Thursday, January 27, 2005


Snow, by Glory Bee, from the 2004 JCS Ornaments issue. This was exceedingly boring to stitch! Posted by Hello

Sunday, January 23, 2005

Coming Out

I have been reading a book called Opening Up: The Healing Power of Expressing Emotions, by James W. Pennebaker. Actually, I just started reading it, and instead of starting at the beginning, I went right to a chapter called "The Social Price of Disclosure." The chapter starts out talking about bereaving parents, and how after a couple of months their social networks collapse because other people can't deal with the topic themselves. The bereaving parents then find themselves alone, with nobody to talk to, even if they need to talk. The author discusses how groups can help in this situation.

A lightbulb immediately went on over my head. I have a gay son. Although he came out when he was 17 and is now 21, I haven't been able to relate to many people about it. Perhaps it is more honest to say that I haven't really been able to talk about it on more than a surface level. The topic quickly changes. But I want to talk about what it's like having a gay son! It's not that I was ever traumatized by it. On the contrary, I suspected it and have been very supportive from the moment he told me. He is my son, and being gay is part of who he is. I love the whole package. I am proud of him.

I have been in virtual isolation about my son's homosexuality. For one, I don't want to "out" him to other people when he hasn't made that choice himself. Second, a conversation about it doesn't go anywhere. But aren't I outing him here? No, I'm outing myself. He isn't here and you don't know him.

I decided, at that moment when I was reading that chapter, that I needed to go to some PFLAG meetings. PFLAG is Parents, Family and Friends of Lesbians and Gays. I need a place to talk openly. When I realized there was a place to do that, I felt great relief.

My fear in writing this here is that I will be criticized for it. But what I've realized reading that chapter is that I need to "come out" about it too.

Why did I choose to read that chapter first? I think I knew, just like I knew that he was gay.

Friday, January 21, 2005

Blogs as Brain Dumps

In a previous post, Musings on Blog Musings (January 2), I wrote about bloggers who bare everything in their blogs. I said that I can't do that, that I have other places to share my innermost thoughts and feelings, and that here I keep it close to the chest. I don't feel comfortable sharing everything in such a public place. I keep a journal for my therapist, but I don't even share that with my family, let alone in my blog.

One woman left a comment on my blog. She said, "I think it's because we *don't* know the people who read our blogs that it is so easy to tell secrets. My hypothetical journal for my therapist would be much easier to share with the blogworld than with my family."

I think her comment is very astute. It got me thinking about blogs as "anonymous," despite the fact that names and pictures are often on them. My feelings about blogs were reinforced after I read an article called "Therapeutic Writing," by psychiatrist Michael Messer. He advocates a kind of writing that can act as a sort of "brain dump" where thoughts and feelings can be expressed and released. He discusses evidence that shows that therapeutic writing can have significant health benefits for quite a long time, and that illnesses such as asthma and arthritis have been shown to improve if therapeutic writing is used.

How do you do therapeutic writing? Dr. Messer says:

The directions for therapeutic writing are quite simple: Write for 20 minutes each day your deepest thoughts and feelings. Those are all the directions that you need. An additional direction I would like to add is that once you have completed your writing, this is not to be kept for posterity, and that each day the paper should be thrown away. Throwing away the paper ensures that you are completely honest with the expression and that you are not writing for any other audience than yourself.

Note that therapeutic writing is not a listing of activities that go on from day to day. Apparently there are no health benefits in that!

The one difference between Dr. Messer's instructions for therapeutic writing and blogging is that the paper should be thrown away (or deleted, in the case of writing on a computer). But if the blogger is writing for what she perceives as an anonymous audience, if what she writes in her blog allows her to tell secrets that she could not share even with her family, blogging is in one sense very similar to therapeutic writing. And the entry very quickly scrolls off the page into the archives.

What I am saying is that I think blogging can be a kind of "brain dump." If that is the case, people who bare all in their blogs may reap potiential health benefits and are providing themselves with, as Dr. Messer writes, "ongoing maintenance for the unconscious mind."

Thursday, January 20, 2005

Stitching Rewards!

I have a stitching reward deal with Roxi. She is going to make me a lap quilt and I am going to give her a Chatelaine chart. As I finish projects, she is going to make another piece of the quilt. I will send her the Chatelaine chart after she finishes six birds. Chatelaine designs are made by Martina Weber, a European designer who does beautiful mandalas. We have chosen Knotgarden.

I have been working on the same Christmas ornament for weeks now. My excuse is that it is boring. Well, it is. But it is so simple I ought to be able to get it done in a couple of hours. I am determined to finish it before I start another project. My next project is the Millennium Cats round robin. I need to hussle with the ornament if I am going to get the Millennium Cats done on time.

That ornament is my big procrastination issue. I have no idea why I can't finish it. I think it is a combination of fear of failure and fear of success. I am uptight about Millennium Cats -- what if I do it wrong? what if I can't get the gridding right? or if the gridding takes me forever? what if my instructions are too complex? what if I can't get my two kitties stitched by February 12? On the other side, what does it imply about me if I can get my fabric ready and my kitties stitched on time? I will have to adjust my opinion of myself.


I heard the word "procrastination" twice yesterday. The first time I had complained to my friend Mike that I was having a bad day, that I couldn't think clearly, and I just didn't feel like cleaning the house. He said, "procrastination's a bitch." I heard it the second time from Roxi, and inveterate procrastinator herself, while we were talking about putting off finishing our stitching projects. She told me I was procrastinating.

I decided to learn something about procrastination. I discovered that procrastination is caused by other underlying issues -- fear of failure, for example, or fear of success. Other causes are irrational beliefs, for example that everything must be perfect or done well, a need for control ("other people can't tell me what to do") or using procrastination to preseve a relationship or to prevent closeness. One author types procrastinators as follows:

...Sapadin and Maguire (1997) have also classified procrastinators into types: the "perfectionist" who dreads doing anything that is less than perfect, the "dreamer" who has great ideas but hates doing the details, the "worrier" who doesn't think things are right but fears that changes will make them worse, the "defier" who resists doing anything suggested or expected by someone else, the "crisis-maker" who manages to find or make a big problem in any project (often by starting too late), and the "over-doer" who takes on way too many tasks.

There are two types of procrastinators -- laid-back and tense. The laid-back procrastinator has irrational beliefs, such as "I can't do it because it's boring" or some other excuse. I am going to quote this author again:

The tense-afraid type of procrastinator is described by Fiore (1989) as feeling overwhelmed by pressures, unrealistic about time, uncertain about goals, dissatisfied with accomplishments, indecisive, blaming of others or circumstances for his/her failures, lacking in confidence and, sometimes, perfectionistic. Thus, the underlying fears are of failing, lacking ability, being imperfect, and falling short of overly demanding goals. This type thinks his/her worth is determined by what he/she does, which reflects his/her level of ability. He/she is afraid of being judged and found wanting. Thus, this kind of procrastinator will get over-stressed and over-worked until he/she escapes the pressure temporarily by trying to relax but any enjoyment gives rise to guilt and more apprehension.

Geesh, I see myself as both a laid-back procrastinator and a tense one! The point is, though, that procrastination must be addressed in two ways -- dealing with the problem(s) behind it, and establishing systems that prevent it. Some of these are:

1. Keeping schedules, to-do lists, and generally writing things down. These solutions are often short-lived because they don't address the underlying problems. It takes time to overcome procrastination.

2. Breaking tasks into small pieces, e.g. spending five minutes doing something.

3. Keeping a journal of feelings and thoughts about procrastination. What keeps you from getting going?

4. Dealing with why you hate work -- and other similar issues.

5. Getting cognitive behavioral therapy. It is clear from what I have read that procrastination is caused by irrational beliefs, something that cognitive behavioral therapy addresses. John Perry, in an article called Structured Procrastination argues that procrastination is a form of self-deception. In short, therapy helps.

Well, what about me? I think I have all these characteristics! I'm lucky though -- I have a cognitive behavioral therapist. But I think my friend Mike lit a fire under me when he said, "procrastination's a bitch." I promptly went downstairs and reorganized the entire kitchen. Now I have to get over being "bored" by the stitching project I'm supposed to be working on.

Tuesday, January 18, 2005

Wisconsin Stitching Group

I joined the Wisconsin Stitching Group on Yahoo in mid-December. Wisconsin Stitching is a group of cross stitch enthusiasts from Wisconsin. On December 15 there were three members. Today there are 10 members, most of whom joined in the last couple of days. I had posted a message to RoundRobinCrazy about the group, and Linda and Elaine joined from that, but (Kim, I swear) I was totally innocent about the rest. Linda is from Minnesota, but we let her in because she was close by and promised not to diss the Packers! Woohoo!-- there's even another member from Appleton! It's suddenly become a very popping group and I think it's going to be a lot of fun!

In Appleton it is currently 6 degrees F with a -7 wind chill. It was -25 degrees F in Door County last night. Cold! I can usually take Henry out without out donning my coat, but now I don't take him the few steps to his dog pen without it. The snow shimmers with ice. I haven't seen a rabbit all day. Apparently this cold weather comes from Alberta, Canada, swooping down into the U.S. upper midwest and leaving a heap of snow behind it. I can usually tolerate the cold to 10 degrees. I don't like this.

I wonder if all those Wisconsin stitchers (and that one poor soul from Minnesota) have come in from the cold and logged onto the internet, looking for kindred spirits bundled in sweaters and sensible shoes before their LCD screens -- and with the exception of that one poor soul from Minnesota -- are wondering why Brett Favre didn't lead the Packers to the superbowl. That is, if they care about football at all. I know one thing. They all care more about choosing between a size 26 needle and linen or evenweave, resisting the urge to shop for fabric on the internet and, if they manage to resist at all, have more patterns than they could possibly use in a lifetime. But oh well, it's winter. Might as well stitch.

Anyway, here's the website:

And no, Wisconsin is not the Cheesehead State. It's the Badger State.


Candice in Appleton

Monday, January 17, 2005

Arlo and Me

This is me and the amazing Arlo, my beloved dog, in the early 1970s. I was maybe 20 when that picture was taken. The photographer was my ex-whatever. I think I got involved with him because I loved his dog. When he and I split, he took Arlo. I have lots of pictures of Arlo. It was difficult to choose just one.  Posted by Hello

And This is Henry!

This is Henry, who is a five year old Dalmatian-Australian Shepherd mix. We got him from the Humane Society when he was a pup. Henry is quite a character. In this picture he's wondering what the heck I'm doing with the camera (note his ears are submissively back and his tail is wagging). I did tell him to "stay" and he stayed. Henry has a non-stop smile on his face -- he's such a happy dog -- and a silly dog too. A real goof-ball. That sofa, by the way, is his. Posted by Hello

The Writing Class

I am taking a a free, online writing course at Barnes & Noble University. The course is called "Writing Fiction with Gotham Writers' Workshop." The activity for the second lesson is as follows:

Make a list of everyone you have ever known, in any way. Include people you know well and people you have only seen from afar. Just list the names. Stop after you fill about two pages, listing the names in columns. If you don't know someone's name, put something like "the little girl who lives down the block." Everyone on your list is a possible inspiration for a character.

Well, I wrote down 132 names on my two pages and could have listed a lot more. As I was writing the names, I had pictures in my head of the people and remember certain things about them and their relationship to me. I was aware that each person could be a source of inspiration for a story. Each person was so full of life to me. It was an amazing exercise -- and it didn't take that long. I highly recommend it.

The second part of the activity was to take one person from the list and talk about how they inspired me. I chose my friend Cubic from the village in Kenya. Some day I will write a lot more about Cubic. I have tried to write about him in the past and it was difficult. I need to drag out my fieldnotes and read them. I am sure Cubic is all over them.

Nimue Design -- La Pipe

Nimue design -- The Pipe. Fee means fairy -- these are mostly designs featuring fairies. I think they are charming. Posted by Hello

La Sylphide Toquee Design -- Boule de Neige

Design from La Sylphide Toquee -- Boule de Neige, which seemingly translates to "A Ball of Snow".  Posted by Hello

European Stitching Patterns

I've discovered a couple of French designers -- Nimue and La Sylphide Toquee. I have started to collect them. Both feature lovely delicate designs.

La Sylphide Toquee are whimsical designs in bright colors, some with French words. Apparently this is a new designer. Sylphid (in English) means a graceful woman or a being that inhabits the air. Toquee does not translate. Website for La Sylphide Toquee:

Norden Crafts has pictures of a lot of La Sylphide Toquee patterns:

Nimue is one of the names of the Lady of the Lake or Vivien in the Arthurian Legends. These patterns seem to be of nymphs and fairies. I can find no links to Nimue patterns online.

I have also collected some Dutch patterns -- mostly buildings such as houses of Amsterdam -- and some Russian ones.

The European designs seem to be quite different than the ones we have here in the U.S. They are both worth seeking out.

Tuesday, January 11, 2005

Of Rabbits and Computers

I love going outside on a night like this, with the snow on the ground, and the temperature right around freezing -- not so warm that the snow melts, but warm enough to be out for a few minutes without a jacket. It's been colder the last few days, but now I can feel a warm edge in the air. It's as though my body is looking for the warmth rather than the cold.

We have rabbits in our yard. They leave trails of pawprints wherever they go, and the snow is criss-crossed with evidence of where the rabbits have been. I usually only see two or three rabbits at a time, but the way the snow looks, I know there must be a lot more. They particularly like the area under the bird feeder where the seeds drop through.

Tonight I saw two rabbits chasing each other in the snow. I wondered if they were playing. When I had a rabbit in Zimbabwe, she used to play a game I called "prey and prey" -- she would approach me, and when she just within my reach, she would dash off. It is quite a different game than a dog or cat plays, both preditors. I had thought that gentle animals like rabbits enjoy evasion games rather than aggression games.

Today I must have spent ten hours at the computer. I have a kind of technological focus that makes time disappear. The computer has become a universe to me. I sink into it and don't emerge unless something pulls me out. Tonight it was the rabbits. I need to spend less time at the computer and more time outside, in nature.

Monday, January 10, 2005

Making Napkins

I have been doing some research on how to make napkins.

In her book, The Simple Art of Napkin Folding, Linda Hetzer gives instructions for seven different kinds of napkins. They are:

1. Blanket stitch
2. Hand-rolled hems
3. Mitered corners
4. Machine-stitched hems
5. Fringed edges
6. Lace trim
7. Double-fold bias binding

Hetzer says that napkins can be made out of linen, cotton, polyester or any combination of those. Most napkins are made out of medium weight fabric, neither coarse nor sheer. Linen napkins usually have hand-rolled hems, machine-stitched edges, or mitered hems. Cotton and polyester fabrics are more casual and can be finished with fringed edges, embroidery, lace trim and binding. Napkins with fringed edges should be made out of coarser fabric.

All of the napkins are 20" x 20" square with added fabric for the hems. For eight napkins, you need 2 1/2 yards of 45" fabric. One source I read says that dinner napkins should be 20" x 20" and luncheon napkins 15" x 15".

I wish I could just scan Hetzer's pictures and instructions for each kind of napkin. Nevertheless, they are all pretty easy to do. Instead I have searched the internet for instructions. The following websites have instructions on making napkins:

HGTV: Making Napkins

How to make table napkins

Serger napkins

Hetzer's book is only $8.00 at It's totally worth it for the two pages on how to make napkins, although the 94 napkin folds are very nicely illustrated and easy to do.

Sunday, January 09, 2005

Cross Stitch Napkins

I have a dream of someday making 12 cross stitch napkins for my mother-in-law. My fantasy is that each napkin will have a different flower on it. So when Bonnie at RoundRobinCrazy asked for suggestions for round robins, I suggested napkins. There was a great response! A lot of people besides myself would like to make cross stitch napkins.

The only problem was finding napkins which are amenable to cross stitch. I hunted on the web (I've done this before) and couldn't find what I wanted. There was something in England, but they were too pricey. I decided I would ask 1-2-3 Stitch if they could find napkins for me -- they say on their website that they will try to get special requests. They found some cross stitch napkins by Crafters Pride, made of 14 Ct. SaLem fabric. They are washable, fringed, and come in white or ivory. They are a bit more casual than I had in mind, but I ordered 12 of them.

If I want more formal napkins, I will need to make them myself. I got a book on napkin folding -- The Simple Art of Napkin Folding: 94 Fancy Folds for Every Tabletop Occasion, by Linda Hetzer -- and it has two pages of instructions for making seven different kinds of napkins. I will need to figure a way to explain how to make these napkins in my blog, without plagerizing or violating copyright laws!

Napkin folding is interesting. Now I need some china and some Waterford glasses! My mother-in-law says there is a place in St. Louis that sells complete sets of china on consignment, stuff that other people no longer use. I would do that if the pieces were open stock. I don't know how I would get it home to Appleton though. But getting china is one of the things I would like to do. I have never had china. It would be wonderful to be able to set a formal table, with fancy folded, hand-made stitched napkins.

My Stitching Nook

My magnifying lamp got here Friday. Daniel set it up and it is now sitting next to my rocking chair in my room. It is so awesome! I can see every kind of fabric under it -- I tested them out! I am so excited to use it.

The problem was creating the stitching nook. The stitching nook is #1 on my list of stitching goals for 2005. I had to clear the fabric, projects, q-snaps, buttons, etc. off the rocking chair so I could use it. I sent Daniel to the store for some plastic file boxes and plastic see-through shoe boxes. The first thing I did was create a box for my fabric. I put the fabric in hanging file folders. Then I filled the two shoe boxes -- one with odds and ends (buttons, needles, floss cards), and the other with threads I haven't carded yet. But the box got awfully full awfully fast, so I am getting another two shoe boxes for just the floss -- one for DMC, and one for specialty threads. And I am also getting some more file boxes for my patterns.

The rocking chair is now empty and ready to use. There are boxes everywhere but I will find a place for them in the closet -- as soon as I get the closet cleaned out! That's the next step.

I am taking a online class at Barnes & Noble University on organizing from the inside out. It is a free class. I am hoping it will motivate me to clean my office/art room once and for all.

Sunday, January 02, 2005

Fabric Origami

I have discovered fabric origami. However, to say "fabric" origami is a bit of a contradiction. Origami means "to fold paper" in Japanese. However, the techniques of paper folding can be transferred to fabric. Some fabric folds are inspired by origami but depart from it. And other fabric folds, such as napkin and towel folding, aren't considered origami but are of interest to paper folders.

When I first heard of fabric origami, I thought it would be necessary to stiffen the fabric first. I found fabric stiffener at Hobby Lobby, thinking I would transfer directly to fabric what I know from doing origami. I shortly realized that origami made with fabric stiffener wouldn't survive a wash. It would be great for wall hangings, though, and for making origami ornaments ("kusudama" origami) out of fabric. There are some great examples of kusudama origami at a Brasilian website called Kusudama: Arte em Origami. Unfortunately it's in Portuguese, but the origami is beautiful. I have several books on kusudama origami and look forward to doing some fabric origami using fabric stiffener.

Rebecca Wat has some fabric folds for quilt squares in her book Fantasic Fabric Folding. These don't require anything but ordinary cotton fabric, finger-folded into shapes such as flowers, stars, and pinwheels. They hold together through washings and are merely tacked in a couple of places to keep them from losing their shape. These fabric folds are then incorporated into quilts the same as quilt blocks.

Kumiko Sudo's beautiful fabric origami folds are not strict origami folds like several of Wat's. They are folded fabric pieces that are sewn onto wall hangings or appliqued onto quilts. They will not hold their shape unless they are sewn, and most of the ones in her book Folded Flowers really do belong on wall hangings that will not be washed. They are, however, sensational. There are many more examples of Japanese quilt designs which employ fabric origami techniques.

Napkin folds aren't "strictly origami" but are based on the techniques of paper folding. They are made out of ordinary napkins instead of paper...although you could fold a paper napkin! (I've done it.) There are dozens of different napkin folds. For example, Linda Hetzer has a book of 94 napkin folds, and one of the reviewers at criticized her book for omitting some key folds.

Fabric yoyos are a bit like fabric origami (see post below on fabric yoyos). They are "folded" when the thread around the outside is pulled to form a circle half the size of the original fabric. Although fabric yoyos are often appliqued onto a quilt or other piece of fabric, I like the yoyos that are connected at the edges and are not foundation pieced. In other words, they are the quilt, not attached to the quilt. Yoyos are used as applique in a quilt called "Hurricane Party" by Amy Stewart Winsor. An example of a yoyo quilt is at

Right now cross stitching is my priority, but I hope I will find time to do some fabric origami in the near future. I'd like to do all kinds!

Musings on Blog Musings

I am always amazed at how open some bloggers are, how they write about the details of their lives, their emotions, their ups and downs. I can't be that open in this public a setting. I keep it close to the chest. I would be embarrassed.

I have other places to write some of these things. The Cross Stitch forum is one of them. I know the people there, and I can talk rather openly in that setting. I have friends, too, with whom I share things -- Valerie, Roxi, Chris, Coby, Sandi, and Mike. I also keep a journal for my therapist. I can write just about anything in it. It's also not something I can share online, although I know that people do share such things in their blogs. But for me it's too intimate. I don't even share my personal journal with my family.

So I don't keep a blog with my daily musings in it. My blog is more topical. I like to post pictures. I write when I have something to say. But I have been branching out a bit from the subject of stitching. I now write about origami, and I have become interested in quilting. I'll probably write about that too. I am thinking about posting more about other things in my life, but I don't want to stray too far.

Fabric Yoyos

The first time I saw a fabric yoyo was during the early 1970s when I was in college. One of the students had a vest made of yoyos. It was really cool -- and a little hippy-ish. I asked her how the vest was made, and she briefly explained to me how to make a fabric yoyo.

Apparently fabric yoyos have been around for at least 100 years. They may have come originally from the Philippines, but in the 1920s started to be used in quilts in the U.S. Here's a marvelous pdf file explaining the history of the fabric yoyo and how it is used in quilts:

Yesterday I saw a cross-stitch pattern from Waxing Moon Designs with several fabric yoyo embellishments (thanks Eileen!). It's called "Take Thyme." If you find this pattern and don't have the embellishments, you can make them yourself. They are really easy. Here is a web page explaining how to make a fabric yoyo:

Now if I could find an origami yoyo my day would be complete!