On Failure and Freedom

Aug 25

Flowers, at least, never seem to fail!

Flowers, at least, never seem to fail!

If I had not had the wisdom 13 years ago to ask for a separation and the grace 11 years ago to agree to a divorce, today would be my 25th wedding anniversary.

For many years, this date hurt. It reminded me of the hopes I’d had for life and the failures small and large I made in that relationship. As I wrote my morning pages today, I realized that the times of hurt were about my embarrassment and sorrow at failing. I was, after all, a straight A student. I rarely failed.

I also recognized that I no longer have those feelings. Oh, I failed, all right. I’m not letting myself off the hook.

But here’s the thing. Those failings caused me to examine so much: my values, my goals, my desires. They caused me to figure out who I want to be.

And those failings gave me freedom to find not only myself, but a partnership grounded in loyalty, strong communication, and deep devotion.

Today, I have no feelings of sorrow, only gratitude. Those 14 years shaped me, yet these last 11 years have been crucial to my entire identity. I’m so glad I can see the value of failure, the freedom that comes with saying “that didn’t work. I’ll evaluate why and make changes for my next endeavor.” By failing at something large, I’ve learned not to fear failing at anything smaller.

Tell me your own story of failure leading to freedom, will you?

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Ethical Elegance: Indigo Dyeing

Jul 30

Photo by Rhonda Fargnoli

Photo by Rhonda Fargnoli

A few Sundays ago two of my nieces and I embarked on a little road trip to Rhode Island to take a shibori indigo dyeing class at the Wilson Collective with Rhonda Fargnoli. Rhonda and I met at Stitches East a few years ago, and I’ve admired her dyeing since.

As we folded and tied and stitched and knotted the silk scarves that we were dyeing, Rhonda shared images of beautiful textiles to help us understand the history of indigo and shibori.

Photo by Rhonda Fargnoli

Photo by Rhonda Fargnoli

It occurred to me that in making the scarves, I upheld, and even deepened, my ethical elegance values. By using ancient techniques and indigo, a dye that has been honored throughout history, I connected to generations of people hand crafting to beautify textiles.

And, let me tell you, was it ever fun!

Interested in your own shibori indigo dyeing project? Here are some resources:

Have you tried this method? Tell me how you liked it!

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Friday Faves for a Summer Day

Jul 24

I’ll confess: while I enjoy reading posts that are mini narrative essays, I really love a link list post. So here’s a middle of the summer list of loveliness for you to enjoy, including some classes that look awesome…because summer, in my mind, is for learning fun new things!

Hipsta housedresses

Photo by Gale Zucker

Coming up next weekend, you can have a mini photography retreat with Gale Zucker at the awesome A Gathering of Stitches.

Perhaps the most cleverly named workshop of all time, Say Cheese, is a foodie/photographer’s dream. In early August Gale will pair up with Arline Conigliaro to teach you to make mozzarella, wood fired pizzas, and photographs that will make them irresistible to all the Internet!

Make Your Own Dress Immersion with Cal Patch. I have concert tickets for that August weekend…otherwise I would be there. If you are in the area and want to learn from an awesome teacher, this class promises to be amazing!

Savor Your Summertime* ecourse with Courtney Carver. I adore everything Courtney creates. Her sensibility is serene and smart, and I’m excited to take this affordable course…I’ve been having a little anxious feeling that summer is slipping away from me, and it is too early in the season to give in to that! Extra special loveliness: when you sign up, you can invite a friend to join you for free!

Through the Loops Summer shawl KAL. My talented and generous friend Kirsten is offering a 20% discount on a long list of her shawl patterns–all of them perfect summer knitting. The hardest part is deciding which shawl to make, but I promise you can’t go wrong with any of them!

Emily Nora O’Neil is at last offering her beautiful “from the sea” necklaces for sale. I met Emily at last year’s Fiber College workshop, and I couldn’t take my eyes from the stunning, elegant necklace she wore. Her Instagram feed is filled with equally elegant pictures, and when she posted about her shop, I jumped at the chance to call one of her beauties my own.

Brazilian Lemonade. I may want to drink this every day.

Tress by one of my favorite authors Larissa Brown. Her newest piece is a grim, gorgeous fairy tale that I have not stopped thinking about since I first read it. Perfect for an after noon (maybe while sipping a Brazilian lemonade?)

Fiber College draws nigh! Gale and I are teaching two classes this year, and there are loads of other terrific teachers with interesting classes. If you’re like me, it helps ease the sorrow of summer’s end when there’s a fun event to look forward to!

Want some sheep meet Maine island pictures? Gale’s

Nash Island post cards are gorgeous and available now.

Your turn: share your lovely links in the comments!



*Please note, this is an affiliate link. I believe with all of my heart in the value of Courtney’s work and am sure it will be a terrific experience for you!

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Ten on Tuesday: American Artists Edition

Jul 21

Two weeks ago I visited the New Britain Museum of American Art to see their Elizabeth Gage exhibit. After the dizzying glory of stunning jewelry, I took a turn around the permanent collection and was reminded of many American artists I admire. Carole‘s prompt to share ten American artists or paintings I liked is perfectly timed! Here’s a short list, in no particular order (not all of them are in the museum’s collection!).

John Singer Sargent: Oh, the stories his portraits tell!

Andrew Wyeth: so many of his paintings leave me feeling serene.

Willem de Kooning: his work scares me a little, like art should at times.

Linda Jean Fisher: Linda Jean’s work is incredible. Her dedication and precision amaze me.

Jackson Pollock: what he does to make chaos visual rocks my world. I get lost when I look at his paintings in person.

Michael Patterson: Michael’s style, so full of motion and great character development, transports me to the scenes he portrays.

Cy Twombly: the curves, the colors, the letters. Swoon!

Sol LeWitt: this conceptual artist’s work made me understand line in a way I never had before. Plus he was a Yankee, just like me!

Mark Rothko: just as Sol LeWitt made me understand line, Rothko taught me how color can come to life.

Cindy Sherman:  Her portraits provoke me!

How about you? Who are some of your favorite American artists?


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Ethical Elegance: Sewing Skills

Jun 18

fabricOne of my few regrets is not having been a better student in Home Economics. I was in middle school and not much interested in such things. Goodness, I set a potholder on fire (not on purpose!) in the Home Ec kitchen. And even though I’m sure part of me craved sewing skills, I was in no mental or emotional place to develop them during those tumultuous years.

Things are different now. I learned a little about sewing clothes in my early 20s, but my garments never had polish nor did they fit right. After taking Cal’s pattern drafting class at Brooklyn General, my excitement about sewing has increased every week. My plan is to build my sewing skills this summer as a way to build my ethical, elegant wardrobe.

I confess to a bit of a pattern-buying frenzy. Here are some of the pieces I plan to make:

Anna Maria Horner’s Painted Portrait Dress. I’m following the Alabama Chanin adaptations.

Colette Sorbetto top. This pattern is free, and I’ll be using the gray and blue fabrics pictured above.

Factory Dress by Merchant and Mills. I ordered my pattern from Clementine, and if you call, lovely Leah will also help you pick out just the right fabric. I’m using the red pictured above.

Wiksten Tank. I haven’t selected a fabric for this yet. I think it will be a good top to wear with my skinny jeans.

Everyday skirt from Liesl & Co. I wear skirts all the time. In fact, I rarely wear pants to work, and almost never wear shorts in the summer. It’s all dresses and skirts all the time around here. I am hoping this may be one I can master and make in casual and work-appropriate fabrics.

A-frame skirt from Blueprint Patterns. The shape of this is so smart. Can’t you see it with boots and a big sweater in the winter?

I made one of Sonya’s 100 Acts of Sewing Skirt No. 1, and I love the fit of the pattern, and Sonya’s instructions are easy to follow. In fact, I was so smitten with the skirt, I dug through my back issues of Taproot and made her tunic in issue 8.

As so much of the wardrobe I’ve nursed through years of minimalish dressing starts to look shabby, I’m excited to replace it with garments I construct myself.  I’m eager to build my sewing skills, and I’ll be relying a lot on the Clementine Pinterest boards. I fully intend to make up for those middle school years!

What are you stitching this summer? Any sewing patterns you think I should see?

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