Tag Archive | Textiles

Life in Cards

Every year, there are several “Christmas letters” that come in the mail, via snail mail, that I anxiously await. I cannot describe the anticipation that I feel knowing that these will come, with an update about several people and families that I feel so close to, but yet do not see very often.

The most beautiful handwriting.

The most beautiful handwriting.

One letter, comes on a black and white card with a snow-covered scene of New York City, or thereabouts, and is hand-written in the most beautiful script. The kind that came with hours of practice, a fine pen, and an attention to detail that is all too lacking in this day and age. It is from my old flute teacher, a reminder that I did in fact learn so much from him, not just how to be a musician. He shaped the person I am today.

Washington Square Park, New York City

Washington Square Park, New York City

© Bedrich Grunzweig

© Bedrich Grunzweig

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Another letter, arriving punctually just before the 25th of December, is from a family that we have known for years, has helped us out and put us up in their home, with only company, wine, and a few laughs in return. They link us to the Coast Guard and remind us that my husband’s career as the  Coast Guard flying-lawyer was real as well. They took us under their wing and continue to do so. Their Christmas letter is full of funny antics about their five children, and usually we all breathe a sigh of relief, as by the end, we do hear about their accomplishments as well.

HH65 Coast Guard Helicopter Cartoon.

HH65 Coast Guard Helicopter Cartoon, proof of the Coast Guard in our lives.

The last letter comes trickling in and just arrived yesterday. This family celebrates Christmas on Orthodox time and their letter truly marks the end of the season. It is full of thoughtful reflections from the previous year, adventures abroad, and children who we will surely vote for one day, as they are both Presidential material: the Next American Dynasty.

Papyrus Stained Glass Card.

Papyrus Stained Glass Card.

I have tried to figure out why I love these letters so much. Is it a reminder of our past, so exciting at times? Is it the physical beauty of the handwriting or of the card itself? I cannot explain the importance of this tangible aspect to it. In this digital era we live, something is lost in the hustle and bustle of fast communication. Not to mention my handwriting has practically gone the way of the doctor’s script. Or maybe I just have sensory issues.

Griffins.

Griffins.

Griffins description.

Griffins description, on the back of the card.

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+++I am not a fan of New Years’ resolutions, but next year, I resolve to write a Christmas letter, no matter how busy we are. I will find a suitable pen first, and some beautiful paper. I will gather photographs from the year. I will write our family Christmas letter, with all the nostalgia I can muster, on a beautiful, tangible, Christmas card.

© copyright Mariam d’Eustachio 2013.

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Maryland Sheep and Wool Festival!

 

If you were one of three people on the East Coast who did not attend the Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival, you missed out. It was a party for the senses! The colors, textures, and craftsmanship on display added up to an amazing experience.

Sheep.

I like to know where things come from. When I buy food at the grocery store or the farmer’s market, I like to be reminded that it once started out in the ground. The Sheep & Wool Festival was a reminder that textiles are complicated. Wool has to be raised and then sheared. It has to be carded, dyed and spun into yarn and then woven into something we can use. There are any number of variations on this process, resulting in a unique outcome, and it is a lot of work!

Beautiful Fiber on display, ready for spinning.

The Sheep & Wool Festival is the finest and largest Fiber Festival on the East Coast. It was an opportunity to learn the process behind techniques used in weaving, spinning, rug-making and producing quality hand-made textiles. I sat down for a beginner learn-to-knit class and have not stopped knitting since. I had learned to knit when I was a child, and as I held the needles in my hands, it all came rushing back to me. I was completely inspired.

Knitting frenzy.

My daughter Prima is on the hunt for a spinning wheel. This is not a passing craze and she has been saving her money for a long time. This was the reason we were going to the fair in the first place. Unfortunately, we did not find one we could afford. I should consider myself lucky that my 12 year-old daughter would rather have a spinning wheel than an ipad.

Prima trying out a spinning wheel.

The working sheepdog demonstrations were so much fun. The Border Collies were patient and the sheep clearly respected their authority. The dogs got the sheep to go over a small bridge, run in figure-eights, and showed off their smarts. It was impressive.

Sheepdog demonstration.

Working Border Collies herding the sheep.

Natural materials were abundant as well. Brooms and baskets were on display and have an old-world feel to them. There is an earthiness about these things that is sometimes lost in our fast-paced world.

These brooms would be the pride and joy of any self-respecting witch.

The Maryland Sheep & Wool Festival is free to get in the door and includes stories and crafts, food, and just a fun time for the whole family. There is a sense of history and heritage and of traditions that have been passed down through the generations. I highly recommend you save the first weekend in May to learn to spin, knit, crochet, or just watch and seek some inspiration.

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio.

Rugs

Being half Armenian, I have some quirks I have to be wary of: hairiness, alcoholism, a desire for cars that I cannot afford, and a love of rugs. The kind that are hand-made of natural fibers, with rich vegetable dyed colors, and intricate designs. The rug for me is the foundation of a room. It is the source of my colors and design scheme. When I see a beautiful rug, I fall a little bit in love.

The first time I was truly inspired by a rug was in a flute lesson. My teacher stopped me in the middle of Fauré and told me to wait. He went to the couch and reached under it. He pulled out a heavy carpet and started to unroll it. It was truly breathtakingly beautiful. The flowers were weaving throughout it in vine patterns and the all-over design was shimmering with pinks, blues, and greens. It was so vibrant, it made my flute playing pale in comparison and I understood his point. I was told to leave the lesson and go to the nearby and little known textile museum. It was there that I was to find the inspiration to play better. This was the beginning of a love of rugs that has only become more of a passion for me.

Unfortunately, rugs are expensive. I am always on the lookout for a hand-made rug I can afford. Auctions, yard sales, convincing my Grandma she is tired of one she already has, and even pure luck. This beautiful Bakhtiari rug was given to me as a gift by one of my Dad’s friends, who we refer to as “Uncle Rug”. All he got in return were some roses.

The Bakhtiari rug is currently in my bedroom. It is very rich and reminds me of my Armenian heritage.

This rug was purchased at an auction. I had about 5 seconds to decide to buy it and I have never regretted it. I paid $75, which was pretty much our grocery money for that week.

I found this rug at a yard sale in Lynchburg. It is a Bokhara (meaning elephant stamp) rug. It has a silky sheen that I love and is currently in my living room.

 

 The Bokhara rug in my living room.

This rug, from Dubai, was another gift. Although “gift” is misleading here considering I kept two… troublesome dogs in my house for fourteen months. But the rug is fabulous and it makes quite a lovely little olive branch. It is made of silk and has the medallion in the middle. I love the green all through it.

When you are looking at a quality hand-made rug, notice the back. Is the pattern still visible on the backside of the rug? If so, it has a high number of knots per square inch. The more knots, the better. If it is made of wool, silk, or cotton, it will be easier to clean and will not retain odors. Is the fringe intact? These are all signs of a good quality rug.

 

The backside of the silk rug from Dubai.

My daughter had a nosebleed all over a sisal rug that ran in the hall from her bedroom to the bathroom. It was badly stained and would not come clean. I decided to paint it and that rug is currently in my kitchen.

If you are unsure of how to make your room feel complete, or if it lacks warmth, or you need a jumping off place, find a rug. It will define your seating area and add some glam to your room. You will not regret it.

© copyright 2012 Mariam d’Eustachio