-being only after their income was stabilized. In 2005, Catherine and Joan were inspired to found Global Goods Partners to create effective income-generation opportunities for women and their communities through access to the consumer market for handmade, fair trade products.
Lydali: Gorgeous jewelry, bags and scarves. SO many cool and beautiful items here!!
FEED: Creating good products that help feed the world. Wonderful bags, totes, bracelets, messengers, backpacks — LOTS of cool stuff. Many items under $40.
At Far & Wide Collective we have a passion for discovering the beautifully unique and carefully made things one can only stumble upon in the tucked-away workshops and rural village markets on exotic travels. We have found these products – and the people who make them – and we are bringing them to you. We know that if we do, we are helping to build a more sustainable infrastructure in many of these communities and countries for the future.
The GR Collection weaves together tradition with innovation. Proving that contemporary design and environmental sensitivity go hand-in-hand, our mainline collection of baskets and tableware is crafted entirely from locally-sourced, natural fibres and recycled materials.
Nest is partnering with the world’s most promising artisans to build sustainable businesses within the competitive landscape of today’s global economy. Simultaneously, Nest is helping artisans to transform their communities through the alleviation of poverty, empowerment of women and promotion of peace.
Our products are created through collaborations between carefully selected emerging British designers and ethical producers in developing countries. In addition, Shake the Dust also works with all producer and designer partners to select and create products for individual signature collections.
Hand-made products bring a rare element of soul and craftsmanship into our homes and it is in this spirit that Shake the Dust connects you to beautiful products and their creators. Shake the Dust stands for ethical transparency without compromising style.
The brand is founded on the belief that good design, ethical production and profitability are not mutually exclusive. In this respect, Shake the Dust promotes development and sustainability for both designers, producers and the industry and offers a unique blend of good design with a conscience.
I would love to hear of other sites you enjoy that fit this realm of gift giving. Keep it simple. Focus on the LOVE.
Other blog posts featuring gifts that give back ideas:
i first learned to sew alongside my mom, but lost interest in the craft until my early twenties when i got my own machine. over those last fifteen years, i’ve experimented with modern quilting, accessories and garment sewing, pattern design, hand-printed fabric, and textile design.
imagine gnats started as a little etsy shop, selling small sewn items to help support my family and also to give me a creative outlet in a corporate world. it’s come a long way in just five years… from a hobby to a full-time job. my love of sewing and design has grown as well, and now my own sewing patterns help and inspire others to create.
i am proud to have created patterns for garments that are easy to sew and easy to wear. imagine gnats patterns feature classic silhouettes with a modern twist that incorporate clever details and practical techniques.
I’m bound and determined to knit again sometime soon. I have yarn, needles and a project all picked out. The free pattern is HERE.
It is the “Honest Warmth Shawl” pattern from Lion Brand Yarns. I found the photo on Pinterest and tracked down the pattern. You might need to create an account on the Lion Brand website in order to get to the patterns, though I think they have a “guest” route, too.
I really like this free printable: It simply says “just begin.” If you search around a bit, you can get other colors for the background.
viat Sarah Jane Studios, Sing your song free printable
This next one is pretty utilitarian, but there are SO MANY cool options! Printable Paper.
1,352 papers you can download and print for free. We’ve got graph paper, lined paper, financial paper, music paper, and more. Printable Paper has been featured by LifeHacker, Kim Komando, Woman’s World magazine, and the Today Show.
For me, the music paper section is the most interesting.
This printable music paper (also known as manuscript paper or music staff paper) is available with various number of staves per page, in both page orientations, and in four paper sizes (legal, letter, ledger, and A4). Also available are chord charts and tablature paper.
Speaking of paper, I love pretty note cards and such. You can find millions of free fonts, textures, and printables on Pinterest or by doing a Google search. I found these great little cards from Coconut Cards.
I took a quilting class in this wonderful space today!
This afternoon I took a quilt class in the gorgeous lobby of the Milwaukee Art Museum. The group was divided into four sections: improvisational quilting (inspired by Gee’s Bend style quiltmaking); hand applique (inspired by the floral quilt); hand quilting (inspired by the star quilt); and crazy quilting stitches (inspired by the crazy quilt in the exhibit). The groups rotated through each of the four areas spending about 45 min. or so at each station.
I had fun meeting fellow fiber enthusiasts, and it was especially wonderful to spend time being creative in that amazing space. The teachers were excellent and I picked up several good tips and ideas.
image by TTQ cc; Uncommon Folk exhibit at MaM
As I was driving home north along the shore of Lake Michigan, I stopped to take a few photos. The ice has finally begun to break up, so there is some open water peeking through here and there. The shards of ice that are strewn about and piled up in various configurations created a decidedly other-worldly scene. Is there an ice planet? This is what I would expect it to look like.
We went to the Milwaukee Museum of Art this afternoon for a brief but very enjoyable visit. We saw the new Uncommon Folk exhibit.
As we were leaving, I looked back at the beautiful museum building. The evening sun was being reflected on the lovely wings. I tried to capture a quick photograph, but as always, light is nearly impossible to reproduce.
We drove north along the frozen shore of Lake Michigan. The sky was an Impressionist’s dream of pale violets, pinks, blues, peaches, and tinted white. The frozen ice reflected the pink light most of all. Here and there bare black branches of trees cast stark silhouettes against the pastel beauty. A few chunks of ice sparkled on the icy surface, like gems strewn about. There was no opportunity to stop safely for a photo, so the image will stay in my mind and as clumsily conveyed in my words here and haiku above.
I want to share some of my very favorite websites and pages with you!
1. That Tree:This project started in the area of my old hometown! Mark Hirsch took a photograph of an old oak tree every day for a year and posted the photos on his Facebook page. The beauty and artistry (and his perseverance) attracted a wider and wider audience as the year progressed. The project is now internationally famous. He has published a beautiful book and has done many national interviews. He continues to post photos of That Tree frequently, but not every day now.
(Note: I am actually IN the book! I was one of the people who gathered in the field on that cold, snowy day last March to celebrate the final day of the year of photographs. We are all in the book with That Tree.)
2. Historical Pics: This site has off-beat photographs of historic events, people, and random things galore. For instance:
3. Holstee: “Holstee exists to encourage mindful living. We hope to change the way people look at life by designing unique products and sharing meaningful experiences.” This is the blurb from their website. The company is cooler than this blurb sounds. They have some great free inspirational downloads.
4. Brain Pickings: This site has a continual stream of quirky, artistic, off-the-beaten-path, intelligent, and inspiring articles and illustrations. One of my recent favorites is a list of New Year’s resolutions from people like Woody Guthrie and Marilyn Monroe! Read it here. Take some time to browse their archives, though, if you can. Enjoy!
5. Do you know about Humans of New York? This link takes you to the Facebook page, where a photo is posted every day with a short quote or conversation. I find it incredibly moving. I got the book as a Christmas gift and just love it!
6.Colossal:The tag line says “art and visual culture.” Their blurb says this: Each week you’ll find 15-25 posts on photography, design, animation, painting, installation art, architecture, drawing, and street art. Colossal is also a great place to learn about the intersection of art and science as well as the beauty of the natural world. There are frequently posts about things far out in left field, but generally Colossal is a reminder that in this digital age there are still countless people making incredible work with their bare hands.
You’ll see things like this:
GORGEOUS and so beautiful!
7. Another site I can spend quite a while browsing in is: Laughing Squid.Their website “about” blurb: Based in New York City, Laughing Squid is a blog featuring compelling art, culture & technology as well as a cloud-based web hosting company with a focus on WordPress hosting. For more info see our FAQ and Wikipedia.
Here are a few very memorable examples of the odd-ball kind of things you’ll find at Laughing Squid.
8. Letters of Note: This site publishes letters written by various famous and not-so-famous people. It is intriguing, amazing, engaging, humorous, and full of information.
“In our age of email and texts, letter-writing seems set for extinction. But millions have been flocking to a website to pore over the correspondence collected by blogger Sean Usher.”
Click here for a wonderful example of historic correspondence Letters of Note highlights. (This links to a series of letters between Ford Motor Company and poet Marianne Moore as they discuss various car names). Here is a link to the Letters of Note “best of 2013” list. This one is from a Dallas hospital administrator in 1963. Letters of Note recently published a book as well.
9.Noisetrade:This site has gobs of free music. Tag line: Free music from thousands of artists who would like to meet you. You can sample, listen online and request a download code. If you like what you hear, you have several opportunities to leave tips for the artists. I have found this a great avenue for discovering new music to get me out of my listening ruts. There is a limit to the number of downloads per day (something like 8 or 10? not very limiting really).
10. Word Porn: I love obscure and interesting words. This site has many that I never heard of or even imagined existed!
I’d love to hear about some of YOUR favorite places to browse around on the web. Please share!
The Greatest Secrets are Always Hidden in Unlikely Places
In the book poemcrazy the author describes how she learned to be wary of sharing her observations about beauty.
“When I was ten or eleven I caught some snowflakes on my mitten. (—) I’d never looked closely at a real snowflake before — a powdery, intricate pinwheel poised like a minicathedral near my thumb.
I called Bonnie and Loie over to see the amazing snowflake on my mitten. Bonnie began to mimic me in a high voice, “Look at the pretty little snowflake!”
I learned that day that there didn’t seem to be a place for a person describing a snowflake on a mitten. After that I was quiet about what I saw so I wouldn’t make a fool of myself. I learned to be quiet about beauty.
Often we keep secret because we’re not only embarrassed to be who we are in front of other people, we feel genuinely embarrassed by who we are. (—) Oh, Susan, you’ve gone too far. You’re exposed out there on your squirrely limb, out of bounds. You oddball of oddballs.
In poems we can flourish out there on our limbs. It’s one of the mysteries of poetry for me. The language and form of a poem creates a blue bubble I can float into the world as if my secrets are in an impenetrable container with boundaries, yet see-through like a bottle.
I feel safe because poems take me to a place out of normal time and thought, dipping me below the surface to where we all meet. And there, as if we’re in silent collusion, it’s safe to say whatever we want. Writing poems, we’re tapping the part of our consciousness that knows we’re safe. I’ve seen secret after secret spill out in people’s poems, and I’ve spilled secret after secret about myself. The poem speaks in confidence. The reader feels included, honored, and keeps the secret.”
—- from poemcrazy by Susan G. Wooldridge, Chapter 20 “snowflakes and secrets” p. 74-75.
As I read this short chapter in poemcrazy, I immediately identified with the feeling of being hesitant to share my love of beauty. Only recently have I been brave enough to try to put feelings and images into words and share poetry with others here in the blogosphere.
Oh yes, I’ve been teased for noticing beauty — more than once. I look at light and shadow, texture and color, design and detail. I am constantly amazed by rocks, trees, leaves, clouds, scenic views and all manner of natural objects. Sometimes it just comes out of my mouth at odd times and people kind of roll their eyes at me. Whatever. I’ve learned to deal with that reaction mostly by ignoring it or rushing to explain exactly what it is I find so beautiful about whatever I commented on.
Way back in junior high school days, I was teased because of my strangely huge and somewhat odd vocabulary. I didn’t think I used exceptional words at all! I loved reading then, and I still do. I actively look for interesting new words and tend to look up definitions for any words that mystify me.
In high school, I was fortunate to have excellent English teachers (Mr. Fawley, Mr. Iden and others) who instilled in me a love for words, symbolism and verbal imagery. I fell instantly in love with Wordsworth’s “I wandered lonely as a cloud” and through all the years since that love has deepened and widened and matured.
Another source for my love of poetry and of words in general appeared several years ago when I discovered Garrison Keillor’s Writer’s Almanac. At the time, I was in the car each day when this feature was broadcast on NPR. Keillor reads a poem at the beginning of each segment and then goes on to describe literary connections to this day in history (author birthdays, historic first editions, and so forth). You can read a sample here which features the poem “Practicing” by Linda Pastan. You can follow Writer’s Almanac on Facebook, twitter, podcast and via email. I highly recommend it.
So how does all this rambling come together? I started out thinking this would be about finding beauty in unlikely places. It still is.
My point is that we shouldn’t shy away from the beauty in ourselves. It is not always easy to embrace what is good, beautiful and unique in ourselves. If I am a “beauty canary” (or if you are) then so be it! See it and celebrate it. Share it. Even better — write a poem about it and share it here.
Maybe the reason some of us are tuned to notice beauty is to point it out to those who don’t notice it.
Speaking of beauty in odd places, there are a couple of Facebook pages I enjoy and would like to recommend to anyone who has not yet discovered them:
Humans of New York — A photographer snaps street photographs of random people in NYC and has a short conversation as well. Amazing stuff happens.
I’ve been feeling crafty lately. Even more so than usual, I should say. In our new home, I have the luxury of having space for a sewing room. It is dubbed the “Creativity Room” by a friend, so I’m going with that!
One of the problems with my new space is the UGLY ceiling. It is one of those drop ceilings that are often in basements. (Yes, my Creativity Room is in the basement). Not only is it ugly when brand new, it is even uglier when it is old. Mine is also grimy and yellowed. I thought about replacing the tiles with new ones but money is a bit tight now (with the move and all!). I also thought about just painting them white or something. Nah, too much work!
Then I realized — I have yards and yards of fabric! What if I covered those ugly tiles with fabric that I like (but not LOVE, of course, that fabric must be saved for possible quilt projects).
The question though, was HOW to attach the fabric to the those awful tiles.
I talked it over with my daughter and we decided to try starch. I remembered reading somewhere that it was possible to use starch to make fabric stick to walls, and we thought it might work on fabric and the tiles. Long story, short: It didn’t. We couldn’t mix the starch thickly enough that it would stick and then dry without having the fabric fall off once it was back on the ceiling.
Hmmmmm. I wondered about Mod Podge or maybe some sort of adhesive. We considered duct tape, but we thought the fabric would sag in the middle. Finally I decided to try Aleene’s Tacky Glue. This seemed to do the job!
The basic steps:
1. Buy a house with an ugly dropped ceiling with old, grungy, yellowed insulated tiles.
2. Be a quilter who has a humongous fabric stash (or know one). Alternatively you could visit a fabric store and buy a bunch of fabric on sale. Goodwill or Thrift stores could be a source for fabric, too, if you think creatively.
3. Gather a pair a scissors, an iron and ironing board, some Aleene’s Tacky Glue, a large work surface and a tall person (or be one). A very long needle is helpful, too. You’ll see why later. Having a kitten underfoot is not mandatory, but it does make things more annoying. Oops. I meant “exciting.”
4. Remove one of the old, grungy, yellowed insulated tiles. Lay it out on your work surface with the plastic side up (insulation down).
5. Choose a piece of fabric that is large enough to cover your tile. (If you are a fan of crazy quilts, you could, of course, use smaller pieces of fabric and make each tile a collage — but I didn’t do that).
6. Measure along the longest edge (by eye is fine), hold the spot, make a snip with some scissors, and then tear the fabric.
You might not need to tear it all the way across so don’t go crazy with the tearing (unless you don’t care about wasting fabric then tear away). When you think you’ve torn about the width of the tile — check it to see. Again do this by eye. Make a snip going the other direction and then tear away.
This time you can tear the whole thing because you should be heading back toward the edge where you started measuring. You’ll end up with a rectangle about the size of your tile. I gave a little leeway on the fabric on each wide — about 1/4 to 1/2 inch on each side or so. You can cut it exactly, but this is my project and that isn’t my style. I won’t judge you though, if you have a streak of persnicketiness and/or perfectionism. (You probably don’t or you would have stopped reading by now.)
But I digress.
7. The next steps need to be done, but it doesn’t matter which order you do them in. Iron, Glue, Apply. You need to iron the fabric and you need to apply glue to the plastic side of the tile. I’ve done it glue then iron then apply the fabric to the tile. I’ve done it iron then glue then apply the fabric. It works either way.
Ironing: Most of my fabric has been stored in bins for years, even decades (not kidding) — so it needs to be ironed. I like to use steam and some spray starch. I like Mary Ellen’s Best Press.
Glue: Cut the top off the glue like you mean it. No little hole for you! You need to let that glue pour. Apply a stream of glue around the edge pretty thoroughly. Then I wiggled it around everywhere covering the surface with squares and zig-zags and squiggles. I also experimented with pouring a glob of glue on the tile and brushing it around with a square of cardboard. (You could use a brush, but I didn’t want to go find one).
You may have figured out by now that one of my mottos for creative projects is “IT’LL BE FINE!”
Apply the fabric: This part is easier if you still have help from your tall person/daughter/random person but I managed it alone for most of my project. Hold your nicely ironed fabric close to one side or edge of the glued tile. Place it gently on the glue, pretty side UP away from the glue and smooth it carefully from the center. You can adjust the edges and even lift the whole thing and re-position it if you do it quickly enough. If you have massive amounts of fabric hanging off an edge feel free to trim it off. I found most of the small excess fabric I had folded nicely up into the metal frame.
8. When you are satisfied that your fabric covered tile is ready to go back up into the ceiling (no wrinkles, etc.), carefully flip it upside down and maneuver it back into the space it came from. I did one tile at a time after I discovered that, at least in my ceiling, not all the tiles were the same size even though they looked the same.
If you can’t get the tile to lie flat again, this is where the long needle is helpful. I had a doll needle that is hugely long. It is used for sewing eyes and sometimes limbs onto dolls. I poked it into the insulated tile and pulled gently down at a slight angle and it worked!
You can also raise the tiles on either side a bit and reach above and push down. But then that other tile is out of place — IT’ll BE FINE!
I’m trying to decide if I should paint the metal frame black or possibly cover it with some sort of black tape. (The tape idea sounds easier to me than painting all those little frames).
I’m thrilled with how my ceiling is turning out. I have just about six squares left. I am planning to paint and do some other decorating before I show photos of the whole room. I will keep you posted.
Javier Pérez aka cintascotch, is an artist and illustrator from Guayaquil, Ecuador. A few times a week, Pérez shares a new doodle with his 20,000 Instagram followers. Each doodle incorporates everyday objects like paper clips, coins and scissors. The doodles transform the objects into something completely new and different.
It’s a fun and creative way to look at an object, even seemingly mundane ones, and reimagine them as something else. To see more playful diversions, be sure to check out Javier’s work at the links below.
I recently found out one of my quilt friends is dying.
She has been fighting breast cancer for well over a year now.
She tried alternative medicines (including a trip to Ecuador for frankincense treatment) and traditional treatments (surgery and chemo, etc.) but the battle for her body is being won by the cancer this week.
I have known Barb for years. We belonged to the same quilt guild for over a decade. I’m guessing 16 years? I got to know her not only through the guild meetings and guild quilt shows, but also through her volunteer position in the guild as co-tech ed organizer. Her partner in crime for tech-ed was her buddy Annette. They were so hilarious together. Barb, tall thin and dark haired, and Annette, short round and grey haired, reminded me of a great comedy team along the lines of Stan and Ollie (but neither being stupid or mean!)
Barb and I also got to know each other at the guild quilt retreats* (see explanation below), held annually in Feb (or March) and October (or September) depending on when we can get reservations at the retreat space. Barb and I often ended up sitting near each other as we were quilting and often chatted as we worked. Eating meals together is one of my favorite parts of quilt retreats, and I would often find myself sitting near Barb and getting involved in a lively conversation.
One of the first conversations I remember having with Barb was when we discovered several mutual interests: Jane Austen, Colin Firth and more specifically those two together in the A&E production of Pride and Prejudice. Oh my! I thought I was a big fan, but she left me in the dust.
She had seen nearly every movie Colin Firth had ever made (and he has made a LOT of movies).
She regaled me with the story of seeing Colin in leather pants in the movie “What a Girl Wants.” Barb claimed she stood up, fist in the air and yelled “YES!” (Annette confirmed this was true. So funny!)
She told me the story of finagling DVDs of all the PBS Jane Austen movies from either her cable company (or satellite, idk?) because she had reception issues when the movies were aired. She got them ALL! She was very persuasive.
We both loved eating at Athenian Grill in Dubuque. She would always tell me when the place was closed (it went through much drama and changes of ownership). We would always commiserate whenever that happened (and it happened often!).
She told us stories from work. She taught computer classes at a community college. I am sure she was a fabulous teacher and that she was much loved and appreciated by her students. As a fellow teacher (though I teach music), I pick up on passion and dedication when good teachers talk about students and classes. Good ones care. A lot. And you can tell just by listening to their stories. Barb was a good one.
Barb certainly had her quirks, too. She and another friend created an elaborate reward system to try to keep themselves motivated and on track in their quilting projects. There were monetary rewards for certain amounts of time spent, for completing projects and for I don’t remember what all. The part that fascinated me was that the money was IMAGINARY and that the amounts were quite small. Once I asked, if the money wasn’t real anyway, why they didn’t reward themselves with higher pay? Like maybe more like $100 an hour instead of whatever less than minimum wage they were paying themselves?
She replied, “Well, we don’t want to go crazy with it.” (I am shaking my head and laughing out loud as I write this and remember this conversation. SO FUNNY.)
The other amusing thing is this imaginary money reward system actually WORKED for them!
Another “Barb” thing I enjoy is the way she talks herself through a project. She is a perfectionist. She will tear things out that I would never dream of fixing. She usually has a running commentary going about the fabric, her machine, the pattern, the project in general, the intended recipient, or the reason she is making the thing. She struggles to follow directions at times, and also likes to have confirmation from anyone who can hear her that she is doing everything correctly. Barb manages to do this without being annoying.
Barb often would be working on projects for her nieces and nephews (whom she dearly loves). She worked on one Buggy Barn (a quilt pattern company) star pattern for her sister for several retreats! The stars had lots of pieces and each piece had little borders around them. The whole project was in pale colors so all the work didn’t really show up that much. This is not the exact pattern, but it was very similar to it.
Several of us encouraged Barb to just quit working on it because it seemed to be frustrating her so much. But she kept working steadily on it and I am pretty sure she did finish that project eventually. (For many quilters finishing a project is not mandatory. A lot of us are excellent at picking out, designing and beginning projects. Finishing them? Not so much.)
Last fall, as we sat in the sewing room at our retreat I kept hearing an inner voice tell me to ask Barb’s permission to pray with her about her cancer. She had been through several months of alternative treatments by this time as well as some traditional medicine. She was wearing a cute brown pageboy wig, so her hair was gone from having chemo.
I looked for times to talk to her quietly but in a room with 20 creative, happily sewing quilters, there is not much down time and not much quiet time. I argued with myself about the prayer idea for at least the first day. Why me? Someone else could do it. The inner voice was not giving in. Yes, you. Yes, now. Do it.
So I went over to Barb’s table. I asked if she would be comfortable with the idea me gathering everyone who wanted to into a circle of friendship to give her support for her upcoming treatments. She said YES instantly. So I turned around and asked people to gather. I did not want to assume prayer would be the word everyone there would use for what we would do — but whatever I said — everyone came over. We held hands. We stood in a circle. Everyone looked at me. I asked if anyone wanted to say a few words or lead a prayer or anything — someone said “You do it.” So I did.
I don’t remember what I said, but I poured my heart out. We need Barb healed. We need her with us. This cancer needs to get out of her body. We wrap her in our friendship, love, comfort, encouragement and support.
I’m usually a crier. (See any number of my previous blog posts!) I’m not much of a public prayer either. But this was on my heart and I did what my heart (I believe it was the Holy Spirit) was telling me to do. This is one of those times that I believe the power of prayer was not only a mental but also a physical experience. Is there an energy that generates when people hold hands and stand in a circle and all focus their thoughts and minds on one person? — I don’t know. I felt something, though. Love, Faith, Friendship, Compassion. Words don’t mean anything much at a time like that, though.
I didn’t cry (much). At least I was able to continue talking and to form relatively coherent thoughts for which I am truly thankful to this day!
At the end of my words– everyone, EVERYONE, hugged Barb and whispered encouragement to her. Tears were flowing. Barb thanked us and shed a few tears of her own. It was a wonderful moment of personal connection between all of us in that circle.
As the weekend went on, many of the other quilters came over to my table to say how much they appreciated the circle. I think many of us had the thought that something should said or done to show Barb our love and support, and we were thankful to have found a way to express that to her.
This year, we knew that Barb was near the end of her life. We had some roses both in the work room and on our table in the dining room in her honor. We gathered again in another friendship circle to pray for her and for ourselves as we were missing her presence with us.
As I visited with the quilters there, I found at least one of them working on a “Barb” project. One that she had worked on, but had not finished. She was hoping to get it finished for Barb before she died.
I just got word a short while ago that Barb died in the early hours this morning (October 1). My heart is sorrowful, but my spirit is comforted to know that she free of the cancer and is now pain-free. I miss you already, dear friend.
He will wipe every tear from their eyes,
and there will be no more death
All these things are gone
forever. NLT Rev. 21:4
*Quilt Guild Retreats: A Brief Explanation
(Modern quilt retreats are NOT like the photo above!) Imagine 20 creative women (mostly strong-willed and not afraid to express their opinions about anything and everything) sitting around a long large conference room. Each person has their own work table and chair. On each table is a sewing machine, light, and quilting tools/gadgets. Most people have fabric nearby, some cut into pieces large and small and stacked ready to sew. The stacks are neat or messy depending on the creative style of the person. (I’m in the messy category — is anyone surprised?) In the center of the room are several “cutting tables.” These tables are protected by a special type of mat that is used with rotary cutters, wheel-shaped razor-sharp cutting tools that can slice fingers as easily as several layers of fabric. (I will explain how I know this in another post, another day!)
Everyone works on their own projects at their own pace. If you need advice or opinions, just ask. Someone (usually SEVERAL someones) will gather ’round to opine. You can stop to take a nap or a walk (either outside in the verdant gardens or in one of the meditational labyrinths) or just take a break to sit and chat.
It seems that we eat every 15 minutes, but in reality we eat three times a day down in the spacious dining area with extremely large windows overlooking beautiful pastoral farmland. The Mound (short for Sinsinawa Mound) has a fabulous bakery, so we often have their home-made dinner rolls, breads, pies, cinnamon rolls, etc. Some people finish several small projects, some bring one large quilt to assemble, some bring hand work only. The point it to spend uninterrupted time together doing something we love — quilting — with people we enjoy.
Yes, we sit and sew and talk and eat for three day (or more if we can manage the time away!).