Sunday, January 29, 2012

Endings & Beginnings

I sure seem to be slacking off in my blog posting and reading. Partly because I've had my nose to the needle, so to speak, but I think the time of year has something to do with it as well. We had that week of snow and cold. Since then it's been gray and rainy. Just the sort of weather that makes me want to stay snug and warm under my quilts. Friends of mine are participating in retreats and workshops. Just the sort of thing I would love to be doing also but because I can't I tend to become even more of a recluse than ever. Go figure.

I finished up the doll quilts on the day of my last post. The next day I sewed up four quick little pillows to go with the quilts.

I found out that the two older granddaughters are using the doll quilts I made for their mother when she was a little girl. Guess I need to make a couple more new ones!

I've been working on the surprise quilt...

It's just about ready to go in the mail. :- )

Yesterday I found out about a local artist/painter/teacher who has been diagnosed with stage 4 colon cancer. She has inadequate insurance, as do most artists, so the art community is putting together a fundraising auction on her behalf. I've decided to make a version of Bonnie Hunter's "Simply Strippy" using black and red and white prints to contribute to the auction.

I've been cutting strips off of yardage in my stash randomly. I wish I could figure out how much more I need to cut without keeping a running total. I can't tell whether I've got enough to get started sewing or not! Probably I have a long way to go still. I'll start sewing these together today and cut more as needed I guess. If you don't hear from me again in a few days you'll know that I'm stuck at the sewing machine. ;- )

Monday, January 23, 2012

Quick Project

For the last week or so I've been working daily on a project that involves a lot of hand work. I'm not ready to share it with you yet. Julie might be interested to see some of the elements I've been using though... ;- )

But then I realized that my twin granddaughters have a birthday coming up in less than two weeks. Eeek! Daughter and I conspired on a purchased gift but I wanted to contribute something more personal as well. Something from Grandma.

Em sent me a selection of girly prints a while back, and all along I've thought they would be fun to turn into a doll quilt. Or two doll quilts in this case! I added only one print, sewed up some Rail Fence blocks, and in no time had this (well, before borders):
I hope you can see it, the colors are very light. In fact, those prints were so unlike anything I buy for myself that I had a hard time coming up with a border fabric I liked. The one I ended up using was also a gift to me - about 15 years ago! It happens to have been purchased by the twins' great grandmother. I think that's pretty neat.

Here you may be able to see the prints Em sent me. There's Glinda the good witch from the Wizard of Oz and another sprinkled with crowns and wands, and the yellow is covered with purses and things. Very cute, just very pastel. I'm not a pastel kind of gal. ;- )

So with Ruby Blue's speed we were able to get this pair of quilt tops put together in an afternoon. The quilts will finish at about 22 inches square. I still have to find backing and get them stitched together but that shouldn't be a big deal. I don't plan to use batting, just the two layers so the quilts will be easy to use to swaddle a doll. I'm also planning to make pillows to go with the quilts. Hopefully you'll get to see those in a few days. :- )

Wednesday, January 18, 2012

A Little Excitement

You may have heard or read about the massive snowstorm in the Pacific Northwest. We've had snow on the ground since Sunday up here (north of Seattle) so I wasn't really surprised to see it looked pretty much the same this morning.

I went out in the car Monday. At the time the major roads were wet but clear. I haven't been out since. The big trash trucks made it through the neighborhood yesterday. If it weren't for their tracks it would be harder to tell where the front yards end and the street begins!

The real excitement this morning, for me at least, took place in the studio. My canary Mr. Bingley lives in what is technically a cockatiel's cage.

Sometimes when I take out the dirty papers from the bottom of the cage I take out the tray they sit in as well. I've seen Mr. Bingley hop down to the floor of the cage on those occasions and peek out the opening. I've never been able to get a picture of it. I wish you could see it though, it's such a cute sight. Today while my back was turned he didn't just peek out, he squeezed through! I came back with a fresh layer of newspaper in the tray and there was no bird in the cage!

It took me a few moments to find him in the room, perched on a light cord that's stretched between two bookcases. The next thing I did was to close the door to the room so he couldn't escape into the rest of the house. Then I put the tray in the cage, opened the big front door (where a cockatiel owner would reach in to bring the bird out or put him away), and proceeded to refill his seed cup. While I was doing this Mr. Bingley was flitting around the room, checking things out. Reilly was in the room too, and by this time had noticed the bird. That worried me a bit. Just as I was beginning to think I would have to find a way to catch Mr. Bingley to return him to safety he flew across the room to his cage, perching on the wires in the big doorway. It didn't take much to coax him the rest of the way in.

Whew! That was fun. :- ) I've seen videos of other people's canaries allowed out of their cages and have been tempted to give Mr. Bingley the same opportunity. I want to make sure it's safe for him though, with the iron off and Reilly secured. Today I'm glad that his unscheduled adventure turned out well. Not sure how soon I'll be prepared to do it again!

Sunday, January 15, 2012


So now that Christmas is over I can show you a few of the potholders I made as gifts for folks. Unfortunately I didn't get pictures of all of them. In fact, a couple of the cutest ones were the ones I neglected to photograph!

I started with this six inch basket block, framed up to eight inches.

It looked a little blah. I pondered on it for a day or two and then decided to take off two of the white framing strips. I replaced them with more of the peppermint candy print. I like this much better. :- )

After than I pretty much stuck to my go-to block, Hole in the Barn Door. I love the way it acts as a frame for novelty prints.

This pair are for an ex-pat Texan (just in case you couldn't tell!).

I've been doing a bit of tidying up in the Magpie's Nest since finishing my journal quilt (see previous post). I suspect there will be some reorganization taking place as the year progresses but not a lot all at once. I did have an "ah ha!" moment though when I was trying to tally up my accomplishments from the last year. I've been marking them in my studio journal as I complete them but I wasn't keeping a running list anywhere. I know some folks do that on their blogs; that doesn't seem to be my style. Instead, I found this gorgeous little journal:

It's only about 4" x 6" and feels like something special in my hands. Being able to record another finish in this little book may actually act as a motivator to get more done!

Wednesday, January 11, 2012

First Finish of 2012

Introducing Hilu-uli, what would have been my sixth journal quilt in the very first first Bead Journal Project (she's really not that off kilter; the picture was taken at an angle):

One of the things that had me stumped back when I began this quilt was that image of the woman with the fish on her head. I took time out from putting the sequins in the background to do some research into general symbolism. That led me to Hawaiian folklore. Turns out there's a story about a pair of twins, a boy, Hilu-ula, and a girl, Hilu-uli. They were humans but had the power to change themselves into other forms. When the girl grew up she did just that and went to live as a fish in the ocean. Everywhere she went the population of the hilu exploded such that the sea was red with them. Naturally the islanders caught and cooked them for food since they were so abundant. When her brother discovered what was going on he turned himself into a whirlwind and blew all the fish back into the sea. Since then the hilu-uli have had dark scales.

This fish is pink and navy blue rather than red and black but that's close enough for me! I outline stitched Hilu-uli's face and the fish with number 8 perle cotton and added a flat sequin for the fish eye. The sun in the upper left corner is beaded with stacks of seed beads and star sequins in varying heights.

Here's what the ocean floor looks like (at least most of it!). Getting that binding on was a bit tricky but working slowly and on Phoebe, my machine with the narrower feed dogs, it turned out okay. I actually sewed over a bead up in the sun area, not down here as I expected I might.

I've been storing these journal quilts in a 9 x 12 portfolio. This quilt has so much dimensionality that I don't think it will fit into a sleeve. And the portolio was already bulging to the point it just about wouldn't shut.

I took out the quilts, stacked them, and measured the stack. A little over two inches, allowing for the depth of the sequin stacks on this most recent quilt. Plus there are a couple of other journal-size quilts I've also been keeping in this portfolio.

I think it's time to look for a box to keep these in instead. And I think Ive found just the thing here!

Friday, January 6, 2012

Revisiting a UFO

Apparently I wasn't ready to be done beading when I finished the final ATC for last year's BJP. Instead of starting a new project for January of this year I pulled out one of the unfinished journal quilts I was making during the first year of the BJP. That first year I finished nine out of 12 pieces. I had foundations pieced for all 12 though.

While DH was home from work during the holidays he and I took a little road trip up north to check out a bead shop I'd never been in before. A couple of doors down was a needlepoint, knitting, and stitchery shop. That's where I found the discounted ball of the rainbow yarn you'll see in the picture below. And that's what reminded me of this particular journal quilt!

The batik panel of the head with the fish was part of a set I acquired many, many years ago. It might have been 4.5" square to begin with. The whole quilt will finish at about 8.5 x 11 inches. I remember that I had a vague idea of how I wanted to embellish at least the bottom of the quilt. I must not have had the right materials at the time though because I never got started.

I bought the rainbow yarn thinking it would make great doll hair. Turns out it also makes delightful seaweed! I didn't even realized there were nubby bits in the yarn until I started cutting it up to couch onto this quilt.

Once I had that "plant" in place it seemed natural to work on the rest of the sea bed. More yarn was involved in that process. The photo below shows a prospective layout for more sea life on the ocean floor.

This is what it looked like a couple of days later:

I'm a little worried about getting binding sewn onto the edges of this quilt; those beads are pretty close to the edge and some are bulky. You may notice that I used a bit of gently twisted ribbon to soften the seam line between the pink batik print and the turquoise above it. It was a little tricky to do but I'm really happy with my school of zebra fish swimming by. ;- )

This piece has progressed even further since that last photo was taken. As I complete each section it becomes clear what to do in the next section. What a relief! I'd really like to keep working on this until it's done, not get interrupted by anything else, but I can only do so much each day. And I haven't cleaned up the studio enough to be able to work on another project while this one is in process. I consider myself fortunate to have such a terrible problem!

Tuesday, January 3, 2012

Tribute to Rosie Lee Tompkins

Yeehaw! I actually finished all 12 ATC's for the Bead Journal Project 2011 before the end of the year!

I knew what I wanted to do for my final ATC of the year. Earlier in the year I'd purchased a copy of Something Pertaining to God, the catalog that accompanied exhibitions of the work of Rosie Lee Tompkins. In reading through it and looking at the examples of Rosie's work I developed a feeling of kinship with Rosie Lee. I happened to notice that she passed away in December of 2006. That's when I decided that she would be the subject of my December ATC.

I started with a scrap of cotton but that didn't feel right. Going back through the catalog of her work I saw that a lot of what was not quilts was made out of velvets and other materials. So I went through my collection of not-cotton fabrics and found a man's tie that I thought would work well with the beads I'd chosen. Rosie's favorite colors were yellow, orange, and purple. In fact, she wouldn't let Eli Leon take her picture for the catalog but she did let him set up one of her favorite outfits on a chair as if she were wearing them and they happened to be in those colors.

Rosie's legal name was Effie Mae Howard. She put her name on a lot of her later work, along with birth dates and scriptural references. I copied the style she used when she put her name on her pieces, except for the star. That would simply have been another cross stitch. The red triangle beads represent her freestyle piecing.

I couldn't be happier with the way this turned out. And I'm over the moon that I finally succeeded in making 12 pieces for one Bead Journal Project. I was so excited that on New Year's Day I got out one of the journal quilts I'd started in the first year of the BJP and put some beads and yarn on it. There's still a ways to go before it will be anywhere near complete however. That's one reason I didn't complete the first year: my format was too big. That's okay though, it was a good learning experience. I think for this year I'm going to stay small but give myself a little more room by working on 3.5 inch squares. I already have an idea for what to do for January too! :- )