NaBloPoMo

Look Up

18/30

In the summer, when blooms are everywhere, it's easy to see the beauty around you.  Even as fall creeps in, it's easy.  Because the leaves put on quite a show.

But in the late fall, as winter edges ever closer, that's when it's tough.  The blooms have faded and the leaves are gone.  Everything is bare and grey and shades-of-bleak.

But. . . that's the time to look!  To really take notice!

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Blooms are fleeting.  Here and gone.  

Turns out it's the underlying structure that really counts!  Because that structure remains long after the beauty is gone.

Take a look.

Notice.

 


TGIF

17/30

Here's one last look at Alabama (oops -- there actually might be one more, later in this post).

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I can't stress how cool it was to be driving along country roads in Alabama and just . . . suddenly spy a cotton field.  I know that it's no different, really, than finding corn fields in the Midwest, but it's all relative, and for this northern girl, it was a delight!  On our drive back to Nashville, Vicki and I pulled over on one of these country roads to get a closer look at the cotton and take a few photos.  (I can just imagine the folks in the nearby farmhouse . . . "Dwayne, would you look at that?  Folks have stopped to take pictures of our damn cotton again. Northerners. . . ")

Anyway.  Let's TGIF.

T - Thinking About

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Thanksgiving!  I've gathered all my recipes, and I'm making my lists.  It's time to get organized!

G - Grateful For

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I am so grateful for my grand adventure last week, but after returning home mid-week to a couple of action-packed days, I am grateful for a (relatively) quiet weekend . . . so I can do a bit of digging out and get myself on track for the holidays.  (And I have quite a pile of . . . stuff . . . to work my way through.)

I - Inspired By

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Yeah.  You guessed it.  I am inspired to MAKE ALL THE THINGS again.  I want to stitch and knit and sew and and try new things and touch all the fiber!  That Alabama Chanin workshop was just what I needed in the fiber-inspiration-department.  (I even decided to forgo my regular watercolor class next semester and sign up for rug hooking instead.  So stay tuned.)

F - Fun

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These two show up tomorrow!  They'll be visiting all next week (an extended visit as part of their Farewell Tour before they head to San Jose in January), and it will be great fun to have them around.

TGIF, everyone!

 


Three Tourist-y Things

16/30

Vicki and I  didn't just hang out at The Factory this past week on our big adventure.  We also visited a few area hot-spots and had some tourist time.  Here are three things we did: 

1 -- Wichahpi Commemorative Stone Wall (Te-lah-nay's Wall)

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This wall (one mile long and 4-6 feet high) is the largest unmortared wall in the United States.  Tom Hendrix (who died earlier this year) built the wall to honor his grandmother, Te-lah-nay, who walked for 5 years back to Alabama from Oklahoma, where she had been displaced by the Indian Removal Act of 1830 (Trail of Tears).

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The wall is quite amazing.  Powerful.  Spiritual.  It feels like holy ground.  Visitors leave offerings along the way.

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It's an amazing place -- and I'm so glad we took the time to drive out and wander the path.

2 -- The Swampette Tour

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To set the tone, let's have a bit of a soundtrack (click here).  (This is some 1974 Lynyrd Syknyrd realness here; kinda fun.)
Did you catch that third stanza there???

Now Muscle Shoals has got the Swampers
And they've been known to pick a song or two
Lord they get me off so much
They pick me up when I'm feeling blue
Now how about you?

I had always wondered what the heck they were talking about.  Muscle Shoals? Swampers? Huh?

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Well.  Now we know!

There were two major recording studios in Muscle Shoals (Fame and Muscle Shoals Sound Studio), and the Swampers were the studio musicians with a unique and awesome sound.  R&B, gospel, country, and rock stars from around the world came to Muscle Shoals to record with with Swampers.

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We toured the studios (Fame is still in operation; Muscle Shoals Sound Studio is now a museum) where so many (SO, SO many) hit songs we all know and love were recorded.  It was AWESOME.

(Want to learn more?  There is a great documentary out there called Muscle Shoals that tells all about the studios and the Swampers.  Fascinating.  Tom and I watched it as soon as I got home.)  (Here's a link to the trailer.)

3 -- Cheekwood Estate and Gardens

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When the workshop was finished, we drove to Nashville for a couple of days.  We spent Sunday afternoon at Cheekwood Estate, visiting the gardens -- which are beautiful in any season.

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The gardens were in the midst of their holiday transformation when we were there -- with staff installing amazing light displays on the grounds.  So . . . half-price admission.  Bonus!

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It was a lovely afternoon -- so nice to get out in the fresh air and walk around for a bit.  Time in a garden is always restorative.  We also visited two special exhibits in the estate, and they were wonderful.  (Unfortunately, the estate museum itself was closed for holiday decor, so we missed out on seeing that part of the grounds.  From what we glimpsed from the upper levels, it looks wonderful.)

It's always fun to play tourist in a new place!

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Join Carole for more Three on Thursday posts. 

 

 

 


The All of It

15/30

I'll just begin by saying Alabama Chanin is a magical place.

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It's not just being surrounded by the sample garments everywhere (seriously . . . it was like my Pinterest board had come to life right in front of me).  It's not just the bins of fabric scraps in every corner.  It's not just the perfectly designed work spaces or the charming quilts on the walls or the chairs (oh, the chairs. . . ) or the button jars.

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It's really kind of . . . the All of It.

Even time moves differently there.  Speeded up in a sort of fiber-y warp speed thing.  (I know that sounds kind of crazy, but every day we were shocked by how quickly time passed.)

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The 3-day workshop was perfectly paced.  There were classes on technique and construction and embroidery, mixed in with open studio time and one-on-one instruction, mixed in with a behind-the-scenes tour of The Factory, and - of course - a chance to meet Natalie Chanin and hear her speak about the history of the company and her own path.

The first day, we had several hours to make our decision about what we wanted to make as part of the workshop.  (An Alabama Chanin School of Making kit of our choice was included in the price of admission.)  When I first saw the hours attributed to this particular task on our schedule, I kind of rolled my eyes.

Because how hard would THAT be?

I mean . . . I've ordered kits online before.  I am already very familiar with the various styles of kits available.  I traveled to Alabama with something already in mind.

Let me just say . . . HA!

I ended up needing Every. Single. Moment. of the allotted time to make my choice!  Turns out . . . that having access to all the sample garments to try on . . . and color swatches to play with . . . and stencil swatches to pore over . . . and embellishment and embroidery options to consider . . . just complicate the process.  So. Many. Decisions.

In the end, I chose to make the wrap dress.  In black with a grape under-layer.  With the Magdalena stencil.  With some beading.

But don't be looking for a progress shot quite yet.  Because I didn't even begin to work on it.  Instead, I worked with a sample swatch to try out different stitching, beading, and appliqué techniques that I might want to use (kind of like a knitting swatch).  With a project as big and involved as this wrap dress will be, I want to make some decisions before I even get started.  And that sample swatch was the perfect thing!

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Another really great thing about the workshop is that the instructors tailored their teaching to the things we wanted to learn, individually.  Once I saw the crocheted snap covers that are standard for Alabama Chanin garments, I wanted to learn how to do them for my coat.

My.  Are they ever fiddly!  (Because tiniest of crochet needles.  And thread.)

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The first one I tried took about 2 hours.  (And lots of swearing, but I was quiet about it.)  It turned out quite wonky (because tension was a big issue for me), but it'll work.  

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The next one only took about 45 minutes (and significantly less swearing) -- and it was much neater.  Only 4 snaps to go now.  And then I can finish my coat.

Our instructors were wonderful.  Patient.  Generous.  Incredibly skilled.  They always showed us the "Alabama Chanin Way" (because they have Standards), but also encouraged us to go our own way and do our own thing when making our garments.  I very much appreciated their attitude and relaxed approach to Making.

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Making this trip to Alabama turned out even better than I had imagined or hoped!  It was such a pleasure to meet the other women in the workshop (and what a varied bunch they were!), to experience Alabama Chanin up-close-and-personal, to meet Natalie Chanin herself, and to just . . . live among those incredible garments for a few days.

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It was just . . . inspiring.  The All of It!


With Gratitude

9/30

"Feeling gratitude and not expressing it is like
wrapping a present and not giving it."

                                                                                    -- William Arthur Ward

 

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I know that many of us are busy  this month . . . paying attention to gratitude and putting together daily "gratitude lists."  Creating these daily lists is a great way to notice - and write down -  things in our everyday lives that we might otherwise take for granted.  In fact, gratitude lists are beneficial in helping us develop healthier, happier, more meaningful lives.

Want to take your gratitude journey even further?  Here are three more simple things you can do to practice gratitude this month:

1 -- Give one compliment every day -- either to a person directly, or by sharing your appreciation for something.  ("That's a great scarf!"  or "What a beautiful view!")

2 -- Vow not to complain, criticize, or gossip for a week.  Once you break the habit, you'll find more positive energy in your life.

3 -- Sound genuinely happy when people call you on the phone, or when you meet them face to face.  Other people feel valued when you greet them positively.

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Today's post is part of Three on Thursday.  To read more lists, be sure to check in over at Carole's!

 


Unraveled . . . in a big way

8/30

By the time you read this post, I'll be headed off . . .to a 3-day Alabama Chanin workshop in Florence, Alabama with Vicki.  (Plus a bonus visit to Nashville.  Stay tuned!)

I haven't knit a stitch this week, but I have been stitching.  I've been working hard to try to wrap up an Alabama Chanin project to take with me.

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And while it's ALMOST done . . . it's not actually done.  (I still need to sew on the snaps down the front.)  So I'm planning to cram it in my suitcase and maybe work on the finishing touches while I'm down there. 

What is it, you ask?

Why, it's a new pattern from Alabama Chanin . . . the car coat.

I have some bad photos to show you.  Photos I took myself.  In the bathroom.  After the sun went down.  In a black garment.  (Just so you won't have high expectations here.)

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I wanted to use a contrast lining - sort of like the one in the pattern link (above).  In fact, I wanted to use JUST that contrast lining - from Alabama Chanin.  Until I found out it sells for $50/yard.  And I needed 3 yards.  So.  No.  I visited my local fabric store instead and found the herringbone knit you see above.  Only $9/yard!  A bit wild - and definitely not of the same quality as AC - but sort of fun.

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While the design is a basic boxy jacket (with intense bat wing action), the actual sewing was a bit more demanding than other AC things I've made.  Partly because there is a collar and a facing, which just ramps everything up a notch -- but also because the sewing instructions are a bit . . . vague.  (Let's just say it's a good thing I've done a lot of collars and facings before.)

For this project, I did some of the stitching (seams; hem) by machine, and did the topstitching by hand. 

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The verdict is . . . I like it!  I'm planning to pack it - along with the snaps and my sewing supplies - to finish it up in Alabama.  Maybe I'll even talk Vicki into helping me take better photos (that don't have my toilet in the background) (just sayin').

As for reading?  Who's got time for reading!?? 

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Today's post is part of Unraveled Wednesdays.  To read more Unraveled posts, hop over to Kat's!

 

 

 


Tulip Tales

7/30

Last spring, I created a Mom-garden in memory of my mom, and I planted it full of her favorite summer flowers on Mother's Day.  (You can read about it here.)  The little garden grew and flourished , bringing me smiles and happy memories all summer long.

I've cleared the garden out for the season now, though.  It's resting again until spring.

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Earlier this fall, I ordered spring bulbs from White Flower Farm, and I've been . . . waiting . . . to plant them.  The weather hasn't really been cooperating when it comes to bulb-planting this fall.  Although we've had cool, wet weather, we haven't had a real frost yet -- let alone a freeze.  So it's still a bit early to plant bulbs (but, surely, getting close).

Included in that bulb order?  Mixed tulip bulbs -- for my Mom-garden.  I don't usually plant tulips in my own garden.  I love tulips -- but they tend to be a bit more hit-and-miss than most spring bulbs.  The squirrels really love them, they don't naturalize well, and they perform best if you dig them up and replace them each season.  Which is really too much work for me. . . So I tend to enjoy tulips in other people's gardens!  

But.

My mom LOVED tulips!  

Late yesterday afternoon, I happened to glance out my kitchen window at the now-empty Mom-garden.  It was bathed in sunlight.  (In fact, it was the only spot in my garden still getting any of the quickly setting sunlight.)

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The garden beckoned!

I grabbed my gardening stuff and headed out to plant my 30 tulip bulbs.

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And while I was digging and planting and filling, I thought about my mom and her tulips.  I remembered . . . 

How she used to cut stems of spring tulips for me when I was a little girl, and then carefully wrap them in a wet napkin and a baggie so I could carry them to school to give my teacher.

How she planted tulips in her own gardens each fall -- with a variety of bloom times so there would be maximum tulip bloom throughout the spring.

How a couple of years ago, the two of us worked together on a very miserable-cold afternoon to plant bulbs for one of her neighbors who was struggling with a health issue and unable to plant her own bulbs.  My mom wanted everyone to enjoy the magic of colorful tulips after a bleak winter.

How much she loved volunteering in the Tulip Time Festival Information booth each May in Holland -- tiptoeing through the tulips in her own wooden shoes!*

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My memories made for a wonderful bulb-planting afternoon.  It was almost like . . . gardening with my mom again.

(On a roll, I decided she would probably like some grape hyacinths, too.)

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When I was finished planting, I packed up my stuff and turned to head back to my garage -- and was awestruck by the sun shining over my back gate -- looking down on me with warmth and light.

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I'm thinking those tulips are going to be especially gorgeous next spring.  Y'know?

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* We donated my mom's Tulip Time costume to the folks who run the Information Booth, so it will continue to greet visitors to Holland's Tulip Time Festival each spring.

 


Sundays are for Poetry

5/30

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The Peace of Wild Things
                        by Wendell Berry

When despair for the world grows in me
and I wake in the night at the least sound
in fear of what my life and my children's lives may be, 
I go and lie down where the wood drake
rests in his beauty on the water, and the great heron feeds.
I come into the peace of wild things
who do not tax their lives with forethought
of grief.  I come into the presence of still water.
And I feel above me the day-blind stars
waiting with their light.  For a time
I rest in the grace of the world, and am free.