Tag Archives: women

All Shall Be Well

May 8th is Julian of Norwich Feast Day.

All Shall be Well

Embroidered “All shall be well” quote in frame by ShadowofMyHand on Etsy

And so our good Lord answered to all the questions and doubts which I could raise, saying most comfortingly: I may make all things well, and I can make all things well, and I shall make all things well, and I will make all things well; and you will see yourself that every kind of thing will be well… And in these… words God wishes us to be enclosed in rest and in peace. (Showings, p. 229)

This is the central message of her writings.

Who was Julian of Norwich (1342 – 1416?)  She was an anchoress, not a nun. She chose the life of solitude after she received her Divine ‘showings’ when she was a teenager. She became a hermit in order to devote herself to prayer and contemplation. And she counselled people  through a hole in the wall from her 10 x 10 foot anchorhold attached to the church. There she lived with her cat.

Julian of Norwich statueVery little is known of her early life, even her real name. What we know about her is gleaned from her book and from other contemporary writings. She was born in 1342 during the time of the Black Death. This was a very unpleasant age to live in England. The black death or plague led to very bad social conditions and the oppression of the poor. There was a shortage of labour, high taxes and bad harvests, prices were soaring and unrest was bound to follow. The climax of this unrest was the Peasants Revolt in 1381. The wider Church was also in a sorry state: the Religious Orders were at loggerheads, the Papacy had left Rome and was in exile at Avignon in France, and not half a mile from S. Julian`s Church, the early followers of the Protestant John Wycliff, The Lollards, were being burnt in the Lollards Pit, just the other side of the river. It is into this dire situation that the girl we know as Julian of Norwich who calls herself a simple, unlettered creature, comes bringing with her a message of divine love and hope.*

The world doesn’t sound too much different centuries later.

Dame Julian’s book is called THE REVELATIONS OF DIVINE LOVE the first book to be written in English by a woman.

In her book, Praying with Julian of Norwich, Gloria Durka writes, “Many people have explored the consolation and depth of Julian’s spirituality. For example, the last movement of T.S. Eliot’s poem Four Quartets links the twentieth-century poet with Dame Julian, who lived six centuries earlier:

WIth the drawing of this Love and the voice of this Calling
We shall not cease from exploration
And the end of all our exploring
Will be to arrive where we started
And we know the place for the first time….
And all shall be well and
All manner of thing shall be well….

With Julian’s optimism we are encouraged to see more clearly that pain in quelled by love and we can trust in the providence of a gracious God: “It is all in the choosing, it is all in the asking.” May we choose life over and over again.”

“All shall be well.”

Lydia McCauley All Shall Be Well


Red Fabric Baskets


These are coiled fabric baskets or bowls which I have sewn using strips of recycled women’s clothing over a jute rope core.

sewing red basket

Each can be used as a beautiful home decor piece for storing just about anything (other than liquids!).

But I have particularly designed these baskets to be purchased as Menses Rite of Passage Gift containers or First Blood Ritual Gifts.

Menarche rite of passage or first menses ceremony is when a girl gets her first period.  As an artist I want to support the empowering and honouring of women by creating coming of age ritual gifts (stay tuned for menopause baskets). Using a ceremonial rite-of-passage empowes a girl’s sense of feminine self-esteem, as well as provides a context for her family and friends to offer wisdom, support and intentional blessing. This can be done one-on-one with mother and daughter or any type of gathering designed particularly with that girl in mind.

Here are some books for finding menarche celebrations:
Becoming Peers: Mentoring Girls into Womanhood by DeAnna Lam
I Am A Woman By Rite by Nancy Brady Cunningham
Life Cycle Celebrations for Women by Marge Sears
Bringing Home the Light: A Jewish Woman’s Handbook of Rituals by E.N. Broner

And some websites supporting menses rituals:
Red Moon
Red Tents In Every Neighborhood

This On-The-Rag basket is a play on words of course. I think that a vessel made from recycled women’s garments, in particular, is a strong link to the matriarchal line, the blood line. A handmade vessel like this would make a lovely handmade gift all on its own and can be used in the home for so many purposes. Or use it as a gift container for any occasion. It’s got soft sides but holds its shape and is very textural. Each is one-of-a-kind.IMG_7067

For a First Blood/Menarche/Coming of Age ritual gift fill one of my baskets with items such as:

Book A Diva’s Guide to Getting Your Period  by DeAnna Lam
Cloth Pads https://www.etsy.com/ca/listing/127514073/cloth-pads-bamboo-organic-cotton-10
Red sarong https://www.etsy.com/listing/112644277/red-silk-scarf
Wine Glass https://www.etsy.com/listing/43314857/hand-painted-wine-glasses-poppies
Red Candle https://www.etsy.com/listing/113801427/red-soy-pillar-bloom-unscented-natural
Bath Bubbles https://www.etsy.com/listing/58984791/lemon-lavender-dead-sea-bath-salts
Massage Lotion https://www.etsy.com/listing/85679450/soothing-moon-massage-and-body-oil1-oz
Monthly Cycle Tea https://www.etsy.com/listing/122712246/historical-monthly-cycles-tea-for-ones
Goddess Figurine https://www.etsy.com/listing/113249826/ceramic-goddess-figurine-spiral-leaf
Jewelry https://www.etsy.com/listing/81795873/beaded-art-doll-purple-spirit-goddess
Journal https://www.etsy.com/listing/99908384/red-blank-leather-journal-or-sketchbook

And add a bottle of good red wine, red rose, fresh strawberries or add anything you think would make a young woman feel fabulous. You may purchase my baskets here.


How did you mark your coming of age?

But Will It Hold Water

For about a year I’ve been on a little journey which began when I picked up a brochure (can’t even recall where I got it), a call for entry for Threadworks: A Juried Exhibition of Needle Arts. This is an exhibition, organized every three years by the Ontario Network of Needleworkers’ (ONN) an amazing group of dedicated people, mostly women. Their mandate is to raise the profile of needlework to the general public.

The 2013 theme “Water” really excited me. Selection into the show would be made on the basis of interpretation of the theme (I always focus better if I work around a theme.)  A substantial part of the piece had to be made with a threaded needle and of original design. No kits here baby!

The theme of water is a timely one. Fresh water is our greatest natural resource. We are losing control and access to it, drop by drop. I believe the right to safe, clean drinking water is a human right. We are nearing the end of the United Nations International Decade For Action “Water for Life” 2005-2015.  Its’ resolution states:

“The human right to water is indispensable for leading a life in human dignity. It is a prerequisite for the realization of other human rights”. Comment No. 15 also defined the right to water as the right of everyone to sufficient, safe, acceptable and physically accessible and affordable water for personal and domestic uses.

Screen Shot 2013-04-12 at 10.57.50 AM

Water Quality

This really strong connection to clean water comes from my chemist father, W. M. Ward, who began the first public health laboratory in Manitoba in 1942. He chaired the Federal-Provincial Working Group on Drinking Water, the body who published the standards for Canadian drinking water quality in 1978. These are still in use today.

I have a compelling desire to be close to a large body of water on a regular basis. I need to hear the waves (no doubt this is why I named my Etsy store, WaveSong.) I grew up on the shores of Lake Winnipeg. It is the 10th largest fresh water lake in the world and the most eutrophied (that’s bad). It’s struggling to balance too much agricultural run-off, with excess nutrients and pesticides, and sewage discharge which causes toxic algae.*

For the last year I’ve had this idea of water and needlework sloshing around in my brain while the Threadworks Call For Entry sat on my desk. My intention was to make my entry in the summer. Last summer came and went. I totally forgot about the brochure. I actually didn’t even think about it again until this March when visiting our wonderful little local art gallery, Gallery in the Grove. Strewn on the entrance table were some Artist’s Call For Entry brochures from various Canadian galleries. Oh yah, now I remember! When I got home, I excavated the brochure from the pile on my desk. My brain woke up and my journey went into high speed. I had just over three weeks to get a piece from conception (but I did already have a small drop of an idea percolating) to completion. I looked at my calendar… not much booked. It was doable.


1960’s Lake Erie Chart

My basic idea was a coiled basket, a vessel, sort of a rag basket, but made from paper, particularly nautical charts or maps of the Great Lakes Erie, Huron and Ontario, recycled from my deceased uncle’s sailboat.

When it comes to my artwork, I’m a bit obsessed with recycling. Maybe it’s just because I’m super cheap when it comes to supplies. Or because, as my son calls me, I’m a ‘functional hoarder’. I scoop up thread, paper, old maps, rope, fabric, clothes, mostly all from yard sales and thrift shops. I don’t necessarily have a specific project in mind when buying. Everything gets added to my magpie stash. Any good artist needs a stash.

Actually containers are one of my favourite things. And maps. And I loved the idea of a vessel for this water-themed show. I’ve hand-stitched and machine-sewn lots of coiled baskets before. I had been experimenting with some techniques of sewing coiled baskets with paper instead of fabric.  After breaking numerous needles, what seemed to work was when I settled on one intended for sewing leather.

Sew….. I journeyed into constructing this vessel on my sewing machine.


Driving it for many hours I realized that the lake-like shape which I wanted to produce would be a bugger to fanangle on a machine. Unlike throwing a clay pot on a potter’s wheel, I couldn’t just go upwards equally on all sides which I normally do for most of my baskets. IMG_6870I wanted this one to look like a dried-up lake bed, a contour elevation map and a vessel all rolled into one!

The name for the piece sang out while I was  driving my machine…

“But Will It Hold Water”

Of course this is a play on words. When we have a new idea, “will it hold water?” is a term we use for “is it worthy, does it have merit?” There are holes in this basket. Would the vessel float? Our freshwater bodies, will they hold water? This convoluted idea of mine. My weird humour. Was it worth so much of my time? Yes, I needed to finish this journey.

The actually process of sewing is kind of fun, at the start. I’m visual and auditory. I like hearing the needle punch through the paper. But it’s really hard on the hands to wrap the paper tightly and maintain the angle of the work. And then, of course, the bobbin runs out at the most inopportune moment (enter expletive here….)  Stitching was a bitch and I nearly threw in the towel. But I had already put too much effort and time into the process to give up. Determined I was!IMG_6871

Gratefully, my artistic muse, who only lives a few doors down, dropped everything a scooted over. Her encouragement gave me the stamina to continue when my spirits were low, my hands were aching and I questioned why I was using one of the most difficult means of construction available to a needleworker.

Trust the process, I’ve been taught.


The piece morphed from an oval mat shape to a dried lake bed, 3D contour map to a wave-like pieces splashing around one end. In the end it really was a process. I was thrilled with the outcome. It was an idea which seemed to work. But would anybody else ‘get it’, most importantly the jurors? What artist doesn’t struggle with that need to translate one’s ideas into matter? The alchemy of spinning straw into gold.IMG_0383


And then I had to construct the shipping box. This is another story completely! If it got accepted into the show it also had the possibility of being chosen for the 3 year travelling exhibit. There were strict guidelines to follow in the Call For Entry.  In order to protect the vessel I had to build a large shell of styrofoam (so totally un-environmentally sound that this incongruity did not get lost on me) surrounded by corrougated cardboard. Help came from my wanna-be engineer husband.


On delivery day we drove the three hours to Fergus, Ontario, a lovely town in Mennonite country. I had not entered a juried art show in awhile. “What did I have to lose?” I kept telling myself. A small entry fee, a beautiful spring day outing with my daughter, and, oh ya, hours and hours hunched over the sewing machine! Over 150 entries to be juried and they would only accept about 50. I was a little nervous. I felt like I was leaving my baby at the doctor’s office. I would’t hear for a few days whether my effort would be recognized as the brilliant piece it was. : )


Well this morning in my ‘Inbox’ was the correspondence an artist lives for, recognition from your colleagues that you were on the right track. “But Will It Hold Water” was accepted into Threadworks 2103 and I also won a Juror’s Choice Award (happy dance)!! They did ‘get it’ and my message about fresh water is going to a wider audience to make viewers ponder.

Threadworks is a special project of ONN in association with Wellington County Museum and Archives. The inaugural exhibition is mounted there, then will travel to museums and galleries across Ontario.

If you would like to see my piece (which looks much more impressive in person, it’s very hard to photograph) I am inviting you to see this spectacular collection of needlework any time from April 20 until June 9, 2013 or join me at the Opening Reception and Awards Ceremony:  April 28, 2:00 to 4:00 pm, Wellington County Museum and Archives, Fergus, ON. (Stayed tuned for the obligatory award ceremony photos and the itinerary of the travelling exhibit. It may be on it’s way to a location near you.)

I thought my little journey was about to end. It just took a three year detour!

2013 Threadworks Poster

update: April 28, 2013 See Awards Ceremony post.

* To support the Lake Winnipeg Foundation, doing research on this terrible problem, please click here.

We are One Woman

This year, International Women’s Day focuses on ending violence against women — a gross human rights violation that affects up to 7 in 10 women and a top priority for UN Women. As commemorations are underway in all corners of the globe, “One Woman” reminds us that together, we can overcome violence and discrimination: “We Shall Shine!” Join us to help spread the word and enjoy this musical celebration of women worldwide.

From China to Costa Rica, from Mali to Malaysia, acclaimed singers and musicians, women and men, have come together to spread a message of unity and solidarity: We are “One Woman”.

Launching on International Women’s Day, 8 March 2013, the song is a rallying cry that inspires listeners to join the drive for women’s rights and gender equality. “One Woman” was written for UN Women, the global champion for women and girls worldwide, to celebrate its mission and work to improve women’s lives around the world.

For more information, visit http://song.unwomen.org

Lowly Kitchen Apron

lowly kitchen apron

The history of the cloth of the domestic goddess is fascinating. I received this anonymous prose in an email.

I don’t think our kids know what an apron is.

The principal use of Grandma’s apron was to protect the dress underneath, because she only had a few, it was easier to wash aprons than dresses and they used less material, but along with that, it served as a potholder for removing hot pans from the oven.

It was wonderful for drying children’s tears, and on occasion was even used for cleaning out dirty ears.

From the chicken n coop, the apron was used for carrying eggs, fussy chicks, and sometimes half-hatched eggs to be finished in the warming oven.

When company came, those aprons were ideal hiding places for shy kids.

And when the weather was cold, grandma wrapped it around her arms.

Those big old aprons wiped many a perspiring brow, bent over the hot wood stove.

Chips and kindling wood were brought into the kitchen in that apron.

From the garden, it carried all sorts of vegetables.. After the peas had been shelled, it carried out the hulls.

In the fall, the apron was used to bring in apples that had fallen from the trees.

When unexpected company drove up the road, it was surprising how much furniture that old apron could dust in a matter of seconds.

When dinner was ready, Grandma walked out onto the porch,  waved her apron, and the men knew it was time to come in from the fields to dinner.

It will be a  long time before someone invents something that will replace that ‘old-time apron’ that served so many purposes.

Send this to those who would know, and love, the story about Grandma’s  aprons.  Or it can be a good history lesson for those that have no idea how the apron played a part in our lives.


Grandma used to set her hot baked apple pies on the window sill to cool. Her granddaughters set theirs on the window sill to thaw.

They would go crazy now trying to figure out how many germs were on that apron.
I don’t  think I ever caught anything from an apron……

But Love !!

Check out all the vintage aprons I have for sale on etsy.