Midnight . . . not a sound from the pavement . . . . . has the moon lost her memory? She is smiling alone . . .

I've never been a big fan of "Memory" from Cats, but sometimes things move you in strange ways.

During a lull in the garage sale while Lindsay and I were wracking our brains over a shared NY Times Sunday Crossword, I happened to look up and see our neighbors across the street (who I must admit I don't know well) sharing a long embrace in the side yard. I commented that it seemed a little odd in its longness, and then Lindsay said, "Well, she's absolutely sobbing."

Then we could see that they were looking at something in the grass, and I flashed back to the night before, when I was working in the garage. I had heard her calling for the kitty and shaking a treat box over and over.

I had smiled to myself, transported back to my own dear, long-gone Tabby who would come like a grey-and-white streak whenever she detected the slightest movement of the treat box.

And I knew whatever they were looking at and/or crying about couldn't be good.

Which then flashed me back to the night before that, when I had officially met their 5 year old daughter for the first time while we were at the park walking Cooper. She was at the park in her jammies (isn't it fun to be 5?) on a walk with her daddy and she let the enormous Cooper literally jump all over her, utterly fearless.

Then she threw the ball for him (about 2 feet) which he was very excited to fetch over and over (because even 2-foot-fetch is a game, and Cooper loves a game).

So I asked her about whether she had pets and she told me all about her two kitties, their names and personalities and all the funny details of a 5 year old's world.

Of course Saturday when I saw my neighbor mowing I went over to ask about what had happened. He said that both cats had gone missing. First one, then the next night the other, and then he dropped the third bombshell -- coyotes.

No way.

Seriously? Coyotes?
In our neighborhood?!

And he said that the police told him we were having a coyote problem and that they had obviously staked out the house and picked off the cats one by one.

You just never know what's out there, do you?

And then Jean Matzke.

Hannah and I were chatting away while the news was on and paying no mind to the story of the woman who was killed while walking her dog . . . until the camera shifted to a fiber art exhibit and I was immediately riveted and then my brain went back and pieced together what I had half-heard and it was true: Jean Matzke was hit by a garbage truck while walking her dog early Friday morning
in St. Paul.

A fibersong silenced --
a hole in the art community
that will not be mended.

I didn't really know Jean at all, although I had enjoyed her pieces in my Fiber Arts Design Books, and I had met her on several occasions at the ACC shows. Jean's work was interesting and beautiful and she was always so pleasant to talk with.

"Nude Speaking Her Mind", 18.5" x 34", Jean Matzke

I spent time in Jean's booth poring over her meticulous embroideries because they were splendidly executed, of course, but also because I was fascinated that while we were both embroiderers telling small stories in thread, our stories were so vastly different.

When Michael Jackson died, I stopped for a moment and thought "Oh my" and remembered 11th grade and standing in line to get the "Off the Wall" album and then listening to it every waking moment for the next year or so, perfecting dance moves in my bedroom in front of a full-length mirror with my best friend . . . it all came back in a flood and I thought "Wow, thanks for the memories".

But when Jean Matzke died, I pondered it in a much more personal way -- somehow the thought of an embroidery artist who spent all her days stitching small, meticulous story pictures in St. Paul (with breaks to walk her dog) just hit so close to home.

So close to who I am right now.

I wanted to stop by her booth one last time. I wanted to thank her for leaving behind her beautiful trail of stitches. I wanted to tell her how sorry I am that there won't be more.

And I wanted to warn her about coyotes. And other dangers.

My mother always says,
"We worry about the wrong things."

"Fall at 5", 10" x 12", Jean Matzke

Bad is never good until worse happens.


You keep using that word . . . I do not think it means what you think it means.

Well, it's Friday and since I'm still rather occupied with running the Hinckleyville garage sale, I invited someone new from my neighborhood to drop by and tell you about my favorite customer so far -- a sort of garage-sale-version of "Overheard at the Show":

It is, without question, the African gentleman who stopped by to explain that God led him to my sale because he's starting a ministry and we have exactly what he needs.

I was pleased to help out, selling him a like-new 4-input amplifier with microphone and speakers for 5 dollars below the asking price -- which was already a steal!

But I was less pleased when he actually stole a pair of sunglasses.

I guess I don't really understand the term "starting a ministry".

At least there was another shopper in the garage at the time who witnessed it all and we shared a good laugh. And a good laugh is definitely worth the 25 cents the theft cost me.

But I'd kinda like my 5 dollars, please.


How much do you want for this? . . . Will you take ten cents?

If you really want an exercise in self-loathing, it's hard to beat having a garage sale.

Trying on the pants you finally dieted your way back into in March only to find that you've grown out of them again is perhaps the only thing that eclipses it on the hate-yourself-o-meter.

(Don't ask how I know this; I assure you I have reliable intelligence on the subject.)

In Hinckleyville we've been threatening a garage-sale-to-end-all-garage-sales for about 3 years now, and by piling a whole lot of stuff out there in an act of good faith (over the 3 year period) we finally reduced available parking space in our three car garage to barely-one-car, so we had to do something.

For one thing, you have to be able to open the car doors to get out, or parking there isn't really practical.

It's actually a lot like dieting -- you must come to a place where you really hate yourself enough, and we've arrived.

So it's garage sale time this weekend.

Surveying the rubble, I can only shake my head and ask myself several big questions:





Perhaps worst of all is the fact that I can see it won't actually be the garage-sale-to-end-all-garage-sales (there's at least one more), because I was trying to go through my studio closets in order to get rid of some of the 20 year accumulation of failed projects/abandoned hobbies/unrealized dreams and out of the literal thousands of craft supplies in there, I was only able to bring myself to get rid of about 15 items.

And I was having nagging thoughts today about going out to the garage and lugging that big pile of wooden bowls back in and tucking them safely away.

Because what if I want to go back to painting wooden bowls in a few years?

Someone I know well
asked me the other day
if I thought they were happy.

And I considered carefully for a moment, because it was a serious question and one deserving of my full attention. Then I answered that I think they seem to be as happy as I've ever known them to be.

To which they replied something along the lines of,

"I guess this is happiness, then, and I should quit worrying about it or searching for it elsewhere."

I share this because I can't help but wonder, looking at our piles and piles of discarded possessions, if we might not have been just as happy if we'd never owned any of it?

And isn't that a lesson I could learn going forward?

There's a little note jotted on a scrap of paper on my desk -- not sure where it came from, but it's in my handwriting so I must have seen or heard it and written it down. It says:

Happiness is
a choice,

not a

And happiness certainly isn't something you might sell at a garage sale later. Perhaps that should be the test the next time I feel, "I'd be really happy if only I had (fill in the blank)."

There are naturally cheerful and optimistic people and some who are less so, but happiness doesn't really seem to have anything to do with whether you see a glass as half empty or half full.

Instead, happiness seems to be much more connected to whether or not you realize that what you have in your glass tastes pretty good -- and that half a glass is probably plenty to drink.


Well, Father's Day has once again come and gone . . .

leaving me thinking about (naturally) my father.

It was my husband's first Father's Day without his dad, who is missed every day of course, but who seemed particularly absent on a holiday meant to celebrate him. Which was strange and sad, difficult and unbelievable all at once.

And which made me think about my own dad a bit more, perhaps.

And when I think of my dad, one of the first thoughts that pops into my head is "intelligence."

Because my Dad is really, really smart.

Or he's a really, really good con man, because he seems to know everything from tree names to geography to synthetic hair, complete with all the appropriate scientific jargon.

And if (as we often suspect) he doesn't know these things but is instead making it all up as he goes along, he almost always SELLS it.

In fact, there's probably a reason he was such a natural to play Professor Harold Hill.
(I had not made that connection until this moment.)

But anyway, one day as a kid my Dad said to his mother something along the lines of:

"It's amazing that I'm so smart when I have such dumb parents".

I wasn't there, of course, but I'm guessing his mother was less than amused. (However, as he was an only child and she had a heck of a time getting him here, she put up with him.)

On the other hand, some of the events of the past week have left me willing to re-examine the veracity of his childish claim.

In Saturday's newspaper, in anticipation of Father's Day, they ran a little feature in which they asked people to write in and share the best bits of wisdom they had obtained from their fathers.

My favorite was this:

"If kids weren't smarter
than their parents,
we'd still be living in caves."

The lady who submitted it went on to explain that she couldn't help but think of that every time she asked her 8-year-old for tech support on her cell phone and iPod.

Ouch, right?

Speaking of which, my beloved iPod died a week ago today (age 1 year). And don't think I haven't already consulted all three of my children on this topic. It was of course the first thing I thought of.

(I have not yet consulted my 6-year-old granddaughter, but don't think I won't consider it next time I see her.)

In fact, my entire last week was rather technologically challenging, which left me more than a little cranky. Because one of my indispensable, outrageously expensive Ott Lites (also age 1 yr.) died as well, leaving these poor old eyes unable to thread a needle that a youngster could probably drive a truck through.

And while we're on the topic of technology, you may have wondered how and why an Etsy shop popped up on Small Works last week. No fanfare. Because I, like the rest of you, basically went to bed one night and woke up the next morning and there it was.

My youngest just happened to be looking in my cupboards one day and observed that I had a lot of old (but still pretty good) stuff piled up and said, "Mom, you need an Etsy."

I was quite certain I didn't have time to learn to use Etsy, in addition to the thousand other technological challenges that I endure every day, so I immediately pooh-poohed the idea.

But she just rolled her eyes and had the whole thing set up in about 15 minutes. Smarty.

Still, as brilliant as all these young whippersnappers are, there's something to be said for Mark Twain's old words:

"When I was a boy of fourteen, my father was so ignorant I could hardly stand to have the old man around. But when I got to be twenty-one, I was astonished at how much he had learned in seven years."

I second that.

I just can't imagine a world in which I couldn't call my Dad for help when I need it,

even if as a preface to the advice he does something wacky like explain to me how global warming is a myth or a left-wing conspiracy.

Because at this point in my life I know how much he genuinely cares -- he really loves me and wants me to succeed. And (we both know) he won't be around to give me shoves in the right direction forever.

My children love me too, of course,
but as Francis de Sales said,

"Children are very nice observers, and will often perceive your slightest defect."

Whereas, while I'm sure my dad remembers all my defects with perfect clarity, at this point in our lives he chooses to just think I'm great.

Either that or he's a really, really good con man.

Doesn't much matter either way,
because it seems the final product of parenting
is the parent, not the child,

. . . and I think he turned out just swell.


Friday Fun for You . . . (and a little learning, too!)

All this talk of mythology and embroidery
. . .
(see Monday's post)

[and thanks again, Mr. Yeats, for your exquisite word-image which I can't get out of my mind]

reminded me that I have yet to finish our book tour of this book:

which I first shared with you in a previous T.G.I.F.F.T.

One of the things that sets this book apart is the way it showcases contemporary embroidery (which we looked at last time) as well as historical embroidery, and then draws parallels between the two.

If you ever want to feel part of something much bigger than yourself (and if you're prone to sitting and stitch-stitch-stitching thousands of tiny and insignificant lines, as I am) take a look at embroidery throughout history.

It is an art that truly cuts across both time and culture.

And when we embroider, whether for the sake of art or embellishment, we're participating in a tradition so rich in history, it's amazing to consider.

One of the things I love about it is that embroidery is an art form that has been shared by all facets of society, valued and employed by both kings and the common man.

Embroidery is inexpensive, making it accessible to many, and practical, making it possible for average people to easily incorporate it in their surroundings.

I can't really think of another art form that is as comprehensive in its beauty and utility yet requires so little in the way of materials and training.

After all . . . I'm making up stitches as I go along,
and if I can do it, anyone can!

Dorothy Tucker begins the book with a look at a Paracas Mantle,
ca. 600 BC (click on the pics to see the details)

Paracas Mantle, ca. 600 BC

Wait . . . did you read that right?

600 BC?! Seriously?

Yes, 600 BC. It was found on the arid Paracas peninsula on the southern coast of Peru in 1927 during the excavation of some burial places. Mummies were found covered in ritual garments, preserved because the hot desert sands had kept the air out of the deep tombs.

Detail, Paracas Mantle

It is believed that many skilled people were involved in the production, spinning, weaving and embroidering. Different types of needles were found during the excavation -- and up to 190 shades of thread were recorded, dyed from plant, animal and mineral sources.


Makes me wonder where my work will be in 2600 years.
I wonder if my framing is really archival?

Next she showcases "The Bayeux Tapestry," France, 11th Century.

Part of The Bayeux Tapestry, France, 11th Century. The tapestry is approx. 50cm x 70cm.

Historically, this embroidery is our primary source of knowledge about the Norman Conquest. It was probably made between 1066 and 1077, and was commissioned by the Bishop of Bayeux, who was William the Conqueror's half brother. Until the 18th century, it was only displayed once per year.

Detail, Bayeux Tapestry

Despite being called a tapestry, it is actually hand-embroidered on coarse linen. But one of the most remarkable things about it to me is its size -- 70 meters long! Embroidered hangings were common in the homes of Anglo-Saxon aristocracy.

Boston Fishing Lady, 1745-55

From early America we get to see "Boston Fishing Lady," made in New England in 1745-55.

In Colonial America, sewing was basic to every young woman's training. In order to be well regarded (and marry well!) young women invested many years in becoming skilled needlewomen. Needlework pictures became an important means of displaying female talent.

Detail, Boston Fishing Lady

The embroidery is on canvas with crewel (2 ply wool), silk and accents of metallic yarns. The canvas is much finer (between 22 and 52 holes per inch) than any commonly used today.

Next is an English embroidered New Testament book binding from the seventeenth century titled, "Abraham and Isaac."

Abraham and Isaac, embroidered bookbinding, 17th century

It was fashionable for Elizabethan and Stuart ladies to hang precious 'treasures', including very small books like this one, from their girdles. Tucker describes these as "virtuoso technical performances made by young girls who, although freed from the necessity of decorating their clothes, were still required to display their femininity and social status through their embroidery."

The popularity of embroidered book covers was probably due in part to the rare value of early books, and also to Queen Elizabeth I's interest in embroidery.

Detail, Abraham and Isaac

The technique is called "raised work" or "stumpwork" and was popular for making elaborate box coverings and in ecclesiastical work. Fine copper wire, wrapped with silk thread, and cardboard padded with horsehair or wool and covered with linen were used to build up the elements of the picture. The faces could be carved from wood and painted or modeled in wax and covered with silk.

Think "Salley Mavor" for a contemporary example of the same type of work.

And because we've been dreaming about embroidered coats at Small Works this week, lastly I share with you

a Japanese Furisode Kimono from the Late Edo Period.

A Kimono is constructed from seven straight rectangles cut from a single bolt of cloth. These are folded and loosely basted together edge to edge so that they can be taken apart for cleaning.

By the end of the 18th century, some sleeves were so long that they touched the ground. The kimono designers of this period had a wide variety of specialists to spin, weave, dye and embroider.

This kimono is decorated with fan-shapes made by applying a thin layer of gold leaf to the fabric (using a stencil, paste and light burnishing) and then embroidering pictures over the gold leaf.

The pictures include birds, plants, a courtier on horseback and Karako, a Chinese boy, and may illustrate episodes from a well-known story. (sorry -- detail shot wasn't clear).

Because 17th century Japan was isolated from outside influences and China was the only source of fabrics and threads, the majority of Japanese motifs were Chinese in origin.

Feel like you've finished your lessons for the week?
Ready for some Friday fun?

Then I'd suggest we revisit the genesis of Monday's mythology musings, and a staple of all my recent Fridays:

Cupcake Baking!

Because what is Friday without baked goods?
Just another day of the week.
Here's the recipe that Hinckleyville has been relying on for our weekend weight gain.

I can't seem to stop making them because they're a) in the oven in 10 minutes, and they b) don't require anything I don't already have in my pantry, and they're c) YUMMYRIFFIC!

I've tweaked the recipe a few times to get it just right, and last week's batch was practically perfect in every way, so it's ready to be shared:

Vanilla Cupcakes

2 1/4 c flour
1 1/3 c sugar
3 tsp. baking powder
1/2 tsp. salt
1/2 c shortening
1 c plus 2 Tbsp. canned milk (evaporated)
1 3/4 tsp. vanilla
1/4 tsp. lemon extract
2 eggs

Combine dry ingredients -- add shortening, milk and extracts -- beat one minute. Add eggs. Beat 1 minute 30 seconds. Spoon in 24 cupcake pans. Bake 20 minutes at 350 degrees. (Don't overbake! They'll be dry if you do.)


3 Tbsp. softened butter
leftover canned milk
powdered sugar
vanilla to taste

Cream butter until smooth. Add powdered sugar and canned milk to spreading consistency. Add vanilla and beat until smooth.

These freeze just wonderfully, and Hannah says they're good frozen in case you have a treat emergency and can't wait (which happens sometimes).

Happy Weekend!


Hey Mom, Look at Me! . . . . Look Mom, Look!!

A couple of months ago, on a Wednesday, I told you that I was busy working on something top-secret and therefore offered a re-run.

Well have no fear, dear reader, because there is no re-run in your future today.

Instead, I am offering you the results of that top-secret work!

YES, the rumors are true
-- I've broken into print at last!

(It only took 20 years . . . )

Now that's not technically true. Because I worked in the magazine biz for 8 years, creating all sorts of craft flotsam-and-jetsam

and all of those things were photographed and put in magazines.

And once, in a M.E.'s Home Companion issue, they actually did a teeny tiny itty bitty interview about my materials in which they called me "Florida Copy-Maven Susan Hinckley." Which was ridiculous, but at least they used my name and it wasn't in the fine fine print on page 352.

And Quilting Arts kindly published one of my very first Small Works, from the "Dreaming the Garden" exhibit:

and there was a tiny blurb there as well, with my name
(in large print -- hooray!)

Oh well.

All of which brings us to today:

And today I have a FEATURE! And it is nice and LONG! And I got to write it myself! And my name is spelled correctly! And there's a full-page picture!

I hope the over-use of exclamation points has helped communicate my excitement.

And thanks to Lesley Riley, at CPS, who wrote the really great questions that shaped the interview into something

I'm truly pleased with.

And who, it should be noted, found me at Baltimore and more importantly, NOTICED.

By which I remain amazed.

It's a good Wednesday.

(anybody got a cake?)


And now . . . Small Works introduces a BIG WORD.

That's right, school may be out but it's time to sharpen your pencils, because it's Small Works Vocabulary Day!

One of my favorite garage sale prizes ever is a tan leatherette tome of tremendous heft, "The Complete & Unabridged Little & Ives Webster Dictionary and Home Reference Library," copyright 1957.

I keep it on the bookshelf in my bedroom, mostly because -- with its faux-tooled leather and black and red accents -- it looks really cool there with my western stuff.

But also, of course, because I occasionally think big thoughts and it's handy to be able to look something up in such an authoritative volume when I need to.

Today's word, brought to us by "The Complete & Unabridged Little & Ives Webster Dictionary and Home Reference Library" is:

adj. fr. Gk muthopoi (os) 'myth making',
{muthos, see myth} & {poiein, see poet.}

Creating, tending to produce, myths:
mythopoeic faculty.

(There's also a variation, mythopoetic, but I find that one to be less impressive because it's more readily pronounceable. And what's the point of learning new words if you can't use them to impress your friends and neighbors?)

I stumbled upon this word while I was actually looking up the word

And I came to be looking up that word because I was standing in the kitchen baking my ubiquitous cupcakes, wracking my brain about a prickly embroidery/sewing glitch on a piece while simultaneously playing with some tricky wording for a blog sentence, when I was stuck by a sudden remembrance of my grandmothers.

One of my grandmothers was
a newspaper columnist and an embroiderer.

The other was a quilter and a cook.

And Aunt Lillie (3rd grandmother) was a creative,
slightly eccentric seller of goods.

And there I am in a nutshell.

I had to laugh at my own shock from the blinding flash of the obvious . . . that lightning bolt of connectedness to these figures that loom so large in my past and in my heart.

The gods that created me.

Hannah and I were walking the other day and I was reminiscing randomly about the fact that in the enormous and extraordinary house of my childhood (there have been many previous references but still no post, for which I apologize)
we had rugs made from wig hair.

Rugs which we "groomed" by raking them with long-handled wooden rakes with sharp nails embedded in the ends.

(It sounds too fantastic to be true even as I type it. Here I'll offer, by way of very brief explanation, that my dad was basically the father of the modern synthetic wig. That's how I came to be born in Massachusetts. Think textile mills.)

And Hannah, trying to wrap her mind around the idea of a vast stretch of wig hair spanning the living room of that
mythically-proportioned house, said,
"Weird. Mom, you really need to write a book."

And someone should.

But how would I remember everything?
(I often can't remember the end of the book I read last week.)

And would my memories be true?

And most importantly, would truth matter?

Because in the world of myth and poetry, the creation of the story to explain it all and the beauty of the telling are the art and the truth.

It's not about facts.

And my mythopoeic faculty
is almost certainly well-developed.

In her Introduction to Classical Mythology, Edith Hamilton explains:

"The myths as we have them are the creation of great poets . . . the tales of Greek mythology do not throw any clear light upon what early mankind was like."

But they have enlightened and informed so much that has come since, artistically and philosophically.

With the coming of Greek myth, the world became humanized,
the universe rational.

And so in that funny, small kitchen moment I organized (and understood) my own world a little better --

I had an uncertain childhood, in many ways. A mother who was often ill, during a time when little explanation of such things was offered to children.

One recent evening (while I was half-listening to the TV) Dr. House snarked, "Only a mother could do that much damage."

And I stopped to write it down, partly out of fear (because I am one) and partly out of understanding
(because of the years I didn't have one).

But my grandmothers were omnipresent.

And although they're gone, they are never far away -- inextricably woven into my thoughts, actions, beliefs and emotions.

Who created them?
Or have I?

So I stitch. And I write. And I bake.

Every day constructing the poetry to explain it all,
always searching for just the right words.

William Butler Yeats wrote:

I made my song a coat
Covered with embroideries
Out of old mythologies
From heel to throat . . .

I believe I'm working on a similar coat.
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