Saturday, January 29, 2011


Yesterday I had promised myself that the whole day, a precious day at home, would be devoted to working on my many projects.  And I was doing very well until the mail arrived right before lunch with a small box piled on top of the junk mail and catalogs.  Inside were two books that I had discovered earlier in the week as I was taking a wander around the Amazon bookstore.  I have forgotten the goal of my search because I became completely distracted by a book of works by Patrick Dougherty, an artist who weaves sticks into imaginative architectural installations.
His work reminds me a bit of Andy Goldsworthy's intriguing natural creations, and since I had been ignoring my bookaholic urges in the past couple of months, I decided to give in to this one.  And I made a good decision.  I spent a long delightful lunch break with Stickwork, dipping into the introduction and paging through his wonderful whimsical and inspiring creations--and managing not to get spaghetti sauce on my brand new artbook.  

Perhaps I like his works so much because he connects them so often with trees, one of my favorite subjects, or perhaps the woven, swirling nature of these structures reminds me of the interlacing of Celtic knotwork that I love so much.  Whatever it is, I am looking forward to getting to know his work better.  

More on the second book at another time--and if you are still reading, thanks for the company.

Wednesday, January 26, 2011

In Progress

Around Thanksgiving just as the holiday season was gearing up, the online challenge group I belong to issued a new challenge: create a quilt using one shape only and not in a traditional repeated block pattern, but in some abstract design.  As usual, this was supposed to done in one week.  With hundreds of things on my to-do list, many of which involved preparing for the VESTA exhibit or the holidays, I couldn't get the challenge out of my mind.  And during a few free minutes I cut out a shape in various sizes and colors and began to play with it.  And this is the result:
Now this is unfinished.  For one thing, it is cropped, not bound yet.  But I did try some new things with it--couching the blue lines of heavy thread and narrow ribbon and quilting the center swath heavily with a variegated thread that has some yellow in it.  Each shape also has a pattern of quilted pearl cotton on it, although none of the quilting shows up well in the photo.  Enlarging may help. Right now the piece is about 32" x 20".

I was trying to keep the piece abstract so that it didn't have one obvious meaning.  In other words, it could suggest several possible interpretations but was primarily a pattern that was hopefully pleasing.  The reactions from the critique group were interesting.  Several of the commenters tried to make something out of it--a particular animal, rocks--and were frustrated because it didn't look enough like what they thought it should be.  And perhaps the piece is flawed because I am playing with suggesting a meaning and undercutting it at the same time.  I named it "With the Flow," connecting with the liquid-y nature of the piece and implying the slippery nature of pinning it down with one interpretation, but that could be a problem as well, pointing too clearly toward one direction.  Naming a quilt, as I pointed out in an earlier post, can be a help or a hindrance.

Now that it is no longer part of a challenge that only allowed me to use one shape I am thinking about whether to add another shape and perhaps whether it is worth spending more time on it, but decided to share it with you before I changed it.   

So I welcome your thoughts and, if you are still reading, thanks for the company.  

Thursday, January 20, 2011

More Snow Experiments

Well, there has been snow on the ground for a while and so I had to put it to use.  It is a rather dry snow since the temperatures have been quite cold around here, and I kept waiting for a wetter snow, but finally gave in and started gathering my bins.

This year on the QuiltArt e-mail list, someone with the voice of authority wrote that to create fabric that looks significantly different from the regular low immersion dyeing, you must freeze your fabric before piling on the snow so I decided to give it a try, and here are the results:

The first is a mixture of cerulean blue and navy, the second dark brown, gray, and a bit of gold

Some diluted cerulean plus safari gray

And then I did another batch a couple of days later with unfrozen fabric:

This is kilt green (an older dye) with some ultraviolet and the next is kilt green, cerulean blue (a newer dye and more dominant) and a bit of gold
And here's my favorite:  ultraviolet and cerulean blue

Actually, I like them all and they all seem a bit different from my warmer weather dyes.  I'm not sure you can see it in the photos--perhaps clicking on them to enlarge them may help--but the unfrozen batch has this petal-ly, crystalline quality that I love in the snow dyes and the frozen fabric did not give that result, although that batch had these lovely lines of darker color so I cannot decide which batch totally wins out.  I did get more white spots with the frozen fabric.  To be honest, I was supposed to set the fabric out to freeze overnight again after I poured the dye on, and I forgot to do that.  So I guess that gives me a clear excuse to do some more snow dyeing.  We seem to be having plenty of nights cold enough to freeze wet fabric.

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

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


There are many interesting people who touch my quilting life in various ways and I think this is a golden opportunity to introduce some of them.  I am honored to call Kelly Jackson my friend--at least I think she is my friend.  She may have gotten a bit pickier about whom she associates herself with now that she has the ear of Alex Anderson and Eleanor Burns.

Anyway, Kelly was the speaker at our local guild, the Mountain Laurel Quilt Guild, last night and, as expected, was great entertainment as well as a source of important information about the latest quilting tools and gizmos that she sells on her online store, I Have a Notion.

Now Kelly is a very useful friend--she is the reason that I know about the UV version of Misty Fuse that takes care of the yellowing effect that comes with some fusibles as they age and the reason that last night I bought this cool little tool called the CutRite Bind Up.  I can't wait to try it because it promises to take some of the contortions out of mitering the final joined seam in the binding around a quilt.

But she is also inspiring.  When Kelly walks into a room, you notice her--and no, it is not just because she is tall. She is blessed with an enviable amount of energy that is actually catching for those of us who tend to move more slowly through life.  And just being around her is a great motivator to go back home and accomplish something.  To say she throws herself into whatever she is doing with enthusiasm is too much of a cliche because her enthusiasm is intensified by attention and a strong desire to know everything she can about a situation.  The trait I probably covet the most in her is her ability to ask questions.  Kelly asks those questions that we never think of asking or are afraid to ask because we are afraid we will look ignorant.  But she ends up looking and being all the wiser.  Her products sell so well because of all this open probing she has done, and people have learned to trust her assessments.

Kelly is a character in the sense that you never know what she is going to say or do (You end up laughing a lot around her--add that to the list of reasons why I like her), but she also has character. (Guess that's what I value in a quilt as well--originality combined with a deep integrity that gives it meaning.) If she doesn't totally know who she is and where she is going, she is a lot further along that journey than many people.

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

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Words to Quilt By

My friend Kelly Jackson dared me to have my "Words for the Year" up on my working wall by today.  Guess I can't ignore a challenge so here they are:
This showed me clearly that of course I can wedge one more thing into my already full schedule.  It helped when I realized that I could do this in the evenings when it's too embarrassingly early for a good book and a soft bed but the creative energy has definitely left for the day.  

That's also a good time to iron dyed fabric and that beautiful snow from my last post has given me some interesting fabric.  Pictures later.

And thanks, once again, for the company.

Wednesday, January 12, 2011

Snow Art

This morning nature was mimicking Andrew Goldsworthy,one of my favorite artists who creates, among other things ephemeral art, making striking patterns on rocks in a stream, for example, with sheep's wool that will blow or drift away eventually.  Overnight we had had about six inches of snow and, as I stepped out the back door on the daily walk with Terra, I looked up and saw the leafless dogwood tree in full snow bloom.  The bits of snow caught in the crotches and twig ends looked very like the small white flowers that light up the tree in June.
Now my photography is no match for Goldsworthy's  so you're losing a bit of the effect here, but it is more obvious, perhaps too obvious, on the azalea, which is covered with flowers in early summer:

An hour later this was gone and the tree and most of the bush were back to their winter austerity.  

Thanks for the company on this little detour and the next post will be back to the topic of quilting!

Wednesday, January 5, 2011


Ahhhhh. . .yesterday I spent my first day after the holidays working for an extended period of time on a quilt.  I had also planned to begin a blog post but the list of possible topics just kept growing and I was having trouble picking one.  That in itself became a possible topic--the explosion of ideas that often follows a complete break from what you're working on,  but that path is a little too well worn.

At times when I have too many quilts in my head that I want to make, I have found myself locked in a state of hesitancy and have to consciously tell myself (as I do to our dog when it is 15 degrees out and she is in search of the perfect spot in which to do her business) just choose one--well, in the case of quilts, maybe two or three.  So I took a deep breath and focussed on:   a Word for the Year.

This is always a hot topic around this time on the Quiltart e-mail list that I am part of, and many of the participants share their chosen words and then actually put them up on their studio walls in some form, while others comment on the silliness of the whole concept.  I felt I agreed with the silliness side last year but in quiet moments found myself playing the game of what word would I choose if I didn't think it was silly.  Typically I came up with not one but two related words:  Dare and Dance.  I even thought of a way, if I made them into a quilt, to make Dare morph into Dance.

When I remembered them, these actually helped me out a few times during the past year and so, silly or not, (we all need a healthy dose of silliness, anyway), I am going to come clean this year and declare that I do have a Word (or Words) for the Year.  They will be the same as last year because I think these have enough meaning left in them for me to work for another year.

"Dare" is important because at times--fewer than when I began, but still some times--I find myself frozen by a myriad of fears about my quilting:  What if I can't do this?  What if I can't do this well enough?    What if I spend all this time and it just doesn't work?  What if I choose this idea and there is a much better idea just around the corner?  What if there is something more meaningful I should do with my life?  What if everybody laughs at me?  At times I need to connect with the courage to lace up my ice skates and take that first step onto the ice (total metaphor here--haven't had the courage to skate in about ten years).  There are plenty of safe quilts I can make, but growth involves risk, and even though I know this like a cliche, the word "dare" reminds me of the excitement and value in taking that risk.

But once I take that first step I need to let go, to find the joy in what I am doing, and "Dance" perfectly encapsulates those qualities.  When I get into the jaw-clenched, shoulders-raised state, I need to remember to dance--and maybe be a bit silly at times.  Early in our marriage, my husband and I took some ballroom dance lessons, but we never got beyond mechanically following the steps, much to my chagrin because I had dreaming of  waltzing effortlessly across the floor.  I had pretty much given up until, about five years ago, I talked Tom into taking a swing class and after a few lessons, we were somehow dancing.  We certainly will never win any contests, but I do know what "Dance" feels like.

Perhaps this year I will even get around to putting these words up on my working room wall.  Or perhaps not.
Anyway, if you are still reading, thanks for the company,  and Happy New Year!