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Archive for the ‘sashiko’ Category

Today’s focus of the No Impact Week Experiment is reducing one’s energy consumption.  One of the steps is to go from room to room and write down each item that uses energy (electricity, batteries, oil, gas). 

Put a star next to the items that you would normally use over the next few days.  Next to each starred item, figure out if you’re going to eliminate or mitigate the use of the item. 

This is an activity that I’d like to come back to at some point.  Right now, I have quite a few things that are needing more attention that I need to address first.  When things slow down a bit, this would be a great exercise to do.

Unplug, Power Down, Go off the Grid

Another idea that the Experiment suggested was to unplug, power down, or go off the grid.  For the truly adventurous, they suggested turning off the electricity and see what happens. 

I can tell you what happens here when the electricity goes off (most often during the summer when there are major storms going through the area).  If the electricity goes off during the day, we don’t open the freezer or refrigerator for fear that we’ll lose all our food.

After that – and if it is safe to stay in the home and not go the basement to wait out the storm (e.g., a tornado is headed towards the area), then we end up playing games, reading, or cleaning the home. 

We play with the dogs and cats; we play the piano; or we simply watch the storm (often times the clouds and lightening put on a rather impressive show).

Storm Clouds to the West - May 31st - Drop Down Cloud
An interesting cloud that dropped down out of the clouds above it.

What I always notice when the power goes off – whether it’s during the day or night – is how quiet it gets.  It’s amazing how there are little “hums” or sounds that the lights and other electrical appliance make when they are on.  When the power goes off, there is complete silence.  It’s quiet, peaceful, and refreshing. 

Some ideas for change include:

Cut Back on the Heating and Turn Your Themostat to as Low as it will Go

During the day, I turn the thermostat to 68 degrees and at night to 60 degrees.  This is a change from keeping it around 70-71 degrees during the day and 65 at night many years ago.  Last winter, at night I kept the home at 62 degrees.  Gradually decreasing the temperature over the years has helped everyone adjust to the change. 

As soon as the weather is warm enough in the spring (over 40 degrees), I turn off the heat for part of the day and often times at night.  Sometimes the nights do get a bit chilly, but I have many handmade quilts and blankets in the closet that can be used.  Several of the quilts are made with wool from sheep that I had here in the ’90s, and are incredibly warm.

A Closer View of Sophia's Adoption Quilt
Quilt I made for Sophia to celebrate her adoption. 
The fabric squares are from family and friends. 
Each square came with a wish/thought for her.

It’s important – at least in this house (which was built in 1890) – to not be overly eager and turn off the heat too soon.  If I do that and it gets well below freezing, the pipes in the basement can freeze (and could burst) resulting in a lot of water damage.

Wake up with the Sun, and Go to Bed When it Sets

In the summer time when the sun rises around 4 a.m. and sets around 9:30 or 10 p.m., this is a very easy schedule to follow.  In the winter, the sun rises between 7:30-8:00 a.m. and sets between 4:00-5:00 p.m. (depending on the day/month).  Around the winter solstice, there is about 8 hours of sunlight.

The point of doing this is that if you get up and go to bed when the sun rises/sets, you’ll use less electricity and artificial lighting/illumination.

Use Beeswax Candles If You Must Be Up in the Dark

The No Impact Week Experiment suggested using locally-made beeswax candles if you must be up when it is still dark.  I’m not sure how many one would need to sufficiently be able to see well, but I’d imagine it would be quite a few. 

The smell would be amazing and seeing all the flickering lights would be beautiful.  Honestly, I’m not sure how practical (or cost-effective) this would be.  Sounds nice for a change of pace or to celebrate a special holiday or birthday.

Nature Table Candles Lit
Candles on Candlemas
We ate dinner one night using only the light from the candles.

Dry Your Clothes on a Clothes Line or Rack

When the weather is above freezing, I do dry the clothes, towels, sheets, and rugs outdoors.  There is no comparison to the smell of clothes that have dried outside.  They smell fresh and clean.  My parents use to do this as well, stringing a clothesline between a tree and the posts that supported the deck.

Many years ago, I strung a clothesline from the apple tree near the home to the barn.  The line was too long, and it sagged when the clothes were put on it.  Some each touched the ground.  Put a piece of wood with two nails on top (the clothesline went between them), and propped it up.  Didn’t work.

Next option:  I put in a square clotheline in a sunny spot in the backyard.  It worked out great until I didn’t work around the line (in a square) and loaded one side first and then began work on the next adjacent side.  The one side became too heavy and the metal post snapped.  So much for that option.

Sashiko Fabric is Stitched
Sashiko fabric that I hand-embroidered
drying on the clothesline during the summer.

Third attempt at drying clothes outside (and the one I’ve used ever since):  drying them on the chainlink fence.  I lay the larger items over the fence (e.g., clothes, sheets, blankets, towels) and tuck the smaller items (e.g., socks, potholders, dishcloths) into the holes.  This has worked out very well for many years, and I look forward to being able to dry the clothes outside again.

I was curious one year to see if I could dry clothes outside in the winter (in Minnesota).  There was a neighbor who use to dry her clothes on a clothesline in the middle of winter.  I’m not sure if her clothes dried or not.  Mine ended up freezing into odd shapes – like this one:

Drying Clothes Outside in Freezing Weather
Sophia holding one of her frozen shirts after
I wanted to see if clothes could be dried in the winter.

Use Alternatives to Refrigeration

This is an interesting article about zeer pots that are used in Africa.  According to the article, “The zeer is a large pot inside which fits another smaller pot with a clay lid. The space between the two pots is filled with sand, creating an insulating layer around the inner pot. The sand is then kept damp by adding water at regular intervals — generally twice a day — reducing the temperature within the inner post decrease.

Each zeer can contain 12 kg of vegetables, and costs less than US$2 to produce.

Experiments assessing its ability to extend shelf life show that tomatoes and guavas can be kept for 20 days, compared to just two without.

Zeer pots in Africa
For One Day Use Your Computer Only for Work
With the exception of briefly checking my computer in the morning and late-afternoon today to check emails and do a bit of work for my shop (Harvest Moon by Hand), I didn’t use it all. 
I ended up finishing a batch of homemade mini-notecards, paying bills, balancing the checkbook, spending the day with my parents to celebrate my dad’s 79th birthday (I helped them with chores around their home, took them to various places where they needed to shop, we went out to lunch, and then to movie), went to the library and picked up books I ordered, and came home.  
It was a long, but nice day.  I enjoyed being able to spend the day with my parents…and helping them do things they no longer can do. 
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This is the most recent journal quilt I made. It’s about 9″ x 12″, and is the 7th one in a series of quilts I’ve made this year (I started in January).

Some elements of the quilt that aren’t visible in a picture and/or are more subtle:

The Soft Texture of the Fabric: The white fabric is from a used bed sheet and the red backing and trim is from a dress that I got at a free clothing giveaway that didn’t fit properly.

Dragonfly on the Backing: The red fabric features a pink dragonfly on the back in the center. There are two lighter-printed (and still red) images of a dragonfly also on the back. This reminds me of all the dragonflies that we saw on our trip to La Crosse. Dragonflies also symbolize renewal, positive force, and the power of life in general. In addition, dragonflies frequently represent change. Since they live a short life, it knows it must live its life to the fullest with the short time it has – which is a good thing to keep in mind.

Sashiko Embroidery on the Candle: I did a simple running stitch horizontally for the entire height of the candle. The yellow flame has 31 little crosses on it. This represents the sashiko (a type of Japanese embroidery) quilt that I worked on a lot during July.

White-on-White Quilting: I did some free-motion quilting (very, very basic…nothing fancy) to secure the three layers together.

Below are the major activities of the month and how they are symbolized in the quilt:

4th of July: The girls rode horses in the parade and did very well. This was clearly a highlight of the year, and will be remembered for many years to come. The 4th of July is represented in the quilt by:

– The colors red (backing/border/dad’s hand), white (background), and blue (Olivia’s hand, blue candle with blue sashiko stitching, blue symbol for water [on the left hand side of the quilt], and the blue ink used for the word “believe.”

– There also is a purple star in the lower right hand corner of the quilt. The star has 4 lines (for the fourth of July).

Trip to Colorado: From July 6th-9th, I helped my dad take a trip from Minnesota to Colorado to see his younger brother who was suffering from diverticulitis. Both my uncle AND dad have Alzheimer’s Disease. Although it was a needed and much-appreciated visit for everyone involved, it also was extraordinarily physically exhausting and emotionally—draining.

It was incredibly difficult to see how much the disease has robbed my father of his mind over the past year since his diagnosis. Yet, despite these “behind-the-scenes” difficulties due to Alzheimer’s, my dad provided tremendous encouragement, support, and love to his brother.

Seeing his put his arm around his younger brother’s shoulder, give him a hug, or simply hold his hand were probably some of the most powerful images I have from that trip. One photo in particular that I took – a close-up of my uncle’s hand holding my dad’s hand – is one that I like the best. It shows how love can transcend obstacles (like Alzheimer’s Disease); and how powerful the sense of touch can be to healing and comfort.

Helping, caring for, loving, supporting – these are represented in the outlines of the hands on the quilt (the red handprint is my dad, the orange is my mom, green is me, blue is Olivia, and purple is Sophia).

4-H and the Chisago County Fair: Sophia and Olivia joined 4-H this year, and were able to exhibit projects at the Chisago County Fair. In the quilt, there are 4 green “H”s that represent the 4 “H”s in 4-H: head, heart, hands, and health.

Trip to La Crosse: On July 19th-20th, I took my mom, dad, Sophia, and Olivia to La Crosse (Wisconsin).

The trip is represented in several ways on the quilt:

-The blue candle in the center represents the votive chapel at the Shrine.

-The candle flame has little yellow crosses.

-Two wavy blue lines – represent the girls swimming, laughing, and having fun in the water.

-Two orange “U” shape lines – represent smiles and good memories from the trip.

-One red “V” shape – represents an eagle and our visit to the National Eagle Center.

Crafting for the Washington County Fair: Sophia, Olivia, and I have been busy crafting this month as we get ready to enter projects in the Washington County Fair. The outlines of our hands represent the handiwork that we are doing.

*´¯`•.¸.• *

“I believe in the imagination. What I cannot see is infinitely more important than what I can see.”
~Duane Michals, Real Dreams

There’s one part of the quilt not yet addressed – the word “Believe.” This is hand-stamped on a piece of fabric from a bed sheet. It was sent to me through a swap on Swap-Bot. The sender had tied a handmade booklet with this fabric that was stamped repeatedly with “Believe.”

During July, the word “believe” seemed to be a recurring theme:

I believe in the power that horses have in helping children who have sensory integration dysfunction, speech delays, and physical delays/disabilities. It’s amazing what therapeutic horseback riding has done to help Sophia and Olivia over the past 4-5 years that they have been a part of the riding programs (this is Sophia’s 4th year and Olivia’s 5th year riding).

I believe in the power of love and compassion – particularly as shown through my dad and uncle as they support one another in their journey through Alzheimer’s Disease; and my parents as they support one another as they both struggle with different aging issues.

I saw my parents’ strong religious faith and the meaning it has for them – belief in something greater than this world that they cannot see, but trust is there – as we journeyed to The Shrine of Our Lady of Guadalupe.

I believe in the power the arts and creativity have to help me work through grief issues and other difficulties in my life. The arts (and crafts) give me an ability to create beauty or find hope amidst sadness – it’s a way to create items that can be passed along to my daughters (some they receive now and others they’ll receive when they are older).

The author, Sarah Ban Breathnach, said, “Dare yourself to believe in your creativity, wherever it may lead you. Trust that where it leads, is exactly where you’re supposed to be. Your authentic self knows where you’re headed. Don’t wrestle with Spirit, collaborate with it.”

I saw Sophia and Olivia believe in themselves and talk with confidence about what they had learned with the 4-H judges at the Chisago County Fair.

And, I have to believe that the emotional difficulties and struggles I am experiencing right now – especially as they relate to caregiving and loneliness – will lead to a greater good. I don’t know what…but hopefully it will make some positive difference in the world at some point.

“The future belongs to those who believe in the beauty of their dreams.”
~ Eleanor Roosevelt

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I’m finishing the last section of applique. I’m sewing (by hand) the sashiko fabric I did onto a white piece of fabric. This will be the quilt top.

There are over 13,600 hand-stitches in the quilt (not including the ones I’m blanket-stitching now). This has been one of the most labor-intensive – yet calming and meditative – projects I’ve ever worked on.

Once I’m done blanket-stitching the pieces to the quilt top, I’m giving it to a professional quilter who will use her long-arm sewing machine to do some custom quilting on it as well as add the binding around the edges (I’ll need to finish the binding by hand-sewing onto the back of the quilt).

My deadline for finishing the quilt: July 31st. Right around the corner.

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Finally done! Finished stitching the different pieces of fabric for the sasiko quilt I’m making. Each of the squares on the big piece of fabric took about an hour and a half or so to stitch, depending on the complexity of the pattern.

Sashiko embroidery is a type of Japanese embroidery. The stitching is simple – it’s just a basic running or straight stitch. The fabric itself is a deep blue/navy.

The pattern for each of the squares was printed onto the fabric. After stitching, you scrub it off, revealing only the hundreds (maybe thousands if I’d count all the fabric) of stitches that were done.

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