Saturday, January 29, 2011

Up and Down

It has been another of those challenging weeks for me. I think winter is more difficult partly because I can't use the recirculating feature in my car's air conditioning system when I have to use the defrost setting. Since I refuse to be completely homebound more of the exhaust fumes from other vehicles get into my car when I do go out and about. Exhaust fumes are a huge trigger for me. I can't handle anything with a petroleum base to it. I've resorted to wearing my mask in the car while I'm driving but sometimes my glasses get fogged up. And then they won't clear unless I take the mask off. Can you say vicious cycle?

While I was working on my Bead Journal Project for this month I discovered that I needed time to let the thing sit so I could come back to it with fresh eyes. I wasn't ready to turn away from beading altogether though. Back in December I had an idea for my December ornament for last year's Project; I'd just never acted on it. So inbetween stints on the ATC for January I cut out the foundation and fabric for December. The actual embellishment didn't take very long.

I started with the feather, then added the 'hope' bead, then filled in with the star sequins. I was thinking of the Emily Dickinson quote, "Hope is that thing with feathers..." (in case you hadn't guessed!). My experience of the end of one year and the beginning of a new one make me see it as a time full of hope.

This ornament turned out pretty much the way I had envisioned it. That's satisfying. It was also satisfying to have it done so quickly. Now there's only one gap in my collection for 2010 (the month of June, my birth month).

After I finished the January ATC and the December ornament I still wasn't ready to put the beads away. A Creative Dreamer's Creativity Challenge for January is "white." I've thought about several ways I could respond to that challenge. Needing something to bead I decided to get out the white and irridescent beads to see what would develop.

Once this is completed I may be ready to turn back to my fabric stash. I've got Janet's intuition block on my design wall, patiently waiting for me to come play with her. I've also got a gift quilt I'd like to make. I'm still looking for the right pattern or design for that one though. In the meantime you may want to keep an eye on the Magpie's Nest to see what I do with this bit of white beadwork. ;- )

Tuesday, January 25, 2011

Imagine January's Bead Journal Project Being Done!

This is where I was when I left you on Friday with my Bead Journal Project for January 2011.

I mentioned that I felt it needed some additional beading around the perimeter. I worked on it off and on Saturday and ended up with this:

Our delightful little independent art supply store has had miniature easels in stock for folks making and collecting Artist Trading Cards (which is the size of my finished pieces). They are available in a natural finish (wouldn't it be fun to paint your own?) and black. I bought the last two that were painted black.

I love the way the easel sets off my beadwork. :- )

Because they're so small I can tuck a little beaded treasure on almost any bookcase or shelf in the house. I'm excited about this year of beading!

Friday, January 21, 2011

Imagine Sunshine

It looks something like this outside today:

I went to sleep to the sound of rain on the roof and I woke up to the sound of rain on the roof. It can be a soothing sound but when you live close to a river that is at or above flood stage it becomes a worrisome sound. So far we seem to be okay. I think I'll make sure our evac kit is up to date today though.

Yesterday I decided to switch gears in the studio. I turned my cutting table into a beading station. I've decided that for my bead journal projects this year I'm going to make a set of cases the size of artist trading cards (ATC's). So basically an ATC with a pocket back. I was thinking of a pink and orange color palette when I started out. Pulled out those bead drawers and then went for fabric.

It's a hand dyed piece, lavender with pinks and oranges in it. It's not quite as gray as it appears online. The next thing I laid my hands on was a string of dyed shell chips. Not exactly what I had in mind for this piece but that's what I was guided to. And finally, for the focal element:

Toward the end of the day this is what my beading station looked like. You may be able to see that I'd pulled out two additional drawers of beads and several packets of sequins. I also switched from the gray thread that was in my needle in the beginning to a lovely happy orange.

I didn't give up entirely on the pink and orange color scheme. The shell chips are pinks and blues and yellows and green but the seed beads I used to hold them down are mostly orange or fuchsia. I'm not sure how much that's going to show in the final product. This is where I left off last night:

I don't have a lot of room before I get to my basting stitches but I want to do something to sort of fill in around the perimeter. Hmm...

Tuesday, January 18, 2011


I'm so glad to be feeling better again. Too bad I've got to go out this afternoon to get food and things. There's always the chance I'll come back poisoned.

We had visitors over the weekend:

It's hard to believe they're going to be one year old pretty soon. (Yes, the Christmas quilt is still out. At least the tree and all the other decorations have been put away!)

My friend C~ stopped by briefly the other day too. Look what she knitted for me!

I love it. I just have to figure out what to do with it! Even DH says we can't use it as an actual dish or wash cloth. It's got to be mounted somehow or incorporated into something where it won't get abused. It's just about the right size to be a cover for my studio journal but I haven't quite figured out how to pull that off.

What I have done is get out some old intuitive piecing. The Intuition Quilt project and the other intuitive piecing I was doing most recently seem to be stalled at the moment. In an effort to get going again I dug around in my stuff and found two "blocks" I'd created months ago. One in particular spoke to me. The first thing I did was to add white strips all the way around both blocks to give them some breathing room.

Then I found bits of piano key piecing. I added to that and started more strips until I had enough to do this:

The second block is still just a sawtooth bit surrounded by white. I'll probably straighten it up today and maybe add just enough to it to make it closer to 12" square in case Janet chooses it for our Intuitive Swap. I've given her the choice between this one or the smaller one. I knew they were smaller than 12" with only the white strips but I didn't realize how much the piano keys would add until I went to straighten up the edges. I was not measuring anything and only using scissors to trim off excess seam allowances and such. It's about 17 x 15" now. Not sure what I'll do with the block she doesn't choose. Anyone else want to swap intuitive blocks? ;- )

Saturday, January 15, 2011


When I found that picture of the back cover of my sketchbook (for the Sketchbook Project) I realized how much further I'd come since that photo was taken. Here's a picture of the final version of my sketchbook:

With that done and gone it was time to turn my attention to another project. I'm not quite ready to tackle the next step of my Intuition quilt so I thought I'd have a go at another block built intuitively to send to Janet for our intuition swap. I had a short stack of bright scrappy blocks I'd made a few months ago. This seemed like a good time to bring them out and see what I could do with them. None of them were anywhere near 12" yet. I sewed a few together and came up with this:

Still not 12" but a lot closer! None of the other units seemed to work well together so I figured it was time to start some new pieces. I got into the itty-bitty scraps bin and sewed odd triangles together.

What surprised me was that this began to feel like a chore to me. Now I realize that I was probably thinking too hard about what to put where. But what I did was switch projects instead.

In my stash there was also a bunch of neutral scraps that I had sewn together at some point in time. I got those out to see what would happen with them. Mostly I only had two or three pieces sewn together when I began, like what you see at the top of the picture below.

I started combining the small units into bigger units. I also let myself sew some into long strips:

I have no idea at this point what this may turn into. I may put it all away again and do some beading instead. I don't want to send neutrals to Janet because I know she likes bright colors.

I'm feeling unsettled, dissatisfied. I suspect I may still be recovering from a toxic exposure. It's very challenging when you don't even realize you've been exposed - often I can't detect the fumes that are going to make me ill - and then suddenly you realize that you're experiencing symptoms of exposure. At least now I know to go back and track my actions. There is some comfort in discovering that there probably was a toxic event that would account for the downturn in my well being. I just wish I could find the trick for making it go away faster!

Thursday, January 13, 2011

Movin' On

I think my Sketchbook Project is complete. Originally I was going to continue the drawn "crazy quilt" onto the front cover from the backside. (You can see the beginning of that process in this post.) With so little time left before the postmark deadline I realized that wasn't going to happen. I thought seriously about trying to cover the front with pieced fabric. In the end I wasn't willing to put that much effort into it and I was worried about the actual act of sewing through that cardboard cover. Most of my book is comprised of collaged magazine clippings - which is ironic given that I can tolerate so few magazines anymore. Anyway, I had this image of an antique applique quilt left over and the colors were right so I just slapped it onto the front cover of my Sketchbook. It's completely covered with packing tape.

I'm pleased with the way it looks. Oh, and here's one of the inside spreads that I thought the quilters in my audience would appreciate:

"She stitched her fingers to the bone..."

Once I had all the scraps and bits and pieces from the Sketchbook Project cleaned up I took the house blocks off the design wall and put my Intuition Quilt sections back up. Then just for grins I put a couple of the house blocks up with them. Since the little house patch didn't make it into or onto the cover of my Sketchbook I added it to the mix on the design wall too.

There are definite possibilities here!

Let's try another configuration...

Yup, I like that too.

And what about this?

It just gets better and better!

A lot of what you see on the wall isn't sewn together - hardly any of it in fact. I expect the houses will get moved around more, maybe chopped down some. I might have to make a few decisions about the size and shape I'd like this quilt to take before I go too much further. For now though I think I'll just try to make some more compensating bits and strips. "Make more fabric," as Victoria would say. And I have to start another Intuition Block to send to Janet since I've firmly decided to keep this one!

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

Housing Project

I worked on my Intuition Quilt for a couple of days straight then had to take a break. I've got three sections in process.

They're much farther along than this now but this was the picture that was handy.

Yesterday there was a squishy envelope in the mailbox. It was from Beth. Happy, happy, happy! The blocks from the Cyber Neighborhood give away!

Every last one is wonderful in its' own way. It took me just a bit to figure out where the house was in the last block (lower right corner). Teepees! That's going to be fun to play with.

My first thought was to put all the blocks together into one quilt top. Now I'm not so sure. Each one could be developed into a quilt of it's own. And somewhere in the depths of my studio closet there's a collection of houses and buildings from my first ever friendship quilt. When I received them I hadn't a clue how to go about setting them. I have more experience under my belt now. This may be the year they come out of the closet and get sewn into a top. And I might just include a couple of blocks from my new cyber friends! (Or maybe all of them!)

Someone, I forget who, sent Beth these little patches to share as she saw fit. There must have been enough to go all the way around because I got one of them along with the houses.

Check out the face on the gable!

Rather than keeping this for myself I may include it on one of the final pages of my Sketchbook Project. This is going to be completed and put in the mail just under the postmark deadline.

It's been fun to work on. I've learned that I really enjoy using chalk pastels and blending colors. I would still rather work with a needle on fabric though. This project has also awakened the creative writer in me. I composed several haiku to accompany the visuals in the sketchbook. Right now I couldn't say whether I'll do this again. It was fun but it was also sort of distracting; it kept me from working as much on things I would rather work on. I keep hoping that one of these days I'll find myself with more energy or more discipline or something that will make it possible for me to get twice as much done as I do currently. ;- )

Thursday, January 6, 2011

First Project of the New Year

Over on the 15 Minutes of Play blog Victoria has been showing us her intuitive piecing and encouraging us to play along. I've actually been intuitively piecing since I read Gwen Marston's book Liberated Quiltmaking (first edition) in the late '90's. Most recently my projects have involved a lot of precision piecing. Watching Victoria play had me itching to get back to the intuitive work. Victoria even played matchmaker and paired me up with Janet so we could have the opportunity of working with each other. We're going to each make a 12.5" block and exchange them. Then I'll add to her block and she'll add to mine, in whatever way feels best. At this point we're not thinking beyond just this first exchange. There's no telling how big these blocks will end up!

So, as I've been thinking about this project the question was which scraps to play with? I have plenty to choose from. There's this pile, which includes scraps I received from V in a recent scrap swap.

There's my wicker basket of decades-old scraps. In the photo below there's a plastic bin of strips sitting on top of the scraps.

Then there's the pile of scraps that's been accumulating on the corner of my sewing table while I've been working on recent projects.

The trouble is that I'm pretty tired of most of those prints and colors. I wanted to work with something new and different. It has taken me several days to come to that realization. Today I remembered the darling skunk print LeeAnn was so generous to share with me. And then I thought of other vintage prints I've acquired. Pretty soon I had this little pile on my table:

Not a bad start. For Christmas I bought myself - ahem, I mean Mrs. Claus gave me - a bundle of off-cuts from Every cut was a surprise. A lot of them were novelty prints. I've only prewashed about half of them so far but there were a couple of those strips I thought would also work with these vintage prints.

So this is the palette I'm going to start with. Now it's just a matter of sitting down at the sewing machine and digging in. :- )

Sunday, January 2, 2011

Year's End

I know there hasn't been any new quilty (or beading) material on this blog in a while. Bear with me, it's coming. Even though I'm pretty much at home 24/7 the holidays always manage to throw me off my game. It's beginning to take a toll too. I'm missing my blogging buddies, wondering what they've been up to, and I'm afraid my sewing machine won't recognize me when I return to her. I just hope a battle doesn't break out between the sewing machine, Phoebe, and Ruth, my new NookColor. That could get ugly.

For now, let me take you back in time by two weeks. Or maybe a little before that even. When my Darling Daughter was a wee tyke one of my friends made a cloth doll for her. This was in the 1980's when "country style" decorating was in vogue. The doll is quite big to a little girl, maybe 24" tall. I'm sure she came with a dress and apron but I don't remember them. What I remember seeing the doll dressed in was my own little girl's clothes.

Years pass. My little girl now has little girls of her own and they want to play with Mommy's "Emily doll". Mommy reluctantly allows it. Suddenly Emily's head is about to come off. DD brings her to Grandma's Doll Hospital and Grandma does her best to fix her up.

It's hard to tell from the photo but I freshened up her mouth a bit and secured her eyes after strengthening her neck with a strip of bias tape. I decided to leave what's left of her hair as is. She came to me naked (no surprise) but I found this T-shirt that my daughter wore in pre-shcool to send her home in.

The next order of business was to create new "Emily dolls" for the two oldest Darling GrandDaughters. Son helped out by drafting patterns and cutting the body parts out for me. Rather than try to precisely recreate my daughter's doll we decided to make contemporary versions. Besides, the ribbon flowers I used for hair was significanly cheaper than the number of snaps I would have needed for two doll heads!

We outfitted them with dresses we found at the thrift shop. I think one was actually meant to be a child's top, not a dress. We found a little crocheted capelet that fit the dolls perfectly too. Son made a second capelet out of fabric using the crocheted cape as a pattern so both dolls would have something to wear to keep them warm. The dolls were well received on Christmas Day. The babies thought they made great chew toys. It's probably too soon for the girls to have christened the dolls with names that will stick but I'm curious to see what they end up being called.

While my husband has been home this week he has been taking care of some home improvement projects that have been long on the To Do list. The worst of it was the kitchen faucet. He toyed with the idea of just replacing the O ring or whatever was wearing out. In the end we decided to upgrade to a new faucet. It took some stepping to find just the right one of course. Then getting the old faucet out of the sink turned into a massive undertaking.

The job is done now, the new faucet is beautiful (but the kitchen is too big a mess at the moment for me to photograph it for you) and we even have a new light fixture over the kitchen sink to go with it. Hallelujah!

Over the last few days I've culled some books and back issues of magazines from my studio bookshelves. The rest of the studio is still a mess though; both the sewing and cutting tables are buried. I'm anxious to get back to piecing scraps and orphan blocks into new quilts. I've got to finish up my Sketchbook Project and get it submitted and then settle on a new form for this year's Bead Journal Project. I think I may need to heed the wisdom of Helen (who has no blog as near as I can tell). She says, "Quilting is chicken soup for the bewildered. Make two blocks and call a quilter in the morning." Well, I'll make two blocks and then go visit quilt bloggers in the morning!