Christmas Trees are Welcome Gifts No Matter What Size or Shape

The pine cone tree on its birch base and the little tree crafted from festive green and silver paper were quite unexpected and very welcome gifts received by mail this week from a friend in Maine. They make a great addition to the mini forest she sent me a few years previously, when she led a paper tree fundraising project with her grandchildren.

They remind me so much of the thick, fragrant pine forests of the distinctive northeastern state so different from my native Midwest. I haven’t made it to Maine in a few years, but memories return as I sit at my desk and admire the miniature artistry.

The tiny tree inside the dome was a gift from my husband. A talented designer and machinist, he created this “world’s smallest Christmas tree” himself from exotic wood, metal and Austrian crystal. It’s not easy doing intricate craftsmanship on such a tiny scale.

We didn’t put up a traditional Christmas tree, but our holiday will still be special thanks to these thoughtful creations and the other small decorations displayed about our home, many of them gifts I’ve received from friends over the years.

Book Review of Thread Herrings By Lea Wait

An auction bargain becomes a motive for murder in Thread Herrings of the Mainely Needlepoint Mystery series by mystery maven and Maine historian, Lea Wait. Angie Curtis is still settling into her new life in her home state of Maine, after a decade away.

It’s winter, the time when needlepointers and antique shop owners replenish their wares. Angie’s friend Sarah Byrne invites Angie to attend an auction where she impulsively bids on a unique, but low value, needlepoint piece.

Seeking more information regarding the item’s history, Angie appears on television at the invitation of her friend and fledgling newscaster, Clem Walker. She soon fears for the lives of her friends and herself, as the TV station, and her Mainely Needlepoint business email account receive multiple death threats to herself, Clem, and anyone involved in tracing the history of the item Angie bought at the auction.

Alas, one of her acquaintances becomes a murder victim, proving the reality of the danger from the threats. Will others still be willing to help find the item’s history, and thus, hopefully, the motive for the murder?

Angie must abandon her home for her own safety as she strives to discover the killer’s motivation. A stay at the home of love interest, artist and gallery manager  Patrick West, proves interesting.

A story filled with history, friendship, a hint of romance.  Join Angie as she strives to solve the mystery of the stitchery and the identity of the murderer, amid the beauty of a New England winter.







Artistry of Nature – Plant Material as Media

Spotted this entry at floral exhibit, and soon encountered more of these lovely plant material prints for sale at a local co-op.

This example is particularly intricate.

Wish I’d pressed and saved some leaves and blossoms to attempt this whimsical, original, art form over the winter.

I’m thinking original Christmas cards . . . ???

A Patchwork of Veggie Packets

Only those of us with wildly artistic imaginations may identify with this post-but I was delighted to discover someone else who appreciates the bright beauty of seed packet displays.

She is indeed from Britain, a country whose citizens have a sensitivity to the type of subtleties I, but not all Americans do.

But I believe we all love to see spring arrive, and with it the colors of nature, of flowers and vegetables and all growing things . . .

I had been prompted to snap shots of displays in our local drugstore, as I was so drawn by their color and form. I doubt I’ll be an ambitious planter this year but still feel the thrill of seeing seeds for sale from my days of prolific propagation.

As I reviewed my photos later, at home, I began to visualize them as patches of a quilt, and wondered if a fabric had ever been printed with seed packet patterns to use as quilt patches.

Synchronistically, later that day, I opened a book I recently acquired, Jane Brocket’s,

The Gentle Art of Domesticity: Stitching, Baking, Nature, Art & the Comforts of Home, to a page describing the talented British lady’s imaginings along the same lines as mine regarding the use of seed packet designs for a vegetable patch quilt.

“The show-off theatricality of seed packets is an art worth enjoying,” Jane says. She took photos of packets individually and uploaded them to her computer screen, finding they made a vibrant patchwork of vegetables , looking like a quilt. . .

She mentions the Robert Frost poem, “Putting in the Seed” (1916) in which he refers to himself as “a slave to the springtime passion for the earth”.

I count myself a slave to that passion also, and to the poetry of Robert Frost, and the artistry to be found in what are to many mundane things.

Jane Brocket shares those sentiments in her timeless book, too. Domesticity is indeed a gentle art, when one takes an appreciative view of the seasonal tasks of home-keeping.

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Fun Fabulous Felting

We sat in a circle, baking pans in our laps, pummeling the pieces of wool with our fingertips. Soaked by a spray of soapy water, the fibers began to fuse together into what we hoped would become change purses, Kleenex caddies, eyeglass cases.

I had always been interested in felting, so when a class was offered at our local library, I quickly signed up. Here I found myself on a frigid winter evening, huddled in a cozy room with about a half-dozen other new students of the fiber art.

Our friendly instructor-storyteller Marie passed around some finished projects, then explained the craft further as we worked. It seems that felt is very simply, matted fiber (traditionally carded wool). Moisture, heat and pressure combine to compress and entwine the fibers. Hot soapy water makes the wool slippery and causes scales to open up. The scales keep the fiber from backing up, so they get hopelessly tangled together. When they are cooled and dried the scales close and lock the wool into a tough, durable material.

We used a pattern of bubble wrap for the items we were making that day. The fibers completely encased the wrap, then the wrap was removed once the items were finished, by cutting in the appropriate spot and pulling the wrap out.

As usual when learning a new hands-on skill, I was way behind the rest of the class. They were turning their creations over, lifting, squeezing, rolling their material fearlessly, while I tediously waited, uncertain when to proceed to the next step. I was certain my project would be a complete failure.

Surprisingly, as the class came to a close, Marie helped me cut a slit in my new forest green change purse (never one to think like the crowd, I had unwittingly been the only student who hadn’t chosen purple wool for the project). All I needed was a cute button to sew on for a closure. My purse had turned out quite successfully for a first try (actually better than some of the others if I do say so myself).

I look forward to checking out more ideas for projects for this fun fiber craft as soon as my schedule permits.