Monday, December 24, 2012

Merry Christmas!

After a three- or four-year hiatus, I was inspired this year to make ornaments again--but only a few and mostly for family members.  And because I limited the number I enjoyed making every one.

One of my favorite parts of the Christmas celebration is the journey of the Three Kings--three obviously intelligent human beings who find themselves wandering around after a star and who are driven by such curiosity that they can't send a servant or an annoying brother-in-law to check things out but have to see for themselves what is going on. So my inspiration began with the number three.

I then decided to use some of the hosta flower stems I had harvested in late fall. For some reason they had turned a beautiful mahogany color this year--or perhaps they do this every year for a brief time since the ones I neglected to harvest are now the usual faded tan color. And they turned out to be hollow!

Fabric was next and I rummaged through my drawer of African fabric that I love, but I have rarely had the courage to cut it or the project to use it in.  And now I had a project: a patterned background would be a perfect contrast for the plain stems. One of the cool things about African fabric is the damask-textured fabric they start with before they dye or batik it. (This shows up a little in the purple but not at all in the blue.)  The blue fabric came from a project, whose name I have unfortunately forgotten, to give very poor women a skill by teaching them batik.  More of the fabric can be seen on the back of the ornament.

I made the fabric squares first with batting sandwiched in the middle.   Then came the tubes and beads.  And it was done!

Hope you have had much to celebrate this year!

Peace. . . .

Sunday, December 16, 2012


I planned to take a break from Christmas preparations today and write a blog post about one of several projects I have finished recently, but every time I sat down to write something I found myself thinking about the devastating events that took place in Connecticut.

When 9/11 happened I was working on a quilt that will forever be associated for me with that event and became a kind of affirmation in the face of evil.  Now I am working on a quilt with a light in darkness theme and at first I thought, Of course, this will be a way of working through this.  But the darkness of my quilt is rich and warm and full of mystery, not the jagged, cold, terrifying darkness of this event.

Unlike those parents and the families of the slain teachers whose world has been forever changed, we will all somehow absorb this shadow into our lives, along with all the other shadows we have experienced and we will continue on. Like moss covering a fallen tree, daily life will cover over the strong emotions we are all feeling right now.  But will we have learned anything?  Will we actually move from just emotion into action?  As a nation, we must consider two questions:

  • If Adam Lanza did not have semi-automatic weapons capable of spraying hundreds of bullets, how many of those children would still be alive? 
  • Do ordinary citizens need to own such weapons?  
Can we remember the violence that was the last image those children saw and hold on to the painful horror of it long enough to answer these questions?

Friday, December 14, 2012

Being Green

Our word theme for the most recent challenge for Art 1016 was "green."  I was going to choose the obvious and do another monochromatic quilt that I really enjoyed for the my local challenge group, but then I got to thinking about the "save the earth" kind of green and set out to make an earth friendly quilt.

The fabrics had to be recycled, of course, and what leaped to mind were pieces of silk from parts of Japanese kimonos I had bought several years ago, mainly sleeves.  A morning's search uncovered where I had stashed them away, after carefully taking out the hand stitching. One of them just happened to be green--a very complex green with a hint of dark shadowing and small regular dots that appeared and disappeared in different lights.  But even more important were the delicate leaves hand painted on the fabric with a surface sprinkling of tiny light green dashes.  I had discovered this fabric in the lining of one of the sleeves I bought, supposedly a bit of beauty that only the wearer would know about. I finally screwed up my courage to cut into this fabric and I began to lay out my challenge quilt:
Usually I use some kind of iron-on stabilizer when I work with silk, but this time in keeping with the green theme, I gave up the additional chemicals and electricity and worked only with the fabric. I love the way the silk drapes and flows anyway.  I also did all the piecing, appliqueing and quilting by hand, although I did cheat and use the machine to attach the facing since I was running out time and wanted a sturdier edge to the piece than my hand stitching would give it.

Although I love my hand-dyes, I have to say that working with fabrics with a history adds another dimension.  At one point when I was quilting the bottom right black square I noticed a tiny white mark on it and thought, Oh, no--the fabric has a flaw in it.  But it turned out to be a tiny white thread from the hand stitching someone else had done on this same piece of fabric.

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

Saturday, December 1, 2012


Today was the end of an exhausting week. A few days ago I and seven other members of Vesta, a group of professional artists and craftswomen, had set up our annual show at the local Gmeiner Art & Cultural Center. Last night began the opening, which continued all day today, coinciding with our annual town extravaganza called Dickens of a Christmas, when a good chunk of Main Street is closed to traffic and is taken over by vendors, strolling musicians and performers, and a gazillion tourists.

My stint at the Gmeiner means hours standing on my feet and eating way too many cookies but it also means seeing people I haven't seen in a long time, spending time with my fellow artists and artisans, answering questions about the pieces I have in the show, selling a piece or two, and engaging in some interesting conversations about art in the abstract and in the particular.

And now I am in that delicious state where I can do nothing more and nothing needs to be done.  Without guilt, I can choose to do or not do anything.  Of course, I can also choose to go to bed. . . .

And if you have chosen to read this entire piece, thanks for the company!

Saturday, November 24, 2012

My Favorite Color

Okay, so white is not my favorite color, but this is our creek that Terra and passed on our walk this morning.  Too much sad news in the past few weeks and this overnight snow--the first real snow of the season even though it was only an inch--was very welcome--sort of a reset, a new beginning.

Tuesday, November 6, 2012

A Challenging Evening

Interconnectedness is one of the recurring themes in my quilts and on a night when the election returns are slowly coming in, I am acutely aware of how connected we all are and how important good government is to us all, a government that, among many important responsibilities, somehow finds a way to keep the playing field level so everybody has a chance in the game, one that makes decisions not based on wishful thinking but on reasoned discourse and independent research, one that responds to the needs of all its citizens, not the desires of the people or the corporations with the most money.  Every year I keep voting, sometimes, as I did this year, even canvassing for a candidate, and hoping my one voice will make a difference in moving government in the right direction. But watching the election returns is getting too stressful right now and I'm ready for a break.

It's been three months since our local challenge group had met and last week another quilt was due. This one had be in monochrome of a color that began with the same letter as our first names.  I had a much easier time of it than some of the other members, like Kate, because magenta, maroon, melon, mint, mahogany, and many more were possibilities for me, but in the end I decided on mulberry. And here is Terrain in all my hand-dyed shades and tints of mulberry:

This quilt is 16" x 15" and the limited color palette suggests interconnectedness without the more obvious knotwork of some of my other quilts, but I did add that woven perle cotton on the lightest patch to make the idea a little less subtly. I had fun with the hand stitching on this piece and fell in love with that twisted chain stitch. I also added some machine quilting for even more variety in texture.

And this one will be hanging in the West End Gallery this weekend!

Now I suppose I must check on how the electoral college is doing. And, if you are still with me, thanks for the company.

Saturday, November 3, 2012


In the midst of a chaotic week in which our dining room was reduced to studs and subflooring (this was intended demolition, not the result of something like a hurricane) came an e-mail from West End Gallery in Corning, New York, asking if they could take a look at images of my work online. Since my website is still on my to-do list, I tidied up my Work page on my blog and sent them the link.

The next day I got an e-mail asking me to bring up some work for them to take a look at and possibly choose some pieces from. We scheduled a meeting for Tuesday afternoon, what turned out to be the very Tuesday Sandy was supposed to pass through our area.  Luckily, she moved a little more quickly than anticipated and luckily again our power never went out completely, so I was able to make the trip to Corning as scheduled. And they took thirteen pieces!

My work will be in their gallery for a four-day event, not one of their major shows, but I am still celebrating!

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Leftover Oatmeal

Before Sandy and her friend have a chance to knock out our power, I thought I would show you the results of the oatmeal adventure.

This had been covered with the boiled oats.  Part of what I am discovering with these experiments is how heavily to paint the dye on--and what painting tool to use. If you paint too heavily, the dye wicks under the resist and you end up with very little pattern; too lightly and you get too much undyed space with again no texture. The bottom three-quarters was done with a foam brush and I like what happened there better than the top when I used a small synthetic bristle brush. Lisa Kerpoe recommends a larger--perhaps a 2 inch--brush that I did not have (but now I do, ready for the next experiment!). Those places where the oats clumped together and raised off the fabric produced either undyed spaces or large blots of dye.  But even those spaces with very little texture might come in handy, depending on what I am doing.

Here is the result of the mixture of boiled oats in the middle and microwaved on the rest. And you can easily tell where I used the paint brush this time. But there is a further experiment in this piece: I used dyes thickened with sodium alginate for all of these because of the danger of plain dye bleeding under the resist, but I wanted to see if that would indeed be a problem since the dye paste solution in Lisa's book was fairly weak. So the purple dye has no thickener and you can see how it spread out under the oats but there is still some texture and I rather like the effect.

And here is the microwaved oatmeal. I am still not sure about the colors I chose.  The orange is a bit too orange for me. I have definitely decided that erring on the side of too much dye is preferable to too little--and I am not using that brush again!  The texture is somewhat different from the boiled oats but I am not sure I prefer one to the other yet.  And as for the low texture spaces, I can always do what I did last summer and add a second resist on top of the first:
This was done with microwaved oats but I also soaked the fabric in soda ash first and let it dry before I smeared on the oats.  In my most recent round I actually followed the directions and added soda ash to the dye paste. 

And if you managed to hang in there for all four explanations, thanks for the company!

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

The Urge to Resist

Way up on the list of things I wanted to accomplish this summer was experimenting with resists, which create pattern and/or texture by blocking the dye from contacting the fabric.  I had bought Lisa Kerpoe's book, Visual Texture on Fabric, in July and had been inspired.  But being inspired did not mean that I actually had the time to do much dyeing at all. And so the warm weather slipped away.

But now I have received a gift from the weather gods: warm weather in October and I am trying to make up for at least a portion of lost time--as well as overseeing the chaos of the dining room being demo-ed to the studs so we can start over, but that's another story.

The end of last week saw me hard at work spreading oatmeal goo on fabric:

Actually there were two kinds of goo: the one above was made by adding oats to boiling water; the one on the right by microwaving oats and water.  The boiled water method creates a much denser cover with the oats still rather solidly formed, while the microwaved was less dense with the oats a bit mushier, and was more spreadable.  I did a third piece of fabric with a mixture: leftover boiled oats in the middle and microwaved spread around the rest, but I'm leaving that one to your imagination.

And here, after four(!) days of drying, they are ready to dye.  I have done this before and the big challenge is getting the oats to dry.  Sunshine helps, but as soon as I decided to begin, the weather report changed and we got a couple of days of rain and dampness.

You will notice that some mold took advantage of the ideal conditions on the microwaved oats on the yellow, which isn't a problem as I have found from experience, and the curling of the fabric is also usual when it dries, but this is the first time I used the boiled oats and they seemed to clump together and rise up off the fabric as they dried.  Not sure how this will affect the result.

Next step: painting on the dye! And if you've stayed with me this far, thanks for the company.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Reflecting on Reflection

Each member of the Art 1016 challenge gets an opportunity to propose the word for the next challenge and this time it was my turn.  After much thought and many rejected words I decided on "Reflection."  I had a couple of possible directions in mind shortly after I chose it but thought I would have plenty of time to reflect on and develop my ideas. But of course life didn't work out like that. 

Instead I found myself choosing a rather literal interpretation and seeing if I could create the feeling of objects reflected in some kind of watery surface. 
The objects I left a little amorphous--are they trees?  are they people? are they just shapes? 

I began with my hand-dyes, which allowed me some color variation to suggest watery reflections. The upper background is an oatmeal resist that makes great texture. I added some perle cotton patterned stitching and finally hand stitched the straight lines because I felt that it needed more line variation with all the curves of the objects, and the varied colors of those lines connect the varied colors of the objects. 

I tried one final experiment with this piece: the frame lines of heavy perle cotton were bobbin stitched.  This is certainly not a new discovery; people have been doing it for years.  But it is the first time I have tried it and I was amazed how easy it was--and it did not destroy my bobbin case or my sewing machine!

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

Saturday, October 13, 2012

My Favorite Color

The growing season is officially over on our hill.

Friday, October 5, 2012


I am showing up. While I am finishing up two other projects, I have begun something I have no idea what it will look like when it is finished but I smile whenever I go to pick it up so that is enough for right now. My muse or resident spirit may have a lot of work to do on this project. Last summer I began experimenting with a variety of hand stitches and this is a continuation of that experiment, although I have focused on the running stitch this time a la Julia Caprera, although it will be years before this piece has the  kind of visual impact that any of hers does, if it ever does.

I decided I wanted to use these stitches like quilting stitches, which meant I had to prepare a quilt sandwich.  I pulled a hand-dye from my stash with a funky crackle that I had not been sure would ever be useful for anything.  In other words, if this experiment flopped, I would not be overly distraught about having wasted the fabric.  In order to stabilize the sandwich I did a bit of machine quilting that emphasized some of the color texture of the piece.

And here is a close-up of my first hand stitches that are just following the verticals:
The beginning. . .

And thanks for the company as I make these first steps.

Monday, October 1, 2012

Showing Up

The TED Radio Hour, a full hour of eyes-free audio, has become one of my preferred ways to feed my mind while my hands are stitching.  And "The Creative Process" was one of the first I chose to listen to. It focuses on a poet, a writer of nonfiction, and a singer/songwriter and the TED talks they have given. Warning: much of what follows is a sort of talking-to-myself about some of the insights I gained from my listening, in the vain hope that they will last longer in my brain than the thirty seconds it takes me to get distracted by something else.  So feel free to just click on the above link and follow your own line of distractions.

The poet is Billy Collins, a former poet laureate, whose writing I admire and, let it be known, that if there is such a thing as reincarnation, I would like to set myself up so that I would deserve to come back as someone as insightful, clever, and downright funny as Billy Collins. But this time it was from Elizabeth Gilbert, the writer of Eat, Pray, Love, that I felt I learned something. She advocates taking some of the burden of creativity off the shoulders of the individual and giving it back to the genius of classical Greek and Roman times, a spirit who came to visit and bestow his gifts. Although she grants a belief in this kind of fairy godmother is a hard sell these days, she demonstrates how it can be a helpful when, on a particularly bad day in her writing process, she gives it a try.  After haranguing her muse for not carrying his part of the burden and indicating that they are in this together, she says something like, "And whatever the outcome of this project, let the record show that I did my part. Wherever you may be, I showed up." And it helped; it kept her going.  Of course, the story has a happy ending since the book she was working on was a runaway bestseller, but we'll ignore that part.

Now blaming somebody is often a way people deal with difficult situations, but blaming a house spirit may be much more healthy than blaming your parents or your third grade teacher or even yourself when all the creative colors have drained out of a project; it leaves you free to keep showing up.

And the second thing I want to remember from this program comes from Abigail Washburn, a folk singer and songwriter. In answer to the interviewer's question about what role discipline and practice played in her life, she indicated that she was not a trained musician and went on to say, "We're only as great as our ability to negotiate and take advantage of our limitations. I've decided my limitations are not only okay but an incredible opportunity to think about what it is I can do with what I have."

This reminded me of the fact that some poets find that a very defined form like the sonnet, instead of stifling their creativity, actually makes them more creative. The form is decided and they can concentrate on the words and images. And I know from experience that the worst thing a teacher can do in a Freshman Comp class is tell the students to write on anything they want.  They may complain about the topic assigned them but it gives them a starting point. I had not thought of my own limitations as this kind of starting point, as a frame on which I can weave.

And, if you hung in there through both my discoveries, thanks for the company!  And let me know if you find talking to the corner of the room helps--of course maybe you wouldn't want to admit it.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

Friday, September 7, 2012

Coming Alive

Yes, it's been a while.  Life became quite a lively adventure in August but more about that in a later post.  I am catching up with a project that actually was completed at the very beginning of August for our local challenge group.  For this project we had to use a photo or drawing as inspiration and make sure we used some yellow as well.  Since yellow is one of my favorite colors, that was not going to be a challenge for me. When I finally got around to thinking about this challenge, I began by paging through my photo file of images that might someday be useful in quilt and came across a picture I had taken of a grackle that I found dead near our bird feeder--perhaps having been blown into the house during a storm the evening before.  From a distance these birds look basically black with iridescent overtones.  But up close they are magnificent.

There seemed to be a bit of yellow between the shoulders so I decided to use these colors in a quilt. At first I planned it to be an abstract, but I had wanted to do more with exploded shapes and so I played around with an exploded bird shape. Here it is in progress on my working wall:
I began with a black bird and as I sliced the black, I sliced a color along with it. Deciding on background colors was a bit tricky and then transferring it to the background was even trickier, but, as you can see, I managed it.

All of this was done with a raw-edged, non-fused technique--only fabric and thread, no glue--and so the edges will fray a bit but I am liking this look.  Turning the edges under would have defined the edge too strongly for this piece and the fuzzed edges seem to work. 
However, there are limits to the fuzziness. Originally for the clouds I had used a white Kona cotton with a slightly more open weave than my usual Pima cotton and this is what happened:

All the Kona is gone in the final piece, replaced by Pima, and will not be used again in my raw-edged applique.

I quilted the piece with a mixture of hand and machine stitching and then the final decision had to be made about the edges. By this time I had decided to kill two birds with one stone (sorry--couldn't resist!) and enter this little quilt, which is about 24 by 20 inches, in our local guild's challenge that will hang in our biennial exhibit that opens today. This challenge was to make a wall hanging that depicted a favorite saying. and so the quilt was named "Come Alive" from a quotation by the civil rights activist Howard Thurman that I have hanging on my wall:  "Do not ask yourself what the world needs. Ask yourself what makes you come alive and then go and do that because what the world needs is people who have come alive."  If they were giving out prizes for the longest saying, I would certainly win that prize. 

In light of the title I decided to add a bit more energy by trying a wavy edge and then seeing if I could face that edge. 

And, if you haven't already flown away to another site, thanks for the company!

Thursday, August 16, 2012


Since I found myself in northeastern Massachusetts last week helping out with a three-year-old bundle of delightful and exhausting energy, I decided I had to take a small break, drive the thirty minutes to the Lowell Quilt Festival, and spend some of the day with a quilting friend from northwestern Massachusetts. The main exhibit was surprisingly traditional, although they did have several quilts that drew my attention, this one ("My Mind: All Skewed Up Without Zentangle Meditiation" by Patricia Washburn) among them:

The variety of stitching in the outer border was impressive.

There were also a few interesting quilts in the Ayer Lofts Gallery, but no photos were allowed there.  This was a small space and the exhibit was limited to small quilts.  There were only about 20 quilts in the whole show, and I was a bit disturbed that of that small number, three were by one artist and two sets of two were by two other artists. I suppose they were going for a uniform look to the exhibit, but I would have preferred seeing the work of more artists. 

Nor were photos allowed at the New England Quilt Museum, where they were celebrating their twenty-fifth anniversary with an exhibit of quilts from big name quilters that attempted to capture the range of quilting in the last twenty-five years. 

The theme at the Brush Gallery was music and there was plenty of variety here--everything from realistic portraits to completely abstract pieces.  I took lots of photos and here are two:
This one, "Vivaldi's Four Seasons: End of Summer," by Diane Wright, caught my eye every time I walked by it.  I seemed to see something new every time--I'd missed the birds on the first pass by and then the next time I noticed the color changes.

And this one, "Hear the Color See the Sound" by Helene Kusnitz, seemed to attract everyone's attention with its bold colors and shiny silk fabric:
I loved the quilting and beading on it as well. 

My friend and I topped off the day at this great little organic, vegetarian restaurant that was very busy, where I had one of the best lunches ever:

I came home wishing I lived a bit closer to Lowell--and that three-year-old bundle of energy.

Thursday, July 26, 2012

Colors on the Radio

Perhaps it is the geek side of me, but I have always loved Radiolab, an NPR program that features hosts Jad Abumrad and Robert Krulwich who pick a topic and then start asking How? and Why? and What if?--sort of the way I work on a quilt except I am asking those questions of myself when I am fairly clueless and often have to figure out the answers with some experimentation and they are asking experts who actually have some knowledge on which to base their answers. But they do their fair share of experimenting as well.

Anyway, when looking for something to entertain me while I did some hand stitching, I discovered a
Radiolab show I had not heard that was indeed entertaining and informative and quilt-related as well. Its title and subject was Colors (and you can click on that title and listen to the program and ignore the rest of what I have to say).

But I have decided that if I ever have the opportunity, I would like to spend some time as a mantis shrimp, which can see many more colors than we can. I am finding it hard to imagine what the world looks like to these not-so-small creatures, but I certainly would like to experience it.  And it was heartening to hear that the more one focuses on color, as an artist--or a quilter--might, the more colors one can see--not a total surprise, because I have felt that my color sense has sharpened a bit over the years, but it is nice to have some outside verification of that.  There was also a fascinating discussion of the colors--and lack thereof--in Homer's epics, but you can discover that for yourself if you want to listen.

And, if you are still with me--and not off looking at the gorgeous colors of the mantis shrimp, thanks for the company!

Monday, July 16, 2012

Value of Feedback

The end of the busy month of June marked a deadline for my Art 1016 challenge group. The theme word this round was "light," which had inspired so many images in my head that it had been hard to choose. I started sketching one possibility out and then decided to go more abstract.  I wanted to work with the idea that dark colors make light colors even lighter, but I was a good way into my first attempt when I had to finally admit that as grand as my vision of this piece was, the fabric version was a disaster.

And so I started over.  I once again gathered some of my darkest hand-dyes, as well as some commercial black, and began to build unfocused rectangles of varying sizes.  The horizontal/vertical directions became too predictable and static so I pieced in a couple of diagonals at angles that felt right. The original square of light I had envisioned became a narrow fused rectangle. 

I added some machine quilting and some hand stitching with perle cotton in the black verticals that may or may not show up if you click on the image to enlarge it, faced it--and it was done!  It is, of course, 10 x 16 inches.

But, for me, the best was yet to come.  When I put the photo up on the blog (where you can see how everyone else interpreted the theme), one of the members of the group commented that it reminded her of being in a dark barn. We have a wonderful old barn that has been the scene of two weddings, as well as some quilt classes.  And I love the feel of standing in the quiet of that place. A couple of years ago I decided to use the barn as inspiration for a quilt and spent a long time standing and looking, taking pictures, doing a bit of sketching, but nothing emerged from all that conscious endeavor that I felt captured the essence of what I was feeling.  Sometimes you have to look at things out of the corner of your eye to see them, and that's what happened here. It is the interplay of light and dark that is part of the magic of the barn. I'm thinking I need to try a bigger barn piece.

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

Sunday, July 1, 2012

Maine-ly Stitching

Earlier in the month--oops, I guess that was last month--we spent a week in Maine, where the wet, cold, windy weather meant we did not do all the hikes I had dreamed of and the long walks exploring the rocky beaches did not happen, but I did spend time exploring the art galleries in Rockland, just 10 minutes from the house we were renting, had great visits with all three of our kids and their families, had some memorable meals, including fresh caught Maine lobsters we cooked ourselves, and saw a lot of ocean that was just a few yards from the back of the house.

Before we left I had finished my 65 project of stitching every day and just at the end of that project had stumbled upon (almost literally--it was on the floor of my studio under a couple of other books) Drawn to Stitch by Gwen Hedley, a book I had bought a while ago and had never gotten around to looking at.
It was a real serendipity moment since its emphasis on creating and recreating texture with thread was just what I needed to take my stitching a step further. So as I packed up for Maine I included another book I had bought years ago and never used--
along with a couple of pieces of fabric and lots of pearl cotton of varying thicknesses and colors and some other heavy threads. 

And during some of those long, rainy, windy evenings I sat and stitched. In the spirit of Drawn to Stitch, I let the land/seascape in front of me be my inspiration,
although I was also just trying out some different stitches and seeing where each kind of stitch would take me so this was never meant to be an accurate facsimile of that ever changing scene.
This is very small, but, of course, I was doing many other things that week besides stitching.

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

Wednesday, June 20, 2012

A Quilt in a Day

Hi! Remember me?  June has been filled with travel and family events, so there has been little quiet time for composing a blog post--or even for quilting. But the grandchildren and their parents left this morning and all is quiet, except for the washing machine.

In between trips to the pond and reading sessions, four-year-old Gemma kept herself busy creating pictures to hang on a cupboard door, since the refrigerator was already full. One of them

--"It's a house with six windows and two chimneys and smoke coming out of the chimney and a door and a fence with a gate in front of the door"--caused me to say "That would make a great quilt."  I foolishly had forgotten what the obvious response a four year old would have to that comment. We had to begin immediately.

We went up to the "messy room," where my fabric is stored, along with a rocking chair and some other items moved out of the guest room for the length of their stay, and Gemma had a great time picking out the fabrics for each of the elements in the quilt.  I had to think fast about how we were going to put this together because she wanted to be involved in all the steps and her family was leaving the next morning.  Gemma had this vision of taking the quilt with her and hanging it in her room, and a disappointed four year old is not a pleasant experience.

I quickly traced freezer paper templates for the chimney and for the top of the house, ironed the edges down and after she positioned the chimneys we moved to the sewing machine and, with Gemma on my lap, began to sew. Next we worked on the windows: she positioned the template just where she wanted certain stripes to show and then cut them out while I worked on turning the edges of the door. She loved pressing the buttons to get the zigzag stitch length just right for sewing down the windows and helped turn the fabric around the curved tops, but we got to stitch faster on the straight bottoms and that was even more fun. We cut the ziggy zaggy fence and she chose the color thread for the top stitching.  She also decided it needed some grass on the bottom. I squared up the finished top, added batting and backing, zigzagged the edges while she walked in our woods with her father, and it was done before supper!

And if you are still with me--and Gemma--thanks for the company!

Thursday, June 14, 2012

My Favorite Color

Some of the ubiquitous lupines in Maine

Friday, June 8, 2012

Kindred Spirit

A couple of weeks ago I began to notice a phoebe spending a lot of time on our front porch. She would sit on the railing looking up at the house for a while, hop to another point in the railing and look, and then fly away only to return later in the day and do the same thing.  Sometimes she would fly up to the top corner of our front window where a phoebe had built a nest years ago and sit there for a couple of seconds. This went on for days. She began to remind me of myself standing in front of my working wall, trying to make a decision, and then walking away and coming back a few hours or a day later.

Finally, just as we had moved the table out to the porch where we eat many of our meals in the summertime, we noticed that she had made her decision.
It's just a little pile of mud and twig bits right now. But she has continued to work and was not too disturbed by having to share the porch with us now and then.

I find something quilt-like about this nest.  It certainly seems to take on the aspect of fiber since she is weaving lots of found materials together, although I doubt the requisite three layers could be found. And could it qualify as art since she is certainly making decisions about the kind of materials she is adding and the placement of those materials?

She is possibly a truer artist than any of us because she is creating something to satisfy a need deep within her and she truly does not care a mosquito's eyelash what another bird or another creature with a bigger brain than hers says about what she is doing. The nest is still a work in progress and, as you can see, her work, like mine, can generate a bit of a mess. 

I am just hoping that she and whoever else might occupy that nest will eat lots of the many bugs that survived the poor excuse for winter we had this year.

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

Tuesday, May 29, 2012

Friday, May 25, 2012

65 Blocks

Last Sunday was exactly 65 days from my birthday.  I know this because I stitched my last three-inch block in my 65 days project on that day. And, much to my amazement, I didn't miss a single day. On the fourth or fifth day I didn't remember until I had turned the light out at 11 PM. After lying in bed for ten minutes, telling myself I should just forget about it and go to sleep, I got up and stitched for my requisite five minutes and went back to bed. For some reason, I never forgot after that. Some days I stitched for much longer, but it was that five-minute minimum that got me through when my schedule got really crazy.

My focus changed as the blocks began to pile up: at first I was trying to express my mood or something significant about the day, but then I played for a while with just different patterns lines could make, until I began to look for interesting lines on my walks with Terra or around the house or in art I liked. The concentric arcs in the one in the lower right corner, for example, were suggested by raindrops falling in the puddles of the driveway and this one was inspired by stones in a creek bed that form a kind of path, which is a recurrent theme in the blocks.

So I now can hold in my hand the number of years I have been part of this crazy life, and I am missing the ritual of choosing a pattern or figuring out how to represent or suggest something in line only and then doing the quiet stitching. The only one I don't like is one from the day I had a fever of 101 degrees, but I guess it certainly represents how I was feeling.

Of course the next challenge is putting these together. . . into what? But I am ready to play with them.

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

Monday, May 21, 2012

A Good Day

Yesterday was a good day indeed--a warm sunny day that kept whispering "Perfect for dyeing." So I started running through my list of Dyeing Projects I Want to Do When the Weather Gets Warm Enough and decided to begin with another attempt at oatmeal resist. I was planning to overdye my first attempt but thought it might be interesting to try a second layer of resist--so soon it was covered with oatmeal and drying in the sun.
Since I was on a roll, I covered another half yard with oatmeal and put it out to dry. And while I was waiting for the oatmeal to cook, I overdyed a piece I had been contemplating for a long time--hope I didn't ruin it!
I prepped some more fabric for resist work and mixed up some dye paste and played with printing, none of which you will see because I realized I needed to practice this a bit and this was the practice. But I have gotten the practice out of the way.

As the oatmeal cooled, I worked on the background quilting for the big piece that is getting very close to being finished, and did my daily hand stitching (more on that later). And I still managed to find time to do a load of laundry, put these babies in the ground

and cook this for supper.
This is before the cheese goes on, and I must, in all fairness, disclose that my husband did help chop the veggies.

So after dinner I was ready to sit and tie knots and watch the second episode of the PBS Sherlock. But it was a good day--doing all the things I love (aside from the laundry).

We'll see if my energy continues today, which is rainy and cool (not a good day for the oatmeal to finish drying), and has not started out well as we deal with a hot water heater crisis. But if you are still with me, I hope you are having a very good day and thanks for the company!

Saturday, May 12, 2012

My Favorite Color

Indigo Bunting
Oh, if I could only put that blue on fabric!

Sunday, May 6, 2012


"Serendipity" is one of my favorite words and at first, when Deborah announced it as our next challenge word for the Art 1016 group, I was pleased.  But then I began to think about how I would represent this word in a quilt and nothing came to mind. After weeks of not coming up with an image, I decided I was trying too hard and I would let serendipity take over. I would start with a background fabric and immediately I went to my pile of snow dyes, for that process is a true example of serendipity. I chose a piece with teal-y blue tones that move into earthy browns and watery greens and lots of interesting texture.

I made some slashes with a hand-dyed blue and then I was struck so I set it aside for a while. Later I began playing with shapes to add and nothing was working until I chanced to draw a nautilus-like shape and I wondered what if I exploded that shape.
I liked it enough to add another and then added some French knots in perle cotton at various points to add more texture to the machine quilting I had done on the background. But it needed something more so I added the exploded circles in the midsection. In honor of the serendipity nature of the piece, all the gold pieces are machine appliqued, raw-edged and non-fused so the edges are soft and fuzzy.

It is, of course, 10 x 16 inches. And, if you want to see how the other members of the group interpreted this theme, visit our blog.

Thanks for the company, if you are still with me.