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The Sum of the Parts

Note: We’re much, much closer to moving now, and that panic threshold is starting to loom….

We’re only a few weeks away from moving, and as we are “moving ourselves,” I’m deep into sorting through our belongings and packing them up. To my surprise, I have not yet reached the exasperated “throw a match on the pile and walk away” phase. Perhaps I just haven’t reached the necessary panic threshold.

Actually, we’ve been surprised to find that we don’t have as many belongings as we had thought, which is a relief. We’ve also been selling and donating quite a bit, which perhaps creates a mental counter-balance. In a way, for this move it would make sense to take as little with us as possible. We’ll be moving into a someone else’s home, which is already occupied by their things. We will have access to free, adequate storage, but that is where most of our belongings will be for some time: packed up, unused, and out of sight. It would make sense to pare down to just the basics and the irreplaceables.

The truth is, though, that I don’t want to reduce our things down to the basics. I don’t want to start again from zero. There’s already been so much uncontrollable change in my life over the last few years–I just want something to stay the same. Even if it’s invisible, wrapped up in paper, inside a cardboard box; it’s still there.

I’ve realized that I want–perhaps need–my belongings to remind me of who I am right now. If I have books, surely I am still a reader? If I have needles and floss, I must still be an embroiderer. If I have travel souvenirs, it means that at one time I liked to see new places, and perhaps I will again someday. If I already have a trowel and flower pot, I only need seeds and soil to be a gardener.

I am not keeping everything, by any means; but there will be a small library of books, and thrift-store plates, and terra-cotta flower-pots, and ribbon scraps, and embroidery hoops in my moving boxes. I’ve always surrounded myself with things that evoke memories of places or people, or simply a sense of happiness. And, like many creative people, with things that indicate my intentions. Even before this move, I was trying to become better about clutter, and about not bogging myself down physically in either the past, or the future. For now, though, I feel the need to take some of those reminders with me as I uproot myself.

And when I finally move into my own house again someday, I hope unpacking will be like welcoming old friends into my new home.

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Three Years

Dandelions at the House of Dreams

It’s been nearly three years since I last posted anything substantial here. Time has flown away.

Medical problems have defined the last two years for me. In 2020, I became sick with what was probably long covid (covid symptoms that last longer than three months), and then a few months later, with an anaplasmosis infection (a lesser-known tick-borne illness). In 2021 I was diagnosed with POTS as a result of the long covid and anaplasmosis. In January 2022 I had covid again, which has exacerbated some of my existing health problems.

I haven’t embroidered anything since January 2020. I have frequent pain in my hands and arms now, and I’ve been wary of picking up the needle again, worried that I will only find that it causes me more pain. So I’ve been putting off the moment of discovery. For a while I was working on crocheting again, but it caused my hands to quickly fatigue and ache. I also lack the energy and time these days to carry on multiple creative hobbies at once. My mainstay creative outlets have been cooking (which, handily, also fulfills a practical need) and cartooning. Drawing doesn’t hurt very much (though a short bout of handwriting does), which is a small mercy, and it feels appropriate that it has become so important to me again, since it is such a long-time favorite pursuit. But I do miss the other ways I used to create. Thankfully, embroidery floss has no expiration date.

We’ll be moving states in June. My medical problems and the pandemic economy have been hard on us financially, and my in-laws have graciously offered to let us move in with them while we get back on our feet.

This means, of course, that we will be leaving the House of Dreams. It was a good name for this place, and I think it will always remain so in my memory. I brought so many dreams here; I saw many of them fulfilled, and just as many of them broken. There’s a version of myself that will always belong here, I think.

Right now, “the foreseeable future” ends a little ways beyond the day we unload the moving van at my in-laws’ house. I’ve put the blinders on for purging and packing, and using up our hoard in the pantry and freezer (which feels exactly like the wrong thing to be doing at a time of rising food prices). I’m making lists and checking off to-dos, but moving again–moving now–feels very surreal. It’s the capstone on a very surreal two years. Maybe I’ll finally believe that it’s happening, once it’s already done.

I keep wondering if, after the moving dust settles, I will be able to reclaim some of the parts of myself that have been lost in the last two years. Will I ever embroider again, crochet again, write my stories again? Will I have a chance to try watercolors, or re-open my Etsy shop? Finish all the little projects left in suspension since January 2020? Restart the books that I laid down, and didn’t pick up again? For two years, I’ve felt torn between who I was pre-illness, and who I am post-illness (or continuing-illness), and I’d like to stitch myself back together again–even if it means that ultimately, there are trimmings here and takings-in there. At least then, I would know.

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“When one door of happiness closes, another opens, but often we look so long at the closed door that we do not see the one that has been opened for us.”

~Helen Keller

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Dandelion Green

This project started with the frame.  I found it at a thrift store, attracted by its cheerful color and small size.

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It required a subject to frame that was as charming and sunny as itself, and what is more charming, cheerful, and sunny than a dandelion?  Or a whole field of dandelions?

(Unless you are the owner of a lawn in the suburbs.)

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The finished size in the frame opening is 1-5/8″ x 1-5/8″–hardly enough to fit two quarters.  The outside measurements of the frame bring the size up to 3″ x 3″.  It’s quite a little project.

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This summery piece will be given as a gift.

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Rose Embroidery Hoop Sachet

So blushingly conscious, each bud, how demure,
But sad that their beauties so briefly endure.
Roses I send to you, all I intend to you
Yet, ‘ere they fade, may they carry secure.

~”Roses I send to You,” by Stephen Chatman

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This little project began as an experiment/stitching practice, and ended up as a gift.

I’m quite pleased with the effect of the beaded roses.  Everything was embroidered free-hand.  The hoop was stuffed with a sweet-smelling potpourri.

I think there will be more of these in my future.

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Pascha Basket Cover: Week…….

Week number…something-or-other.

Last week, we had a power outage which lasted for a few hours. It was a drizzly, gray day, so working outside while waiting for the electricity to turn back on wasn’t an appealing option. Instead, I started to work on the basket cover again.  It has been sitting patiently on the end of the dining room table which I’ve commandeered as a work space, waiting for me to be ready to work on it again.

This is where I left it it on Pascha, at the end of April:

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And this is where it’s at now:

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One quarter of the cover is now complete, and it is becoming easy to see how the finished design will unfold.  It’s starting to look like an actual Thing!

–Now there’s some good motivation!

As usual with this project, this week taught me another lesson in craftsmanship.  This week’s lesson was that beads do–or can–come in dye lots.  At least, my gold seed beads apparently do.  The glass seed beads I have been using are a dark, honey-colored gold, and they have been in my bead stash for a long time.  This week I finally used them up, and opened a new, recently-purchased bag from the same manufacturer, of what I thought was exactly the same color.  But no–the new beads are a much lighter, brighter gold, and the contrast was marked. Thankfully, I went back into my stash and found another container of darker gold beads, although even these are slightly different from what I had been using.  Lesson learned: as with yarn, always make sure you have enough of one lot to complete your project.

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My weekly “oops”…lighter gold beads on the left (beneath the dark blue flower), darker gold beads on the right.

For more about this project, check out the following posts:

First Post/Week 1

Weeks 5 & 6

Week 7 (the latest post, before this one)

I’m also now on Instagram.

 

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Instagram

Well, I’ve been on Instagram for a about a month now, thanks to the persistent encouragement of a friend.  The last time I jumped on a social media bandwagon–Pinterest–it seemed like everyone stopped using it almost as soon as I started.  So my presence may well herald the death of media platforms.  Even so, if you intend to stick around on Instagram yourself and would like to follow me, my account is under my shop/blog name: ashandacorn (link goes to my Instagram profile).

#istilldon’tunderstandhashtags.

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The Secret Garden

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“Might I,” quavered Mary, “might I have a bit of earth?”
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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Spring was slow to unfurl itself from the sleepy earth this year, but Summer has rushed ahead in head-long fashion, like a boy bound and determined to win a race.  Every day we witness more miracles bursting out into the sunshine and rain.

 

There are many gardens here at the House of Dreams, where the soil is dark and moist and rich.  Untended and unchecked, the plants have taken full advantage of their freedom, and have grown riotously, wild and tangled, joyful.

We have begun to take things in hand, but cautiously.  We are on a treasure hunt, watching eagerly as the green shoots push their way upwards, as leaves unfold and flowers open their blossoms, wondering just what they might be.

(After all, “a weed is just a flower in the wrong place.”)

 

“Is the spring coming?” he said. “What is it like?”…
“It is the sun shining on the rain and the rain falling on the sunshine…”
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

 

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The garden has its secrets, tucked away in every root and bulb and seed, and it is revealing them to us, one by one, day by day.

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“And the secret garden bloomed and bloomed and every morning revealed new miracles.”
~ Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden

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“One of the strange things about living in the world is that it is only now and then one is quite sure one is going to live forever and ever and ever.  One knows it sometimes when one gets up at the tender solemn dawn-time and goes out and stands out and throws one’s head far back and looks up and up and watches the pale sky slowly changing and flushing and marvelous unknown things happening until the East almost makes one cry out and one’s heart stands still at the strange unchanging majesty of the rising of the sun–which has been happening every morning for thousands and thousands and thousands of years.  One knows it then for a moment or so.  And one knows it sometimes when one stands by oneself in a wood at sunset and the mysterious deep gold stillness slanting through and under the branches seems to be saying slowly again and again something one cannot quite hear, however much one tries.  Then sometimes the immense quiet of the dark blue at night with the millions of stars waiting and watching makes one sure; and sometimes a sound of far-off music makes it true; and sometimes a look in someone’s eyes.”

~ Frances Hodgson Burnett, The Secret Garden
 
(Our copy of The Secret Garden is the 1993 Illustrated Junior Library edition.  It is wonderfully illustrated.)
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Etsy Shop: Custom Wedding Candles

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The end of April was filled up with creating a custom order which I received through my Etsy shop.  I was asked to decorate a pair of candles for a Serbian Orthodox wedding taking place in mid-May.

The candles themselves were quite impressive, at 34-inches long (nearly a yard) and 1-1/2-inches thick.  I decorated them based upon a reference photo provided by the customer.

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The Venice lace appliques were beautiful as-is, but I wanted them to catch the light, and so lightly embellished them with sequins, seed beads, and small glass pearls.  The lace was attached to a double bow which encircled each candle, and overlaid a multi-layer fabric “skirt.”

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It took about four weeks from initial inquiry to completion to fulfill the order.  The decorations were in a very different style from what I am used to making (although a popular one for Orthodox wedding or baptism candles), and it was interesting and challenging to step outside my realm of experience.  I acquired some new skills and inspiration for future candle decorations.

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Ash & Acorn on Etsy

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Pascha Basket Cover: Week 7

So…did I finish the basket cover?

A picture is worth a thousand words:

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Between being frequently sick and/or busy over the course of Lent, I was too far behind to finish without devoting large amounts of time to the project, and that time was not available in the week leading up to Pascha.

It was a little disappointing not to finish the cross in time to use the basket cover this year, but I’m already brain-storming ideas for the border decoration around the edge.  Perhaps for next year, then!

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Pascha Basket Cover: Weeks 5 & 6

If I were to post about Week 5 it would simply read: “Recovering from my third cold in two weeks.”

I am certainly doing my bit towards keeping Kleenex in business.

But–on to better things in Week 6!  Embroidery things!

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This week I…FINALLY traced the pattern and FINALLY mounted the embroidery in the frame and FINALLY got to start embroidering.  Yes, all in one week.

The pattern was transferred with the aid of a dressmaker’s pencil and the base of an overhead projector (remember those?).  It worked quite well as a light box.  I was also able to see the complete pattern for the first time.

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Note to self: next time, have the whole pattern available for transfer, not just half.  Flipping it around and lining the halves up on the stretchy linen made the process more difficult than necessary.

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Then I mounted the linen in my scroll frame with the help of this YouTube tutorial.

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…And began the embroidery!

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So…will it be done by Pascha?  It seems unlikely..but, there is always a possibility.  The embroidery is going very well so far; normally I am always stopping to tease out knots or unsnarl the thread from itself, but so far this has happened very little.  The embroidery been very peaceful so far, and that is what I want this coming week–for Holy Week–even more than I want to finish this little work: peace.