Thursday, May 31, 2012


Recently I was blabbering about how I don't have a stack of UFO's.....and confessing my impatience for stitching patchwork.

While digging in my overflowing fabric closet, I came upon a king size quilt top, plus several extra rows and some blocks.  All made to become a duvet cover and shams.  This was in the works just prior to our decision to pick up and move from Wisconsin to North it got forgotten.
 Several members of our PTA fiber group shared a fun technique..... what's being called "disappearing 4 patch or 9 patch".  Instead of linking you to a specific site...I'm recommending you google it instead because there are many good tutorials to follow.

 I'll show you my short version.
First, take a block....line up your ruler...measuring 1" from the center seam line and cut across the whole block.
Do that on each vertical and horizontal side of the center seam.  It's easiest to work on a small cutting mat that can be rotated as you work.
 Next, rearrange the patches.
 ......and sew them back together.....  this one is still too matchy, matchy.....but you get the idea.....
.......I've just gotten started with no intention of making too many 'new blocks'.  Rather, I'm thinking of using these new designs in a strippy lap quilt.   (To replace a couch quilt that our dog chewed!)

Wednesday, May 30, 2012


Life in rural North Carolina can provide one the opportunity of seemingly stepping back in time 100 years.

Our friends Lee & Janet (thank you for these photos) invited us to join them as  born and raised local friends of theirs guided us to one of the most beautiful places I've experienced....and all without getting on an airplane!

No one can really explain the many 'balds' found in this area.  Apparently they are natural grassy mountain tops, and not the result of clear cutting timber.  We visited one this weekend for a picnic outing.

One or two turns off a state highway, many roads here become twisty mazes, with a surprise around every turn.  One can't just turn up a dirt road willy nilly though as many are private and folks do not look kindly upon strangers wandering their properties.

Our new friend has permission from the land owners of this private bald to pass through the 4 closed gates, driving up what in many places are simply rock strewn and water eroded cattle paths.  What you see here is the best part of the road!

We crawled, not going more than probably 2 mph for about 30-40 mins. and still didn't reach the top.  It became apparent we shouldn't try to go any further so the last 20 mins. was on foot.

 This was our reward....
One lone huge rock was the only thing that interrupted the landscape.  Someone had left a ladder on the back side for adventure seekers to use.

No matter where you live.....there are surely places that will provide a moment or two of ahhhhhh.  Grab some friends and enjoy them together.

Monday, May 28, 2012


And I'm proud to be an American, where at least I know I'm free, and I won't forget the men who died, who gave that right to me and I'll proudly stand next to him to defend her still today, 'cuz there ain't no doubt I love this land, god bless the USA. - Lee Greenwood

Saturday, May 26, 2012


Don't ya just hate those car recalls?  Time wasters for sure....however, when safety is concerned....okay....I'm all for them.

My car had a recall which required a 2 hr. round trip drive to the 'big city', of Asheville.  It's so strange that for all the years we lived in suburban Chicago, I thought nothing of driving 45 mins. anywhere......but now I count those minutes like they were disappearing dollars....go figure.

The good news is we had occupy ourselves for about 3 hrs. so off we went to shop....seriously, is my life now so shallow that this is a big deal??

 "The husband' got a new belt.....his waistline continues to shrink while mine expands!
 "The black tornado" got a mat for her kennel.  I really dislike the big kennel sitting in our dining area. So, the other night we tried an experiment....we brought her doggie bed into our bedroom.  Thinking....well...she loves snoozing on it in the daytime.....let's see if we can eliminate the kennel.  Ha, took her less than 5 seconds to get off her bed and onto ours.  Back to nights in the kennel for the foreseeable future.
 Sooty, on high alert waiting for the ball to be thrown.  She's definitely not trustworthy outside she's easily distracted and will run off to chase anything that moves, even butterflies.  We were told that a shock collar would be our answer and that using it only once or twice....she'd be cured.  NOT so!!  I think the answer will be - maturity, just like humans.
 And....I got this.  Yard art always attracts me.  We've had this blank spot in our landscaping at the entrance to our driveway in the hopes of finding an old grinding wheel.  It was our plan to have our address carved into the stone. 6 years later, we still haven't found one so it was time to make this spot more attractive.
A local metal artist made it. It looks to be made of some sort of gears......  We've buried the lower stand beneath the mulch.....I love it!  

A good day was had by all.....

Friday, May 25, 2012


Two years ago I had the pleasure of meeting, Dominique Ehrmann, a Canadian quilt artist to whom (as a judge for the Vermont Quilt Festival) I awarded several ribbons.  I was smitten with her work.....everything from the design to the exquisitely executed construction.

I was so fortunate to have several experienced teachers mentor me as I began my career on the quilting highway.  The best thanks I can give to those friends such as Doreen Speckmann, Pat Campbell, Libby Lehman, and Sharyn to pass their kindness along....

So in that spirit.....Dominique and I have kept in touch.  She's shared her new masterpiece recently....but I've promised to keep in under wraps until she gave me the word.  

The word she got was BEST OF SHOW at Salon 2012 - Quebec Provincial Quilt Show.

 The piece is titled Sweet Memories......I'm sorry this full picture is so small.....I can't seem to enlarge it w/o losing clarity. Dominique shares my love of 3-D applique and embellishing.  Her work actually provides a shadow box appearance....think of the complexity that type of construction requires!!  I can't imagine how much time went into this's simply awesome.

Here's a detail......if you click will be directed to her photo site which will make your eyes pop as you view the quilt.

Congratulations are on your way....

Thursday, May 24, 2012


Sure....I go and pull the materials to begin another small piece to work on in my didn't take long to realize....nope.....this will be another hand work piece!

Silly me....  So it too goes on the back burner, awaiting evening sewing time.  However, the size of this painted fabric is just right to qualify as a donation piece for AAQI's  Priority Quilt fall sale in Houston.  My goal is to make several pieces to donate this year.

Of course it doesn't look like much so far.....but there's a bit of comfort for me knowing the materials are selected,  the piece is prepared for sewing and several components are positioned and ready when I am.
Note the machine stitching across the's a trick I use to mark guide lines for beading AND to provide extra stability. I avoid using typical marking tools for numerous reasons.  (a.) I don't wash my work so visible markings can't be removed (b.) most removable products like chalk or using soap slivers (on a fabric such as this) either don't show up well enough or rub off too quickly as I work.

This piece of gauze was spray painted at a recent Fiber Junkie gathering. Toward the end of our day together, we started mixing leftover paints to use them up.  I can see this one has a bit of glitz mixed in.....what a surprise to find a use for even a small amount of this fabric.....I couldn't imagine how on earth I'd use it.  Just worthwhile experimenting can be!

Wednesday, May 23, 2012


It's fairly rare to have all my current projects at the handwork stage.  Usually, I'm rushing around trying to get something started to the point of handwork, as the last one finishes.

My routine is to use my studio time for designing and machine work during any free time I have in the day.  The evenings are reserved for handwork.  Now that my Bookworm Gardens quilt is at the hand applique stage for a few more days at least.....I found myself again, looking at 'inspiration' fabrics for a quick start on something to work on in the studio.

 Buried in one of my many bead containers, was this string of uneven shaped stones.  My Mother had a huge collection of interesting costume jewelry and I'm guessing this piece was once hers.

The stone/beads may be too heavy to use on this hand painted fabric but I'm liking the look.
 Our Fiber Junkies small group recently painted a variety of fabrics.  The gauze piece on the left is one result.  It's fairly stiff which will be an advantage if I use it in this design.
Do you work like this too?  Hauling out piles of fabrics, embellishments, threads which will be edited down to a workable selection of treasures?  

Just like the resist dyed felted wool piece I shared yesterday....I have no clue where this will be going.  What I really need is a machine piecing project that will occupy my day studio time.  Most quilters probably have bags of pre-cut patches ready to begin that next quilt.....but not me.  I should just find a simple, fast pattern (cause I really am not fond of machine piecing).  One that will use up as much as possible of the flat folds in my closet, instead of dinking around with another piece that will surely turn into more hand work!

My plan for today was to shampoo our bedroom carpet.  However, it's foggy, damp, and I've already talked myself into putting it off for another day when windows can be opened for quick drying. 

Will it be door # 1 - the painted fabric  or door #2 - patchwork?  Let's find out....

Tuesday, May 22, 2012


Most of my attention is being channeled towards a quilt which is being made for Bookworm Gardens (located in Wisconsin).  It's a tribute to my brother.  Rather than posting step-by-step photos, the entire story of the quilt will be shared when its completed.  This is both a sad and therapeutic journey.

In the meantime, I hope we all can get inspired as I begin to discover how to utilize some of the resist dyed felted wool pieces, made in a workshop lead by Chad Hagen.  The temptation to pet each piece every time I past the pile of fabric has been a challenge!!  It will be rewarding to start working with them....

 It was a surprise how much time it took me just to select which designs to start with and then choose some threads, beads, and other embellishments to incorporate.  The sections are small....8" x 6" editing is important here.

But with my pile of materials at hand, contentment during evening 'tv watching' (or one eye on the TV) will be assured.  There's no plan....really, I'm just doodling.  And....there's no end game here either....what will this be??  No clue....perhaps these small pieces will be framed for the wall or table top displays. 

Chad uses many of her designs as book covers......what would you do??

Monday, May 21, 2012


Did you guess I'd be adding beads to complete this quilt? did I!  However after steaming, the edges still weren't as knife straight as I'd like (okay, okay I am a perfectionist).  But really, no fiber piece is totally knife straight along the edges....who am I kidding...unless it's stretched over a frame!  

To help fool the eye into accepting the slight imperfections....such as the typical lumpy corners that are all too often the result of using the facing method...I decided to hand embroider wonky and uneven stitches instead of my beloved beads! I'm becoming a real fan of Valdani #12 variegated embroidery thread which was strong enough to withstand stitching through 4 layers.  The variegation added interest and again helped to trick the eye.

I've gone from being lukewarm about this design to now finding it interesting, pleasing, and certainly a beneficial exploration of combining various artist made fabrics. obtain a closer look,these photos are clickable.

23.5" x 13"
Artist rusted and deconstructed screen printed fabrics, hand embroidered & bead embellished.

Sunday, May 20, 2012


Several hours in the studio yesterday yielded a finishing treatment on the rusted/deconstructed screen printed piece.'s still unnamed....which is fairly unusual for me.....most often a name comes to me first, which can help channel the direction of the quilt.

Traditional quilt bindings are good candidates for my work (with the exception of my felted wool pieces).  This treatment not only helps to visually frame, it also provides support for the edges. Why is support necessary??  You guessed it.....for the beadwork that generally surrounds my quilts!

In this case however, a narrow facing was my choice.  The cleaner appearance seemed to suit it the best.

As suspected, due to the open weave nature of the rusted burlappy material, some unevenness occurred along the edges.  It was a concern I'd thought about and I tried to prevent it by stay stitching around the edges of the piece prior to stitching on the facing AND stitching in the ditch after it was added. 

I'm pretty sure I can steam it into shape.....this photo was taken right after the binding was hand sewn in place.  

Will it remain as is??  Hummmm....wanna guess what addition is coming next? 

Saturday, May 19, 2012


Working on several projects at the same time is my norm and that approach allows me to accomplish quite alot.  I'm able to pro-actively work on one piece while design decisions on other projects are still percolating.

However, there usually comes a time when I have so many piles from each of these projects cluttering up every surface in my studio, that work ceases because all I'm doing is moving one pile to get at another.  Chaos paralyzes me.

That brick wall hit this week, fortunately it coinsided with the completion of the hand quilting on this yet unnamed rusted/deconstructed screen printed piece.

My goal today is to figure out how I want to finish the edges of the work. At the moment, brown linen fabric is being auditioned for the possible binding or first instinct is that though it frames the piece, it might be visually too strong.  

Before I take scissors in hand, first some ball playing with our overly excitable black lab that we recently a shower, then another look at the quilt!  Perhaps if the decision goes smoothly, there will be something to show you tomorrow!

Friday, May 18, 2012


It seems as if there is a BBQ joint on every corner here in Western North Carolina.....  Friends of ours raved about this we headed to Flat Rock, NC to Hubba of only 30 wood fired smokehouse's in North Carolina.

Another thing that makes this restaurant unusual is that there is no indoor seating.  You'll want to visit on a nice day, although there are several covered areas for dining.

 BBQ is not a favorite of I got excited when I saw smoked fish tacos on the menu.......then disappointed to learn it's served only on Friday and Saturdays.
 The decor is charming....lots of corrugated tin, stacked stone walls, brick walk ways and folk art!  Here my friend Janet is trying to avoid being in the picture.....naturally I couldn't resist documenting the painted wood cow scene.
 There were several amusing metal sculptures scattered about.  As you'd expect...there were some pigs, unfortunately I don't have the hang of photo taking with an iPhone yet so that didn't turn out.
This one is a little difficult to was huge....I'd guess at least 12 foot tall, perched on a tree.  If you get there, look at the top of their smoke stack vent for a gigantic chicken!  Hubba Hubba is a charming place to spend time outside munching on good food.  I recommend trying the sauted coleslaw....for me it was a new way to prepare slaw and very tasty. 

Thursday, May 17, 2012


Obtaining a good photograph of the now framed "Pine Needles" piece is more than my home set up can do.  Both the reflection from the surroundings and the flash become an issue. 

However, I hope you will still get the overall impression of how the piece looks now that it's framed. Click on image to enlarge. Like I said's one of my favorite pieces....too bad we have no wall space for it!!

To see the back story behind this here and then read the next several days as well. 

Pine Needles
20" x 13" (framed measurement)
Artist felted and dyed wool, pine needles, hand embroidery

Wednesday, May 16, 2012


I've begun to realize the value of framing my work....especially the small beaded felted wool pieces. I often eliminate the glass though, preferring not to have the work viewed through it.

My friend Judy Simmons just blogged on the subject of framing as well.....her approach was different than what I did so click here to learn what worked for her.

 A piece I completed recently however required glass to protect the real pine needles from dust, since cleaning it would be impossible. I knew of course that the glass couldn't touch the surface of my work.  After much searching for the appropriate frame, I ended up ordering a custom wood frame online at American Frame.  I hate to admit how long it took me to assemble it, but now that I know how, the next time will be easier. I'm glad I thought of placing a towel on my work surface to protect the frame as I worked since I shuffled the pieces around a LOT!!
Here's the piece I was getting ready to frame.
 And here's the process I used...... I cut a piece of matt board to fit exactly inside the frame as a backdrop for the 'art'.  The 'art' was positioned so that it was centered when the (window) cut matt was placed over it.

Once I was confident about the placement, I secured my 'art' to the bottom matt board using tiny tacking stitches, tying off on the back side.
 This shows the 'art' sewn to the matt board....though sadly it's not very easy to distinguish it in this photo.
Clear acrylic bars....also purchased from American Frame, were used to as spacers to provide a small air space between the glass and the work. Each spacer was cut the exact length of each side of the frame which was easily done using an exacto knife.
 The spacers can be positioned behind the (window) cut matt which creates a shadow box appearance to the framing.  But because I didn't want shadows on the 'art', I placed them directly on the glass.  This "floater" method was perfect for my piece. Adhesive strips hold these spacer in position.
The next step was to place the layers in the frame.  It's important to keep the layers held tightly in the frame.  This was accomplished by drilling holes into the frame where small metal clips are screwed in place.  Adding the wire hanging device completed the job.

Sorry to leave you hanging.....but I couldn't get a good photograph of the piece tomorrow when the lighting is better I'll post one so you can see how it looks.  I'm quite pleased.....though this is a piece I'd like to keep in my own collection.....I have no more wall space to hang it, so it will be available in my shop.

Monday, May 14, 2012


As I work through the design process for the memorial quilt I'm making to honor my brother....a gift for Bookworm Gardens, it occurred to me that since this organization was created to encourage children to enjoy reading.....well...

......yes, well.....perhaps some lettering on the quilt would be appropriate.

I have a number of lettering stencils, purchased at a teacher's supply store.  These are my favorites.  There are 4 alphabet styles and 2 number styles.

  I audition shape & size, using the cardboard letters, before moving to the preparation of fabric applique pieces.

 After making the letters using different solid colors, 'the husband' wandered into the studio and suggested instead of the word READ, I might consider READING instead.

I jumped on it......but then after looking at it for a day.....I realized it sounded incomplete....
 Those fabric letters came off and the cardboard letters came back out for another audition.  This time I used "Pick a Book", a term I had scribbled down on my list of 'ideas' for this quilt.

Clearly the size was too large for the space....which meant a trip back to the lettering box to locate a smaller font.

This should work better.....ya, I spent/wasted a lot of time on my first attempt....but getting it right is more important than having to do it over!  It's a lesson that can be overlooked by us enthusiastic quilters in our drive to 'get it done'.  Try to think of your project as a marathon, not a works for me.