Tag: stitching (Page 1 of 2)

Did I Tell You the One About

Our Vows . . . 

Forty-seven years ago today, I made my way down the aisle to say “I sure will!” when asked if I willingly made and agreed to keep my vows to Andy, The Engineer. Now I can’t say I thought about it at the time because the words “I sure will” just fell right out of my mouth, but looking back, it seems to me now that saying “I will” might be more meaningful and lasting than saying “I do.” I might’ve said “I sure will” because of authority issues (The preacher who married us was not chosen because I liked him – I didn’t, and the feeling was mutual – but because he was the only one available on the date we set.). I  might’ve said “I sure will” because my brain chose that particular moment to take a nap after the inevitable hecticness preceding a wedding. I’ve had a while to think about it, and saying “I sure will” sure seems like  my heart’s way of saying “For the rest of my life, I will honor these vows I make to you here (and the vows we made to each other in our private-just-the-two-of-us ceremony”) while saying “I do” seems more like a “yeah-sure-whatever-you-just-said-now-let’s-party” commitment to keep the vows at least tonight.

I told the preacher not to worry about the vows, that we were writing our own. (I’d already started mine, but you knew that.) I want y’all to know that man put both hands on his desk palms down, rose up out of his chair, leaned over the desk in my direction, and said in what amounted to a hiss, “I have NEVER let couples write their own vows, and I’m not about to start with you, Jeanne Hewell.” I looked him in the eye back to his retinas and said, “Fine, but know this: if you use the word ‘obey’ or anything akin to it, I will NOT say it.”

I waited till just before the ceremony to tell him we’d be saying our own words when we exchanged rings. Score one for Jeanne.

How We Chose The Date . . . 

My father-in-law was known to harumph and complain quite loudly when a wedding interrupted his weekend, so we got married at 7:30 p.m. on a Tuesday night. He’d promised us the prize – a cruise on the Rhine – if his company won some purchasing contest, so we thought it a good idea to be officially married before setting sail. I wrote dates on slips of paper, and we drew July 31 out of the hat, making July 31, 1973 a date that will live in infamy, as they say.

wedding invitation in frame

The Preparations . . . 

My mother got married in the local jail. Yes, really. Back in The Day, citizens of Fayette County elected the sheriff and got the wife for free to do the cooking and cleaning for the prisoners. They kept expenses down even more by providing the sheriff’s family a place to live instead of hiring extra guards. Well, my maternal granddaddy was the sheriff, so Mother and Daddy tied the knot in the living room at the jail.

While I love that story, Mother? Not so much. So once the date was set, I told her, “I want you to give yourself the wedding you wished you’d had. Go ahead. Knock yourself out,” reserving for myself the job of designing my bouquet, choosing the color (Tropicana. Everywhere we live, we plant a tropicana rose bush.); invitations; my attire; and the place. I asked that the reception be held at home (because I’ve always loved the story of a jailhouse wedding) and  asked that we have watermelon at the reception. We wanted to get married on my family’s land, atop a hill overlooking the lake where my paternal granddaddy and I sometimes fished (and killed snakes) and, it occurs to me as I write this, just in front of the place where the uncle I am named after was killed. Likely thinking of parking, women walking on soft earth in heels, and wondering if the church had enough folding chairs, my mother was not enamored with the idea. As it turns out, the preacher we wound up with wasn’t either, so into the church we went.

And the watermelon? It was served, and Andy and I got to enjoy some only because Donn, Andy’s brother, fetched a bowl full and delivered it to us.

The Photos . . . 

I was hit by a car on the streets of downtown Atlanta five weeks before the wedding. I’ll tell you that story another day, but what you need to know right now is that it broke my left knee and landed me in a full leg plaster cast. Everywhere we went from that date forward to our wedding day, I sat on the backseat with my leg on the seat while The Engineer drove with his left hand so we could hold hands over the seat.

Five days before the wedding, the  orthopedic doc cut the cast off, took an x-ray, then came into the room to tell me with a straight face, “Your leg hasn’t healed the way I’d like it to, so we need to put the cast back on.”

”Oh no you don’t,” I told him. That cast is now an umbrella stand, and I’m outta here.”

My left leg wouldn’t bend willingly, so I was still on crutches when July 31 came around. I used Daddy’s arm to help get me down the aisle. When it was time to exit stage left, The Engineer whisked me off my feet and carried me out of the church. No, it wasn’t planned. I was every bit as surprised as the men you’ll see leaning to the right to avoid my size 5.5 saddle-clad left foot getting awfully close to their faces ‘cause The Engineer had eyes only for me back then.

The Dress . . .

Having missed the memo alerting me that Mothers of the Groom were to wear beige, stay out of the way, and keep their mouths completely shut, I invited my mother-in-law to go shopping for wedding dresses with my mother and me. “It’ll be fun,” I told her, “we’ll snag me a dress then go have lunch somewhere.” She agreed, my mother and I picked her up, and off we went – the bride and her two mothers.

We started at a shop at North DeKalb Mall, not so far from the Chambers’ house. I selected a dress with a higher empire waist, thinking it would hide all my rolls of fat . . . the flesh that only I saw when I looked in the mirror at my 98-pound self. I came out of the dressing room, both women liked it, and I said “Great, we’ll take it.” I stood as the pins were put in place for the person who would make the alterations, then asked, “Where will we have lunch?”

the bride, the groom, a young girl

The Other Dresses . . . 

I also have in my cedar chest, the dress Mother wore that night and the dress her mother wore that night. Three generations of dresses, one pink, one blue, one white. I wish I had the dresses Mrs. C and Nancy wore.

gold journal on old brown, white, and blue quilt. on cover of journal is Follow Your Heart.

The Stories . . . 

I’m delighted to tell you that earlier this year, The Engineer surprised me yet again earlier this year by agreeing to co-write our memories. I found matching journals at the dollar store in Denver, and told him the deadline is July 31, 2022. That’ll give me a year to merge the two journals (likely more, in my case) into one book. What a kick it’ll be to see what he remembers (and how much he gets right)!

red stitched letters on white dress with lace

The Plan . . . 

Oh, the things we keep. I am now stitching memories onto the skirt of the dress – slowly, so far, because there’s something about the possibility of COVID-19 lurking around every corner that slows me down and faster as we move towards the big Five-Oh mark. I have plans for the veil, too, and I still have the shoes (they are on display in my studio)  and the fingerless gloves Mother “encouraged” me to get. Who knows what I’ll do with all those accessories? Though I have no idea what to do with it, it seems I’m staging  an installation  – three generations of dresses, my veil, the shoes, gloves, photos, my wedding planning book, a box of napkins from the wedding, the book, my bouquet, and so many other things – and I’m calling it The State of Our Union. Stay tuned.


Post Script . . . 

Today, The Engineer marked the day by gifting me 3 pairs of new socks and 2 replacement bulbs for my photography lights. And me? I gifted him this blog post.


in and out


more and more
i do something i’m sure about in the moment
then doubt myself afterwards.
when emotional buyer’s remorse sets in.
when i feel overly exposed.
once i just lived with the doubt and the second-guessings,
but lately,
the Sweet Spirit of Surprise
seems to send me nods and whisperings of support.

last week I posted about
some rough spots in the road.
i opened my heart to you
telling you something
that we’ve talked about
around our table,
but never as openly as on a blog post,
and within minutes,
your loving support came pouring in
i came across
and the next day

i feel better
but not woohoo-great yet.
we met with surgeon #1 today
to talk about removing the thyroid.
no decisions yet.
there’s much to consider.
so much
given the fact that alison
is a professional actor and singer
and of course there’s the vitamin d
and depression.

i’ll keep you posted.

[ ::: ]


while i wrap the support of your outpouring
of concern, love, and information around me,
i find solace in cloth
with its ins and outs.

work on In Our Own Language 3 has begun in earnest.
it’s slow going.

each of nancy’s drawings takes about 1.5 hours to stitch.
it doesn’t look like it should take that long,
but it does.

there are 271 drawings in set 3.

[ ::: ]

i’ve been stitching nancy’s drawings since june 2012
and i’m still loving and learning with every single stitch.

my true childish heart


Came a package bearing a gift from my son. The handwritten note said he was late because he had trouble finding something special enough to commemorate the Big Birthday I celebrated on Valentine’s Day last. So what did he decide on? A vase. A shiny, gorgeous, handmade vessel.


Though he didn’t choose it with this in mind, the small opening is perfect for a woman who’s now in touch with her own mortality and firmly committed to being quite conscious and selective about what comes into those remaining years.


The somewhat extended neck, perfect for a woman who now feels tenured and firmly committed to speaking her mind without regard to being found pleasing or worthy or even sensible.


And oh my goodness, the glaze. The beautiful glaze of rich blues and greens – my favorite – peppered with small circles resembling crocheted doilies.

Or maybe . . . probably . . . Age Spots.

I feel another cloth project coming on, y’all . . .

[ ::: ]

“I learned to value only that which truly activates what is in my heart. I came to value those experiences which activate my heart as it really is. I sought, more and more, only those experiences which have the capacity, the depth, to activate the feeling that is my real feeling, in my true childish heart. And I learned slowly, to make things which are of that nature.“
[Christopher Alexander: The Nature of Order, The Luminous Ground]

136, Envoy: Little Moon

Today it’s “she draws”:

6 136 1 erased

And “she stitches” because today we have a guest stitcher:


none other than Little Moon, the daughter of Illuminary, Envoy in her own right.


Illuminary and I tuck each other in nightly, so I occasionally hear about Little Moon – about how charming and talented and smart she is – and when Illuminary told me what Little Moon said about Nancy’s cloth making her feel free, I up and asked if she wanted to stitch one. Fortunately she accepted, and today she finished this afternoon, sending these adorable photos.


(Isn’t that mermaid adorable? There’s a great story behind it. Get Illuminary to tell it to you sometime.) I forgot to ask Little Moon what kind of stitch she used, but it looks great from here, doesn’t it? Thank you, Little Moon. You’re a real treasure.



Nancy is my developmentally disabled sister-in-law, Nancy,
and I am Jeanne, the woman who flat-out loves her.
Go here to start at the beginning and read your way current.
And there’s a pinterest board, too.

take 2


today i stitched my way
through a block
on a piece i started
a while ago.
it was going well,
at first,
then i didn’t know
where to go next
so i laid it down.

but my hands
are so smart.
they pick up the cloth
and before you can say “thread,”
it is singing to me softly,
telling me
of all it

slows me down,
gives me space.
it amazes
and amuses me.


This month, because I live for non-conformity (and to keep from having to think of something to write about) I am participating in a challenge designed to celebrate Ralph Waldo Emerson’s 208th birthday. (Honestly, he doesn’t look a day over 112 to me.)

Today’s prompt:
Your genuine action will explain itself, and will explain your other genuine actions. Your conformity explains nothing. The force of character is cumulative. – Ralph Waldo Emerson, Self-Reliance

If ‘the voyage of the best ship is a zigzag line of a hundred tracks,’ then it is more genuine to be present today than to recount yesterdays. How would you describe today using only one sentence? Tell today’s sentence to one other person. Repeat each day.



Today I laughed
and stitched
and wrote like there was a
clearance sale on words
in a store that welcomes checks.


today i worked more on the scrying cloth, and as the needle moved steadily, rhythmically – quieting my brain chatter to the point i could hear myself feel – i pondered knots. like most fluent needleworkers, i was taught that the best and finest pieces don’t have knots, that the most skilled and talented needleworkers don’t even knot the end of their thread.


but most of the time now,
i knot the end of my thread,
simply covering my knots from view
with another piece of cloth
when the piece is finished
because the way i see it: knots are inevitable,
and sometimes necessary.

there was a time when
i did macrame,
tying knots to create
and plant holders,
and even a headboard.

there are knots we create as anchors
to grab onto when we feel
about to slip over the edge of the cliff.

there are knots that
hold skin pieces of skin together
so they can merge and heal.
and there are knots that indicate
the desired swelling after a spill or a fall,
letting us know that the body is healing itself.

there are knots that create fishing nets,
attach ski ropes to boats,
and the proverbial knots
that indicate two people’s commitment to each other.

scouts learn to tie knots to pass certain proficiencies,
and i’m here to tell you that
knowing how to tie those knots
is something you never forget
and one of the most valuable things to remember.

then there are the knots felt in the stomach
indicating there’s something needs attention,
that something that needs to be righted and resolved
to untie the knots.

and there are the seemingly inevitable knots
that form in relationships.
knots that aren’t as easy to untangle
as knots in necklaces
because these knots require
two people working together
to remove the knot,
and sometimes one person
yanks hard on their end of the rope,
making the knot tight and firm,
wanting the knot to provide separation
– at least for a while.
and until both people are ready,
the knot remains.

it’s scrying time again

we’re snowed in, living on a diet of popcorn and oreos. oops – scratch that. husband just finished the last oreo. looks like it might be another 2 days before we can get out of the driveway, or so says my husband who looks forward to being snowed in, but is quite susceptible to early-onset cabin fever.


i am seldom without my computer
and never without a pen, paper,
and all the bits of cloth and thread
i can get in a quart-size zip-loc bag.

for a change of pace,

i picked up thread and cloth.
the in and out,
the over and under
creates a soothing rhythm,
a salve for my soul.
it grounds me in my matriarchal lineage,
it is the calamine lotion to my inarticulate itch.

here on planet jeanne,
the beginning of a cloth piece
strangely resembles
the beginning of a word piece.

first: the itch
followed closely by: the yearning,
an unnamed longing.
then comes the pondering and circling;
then, finally
finally: the starting.
beginning with only the vaguest notion of what i am trying to create,
the barest whisper of what i am going to say.

vines with a southern accent

while all else diminished during the great depression, my friends, kudzu thrived. it absolutely thrived. back in the day (read: early 1900s), somebody brought some cuttings over from japan, and kudzu has made itself right at home ever since, aggressively staking its claim to the georgia landscape.

because i’m not so good maneuvering needle in a car barreling down the road towards home, i didn’t get much done on overgrown. i did, however, manage to crochet kudzu vines from embroidery thread. (which godfree interpreted as a feline pillow.)


waking up on memory lane

though my children are no longer in school (unless, like me, you count life as school – but we’ll save the philosophy for another day), i still operate on a school calendar. which means that the lazy, hazy days of summer are coming to an end. screeching to a halt. closing.

but wait: what lazy hazy days of summer?


i can remember waking up and just lying in bed, the birds singing me to consciousness, the day beckoning me with all the opportunities it held as treasures. i felt so, so . . . in control of my life. there was time in those summer days, and i spent it traveling through books; adding to my collection of words and thoughts in my notebooks; swimming in the lake as the bottom gushed up between my toes; painting my furniture with antiquing kits ordered from the sears catalog; carving my initials in a tree; rolling down hills (and coming home with grass-stained clothes to prove it); eating lunch at grandmother’s house – my plate filled with fresh vegetables we picked maybe an hour before devouring them.


i sewed, creating clothes i wore proudly. i stitched, grabbing something from the closet and embellishing it – transforming it – with decorative embroidery.

i added to the collage of photos that transformed my closet doors. i rearranged my furniture. i napped at will and without apology.

the days were leisurely full: deliciously, creatively, spaciously full.

am here in my beloved n.c. now – phoebe and i trekked up yesterday for a short visit. for reasons i cannot explain, the days are more spacious here – resembling those i remember so fondly – opening up to allow most anything i choose.

today i’ll be setting up my new computer (i do so hope it’s as easy as “they” say it is – am just transferring files from one apple laptop to another, but the hiccup is that the old laptop is really, really, really old while the new laptop is really, really, really new. am hoping my software will be able to make itself at home on the new playground.) and auditioning 3 paint colors for the exterior of the house: Zenful, Early Morning Mist, and Enlighten Mint. (i’m leaning towards enlighten mint – the color’s okay, but oohh those words.) (remember how i told you i collected words? sometimes just for fun, i go to the paint store and read names of paint colors.) (and you should see my collection of race horse names.)

i’m also looking forward to seeing a favorite cousin of mine . . . perhaps that’s the kindling for the nostalgic tone this morning. i do so enjoy our reminiscing – sometimes philosophically and psychologically, often humorously, always lovingly.

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Allow me to introduce myself . . .

Hey, Sugar! I'm Jeanne Hewell-Chambers: writer ~ stitcher ~ storyteller ~ one-woman performer ~ creator & founder of The 70273 Project, and I'm mighty glad you're here. Make yourself at home, and if you have any questions, just holler.

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