Saturday, December 6, 2014

Wait For It

If you are anything like I am, you want conditions to be just right before starting that next blog post, or that epic project. Here's the good news: there is no such thing as the perfect condition. So, jump in, the water's fine.  It is a drizzly Saturday morning here in the Seven Devils Mountains of central Idaho... Mr. Thimblepie is fishing on the Salmon river today, so I have uninterrupted time to create. I don't have to be at work for 2 hours. I even have photos uploaded for this post. Sounds pretty close to perfect.

I have been wishing for a design wall for my studio. With the slanted ceilings I thought a folding screen would be just the ticket. Guess what I found by the trash bin when I was cleaning the shop last week??? A gorgeous wooden folding screen. Here it is, with my December sewing goal draped over it.

 The screen is painted black with natural wood cross pieces. I will tack a flannel-backed table cloth to the back and it will be perfect for my studio. The little quilt top is 40 inches square. It is styled after Freddy Moran's quilts. It was a fun learning stretch. I used a tiny pack of pastel strips given to me by my generous sister, Pam, to create the melon shapes. The black and white polka dot borders are made bias tapes sewn in a technique I read in Quilter's Newsletter Magazine, I think in 2008. In the upper left corner, the melon has a strip of turquoise for eye movement. I pin basted this top with some luscious brown needle felted flannel from Moda for the back. It is going to be a lap quilt for my mom, Melva Hutchens, who lives in a care facility due to her Alzheimers. She always loved red and black. The nice thing about making this for her, if it arrives late, she won't mind. And so the usual holiday pressure to get 'er done and in the mail does not apply. YAY.

In other creative news, I finished a darling swirly circle skirted dress for my youngest grand daughter's birthday. She turned 5 a few days ago. This dress was started by none other than my sister, Pam, who passed it on to me. Here is the lovely finish, complete with a fancy pearl and gold button and gold trim on the pink tier.

back view
I also finished a commissioned Seahawk baby quilt. It has some green pleather for textural interest, and blue satin binding, something different for me. The back is softest royal blue minkie, so I did minimal quilting, echoing the diagonal strips. The lining is a piece of flannel sheet. The top strip is steel grey.

I can't show you my other epic creations, they are holiday surprises. I will share them at the end of the month. Happy Holiday sewing, and please, don't wait for the perfect conditions, go for it!!!

Saturday, November 29, 2014

Artist's Totem

I have been writing morning pages as in "The Artist's Way" for a year. I began 11/19/13. One result has been that I complete a lot more of the projects I start. I also credit ALYOF, the blog I joined 2 years ago that has challenged me to set a monthly goal to finish a UFO, and then to finish it, and to blog about the process. Let me state before I get too deep, that it is progress, not perfection. 

Intro: Traditional Tlinget button blankets are red and black, embellished with mother of pearl buttons. This image, The Soul Catcher, was designed by Martin Oliver for the University of Washington school of public health, in 1981. It is trademarked and I have no intention of selling this art piece. It is imitation, the sincerest form of flattery, and is for my own home. The image is two bears, and symbolizes physical, emotional, and spiritual well being through education, research, and service.

I have completed the top of my wool applique button blanket. I started it and blogged about it here.
Hopeful Beginnings

I am excited to be on the brink of the next step, which I think is layering and basting the top in preparation for quilting. 
Embroidery around the mouth? 
         Here is the top with vintage shanked mother of pearl buttons on the left side. I LOVE IT!! 

I need to do some research on how best to quilt solid wool applique. I am thinking about some echo quilting in matching threads. 

Totem is derived from a Native word meaning, kinship group. It is used loosely as a guardian, or spirit guide. In "The Artist's Way," one of the creative tasks is to create an artist's totem. It can be any symbolic thing, such as a doll or carving, that you feel protective fondness toward. It is to be given a place of honor, and then honored by not "beating up on your artistic child." Being creative means letting go of old hang-ups and fear of success. What is your totem?

Just a little more self-promoting: the icon on the upper right, Imaginegnats, is a link to a site with wonderful fabric and patterns. If you want to find some unique fabric at great prices, click on the link. If you go through my blog to purchase her fabric, I get a 10% commission. Win-win. 

Friday, October 31, 2014

October Bites the Dust

And here it is, All Hallow's Eve... and a Friday night, too... It has been a productive month here in my sewing loft. I completed my goals for the Lovely Year of Finishes, and for the Quilt Auction, too. A few highlights of the auction:

Jeanne Dyer's gourd masterpiece

Tresa Shearer, Auctioneer, and the auction set up

Marcie and I show a Quilt of Valor

I explain Operation Kid Comfort and show an example

Amy and Ruth compare stitches 
 I wish my donations brought in more cash, but the crowd favorites are quilts with wildlife panels. Duly noted. Wall hangings of panels and wool applique crafts are other favorites. Just getting through it, as one of the worker bees was a satisfying accomplishment.

Now I can focus on holiday sewing, and the myriad December birthdays that I will commemorate.

Tuesday, October 7, 2014

Magic is Brewing

I am glad for goals, they keep me on track. I have a list, and labeled it with priority codes (A,B,C) so I can check on my progress. Some of you know that I will even add a completed task to my list, just so that I can cross it off and feel accomplished.  I have two very important October birthdays, one that I can report on without too much fear of spoiling it, my oldest granddaughter Grace turns 11 on Sunday the 12th. She recently became interested in American Girl Dolls, and said she'd like new doll clothes. She has sewn some herself, which is how yours truly began sewing back in the day. Here is what I made for Grace, a set of night shirts for her and her doll.

Giant rickrack border.

Sweet tag says "Grandma loves you."
The Pinehurst Quilters have a yearly auction to raise money for fun and for the community, and my October goal for ALYOF is to quilt these tops for the auction. A fall snuggle quilt, which also needs a border, and a  bed runner and dresser topper set, The snuggle quilt is 40" x 60."

Fun close up.

The bed runner is 48" x 74" and whispers classic dreams. I started this with the intention of making a big quilt, but it didn't fit the project, and has been waiting for a purpose until now.

There is a little border interest in the upper right.

Blue and ecru love.
The dresser topper is 24" x 50". Nice use of some left over blocks.

Our fall here in the Rocky Mountains of West Central Idaho is still warm, and the garden continues to produce. I ran out of pint and half pint canning jars, so it is time to can tomatoes, and rhubarb compote in quart jars. I made chokecherry jelly last weekend, and as soon as I acquire more small jars I will make elderberry capers. The fruit this fall has been abundant, and so I stay busy drying, freezing, and canning lots of deliciousness. On Wednesdays I get to go to McCall and take herbalist classes from Darcy Williamson. This is mushroom harvesting season, and we find all kinds of different mushrooms, many of which are truly magical. Here is my friend Brandy, carrying a large artist's conk.

What does fall look like in your neck of the woods?

Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Old is New

Just at the last minute, I got my September goal for ALYOF completed. My 40's silk log cabin quilt top, aka "Eleanor Roosevelt," got a border. The quilt colors are a mixture of soft  dusty tones, and a few bright fuschias and mangoes. What to use to bring out the sparkle? Everything-old-is-new-again-grey. I think it works. The quilt really came to life, from blocks that were thrown away.

The border might need to be narrower.  A wild, orange and pink binding would be fun.  The blocks were sewn to flour sack backs, and a few flour sack prints. Just like depression era underwear ! I hate to cover them up. Since I interfaced the border, and the blocks are all backed, maybe I'll use a sheer backing and no batt, I can still hand quilt it but leave the sweet flour sacks visible.

Flour Sack Sweetness.
It is destined to be a wall hanging. So perhaps I can make a sheer or gauze backing work. Stay tuned for the next exciting episode...

Friday, September 5, 2014

My New Favorite Aroma

I used to think there was enough wonderful fabric in the world without my adding to it by buying more and dying it different colors. I even tried a class on dyes, but was turned off by the hazardous chemicals and the precautions. Then I was introduced to earth friendly fabric dying by my artistic pal, Betsy Hinze, and heard the siren song. Or, as Mr. Thimblepie says, I drank the kool aid.

Last March I learned about mordanting fibers with plant protein, namely soybean water. After soaking the beans, the water was used to prepare the fabric for accepting the dye. I let the silk, linen, and cotton rest for 5 months. Betsy told us that Japanese dye masters have aged mordanted fabric for decades sometimes. Meanwhile, I saved avocado peels to use for the dye. Yesterday I started the simmering and was delighted to discover that the aroma is citrusy and like a walk in a pine forest. I  simmered the peels in a crock pot for the night, and gave the vat a full 24 hours of heat. Then I strained off the peels and added my fabrics in a big enamel pot. I also added a piece that turned out to be polyester, it did not take the dye. The silk, when added to the avocado brew, gave off the MOST WONDERFUL AROMA I have ever smelled. It beats fresh bread, sheets dried in the wind, and my own newborn's honey scent. True story. The aroma of silk in avocado brew is a combination of the citrusy piney scent and floral spice, something like Japanese tea gardens and hot house flowers mixed together. If I could add a scratch and sniff to this blog, I would.

How funny is it that the bland and stodgy avocado taste is so disparate from it's cooked peel scent? And then there is the equally surprising color.... dusty rose. Here is a peek at my clothes line, with my sister Pam's quilt, Tumbling Triangles, and my dusty rose fabric drying in the breeze:

Clothes line cross tie repurposed from a dead apple tree on our lot.
 At the other end of the property is our veggie and fruit garden, deer proofed. We grew lima beans this year, a very satisfying crop. The beans are so pretty.

All told we will have about 5 lbs of beans, dried, from one package of seeds.
I read an interesting article in The Quilt Life, "Brown's Sophisticated Cousin." It is about the movement of Japanese taupes into mainstream quilting. I think my dusty rose dyed fabric is leaning toward being taupe, especially the cotton. I  have a baby quilt to make in soft natural colors, and the taupe and dusty rose seem just the ticket. The baby is due around Thanksgiving, and now I can ponder the design.

My September goal for my group, ALYOF is to finish the quilt top I started in April, a vintage silk log cabin. I'd like to hand quilt it, and need to add a border and baste it. Here is the top so far, (I posted it in April, too,  if it looks familiar.)
My Eleanor Roosevelt Quilt.
I am thinking that some of my newly dyed fabric will make a nice border. Audition is tomorrow. What does your weekend hold in store?

Sunday, August 31, 2014

What Fiber Artists Do

  The daylight hours are waning, and it is noticeable in the canyon. We welcome autumn with cool nights and sunny afternoons. The golden hours of morning and evening are an artist's dream.
   Hummingbirds have started to migrate south. I leave the feeders up for travelers who need one for the road. We will continue to see straglers for another month. Contrary to what some say, they will not hang around for feeders, and still need nectar for energy as they travel. It seems early to see the migration in August, and there have been other signs of an early autumn and perhaps a colder winter...
   I have been as busy. In the garden I have been harvesting tomatoes, basil for pesto, squash, carrots, beets, and herbs. I have a couple of part time jobs in town to earn pocket money. When I am not tending my house and yard, I sneak away to my loft and sew. Heavenly!!
   I made a costume for a customer of my etsy shop, Thimblepie's Quilt Supplies. It is a Steampunk Bustle. Super fun to make, and cute and sassy.

The bustle is buckled to my stair post.
I completed 3 scale model quilted cocoons for a grant proposal. I am collaborating with my artist friend, Betsy Hinze, who wants to do a large interactive fiber art show in January. The cocoons are 3-dimensional with boning hoops and organza draping. Challenging in tiny scale models but I think the full human size models will be easy. When it felt difficult and stressful, I had to remind myself that my dream has been to be a fiber artist, and this is what they do.

I completed the second A quilt and thought it actually looked like a twin to the original. The recipient was delighted, and my little Addison loves the original, which she will get for her birthday in December. Here are the 2 A quilts:

Ashlyn's  NO GREEN.

Addison's. Same size but photographed at an angle.
 And, my just completed quilt top, my August goal for ALYOF. Thanks to Ainsley and my pal Cheryl Little, entered in the Boise Basin Quilt Show Sept. 27 & 28. Yay!!!

"Squaresville." 52" x 73"
What have you been up to this busy month?

Sunday, August 3, 2014

Cool Summer Rain

Last evening we had a big storm. Seems to be one big one each summer, complete with thunder, lightening, rain, wind, and hail. The temperature dropped 28° in an hour, from 99° to 72°. Phew! It was such a big relief after the prestorm energy build up. When the first rain drops fell, Mr. Thimblepie and I stepped out onto the back porch to smell the ozone and watch the storm clouds. Then, Ka-BOOM!! just as Abby the Brave stepped outside. She turned tail and ran inside to hide. Teeth chattering, she was scared for several hours. No damage from the hail, and everything got a good soaking. So pleasant to have windows open with cool breezes coming in the windows all night. Sadly, the storm also ignited lots of wildfires all over the western forests, near and far.

Abby the Brave in front of Owyhee Sunset

My August goal for ALYOF is to finish my modern Karla Alexander quilt, which I showed in my June 30th blog . I hope to enter it in the Boise Basin Quilt Show the end of September, as a member of the Boise Modern Quilt Guild. Happily, the berries are finished in the garden and now tomato season starts. I made calendula ointment (calendula blooms from my garden marinated in mild olive oil for a month, then strained) and can report first hand that it makes an excellent antibacterial wound treatment. Picking huckleberries in the forest last week in shorts was not wise. When will I ever learn?

Here is my garlic harvest, from last month. Lots of braids!

Friday, July 25, 2014

Two Choices

In a fit of pique` Mr. Thimblepie said "you'd rather quilt than do housework!" What better way to stop a disagreement, than to make a statement such as that?

A long standing goal of mine was to complete the Modern Quilt Guild Michael Miller Fabric Challenge. The deadline is at midnight, tonight, and I finished with hours to spare. Phew! I chose a pattern called "The Two-Hour Tulip Purse" designed by Janice D. Pope. It took me longer than two hours, but was not technically difficult.  I wanted to make a tincture bag that could hold 4 ~ 4 oz. bottles and other toiletries, so I added elasticized inner pockets. It has a magnetic closure snap, a detail I hadn't used before, but really loved. They are inexpensive and easy to put in without tools. Handle Instructions: Cut two strips 2 3/4" wide by length you desire. The challenge fabric was 20" long, so that is how long these orange cuties are. ( I prefer a few inches longer.) I used light batting as stabilizer, cut 1 1/2 " by length of strap. In a June blog I showed ironing it, using a bias tape maker, but the idea is to lay the batting on the wrong side of the strap and iron the edges of the strap over the batting, lengthwise. Then fold the strap over again lengthwise and iron, and topstitch the edges. It does make a good, firm strap.

5 handy pockets and room for lots of stuff.

The front pocket is quilted.

Sturdy handles, to fit over your shoulder, and the tote can be tucked under your arm.

The nifty bottom sits flat.

Chai gives her seal of approval. I am breathing a sigh of satisfied relief. Love to finish a project.

Monday, June 30, 2014


Recently I had to replace our worn bed sheets. I found a great set, almost new, at the Tourist Trap, our local consignment shop. The sheet set is khaki. I replaced the edges of the pillow cases with fabric left over from the quilts and curtains. The effect was satisfying.

Left pillow cases match the quilts and curtains. Red chickens and bedside tables from Joan. Right pillow case from Pam, guarantees sweet dreams.

Close up detail, next to the quilt border.
Other recent activity was a great class I took yesterday in Council, taught by Karla Alexander. I keep thinking that I have learned it all, that I take classes for the socializing and as an excuse to buy new fabric. However, Karla taught me some wonderful new techniques and design theories. I like the idea of secondary borders. The outside row of blocks in a quilt can be a shade darker or lighter, adding another frame to the quilt. More on that as I create my next epic piece. Here is a sneak peak at what I did yesterday in the class, one photo with sashing.

Eight more blocks to go on this quilt. I like the lilac sash, and the colors. This modern project is fun and different. The pattern is called "Paint Chip." I haven't named my quilt yet.  Dinner tonight is left overs and sauteed radishes. They are a little past their prime, should have been plucked from the heart of their warm little bed a week ago, but when sauteed they transform from spicy to mild. mmm

I did finish my goal set at the start of the month, the commissioned quilts. Tomorrow, July.

Wednesday, June 18, 2014

Good News and Bad News

The bad news first. The A quilt was rejected, although I had followed specifications. I had quilted/appliqued the large A, but otherwise it was still unfinished. So it got put in time out. The mom gave new specifications, and I agreed to start over. I hope they understand that this means additional cost of $75 for fabrics. My time and aggravation = priceless. The original A quilt can be gifted to someone I know who has a name starting with A, or I may sell it. Someone is being a diva, in my opinion.

In other news, all good, the barn quilt was finished in the nick of time, delivered to the Council Quilt Show, and looks good. The theme this year is, "Life on the Farm." Winner gets a $100 prize, chosen by viewer vote.

The sashing and the borders really brought this quilt together.
I had a flurry of procrastinator's remorse as I sewed the binding on. It was about 5" too short. I pulled out a new toy, a 2" bias tape maker, and made the remaining bias tape, and got it on in under 5 minutes. Phew! I highly recommend getting yourself at least one of these great tools. They are simple to use, work great, and can even be used for tote bag handles and items where interfacing is being applied. After making the first press, I take the tape and fold it over, thus creating a double fold bias tape. Here are two examples:

3/4" tape maker.

2" tape maker with interfacing being ironed on. I am using a 3" strip so the folds are narrower.
I entered a challenge block in the quilt show as well. The focus fabric is red and black. Winner of public vote gets 12 blocks. Second place gets the remaining 6. Here is my entry, followed by the whole lot.

Garden Gnomes are camouflaged  and out of view, although they are right in front of you.

The featured artist is Karla Alexander of Saginaw Quilts. She will be giving a trunk show at the luncheon on June 28th, and a class on June 29th. In honor of her, Pam and I each entered a quilt made from her patterns. 

Pam's Red Onion Polka Dot

My Cautionary Tale #2

The quilt show is in Council, ID at the elementary school, and runs daily from 10-5 until July 5. There are about 75 excellent quilts, and a sales area for books and crafts. It is worth the drive!