Monday, June 30, 2008


It's been sunny and warm here the last few days. While I absolutely adore the sunshine it got too warm to leave the windows closed and now I have a headache, I assume from poor air quality. That's probably the most frustrating thing about this affliction: it's almost impossible to know exactly what my body is reacting to. On the up-side, this headache is not so bad that I can't function.

I took advantage of the sunshine over the weekend to go outside and do some frottage for the first lesson of my online Studio Journals class. I'd never done this technique before (unless it was when I was a child and I've forgotten the experience!) but it's quite simple. All you do is lay a piece of paper over an object that has some physical texture to it and use a pencil or crayon over the surface of the paper. I discovered that you don't always get what you'd expect. In doing some research on the topic online I also learned that when you rub over a wood grain in one direction you'll get one result, but if you rub over the same area in the other direction you'll get a different look. (Here's the link to that site.) I'm anxious to get back outside and try that.

In the meantime, here's a commercial applique I had in my stash...

and the rubbing I did of it:

I used a Prismacolor pencil to do the bird frottage. The one above was done with a regular pencil. That's the impression I got from the lid of a plastic pencil case I have. Down in the lower right corner you can see two tiny elements I lifted from a cut glass bowl. I now have pages and pages of this stuff to put in my studio journal!

Saturday, June 28, 2008

Playing Around

It doesn't seem like four days since my last post! At least I have something to show for my absence...

I've had a bunch of junvenile prints in my stash for a long time that are cute as heck but I could never seem work them into anything. Finally I decided to just bite the bullet and cut them up into strips a la Bonnie over at Quiltville. I cut those prints and some others I wanted to get rid of into mostly 1.5," 2.5," and 3.5" strips. Then I picked up a couple of strips, sewed the short ends together, and before long I had this:

It's not quite up to preemie size yet. It needs another 3" in width and obviously needs to be trimmed across the top. I expect to add a narrow strip to each side to get the necessary width. The rows (columns) are not sewn together yet because when I got to this point I received a tiny little box in the mail. Probably the smallest size the Post Office will let you get away with mailing anymore! Inside the box was a set of salt dough medallions made by Sara S. If I were a better photographer I would have taken their picture for you. Because they are white and kind of shiny there's no way I'll be able to get a decent group shot of them. However, I was inspired to use one of them right away. In fact, I was inspired to try several things I'd been wanting to play with for a while now...

The medallion I chose to use features an impression of a set of long skinny leaves. I put that on a Color Catcher sheet that had been dyed this lovely color by going through the wash with one or more things that bled. I've been saving some of my more colorful used sheets for just this purpose. The bulky (boucle?) yarn is couched down with a variety of beads. I tacked silk roving under and around the nest charm. I also finally got to use a few of the vintage rectangular sequins I've had in my stash for a long time. The one problem I ran into was that I'd stitched the Color Catcher sheet to a piece of Peltex before I added all the other embellishments. So now I have a finished top but all the threads are exposed on the back. I will not use fusible products because of my chemical issues. I think what I'm going to do is use double-sided tape to adhere a piece of watercolor paper to the back to finish that side.

The one thing I would like to do is figure out a way to enhance the background somehow. It's too late for this particular effort, I think, but there have been a couple of other pieces where I've felt the background lacked something. My first reaction is to seed stitch the background with floss. Sometimes that's just too much effort! I guess what I'm looking for is a way to make marks on the background that will be subtle and not time consuming. And not harmful to my delicate system ;- )

Tuesday, June 24, 2008

A Truly Liberated Quilt

It was kind of a busy weekend around here. My sister came up for a visit so I had to do some cleaning I'd been putting off. It was good to have that kind of motivation ;- )

Since I haven't been stitching for the last few (several?) days I decided to finally show you the first quilt I made for that one-on-one swap I did awhile back. This is the one that my husband wouldn't let me give away when he found out that was the plan! (It's a little dark in this photo.)

"Cosmic Goddesses" is roughly 17" square. I started by free piecing the stars, then used scraps to soften the sides of the batik face panels and make the sawtooth strips.

Other scraps were used to fill in around the stars and faces.

I couldn't even imagine machine quilting this top. Instead, sparkling it up with beads and sequins seemed like the thing to do. I also did some outline stitching along the seamlines in the centers of the star blocks.

Pat at Gatherings found pastel colored sequins at Eastertime and generously shared some with me. The aqua sequins were perfect for this project. I used a lot of tiny star sequins too!

To me, this quilt epitomizes liberated quiltmaking. It was completely free-form, unplanned, and spontaneous - everything that a liberated quilt should be. I had a blast making it, right down to sewing on the last sequin, and it shows. Which is probaly why my husband wouldn't let me give it away!

Friday, June 20, 2008

Starting A New Year

Yup, this little girl is now one year older.

Wednesday was a delightful day for me. It began with DH presenting me with this gorgeous bouquet of flowers:

DD and her family picked out a new jigsaw puzzle for me to do and I have a new book to explore courtesy of my sister:

I also have a new quilt to make. One of my sisters-in-law sent me these:

A treasure map panel from Hoffman Fabrics and co-ordinating fat quarters!

Does that say "little boy" or what?! Too bad I don't have a grandson on the way ;- )

Not to worry ~ I'm in no hurry for more grandchildren. And who knows how long it will be before I get these made up into a quilt anyway! Still, they will be fun to play with. When I finished up the postcard for June's TIF challenge I found myself looking at my stash, thinking about using up some of the older prints finally. I really have to do something to make room for the new fabrics that seem to keep showing up in spite of my efforts to resist them!

Thursday, June 19, 2008

What's the Story?

This particular story is about my postcard quilt for June's Take It Further challenge.

The challenge was to "think about stories that are and stories that are possible." That really threw me for a loop because there seemed to be so much to choose from. Sharon came up with the challenge based on her ruminations about our stashes. My stash includes everything from vintage fabrics to new prints and a variety of embellishments to boot.

I thought I was going to use an assortment of fabrics, even some vintage ones perhaps. But in the end I used only one print, and I used it because one tiny image in the print sparked a question in my own mind.

Do you see the little sign in front of the farmhouse? It says "Farm for Sale." I saw that and wondered what the story might be behind that sign. Why is the farm for sale? It looks to me like the print was designed to represent the Great Depression of the 1930's but I didn't really want to focus on that specifically. Besides, the farmhouse in the print wouldn't fit in my 4" x 6" format. So I cut and pieced bits of the print until I felt I had a cohesive whole. There are actually seven patches in this little postcard quilt.

Once I had it pieced I did some embroidery to highlight specific features.

I would have preferred to have had the farmhouse in the picture, but I did the best I could with what I had. Overall I'm pleased with it, and I used some embroidery stitches I haven't used in a long time, thereby taking it further!

Tuesday, June 17, 2008

Look What I Won!

Freebird did a give-away to celebrate her first year of blogging. Look what I won!

The teacup itself is not quite as pink in person. More of a pale peach. The whole thing is just about 3" across. She put a strong magnet on the back so I can display it on my refrigerator. Like this:

Our refrigerator is configured with the freezer compartment on top. The freezer door is almost covered with cartoons I've clipped from the newspaper. Every six months or so I edit them, adding newer strips and taking down those we seem to have "outgrown." The lower door, which is larger, has some magnets on it but I try to keep the papers confined to the upper door. That way it's okay for the granddaughters to play with the magnets they can reach. You'll notice that Freebird's magnet is up at the tippy-top :- ) I cropped the photo so you wouldn't see the dust bunnies that live on top of the fridge!

While I had the camera out I took a picture of that box of stash stuff that recently came in from the garage.

Orphan blocks, fabrics from the projects I was working on when we moved, a basket of scraps ... It's exciting to find these things but also a little intimidating. Now I have to find someplace to put them!

The Grandmother's Flower Garden blocks were made by a friend of mine many years ago. That parrot is actually a little zippered bag. There are Guatemalen fabrics in this box, along with some fun polka dot prints that I don't think I'll be able to work with anymore because of the finish on them. There were some feedsacks in there too. Oy, so many projects! How realistic is it to think that I'll ever make even half of what I had planned? Not very, I'm afraid. But I'm not sure I'm ready to be all that realistic yet. One thing at a time ;- )

Monday, June 16, 2008

Don't Mess With My Great Grandma!

So I found a copy of a picture of young Eva and her husband. Notice who's holding the gun.

Apparently Eva was not only a skilled needlewoman, she was also a crack shot!

We've had three consecutive days of sunshine so far. Whoopee! All the mothballed linens spent time outside and seem to be fragrance free now. In fact, they smell like they've been washed and dried on a line. I love that smell. If we had more dry days around here I'd be tempted to have a clothesline installed.

The beads I ordered for the background of my May journal quilt arrived. Because they were size 11 delicas I assumed they would be the same size as the size 11 seed beads I had on hand. Wrong! They are smaller. They are also a slightly different shape (all of this probably would not have been a surprise to a more experienced beader). I decided to use them anyway because that shape sits better on the surface of the quilt. Because they are smaller, however, I'm finding that I'm sewing them much closer together than I had originally intended. I may have to buy yet another tube of beads!

The beading is going more quickly than I thought it might. I'm trying to leave enough room around the perimeter of the piece to allow room for the presser foot of my sewing machine when I sew the binding on the quilt. I've run into problems with that in the past. That means that once I have the binding applied, but before I sew it down, I'll have to go back and add beads to fill in the gaps next to the binding.

Hopefully sometime during this process I'll come up with an actual title for this journal quilt.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

Liberated Quiltmaking Reprint?

Tonya over at Lazy Gal Quilting has been in contact with Gwen Marston about the possibility of publishing Liberated Quiltmaking again. If you missed out on it during its' first printing and are willing to spend something on the order of $36 for a new volume let Tonya know.

Eva's Double Wedding Ring

Woohoo! The sun is shining!!! Yippee!!! (We'll see how long it lasts!)

I have an old quilt top to share with you today. This Double Wedding Ring was machine pieced by my great grandmother Eva, sometime before 1940.

I see prints I would identify as being from the last decade of the 1800's and a few pieces that look like drapery fabric. It's in good shape, having never been quilted or used. There is at least one small age spot but that's all I've found so far.

I've taken a few deail photos so you can see the variety of fabrics she used. (I have no idea whether clicking on the photos will take you to a larger image or not. I haven't figured out that bit of magic yet.)

I'm so relieved I didn't pack this quilt top with the mothballs that the other family linens are infused with! By the way, if anyone has any ideas for eliminating mothball fumes from textiles please let me know. I'm going to take advantage of the sunshine today and lay them out on a sheet in the yard to see if that will help.

Wednesday, June 11, 2008

New Project

Feeling just a little out of it this morning. Ran into some mothball fumes yesterday afternoon when I unpacked family textiles that had been in storage for years. I have a tiny headache, but I'm very pleased that it's not any worse than it is.

One of the benefits of having the garage cleared out and better organized was being able to finally access that stuff! The mothballs were long gone but you know how that fragrance lingers. {phew!}

My original plan was to combine the various textiles into a family history crazy quilt someday. Now I'm thinking of doing a series of smaller quilts instead of one large quilt. This idea was inspired in part by Robin Atkins' beaded "Decade Dolls," which can be found in her new book, and partly by the journal quilts I've been doing in conjunction with the Bead Journal Project. The family history quilts will be bigger than the journal quilts (which were 8.5" x 11") just because I expect to need more room for what I want to accomplish with each quilt. But a set of smaller quilts will be easier to divide between my three children when the time comes than one large quilt would be!

I'm making a mental note to myself right now to photograph some of the textiles as I find and/or launder them. I have a couple of quilt tops, but I also have things like slips and napkins and a row of buttons still on the original shirt fabric. Those buttons were from a shirt worn by a great uncle or great-great uncle. It's hard to know which since they had the same name :- )

I have begun a new journal/sketchbook in which to keep track of my thoughts and develop the plans for the quilts. Right now I'm making notes about what I've found so far and what remains to be unearthed. (As in, "Where is that piece Aunt Daisy stitched?!") I'm sure there will be surprises along the way. Good surprises I hope!

The whole reason I even got started on this new project is because I'm having to wait for beads to be delivered. My local bead shop didn't have the seed beads I wanted for the background of my May journal quilt. Since I had to order beads online I also ordered some I might be able to use on April's journal quilt. I expect the family history quilts to be something I work on inbetween other projects for some time to come.

The face in this post and the last are pins I made 10 years ago. They're roughly 3" x 4".

Monday, June 9, 2008

She Who Hesitates Gets Tagged Twice!

Beadbabe tagged me to do a meme late last week. Only a few days later I got tagged again by Hilhne! I have five things to reveal to you:

What was I doing 10 years ago? This was actually the hardest of the questions to answer. I don't have the kind of memory that retains that kind of information. I had to go back through calendars and journals to get a feel for what was going on in my life at that time! What I found out was that my two of my three children were in middle school, the third in his final years of elementary school. So I was busy with everything that goes with having three school-age children. But I was also involved in a new cloth dollmaking club that a friend and I started in the area, and two quilt guilds. I sold a few of my creations at the Farmer's Market on Saturdays. I worked in a local fabric store too (part time). My husband was finishing up his Associate's Degree at the community college.

Five things on my To Do list today:
1. take a shower (before I do anything else!)
2. call to make an appointment to have my hair cut (There's a gal who comes to my house to do that for me. I can no longer tolerate a beauty parlor.)
3. get more of the beads I want to use in the background of my May journal quilt
4. stop at the organic food market for this week's groceries
5. pay the bills :- (

Snacks that I enjoy include Kashi TLC original 7 grain crackers, organic blueberries and almonds, and Endangered Species extreme dark chocolate bars.

Things I would do if I were a billionaire... DH and I have fantasized about this many times. We want acreage, preferably on the coast somewhere (tsunamis be damned!). In addition to the house we would have at least one outbuilding. It would house his home theater, photography studio, and all of his other interests. My studio would be in the house and be larger than what I currently have. Obviously I would have any and all of the supplies I wanted! The grounds would be maintained organically and we would probably grow a lot of our own food (with the assistance of real gardeners!). Then there's the whole making sure the kids have what they need and all that. If it were possible for me to travel I would also have a home in the sunbelt somewhere so I'd have a place to run away to when the cloud cover became unbearable (like now).

Now for the list of places I've lived.
In Michigan: Pontiac, East Lansing, Detroit, Lansing.
In Ohio: Cedarville, Xenia, Dayton.
Fayetteville, North Carolina
Columbia, South Carolina
In Texas: Wichita Falls (although when we got there it was right after a tornado and the locals were calling it Wichita Flats), Lubbock, Abilene, Houston, Richmond.
And finally under the blanket in Skagit Valley, Washington.

Now it's my turn to tag a few other folks. Let's see.... how about

All you have to do is answer these five questions and then tag 4-6 more people to play along! Make sure to leave them a comment or message that they've been tagged ;- )

Saturday, June 7, 2008

Take It Further for May

So after I finished piecing the journal quilt page for April I decided I would tackle my Take It Further challenge piece for May. My most recent decision had been to use this postcard top I pieced in May, specifically for the challenge:

Just for kicks I went back through my tiny stash of previously pieced postcard tops. Look what I found:

Clear, bright colors... a witch sort of overlooking it all (Halloween is my favorite holiday)... sewn intuitively from scraps... this could work! It certainly shows how I'm working at the moment, in the hues I naturally gravitate to.

I started auditioning beads and buttons and before I knew it I had this:

Ta daa!

The challenge was "What do you call yourself and why?" I may not make 'fine art' but I do consider myself an artist first and foremost. When pressed I use the term textile artist because everything I do begins with a textile of some kind. This card demonstrates how I use my medium of choice.

I guess the way I see it, I'm an artist because I do notice the small details (March's TIF challenge) and it matters to me that they be arranged in an aesthetically pleasing way. I may see things a little differently from other people or I may notice things that others might miss. I definitely enjoy creating a little story or vignette. I have practiced my craft and sought out skills and knowledge that enhance the creative decisions I make and allow me to express myself in a unique way.

Now I'm thinking that the postcard I pieced for May might actually work for June's challenge...!

Friday, June 6, 2008

April BJP

Yes, April. I finally finished piecing it. Now I have to embellish it! (Don't hold your breath!)

This one began with the face panel. It was one of a set of maybe six from Indonesian Batiks that I purchased at a quilt show a loooong time ago. Back in March and April I was working with some of the other panels from the set in a pair of wall quilts (which I will reveal soon) so I thought it appropriate to document that work in a journal quilt. I also intended to use some of the scraps from those quilts in this one but that didn't happen. The pink strip at the bottom was a scrap from a friend of mine. It was in that pile of scraps I brought home from our last meeting, and it was the only piece of that particular print in the bag. When I saw the fish images in it I immediately thought of this face panel. That's when the scraps from the previous wall quilts pretty much went out the window. I haven't thought about how I'm going to embellish this yet but I think I want to play up the fish theme. (Wonder what symbolism there is in that?)

Ideally I'd like to get the journal quilts (all three of them) and my May and June TIF postcards done by the end of this month. I doubt that will actually happen though. Not unless the sun finally comes out and sticks around for a while. I think I'm beginning to suffer from SAD again. Honestly. The folks who keep track of such things have said that our temperatures are below normal and we've had more days of cloud cover and rain than is normal for this area at this time of the year. It's JUNE for crying out loud!!! It's supposed to be warm and sunny, at least a couple of days a week! I'm sitting here in layers of long sleeves and last night I had to turn the heat back on. I appreciate that we've not lost our home to a tornado or anything but come on!

Okay. Enough of that. New topic: it appears that some of my emails are not getting through to me. Some of the comments from my blog are coming through but not all of them. Some of the emails people send directly to me are delivered but not all of them. I don't know what's going on or how to correct the problem. I don't know if my in-house tech support (DH) will be able to sort this out or not, but we're working on it. Just so you know.

Wednesday, June 4, 2008

Q4L Blocks and June's Take It Further Challenge

Woohoo! I feel good again! No headache, I have energy and enthusiasm... I feel normal for the first time in days! Hallelujah! (Now if I can just keep from screwing it up somehow.)

Yesterday I made four of these log cabin style tulip blocks to donate to Quilts 4 Leukaemia:

So now I have an even dozen to put in the mail. Here are a few more of the maverick blocks I pieced over the weekend:

I hope they won't be too hard for Clare to incorporate into one or more quilts.

I've put the red and white scraps away so I can now turn my attention back to the unfinished journal quilts and May's Take It Further postcard quilt. The TIF challenge for June has been posted too. This month the idea to think about is stories that are and stories that are possible.

This came about as a result of Sharon's musings on the types and the extent of 'stash' that we have in this day and age: "They are either purchased or scavenged materials that have accumulated over time and as such they often have a story to tell. Or it is possibly more correct to say that stashes are full of stories. The interesting thing for textile practitoners is that these materials can take on another story. They can be made into something new and take on other meanings in someones life.

Stashes also act as signifiers of wealth. Not only is the obvious wealth of what the stash actually costs to have and house but there is the psychological wealth of a stash because a stash is full of possibilities. While material is uncut it is rich with possible uses. Once you have committed to using it the material moves from being something that is full of potential to a project."

My first thought was how expansive this topic is compared to the very specific challenges we've had previously. That almost makes it harder for me because there's so much to choose froom. "Stories that are and stories that are possible." Whew!

I have both new and vintage or recycled materials in my stash(es). I am taken with the idea of using something that already has a history to make a new thing, thus adding to that history. It will be interesting to see how this develops over the coming weeks.

Sunday, June 1, 2008

Magpie 201

Freebird left me a comment asking how I cope with having so many different projects in the works at one time. I can't remember a time when I didn't have more than one project in the works! Even back when I was doing needlepoint I had more than one canvas in process. That 'quicksilver' mind of a Gemini at work I guess. I get bored, I need a change of pace, and I prefer the creative process over the finishing processes.

What Freebird may not realize is how many UFO's I have in my closet. (UFO's are UnFinished Objects.) I'm not going to take the time to inventory them or count them for you but suffice to say that there's a stack. And some of them are old. Not as many as there used to be, I'm happy to report. Last year I concentrated on thinning the herd as it were. I gave some away and finished a few. Some I moved further along but they are still waiting for final borders or quilting. I have given myself permission to ignore them this year unless and until the mood strikes.

And I have learned that it is wiser for me to work with my moods rather than against them. It's actually less stressful for me to have many projects in process so I can pick and choose what to work on according to my mood than to have to force myself to finish a project before I can begin a new one. I would be one grouchy magpie if I had to complete every single thing I started before beginning an enticing new project! No, I would have quit creating altogether if someone had tried to impose that rule on me. In which case I would probably be dead. Or as good as.

The creative process is what gets me out of bed in the mornings. I am like a vampire in that the project I had to stop in the middle of because I was too tired to do any more work on it or the new idea percolating in the back of my mind are life-blood to me. Without a new idea to play with, without a new fabric or tube of beads to inspire, without visual stimulation all around me I would first be grouchy and then lifeless. Just ask my family.

I have also learned, over the last couple of years, to use my need to create to distract me from the pain my body inflicts on me. So I machine piece when I have energy or a severe headache (which may sound like a contradiction but I'll explain in a minute). I hand embellish when I'm feeling less energetic, more meditative. Some projects require my full attention or concentration and I don't always have that to give. So I have other projects that I can do relatively mindlessly. Case in point: yesterday.

Yesterday I woke up with a searing headache. One that I knew no drugs available would remove without putting me to sleep for the day. I didn't want to sleep the day away but I knew I wouldn't be able to focus on any of the projects you saw on my design wall in the last post. To distract myself from the headache I chose to machine piece something that wouldn't require much mental effort. I made blocks for the Quilts4Leukaemia project. They are not precision pieced blocks, but maverick Log Cabin blocks I made out of scraps that I hope Clare will be able to put to good use. And since you've been so patient and waded through all this mess I'll show you two of them:

I would show you more except that none of the other pictures turned out as well and I don't feel like having another go at it right now. (Not all of the blocks have chickens in them!) The headache has subsided but it has left me a little grumpy still. I think I'm going to go check out the new Take It Further challenge over on Sharon's blog and then we'll see what happens next...