Thursday, September 29, 2011

While Making Curtains

Monday night at a charity dinner, a table mate posed the question I am asked frequently of late, “So, what are you doing with all your time?” 

That answer came easily: "I am making curtains.”

My little black sewing machine has been humming this week, stitching window coverings for our sweet baby Jamie’s nursery.  The last curtains I recall sewing were for Barbara’s kitchen in her newlywed apartment in the historic Bellefonte Laundry building. Those same versatile curtains now hang in Alexander’s bedroom.

I remember making curtains for our first home on Lyndhurst Road in York.  We remodeled the kitchen of the 1922 red-brick, semi-detached, two-story house in a tree-lined section of East York, not so dissimilar to where we live now. A stay-at-home mom with three young children and a need to make our one paycheck stretch for the entire month, I did a lot of things to save money.  I learned to can and freeze fruit and vegetables from the amazingly prolific postage-stamp-size garden in our back yard and from the abundant pick-it-yourself York County farm opportunities 

 I baked bread, participated in a great network of hand-me-down clothes swaps for my children, and clipped coupons.  I painted walls, refinished furniture, and learned to hang wallpaper.  I cut my children’s hair. I stitched Halloween costumes and Christmas outfits and I made as many Christmas presents as I could conjure to make. There was a strong economic reason that The Living More With Less Cookbook was well used in our home.

That same financial reality was oh-so-clear when Barbara and I were pricing blinds for the baby’s room.  The tally of the cost to cover the windows and shutter a closet was a bit staggering.  “I could make you curtains for so much less, “ I confessed, adding “and I have the time to do it.”

The most difficult part was selecting fabric from afar but with the magic of the internet, we finally found a print (David Walker’s “All Over Dinos” ) in ample yardage at a price that didn’t break the bank.  Even though sewing rod curtains is pretty straightforward and simple, I found great general directions here.

With three valances made, the closet curtains complete, only two sets of half curtains remain to be sewn before the batch is ready for delivery, and I get to hold my newest, now smiling, grandson.  It will be a pleasure to see these red curtains hanging in his room. 

 While guiding yards and yards of fabric through the sewing machine's feed, I pondered this circularity of  life “before work”and “after work.” Years of employment and saving provide us with a financial security we didn’t have during those lean times of establishing our home and raising our children.  And yet now, amidst considerations of sustainability, leaving a smaller footprint, and living green, it seems important to rethink the amount of things we buy and to reconsider the types of the things we do.  Our nation, in particular, has developed (Really? Are we?) into a portion of this globe consuming a vast percentage of its resources.  And I, along with so many others, question our moral responsibility as a stewards of this world, a world God has created to be enjoyed by all His children. If we are to live lives reflecting God's glory and intention, we who have so much should seek to live with less, so those who need it most have enough.

P.S.  And here are the new curtain in the baby's room, along with Nana and Jamie, napping.  Bliss.

Monday, September 26, 2011


Autumn nudges her way into September.

We had a house full of family this past weekend, and the flavors of the weekend were testament to the newly arrived season.  While our son and his dad checked out the new football seats in Beaver Stadium and cheered Penn State onto a victory, my brother, sister-in-law and I strolled through the Arboretum at Penn State, reveling in Fall's bounty displayed there.

At home, my table reflected that changing season, with apples, pie, and these blueberry scones appearing on the menu.

But really, the very best thing that happened this month was seeing  my husband receive a well deserved honor, the Penn State Outreach Pioneer Award, only the third bestowed.  Pretty cool, I think!

Thursday, September 15, 2011

Paying Attention

Last week, it rained and rained and rained...every day for over a week...

Constant grey skies and gloom pushed us into our houses and the threat and reality of flooding for friends and family in Pennsylvania added gravitas to each weather report.  At dusk one evening, returning home from an errand, I glanced down the side path and noticed the hostas were blooming.  In the midst of days of clouds and lack of sun, these plants sent up shots and blossomed.  And I hadn't even noticed until they were in their full glory.  Obviously, I wasn't paying attention.

Lately, I have been thinking a lot about paying attention.

My daughter referred me to a writer, Lisa Russ Spaar who observed in her interview printed in the online Image Journal that her "current project is always to pay attention."  My yoga teacher yesterday, after instructing us to pay attention to our breathing, commented that "paying attention leads to transformation."  And transformation right now is what I am seeking, as I shift from one stage of life to another.

It occured to me that my old ways of organizing my life, my weekly agenda, my clipboard, my desk, my bulletin board, my computer, were either obsolete or ineffective for a life of retirement.  So therefore, how do I make visible sense of what I am doing and who I am right now?

I decided to return to a discipline that served me well before a computer superseded.  I started a writer's notebook/journal...again.  I want a place to write, collect, muse, wonder, question, observe and organize the dailiness of my life. 

Before we began to write online, I had my students keep spiral-bound notebooks they decorated with images and words holding meaning for them. Housed in an old filing cabinet in our basement is a stack of writer's notebooks I kept right along with my students.  Their covers are filled with a few photos of family, images clipped from magazines, and quotes excerpted because they spoke to me.  Since I have been piecing and sewing lately, I decided to make a cover for the composition book I now use; then I proceeded to make a few more.  A patchwork cover for the book helping me piece together life right now seems fitting.

Gerard Manley Hopkins wrote, "What you look hard at seems to look hard at you."  I intend to try to look harder, ponder longer, breath deeper, move farther from the screen, sit up straight, read more slowly, and push my thinking in new and different directions.  And hopefully, transformation will begin.

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Socking It

I've been making socks lately.  After modeling some socks I made my son this past Spring, my husband told me he would like some as well (he doesn't often request a knitted item).  So he got some for his birthday in August, maroon ones knit from the top down, using this yarn and pretty much knit right under his nose while we watched television at night.  I used the Iowa Crew/Cruise Socks pattern, a well used pattern, from Cottage Creations. I love all their patterns which are so easy to use and fun to read.

Then came Alexis' birthday.  I made her these with this yarn, knitting from the toe up.  I fashioned the cuff with a broken basket-weave stitch to make it a bit more interesting to knit.

And before I put away the #2 double points, I decided to use a ball of sock yarn I had in my stash to make myself a new pair of socks for the upcoming sock-wearing season.  I love the self-striping pattern of this yarn.  Sock knitting is out of my system and off the needles for a while!