Monday, April 08, 2019

Book Review - The Maverick Soul

It's been a long time since I have written about any books I have discovered and fallen in love with. There are not a lot of books that come out these days that really speak to me. But this one -- The Maverick Soul -- by Miv Watts with photos by Hugh Stewart - is one I can't stop looking at. Published in Australia by Hardie Grant Books (a publisher that really does gorgeous books), is one I have turned to again and again. I have had it for a while now (it was published in 2017) and thought I would share it with you all.

The Maverick Soul - Inside the Lives and Homes of Eccentric Eclectic and Free-spirited Bohemians is a look into the homes of artists, designers, and generally very interesting people. Miv Watts - the author - is a stylist and decorator who has also been involved in the film business. She lives between Australia and the south of France. She is also the mom of actress Naomi Watts. As you can imagine with a career as such, Miv would know interesting folks who might live in interesting homes and locales. This book is a look into 25 homes of these people. I didn't know who any of them were - except for Marianne Faithfull and Raffaella Barker (author). 

The photos were taken by Hugh Stewart and they are lush, full of texture and layers. Nothing looks very styled or perfect - more as if the photos were taken by a friend when just walking in the door. There are lots of beautiful still lives of corners of homes. 

Each person's home is a chapter and there is a page and half of words about each featured home owner and how they came to live in their home. Miv is an engaging writer and as I turned the pages to discover a new house or person, my world was opened up to new places and thoughts. From the Introduction, she writes "In the course of a life, if one is lucky, one meets a few people who leave a mark, touch the heart, turn a switch, leave a print on the soul. Such mentors can have an impact on one's future and they can be the inevitable catalysts of change."  There are many more moving thoughts and passages as each person and home is revealed. 

Here are some photos of pages from the book with links to some of the featured homeowners - there are 25 homes and people featured so this is a smattering. (I've given you quite a rabbit hole to fall down with those links!) 

If you are a home junkie or like to read about interesting people and places, check out The Maverick Soul

Simon Finch - Antiquarian Book Dealer and his home Voewood

Griffin Dune - Writer, Producer, Director, Actor - this is one of two Americans featured

Bruce Goold - Artist, Textile Designer and Aussie Icon

Victoria Alexander - Decorator, Photographer

Patrick Deedes-Vincke and Isabelle Townsend (daughter of Peter Townsend)

Nancy Howard - Artist, Philanthropist

Desmond MacCarthy - Farmer, Restauranteur at Wiveton Hall

Rebecca Purcell - Stylish, Philosopher and former Display Director at ABC Carpet in NYC

Melissa North - Interior Designer

Miv Watts' own home in the south of France

The back cover of The Maverick Soul 

Thursday, April 04, 2019

Long Time Away.....

.... from this little old blog. This winter has been long and I am so ready for it to be over. We are still having a few lambs being born sporadically. This one was born the other day - The Farmer went a little wild with the orange marking paint. 

The 5 bottle lambs have been weaned now and are eating only solid food. Here they are on their last day of being fenced in. Now they are running free. 

All the older ewes have lambed and now it is the yearlings who are lambing. They are always a little problematic because some don't know what to do with their lambs - but some take to it naturally. 

Here is a particularly beautiful lamb who was born early in the season. 

The older lambs are growing and are very athletic. I posted a video of lamb races the other day on Instagram - you can see it here

There are some really beautiful lambs - many who are Texel crosses. This is the first year we have had a lot of Texel lambs and it is interesting to see the different features the lambs have. 

We have had quite a few black lambs this year. Not sure why but one of the rams must have had a recessive black gene. Some have these speckly faces. 

The snow is finally gone except for deep in the woods. The sap has been running here for at least 3 weeks and the little sugar houses throughout the hills have been boiling up the sweet stuff. It looks like sugaring season is almost over for this year. 

The landscape is still brown but the grass is starting to green up a bit. I am really looking forward to spring - even more than usual. It has been a long winter. I have been sick with colds, coughs and flu twice this winter - and so has my family. Considering I haven't been ill in 3 years, I guess it was my turn. 

My hens finally started laying again and we are starting to be awash in piles of eggs. Lots of egg dishes are going to be on the menu along with popovers which are my favorite at this time of year. I use this popover recipe from Julia Child. In re-reading this post from 2014, I realize that I was a really enthusiastic blogger back in 2014. I seem to have lost that mojo - as it seems many early bloggers have. But I haven't given up. I think that Instagram has replaced blogging for many - it is so easy to do and that seems to be where the action is. I post there almost every day. It is a nice community. Here is my page if you want to give me a follow. 

This past month I have been watching a lot of YouTube and Skillshare videos and trying to up my knowledge on Adobe Illustrator. I have worked in Illustrator since the very early days of Adobe Illustrator. I think my first program was called Illustrator 88. I have never felt really accomplished in it. I have found the videos by Helen Bradley to be very helpful. You can find her on YouTube and also on Skillshare. She teaches all kinds of programs - Lightroom, Photoshop, Excel, PowerPoint, and Word. Helen's own website is here. She calls herself "Project Woman" and she is a serious talent. 

There are so many on-line classes out there now and it is hard to stop watching them once you start. I am really enjoying Skillshare because the classes are taught by normal people and mostly filmed in their own homes. Some are better than others. They are having a special - 2 months for 99 cents. You might want to check it out here.  And no - this is not an affiliate link - just sharing with you all. 

That's it for today - I hope I will be back soon with more. 

Tuesday, March 05, 2019

A Cautionary Tale - My Trusty 1974 Bernina Record 830 Sewing Machine Almost Burned Our House Down

I think I have written about my good old dependable Bernina sewing machine that I purchased in the 70's. I earned the money for it sewing for friends and neighbors when I was in high school. The machine is my pride and joy and has moved with me so many times. The amount of hours I have sewn on it has got to be in the thousands. 

Last Sunday, we were scared out of bed by the sound of our fire alarm going off at 5:15 a.m. Our farmhouse came with a professional (like a school or hospital) fire alarm system. When it goes off, it can be heard from far away much less it will scare the bejesus out of you if you are in the house.  Lights flash and the sound is monumental. It is also quite sensitive and I frequently set it off with my cooking prowess.  

But last Sunday, I was so glad that we had this thing. Mark and I ran all over the house trying to figure out why the alarm was going off. By the time we got down to the basement to turn it off, I discovered that my 1975 Bernina was smoking. And I mean smoking. It was so hot I couldn't touch it and smoke was pouring out of every orifice. I ran to grab some potholders and took it outside in the snow. 

When I lifted the machine, the wooden table I sew on was scorched and smoking too. I dumped some water on it and pulled the table leaves out and took them outside too. 

The problem was taken care of and we were left with smoke and nasty smell and no sewing machine.

By this time, the fire company was on the way. It was too late to stop them. An hour later, due to incredibly icy roads and no sand on them, they arrived. I don't want to think about what would have happened if we didn't have our fire/smoke alarm. We were so lucky to discover the source of the smoke and possible fire and to remove the machine and table.

The fire chief and two firemen came. The Chief was an electrician so he was able to show me the electrical source of the fire in the motor of the machine. 

He said I should have been unplugging the machine all the time and that I should have used an extension cord with a 3 prong outlet (the cord that came with my machine only had 2 prongs). All good advice that I will heed in the future. I have had this machine since the 70's and it has remained plugged in whenever it was set up on my sewing table.

I researched on-line to see if anyone else has had their Bernina motor catch on fire. I didn't find anything so think it is important that I add this here. (Vintage Berninas have problems with their foot pedals catching fire and I replaced mine with a safe pedal years ago.) From what I read, any of the older sewing machines of any brand do not have On and Off Power buttons so they are always on if plugged into electricity. I did not realize this. 

I sew a lot and really depend on my machine for my business and for general mending and household sewing. I knew I wanted the same exact machine I had (a Bernina 830 Record) - it has mostly all metal parts and is a real workhorse. Luckily I found one on Ebay. It has arrived and the new machine is as sturdy as the old one. It came with a recent service record, a thermal safe foot pedal and a 3 prong plug for the wall. I will keep my old Bernina for parts and now I will ALWAYS unplug my machine when I am not using it. Lesson learned.

Thank goodness for the fire alarm. Thank you to the little tiny fire department of Leyden for bringing the truck and to Tina, the policewoman, for getting the road crew to sand the icy road so the fire truck could get here. We were just lucky that we were able to put out the machine and table quickly and that we had the fire/smoke alarm to wake us and that it was working and tied into the central station. It made me think about all those cellar holes that are around our town and so many New England towns that used to have houses on top of them. Farmhouses in the old days were frequently lost to fire before there were fire companies and trucks and fire/smoke alarms. People just had to let them burn and around here, many did not rebuild. 

I hope this post helps someone else who owns and sews on an old machine and might not realize the potential of the fire hazard. 

Monday, February 18, 2019

New Fabric Designs + A Fantastic Spoonflower Promotion

Last year I shared with you my continuing interest in designing fabrics. I have continued to develop some new surface designs and they are now available in my Spoonflower shop. How it works is I design a repeat pattern and I upload it to their site. Then I do a test print to make sure it will print correctly. After that, I make it "for sale" on my Spoonflower Shop

Anyone can then order one of my fabric designs on any of their 25 different fabrics, wallpaper and gift wrap. It is really very cool and lets me flirt with the concept of being a fabric designer. I have had several of my designs printed onto fabric for myself and then made things for my home out of my own textile designs. The quality is very good. Here are some of the projects I have made with my fabric designs.

ROSES AND DIAMONDS GOLD printed on Linen/Cotton Canvas 

printed on linen/cotton canvas

printed on Kona Cotton and used for a quilt backing

Last winter, I translated many of my handprinted fabrics that were featured in my newest book Crafting A Patterned Home into digital files. The idea behind that was that someone could have the same fabric as shown in my book but need not handprint it themselves. You can see all of those designs in this collection page on my Spoonflower shop

Yesterday, I got an email from Spoonflower saying that they are having a big sale on their site. I thought I would let you all know about it in case you wanted to try out some of my fabric designs on a project for your home or wardrobe. You can purchase any fabric design on Spoonflower - not only those from my shop. There are literally thousands of fabric designers selling their designs on Spoonflower. 

Below are three of my newest designs - Vines and Flowers, Hand Drawn Paisleys, and Suzani Wide Stripe. Many of my designs are available in multiple colorways. Check out the Spoonflower sale and see all my 91 different fabric designs on my Spoonflower shop. If you order, I will get a small percentage of the sale. 

The sale runs from the 18th of February until the 24th of February. 




Sunday, February 17, 2019

Lambs + Big News! with Reflections

I'll share the Big News first. After a month and more of working tirelessly, I have a new website! Ohhhhh - I have been dying to share it with you all. It went live this weekend. Hop on over and check it out here

I hope you like it, find it somewhat informational, and also easy to navigate. I have known for a while that I needed to do something about my website. This is the 3rd iteration of - the 1st was in 2002, the 2nd was in 2013 and now the 3rd is in 2019. Boy have things changed. 

1. My first website was mostly an info only site built by my friend Lori Gayle. It had a couple of patterns for sale via something called Payloadz. This was before Ravelry came along. The first site lasted a very long time -- eleven years! - I am amazed to reflect on that for sure. 

2. My second website was built by my friend Mary Hager. She did it just before my Craftsy class launched in something called Cold Fusion. The purpose of the site was informational and also commerce driven. I would be able to sell the Crewel Embroidery Supplies for my Craftsy (now Bluprint) class on-line. That site was built just before everything went mobile and it was very serviceable but I couldn't easily change things myself. That site lasted six years. 

3. This third website was built by ME! on a platform call Big Cartel. I interviewed 3 different shopping platforms - Shopify, Squarespace and Big Cartel. I went with Big Cartel because it seemed to be artist friendly. Also, when I sent them questions, they answered sometimes within an hour. There were several themes to chose from and I chose one that I thought was easily navigable. They also have a sliding fee scale so that if my number of products changes, the monthly fee can be adjusted. 

So that is my big news. Check out the new site here and if you have any comments or critiques, I am glad to hear them. The website has categories and you can search by "newest" and "most popular" items. At the bottom of the left hand column, I have added several pages that are informational. 

Now - on to the lambs....... They are still coming - maybe not as fast as a couple weeks ago but still being born. We had snow and ice this week so it is a bit treacherous at the barns now. These photos were taken when the last batch of snow had melted. I'm not sure if you have noticed but many of the lambs still have tails. The Farmer decided to only "tail" the females. We have many Muslim customers and they will only purchase male lambs. Last year we discovered that they prefer lambs with tails. Always learning. 

Just born that morning outside in the sun.

This little lamb has the craziest ears - they curl backward. Never seen anything like it. She is very vocal too.

Nice set of twins with a very attentive mother.

Outside on top of ye olde manure pile. 

This little guy was loving the sun. 

Mama and one of the older lambs on top of ye olde manure pile.

I hope you all are having a nice weekend. Maybe you have the day off tomorrow. Lucky you! I have some more news to share tomorrow so pop on back then. 

Thursday, February 14, 2019

More from Lambing 2019 + Happy Valentine's Day

Here are some photos I took over the last couple weeks at the lambing barns. 

There is something so reassuring about little lambs and mamas together - watching the mamas take care of the new ones.... watching them grow and flourish and become teen lambs... moving them out onto pastures to see them grow larger and figure out the world they are born into.  

Enjoy everyone and I hope you all have a Happy Valentine's Day!

Brand new twins. 

Another brand new lamb.

Getting ready to feed one of the big bales inside the barn. 

Gotta be careful with that big tractor. 

Those twins from the first photo outside on their second day. 



Nice cushiony bed.

Book Review - The Maverick Soul

It's been a long time since I have written about any books I have discovered and fallen in love with. There are not a lot of books that...