SEWING TIP 4 YOU

Today I’m unpacking more boxes of studio stuff. I’ve set a goal for myself: Five boxes a day, more if I can fit them in.

At the first the haphazard packing was unsettling. (There are many ways to pack. But when you’re in a hurry or can’t do it all yourself and other people are doing it, and space is limited, you pack very differently!)
For example, one box might hold six earring holders, a small book, a rock and a beanbag. (I use them in my display, so it’s not THAT weird….) Today, one box held one pottery display stand. That broke. (And that’s okay, too, because I can glue it back together.)

But I’ve decided to now view each box as a puzzle ball, those charming presents I used to make for the kids when they were little. I’d take a tiny treasure and wrap it with strips of crepe paper, adding coins, confetti, flat-ish treats and toys, until the whole thing was about the size of a large softball. (They also took about 10 minutes to unwrap, which really prolonged the excitement and added to the joy.) (I think.)

My third box held my ink stamping pads and most of my spools of thread. If you ever visited my studio, you know my thread collection was extensive.

And here’s my thread tip:

Be aware that thread has a shelf life.

If you’re a seasoned sewer, you already know this. But when I first started sewing, I didn’t.

I would go to an antique store and buy old sewing baskets full of thread, giant spools of thread from manufacturing companies (sturdy thread from shoe-making companies, etc.), large spools of cotton threads, vintage spools of thread.

I would start a project, thread my sewing machine, and start to quilt.

And the thread would break.

I’d re-thread the machine. The thread would break again. And again, and again.

Then I realized the thread was too old, or sun-damaged, to use.

This can occasionally happen with new thread, too. I took my machine in to Russ Moline at The Moses House in Keene. He was baffled, too, until he finally tested my brand new giant spool of quilting thread. It was a faulty batch, and broke easily. A sad, but fortunately inexpensive “repair” of the sewing machine!

Cotton threads are especially prone to this. But sometimes silk thread can deteriorate, too.

So before you buy a wonderful stash of vintage thread, unwind a few inches and give it a yank. If it breaks easily, you will have nothing but heartache when you use it. (Even hand-sewing may be problematic, because it will wear even as you pull it through the fabric over and over….)

On the other hand, sometimes thread that LOOKS worn out or faded will still be strong enough to sew with. If you don’t like the fading, simply wind off enough thread till you get to the layer that was not exposed to heat and light.

And of course, just because that old thread isn’t functional anymore, doesn’t mean you have to throw it away. Fill a mason jar, a thread rack, or a pretty bowl with your thready treasures, and put them on display. As I go through my stash, the rejects are tossed into a new lamp I just bought, with a clear base that can be filled with….spools of thread!23mtn6t6 (2)

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26 JUMP STREET

My most recent article for The Crafts Report is 26 tips on how to make your craft show experience better. I was going to say, “more better”, but that would be redundant, wouldn’t it?

And don’t ask me what the title means, I didn’t pick it.

Enjoy!

26 Jump Street

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I CAN’T VOTE TODAY?!

I meant to post this yesterday, but needed to calm down first.
I’m frustrated beyond belief. You can skip to the end if you don’t want the details.
I found out 15 minutes before I left to vote, that I would not be allowed to vote. Not in California, due to voter registration restrictions (thought I’ve lived here almost six weeks), and certainly not in New Hampshire (because I haven’t lived there in two months.)
I am over 21, I am a U.S. citizen, I have a residence, I pay taxes, I am registered to vote. I educated myself about the local issues. I have a California driver’s licence, and a Sonoma County Library card.
But I was not allowed to participate in yesterday’s election.
Backstory: We moved to Santa Rosa at the end of September (from New Hampshire) in a whirlwind of a move that took less than a month on our end, and left us with no time to even look for a new home on this end.
By a miracle, we found a little place to rent our first day here. We moved in a week later, on September 22.
I immediately set about trying to get a driver’s license, register our car, and register to vote. I couldn’t believe I had to make an appointment a week in advance for the first two, but thought I had the third taken care of. (I filled out some voter registration form, I THOUGHT, while signing up for coupons and offers in a moving packet I found on-line.)
I showed up on October 9 at the DMV. (It’s overwhelming and confusing, but basically a good system. I’m impressed!) Halfway through the process, I realized we had misplaced our NH car title. I did get my driver’s license and applied online for a replacement title to be sent to me from NH.  It was not explained to me what would happen if I didn’t get that replacement on time.
It took over two weeks.
I went ahead and registered to vote online on Oct. 26. (For real, this time. I wonder what that other “voter registration” site was??)
As soon as I had the new title in hand, I made another appointment to get the title in place for Oct. 28–the day before I had knee surgery.
I got my title–but had to pay hundreds of dollars in penalty fees because the process had taken longer than the 10 days allowed. (10 days to register my car, when I didn’t even have a place to live until Sept. 22? ? Really??) That’s when I was told I could have STARTED the process on 10/9, and avoided the late fees.
After following the recommendations of the local paper, The Press Democrat, for the past month, I made a list of all the issues, candidates and propositions and looked online to find out where to vote. I looked up my district and where I was supposed to vote.
On a whim, I decided to look up my voter registration status online. Guess what?
I wasn’t on the list.
Oh, I’m technically ‘registered’. But I’d missed the cut-off date of Oct. 20. By six days.
I would not be allowed to vote.
I have voted in almost every every single election since I was eligible to vote–41 years now. I even volunteered at the polls the last few years. It’s exciting to be part of that process, and I loved it. We even had same-day voter registration–you could register at the polls and vote 10 minutes later. I remember a young woman who was voting for the first time six years ago. She was determined to vote for the president. I sent her to the registration desk. Twenty minutes later, she was back, and I handed her her very first ballot. The look on her face….  Uplifting.
Not the case in California in 2014.
At no point along in the registration process for voting did I see any indication I had to register before Oct. 20. (I’m sure it’s something “everybody knows.” But I didn’t.)
Of course, it’s way, way too late to vote as an absentee ballot in NH. Not that they would have allowed me to. After all, I’m technically registered to vote in California, and was a legal resident as soon as I had my CA driver’s license. And I was no longer a resident in New Hampshire the minute we sold our house and had no ‘home address’ there.
So I’m a stranded voter with no place to vote. And I’m appalled.
A 15-day cut-off before the election?? There’s a “dead period” where I don’t exist as a voter in NH nor CA.
That’s not right. I live here. I can prove it. I get mail here. I’ve already been here long enough to to pay late fees to register my damn car here–but not to vote?? (Yes, my fault on the penalty fees, but come on….a 10 day deadline?? It took me almost that long to even get the appointment.)
I understand the California law has been changed (although I’m bemused New Hampshire, of all states, has proven to be more progressive than California….) I’ve been assured I can vote in the next election. Wow….thank you, California. I’m so grateful.
But this was still an important election. Heck, every election is important.
And I’m mad as hell I didn’t get to participate.

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Here I am! Santa Rosa California!

WOW!! I’m back!!! And I’m starting off with, not what I’ve been up to the last few months but with a funny story.

Okay, I’ll back up a little bit. We spent a wild month selling our possessions, packing the enormous amount we still had left, loading four moving cubes (like pods, but nicer people and cheaper), then driving cross-country with two dogs, visiting friends and family along the way. Ended up finding the perfect house for us to rent our second day in Santa Rosa, and moving in a week later. The rest is a blur of unpacking, hooking up essential services, finding our way around a new city four times as big as Keene, and trying to learn the garbage/recycling drill in California.

Okay, now back to the story. One of the perks of our neighborhood is a new farmer’s market two blocks away. The variety and quality of the food is amazing. And of course, the business side of my brain quickly noticed that the range of selling expertise ranges from the sublime to the ridiculous…..

We were almost done shopping there yesterday when I noticed a new vendor sitting glumly behind his table under his pop-up tent. There was a tray of assorted “dips” arranged on his table, and two poster board signs handwritten with a pen. One said, “1 for $5, 2 for $9.” The other was filled with about a dozen bubbles of text, like “finest ingredients!” “like no other!” and my favorite, “arrogant food!!”

Curious, I approached him, and he leaped to his feet. “What are these?” I asked.

Now, when I relate this, I do NOT mean to suggest that his broken English means he’s ignorant. After all, he speaks at least two languages, and I speak only one. I mean to comment only that what he felt was important about his product is not exactly what I think was important. And his products are so amazing, I’m sure he’ll get much, much better at selling soon.

With that in mind….
He responded to my question with an array of statements that were repeated every time I asked a question. So the conversation went something like this:

Me: What are these?
Him: The finest ingredients. Made by Turkish kitchen. Never the same twice.
Me: Is this one hummus?
Him: You don’t understand. These are secret recipe. Only made in Turkey. You try.
Me (sampling): Wow! This is great! Is this one hummus, too? (because it was hummus.)
Him: This different. Made for the wealthy people. Always the best food. Only the best ingredients. Never the same twice. Made by Turkish kitchen.
Me: What is this one?
Him: (more of the same.)
Me: This is WONDERFUL! It kinda tastes like…babaganoush?
Him: (more of the same.)

Fortunately, I don’t have any food allergies, so not knowing what I was eating wasn’t too much of a problem. Mostly I wanted to know so I could ASK FOR IT AGAIN next week when he comes back.

We bought three containers, and he seemed happier. On my out, I said, “By the way, what do you mean by ‘arrogant food’?”

Him: Only for the wealthiest people. The best food.
Me: But…arrogant?
Him: The finest ingredients. Never the same twice. From Turkish kitchen. (I still don’t know if this means ‘his Turkish recipes’ or if “Turkish Kitchen” is the name of his business…?)
Me: Do you mean ‘elegant food’?”
Him: ???
Me: ‘Arrogant is mean’, like this. (I make a snooty mean face. ‘Elegant’ means very fancy, very nice. (I make a smiling face, with elegant hand gestures.) (I hope they look elegant.)
Him: Thank you! Yes, elegant!!

Fortunately, the dips were delicious. Setting aside the assumptions that only rich-people food is desirable and that not knowing what you’re eating is a great sales pitch, I kind of like the idea of eating “arrogant food”.

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LESSONS FROM THE MOVE: The Story of the Hutch

A very useful piece of furniture, this hutch has been with us for 26 years!

A very useful piece of furniture, this hutch has been with us for 26 years!

It’s been less than a week since Cap’n Ben’s words of wisdom on moving. And it’s been a busy one. There’s been a flurry of paperwork. Many listings of our belongings on Craigslist. A yard sale or two, with more in the works.

I’m a collector and a mixed media artist. That means almost every object that crosses my path has “potential”. Possibilities abound. I have drawers of decorative papers and specialty glues, paint in every form you can imagine, beads, fabric, yarn and books. Frames and canvases, paper cutters and miter saws, waxed linen and silk tape.

And I have a thousand containers for all of them. Including….

The hutch.

It’s a beautiful wood hutch, three glass doors up, two drawers in the middle and three wood doors below. Pine stained to cherry. Nicely made, not those clunky ones that always end up in the thrift shops.

We bought it the first year we moved to Keene, 26 years ago. Our daughter Robin was five weeks old when we moved in. In the middle of a heat wave, and us with one window fan. My husband went to work in an air-conditioned office every day, complaining how cold it was. I would lie on the floor in front of the fan, begging the weather gods to please, please, please remove the maddening 95 plus degree heat.

After six months of staring at my craft supplies sitting in boxes, my husband proposed we set up some sort of organizer for them. We ended up down at Winchendon Furniture, in the clearance section of the second floor. We found the hutch and fell in love with it. It adorned our dining room for twelve years, and another fourteen when we moved to Roxbury Street.

Eventually I had a room and then an entire studio for my projects. The art supplies in the hutch made way for our pretty wedding china

Nope, it's not going to California, either. Earthquakes. Remember?

Nope, it’s not going to California, either. Earthquakes. Remember?

, and eventually my McCoy pottery collection.

Now it’s 26 years later. Where did the time go?? The kids are grown and nearly on their own. The house is sold, and here we are, emptying our home of a lifetime of memories, getting on our way to California.

It was strange to see the hutch empty. And though we priced it to sell, it survived three indoor tag sales this spring, and even a yard sale. “Maybe it will go with us to California!” I said hopefully. My husband was pretty sure it wouldn’t.

He was right. Eventually someone saw it on Craigslist, and an email conversation ensued. The woman said her husband loved the hutch, and he would pick it up that day. When he arrived, though he paid us less than we expected. “But we agreed to the price!” I cried. “Let it go”, said Jon. And so I did. But I couldn’t watch it go, and hid in my studio.

Now it wasn’t just an empty hutch I had to look at today–there was a huge empty spot in our living room. And there was the funny gap in the molding surrounding the room we’d completely forgotten about.

Mind the gap!

Mind the gap!

We hope it won’t kill the sale.

Today we received one more email from the hutch’s new family. The dad was chagrined to get home and realize he’d underpaid us. The mom promised to send us a check for the difference. I told her how grateful I was for that little extra to help us on our way.

But the best part of her email was the picture she included….

Their two very young children, already exploring inside the hutch.

Our hutch with its new family.

Our hutch with its new family.


My heart leaped into my throat for a moment–how like my own young ones at that age! And I knew the hutch was truly in its rightful home.

We came to Keene with not too much, and made a life here. I became a mother here, and an artist. We made friends, we made a home, we became a family.

Now that time is finished, and something new begins. Jon will lose his job any day now. The layoffs at his company are massive, and he’s already been told it will be soon. We don’t have a home yet in California. We simply remember the quality of light when we were last there, and how light in heart we felt.

I do not know what lies ahead for us in California. Our friend Julie says when she looks at us, she sees light. I believe her. We are becoming lighter, letting go of what we don’t need to hold onto anymore. We don’t need sweaters in California, nor snow shovels and ice skates. I don’t need my beloved salt-and-pepper collection in a city of earthquakes.

I didn't have THAT many salt-and-pepper shakers....

I didn’t have THAT many salt-and-pepper shakers….

Some days it’s hard to let go of so much. And some days it’s easier.

But through it all, I know this:

The memories are in our hearts. We need very few mementos to keep them bright.

And new memories are waiting to be made, in California.

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A SHIP IS SAFE IN HARBOR…

Suitcases, anyone?

Suitcases, anyone?

A ship is safe in harbor. But that’s not what ships are for.

Well, we heard “the call” again this weekend. Right in the middle of our huge yard sale. (Our yard sales are funny. No matter how much or how little we sell, we always make about the same amount of money: $350. And we always seem to have even more left over than what we started with.)

This “call” was an offer on our home.

With a closing date of August 27.

Yep. You read that right. We have one month to get everything outta here and get ourselves to California.

Four. Short. Weeks.

My sense of anxiousness and ennui has been totally replaced by a sense of panic.

Fortunately, an old friend came to visit that night. We’ve known Ben since the days when Jon worked at BYTE Magazine. He has always been “a friend in need and a friend in deed.” That is, the first time Jon was laid off with 2 days’ notice, Ben was the guy who traveled over from the coast to spend time with Jon, listening to his fears and worries, encouraging him to believe in himself, and also bringing lots of rum. Really good rum. He and Jon sat on our beautiful porch on the second floor, and helped the sun set.

Ben is an artist, too, and you can see his lovely watercolors here

As always, Ben brought good cheer, funny stories, fond memories and new hope for the future. And just before he left the next morning, just as the numbing reality of what lies ahead hit us, he gave me the exact words I needed to hold in my heart for the month ahead.

Ben has always been a sailor. He and his family spent a number of years on a sailboat, traveling around the Canary Islands and later the Caribbean. He still pilots a research vessel for UNH in Portsmouth, NH. And he knows about ships and harbors.

“There are two really hard things about living on a boat,” he said. The first is mooring. “You arrive at a new place. You don’t know the harbor, you don’t know the rules, you don’t know the protocol, you’re not familiar with the moorings.”

But even harder is the un-mooring.

“There’s so much to do before you leave port,” he explained. “I gotta do this, I gotta do that, I gotta dump this, I gotta pick up that…. The list is endless. It’s really daunting.”

So daunting, he said, that soon come the excuses for staying: “It’s not so bad here. Maybe we should stay a little longer.”

And so many folks never leave.

We were silent a moment. Once again, just when things seem really really hard, someone crosses our path and tells us exactly what we need to hear to take the next step.

It is uncanny. It is surprising.

It is a gift. No, more than that.

As my friend Melinda LaBarge would say, “It’s an effin’ miracle!”

Quietly, I said, “Ben, thank you.”

This morning we awaken to yet another thunderstorm, a wet and cloudy day. We find it hard to get out of bed, but finally we do. We create a flurry of posts on Facebook and Craigslist: Canoe for sale, hot tub for sale, kiln for sale. Cat and dogs? Nah. Just kidding.

We take a deep breath and plot out our day. The thunderstorm cools the air somewhat. A good time for me to split stuff the barn attic into two piles, “keep” and “let go”.

I find myself thinking about what we’ll leave for the new family that will live in this beautiful house. The antique flag. The original brass house keys. Maybe the wooden doll house?

I’ll be sure to tell them where the pets are buried, behind the garage in the back yard. Rex, beloved collie of the family before us. Leia and Puffy, our hamsters. Gus and Max, our elderly cats. Mavra, the sweetest rat in the world. Various injured beasties that came into our care for a short while, as we gave them a safe place to die in peace.

I am so thankful for the years we’ve had in this town, in this house, in this safe harbor.

I am so thankful another family will fill the rooms with laughter, and tears, and joy.

I am so thankful for the miracle of a few well-chosen words, at just the right time.

And as I work, I calm the frantic thoughts and the powerful beating of my heart. I say over and over to myself….

A ship is safe in harbor. But that’s not what ships are for….

Me, Melinda and Stacey Herlitz, manager of the the Craftwear exhibit at the League of NH Craftsmen's Fair.

Me, Melinda and Stacey Herlitz, manager of the the Craftwear exhibit at the League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair.

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WHAT I’M UP TO

What am I up to right now?

Well….every single day, I face a shifting landscape.

Tomorrow is my last chance to deliver artwork for two exhibits at the League of NH Craftsmen’s Fair. I just finished putting the last touches on two “boxed pieces”, and my feral coral necklace is ready to go, too.

Everything is polymer clay, except for the single antler and the antique wood boxes that I cleaned, repaired, painted, refinished and waxed.

Everything is polymer clay, except for the single antler and the antique wood boxes that I cleaned, repaired, painted, refinished and waxed.

I made the deer last year, but I didn't know what I was going to do with him til a few months ago. Everything in this display is polymer clay (except the antique boxes.)

I made the deer last year, but I didn’t know what I was going to do with him til a few months ago. Everything in this display is polymer clay (except the antique boxes.)

I've nicknamed this the feral coral necklace, but it will have a beautiful new name by tomorrow.  All polymer clay. I made an armature for each piece of faux coral.

I’ve nicknamed this the feral coral necklace, but it will have a beautiful new name by tomorrow. All polymer clay. I made an armature for each piece of faux coral.

It’s a bittersweet day. This will be my last League Fair, and I won’t have a booth. I knew our lives would be in major upheaval by now, and it is. And to complicate things even more, I told a friend I would take a woodblock printmaking class with her last weekend, and I did! How crazy is that?! Well, actually…..

I loved it. And I found the carving very soothing. My not-quite-finished block is below. (I’m doing a reductive print, which means I have another “layer” to carve, to add a third color–raw umber.)

Sorry for the floppy picture. There is truly not a single flat surface in my studio right now....

Sorry for the floppy picture. There is truly not a single flat surface in my studio right now….

Someone is also interested in our house. They called out of the blue on Monday afternoon. It might be perfect for them. And if they decide to go for it, we’d have to move before the end of August. So. Do we go into general panic mode and heave everything into a dumpster? Or wait and see, and run the risk of having even less time to pack everything up??

I dunno. And shortly, I won’t care. I’m celebrating the completion of my three exhibit pieces by making a pitcher of mimosas in ten more minutes.

If you need me, I’ll be sitting on the second floor porch, trying to drown my anxiety in sparkling white wine and my daily dose of Vitamin C. Tomorrow is another day, with a whole new game plan. And since I won’t know til tomorrow what it is, why waste another moment worrying about it?

P.S. To be safe, we’ve decided to have a yard sale every Saturday for the rest of the summer. (I’m not joking.) I’ll keep you posted!

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