Mending and Manipulating

Sunday is “Fabric Manipulation Day” and I haven’t taken part for the last three months. It didn’t look too good for this month either, when time and ideas were sparse. So instead I mended an old favorite pair of pants; at least  that was something productive to do.

And how things often go, at the end of the evening I was in full experimentation mode with needle and thread.

Sooooooo…..see you on Sunday!


The Paper Garden

“A life’s work is always unfinished and requires creativity till the day a person dies.”
(The Paper Garden)

Imagine creating your best work at the age of 72, work that would find a permanent home in the British Museum.

The book “The Paper Garden” is a fascinating biography about Mary Delany (already mentioned here) who did just that: at the age of 72 she created breathtaking cut paper flowers portraits – or paper mosaics as she called them –  inventing the art of collage.

Born in 1700 Mary Delany (nee Granville) was married off at the age of 16 to a 61 year old drunken squire to improve the family fortunes. At the age of 25 she found herself a widow and in the years to come rejected many suitors, amongst them the charming Lord Baltimore. But she did not retreat to a quiet life instead she cultivated a wide circle of friends, including Georg Friedrich Handel  and Jonathan Swift. At 43 she fell in love and married Patrick Delany, an Irish clergyman. After 23 years of marriage, she found herself a window for a second time.

To overcome her grief, she started to experiment with paper, paste and scissors and created  985 botanically accurate, hand cut flowers mosaics from water colored paper that she tinted herself. She was a lifelong artist, but it was not until she was 72 that she really ‘bloomed’. And that, in Molly Peacock’s words, “…gives a person hope”.

I’m getting to know Mary Delany  well through the  book .  Not only is it  beautifully written, but it also features some wonderful reproductions of Delany’s work. The image below taken with my small digital camera shows some details of her tiny paper clippings. On the computer screen, her mosaics often look like water colors.

How dexterous Mary Delany must have been in her 70’s, not to mention her incredible eyesight. Eyesight is on my mind right now as I’m entering that phase where my own is diminishing and thinking about that wonderful companion of middle-age: reading glasses.
To celebrate the changing seasons and bring a sense of that darker beauty into my home, I’ve placed some Gerbera in front of my chalky black walls upstairs. Flowers DO look good in front of a black background.

An artist starting to create her masterpieces at the age of 72. It gives a person hope.


The Paper Garden by Molly Peacock
Molly Peacock‘s website.
Mary Delany at The British Museum

On My Way to New England

Have you seen Wes Anderson’s latest movie “Moonrise Kingdom“?

I did yesterday and it marked the moment when I finally arrived here in the US, both in body and mind.

The story is set in in the 1960s somewhere in  New England where I’ll be traveling this week. The extraordinary cast includes Bill Murray, Frances McDormand, Tilda Swinton, Bruce Willis, Edward Norton and many super talented kids. The music is great and Anderson’s love for detail makes me want to see it again soon.

I loved it!

Leather Bracelet: A Tutorial

Here’s an interpretation of the ubiquitous friendship bracelets. The more you make, the more you wear, the better they look.

These are so easy to make. Use scraps of leather, threat, chains, fabric and a bit of time.

Here is what you need:

- leather strips: find leather binding, or cut them yourself from an old jacket, a thin bag to size ;  as an example, the finished bracelet/necklace below (second last image) is 3/4″ wide and 16.5″ long. Just make sure the leather is thin enough to stitch through.
– needle and thread
– scissors
– decorations: embroidery thread, buttons, silver chains, washers, or decoupage
– glue
– closure: Snaps or buttons

1. Cut a piece of leather. Make sure you include a ‘seam allowance’ to trim the bracelet later.
2. Decorate the leather strip. Embroider, draw with sharpie marker on light colored leather, glue or applique. My versions were simple and can be made in 30 minutes or less, depending on how extensive you embellish. Cut the strip roughly to your desired width. Again, leave some seam allowance.
3. Adjust the length of the strip to see how many times you want to wrap it around your wrist. Sew on a pretty button or use a snap closure. The buttons above are all vintage and beautiful. The prettier the button, the less you have to embellish.

4. Glue on a second leather strip to hide the “back” side of your work. Don’t worry if the strips don’t match perfectly, you can adjust them in the end.
5. Cut out the “buttonhole” and make sure the button fits through the hole.
6. Adjust the width of the bracelet.

Depending on the length, a bracelet can easily double as a necklace.

These are simple to make and lend themselves to infinite possibilities…

Alabama Chanin On My Window

Who would have thought that an Alabama Chanin stencil could be used to create a “frosted glass” window.  Tempera craft paint (not regular paint), a container, a kitchen sponge and 5 minutes is all you need.

The design blocks the views but let’s all the light in when the paint is properly diluted with water. Chanin’s stencil “Bloom” reminds me of falling leaves, perfect for my favorite upcoming season.

Here is what you need if you want to give it a try:

– a suitable stencil (mine is from Alabama Chanin’s first book)
– Tempera Craft Paint (DO NOT USE REGULAR PAINT,  so you can wash it all off, when the mood changes)
– a small container (anything will work, because tempera paint is non-toxic)
– a kitchen sponge
– paper towels

1. Place a little paint in the container. A little goes a long way…
2. Dilute with a bit of water and try sponging it with the stencil on the window. If the mixture is too runny, add more paint. For a more realistic frosted glass look, use a denser sponge.

Don’t worry if you make a mess at first, a damp paper towel will clean it up easily. Any stencil will work, if the the design is not too intricate. However,  I might give snowflakes a try -not that I’m rushing things- , but this would be a perfect project with children.

I’m also still making bracelets. Here’s my latest version:

This is one of those projects where the end result improves the more I make and experiment.

When they’re worn over time they will look better and better as the leather becomes more supple. Lucky me that I still have 100 yards of leather binding left……

Enjoy your weekend.

Home Again

Usually, when I come back from a long trip, my house seems to me rather… improvised (read shabby) and I get anxious…..very anxious. This time was different. The improvised state of my home is the same as always, but my attitude has changed. While I usually see the imperfections, this time, I see the possibilities. It helped that that awful floor, the one I’ve hated for 3 years, was finally painted.

It’s interesting how travel helps to change one’s perception.

The suitcases are still sitting full by the door,  but with all the inspiring colors of Europe, I’ve already bought new paint to bring a little Southern Germany into my home. It’s time to bring fresh eyes to my familiar surroundings.

One of the things I noticed in Germany was that everybody was wearing prominent bracelets and with the gift giving season not too far away, a roll of old vintage leather binding in my scrap box, caught my eye.

I have always loved the color, a deep indigo blue, but never quite knew what to do with it. With my mind unclogged and fresh, I started to experiment.

The nice surprise was that sewing onto the thin leather strip wasn’t hard at all and I didn’t even need thimbles.

Below is my first attempt. These bracelets are fun to make, not too time intensive, personal, easy and comfortable. I’ll post a tutorial and better images soon.

I’m well aware that most people don’t have a vintage roll of leather binding lying around, but thrifted leather coats, jackets or bags would work well, if the leather is thin enough to stitch through.

It’s good to be home…

Late Summer Room with a View

This was my “Room with a View” this summer:  One foggy late summer morning from my bed room window in the Black Forest.

After a long summer here in Germany I’m now ready to go home.

I found plenty of inspiration in the soft and muted colors and patterns of Southern Germany. The images below were taken in and around Freiburg:

Below is the small German/Swiss border town of Laufenburg which is divided by the Rhine and connected by bridge. People can easily stroll from Germany to Switzerland and back, much to the amazement to my daughter, who is used to random airport searches and suited security guards.

Even the sidewalk reminds me that it’s time to go home.

See you next week.

Dance of the Crows

At this year’s dOCUMENTA13, I learned about Füsun Onur’s work. She’s an artist from Turkey and uses many different material to express her art including needle and thread.

“Dance of the Crows” was very much what I had envisioned when I cut holes in my curtain (as you may remember). Unfortunately, I had no concept. This is the difference between a real artist and myself.

This beautiful curtain is giving me some inspiration:

The image above is the whole cloth and difficult to photograph. It’s a hand-stitched piece of calico, commissioned by dOCUMENTA that covers a window in the “Neue Gallerie”.

Look at these details:

And my favorite feature…’s reversible.


Last week we were at dOCUMENTA13 in Kassel, one of the World’s more interesting venues for contemporary art. We were lucky to have the chance to visit the exhibition as it happens only once every five years. I’ll show you what caught my eye later, as I am now in the heart of the Black Forest with only “1 bar” of internet access, not enough to upload anything more than the image above.

The image above is a detail from a tapestry by Hannah Ryggen (1894-1970) a self-taught weaver, translating the claustrophobic feeling of war and destruction into remarkable woven cloths. She commented on Fascism and Nazism’s emergence in Europe in the inter-war years, and Norwegian politics in the post-war years.

Kassel was nominated twice as the “ugliest city in Germany”, but with the dOCUMENTA and all its visitors from around the world, I found Kassel incredibly lively. I’m always amazed how art can transform even the ugliest city into a place of inspiration and introspection.

Summer Food

Do you remember when food was served and the only criteria was if you liked it or not? Now it seems that every meal has its considerations: “Gluten-free or not?”, “Peanut allergy?”, “Vegetarian?”, “Diabetic?”, “Locavore?”, “Ethical”? It’s a current theme and there was an interesting article recently in the NYTimes: “The Picky Eater Who Came to Dinner“.

This summer for example, it seems we’re cooking all day because there are many different diets to consider: from diabetic, to plant based to omnivore to (sometimes) picky eaters.

Isn’t it interesting that the “one size fits all concept” doesn’t work any longer?

I like to cook and many dishes can be adjusted to different needs quite easily. To get inspired, I looked at this wonderful (German) cookbook “Roh und Vegan” by Christl Kurz, a well known natural food chef in Germany, featuring beautiful, healthy and easy recipes. Yes, they are really easy! Don’t be discouraged by that cute little tower on the top left image, I won’t be making that any time soon, but there are many dishes that are not complicated and feature “normal” ingredients.

I don’t intend to eat only uncooked foods, but would love to incorporate more raw dishes into my diet. Here’s a raw pizza with air dried dough:

The “raw” lasagna below is essentially cutting zucchini in long very thin strips and layer them with a tomato pesto. I cheated on the pesto and used a store bought. Voilà a wonderful summer dish.

Obviously my plating skills need to be improved, but I’m inspired.

Since then, I’ve made a biscuit with rice flour and almonds that was delicious and the raw desserts are next. In many of the recipes, the dough is air dried and I’m curious how they taste:
But the one image that immediately caught my eye, was this:

Nut Cheeses! There are plenty of recipes online, but I was seduced by the image above: Cheese made from different kind of nuts, with dried mushrooms, herbs and seeds.

Anybody ever tried to make nut cheeses – fermented or not?

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