Thursday, December 29, 2011

Photo Doodle

Happy New Year!

Puddle Ice

Monday, December 19, 2011


About a month ago I was driven to the basement by the increasing noise on the ridge immediately across from our house, but I managed at least to get some dyeing done as I fumed and inveighed against our fate and the gas drilling companies who were changing our beautiful, quiet county. When the noise lessened enough for me to emerge and work again upstairs, I knew I had to set other projects aside and somehow put what I was feeling into fabric. So I did some sketches, pulled out my hand-dyes, and "Fracked" was born:
And yes, those seams on either side of the black line are not meant to line up. I wanted the presence of the trucks to be one of the issues this quilt dealt with and it just so happened that a motor grader and some dump trucks had been working recently on our road and there were lots of tire tracks in our driveway and in the soft soil on the roadsides so I could easily find a track to copy.  I finally settled on fused tulle for the tracks and it did just what I wanted. 
The quilt is now hanging in the VESTA show at the Gmeiner Art and Cultural Center and I have heard many comments from a number of people, most of them feeling that I was providing an image for their own feelings of frustration, dismay, even despair over the changes that are taking place here. But it is a complicated issue. We heat our home with natural gas, and I had always felt gas was one of the cleanest forms of energy, although I am finding that this particular form of extraction significantly lowers its cleanliness rating. And I certainly do not begrudge the elation of those residents who can stay in the place they love and make more than a subsistence wage or those farmers who can now afford to take a vacation or replace a leaking roof. 

And then there were the two women from Arkansas and Oklahoma (if I remember correctly) who were spouses of gas workers and who came to the opening reception and wanted to talk to me about my quilt. "But the gas workers are being very careful," they said, "and this area is still beautiful."  I tried to explain the changes I was seeing, things they might not notice if they were used to living in a more industrialized area, and the dangers we feared from a spill or a leak that would suddenly take away our drinking water or poison livestock or wildlife or the air pollution that would increase the likelihood of chronic or fatal diseases. And they spoke of their concerns of being ostracized. I felt we had a good talk because we were both honest about our views; I hope they felt the same way.

Actually, I had an easier time talking with them than with the woman who came up and said she appreciated the humor in my quilt. "Hmm," I said, "I hadn't thought of it that way."  "Well," she said," you could take the quilt either way--those tire tracks could be a good thing or a bad thing."  "Hmmm," I said.

And if you are still with me after this longish journey, thanks for the company!

The Shortest Day of the Year

A reminder to me today that Nature does not perform according to expectations like a well trained circus animal: a little snow was predicted for last night and I was going to combine a picture of that with one of Mary Oliver's insightful poems as a solstice post. But there was no snow and so I thought about a sunrise picture--too cloudy at sunrise. My last resort was to take my camera on my morning walk with Terra--too rainy to take the camera any further than the front porch.

So today we must find beauty in a puddle. . . .

and celebrate a cold December rain, the long darkness, and the coming light. Happy Solstice!

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Challenge Finale

Earlier this week our local challenge group got together to share what each of us had made out of the "challenging" fabrics we had each been given two months ago. And here is what I came up with:

My main inspiration came from the flaming red hand-dye Louise had given me. Of course, the one hand-dye would be inspiring! The rest were all commercial prints, something I haven't used much of in a number of years. I spent many days contemplating those fabrics, but one morning after coming back from a yoga class, where we always end with what our teacher calls the flame mudra--palms of the hands pressed together in prayer position and then raised and held over our heads, I looked at the fabrics and realized I could use this image in quilt.  This is a meaningful pose for me, coming as it does after an hour of slowing down and focusing, and also reminds me of the flame hovering above the buddha's head on ancient statues.

I decided to try to create the flames with reverse applique and also to make the flames dark and the background red instead of the other way around. I made selective cuts from the Asian fabric that had a variety of gray patterns as well as some solid black areas and added some light gray of my own to create some value changes in the flames. I also decided to take a chance and make the flame off center by adding that strip of my own hand-dyed yellow down one side only.  Those pesky checks, which I thought I was going to have trouble using since they were too dominant as flames, became part of the border. So I ended up using all four of the fabrics given me, although the actual challenge only required us to use two.

The quilting was fairly simple with an outlining stitch around the flames, and I wanted some texture on the yellow strip so I added some perle cotton in a different pattern from what I had used before.
This little quilt measures about 15" x 11 1/2" and just about used up all the four pieces of fabric.

And this week we got to ooh and aah over all the quilts.  The fabrics were all different, of course, and the styles were amazingly different as well: Peggy's fancy circles that enabled her to use her circle stitcher on her machine, Louise's meditative Asian-inspired piece that became an homage to her mother, who had just passed away;  Anya's successful venture into improvisational curves inspired by Gee's Bend; a clever barn by Nancy that will help her grandson learn to open various fasteners; Dori's frazzled and frayed circles whose raw edges represented her mood at this time of year.
Susan, our seventh member, had hung around her grandchildren too much and ended up sick, but you can read about her adventures with the challenge on her blog.

I would say our group is off to a great start, wouldn't you?  And if you are still with me, thanks for reading.

Friday, December 9, 2011

Art with a Friend

A month or so ago a friend who had just moved to the Syracuse area from Missouri invited me to come see her new home and go with her to the Art=Quilts=Art exhibit at the Schweinfurth Memorial Art Center, an irresistible invitation. Now driving the two-plus hours toward Syracuse at this time of year is challenging (and the reason I never got to the show last year), and the weather did what it could to make me question my decision to go yesterday:
It had snowed a good part of the evening before, but I didn't see a single snowflake fall during my drive, just glorious landscapes as the snow highlighted the lines of trees on the mountains.

I often like to see art exhibits and particularly quilt exhibits by myself, moving at my own pace without having to worry about someone else looking surreptitiously at her watch as I stand contemplating a particular piece, but my afternoon with Mary Lou reminded me of the advantages of sharing this experience. Mary Lou is not a quilter and probably saw more art quilts yesterday than she had seen in the rest of her life, but she is a keen observer and does sew. She quickly caught on to my need to stand back and then move close to a work, even calling me over to see the tiny red stripe in what looked like white lines on black from a distance in one of Kathy Loomis' quilts. 

And we looked for patterns together and tried to figure out techniques and commented on things that drew us to a particular quilt. We noticed different things and it made for a most enjoyable afternoon. Of course we were surrounded by strong works of art that were capable of holding our attention and worthy of the time we spent with them. I could have spent much more time there but the sun was continuing to move across the sky and I did not want to drive my entire trip home in the dark.

So thank you to the weather gods for allowing me to slip between snow storms and thanks, Mary Lou, for your hospitality and companionship!

And if you are still with me, thanks for your company as well!

Sunday, December 4, 2011

Even More Local Art

Every December VESTA, a group of local professional artists and craftswomen, gather some of the pieces they have been working on over the course of the year and create an exhibit at the Gmeiner, the local art & cultural center here. Its opening coincides with the town's big holiday festival, Dickens of a Christmas, when Main Street is closed to traffic and becomes wall-to-wall people ebbing and flowing around vendors set up on the sidewalks. I have no pictures of the crowd this year because I spent the whole day talking to visitors to the gallery.

We are an eclectic group as this shot of a corner of the gallery shows:
Here you see hand-dyed and hand-woven scarves by Ruth Ann Miller, baskets hand woven from willow Patty Dillman grows herself, aprons made by Barb Most with pockets made from old handkerchiefs and other linens or photographs from the thirties, cards designed and hand colored by Linda Hoerner (who also makes jewelry), a quilt or two, of course, and on the bench an in-progress lace project by Judie Mainus. 

Kathy Cummings painted, among other pieces, a three-part series in oil, cleverly depicting a little girl's coming-of-age through her shoes.
And Alyson Leach, who also works in oils, included several pieces from her Vanishing Landscapes series in the show:

My photos of Alice Mickey's beautiful clouds done in pastels that you can see on the back wall of the gallery  need a retake and will be added later.

And there was more: jewelry made from re-purposed elements by Ali Taylor, glass beads and jewelry by Kathy Riley and Jen Kuhn, who also makes felted art fabric from alpaca wool.

I think our diversity adds energy to this exhibit; it certainly adds it to our conversations when we get together.

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Local Art

The best way to experience art, of course, is to see the real thing--to stand in front of the original and see the texture and color and line the way the artist put it on the canvas or created it out of fabric or stone or wood. Getting regular doses of original art can be a challenge for those of us who live in the less urbanized parts of the country and so I decided to take advantage of the opening of a show in the surprisingly impressive gallery at Penn College in Williamsport (about an hour from where I live) a couple of weeks ago.  The art of Virginia Bradley and Chris Malcomson from Philadelphia was on display, two very different artists who happen to be married to each other.

Malcomson works on huge squarish canvasses taller than I am. He does a lot of underpainting (a technique that could be akin to overdyeing?) so that when he is finished his paintings glow with color. In his talk he spoke of his love of Rothko and other painters who suggest thresholds in their paintings, inviting us to go through the painted surface.

"Reaching" is one of the pieces he showed us and my image of it is from the publicity for the show.

He said his goal was to "paint stuff that was trying to add something to people's lives," and he said it in his British accent so it became even more significant.  "As life gets busier, art should go slower" so it becomes a place "where people can stop and go inside themselves and then go anywhere they want." His paintings certainly slowed me down as I stood in front of them and soaked in the strong blues and reds with hints of many other colors breaking through.

Bradley establishes a dialogue with the images in her work and there is much activity in her pieces. She layers prints over a variety of backgrounds and then adds layers of paint and other media over them.
She created one very interesting layer by pouring molten pewter over a print of girls in classical Rome and then carving into it to create even more texture. Her fearless experimentation was infectious.

I came away thinking about art and its meaning and purpose as well as color and texture and experimentation--all making the trip worthwhile. The show is at Penn College until Dec. 11.

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!

Tuesday, November 22, 2011

Happy Thanksgiving

To all my friends and mentors who make art with fabric or paint or paper or glass or words or pixels or a million other media, thank you for sharing your thoughts and your laughter with me, for giving me just the right word of encouragement when I needed it, for inspiring me with your work and creativity, for helping us all see this world  and ourselves a little differently.
Ice Flowers formed by frost heave
From a walk with Terra Thanksgiving 2011

Monday, November 21, 2011

Féileacán 2

Last year the little Celtic knotwork butterfly that I made for Ami Simm's Alzheimer's Art Quilt Initiative sold so quickly at the VESTA show that I decided to stage a repeat performance. Well, I did my part of the performance; let's see if anyone buys it. If someone does, the proceeds I get after the gallery takes its slice will go to AAQI; if nobody buys it, the quilt itself will go to the AAQI auction.
This one is the same knotwork pattern as last year but with some color, background, and body changes. I started this after the last one sold, thinking I would add the butterfly pattern I created to the Celtic knotwork class I teach and would use it as a sample. But, due to a long list of obligations, the class did not happen in the summer. Perhaps next summer--but that would mean I should get started on another butterfly.

These are, by the way, my hand-dyes, except for the commercial purple batik.  I had a tough time making the body stand out from the purple and finally decided to edge it in two colors of couched perle cotton---light blue and dark purple and I think it works.

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!

Friday, November 18, 2011


Since I had finished what had become my comfort quilting, I decided to go back to work on my Doodle Squares to keep up my free motion quilting practice. After all, the VESTA show is fast approaching and I have less than half the number that I had last year to sell. And decided to move from the safety of the well known pattern to the risk of trying something new.

Now if you know me well, you know drawing is not my strong point. But I have learned that if I really, really, really look at something, there is a much better chance that I create a good-enough approximation of it. And if I can draw it, I can perhaps quilt it as well. I have been quilting oak leaves and other smooth edged leaves for years, but I always wanted to do a free-motion maple leaf. I have been studying, i.e., really, really, really looking, at sugar maple leaves on my early morning walks with Terra for the past month or so and remembered reading somewhere that if you start with the veins, it's easier to draw a leaf. I tried a couple with pencil and paper and lo and behold! they each looked like a good-enough maple leaf. So on to thread and fabric:

Now, it's lucky for me that no two maple leaves look exactly alike so there is a great range of acceptability and I think I could use some more practice getting the shape a bit fuller but I was pleased that my first attempts did resemble maple leaves--closer than I have ever gotten before.

Usually my Doodle Squares are reversible and for the back of this one I had chosen a batik that I loved with these great green dots on it. But--repeat after me--a print or heavy texture hides quilting stitches.  I know this from years of trying to hide my quilting stitches, but, for some reason, I forgot that cardinal rule when I was choosing the fabric.  The leaves are difficult enough to see on the top but on the back they become an excellent example of camouflage, a Can-you-find-the-hidden-leaves-in-this-picture game.
I even outlined all the leaves in a dark purple that should have contrasted with the background. They still didn't show up.  Oh, well. . . 

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company.

Saturday, November 12, 2011


During the past few weeks whenever I couldn't figure out what to do next on my current quilt project I have been steadily working on the background quilting for a largish quilt. When I decided on this pattern--what I call an interrupted meander--that would cover a large border section, I knew it was the right decision but thought I would become achingly bored with it.
Now I like this pattern and have used it before. It suggests a leafed vine to me, but only suggests it. But there would be so much of it this time. 

Well, I finished it up last week and I am finding I miss it. It was safe and comfortable. I could do it easily and no decisions needed to be made. I just switched to my free motion quilting foot, put down my Supreme Slider, popped on the appropriate thread and simply quilted for a while.  I didn't need to worry that the slice I was about to make through the quilt top would ruin it or the tulle I was about to fuse down wouldn't work or even figure out how I was going to quilt the little quiltlet I am working on. 

While always living in a completely safe and predictable world is not healthy for artists and other living beings, it sure is nice to visit once in a while.

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company. 

Monday, November 7, 2011

And the lemonade

Amazingly, we have had two blissful days of relative quiet up here on our hill--not as quiet as it was two years ago but a distanced background noise--until this afternoon when the noise levels began to ramp up again. But I did manage to get a lot done during those two days--including rinsing out the contents of those dye buckets from my last post. I will share a few samples with you.

Several of my pieces were overdyes, attempts to rectify a dye job gone bad for some reason or simply another planned layer in a process. I had dyed several gradations of a burgundy a while ago that turned out looking unpleasantly like dried blood and so I added a layer of ultra violet and those pieces came out looking like this:

And I jazzed up a couple of lifeless browns with a little yellow:
I added a green background--the green didn't photograph very well so just imagine this a bit greener--to one of my flour paste crackles and suddenly those lines began to look a little like trees.
I couldn't resist doing another of my lined dyes and made this one vertical:
And I am playing around with these strange little squiggle shapes that I am finding intriguing:

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!

Friday, November 4, 2011

Making Lemonade--or new fabric

Yesterday I couldn't stand it any more. Gas drilling has taken over our beautiful, rural county and, while I complained about the huge trucks on the roads and the number of fields sprouting bulldozers, water tanks, and drilling rigs and worried constantly about our water supply, I could always retreat to the relative quiet of our hill. Yes, we had wells drilled within hearing distance a year ago but the sound was muffled by hilltops and was only really a problem when all was quiet. But for the past month the pad over the hill has been enlarged to the top of the hill and now machinery noises bouncing off the hills sound like a motor grader is driving back and forth in our driveway.

I didn't realize how much I cherished a quiet space to work in or a quiet walk in our woods with Terra to start my day--they fire up their trucks and graders as soon as it's light out. Unable to work yesterday, I retreated to the basement to dye fabric where the machine noise was not so prominent.

And today I get to see what surprises come out of all my dye buckets and bins. I had a friend once who loved to say, "If life gives you lemons, make lemonade." In fact, she said it so often it became really annoying--perhaps that's why the noise surrounding me reminded me of her.  Anyway, making lemonade out of these lemons that life has handed Tioga County is becoming increasingly more difficult.

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!

Wednesday, November 2, 2011

Unfamiliar Territory

Finding your way out of a place that is unfamiliar is supposed to stimulate your brain and sharpen your problem-solving skills, and perhaps it draws out that elusive creative spirit. At least that is what a small group of local quilters is putting to the test in a challenge we have given ourselves. We each drew a name of another member of the group and then a few days later presented her with four fat eighths of fabric that were out of her comfort zone. She was then to use at least two of these fabrics in a quilt less than 16 inches square.

Now my comfort zone is clearly delineated since I have been using my own hand-dyes or commercial hand-dyes or batiks for a number of years so I knew some commercial prints were bound to come my way and so they did:
The upper left is a tiny floral and of course there are more flowers in the Asian fabric. That black check is going to really push my limits, but my challenge mate took it easy on me with that beautiful hand-dyed red.  After the first few days of staring stupidly at these four fabrics, I began to try a couple of things and have to admit I'm having fun right now. We'll see how I characterize the process when it is further along. And things could have been much worse.  You can check out what Anya, who loves bright colors, got, but it was hard to challenge Susan, who uses all kinds of fabrics in her quilting. 

And if you are still with me, thanks for the company!

Wednesday, October 26, 2011

The Emergence of the Butterfly

Now that I am home again and am somewhat recovered from trying to pretend that I can keep up with bottomless energy of a three and a half year old I have put some serious effort into finishing that baby quilt. I had done quite a bit of the quilting and had even finished the machine part of the binding sewing--must have had some premonition that this baby was going to be early--before I left. So I was able to sew the binding down while I was away.

And the quilt looked something like this when I returned:

The butterfly actually had no antennae when I began work.and I had to make two attempts before I got them right. The first was a sparkly black heavy thread that I had begun couching when I realized that the thread was scratchy and a tender little baby cheek would not fare well rubbing against those antennae. But, as often happens when something doesn't work out, I found something better--that soft, fuzzy silk sari yarn
I also quilted a spiral shape on the yellow sun circle and added some rays--or petals--around it.
 But I kept being bothered by something. I kept telling myself that this was not an art quilt and that all those embellishments I kept wanting to add would not work on a baby quilt that would be washed and that this quilt needed to be done and sent off so I could get on with other things. Not being able to leave it alone, however, I decided to add another image and finally hit upon something that would be a complement to the lively flight of a butterfly and mirror the spiral in the sun.
I added a little snail and suddenly the composition was complete and I felt satisfied. It still isn't a complex art quilt--that's not what it's supposed to be--but I am much happier with it. It also now has gained some Aesop-like symbolism--a reminder that there are times we can fly and times we must slow down.

So what do you think? Am I just fooling myself that that snail improved the composition or did it add something? Or do you think it looked fine before? Of course, there is always the possibility that you don't like it at all and no matter what I added you still wouldn't like it. And ultimately, the most important opinion will come from Abigail.

Whatever you think, if you are still with me, thanks for the company!

Thursday, October 20, 2011

October Leaves

I don't know whether anyone else will think this is pretty cool, but on my walk with Terra yesterday I was keeping my eyes on the ground since, thanks to several rain storms, that is where the color is now, and right in front of me appeared a Halloween leaf:
I am at a loss as to what critter may have created these mask-like holes, but my three-and-a-half year old granddaughter could make a great story out of this.

And lest I be accused of writing too many non-quilt-related posts, I should let you know that I was actually looking at the leaf litter as a source of inspiration for the series of quilts I'm doing with leafy litter backgrounds like this one:
And if you are still reading, thanks for the company!

Sunday, October 16, 2011

My Favorite Color

Butterfly bush: no butterflies but a beautiful surprise in October in Massachusetts.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

The Baby and the Butterfly

Even as a child, I loved butterflies, and even though they have become rather overused and a bit too romanticized, I still am fascinated by them and their possibilities for symbolism. Rabindranath Tagore wisely said, "The butterfly counts not months but moments and has time enough," but time beat me on this butterfly project.

Thanks to my son and his wife, I had another grandchild due October 22 and of course a quilt was due as well. I had made her big sister a quilt with butterflies and tried out all sorts of possibilities but finally kept coming back to the butterfly.
I decided to keep the design simple since, as I kept reminding myself, this is not an art quilt but a quilt for a baby to use. You may notice that, simple as it is, this quilt is not finished. I had begun the quilting when I got the call on October 5 that Sarah was having some serious contractions, and the next day I was on my way to Massachusetts to help welcome Abigail--with an unfinished quilt in the car.

Right now I am piecing together the moments of holding a tiny new bit of life, who knows how to yawn magnificently and puts a yoga teacher to shame with her stretches, helping a very articulate three-and-a half year old figure out what this new title of big sister means, and making healthy meals and doing whatever else I can  for two sleep-deprived adults. And there will be time enough for all these things--and quilting, too.

Wednesday, September 28, 2011


Look what was in my mailbox yesterday morning hidden among all the requests for support for worthy causes, the junk mail, and the catalogs:
Three postcards from the postcard swap I entered last month!  They are all on the theme of "A summer's day" but each of the creators (Frieda Oxenham from Scotland, Julie Wolkoff from Florida, and Laurie M.) has a very different interpretation. They certainly brightened up a dreary fall day.

Tuesday, September 27, 2011

My Favorite Colors

It happens every year but it still comes as a beautiful surprise to see the fields glowing with the yellow goldenrod with blue purple accents from the field asters.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

PNQE Thoughts

It's been a very busy week since I dragged myself out of bed at 4:30 AM to catch a bus for the Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza XVI (In a contest for titles of quilt shows, that one would certainly not win a prize). And I treated myself this morning to a few quiet moments of looking over the photos I took there.

When we first arrived I started my tour of the quilts and was moving fairly quickly, noting an interesting one here and there but nothing that pulled me in until I happened upon the SAQA exhibit, Layers of Memory, and I found myself standing and staring for a long time at one quilt after another. There is a bit of the maker in any quilt and particularly any quilt that gets juried into a show but some seem to me to so clearly display the mind, heart, skill that created this piece that I just want to spend some time with those quilts, to try to give the meaning, intention, or whatever the maker was trying to put in this piece time to connect with me--and I found several of those in this show.

The theme challenge Bridge produced some amazingly thoughtful and skillful pieces from the Quilt on the Wall group. And the international quilts were a delight. New Zealand nurtures some very talented quilters, and the quilters in South Africa must eat the full spectrum for breakfast every morning. Did I say it was a very good day?

I have become more conscious about posting photos without checking with the artists, and I even looked for some e-mail or blog contact with some makers of my favorite quilts today but could find none. So I must settle for the inadequacy of words.

And, if you are still reading, thanks for the company!

Thursday, September 15, 2011


This has been a week of preparation: gathering quilts for a talk I am giving at our guild on Monday, harvesting veggies from the garden since a frost is due tonight, beginning a quilt for the birth of our granddaughter sometime in late October (I know I should have started this sooner--seems like I have said that before), and gathering things to do on the bus trip tomorrow that will take me to Pennsylvania National Quilt Extravaganza outside Philadelphia. I haven't been to this show in a few years, but I'm expecting to come back inspired and humbled.

Sunday, September 11, 2011

Of Snow-dyes and Silks continued

Sorry this took longer to continue than I planned. We got an extended visit from my daughter, son-in-law, and our two-and-a-half-year-old grandson as the flooded rivers in Pennsylvania and New York prevented their return trip home on Thursday and I was worrying about them on their second attempt on Saturday. But now they are safely back in their own territory and there is no one playing cars on the couch in our house when I come down the stairs in the morning. . . .

But back to my wall hanging that I left you imagining. I had thought about just sandwiching it and beginning the quilting, perhaps adding some kind of wandering pathway of quilting lines joining the three shapes with trees. But then I gave one more try at adding a pointy shape to all those rounded ones and knew I was on to something when I added a few triangles.

So here it is:
I finished it up by quilting around all the shapes and then adding some irregular horizontal quilting lines and some perle cotton on the triangles. It's about 17 x 27 inches and is called "Happenstance."  And so I did find something to do with that wild snow-dye.

And if you are still reading, thanks for the company!

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Of Snow-dyes and Silks

I thought for sure I had sewn myself into a corner--or more appropriately, when you see the final version, a sinkhole. Unfortunately, I have no pictures of this wall hanging at this stage because I wasn't sure it would be worth preserving a memory of it. Someday I will learn to take more pictures. . .

I had just finished my goldfinch quilt, which created a design using reverse applique and I wanted to play around with that technique a bit more. I had also come across a snow dye from last year that was a bit wild and I wanted to challenge myself to do something with it. Ultimately, I decided to do a reverse applique where the fabric underneath had some texture to it. The only fabric that even remotely seemed to go with the snow dye was some blue-purple and red-purple silk. So for texture I pleated some squares that were around 10 inches and added some iron-on interfacing on the back to stabilize that silk that is always wanting to return to bits of thread  and to hold the pleats in place. I created a template that was an irregular organic shape that fit each of the pleated pieces, cut the snow-dye in those shapes to reveal the silk, and machine stitched the edges of the opening.   As I was finishing these up, I happened to notice that wonderful heavy thread made out of sari silk that I had bought in NYC and that I had been dying to work with. It was a perfect color and so I machine couched it around each of the silk shapes.

Now I had hanging on my working wall a piece of fabric with three fuzzy-edged blobby shapes on it and I had no idea where to go with it. And so it hung there for a long while. I would occasionally try something on it but nothing worked until one day I tried that sari silk (love the feel of that stuff) in a kind of a scribble shape and left it there over night. The next morning that scribble looked exactly like a tree and so three trees grew in the three pleated silk shapes. But it needed something more.

To be continued. . . .

Sunday, September 4, 2011

Can This Be Saved?

Last week, along with several pieces of fabric that I really like, I produced this:
I had been playing with flour paste resist that can produce great crackly images when it dries and has paint or dye applied to it. And here I was experimenting with adding shapes to it, obviously circles this time. The other two are ready for the next step of overdyeing, but this one. . . . My first thought was that it looks like moisture rings left by a glass on your favorite table. Aside from overdyeing it with black, I have so far not come up with anything to save this.  Any suggestions?

Wednesday, August 31, 2011

It worked!

So nobody is home to share my excitement--except for Terra, who rarely gets excited about fabric unless it has had chicken juices or some such splashed on it. I just ironed a piece of fabric that finished batching this morning. A couple of days ago this piece of fabric came out of the dye bath with these great stripes of blue green on it along with regularly spaced irregular lines of dark blue green. I liked it, but I wanted to add something more so I folded it again and over-dyed it with golden yellow in the hopes that heavier lines of yellow would appear between the green lines.
It worked!

And, if you are home and reading this, thanks for the company!

Tuesday, August 30, 2011

A Beautiful Day to Dye

Since the trees here are just beginning to remind me that fall is coming, I thought I really should get around to that dyeing I have been thinking about all summer--before my dyeing studio, otherwise known as the basement, gets too cold for the dyes or me to work properly. And so for the past couple of days, I have been, like the trees, adding a bit of color to my world.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

A Summer's Day. . .

Thanks to a post from a blogging friend, I found the perfect distraction after the intensity of Jane Dunnewold's class and other projects I have been working on and discovered a great website--Lenna Andrews' Creative Swaps. Each month she posts a couple of possible swaps you can sign up for and the first one in September was a postcard swap on the theme of "A Summer's Day. . . ."  If you send her three postcards on that theme, you will receive three back, each from a different artist. She supplies plenty of helpful guidelines about making art postcards, and they can be done in any medium, not just fabric. So I decided to give it a try.

For my first attempt, I used some little tree stamps I had made in Jane's class to add some paint to a hand-dyed pieced of fabric:
I obviously added some stitching and some fused shadows. On the back of the card, you were supposed to put your name, e-mail address and then finish the phrase "A summer's day. . . ."  I added ". . .is all about sunshine and shadow."

I decided on butterflies for the focus of the next postcard, and just happened to have a butterfly stamp that I made in Jane's class as well.  I played with transparent and opaque paint and then topped the painted butterflies with a fabric one and added some quilting lines:
And on to my third! I was having a lot of fun by this time and decided to give my butterflies another try since I had already made the templates for the one above. This time, instead of stamping I decided on a fused background of large circles.
The gold thread I couched on the wings and the variegated pearl cotton scatter stitches gave it a zing. On all of these the background fabric was fused to Peltex and then the edges turned over to the back and fused to form a finished edge. Then the back fabric was fused on, covering the turned over edges. In all three I made use of those leftover bits of my hand-dyes that I hate to throw away. 
The back of this reads "A summer's day is not complete without a butterfly."

Something kept me from finishing the second postcard, perhaps because I was feeling that it needed something more. So one day I started playing with adding bits of color.  See what you think of my addition of some small rough cut circles to my final version.
I added my theme statement, "A summer's day brings sunshine and butterflies," put a backing on it,  and declared it done!
Now I just have to add plastic sleeves and postage and send them off to Lenna.

And, if you are still reading, thanks for the company!

Thursday, August 18, 2011

Deep Spaces

I received an exciting e-mail this week. The postcard for the Deep Spaces exhibit (which my quilt On a Sligo Hill will be part of!) is out and the schedule for the venues where it will hang has been finalized. Unfortunately, unless the state of Washington or Texas gets a whole lot closer to Pennsylvania geographically, I am not going to be able to see any of the exhibits in person. Sigh. . .
Deep Spaces
A Textile and Mixed Media Exhibit

Curator Larkin Jean Van Horn selected the theme "Deep Spaces" following a conversation with friends about the limits of space and the photography from the Hubble telescope. While it was clear that textile art dealing with the cosmos would be an appealing exhibit, the title implied so much more. Artists interested in participating in the exhibit were encouraged to interpret the theme in any manner that suited them, and the entries were outstanding. The artists went deep into space, deep underground, deep under water, deep into the woods, canyons and prairies, and deep into the mysteries of the heart. Each artist worked in her own style, whether photorealism or pure abstraction or something in between. Holding all this wide variety together is a common size (18 inches wide by 45 inches long).

The task of choosing the fifty pieces in the exhibit from the hundred-plus submitted fell to Larkin and two other highly experienced textile artists, Debra Calkins and Anne Niles Davenport. For one of the venues (Latimer), Larkin also invited several artist friends to create three-dimensional works for an existing display case. In the final total, we have 58 works from 19 states and two international entries.

In line with Larkin's desire to do good in the world wherever possible, a catalog has been created for this exhibit, and will be for sale in disk format, either at the exhibit venues or from the Deep Spaces website:, or in book form from Blurb: (A direct link will be available on when it is ready.) All proceeds from the sale of the catalogs will go to Doctors Without Borders.

Dates and venues:

September 5 to November 6, 2011
Latimer Quilt and Textile Center
2105 Wilson River Loop Road - Tillamook, Oregon
Opening Reception: Sept. 11, 2011,  Noon to 4:00 pm
28 textile art and 8 special 3D pieces

October 20 to November 30, 2011
Edmonds Conference Center
201 Fourth Ave. N. - Edmonds, Washington
ArtsCrush Opening: Oct. 20, 2011, 5:00 to 8:00 pm
Art Walk Opening: Nov. 17, 2011, 5:00 to 8:00 pm
22 textile art

January 10 to March 12, 2012
Sam Houston University Museum
19th St and Avenue N, Huntsville, Texas
Opening Reception:  January 19, 2012, 5:30 to 7:30 pm

March 28 to June 24, 2012
LaConner Quilt and Textile Museum
700 Second Street, La Conner, Washington
Opening Reception:  March 31, 2012, 2:00 to 4:00 pm

Due to the limits of space, 28 of the fifty pieces, plus eight 3D pieces will be shown at the Latimer while the remaining 22 will hang in Edmonds. The full fifty pieces will be shown at the other venues.

For more information on locations and hours, see

Monday, August 15, 2011


On my daily walks with Terra the past few days, I have been looking at the shapes of leaves. In my attempt to make more natural quilting lines and patterns, I have gone to the source, noting that, of course, no two leaves even on the same plant are exactly alike, but trying to get a feel for how much and in what ways they differ.

A day or so ago I began looking closely at milkweed leaves--big and fairly simple in shape--and decided to bring a couple back with me to continue my study. As I went to put Terra on the leash to cross the road, I realized my hand was sticky and, looking down, felt a momentary little puff of delight as I saw of bubble of what could only be described as milk forming at the end of the broken stem. My delight turned to chagrin at my stupidity as I realized, "Oh, yeah. That's why it's called milkweed."

Now I have lived among milkweed for over twenty years--and had encountered it on hikes before that. I know that its sap is bitter and probably is the reason why the monarch caterpillars, who love to chew on the leaves, don't taste very good to predators. I may even have been told the sap was milky. But it wasn't until I broke those leaves off that I made the connection with the name. So many things that I am ignorant about--or have forgotten. . . . .

Here's a picture of two differently shaped leaves--notice the sappy stems are not touching my cutting board. By the way, I washed my hands thoroughly when I got in the house. The sap was sticky enough that I didn't want to get it on anything else and luckily, I didn't swipe hair out of my eyes with that hand because I found out it can wreak real havoc if it gets in your eyes.

And if you are still with me and haven't run out to break leaves off a milkweed (but perhaps I am the only one who didn't know about the sap), thanks for the company.