Wednesday, April 30, 2008

Out With the Old, In With the New

A little more than a week ago I finally burned through the top of my ironing board cover.

Even though the cover itself was cotton, the built-in padding under the cover must have been a polyester blend because it released toxic fumes when it got hot. We'd had a new ironing board cover out in the garage, off gassing in preparation for this eventuality. Unfortunately it also had a polyester pad. Didn't think to look for that when we bought it! So I got online to see what I could find that would be safe for me to use. There wasn't a lot to choose from but I'm relieved to say that I was able to find a cover made of organically grown cotton. Better yet, it wasn't horrendously expensive. It looks so fresh and clean! (Wonder how long that will last?!)

Yesterday I spent time beading "Mother Hen."

I took a detail shot too, hoping you'd be better able to see the beads. Not sure it worked.

There are dark bugle beads under the egg. They're sort of a brown and purple, and they're twisted bugles. Well, half of them. The other half are straight short brown bugles. I want to do something in the green background areas but haven't entirely decided what that will be. I'm debating between regular embroidery stitches or more beads. I have to go out for food later today so I'm thinking I may brave the bead shop while I'm out.

Speaking of new things, this post marks the beginning of my second year of blogging. A whole new world opened up to me through the medium of weblogs. I've "met" people I now consider friends and become involved in projects I wouldn't have otherwise. I enjoy the positive feedback I get from those who visit and comment. Thanks to everyone who has stopped by and made me feel welcome :- )

Saturday, April 26, 2008

Color Me Happy :- )

Woohoo! The sun is shining and I just finished piecing my journal quilt for March!

Yes, yes, I still have a bit of work to do to actually finish it but at least it's pieced! You can see my original thoughts and the fabrics I'd pulled for this quilt here. If you do go back to look at that post you'll see that I ended up not using most of the fabrics I'd pulled. And instead of going with the 'spring chicken' theme I'm calling this one "Mother Hen." Which is very appropriate as another self portrait because I have three children. Two of them have flown the coop; one is still at home, not quite ready to break out of his shell.

For such a small quilt this one sure took a lot of time and effort to produce. First there was the decision to focus on just the one piece of chicken fabric. Then I auditioned green fabrics and brown fabrics and novelty prints and African prints. Very little of what I had wanted to be included in this quilt. They were either too bright, too busy, the wrong hue, etc., etc, etc. I pieced and unpieced and repieced. But I'm happy with what I have now, and delighted to be able to move on to thinking about quilting and embellishments.

It would be nice to go out and really enjoy the sunshine today but I don't dare. It's Saturday, and everyone has their gas powered lawn mowers fired up. Who knows what pesticides or herbicides they may be spreading on their lawns (and thus putting into the air)? Because it's so pretty there will be a lot of people out on the roads too. I don't go shopping or to weekend events very often anymore because of the exhaust fumes and assorted other pollutants that take such a toll on my body. I'm going to stay inside and enjoy feeling healthy for a change! (For as long as I can get away with it anyway.)

Friday, April 25, 2008

April's Take It Further Challenge

The challenge Sharon posed for the month of April was, "How do you see change?" She gave examples from her own life of times when she felt change was good and other times when it was not so welcome. I think all of us have had those experiences! And then there are various degrees to which we look forward to or dread change. How to depict this visually?I finally settled on a door. I figured how quickly one opens that door would indicate how welcome - or not- that change is in your life.

That was early in the month. Since then I've been working on a swap quilt and little else. But when I finished the swap quilt a few days ago I started thinking about this challenge again. I went online to find images of doors I might be able to use as inspiration. That search generated a couple of new ideas, one of which was to use a pair of doors rather than just one. I especially liked this picture of a pair of doors in Dublin, Ireland, taken by Luka Gentili. One door could represent happy, welcome, changes and the other could represent those changes we're sometimes forced to make whether we want to or not. And thus this 4" x 6" postcard quilt was born:

The photograph makes it look a little wonkier than it really is. The top is machine pieced (not paper pieced). The red trim around the doors is only a quarter of an inch wide. The hinges are created with bugle beads. One door knob is a glass bead, the other a pearl. I've discovered the blanket stitch on my sewing machine is a nice way to finish off the edges of these little quilts. I'm not using the stiff interfacing (Timtex or Peltex) in these postcard quilts. They're just a top, cotton batting, and watercolor paper for the back. They're a little less stout than postcard quilts made with the interfacing but I like the paper for the back because it makes it easy for me to label the work. For this application it's working fine.

And now, just for fun, a recent studio picture:

Happy Spring!

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Catching Up

So, now that I feel like I have a little breathing room (having finished that swap quilt yesterday) let me show you a few things I've been blessed with recently.

Carol of Giraffe Dreams made this happy little basket quilt last year. She put it in her guild's silent auction this year but it didn't get any bids {gasp!}. I admired it when she showed it on her blog and expressed an interest in acquiring it. The quilt was returned to her after the show so she let me know it was still available. We made a deal whereby I would make a quilt or a cash donation to Wrap Them in Love and she would send me the quilt. Yippee! Now all I have to do is hold up my end of the bargain ;- )

The other goodie I received recently came from my sister. Some time ago she was in a thrift store, looking for a basket to hold miscellaneous small items in her bathroom. She didn't find any baskets she liked but was delighted to find clothes that fit. Then she learned that everything in the store was 50% off that day! By that time she was on auto-pilot, cruising the store for anything else she didn't know she needed but couldn't resist. (You know how that happens, right?) She ended up bringing home a dozen silk ties along with her other purchases. First one caught her eye, and then another one that had the same colors in it, and before she knew it her arms were full of ties! She toyed with the idea of doing something with them herself but she doesn't sew much. So I got this box in the mail a few weeks ago:

Woohoo! Playtime! Except that I haven't washed them yet. I have removed the labels and interfacings, but then I had a swap quilt to make...

These are a few of my more favorite ties of the batch. Of course the colors in the photograph aren't exactly true. They are much prettier in person. A couple of them have that iridescent thing going on where you can see more than one color, depending on how the light hits the fabric. I especially like the tie with the cowboy motifs. Apparently that was the one that started the whole tie-buying spree. I can hardly wait to see what it ends up in!

Tuesday, April 22, 2008

The End of Winter? Finally?

The hail we had on Saturday was almost gone when we went to bed that night. But look what we woke up to the next morning!

We had 2-3" of snow on the ground. Eventually it turned into a pretty day, if chilly. At least the sun came out. And we've had more sun than clouds since then, with no precipitation at all. It might actually feel like spring again in another day or two!

I've been busy stitching away on that new swap quilt to replace the one my husband wouldn't let me give away. I don't want to show it yet; I want it to be a surprise. I am pleased to report that I put the final touches on it today so it can go to its' new home as soon as I get a mailing address. Whew! Now I can turn my attention to those monthly challenges I've been neglecting. But first I'm going to spend some time in this:

It came a couple of days ago and has been airing out. I just love that lady pirate on the cover! I'm continually amazed at the wondrous creations the doll artists produce. When we lived near Houston I got to see the "In Celebration of the Doll" exhibits at the big IQA quilt show. If the quilts weren't enough to take your breath away, the dolls certainly were!

Saturday, April 19, 2008

Who Said It Was Spring?

Look at this!

It isn't even snow; it's hail!

It's coming down like rain. Not like the normal Pacific Northwest rain though. We usually get drizzle or showers at most. This is coming down thick and fast, more like a Texas frog strangler.

Who ordered this stuff anyway?!

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Keep Your Fingers Crossed!

Well. Between the head cold and hormone fluctuations and chemical exposures it's been about two weeks since I've felt completely like myself. This is the second day in a row that I've felt this strong. Woohoo! Sure hope I can keep this up.

About the only stitching I've done in that time was to finish up my journal quilt...


Yes. Finally.

(I only wish I could get a better picture of it for you!)

You saw it most recently just after I'd swapped out the heart charm for the pirate head bead. I had thought I would use more skull beads, perhaps in a fringe, but once I got all the lime green seed beads on I decided it was done. I also had ideas for some three dimensional effects with the seed beads. That didn't happen either. Sometimes, apparently, less is more.

Part of what helped me to finish this in a more understated way were my husband's comments. I don't often seek out the opinions of others as I'm working on a piece but I was so stuck on this one that I broke that pattern. He was the one that finally gave me a title for this piece that sounded true to me: "Gatekeepers."

Now all I have to do is get caught up on my journal quilts for February, March, and April!

Thursday, April 10, 2008

Love Squared

The fabulous Monica Magness has completed the art doll "Love Squared" and sent her off to the magazine Art Doll Quarterly.

Monica created her body and invited artists on the internet to send in 2" squares from which she made the doll's skirt. The whole purpose of this project was/is to raise money for Susan G. Komen for the Cure. The doll will eventually be auctioned or raffled off to one lucky winner. Can you imagine owning this doll?!! Talk about a show piece!

I sent in two squares, one of which I've been using as my profile picture at the top of my blog. It's the orange one, just under the doll's purse. The second square will be inlcuded in a wall hanging Monica is making from all the other extra squares that were sent in.

Art Doll Quarterly will be featuring the doll in an article in a future issue but right now you can see more pictures of her here.

Monday, April 7, 2008

It's Official

I have a cold. Which is sort of ironic seeing as how I wear a mask over my nose and mouth everytime I go out in public and otherwise live in virtual isolation. I suspect my darling little petrie dishes (otherwise known as granddaughters) passed it to me on the sly. Them, I can forgive. However, that household is now coping with a 3 day stomach virus. They can just keep that to themselves, thank you very much!

I have done a bit more beading on my journal quilt from last October. This is what it used to look like:

What you may not be able to see are the lime green glass seed beeds surrounding the patch of large skulls to the right of center. Those same seed beads line the perimeter of the small dark patch of skulls in the upper left corner. I have three rats sewn to the piece, another skull, and a full skeleton. Between the skull and the skeleton is a heart, secured with another lime green bead. And that's how this piece has sat for the last five months.

This is how it looks now:

I have lined more of the focal patches with the seed beads and removed the heart charm. It has been replaced by the pirate skull. I have some more skull beads I'm thinking of incorporating into this piece. It remains to be seen whether my plan for them will work or not.

I think one of the reasons I've had such a hard time moving this piece forward is that I did not have a driving vision for it when I started it. There's no story behind it, or in it, and I've never had a title for it that felt right. At the moment I'm thinking of it as my Rogue's Gallery. That may help me to get it done.

I wanted to also share with you some intuitive piecing I've been doing. I see a house and a tree and a butterfly in this bit. All from piecing scraps and crumbs together!

Thursday, April 3, 2008

How Do You See Change?

Sharon has posted the Take It Further challenge for the month of April. You can read her full post here. What it boils down to is "How do you see change?" (There's a color challenge for those who want to do that but I have chosen to focus solely on the concept each month.) I marvel at how she comes up with these concepts and how challenging they can be!

There is a back story to this month's theme but it only served to highlight for me how easy it is to see both sides of most situations. Change can be a good thing and at the same time have undesirable components to it. Depending on the circumstances, sometimes I welcome change and sometimes I dread it or avoid it (and complain about it when I can't avoid it!). How in the world do I represent that visually?

My first thought was of a wall. Changes that are hard to accept or face would be the equivalent of an impenetrable wall of stone, very high, so that there's no obvious way over or around it. An exciting change, on the other hand, could be nothing more than a line on the ground that one merely steps over. And then there's the whole range of variables inbetween!

After another 24 hours or so I was able to morph those walls into doors. A hard or unpleasant change could be a heavy wooden door chained and padlocked. An welcome change could be a door standing open in an inviting way. But I'm doing 4" x 6" postcard quilts for this series of challenges. I didn't want to have to squeeze two doors into such a small format.

Finally I decided that a single door would suffice. If the door represents change, whether that change is perceived as desirable or not, you have to go through the door. If it's a change you're not looking forward to you may put off opening that door as long as possible. If it's a happy change you may yank that door open without any hesitation whatsoever! So now I just have to come up with my door :- )

Tuesday, April 1, 2008


Okay. This is what my work surface can look like when I'm actually using it:

My friend C~ found a beaded bag at an antique store that is going out of business. It was only $2.00 so she bought it for the beads. Then she offered me half of it! I got the handle and one side panel. That's what you see in the center of the picture, on the white tray she also gave me. Off to the left you see the pile of scraps I've been working with most recently.

I spent a couple of hours yesterday taking the beads off what was the handle of the bag. First I pulled out the cording around which the beads were wrapped. The beads seemed to be stitched to a piece of fabric that was then wrapped around the cording. I had to cut each bead off individually. I couldn't find the stitch pattern to reverse sew them (which I thought might be quicker and less tedious).

This is what was leftover when I finished with it:

Then I started taking off the coppery beads that made up the flowers on the side panel of the bag. That was a much faster process, and I didn't even think about reverse sewing to get them off. They are loose enough that it's easy to slip the scissors underneath and cut the threads. This is how far I got before I quit for the day:

Now I'm off to finish the job!