Friday, February 29, 2008

Technical Question

I have a question for those of you who have been blogging for a while now. What is the secret behind photos that open larger in a new window v.s. those that don't respond when clicked on?

There are pictures of quilts I'd like folks to be able to see the details in but inevitably those are the ones that won't respond when you click on it. Then on my detail shots when you click on 'em you get a bigger version in a new window! Of course it doesn't always work this way but I can't figure out what the trick is. I know there are other new bloggers out there who would like the answer to this question too. (Blogger Help isn't as helpful as one would wish.)

Thanks in advance for whatever advice you can offer!


A post or two ago I mentioned that I was not in the mood to bind or otherwise finish off my Gemini journal quilt or my TIF postcard quilt. I wasn't even interested in starting the beading on my journal quilt for February (or finishing the beading on October's for that matter!). No, I wanted something new and different.

I got into my bright scraps again and started piecing bits together with no preconceived plan in mind. Then I thought of Bonnie's tutorial for maverick stars. Hmmm. Put on my mask and got down Gwen Marsten's book, Liberated Quiltmaking. These are the result:

Yesterday I actually sewed the parts together so I have complete stars now. And I did some additional random piecing of half-square triangles and strips. I don't have pictures of the rest of it yet, but you'll get to see it eventually.

Later that day my friend C~ stopped by to give me a gift. Woohoo! She's teaching a make-it and take-it sort of class a couple times a month. This week she taught her class members how to make a tissue box cover. Her class sample featured a Halloween print:

How cute is that! And it's MINE! It doesn't look too fiddly to make, takes less than a fat quarter's worth of fabric... I may have to make some myself and give them as gifts too!

Thursday, February 28, 2008

Cyber Fyber Swap and Exhibit

Recently when I was blog browsing I found out about Susan Lenz's Cyber Fyber postcard and ATC swap. (I forget how I got there.) There were only a few postcards up for grabs, but I got one!

To quote Susan: This postcard was made from a background of black linen with heavily painted Wonder Under (Bond-a-Web). It was created shortly after my first machine embroidery class (under Valerie Campbell-Harding). To it was stitched a scrap from an old cross stitch based on the 6th century mosaics in Ravenna's Sna Vitale church. The reverse is a Japanese postcard brought back by my elder son Mathias after his first trip. It is signed and dated in ink. (You can't see it very well in my photograph but she has done some decorative stitching in metallic threads in the background areas.)

In return, of course, I had to make and send her a postcard.

I dug around in my scrap bits and pieces and found something that almost measured the required 4" x 6". All I had to do was add a corner and then quilt/embellish it. Susan was asking for predominantly fiber cards. I took that to mean a minimum of 3-D embellishments, which posed something of a challenge for me since I've been so busy sewing beads on quilts lately! I did some machine stitching first, then broke out the embroidery floss to add some accent lines and dots. In the end I couldn't resist adding a few sequins and beads.

I did all my stitching through the top and a layer of Warm & Natural batting. To finish the raw edges I applied narrow strips of black fabric to the front, wrapped them to the backside, then stitched in the ditch to hold them in place. I was nervous about stitching through a postcard so I used a piece of watercolor paper instead. It's stouter than regular paper and acid free but not quite as heavy as the postcard Susan's artwork is mounted on. I used a zig-zag stitch to secure the watercolor paper to the quilted piece, keeping my stitches within the black border created by my 'binding.' All in all I was satisfied with the way it turned out.

Wednesday, February 27, 2008

7 Random Things

I'm feeling a little blue this morning. Well, more than a little really. The sky has turned gray again, it rained overnight, and I think I must have been exposed to something yesterday that has not yet worn off. Either my resistance is up (hurray!) or it was a very mild exposure because I wasn't even aware that it had happened until I realized last night that I was cold and cranky. This mild depression signals the tail end of the recovery process. Let's just say I'll be glad when it's over and leave it at that.

Freebird tagged me to reveal seven random things about myself and then tag 5 other bloggers to do the same. Here are my seven random facts:

1. I am the oldest of four siblings. I haven't seen my brothers in person in the last few years but I think it's safe to say that of the four I have the least amount of gray hair! (Without benefit of dye I might add.)

2. I attended three colleges for one year each but do not have a degree from any of them. I earned a certificate in animal health management from the last college. I think if I had known about ART and could have studied in that field I might actually have made it to a Bachelor's degree!

3. I wear an Elmo wristwatch.

4. I would rather sweep than vacuum. Vacuum cleaners are too loud and cumbersome. Give me a hard surface floor over a carpeted one any day!

5. I think my favorite cartoons from my youth were the "Fractured Fairy Tales" on the Rocky & Bullwinkle Show.

6. I have lived in six states: Michigan, Ohio, North and South Carolina, Texas, and Washington.

7. I buy cut flowers for myself. I started doing this a couple of years ago, probably shortly after my diagnosis of chemical intolerance. My DH has been seriously allergic to air borne pollen since childhood so he sees flowers as sneezeweeds and nothing more. It doesn't occur to him to bring me flowers except on rare occasions, and even then he'd rather gift me with something else. Fortunately, not all flowers set him off. Since flowers lift my spirits I decided that I'd rather have them around to enjoy while I'm alive than at my funeral so I started buying them for myself!

These are some I have on the kitchen counter right now. (You can see how gray it is outside from the picture!) The pussywillows add a touch of spring to the mums. I've been tempted by the more colorful primroses at the market but I'm afraid I won't get them in the ground before they expire!

Now, the five bloggers I'd like to invite to play this game are:

1. Embellisher

2. A Bead Lady

3. Connie at Life Scraps and Patches

4. Helene

5. Beadin' Gram

I'm off to go tell them they've been tagged :- )

Monday, February 25, 2008

Lady Bird's Vision

Sorry it's been so long since I last checked in. I meant to post yesterday but I got so distracted by reading everyone else's blogs that I ran out of time!

I have finished the beading on my postcard quilt for the Take It Further challenge. You may recall that the concept for this month was "What are you old enough to remember?" What stood out in my mind from my childhood was the news about Lady Bird Johnson's vision for the national highways to be planted with native flowers. In doing my research for this project I learned that her vision extended beyond that to "clean water, clean air, clean roadsides, safe waste disposal and preservation of valued old landmarks as well as great parks and wilderness areas." Well, since I'm only making postcard size quilts for this series I had to keep my focus pretty narrow!

I lived in Texas for about 14 years and had opportunities to see the wildflowers in bloom along the roadsides there. My postcard may be a little more densely beaded than I originally intended but honestly, when the wildflowers are in bloom it's solid flowers on both sides of the road!

Here's a side view of the quilt just to give you some idea of the dimensionality of the beads. It's a full quarter inch from the table to the top of the orange bead stacks.

I still have to back the quilt and finish the edges. I've never been thrilled with the look of zig-zagged raw edges, at least when I do it. I don't enjoy the process either. I don't have the patience required to get a nice smooth finish! So I'm playing around with ideas for alternative edge finishes. I also still have to back and bind my Gemini journal quilt but right now I'm not in the mood to do either. I think it might be time to start a new project...

Thursday, February 21, 2008

January BJP Update

So I put the TIF postcard quilt (see previous post) aside to wait for beads and went back to my 'Gemini' journal quilt for the Bead Journal Project. I was going through my stash, looking for something to fill in the background area, when I came across some tiny star sequins. Stars? How appropriate! I even had just the right colors :- )

All the quilt lacks now is a backing and binding. I'm not sure what color I'll end up using for the binding but I'm leaning toward white at this point. We'll just have to see what looks best when I start auditioning fabrics. Here's a close-up:

On another front, I've been wanting to try the Disappearing 9-Patch pattern ever since I saw Calamity Kim playing with it for a doll quilt challenge. Over the weekend I finally did just that and produced this preemie quilt:

Now I want to do a scrappy version! I have a bunch of 5" charm squares that I'm thinking of using as a starting point. Don't hold your breath, it may be awhile before I actually get around to it ;- )

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

February Take It Further Challenge Progress Report

You may (or may not!) recall that the concept challenge for this month was "What are you old enough to remember?" You can read my initial thoughts on the topic here. I've had a pretty clear idea of how I wanted to portray Lady Bird Johnson's vision and I finally got some work done to that end. First, I pieced my ground:

Then I started beading to represent the bluebonnets and Indian paintbrush that are native to the Hill Country of Texas. There's another species of flower I wanted to include but the beads I have in-house are not giving me the effect I want. I'm not confident my local bead shops will have anything better so I went online and ordered the shape I want. However, the color I was counting on doesn't seem to be available so I may have to relinquish that point. We'll see. At this point I think I'm going to put this aside until those beads arrive and go back to my Gemini journal quilt for the Bead Journal Project.

I made a free-pieced house block for Bonnie's housewarming party over at Quiltville's Quips & Snips but I was so anxious to get it in the mail that I forgot to photograph it before I mailed it! I made her a scrappy signature block and cut a strip from one of my uglier fabrics for her too (per Tonya's suggestion). Then, while I had the bright scraps out, I played around for awhile and did some random piecing. I don't know whether they will end up as official crumb blocks or something else but it was fun to do for a change of pace. It was hard to put those scraps away to get back to the work of the challenge pieces!

Sunday, February 17, 2008

Adventures, Textile and Not

We have sunshine! Whoohoo!! We had sun yesterday too. I was so inspired by it that I went out and pruned these roses that I had neglected last summer and fall.

Unfortunately, while I was out in the side yard DH came home from running errands to make a quick pit stop before going to the movies. He saw my car but didn't see me anywhere so he locked the back door before he left the house again. He also locked the front door on his way out. Get the picture?

Yup. Locked out. And our spare key had been used when DS#1 was here but had not been put back in its' hidey hole. Long story short, I had to call DH out of the movie theater to come home and let me back in. He was not a happy camper. But then neither was I! I was fortunate in that I'd at least had the sense to put on a coat before going out (the sun was out but it wasn't necessarily warm outside) and I had the dog with me to help keep me warm while I waited to be rescued. But I had to use the neighbor's phone, and hardly anyone's house is as safe as my own in terms of air quality. It had also been too long since my last meal. I was not in the best condition when he finally arrived. Happily, we're over it now. The emergency key has been put back in its' place and DH watched Nicole Kidman in the latest version of Invasion of the Body Snatchers on DVD to make up for missing out on National Treasure 2 in the movie theater. Then we watched Becoming Jane together. (I was a little disappointed in it but will probably watch it again.) I just wish I'd slept better last night. I was hoping I would be able to sleep off the effects of the exposures yesterday but it doesn't seem to have worked this time.

Now, on to textile adventures...

This is the journal "page" I pieced back in June of last year. It was the precursor to the piece that became "Helpmates: Body & Spirit." At the time it wasn't working for what I was trying to convey. In casting about for something to do for this month's Bead Journal Project I pulled the top out again and had another look at it. I thought I might be able to use it to represent the transition from verbal to visual that I go through in making art pieces.

I took parts of it apart and repieced it to get this:

My intention is to use beading to highlight the arrow shapes on the left, pointing to the right. You'll note that the white fabric has letters and typographical symbols printed all over it. At the extreme left it's all right-side-up, but in the arrowheads it's been turned upside-down. I thought that was appropriate because I often have to turn my thoughts upside-down to get to a visual that has meaning for me.

There's probably a word or phrase for people like me who may be more inspired by verbal expressions than imagery. I can't remember what it is at the moment. I've never felt like a very visual person. I have words and feelings in my head and my heart, not pictures. I think that's part of the reason I've had such a difficult time moving from 'safe,' traditional forms of needlework to more expressive pieces. But, the more you do it the easier it becomes!

Thursday, February 14, 2008

I'll Take "Potpourri" for $200 Alex

First, the inescapable: Happy Valentine's Day! I hope you find joy in the day whatever your circumstances may be (romantic or otherwise).

Here's My Little Valentine:

And now the $400 topic: I recently purchased a technique book via I thought because the purchase price was so low the book would be less expensively produced and therefore safer for me to read when it arrived. Wrong. If I thought the pages would fit into sheet protectors (which don't seem to bother me oddly enough) I would have someone take the book apart and put each page in its' own sleeve. I wonder if having the spine replaced with a spiral coil would help? Maybe there are outsize sheet protectors available somewhere...

Our $600 topic is the TIF challenge for February. I've had a couple of additional ideas for possible subjects for this month's challenge but I can only see "Lady Bird Johnson's Dream" in my head so that's probably the one I'll eventually make. You'll notice I used the word 'eventually.' That's because I have yet to even get out any fabric for that project. (My progress on the BJP will be another post another time.)

For $800: There's nothing like the blues to give me some relief from the misery of a new exposure. I found a package in my mailbox earlier in the week that contained a couple of my uncle's cd's. He, unfortunately, has had to be moved into an assisted living facility due to Alzheimer's. Now I will think of him everytime I listen to Muddy Waters, Little Walter, or Sonny Terry & Brownie McGhee. (Buddy Guy's "Sweet Tea" album is still my favorite though.)

$1,000: ding ding ding! Double Jeopardy! I was one of the lucky ones who got in on Bobbi's offer to Pay It Forward last fall. In exchange for my promise to make and give away three items to the first three takers on my blog I was rewarded with one of Bobbi's hand beaded face pins. It came in the mal today! Whoohoo!

It has a combination pin back/bail on the back so I can either wear it as a pin or string a chain or cord through the bail to use it as a necklace pendant. I love it! THANK YOU BOBBI!

And now it's my turn to make good on my promise (or I'll lose the $1,000 I wagered on this clue!). If you have a blog and leave me a comment saying you want to play along I will make a gift just for you and mail it to you within a year. (If I didn't have such a headache I would look up the original posting of this challenge and link to it so you can see that this was part of the deal.) You just have to promise to also make a gift for three people who agree to pay it forward... and so on. If I get no takers this time - this is the second time I've made the offer and I know the game has pretty well made the rounds - I may just pick three bloggers I've come to know and send them a surprise. That way I'll be able to wear Bobbi's pin with a clear conscience ;- )

Monday, February 11, 2008

Let's Go Down to Kokomo

I've had it with the constant cloud cover and rain. Let's go to the tropics!

(I still wish I could take better pictures!)

This wall hanging was made as a result of one of the last challenges I was able to participate in with my local quilt guild. It was a mystery challenge, but a little different from any other I'd been a part of. Those of you who have been involved in online groups may recognize the steps; I think our organizer said she got it off the internet.

Instead of a theme or a fabric that had to be used, once a month we'd be given a new directive to follow. I won't be able to remember all the steps involved but the first month we were given a strip of a blue cotton that faded from dark to light and told to use it to make at least one block. I made the wonky 9 Patch blocks. Others used it as the background for what would be an applique piece. One month we were given a cheddar yellow that ended up in the corners of the background of my star block.

Another time we drew blindly from a paper sack to get a baggie of ribbon or rickrack or other similar trim to use on our quilt. (The ribbon "rays" on my sun.) We had to do some handstitching somewhere, somehow. (I sort of went overboard with that one!) The last challenge was to add a three dimensional element to our creation. (No problem!)

It was a totally fun challenge and I got one of my favorite wall hangings out of it. It hangs in my bathroom, the room without windows where I can close the door and turn up the heat and pretend I'm on the beach in the tropics with my cabana boy instead of mildewing away in the damp...

Saturday, February 9, 2008

Rain, Rain, GO AWAY!

Tonya over at Lazy Gal Quilting has passed along the question, "What is the view out your kitchen window?" Green and gray this time of year. The only variation is whether or not it's actually raining at the moment.

If I had waited longer or tried at a different time I might have captured a couple of the birds that use our birdbath. But there's been so much rain lately that they really have no need of a saucer of water. I picked up the little vase at a thrift shop recently and keep it on the window sill to remind me of warmer, sunnier climes.

When we moved into this house almost four years ago we could see our backyard neighbor's windows. Sometimes we could even watch what he was watching on his TV ~ without the aid of binoculars. (Both of our homes have glass sliders on the backside.) Not so anymore (thank goodness!).

Here's the baby quilt I've been working on:

I'm essentially pleased with the way it turned out, considering it's flannel. It ain't perfect but it will keep a kid warm and brighten his surroundings. The rainbow print went on the back. It's about 45" square.

DD's dog has been staying with us while the girls are out of town. It seemed like every time I had to make a trip to the cutting board or the design wall I had to negotiate this obstacle:

Marcie - DD's dog - doesn't like that rug smooth and flat on the floor either. She prefers it bunched up and folded over. Talk about keeping me on my toes!

Wednesday, February 6, 2008

Okay, Okay!

I wanted to post yesterday but service was waaay too slow. Either it was our high winds and rain or lots of internet usage because of Super Tuesday. I suspect the latter personally.

Since the overwhelming response to my question was to add more beads, that's what I did. I was tempted to bead over the first line, per Joan's suggestion, but I couldn't bear to cover up what I'd already put down! I also couldn't do clumps, even though that's what I originally thought I would be doing along the outline. I just did another line of beads next to the first.

I'm not convinced that it's done yet but I have to put it aside to make a commissioned baby quilt. If I do more later I'm thinking it will be something in the background areas to make those areas recede (like quilting lines) and the symbol pop. I can also see a line of beading along the inside edge of the binding once I get that on. We'll see. Today I have to put away all thoughts of the BJP and TIF challenges and think fire trucks and construction vehicles instead :- )

Monday, February 4, 2008

What Do You Think?

I have beaded the outline of my January journal quilt. Unfortunately, it didn't come out quite the way I expected. I pictured a beefier line of beads. I think what happened is the beads I used were mostly too small (but the smallest beads in my mix were 11's, not 15's or delicas or anything like that!), and many of them are clear or reflective so that they disappear visually.

I have a couple of options for fixing this as I see it: add more beads on either side of what's already there or take these beads off, mix bigger beads into my bead soup, and do it again. What do you think? Any other ideas?

Sunday, February 3, 2008


I find myself in an unforseen position. I didn't really think about the possibility of getting my wires crossed between the Bead Journal Project and the Take It Further challenges but I can see that that could become a problem for me. I need to get very clear in my head about what my goals are for each project.

From the beginning my intention was to use the journal quilt 'pages' for the BJP as a tool to get to know myself better and to strengthen my artistic voice and abilities. The TIF pieces were to be more for fun, with the added benefit of having another structured opportunity to practice specific skills. The challenge concept for February has sort of thrown me for a loop as it took a more personal turn than I expected. So now I'm a little confused about what to do for my BJP for February. It feels like I'll be working on two personal projects this month. I'm not sure I can take that on an emotional level. On the other hand, I'm still not willing to take the easy way out for February and do something relating to Valentine's Day or red and pink or hearts. On yet another hand, hearts are a meaningful symbol for me. (You see what we Gemini's do to ourselves?!)

I had an idea for my BJP but haven't yet figured out how to pull it off visually. Because it's a short month and I still have two previous pages to finish (not to mention the "regular" projects I promised to make this month) I guess I'm wondering whether I should just shelve that idea and look for something easier, more straightforward. To make matters worse, I've been looking at and reading about what other artists in both projects have been doing and thinking. The water has become pretty muddy, let me tell you!

Saturday, February 2, 2008

What Do You Remember?

The new challenge for Take It Further has been posted and the questions is, "What are you old enough to remember?" Hoo boy.

Sharon lists several things she remembers that are also part of my life experiences. And as I was reading them I thought about how I used to marvel at all that my grandparent's generation had experienced in their lives. Now I see that my generation is on track to experience as many changes as they did, if not more!

I started by making a list of some of the things and events I remembered from my youth. Fairly quickly I decided I didn't want to depict any specific object. I mean, I remember using a hand pump to get water in the kitchen sink but I'm not that old! We had a cottage in the wilderness of northern Michigan when I was a kid. That's where we went on weekends. Not only did we have the water pump, we also used an outhouse, kerosene lamps, and an icebox, not a refrigerator. But this was in the 1960's, not the 1860's!

I also thought briefly about trying to depict the innocence and freedom of growing up in an age when kids were allowed to play tag on the playground or play in the yard without adult supervision because there was no fear of abduction or drive-by shootings. Granted, I lived in a safer place than some, but you know what I mean. We actually played outside, played board games instead of video or computer games, walked to the family-owned corner store to get comic books and penny candy, that sort of thing.

Finally I started recalling major events in the news when I was young. Having been born in the middle of the 50's I don't remember much of anything from that decade. The next decade had plenty of memorable events however, even for a kid who didn't pay much attention to the world of grown-ups. And of course the ones that came to mind first were the tragic and unhappy ones. I suspect most of my readers are old enough to know what I'm talking about. It took awhile, but as I researched dates and details of a few specific events I remembered news coverage of Lady Bird Johnson's efforts to beautify the roadsides of our national highway system. Maybe that stuck in my memory because we took a lot of road trips when I was a child (back and forth to that cottage, around the state to visit relatives, across the country) or maybe because my dad worked for the state highway department and that made it relavent to my personal life. Whatever the connection, I have decided that will be the focus of my February TIF piece.

Since you have stuck with me this long let me show you a view that can be seen "down the road" from where I live now:

You have to climb a mountain to get this view but I think it's worth the effort!