Monday, November 20, 2017

Freya the Amazing

I have a new granddaughter, Freya Jane Elisheva Donald. She was born two weeks ago, mellow amidst the drama of an emergency cesarean, wide eyed and instantly connected to her parents by their voices and their fierce love for her. She was named after a Norwegian goddess who drove a chariot pulled by two cats. What an image!

Her first few days were spent in the NICU, which was stressful for everyone, but especially her mama. Freya had aspirated meconium and that collapsed both of her lungs. So she had a chest tube and was put on a ventilator to assist with breathing. She was able to breathe on her own in less than a day. Progress was quick and she was allowed to nurse after the second day. Happy mama and baby.

Freya didn't appreciate the hospital schedule, or the expert advice of specialists who questioned mama's intuition and worked valiantly to impose structure onto a baby who only wanted to be held and nursed. As soon as she was taken home and the pair were free to do as they wanted, she settled into her blissful life of nursing and gazing at the nipple mandala emanating from her mama's love.

The parents of this adorable little rosebud wanted to give some kind of thank you to the NICU that helped their baby overcome her tough start. My daughter, being sleep deprived and dealing with her own challenge of a hospital acquired wound infection, treated first with the wrong antibiotic, then suffering an abscess and it's sequelae, wasn't up to her usual creative outpouring, so I offered to provide a little quilt to thank the NICU staff. 

I chose this quilt for several reasons. First, the mama with her kittens for a special NICU that cares for so many littles. Second, to give a nod to Freya's story of the chariot and the cats. Third, for some cheerful decor to brighten a place with lots of scary feels. I noticed a number of toddler siblings who could use images that might make them smile. And Fourth, it was completed and ready to deliver. A great reason to keep some extra small quilts on hand. 

Lots of fun fabrics in this quilt. 

Tuesday, September 19, 2017

Me Being Authentic

Looking back, I see that my first blog post was five years ago. Mind boggling. Sticking with the blogging is an accomplishment. I have had lapses, but have really leaned into posting at least once a month. Sharing some of my creating struggles and accomplishments has been a great way for me to have a record of my journey. Plus, I try to be upbeat, kind, and look at the bright side. No kvetching, no politics (well, a little bit of each when it is unavoidable.) I have shared the good, the bad, and the ugly. I have shared projects that I still shake my head at; wondering what I was thinking? I have even annoyed other people along the way. That is the true test of authenticity.

One of my most recent projects is going to counseling to learn to be more assertive, and to get to the bottom of my hang-ups. Today's assigned reading is about Authenticity. I know what it means, Originality,  but just how to do it is sort of ephemeral. I think writing a blog post and sharing it in social media is pretty authentic. While I was writing my morning pages today, defining authenticity and attempting to write some measurable objectives, I realized that I was in my yoga uniform: racerback top and matching tight leggings, definitely conforming. Hmmmm.

Authenticity seems to be a mental thing. An emotional thing. A Be True to Yourself thing.  But don't overthink it! Good luck defining it, that really gets twisted. We are all original inside, but there is nothing new under the sun. I mean, for Pete's Sake, there are over 7 BILLION people in the world right now, and lots more before us, so how can there be any originality? Well, we all have unique fingerprints. How amazing is that? That must mean there have been over 10 BILLION different sets of fingerprints in all. Wow. And every one of those sets of fingerprints belongs to a unique person who smiles and thinks differently. Even identical twins look a little bit different. To me, that says there is hope!

When I look at a book of quilt ideas, I love to analyze the colors and overall effect. I like to read the text, and study the pattern instructions. I look for fabrics that I recognize. And then I dream about how to take the ideas, and make my own quilts. My sister gave me a dreamy book for my birthday, Cultural Fusion Quilts by Sujata Shah. It is a melting pot of piecing and fabrics from different cultures. Her work has lots of contrast, and lovely saturated colors. The instructions are ridiculously simple. Her enthusiasm is contagious. When I look at this book, I want to dump out boxes of fabric and start cutting stuff up and sewing it back together. Which, in case you aren't a sewer, is a good thing!

The little quilt in this blog post is based on her quilt, Sunset. She uses blues and oranges to create a tropical sunset over the Arabian Sea. It almost shimmers with breezes, and ripples of water. Her half square triangles are uneven, and graduate from lighter to darker to cause the effect, which I love.

I have been wanting to use some triangles of pastel left over from a baby quilt, and paired them up with variations of celery green and soft butter yellow. I think the effect is like an English garden, very soft and muted. I chose a lavender Kaffe print for the border, which draws the eyes toward the violets in the middle of the quilt. The binding is plum with a flange of grey and silver. The back of the quilt is yellow gingham, like a picnic cloth.

To make this a Cultural Fusion quilt, I thought of Mary Lennox, in The Secret Garden, a little girl who came from India and was able to become free and authentic in an English garden. This is my original version of a traditional pattern. Me being authentic.

Wednesday, September 6, 2017

The River of Dreams

I went to a wedding dressed as the Salmon River. Here is the story. My friends are river guides whose theme for their recent wedding was the confluence of rivers. They got married on the bank of the Salmon River, and even arrived and left the ceremony in a drift boat. They served salmon for the wedding dinner. Their wedding cake was the image of the river.

As an artist and seamstress, I thought I should make a dress that reflected the wedding theme. Having just made a salmon quilt, and with leftover fabric strips, I designed this fun dress to wear to the wedding.  It has a big steelhead, and even river rocks at the bottom.

Now back to the quilt. I was asked to make a salmon quilt by an aunt whose nephew is doing salmon research in Alaska. She is unable to sew at this point, and seeing my fish quilt, she thought I could make her dream of a salmon quilt come true. So she sent me her collection of batiks, 15 yards in all, and said I could keep whatever I didn't use... talk about a dream come true!

I color set the fabrics first. Blues like to bleed. I prefer synthropol to set the dyes.

Then I laid out the fabrics in gradations of color, and cut 3" wide strips. I sewed them together, then pressed and cut them into panels which I staggered. I used big pieces of the batiks for the back of the quilt. I had a panel from another project with animals from Alaska. It really added to the overall richness of the Alaska story.

I thought a sockeye salmon would look artsy. Using the pattern I had drawn for my steelhead trout quilt, and an image from the internet, I came up with a big spawning sockeye.

The client asked me to put a label with a photo of her nephew (the researcher) and some sentiments on the back  of the quilt.

I quilted the quilt on my domestic machine. Wavy lines are my current favorite. Then I applied a flanged binding by machine. What a fun way to frame the quilt. Dark blue with a flange of salmon pink.

I tried a new method to photograph the entire quilt, draped in the shade in my yard. I was thrilled with the finish, and so was the client.  Here is what she said: "Jane, the quilt made it here and it is spectacular! I'm so glad you could make it...and it is way beyond anything I envisioned. Max will love it." 

Saturday, July 29, 2017

Eating My Hat, One Bite at a Time

   Scoffing at T-shirt quilts is how I roll. They seem so humdrum. Why use T-shirts when there are so many other wonderful fabrics? For that matter, why collect T-shirts when there are other much more wonderful things to hoard? For the memories? Really? This collection of T-shirts from 1995 to 2015 does hold some memories for the mom who commissioned it and her son who is the intended recipient, in honor of his 30th birthday.
   This isn't an especially creative quilt. Sports-mom picked the fabrics. She and the quilt shop owner planned the layout.  I tweaked it a little bit, changing the sashing color from maroon to the chosen lime, and the inner border from lime to celery. There I go, pushing neutrals again.

   To commemorate running marathons.  I suppose as a statement to self torture and testimony to endurance a T-shirt does the job. I didn't think there were many hills in Lewiston, ID or Spokane,WA  but the T-shirts tell a different story. I really love the wheelchair images.

   As a travelogue. Well, it is an alternative to watching a slide show.

   Because T-shirts are so comfy and available. My sister was asked to make a memorial T-shirt quilt with a package of white T-shirts. WTF. Well, it was what the dude wore. And who doesn't like to see a guy in a pair of jeans and a white T-shirt?
  Let's face it, you can only wear so many T-shirts, and you can only wear them for so long before they wear out. Or in this case, you outgrow them. The early T-shirts were small, and now the quiltee is a grown man.  And Sports-mom can only store a son's stuff for so long. She said this freed up a drawer.
   One interesting color theory I learned from Pam Rocco in QNM was about how certain border and binding colors pull our eyes out to the edge of the quilt, and others draw our eyes to the center of the blocks. It is not about the print size or wildness of the fabric, it is about the colors. I auditioned dark green, blues, pink, greys, black and white print, and they all wanted to lead my eyes astray. When I tried a medium orange from Riley Blake, it was that moment when flowers open and angels sing.

I added a teensy bit of celery to make a quick, flanged binding. The quilting thread is lime Glide.

So, that is how you eat a hat, just like an elephant, one bite at a time. Sports-mom loves the quilt.

Tuesday, July 4, 2017

Very Old and Very Rare

Last week Mr. Thimblepie took me to St. Gertrudes Monastery to visit their museum and historic chapel. It was a beautiful site, on the list of Historic Landmarks. The chapel was built almost 100 years ago from blue porphyry stones quarried nearby.

 The museum is small but well stocked with interesting and choice items. Several of the displayed garments were unusual and rare. The bamboo jacket was especially fascinating. It was made from tiny pieces of bamboo, about 4 mm, like bugle beads, sewn into diamond patterns with linen thread. The garment was worn under fancy silk brocade robes. It allowed for air movement and absorbed perspiration.

Wearing layers of clothing seems unimaginable in present times. Styles and mores of the past were so restrictive. Reasons for wearing lots of clothing varied from modesty to status. Protection from the elements, biting insects and hazardous work conditions made sense. On the other hand, some cultures believed that uncovering the skin could be hazardous to ones' health.

Here is a close-up of hand made button holes on a brocaded wedding dress from the late 1800s. The dress was small, made for a woman of about 5 ft. height. It was before the era of Queen Victoria, when she started a fashion trend by wearing a white wedding gown.

I thought of the Beatrix Potter's story, "The Tailor of Gloucester." The Tailor was ill, so the mice finished his work on a wedding jacket for the Mayor of Gloucester. "The stitches of those button-holes were so small--so small--they looked as if they had been made by little mice."

Sunday, June 25, 2017

Hen and Chicks

Said the first little chicken,
With a strange little squirm,
"I wish I could find
A fat little worm."

Said the next little chicken,
With an odd little shrug:
"I wish I could find
A fat little bug."

Said a third little chicken,
With a small sigh of grief,
"I wish I could find
A green little leaf!"

Said the fourth little chicken,
With a faint little moan,
"I wish I could find
A wee gravel stone."

"Now, see here!" said the mother,
From the green garden patch,
"If you want any breakfast,
Just come here and scratch!" 

My daughter Diane has a most exciting WIP; she is expecting a baby girl in October. Upon hearing the news, I wanted to plan and make the best and most adorable baby quilt. After considering Diane's favorite color (red) and a favorite pet (chickens) I decided on a pattern featuring hens and chicks, found here at  Sew Fresh Quilts. Lorna, the pattern designer, shows several color ideas that are modern and cheerful. I opted for more realistic colors and used some super fun Moda samples I have. I like the technique that Lorna uses, pieced shapes and triangles sewn on the diagonal and trimmed. Easy and precise.

The first two sets of hens and chicks, life size.
I decided on a soft grey background for a modern look and to soften the colors. I had fun looking at different hens and chicks, and choosing fabrics that gave variety and fanciness seen in a flock of chickens.  Here are the blocks, awaiting a few chick heads and rooster legs.

Fancy wings and a big rooster in the center.

The hen on the bottom left has eggs instead of chicks, and the fabric is sparkly. Diane and I talked about a 3-dimensional rooster tail for textural interest. I played around and came up with prairie points. Durable, and fun.

I set my reading glasses under the points to show the 3-D effect.

Yes, a green rooster. His comb and wattle are black. The tail and wattle were my designs.

I set a goal to finish this quilt in time for the Council Quilt Show which has the theme this year, "Feathered Friends." It was good to have a goal, the quilt is finished way ahead of the baby's birth. I used other ideas from Lorna of Sew Fresh Quilts, wavy line quilting, and a flanged binding. The binding is attached exclusively by machine. Here is the quilt at the quilt show:

Ready to welcome baby.
The back of the quilt is a fabric line named, "Babes in Farmland" by Timeless Treasures. I bought 5 yards. 5 yards. Keep in mind, the baby quilt is 40" x 50." That is how I buy fabric.

cute details.

 I also made a challenge block with the same theme, "Feathered Friends," and blue green fabric as the challenge focus fabric. My block is entitled, "Gertrude McFuzz," after the Dr. Seuss book about the little bird with a plain tail, who wanted a fancy tail and ate pill berries until her tail grew too big for her to fly. I used a paper pieced pattern called Teeny Tiny Feather and a bird block from Sophie Junction. The bird pattern is found on her blog. And, the pill berry bush is my improv from a Gwen Marston class.

A bird after my own heart, eating pill berries to make herself feel better. 
How is your summer shaping up?

Tuesday, June 6, 2017

Word for the Day

I have been committed (yes, it's true but this time I mean MY intention, not other peoples') to daily writing ala  The Artist's Way. But my faithful and patient blog, named after yours truly has been sorely neglected for a very long time. I have been waiting for just the right inspiration when I know it happens in the writing, not so that I will be inspired to write. I have been writing longhand every morning and coming up with ideas. The discipline is in the doing. Procrastination comes from perfectionism, waiting for everything to be JUST RIGHT. I still struggle with artistic anorexia, avoiding the creating while wanting to have created. Sometimes I get epic shit done despite my best avoidance.

Here are some of the projects I have been working on since my last post:

I finished two UFOs this spring and entered them in the Palouse Patchers quilt show in Moscow in April. Some of us took a road trip to see the show. This is "Strawberry Ice Cream," my wonky churn dash made from blocks I received when I was in Stash Bee, an online block exchange. I quilted it on my domestic machine with lots of straight line grids.

Wearing a glove so that I can touch the quilts: I chose a fancy satin dress up glove. 
 The silk folded log cabin quilt was hand pieced by someone's grandma in the 1940's and 50's. These were the throw away ugly blocks. I can't resist a challenge like that and laid this blocks out in a streak of lightening pattern. Some colors are both lights and darks. The silk was pieced onto flour sacks and I hated to cover them up. One sack had a harvester carrying a sheave of wheat. But, it had to get covered up to become a quilt. I hand quilted the hell out of this quilt and it glows with inner light. Kaffe artisan fabric made a perfect binding, blue grey with wild bright flowers.
Here I am with the one that almost got away.
This little charmer is a study in purple. I have always liked the Chinese Puzzle block. I made this from leftover half square triangles. I put a flanged binding on it to use a teensy strip of mustard for neutral pushing. I love the effect. Here is a simple tutorial for flanged bindings. Super quick and easy way to bind.
Another creation that doesn't want to be adopted out.

Truly Scrumptious.

I held my second Spontaneous Outdoor Quilt Show but was preempted by Mr. Thimblepie, who had to water the garden. I was crushed. Couldn't it have waited a few hours? I loved seeing how prolific I have been, my inner artist was thrilled.

I learned a new word: ootheca. It is the egg case of praying mantis. Mr. Thimblepie redeemed himself by noticing and calling me out to witness this hatching. The little guys scatter so quickly, and we won't see them again until they are at least double that size. A hummingbird came nearby to watch the hatch but I needed some photos so no snacks for him.

About 4 mm long.
What is happening in your neck of the woods?

Sunday, March 26, 2017

It's the Part That Touches You

The back of a quilt, that is. Just as important as the front, in a different way. Does that make it a reason to buy more fabric, for that special quilt backing? For certain! Someone was surprised at my most recent finish; I hadn't pieced the back. I guess that a pieced back is one of my trademarks. Also the patched binding. This binding is various browns and blacks left over from other projects. It is perfect for this quilt, making the bright colors sparkle.

I was asked to make a quilt for the Women and Children Free Restaurant Spring Tea Party Fund Raiser. This wonderful organization in Spokane provides food for women and children who are in need. Since the venue is a tea party, I decided that nothing says comfort as much as a cuppa tea.

This cheerful quilt, "Big Mug," is 64"x80." It was made with Moda batiks from a free pattern on the QNM website, designed by Pam Rocco. I added the tea tags which have sayings from Yogi tea. I was hoping to tug at heart strings, for the quilt to have crowd appeal, and to be a great gift. Here are the 20 different sayings:

Of course I added my label, complete with thimble insignia. I quilted this on my domestic machine with wavy lines. Simple and effective.

Abby is considering a nice cuppa.