Laura Bruno Lilly

The road ends, but the journey continues...

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Thoughts Thought on The Longest Night MMXX

Can a 66 year-old woman begin her own designated Hero’s Journey? Again? Is it too late? Rather, is there time left in her life to dive into yet another Path that would surely reveal itself during that Journey?

In many ways, 2020 has been the dead-end to end the multiple dead-ends I’ve hit over the past few years in my creative life. One could say it has been the ending of an unconscious Hero’s Journey.

My generation has always championed the idea of jumping over one’s shadow. Elements of a traditional “Hero’s Journey” are hardwired into my everyday life. In fact, they were supported and modeled by my folks even as my life took shape. So, facing more adventures, twisty, turny changes, and making do are all just part of the mix. Mostly, knowing that in the midst of it all, surviving & thriving are not mutually exclusive and is a precious insight.

Somewhere along my (he)artist’s way, product and validation overtook process and creation. As such, the muse all but disappeared, the gift all but withered.

The focus to finish and get my project(s) ‘out there’ became so strong it obscured seedlings of exploration, experimentation and self-expression. And in the end, with little to show for that absorbing focus.

The good part to all of this is that the stubborn ruts I’d traveled were more easily seen for what they were – not an obstacle to the Path, but proof that I’d wandered from the Path.

So I have corrected my focus. I am firmly ensconced in choosing repertoire based upon pure desire to play/perfect what I want to play – not based upon some audience type or proficiency parameter. And the composing! Instead of keeping it in check so as not to overshadow my practice time and/or exploration of tangential instruments, I am fully leaning into those juicy sessions.

Yes, I have project(s) that are screaming to be ‘out there’. Many are in fact 99.9% ready to go…but I gave myself permission to just not angst over all the odds and ends I’m clearly not knowledgeable enough to do right now to finish them*.

In other words, I gave myself permission to do what I was meant to do: create music – play around with sound – and commune with the Giver of the Gift in doing so.


Meanwhile, this year marked the entry into one of my favorite type of birthdays – one of duplicate double digits. It’s just one of my things.

The last such marker was 5-5 Revive.

Surprisingly, this year’s spontaneously spoke forth as Route 6-6.

What? Taking to the road again, in this time of lock downs, life threatening environmental obstacles and lack of connection?

Yep. Maybe not literally, but certainly in allowing the muse, my music, to lead the way…instead of my dragging it along with me. Be the conduit, serve the Gift and enjoy the process.

If I am the only one to hear or see or understand what comes forth, then so be it.

But I’m willing to bet this ‘Hero’s Journey’ change in attitude might alter that solo scenario come 2021.


*That’s the extreme down side of all this DIY stuff that goes along with being an Indie (he)artist – having to do all the business stuff, packaging, marketing, registering, licensing, publishing, etc; and finding/hiring qualified people to do the production side of things. It simply is not as easily available as one would think. Not whining, just sayin’…

We all need more Christmas

(this year especially)

The fresh-cut tree stand down the road from us always sets up shop around November 11th and sells out of ‘fresh’ stock (highly contestable IMHO) around Thanksgiving. This has always confused me as the thought of needle drop before Christmas proper and indoor dry tree syndrome does make for a huge holiday fire hazard, if not messy house.

After living in the deep south for almost a decade, I’ve learned it’s common to start with the tree-in-the-house aspect of Christmas decorating to begin not the day after Thanksgiving – which has always seemed strange to me, too – but instead often several days before Thanksgiving. I’ve gotten used to this and kept my thoughts about this seemingly local quirkiness to myself – to each his own, right?

This year, that same stand began displaying its wares around the 17th of November. A tad later than usual. And, those trees did indeed sell out several days before Thanksgiving – after two full tree-lot re-stocking of product!

Meanwhile, I found myself spontaneously delighted to see the emergence of such local ‘normalcy’.

Perhaps it’s just me grasping at snippets of Joy. But why not lean into Joy – however seemingly small or passing?

If you suddenly and unexpectedly feel joy, don’t hesitate. Give in to it . . .

. . . Joy is not made to be a crumb.

from: don’t hesitate, by Mary oliver

Hubby and I agreed that maybe this year we’d get going with Christmas decos earlier than usual for us.

Almost two weeks ago, as I tidied the house up for our Thanksgiving ZOOM family feast, I also cleared away the place where our new 4ft, pre-lit, artificial tree would be set up for this year’s Christmas.

Why?

It felt good.

It made me happy and expectant.

Because:

We all need more Christmas.

This year, especially.

Go and enjoy choice food and sweet drinks, and send some to those who have nothing prepared. This day is holy to our Lord. Do not grieve, for the joy of the Lord is your strength.

Nehemiah 8:10 niv

Snowman table topper pictured in the featured image made by quilt-buddy Roseanne. (Flash wanted his picture taken, too!)

60/40 in favor of…

The tally’s in: 60/40 in favor of ‘expanding’.

Thank you, readers, for your well-thought out input on the matter.

Real numbers? 12 (60%) – ‘expanding’ and 8 (40%) – ‘ballooning’.

I admit, I leaned heavily in favor of ‘expanding’ from the get-go. The word just rolls off the tongue better. But the visual evoked with ‘ballooning’ is what had me teetering between the two. Alas, in my mind, the other – ahem – gasses associated in those images nixed its usage – plus it was a cumbersome word to intone within the context of the poem itself.

Well, that’s all there is to this post! I wanted to officially announce that the word ‘expanding’ beat out the word ‘ballooning’.

                  Making Bread - poem WIP
                         (LBL - MMXX)

Making bread
I become a Builder.

                   Hands kneading.
                   Yeasty gases expanding.

Making bread.
I watch as it shapes a story.

Pandemic Potpourri V

As mentioned before: herein I will blog, and commenters can comment, without feeling guilty about seeming to disregard the seriousness of our present COVID-19 Reality. In other words, this space is reserved for escaping/managing Reality – however that translates. Anything goes, so here goes!


Mariss' Kantha
October’s Kantha Piece by Mariss Stevens

First and foremost, I just had to show off this piece by my friend, Mariss. I’ve long admired her fiber art – and her curiosity about trying new techniques. After attending a course given at the South African National Quilt Festival in 2019 on Kantha stitching (pre-COVID – remember when?), she decided to experiment with the stitch form by making monthly samplers. As she says, “What has caught my imagination is how the simple running stitch can be used to produce such varied patterns and effects.”

Coincidentally, she began her samplers in January 2020 and they have since become a form of meditative creation for her as this year of the Pandemic has persisted & progressed. (click here and here for photos of each month’s sampler thus far)


Changing gears: How about a little help with my poem WIP? Below are two versions of Making Bread. If you feel so inclined, please read through both and then in the comments below let me know which word you prefer. I waffle between the two of them. Oh and, anybody notice the relationship between the Kantha piece above and something else on this blog post? If so, let me know about your discoveries in the comments.

Making Bread – poem WIP version #1:

                  Making Bread - poem WIP
                         (LBL - MMXX)

Making bread
I become a Builder.

                   Hands kneading.
                   Yeasty gases expanding.

Making bread.
I watch as it shapes a story.

Making Bread – poem WIP version #2:

                  Making Bread - poem WIP
                         (LBL - MMXX)

Making bread
I become a Builder.

                   Hands kneading.
                   Yeasty gases ballooning.

Making bread.
I watch as it shapes a story.

And last, but not least, just because this is how I’m feeling right now…

Neighborly Meals

A little over two weeks ago, our neighbor across the street tested positive for you-know-what.

Most are renters on this block* – us in tiny houses, others in an apartment complex, one door down from both of our houses. There is much coming and going noted as there are no garages to hide the ins and outs of any vehicle activity.

Or lack thereof.

Hubby’s the one who realized these neighbors, who both work and have a family of two young children, had become strangely silent. Their two vehicles hadn’t twitched a tire for quite awhile.

We quickly conferred and decided a neighborly check-in was more than appropriate.

Kireem is a special education teacher – close contact with students is just part of the very nature of his job – hence the inevitable occurred. He was thus in quarantine with the rest of the household placed in self-isolation.

Speaking through our masks, a decent distance from their doorway, we offered our services as neighbors – asking Michele if we could do errands for them but especially offering our specialty of making meals. When asked if she wanted a meal that evening or the next, Michele piped up and said, “Yes, please, tonight!”

Aside from the seriousness of the reasons why I got to make a meal for them, it felt good to be ‘hands on’ helping out others in these isolating times. This is what I do best in such circumstances.

That night’s quickly thrown together dinner menu?

My basic Rigatoni with Spicy-Sweet Meat Sauce**, my normal ‘house salad’ and a batch of my Loaded Brownies (minus one ingredient).

Next week when we delivered another meal, 4 year old Aminah was by her mom’s side. What a delight to see Aminah’s excitement over what was for dinner that evening!

That night’s menu?

Our family’s version of Cassoulet** (Cassoulet Italiene) with a loaf of Ma’s Hardcrust Bread, a Mandarin Orange salad, and plenty of freshly grated cheeses, Italian peppers, a stick of butter and other condiments to make it extra special. Oh and a huge loaf of my middle daughter’s Choco-nut Banana Bread for either dessert, breakfast the next morning or both.

And this story has a happy ending: as of a few days ago, I’m relieved to report that Kireem and family are out and about – completely COVID- free.


Give thanks to the Lord, for he is good; his love endures forever.

Psalm 118:1

*Our block is the dividing line between renters and homeowners – on the fringe of the ‘true’ neighborhood.

** Every family has their own versions of these basic, hearty dishes – cooked with (he)art and by (he)art!

October’s Almost Over

But before it slips away, I have two things to say...

coffeebean birthstone

#1 – October is my birth month, I hereby claim a dual birthstone – the traditional, beloved opal alongside the lowly, but highly charged coffee bean!

#2 – Boo! From me to you…

…and with a little help from my neighbors.

Working with Metallic Threads 2

As promised, what follows is part two in this set of blog posts featuring info I found on machine stitching with specialty threads as applied during the creation of “Bright Delight”.

Now that we’re armed with the knowledge of the characteristics of specialty threads and have rule #1* firmly in mind, we’re ready to get on with the business of sewing with metallics.


Regardless of how the specialty thread is wound on the spool (cross wound or stacked), both types feed best from the vertical spindle**.

Modifying the thread path from spindle to the first thread guide of the sewing machine is a key factor in controlling the natural curl of specialty threads.

Instead of purchasing a specialty thread stand attachment for my Bernina***, this is what I came up with after much consideration, research and trial & error. It works beautifully and didn’t cost me a cent.

With the specialty thread now safely and gently guided through the machine, here are a few more tips, tools and settings to further facilitate successful stitching:

  1. Reduce upper thread tension (lower number) and increase stitch length – sew on sample fabric and adjust as needed. (suggested settings – #2 tension and #3 stitch length)
  2. Suggested foot – wide toed embroidery foot as it will accommodate both straight and decorative stitches. (#20 Bernina foot)
  3. Use only a Metallic or Topstitch needle as both have larger eyes and accommodate the special needs of these threads. (I prefer a Schmetz 90/14 Metallic needle as it has a polished eye which prevents snags specific to metallic thread)
  4. Use a fine, light weight ‘bobbin’ thread or plain, smooth polyester thread (not cotton!), or even a metallic thread in the bobbin. (I used the ‘bad’ skinny spool metallic thread as mentioned in part 1 in the bobbin which added an extra sparkle to the back of the quilt)
  5. Practice settings on sample fabric, adjust as needed and Sew Slow! (I used the ‘half-speed’ setting for starters to get the hand of it)

Now, go forth and work with those metallic threads!


(for general reference: here and here)

*Rule #1 is to Sew Slow.

**Yes, this goes against the norm of pairing cross wound spools with the horizontal spindle and stacked spools with the vertical spindle.

*** While there are a variety of specialty thread stand attachments available for most sewing machines, I opted to forgo the investment of one for the time being. 

Family travels MMXX

Good Morning/Afternoon/Evening!

We’re back from our jaunt up to Michigan to visit our middle daughter and son-in-law. In fact, we’ve been there and back since Tuesday*.

But wait – I bet you didn’t even know we were away from our COVID cage nest. Surprise!

After some deliberation, we decided it was a reasonable risk worth pursuing – traveling during a narrow window of reduced regional COVID-19 surges and seasonal transitions**.

We packed up the 2003 Jeep Liberty and drove the 14-16 hrs straight through as we always do because we just like to drive. And because we’re all needy about seeing and being with Family.

Armed with my easy-to-reach ‘COVID’ box filled with sanitizer, wipes, paper towels, half can of precious Lysol Spray, all of our cloth masks plus a 5 pack of disposable gloves and the usual travel food box, duffles, pillows, and blanket, we were set to go. In addition, I carefully packed my Bernina, assorted notions, fabric scraps & batting bits and neatly nested all of that in with everything else.

Hubby secretly recorded us getting ready for our photo pose – notice Jude, the quilt eating kitty, sharing the couch with us

Say what? A sewing machine?

Often when we visit, I pack up Maddy to get a hands-on lesson at Elderly Instruments in Lansing with Neil Woodward but that wasn’t an option this time around due to COVID-19. Instead, I was on a sort of rescue mission – to repair as best as possible the three quilts kitty Jude chewed huge holes into since our last visit.

I’m happy to report that two of those quilts are 100% repaired. The third is ready for handstitching. Michelle is eager to begin repairs once I send her the appropriate fabric in sizes larger than I brought with me.

But of course, this trip was more than the sum of its seams…(groan).

Michelle Lilly Solorio, PhD 2020

We had a delayed in-house (pun intended) Family ‘hooding’ ceremony*** celebration, with Michelle gliding down the stairs of their 100 yr old home (there’s the punny connection) in full PhD regalia to the recorded traditional tune of ‘Pomp & Circumstance’.

We shared time around the Family table, spitting opinions (okay, too graphic for sure) between bites of fantastic food.

Took long walks, a Sunday Drive and spent plenty of time just ‘being’…

…Together…


*We drove off Thursday September 24th and returned on Tuesday September 29th

**Timing is indeed everything as both factors have since dramatically shifted.

***Official University ceremony postponed, now cancelled due to COVID-19.

Working with Metallic Threads 1

As promised, what follows in this new set of blog posts is an accounting of info I found on machine stitching with specialty threads as applied during the creation of “Bright Delight” – with a few extra tidbits thrown in for good measure.

Interested? Read on!


Who hasn’t been tempted to buy a spool or two of those lovely specialty threads?

Such eye popping glittery glam about the size of a lipstick bursting with promises of inspirational fantasies yet to be created:

Metallics cry out to be used!

If the price is right – say, a 2 for 1 sale – they fairly leap their way into a quilter’s shopping basket ready and willing to be experimented with once brought back to one’s sewing space.

And then again, who hasn’t been foiled* by those very same enticing spools?

Machine stitching with these beauties ain’t easy, but they can be tamed for use by everyday quilters like you and like me with a few tricks and tweeks.

It all starts with an understanding of the basic properties of these specialty threads and then progresses towards mastery of their usage.

Let’s begin.

*yep, pun intended!


All threads consist of fiber strands wrapped around a central core. In specialty threads, the core determines the stretchiness of the overall thread itself.

  • Rayon core metallics – no stretch
  • Polyester or nylon core metallics – various levels of stretchiness

In general, metallics are made by wrapping slivers of metal foil or tinsel around one of those core types. As a final product, metallics aren’t very strong and break easily.

red rotary landline phone with cord
curly cord on a red phone like we had in the rec room during my teenage years!

In addition, metallics have a greater propensity towards curling, twisting and tangling than other threads. The basic drape of a thread as it comes off the spool can range from straight, slighty wavy, tangled, or curly like an old-fashioned landline telephone cord! Different manufacturing methods, brands and quality of workmanship all contribute to these variances in threads – affecting specialty and metallics to a significant degree.

Interestingly, the diameter of the spool on which the specialty thread is wound is the most determining factor in the amount of ‘thread memory’ affecting ease of use. ‘Thread memory’ refers to the thread’s permanent wave that tends towards twisting when coming off a spool.

Because metallics ‘keep their coil’ they sew better from a larger spool than from the more tightly wound skinny spools commonly sold in retail stores. And yes, the photo at the head of this post is of several skinny spools of metallic threads I do indeed possess! However, I used an ‘old’ spool of copper metallic thread from my thread stash on my Bright Delight African wall-hanging here recently. Of unknown origin & brand, it also happened to be wound on a larger diameter spool…here’s to the wisdom of the 1990s!

Now quilters, as thrifty, recycling types, I know you are wondering what to do with all those ‘bad’ skinny spools of metallic threads. Seems counter intuitive, but they can be used in the bobbin! ‘Bad’ metallics work well in that application since tension and twisting are not an issue in the bobbin. Furthermore, they can be used with most any type of upper thread.

Of course, rule #1 on sewing with these threads – whether in the bobbin or as an upper thread – is to Sew Slow.

In any case, a special machine set-up for sewing with metallics and specialty threads is essential for successful stitching and will be discussed in greater detail in my next installment: Working with Metallic Threads 2.

(For a nice recap overview of metallic thread characteristics go here)

r.i.p. RBG

Ruth Bader Ginsburg: A Woman of Substance*

You can disagree without being disagreeable.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

You can’t have it all, all at once. Who – man or woman – has it all, all at once? Over my lifespan, I think I have had it all. But in different periods of time, things were rough. And if you have a caring life partner, you help the other person when that person needs it.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg

*characteristics of a person of substance and an excerpt from the book, In Praise of Difficult Women, by Karen Karbo about RBG

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