There is Something You Can Do

February 3, 2010

Hello Friends

Again, my thanks for all your kind comments and e-mails. We are slowly adjusting to (but NOT liking) life without Gwen. Every day I miss hugging and kissing her and seeing her smile. At the same time I am so relieved that she is at peace.

I’ve really missed blogging but feel it is no longer appropriate to be Gwensmom at Gwenshouse. That was my life for almost thirteen years, and I would not trade it for anything. But now it is time for something else.

I’m making slow progress on determining what to do next. (Suggestions are welcome!) But in the meantime, I want to keep up the conversation with you, my wonderful online friends. You all kept me going through some very tough times when I was limited to the house and the keyboard.

Many of you have asked if there is anything you can do for me and the answer is YES YES YES! Come with me to my new blog GET STITCHY WITH SARAH. Lurkers, that includes you too! We are going to sew and knit and who knows what else. There is also a new matching Flickr account, Getstitchy, with photos of all the old projects and a few new ones added already.

Although my future is still uncertain, I know I want you all in it. So click on the groovy 70’s needlepoint cat above and let’s go!



November 13, 2009

Dear Friends

Thank you so much for your kind, supportive and compassionate words for me and gwensdad in our season of loss. It is hard to know what to say to people in our situation, but it meant the world to us that you said something. It has been a great comfort to know that folks from all over were touched by the life of our sweet girl and will miss her too.

Gwen would have been 13 years old today. My mom took off work and spent time with me earlier. Then gwensdad and I went out for a quiet dinner.

We miss our baby so very much and find it difficult to let her go. At the same time, it is a blessed relief to be free of constant worry about her safety and well-being. We had long dreaded the day we would lose Gwen and didn’t expect it quite so soon. But our girl enjoyed her life, she didn’t suffer in the end and had us right there with her every step of the way. This is what I desperately wanted for my daughter. The fact that nothing bad can ever happen to her leaves me grateful beyond expression.

Now we begin an uncertain journey into a radically different way of living. We’re not sure what we will do and whom we will be. The prospect of finding out is a rather frighting and overwhelming, yet also a little exciting. I hope you all will stick around for the ride.

Goodbye Sweet Girl

September 23, 2009

Gwen is an angel
Halloween, 1998

It is with sorrow that I write to tell you that our precious daughter Gwen passed away peacefully in our arms early Wednesday morning. She had contracted a flu that developed into pneumonia from which she could not recover.

We thank God for her life which was rich and full of people who loved her, and for our family, friends and even strangers who are carrying us through this sad sad time.

Visitation will be Monday, September 28 at Idlewild Presbyterian Church in Memphis from 2:30 – 3:30 p.m. with a memorial service to follow at 4:00 p.m. A full obituary will appear on Friday or Saturday in the Memphis Commercial Appeal.

Every parent’s dearest wish is that his/her children are happy, and we were granted that blessing in both Gwen’s life and her easy passing.

Thank you to all you dear people who journeyed with us and with Gwen through this blog.

Let the little children come to me; do not stop them; for it is to such as these that the kingdom of God belongs.

Gwen is Seriously Ill

September 21, 2009

Hello Friends

Gwen contracted a very nasty virus this week that turned into pneumonia. She was admitted to the ICU at our local children’s hospital on Sunday evening.

Respiratory infections are a serious threat to children like Gwen. So far she has shown signs of improvement but is not yet out of the woods.

There IS hope for Gwen. But today Gwensdad and I have had some gut-wrenching conversations with doctors about how far we want them to go if she should get worse.

I will post updates when there is something to tell. In the meantime, please send prayers, karma, vibes or whatever you can for our precious girl and for us.

Thank you in advance.

Prom 2008

At the prom, 2006


September 7, 2009

A few handmade goodies showed up at my door.

First, my return on the star swap. This is by the lovely and talented Nicci whose art is big and bold and colorful. I have enjoyed seeing her work online for a long time and now I have some in my house! Don’t you love the rosebush hair?

Then, Gwen received a surprise from LauraJay, the special needs mom and quilter extraordinaire. I will wait while you click on the link and see her amazing quilts.

OK, are you back? Wasn’t that amazing?

A while ago, Laura offered to send me some fabric I admired on her flickr set. It came with this adorable doll for Gwen. As you can see, it met Gwen’s approval.


Thanks so much Nicci and Laura! Art in the mailbox always makes for a great day.


August 31, 2009

Been packing up bundles of goodies for women both here and abroad. First, I entered Crazycatladymel’s annual birthday contest by sending yarn to women at Interim House, a transitional housing program in Philadelphia. The prize is yarn hand-dyed by the crazy cat lady herself. Go see her gorgeous Urban Legends yarn with a hilarious names for each colorway.

And although I'd banned myself from any unnecessary spending, I determined that it was necessary to assemble and ship an Iraqi Bundle of Love. A soldier in Iraq is collecting bundles of fabric, yarn and knitting/sewing supplies to “surge” into the area where he is stationed near the end of his tour. Bundles should be mailed by September 7th so that they will arrive in time to be distributed during the festive celebrations at the end of Ramadan. Details and instructions are here. I will send you the APO address- just comment and ask. There is still a week to get yours in the mail!

Don’t you think that this is a much better kind of “surge” that the ones we have heard about so far?

My bundle includes a shower curtain, a vintage sheet, a tablecloth and some large and small cuts of fabric I have had forever. Also enclosed are zippers from clothes I have refashioned, buttons from the men’s shirts used for a quilt and oddments of yarn, trim and embroidery thread. Believe it or not, I was able to cram it all into a large APO flat rate box.

I’m mailing these out as part of a larger decluttering project to make way for Gwen’s new bedroom. She will be moving to a bigger space and getting an awesome set of retro mod vintage furniture hopefully this week!

Fabric Shopping Extravaganza

August 21, 2009

The Arboretum was lovely and the trail ride was fun. But for me, the main attraction in Asheville (aside from Nancy, of course) was the fabric store! A friend had urged me to visit the Asheville Cotton Company . I mapquested it before we left and found that it was just minutes away from the cabin where we stayed. Gwensdad dropped me off and pursued adventures of his own. (He went to get some fudge.)

This shop was fantastic. It was much bigger than any of our Memphis LQS’s and a little overwhelming at first. There at my fingertips were bolts and bolts of wonderful prints I have seen online but could not find locally. And they could be mine without shipping charges!

I wandered around the store wondering how to decide what to bring home with me. At one point I became concerned that there were no batiks. But the back of the store had a whole huge wall of them in every color, print and design. I nearly swooned.

After much hemming, hawing, flipping, flopping, wishing, washing and back and forth, I make some decisions and loaded up my credit card with all of this:

A few 1/4 yards of dots. I’m collecting them for a baby quilt.


These black and white prints to make something for Gwen.

black and white

And all these lovely half yards of gorgeous green batiks. No definite plans for these yet. Right now I just love looking at them.

to-die-for green batik fabrics

The only thing I really wanted but didn’t find were Kaffe Fasset fabrics and this owl print by Amy Schimler. They did have full selection of Floragraphix by Jason Yenter but I had spent my budget and had to leave it behind.

This is a great store with a friendly staff who folded my purchases up for me nice and neat. Go if you can, but allow plenty of time and take lots of money!

Close Encounters of the Equine Kind

August 17, 2009

A few more vacation pics and then back to regular crafty content.

After visiting the Arboretum, we met an old friend of mine and her husband for lunch. Nancy and I were camp counselors together way back in the day. I didn’t take any pictures at lunch, but here is one of us from a long, long time ago. Ah to be that thin again!

summer 1980

The next day, gwensdad got to pick the activity and he decided on horseback riding. This was a little disconcerting to say the least. I have been uneasy on horses ever since being thrown off of a temperamental pony, oh about 40 years ago. But it was time to suck it up and try again.

What have I gotten myself into?


I remembered what I had learned about riding as a reluctant student at various summer camps, so things went well and I ended up having a great time. We rode for an hour on trails that wound around a mountain and then stopped for a hour at an old garnet mine. It rained pretty hard while we were in the mine but let up as soon as we resumed our ride. After we had gone a little way, the man on the horse in front of me dropped his rain poncho and spooked my horse. She jerked back but I stayed on. It happened so fast that I did not have time to get scared until it was over.

mountain view

At the end of the ride we were excited to spot a Blue Heeler puppy. We are always glad to see Australian Cattle Dogs because they remind us of our beloved Cody.

Blue Heeler love

On the drive home we saw several weathered old tobacco barns.

Old tobacco barn

Tobacco barn

After we cleaned up, gwensdad dropped me off at the Asheville Cotton Company with instructions to come back two hours later. Stay tuned to see what I bought!

A quick get away

August 10, 2009

Well, that little internet break turned into quite a long one! But I’m back with something you have never seen on my blog- vacation pictures!

Yes, the stars aligned, so Gwensdad and I were able to take our first vacation in 12 years to beautiful Asheville, NC. I went  to summer camp in the area and we had been there the year before Gwen was born and always wanted to go back.

Asheville is a small mountain city with beautiful vistas, an abundance of wildflowers, wonderful restaurants and best of all mild temperatures with low humidity. We stayed in a cabin with rocking chairs on the upstairs porch and a hot tub on the downstairs porch. We only had two days to play, so we skipped the main attraction, the Biltmore House, as we had been there already.

Instead we visited the North Carolina Arboretum, an extensive botanic garden, forest area and regional green resource. This place is a regional treasure and it blew us both away.

The core garden area is flanked by an array of stunning gates made at the Penland School of Crafts. This one represents the area’s wildlife and natural resources.

Wildlife gate at NC Arboretum

Snake detail

Detail of Wildlife gate

And this one has a garden theme


Turtle detail


Here is a fabulous piece of sculpture by Martin Webster. Read about it and all the other fabulous garden art on the Arboretum’s art page.


Finally, the quilt garden, planted with quilt block designs. New blocks are installed four times a year. The darker foliage in these squares is sweet potato vine and the small shrubs are a fragrant basil that scented the entire area.

Quilt Garden

Our visit was cut short by rain, but there was so much else to see! Including these lovely art quilts in the gift shop.

Art Quilts in the Gift Shop

This amazing place is a jewel. I am longing to go back to hike the trails and browse the gardens we didn’t have time to see. At $6 per carload of people, it is real bargain that you won’t soon forget!

Fabric Collage

July 6, 2009

I’m taking a break from the internet this week. I need to rest and get caught up because Gwen only has two more weeks of school. She will continue with camp until the end of July but will be home more often and need more attention.

I recently joined Art42, a new mail art site based on the old Nervousness format, and promptly signed up for three projects. The first one is to art up a brown cardboard star sent by the swap host. For a long time I have enjoyed looking at the colorful jumble of fabric scraps that accumulates on the floor while I am sewing. So I attacked some bright batik fabrics with scissors and went to work with some glue. Here it is so far. It needs to be shiny, so I’ll give it a few coats of varnish before sending it off to the pacific northwest.

Have a great week!

Completed swap blocks

July 2, 2009

At first I wasn’t very enthusiastic about swapping blocks instead of mini-quilts for the latest installment of the 4SQS swap. But I’m glad I signed up anyway because the lovely and talented swap host chose a block that was fun to make and looks great. Her tutorial on piecing this block is here.


I made 9 blocks with scraps left over from the green pinwheel and red Norwegian flag mini quilts. Part 2 of this swap (up to 20 more blocks) is due in mid-August, so there will be more of these in the near future. I still have some red and green fabrics but will probably pick up some fat quarters in another color (orange, maybe) for variety.

Summer Sewing

June 29, 2009

Big news- gwensdad and I may get to take a vacation for the first time in 12 years! Plans are to spend four days in the mountains on the other side of our state. We are currently working out all the details with Gwen’s caregivers, so keep your fingers crossed that we can cover all the bases. I’m already thinking of what craft projects to take with me.

In the meantime I have been working on the shirt quilt for the Old Red Barn Quiltalong. I sewed my strips into squares, laid them out and was underwhelmed. The blocks were big, the piecing was plain, and the fabric design (shirt plaids) and colors were subtle. Not ugly, but not what I love to make. Now it takes a lot of time to assemble a quilt and it is a real drag to labor over something that doesn’t exactly float your boat. So I got out the rotary cutter, hacked my blocks into smaller pieces, sewed them back together and chose some blue sashing for contrast. Still more traditional than my usual work, but much better!


The binding is really going to look great. I’ll be piecing together the leftover patchwork strips for a super scrappy look.

Today I’m finishing up some blocks for the Four Seasons Quilt Swap Sumer Block Swap. Here are a couple I cut from pinwheel quilt leftovers. There will be red ones as well.


Gwen is having a blast this summer! She goes to school in the morning and camp in the afternoon. She gets so tired that she actually sleeps late and chills out on the weekend.

Serious sleeping



June 11, 2009

Last week my mom came over. I asked her if she wanted to go with me to Hancock’s (fabrics) get some quilt batting on sale.

“We can’t go there. It burned down last night.” she said.

After standing with my mouth hanging open for a few minutes I checked the news website, and sure enough.

I felt like I had been slapped. My fabric store was gone just like that! What would happen to all those ladies who cut fabric for me? One has been there forever and another had just started. Would they be out of jobs? Over the years, Hancock has closed two stores near my house and moved farther and farther into the suburbs. This was the only one left inside the I-240 loop.

That day I fought the crazy-making traffic and bought my batting at another Hancock planted in the middle of big box retail hell. Since then I have heard rumors that they will rebuild but they’re not sure where.

Gwensdad drove me over there a few days later. It was pretty ugly. Here are a few fellow gawkers.

My fabric store burned down :(

what a mess!

At first it seemed as if there was no indication of what this blackened twisted mess used to be. But then I spotted a lonely bolt of blue fabric with singed edges among the rubble.

One lonely bolt

So sad.

Ok, Breathe!

June 8, 2009

I am totally freaked out because I just put Gwen on a school bus for the first time. The nurse, the attendant and the driver were all great, the air conditioning was working and I know it will be ok. But OMG!

Gwen's first school bus rideGwen's first school bus ride

And no, I am NOT following the bus in the car! I will be going to the school in a few minutes to make sure all the medical paperwork is in order and to correct the bus orders that have her coming home after school instead of going to camp. But I thought I’d blog in the meantime as an alternative to hyperventilation :0

Like a hole in the head

June 6, 2009

I didn’t need anything else to do. But I found this great quiltalong and signed up because I needed to make someone a quilt and because the grand prize is a tricked out Janome sewing machine.

New fabric for this would have run over $50, which was not in the budget. So I turned to the thrift store stash and found a few plaid men’s shirts and a plaid pair of pajama pants. After a return trip to the thrift store on 1/2 price day I had enough shirts for a great start. I’m saving the pockets for another project.


Here is some of what was left.

Stay tuned for an update soon!


May 30, 2009

Last week Gwen graduated from 6th grade and her mama almost melted down. Not sure why, but the anticipation of this event had me freaked out for the entire last week of school.

6th Grade Graduation

Gwen is not capable of doing 6th grade work, but graduated because she is 12 and it’s time for middle school. There is a large special needs population at this school and any one of them who ages out can participate in the ceremony. Throughout the year, the special needs kids spend time in regular classrooms, so they are graduating with their peers.

The processional

The week leading up to the ceremony saw me a complete wreck, and for no reason! We are registered at a great school for next year. We already know that Gwen’s teacher will be a wonderful lady who has had her for the last 5 years in summer school. It’s all good, but the prospect of change made me come unhinged. I’m a lot better at this than I used to be. The first time Gwen moved – from a baby class to the 2-year-old class next door on the bottom floor of a world class children’s hospital – I cried and panicked for days.

receiving her certificate

We were able to use this year’s fancy dress for the third time. She wore it first in a wedding, then to the prom and finally for graduation. I left off the crocheted gloves and the necklace because I didn’t think graduation called for bling. I was wrong- many of the girls looked like they were going to Cinderella’s ball. There were updo’s, high heels, rhinestones and floor length dresses. One dude was looking really sharp in a fedora.

With her proud Daddy and Grandmother

Once again we had the opportunity to participate in a rite of passage that seemed out of our reach. Yes, I cried this time too. Not out of panic, but out of gratitude for what our precious girl has been able to achieve.

Teacher Gifts- done and done!

May 21, 2009

My baby is graduating from 6th grade tomorrow. *sobs* Gwen has attended her current school since she was three and has thrived there. Her teachers and therapists have been wonderful so I decided to go all out and make them (all SEVEN of them) tote bags as a thank you gift. I have given these bags before but never this many at once! Most were made from thifted clothes with a little yardage from my stash thrown in when necessary. We gave them out this afternoon.

Here they all are hanging from Gwensdad’s prototype grape arbor. (We’re going to grow muscadines.)

Gifts for Gwen's teachers and therapists

They look kind of washed out in the sun so I took some better pics indoors. These bags are for Gwen’s Physical and Speech therapists. The plain blue bag is denim and batik yardage. The other bag is made from a linen dress and lined with batik yardage. This one is my fav and I may need to make one for myself.

for physical and speech therapists

The blue bag was kind of plain so I put the bling on the inside. Gwen’s PT is Filipino but became a US citizen just in time to vote in the 2008 presidential election. I printed the flags of both countries on some inkjet sew-in fabric sheets and used them for the pockets. He loved it!

US and Filipino flag pockets

The Occupational Therapist is special because she is the one person that has been with Gwen from day 1. For her bag, I cut into some home dec fabric samples that came from a thrift shop a long time ago.

for the occupational therapist

There were four different colorways of this ocean print and I used them all. She is excited to take it to the beach this summer.

inside view

I loved making these two with some pants I have been hoarding for a long time. Two of Gwen’s teachers told me that their favorite color is purple, with one specifying a purple and green color combination. The green lining was a skirt and the yellow was a dress. I had to take this picture in a dark corner so that the purple would not look blue.

for classroom teacher and aide

Finally, the other two teachers liked pink and bright turquoise blue. The pink bag made with a fabric leftover from this reconstruction. The blue and green one was a skirt and the lining was a pair of green linen shorts.

for classroom aides

Inside each bag I put instructions for making broccoli cheese soup. We have given them a quart of it every Christmas and they wanted the recipe before Gwen went off to middle school.

OMG she is going to middle school! *sob*

Memphis Knittas Rule!

May 15, 2009

The Memphis Knit Mafia has struck in Midtown! This piece went up on Tuesday and today our local alternative paper interviewed our fearless leader about this fine piece of art. **ETA Our daily did an article too!

Memphis Knit Mafia strikes in Midtown!

Everyone’s favorite was the batman panel knit by Karen, our token Canadian member.


My contribution was the checkerboard and the blue fun fur stripe.

My contribution

After this triumphant debut, there is discussion of covering more of the top of the pole. But we’re not sure anyone has a tall enough ladder.


Thrift Store Stash to the Rescue!

May 12, 2009

It’s time to make the to make teacher gifts again!
Thanks to my insane stash of thrifted clothes there is no shopping for supplies involved. Even the zippers for the inside pockets are recycled. They came from other clothes that have already been chopped up and repurposed.

I asked the four teachers for their favorite colors and got pink, bright turquoise blue and two purples. The pink one is made with leftovers from this bag and it finished except for a little topstitching. Today I pulled clothes for the rest and came up with this:

thrifted clothes for refashioning

thrifted clothes for refashioning

I really need to sew from this stash more often because it is taking over the house.

DSQ6- the Quilt I Sent

May 9, 2009

Most of my swap quilts have travelled long distances to locations in Australia, Europe or at least the Northeast US. But this one had to journey only 200 miles and never even left the state. The Post Office says that it has arrived at its destination so now I can show it.

Swap quilt complete!

This quilt was slow getting started because I couldn’t settle on a design. After staring at these lovely batiks for a while, I decided on a disappearing nine-patch, using both prints and a solid in each square. On the first attempt I cut 3.5″ squares which turned out too large for a small quilt. Next I tried it with 2.5″ squares. The size was more appropriate but the solid looked too boring with the batiks. And I wasn’t too jazzed about the disappearing nine patch after all. What to do, what to do?

To complicate matters, my fabrics were all in the same value range. After much hemming and hawing I remembered a technique used by Malka Dubrawsky of A Stitch in Dye. She buys commercial fabrics, then overdyes or discharges them to vary the colors. Following her lead, I took the lightest print and faded it a little with diluted bleach. The result was just what my quilt needed- a lighter shade that would set off the other prints without looking too plain.

But we were back to square one (pun intended!) on choosing a design. I started pairing the large and small squares to see which fabrics looked best together and liked what I saw.

layout for swap quilt

It was just a simple square-in-square but wow! When you have good fabric the design doesn’t have to be complicated. I threw in one turquoise square for contrast and started piecing. Once again, I took some good advice from Gwensdad and left that turquoise square unquilted. When the top was finished it read too pink, so I added some tangerine touches by quilting heavily with tangerine thread and using one of the more orangey batiks for the binding.

detail of quilting

There were a lot of scraps lying around at this point so I sewed some of them together freestyle and used them in the back of the quilt.

quilt back

I’m really not sure which side is my favorite! If my LQS has more of the blue batik I might just make myself a mini quilt with the rest of my tangerine scraps.

But first I need to make four tote bags for Gwen’s teachers……