A New Sketchbook

Snow came the other evening and the yard looked like this the next morning.  All melted off by noon. I finished my sewing and after a bit of mending will put the machine away. The second shirt (blouse) was pathetic. By the time I finished it and tried it on, I really hated it! So I opened the sewing trunk and tossed it in…shoving it all the way to the bottom! The lessen learned is if you like the two shirt patterns you have, use them. Don’t try anything else with too many pieces and too many confusing instructions.

I have been missing my sketching every day or so. The house book has been finished. The meadow book has stopped until I see something out there like a different bird or interesting plants/bugs. Now everything seems frozen and lifeless.

So I had told friends in Australia who are getting ready for one of their basket gatherings that I would weave or stitch along with them for the next several days. All of my basket materials were given away when I changed house….and I definitely don’t need any more baskets. I thought I would do some small stitched patches like I did in one of my other books from almost two years ago.

But I needed to make a book for them and drawings as well.

Yesterday I dug out some paper from a Claudia Lee surface designing papers class for the covers, and folded folios from mixed media paper.

I folded over the fore edges thinking I could attach fabrics, etc there but seemed to forget until the middle of the night that the book would never close no matter how many extra filler folios I put in the spine area.  I ripped all the folded sections off this morning…

Anyway I finished the book yesterday with the help of some old familiar tools. The beautiful bamboo awl was made by the young man I gave my board shear to.

Golden needles from a general store in Richmond, Tasmania that friend, Jude, took me to.

And the large wool blanket needle case Jude made me many years ago. Bits of her embroidery on every page. I finally removed all the ends of wax linen threads from this book and with the leftover Coptic binding threads from putting this book together, made a small basket to put inside.

Then knowing that stitched cloth bits would be added, I decided to cut out pages to allow for the additional bulk. You can see below that the book was not going to close!

The front page was cut out to show the basket.

I drew an Anna Lizzotte basket I bought years ago when I was with them at their gatherings. I am sure Anna will be at this one, too. And then on the inside cover put the small note from Jude (who will also be there) on the inside cover to line up with the hole.

Now I can draw baskets, stitch patches of cloth and cut holes where needed. I will also fill it with writings, so added straight lines on some pages.

Now to get its flatness back after spending a night kept from closing, I have weighted it with a stone I covered with kangaroo hide….how fitting!

Now I have something to work on this week as I join the basket makers in Tasmania.

*Note: In case you were wondering the 3 1/2″ x 4 3/4″ brown stone was patterned using my Dremel tool before encasing it in the hide that was stitched along the edges (the bottom is one piece cut to fit the shape of the stone). The top is cut to expose the design and grip the stone inside. I learned the basics from Jian Frontini (exceptional book binder and friend).

When he used to come south from Canada to teach locally we would always get together to share ideas and work together. I learned so much with his exacting attention to detail and technique. Now he does not come this way anymore and I am so grateful for the time we did have. He and Lee would sip red wines, preferably from the Tuscan Valley, and his wife, Pat, and I would have our single malt scotches while catching up on news and what we might be doing next,

As I unpack my tools in this cozy little studio I am surrounded by the friends who have always been there. Another tool that barely left my hand but is not in the pictures is Kent Stewart’s Delrin plastic bone folder. Absolutely nothing sticks to it and it does not make a shine on the paper when used to press folds. Kent and his wife, Catherine Ellis, came down to visit me during the hard times adjusting to Lee’s dementia. And he faithfully sent at least two hand drawn postcards to Lee every week. I kept them all. Those, Barbara’s fun postcards and the many, many cards and notes sent to Lee from Australia.

I keep my most favorite tools in this tool pouch I made from a pattern sent by a friend in Australia.

And all zipped in…

Well that’s enough for today…

Til later….


Rainy Day Post

The rain is lashing outside my window. It is a serious rain that comes with thunder and lightening. I am glad to be inside with my cats and a fireplace that knows when to turn itself on to keep the house cozy.

This week I have been feeling and acting like a fifties housewife. Baking scones was a good idea. Some with a recipe calling for prosciutto and gruyere cheese.

I don’t think they were worth the extra cost of those two ingredients so made another batch substituting cut up party salami type slices left from my house warming, parmesan and tossed in loads of chopped spinach. These were very delicious!

When I took the scones in for the boys yesterday, some appreciated them while others took one look at the “green” and passed.

I did learn one thing to do when baking scones: Once they are on the baking sheet and ready to go into the oven, put them in the freezer for half an hour first. It gets the butter really cold again and assists in the flakiness of the bake. I also learned that there is usually plenty in the way of ingredients in the refrigerator to make savoury scones.

Then I got on with the sewing.

I will finish this shirt tomorrow. It takes a lot of concentration and a seam ripper to complete. It is not just a front and back but a left and right front and back.  And a careful look when having to put finished hems in before pieces are put together. But I have made all the mistakes I need to get this one done. At least I hope so. Maybe I should stop sewing and be satisfied with the jersey jogging suits so many old girls turn to. But clingy knits are not what I would wear anywhere but to bed. I shall stay in the fight to make my own clothes.

Once I was almost tossed out of a large department store by asking the sales woman if they really expected women of all ages and sizes to be satisfied with the same ugly knit blouses in orange and green stripes. “Are women really all walking around in these clothes because it is what you are offering?” “Where is the woven cotton and linen?” “In the men’s department>” I was told. So I headed to the men’s department and bought a big shirt in something that felt right.

Anyway this week I was a sewer.

Saw this on my walk and was reminded how difficult the English language can be to learn.

It was my first walk to the river in almost two weeks. It felt good to be out on such a sunny day and hear the rushing water from so much rain lately.

I like sitting in my studio and looking off to my left.

It is a cozy corner of things collected and mostly kept within touching distance.  So many things to write about.

Writing. Did you know that cursive writing will not be taught anymore? How will people take notes? How will they jot down the fragments of conversations heard in the morning diner? How will things stay in their minds if they are not writing it down as it happens and feeling the connection from ear to head to arm to hand to pen and then appearing like magic on a paper.

I have notebooks, cocktail napkins, receipts with words that mattered and were of interest and import at the time. Some fed into artworks, some into poetry or short stories and still more jog the memory of some special moment in time. What happens if we stop writing? Some would say, well you can still print. But it is not the same. Having to lift the pen after each letter loses track and can’t keep up. It is one more thing my generation in particular is seeing fade into history.

My lunch companion of the same age mentioned how she hated seeing the gas station attendants stop coming out to fill the tank, wash the windshield and ask how you were. Now we pump our own. Which is fine. I can do that. More customers can be taken care of at the same time. I understand. But sometime I might just push the button asking for help and when he comes out of his tiny glassed in cubicle, I might just say “Hi” with pen and paper in hand and ask how his day is going.

But on a high note, the other day the neck pieces I ordered from a friend in Tasmania arrived. And with them came a stash of gifts.

A painting she did of Eucalyptus leaves, some cards and bits and pieces she and the owner of Wafu Works bundled up for me. It is my favorite place to poke about in. A tiny Japanese store of odd bits of tools, cloth and threads. These are all old pieces of cloth that are so much fun to sew into. And that little bone fold pressing tool. How lovely! And a tiny red box for tiny things. And assorted sewing threads. Treasures to be sure! I will tuck them into a drawer here at the work table for something special later. Thank you Jude and Jan.

Rain is still bucketing down. Cats want my attention.

Til later…

Book Basket Box: Placement for Memory Part 2

I am back to show the rest of the travel boxes. Beginning with Japan. It was the first of the travel boxes made shortly after a trip there in 1998 with a focus on bamboo basket makers and and their places of learning and working.

After mapping out what is to go into the box, I select an appropriate fabric to turn into book cloth for the covering and papers to line the interior and sides. Since we participated in a demonstration of indigo dying I thought this fabric had the right look. It pays to just get a yard or so of fabrics that call out to follow you home.

I used a piece of bamboo for the traditional closing.

A piece of Japanese fabric lines the inside lid. Walls are placed in to mark the places where things are to be placed.  I wrote about my trip on a piece of paper from Japan. Then cut it so it was one continuous length to spin into a thread to be woven into the small basket holding a special stone. It rests on a stone from our sauna at the hostel. To the right is a lid to small mementos inside that compartment. The two larger spaces hold my sketchbook works and papers from the journey in a pop out format.

Among the mementos are stones, a fish shaped soy sauce bottle and all the tie off resist threads from the indigo class. Closures use small bits of bamboo.

Those same threads are used to tie sketches into a book made in a traditional Japanese book binding technique. I really love how this project of Japanese memories came together. I went on to teaching many workshops and making more of these containers that sold at exhibitions or ended up in the archives of craft institutions and museums.

Now it is on to New Zealand.

This is covered with an Egyptian cotton from a remnants shop. I made myself some pajamas and had enough left for a box needing a New Zealand feel to it. We could see it as thousands of lined up sheep in very green fields. It is a single layer box which says it all.

Aren’t those sleeve-lidded baskets wonderful. The bark package contains a stone given to me by a student in my class there.

The tiny lid raises to reveal another shell. So many wonderful things to touch…so many memories.

And now Australia!

I’m fairly sure it was made shortly after my second trip in 1999. Again a fabric that said “Australia” to me was chosen and the overall size had to house my sketches done on large paper.

The Eucalyptus blooms were made by a lady I met at a conference. The small bloom and leaf came from a basket making friend. There is a book in the upper left and each of the other spaces have pull up lids to reveal the things below.

The book is the pages that students do and assemble in hiding and then present at the end of the class.  The eggshell page was from a student dealing with the fragility of being influenced by her home country and adopted Australia. On the left are basket materials and a small twined basket made by a young Korean working in Australia. A student from the previous year showed her how to make a “secrets” basket and she made this one to pass on to me.

Teaching Secrets baskets was a fun way to get students to learn the technique of twining to hold their secrets written on a piece of paper tightly enclosed within. I loved the idea that many years later, they will wear open and secrets will find their way out into the world. My first sample to teach this class had a piece of paper that I used fragmented words to indicate a lost love affair. I told my students that many years from now there might be just enough information in those words to inspire someone to write a story.

Our secrets can have a future. One of my favorites was a student who was ninety years old and marrying for the first time the following week. All we could do was smile at each other as she closed over the opening. I thanked her for the opportunity to let my imagination run loose with ideas of what her secret might have been.

Sorry, got side tracked…these boxes do that.

The other cubby hole holds shells and small gifts from students at a basket conference. Then the larger lid on the right opens….

First thing visible is a portfolio that unfolds to reveal separated packets of sketches done on my trip.

I had these cards that had a cutout of a kangaroo. So I put more of the Aboriginal-designed gift paper that I bought at the Opera house behind. I was sketching everything Australian that I could find.

Even the construction of the quintessential Australian chair where the man, bushed from being in the bush, can prop his feet with his behind dropped into a canvas sling. The arms of the chair accommodate his beverage of choice. I actually thought it would be fun to have Lee make one of these, but soon realized that they are not that easy to get out of. Good thing I didn’t do that because I would not have been able to part with it and it would be taking up a whole lot of space here in my new house.

Under that portfolio of sketches a tab is pulled up to release the section of larger drawings.

They slide out from under the floor of the collections to the left.

After this all my sketchbooks from Australia were made in advance of the trip, filled while traveling, and are piled up in a basket where I can easily get to them and relive each trip. I have a couple of other boxes devoted to Australia, one large one with all the student end of class gifts over many years and another where I tried to capture my experiences there in a special place. I am sure I talked about them when they were completed so we will leave it there.

I did start cutting out patterns using my hide covered stones that are so lovely to handle.

But then a week of a chest cold put me in a tired stay-at-home-do nothing happened. I did slip out to see a full moon.

In the last two days I finished sewing two pairs of pants…two shirts to go and I can put the sewing machine away again. I need to do some baking too. It is time for savoury scones and banana pancakes to put in the freezer.

I might get a walk to the river in today…maybe not. I will check to see how warm it is and how wet with all the rain recently. I might just join the cats in a comfy chair by the fire.

Til later

Book Basket Box: Placement for Memory

I used to teach a workshop with that title. It was my most favorite class because everyone would bring the bits and pieces of things that needed to be kept safe. Things that needed a place to be kept hidden. Things that needed to be discovered again and again.

So today while I am on what I hope is the last of this miserable cold, I am going to start to show you some of my boxes. They are each a different country I traveled to and how I collected the bits that bring back memories and the sketches along the way.

I will start with France:

Each box must be built to accommodate the largest piece with room to extract it for closer examination.  I map everything out on plain paper first before cutting the box/book board.  I put this card in the center of the top of a pale pink cover.


The lift out tray holds an English to French translation book, lavender soaps from a lavender farm, sketchbook from the famous Sennelier art store in Paris and bags from purchases.

Under the tray are more maps and bags and a book for more memorabilia.

A bon voyage note from a frequent traveler to the Avignon area and a map.

And one of my most favorite places, the ochre mines of Bruoux. It was an exquisite experience to pass through those arches into pure earth pigment. I came home with so many collected colors from all these travels that I will show another time.

And Italy came right after France.

A gift wrap from Florence decorates the box.

Inside the box lid is a pouch to hold small prints I bought from street vendors and cards that capture the opulence.

And small books of tickets and other mementos. Wine corks and quick translation guide.

I will put two more boxes in today’s post.

Now Bali:

I thought this fabric looked like Bali so turned it into a book cloth to cover the box.

I collected the offerings outside my room in Ubud each morning….of course they dehydrated and became smaller.

I also saved and then purchased the brown paper sheets that food was served on to make a book when I returned home. Pages decorated with scraps collected along the way.

And now China:

A silk scrap I picked up in China became the cover material.

The box opened reveals a heavy stone in the back that a tracker who was poling our small boat upstream on a tributary of the Yangtze. He watched me reaching for a stone while we skimmed along. My sketchbook from the trip is in the tray above. Some of the sketches.

The space below the tray holds books of receipts and packaging and more mementos.

And under a false floor there is the soils of Xian, home to the famous warriors.

Not everything I bring home is in the boxes…only what fits and can bring back the memories of the time there. Likewise the French sketchbook is a heavy leather that I chose not to house in the box but add to sketchbooks on the shelves. We each choose what goes into the boxes and how to decorate its covers and walls.

My students have done such amazing containers…one about a mother who projected one persona to the public and below under a false floor was what the family endured. Others dealt with a loss of someone dear. And others favorite Nature walks with trails and bridges and small critters. I hope they all have kept their boxes to open and remember or to just know the unpleasant has a place to stay hidden.

Next blog we will go to Japan, New Zealand, and my favorite place…Australia!

Til later….