Wednesday, November 16, 2011

Crafting a Fond Farewell

Goodbye, Leverett.

Recently we had the good/bad fortune of selling our country home in Massachusetts. We were lucky, in this economy, to find buyers willing to take on a two hundred plus year old farm house that still needs a lot of TLC to realize its full potential. But its been hard to say goodbye. The boys especially will miss this place; the place where we could open the door and just let them out. Before leaving for the last time, Henry suggested we make a time capsule to bury on the property and come back for some indeterminate number of years down the road. Jake wrote a lovely letter listing the reasons why he loves it here, and the boys collected a lot of, well, rocks.

Here are the kids digging the hole for the time capsule.

Over time the kids have also collected abandoned birds nests, feathers (turkeys, guinea fowl, owls), defunct hornets' nests, and other natural ephemera. But how, really, can we capture in tangible ways the depth and breadth of our experiences here as a family? In this place we've celebrated many holidays, many birthdays, had family gatherings big and small, had one child christened, spent many lazy August afternoons, and have enjoyed countless weekends of simple, unstructured downtime, both with friends and on our own.

We can't put memories into a time capsule, so I'll say goodbye to all that, then, with a very brief, very incomplete, list of the things we'll miss most about Massachusetts.

Goodbye, house.

Goodbye, pond, where we watched the beavers work their magic, where we once saw and moose and her calf cross the water, and where Jake caught his first (and only) fish.

Goodbye, stone wall, and the many mysterious universes within you.

Goodbye, treehouse, wonky and with the odd nail sticking out, built with love by Jake and Henry.

Goodbye morning walks to the Co-op, with many stops along the way to walk across a log, play on the big rock, or jump in the odd pile of dirt.

Goodbye to the Village Co-Op, where we'd catch up with neighbors, spin the kids on the roundabout, sit for a moment of quiet meditation, and pick up our basic provisions.

Goodbye, Lake Wyola, which on the odd October weekend, we could have almost entirely to ourselves.

Goodbye, too, to friends and neighbors we've had the pleasure of knowing, to the porcupine who appeared on the lawn every evening like clockwork, to the woods and their many mysteries and to the orchard where we picked our apples every fall. Goodbye to the Peace Pagoda, the local school playground, the dam that Henry and Jake built and the many clanging wind chimes left before us by previous owners. Goodbye to the barn, goodbye to the flocks of wild turkeys, goodbye to the fox in the white, white snow. Goodbye to autumn afternoons that took our breath away, to winter icicles three feet long, to the black flies in spring, to summer's long and languid days. Goodbye to ten years of experiences in a place that almost certainly had magic in the water. Goodbye, Leverett. We'll miss you.

Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Embroidered Drawings

Now that we've fallen back with the clocks and the nights are about to get very, very long, I'm trying to recommit to finishing up a bunch of abandoned craft projects that I had started but never finished. The first thing on my list to work on is this embroidery project that I began about 3 years ago, after I first let Jake watch the original Superman movie. Pictured above you will find Jake's interpretation of the attempted mugging scene from said film, which made a deep impression on him. In this scene, Lois and Clark are stopped in an alley at gunpoint by a very bad man who shoots at the pair in the kerkuffle that ensues when Lois tries to be a sassy smartypants, rather than just hand over her purse. In Jake's translation, Lois (far left) screams "Eeeek!" while mild mannered Clark nervously reasons with the mugger "Sir, you can't solve a mystery with a gun." (I believe the actual words Clark utters are "Sir, you can't solve the world's problems with violence."). The mugger replies: "After I just rip off this lady's purse-now hand it over." I LOVE the details in this drawing; the bricks in the background indicating the location, Clark's hat and glasses, Lois's purse, the mugger's gun. The dark lines in the brick show where I've started embroidering so I've still got a long way to go. When its finished I'm going to make it into a pillow for Jake's room.

Detail from the Superman mugging scene:

Sometimes my kids' drawings are just so special to me that I take the liberty of reappropriating them into art of my own. In this picture, and the additional examples that follow, I've taken drawings that my kids have done, transferred them onto fabric and embroidered them. I love this idea so much-and I'll give props here to the mom whom I most hate to love (because I so deeply respect her lifestyle yet fall so short of emulating it), Amanda Blake Soule, from whose book The Creative Family I got this idea-that I had planned for a time on starting a business translating kids drawings into embroidered art. Alas, I somehow wound up making tote bags instead, but no regrets. I've taught Jake to embroider too, and he will occasionally sit with me and stitch a few lines still.

Here is another one of Jake's early drawings of a giraffe that translated beautifully into an embroidered image that now hangs in Michael's room. Jake actually did a series of these giraffes; I can't find the original one that I used for the embroidery art shown below this image, which is another great reason for stitching a good drawing-it'll last longer! Jake was five when he drew this. I was so moved by his having included with the giraffe a thought bubble, into which he drew a heart, then another heart inside of which he wrote his name. I'm not sure what he was thinking at the time, but I'm pretty sure it was something happy.

The drawing:

The embroidered piece:


Note that the fabric is a bit puckered around the image in this drawing. I used plain muslin cloth for this project, but I'd recommend a natural linen for better results, since the weave is wider. I'll also add that to transfer the Superman drawing, which Jake drew on a letter sized piece of paper but which I wanted to put onto a bigger piece of fabric, I used an opaque projector to blow up the image, and drew it onto the fabric with a superfine tip marker. For the giraffe, I employed an embroidery transfer pencil, with which you can trace the image directly onto tracing paper, then iron onto the fabric. Be sure to flip your image around first if you're tracing letters. (So trace once, then flip the tracing paper over and trace again from behind; the backwards image will be the one you iron onto the fabric.)

Finally I'll share a much quicker image of Charlie's that I recently made since I'm trying to jazz up his pitifully under decorated bedroom with some cute wall art. I'll leave this in the embroidery hoop and hang it just like it is. I see an image of a mouse in profile, enclosed in a circle. Yes, he's got very long legs. For this picture I gave Charlie a pen and a piece of muslin and just asked him to draw me a picture. I embroidered right on top of his lines. It took me about 15 minutes to embroider.

PS, I learned to embroider in just a couple of hours by taking a class with Diana Rupp at the awesome Make Workshop. If you don't live in NYC or can't find a live person to teach you how to embroider, I'd recommend (as Diana did to me) getting yourself a copy of Melinda Coss's Reader's Digest Complete Book of Embroidery, which will teach you way more stitches than you'll ever need to get up and running with this craft form. I'm sure there are plenty of others out there that are less traditional, but this one is a great reference guide.

Diana recently published her own book on how to embroider call the Embroider Everything Workshop. She teaches you all of the basics and then some, and includes some terrific projects to make. I highly recommend it!