Wednesday, August 7, 2019

Healing Comfort

I was commissioned to make a get well quilt for a brave friend battling cancer. The commission was for a soft and warm quilt. I asked about color choices. Modern favorite is black and white sophistication. NO WAY!! Make it cheerful and comforting. colorful and pretty. I thought about what would be nice to cuddle under, something that touches and has tactile interest. Something to ponder and day dream under. A meditation mantilla. Something with the chakra rainbow colors, to aid in visualizing healing. Softest quality flannel, front and back. The image that came to mind first was a hummingbird. "Ancient Aztecs recognized hummingbirds as brave and courageous fighters. It was admired because, despite its size, it showed great strength and power to fly. Its beauty, color and accuracy were highly prized qualities." I love the idea that bravery comes regardless of facts to the contrary, that despite lovely facades, a steely reserve can abide. The feathers are iridescent, prismatic. With amazing accuracy they dip into flowers larger than they are, and lap the nectar with their tongues. Their favorite are red flowers, such as honeysuckles and hibiscus. I drew up a pattern for a 3 foot hummingbird. The wings and tail would have rainbow colors. I decided to make a rag quilt with fringe on the top and smooth underside. In a style like foundation piecing I put the hummingbird together. Then I built the flower, red, pink, and orange with a yellow center sewn around the narrow beak. I imagined the hummingbird in a sky of blues. Beneath it a garden of greens. I pieced it together with pink and yellow on the back. Pink to symbolize cancer awareness, yellow as a cheerful warm sun. As I sewed I prayed and visualized healing miracles. I sewed love into the quilt. I put my heart into the quilt, and spent many hours creating a labor of love. As I held it up to look at it, I saw the world from a hummingbird's perspective. They don't consider bravery. They act on instinct. Wise beyond imagining, they migrate each year to the same feeders, the same gardens, and the same lovely humans who are so fond of them. If you chirp at them, they will chirp back. Their songs communicate to their young, their mates, warn adversaries, and sing for joy. Here is my quilt, front and back.

Wednesday, July 17, 2019

Never give up

I live in a canyon in the mountains. Cell phone coverage is spotty except for the very fanciest of smarty pants phones. When I travel to visit my progeny in Boise I need a phone. There are no longer any phone booths. How hard can it be to get a "burner phone?" Well let me tell you, for me it was very hard. I just wasted 2 hours trying to follow the simple instructions to activate my new flip phone at home where we have no cell coverage. Try to talk to a real human. No way. Try to log in on line. Get locked out by mistyping an email address. Have a very cheerful helper (read: controlling) spouse who offers to tell the non human that they are #$%@^^** Sheesh I can do that. If I could actually talk to a human, which I couldn't. I bought a flip phone and a prepaid card at the local dollar store. I came home and eventually got dragged into the 21st century backwards with my new phone. sheesh. So let's go to a much more pleasant topic: Quilts. I am working on a comfort quilt, commissioned by parents of a friend. It was promised today but is not quite done. So here it is in progress: It is all flannel and is "rag" style. The back is pink and yellow. It will be throw size. Right now it is about 3 ft square. I created it by looking at a paper piece pattern and just winging it. I am having such fun. The hummingbird is dipping into a giant red holly hock. I will also put this quote on the label: "Near your breastbone there is an open flower. Drink the honey that is all around that flower." (Kabir) Another fun project also a commission, is a Riley Blake Kit, "Farm Sweet Farm." So far I have 2 blocks, working on the hand applique and embroidery. It is very relaxing. The finished quilt will be 75" x 87" The embroidered details will make each animal so adorable. Here is what the big quilt will look like: The style is sweet and fresh. Not one I'd choose, but I am learning and having lots of fun. The fabric is fabulous and as usual with kits, there is so much left over, I am in scrap heaven. Creativity happens when we are pushed out of our comfort zone.

Thursday, June 6, 2019

I Have a Loose Screw

I am still waiting to practice on my long arm. Good grief, it is collecting dust. I had some other projects to finish first and it finally occurred to me that I can do my projects on my other sewing machines. The long arm isn't going to practice itself. I really really got side tracked. I got commissioned to make a T-shirt quilt for a paying client. That is good. I need to save money for a replacement car. I am willing to sew things for money that I wouldn't otherwise sew. I think quilts ought to be made from lovely fabric. There is a lot of gorgeous fabric in the world, much of it in my own studio. However, some people love T-shirt quilts and feel very comforted by them. This current project being a prime example.
Here it is before adding borders. Someone else started this quilt. The client is adamant about the baby outfit in the center. OK. I used red scrap strips for sashing , with the idea of pulling everything together. I added 2 narrow borders, first black, then black with red and yellow circles to blend with the other dotted sashes. The back is minky, a very nice Moda Snuggle brand. Super silky and low pile. The client chose red, and I found some on sale on etsy. The outer edge of the back is black minky. See? I am using my long arm. It makes a great design area.
In the middle of quilting this big, heavy quilt,I had to pick out several areas of loopy incorrect tension on the underside. Arg. I was glad I didn't have this quilt on my long arm with tension issues. Then my walking foot came lose. I was afraid I had stripped the threads on the screw. It turned out I had the wrong size screw holding it to the presser foot shaft. Fortunately, the screw is interchangeable with one from my Singer Featherweight. Phew! Works great. During the repair process which was done by Mr. Thimblepie, I had fleeting thoughts of delay getting finished, ordering parts on the internet, trying to find a good repair person in a big city far away, not being able to sew, and ultimately fear of failure and death. Fortunately none of those horrible things happened. I really want to share photos of lovely quilts made from lovely fabric. I want to sew those lovely quilts. So! As soon as I finish attaching the binding, which is chosen and cut, I will switch to a fun "palate cleanser." Stay tuned.

Wednesday, April 3, 2019

Who Needs to Practice?

I recently bought a Grace long arm quilt frame that works with my domestic machine, a Brother PS 1500. It is a very slightly used model and I got it for a good price. I think it is going to be a great adventure. I see LOTS of practice in my future. I had help from Mr. Thimblepie setting it up in my quilt studio. He corrected a few gaffs that the prior owner had made in building it, ie., he turned the leg segments around to make the feet face out correctly, and adjusted bolts on the take up bars. He even leveled it for me. Ok ok, now let me get to it!!
I loaded a quilt top, batting, and backing onto the frame while referring to several tutorials and the printed directions. Not as straight forward as it would seem. Undeterred, and with all the courage I could muster, I started sewing and turned up the speed. Having some practice at my sister's studio on her long arm (Stretch) I felt very capable until I took the first stitches. Ha ha, not so fast. Some of the best advice I got besides practice was to start on something plain rather than a lovely quilt top. Does that sound like yours truly? phhhh I decided to start with an ancient UFO that is nice but not a favorite, and is relatively small so I can finish it sooner rather than later. I chose thread that blends. I chose a pattern that is my go to free motion style, the wave. After all, why can't quilting a quilt be the same as practicing? I foresee some unsewing and finishing quilting it off the long arm, on my domestic machine. I have a life long history of persevering when it comes to skills I want to have. I am happy.

Friday, February 8, 2019

Clearing out my Qi

"In the midst of winter, I found there was within me, an invincible summer." (Albert Camus) I love zinnias. They represent the vibrancy of summer. I have a zinnia poster that I bought and had framed 33 years ago. It has sadly faded. I decided to recolor it with paints and markers, and after years of putting it off, finally got 'er done. Here is the finish:
Here is a before, with just the leaves greened up:
Much brighter. My studio looks much more cheerful, full of joy. The latest trend is decluttering your home and work space, sparked by Marie Kondo and her Konmari method. It is supposed to create joy as well as space. I scoffed and ignored the idea for a while, because, really? Is it possible to declutter a sewing studio? Every time I come in this space a bomb goes off and stuff flies. I have worked to keep it somewhat tidy but it has been a losing proposition. I read a couple of encouraging blog posts and decided to give it a try. Who doesn't want a nice, joyful, spacious sewing room? First I put away the knick knacks, the thimble collection, wiped the shelves and got a few big baskets to hold stuff. I have been going through my bins of fabric, sorted by colors, and if it doesn't give me joy, into the thrift store bag it goes. I have already tossed half a dozen arm loads of stuff.
Notice anything in the basket? I am not going to try to explain the whole concept, or give pointers on how to find your joy. I can, however, state that I feel much better, and so does Rootin' Tootin'. I am working on a top secret project. One part of it is invisible machine applique with monofilament thread. The fabrics, glorious Kaffe Fassett prints, are being fused to the background. The whole idea is to make a wonderful yet affordable piece of art. I can attest to the speedy delivery this approach has, and the results are very satisfying. Here is a little teaser of the results:
I think it is a success. Have you tried any new techniques that gave you joy?

Wednesday, January 23, 2019

Here Fishy Fishy Fishy

I have several projects in progress and a serious to do list, but I couldn't resist starting and finishing a new project: a life sized salmon fiber sculpture/pillow.  I used batiks and some lovely new Gradient print from Moda. I used a copy of this pattern which was well written and illustrated by JanLee Irving, who is an Alaska resident. She knows her fish. This one has all of the fins that a wild Salmon has. Hatchery fish have their dorsal fin clipped for identification. They may be kept, while the wild ones can only be gently caught and released.

36" from nose to tail. My name tag is on the belly. 

Pattern for sale in my etsy shop. Written by JanLee Irving.

You can see the embellishment details here: ribbons and rick rack. 

The fins are made from interfaced ironing board fabric, the metalic shiny gold stuff. 

One detail I'd edit: the original placement of the eye (see stitching lines?) looked odd. I used my seam ripper and moved the eyes forward. The mouth stitching also had to go.   
The gills are dimensional. The head is velvet remnant from a Sue Spargo tote that I made and wrote about in May of 2013. The center of the eye is black pleather, also from a remnant, from a Cat-woman Halloween costume I made for Caroline over a dozen years ago. See? It is important to save those cool remnants. They are still good. There is even a fancy word for that: mottainai, a Japanese word that means too good to waste. It is a beautiful term from Buddhism that is central to the mindful upbringing of most Japanese, (notably the elder, traditional people) that honors the preciousness of things.

Synchronicity. As I wrote this blog post , my sister, Pam, who is touring Japan, saw this at the Amuse Museum. 

This pillow looks great in our living room area, which has a Steelhead Quilt on the wall and a cotton fish blanket draped over the couch. For those of you who are not Idaho natives, Steelhead and Salmon are two types of fish that are anadromous. They hatch here on our Salmon River, migrate to the Pacific Ocean, and return to spawn. They have to navigate 4 dams and a serious assault by sea lions. It is no wonder their numbers are dwindling.

I have been working on several other projects, one a special commission. Someone in quilt club asked me a few weeks ago if I sew every day. Yes, I do. I am a lucky woman.   

Thursday, January 17, 2019

Jump on the Bandwagon

My newest project is a medallion quilt. I don't know how big it wants to be. Medallion quilts are some of the oldest styles of quilts, popular in the late 1700's. Like every other trend, it has re-surged in popularity. I decided to jump on the bandwagon in my quest to try every style of quilting.

 I received some vintage quilt blocks, including this charming maple leaf block. It is hand pieced and the fabrics look to be from the 1920's. I gently washed it in Synthrapol to clean it and remove some red dye that had "bled" onto the adjoining fabric. I love how well it works, and the block looks much more colorful. I guess it got dirty from being handled, it wasn't faded from light.

I got the impetus to make a medallion quilt from my local guild, who is having an ongoing project adding borders. I like this braided border and used strips from my scrap bag to get started. I added some Moda prints to fill in the volume of the braids, alternating light with darker greys.

I love the soft timeless look. I have added in a teensy bit of pink and blue to draw attention back to the maple leaves. It isn't evident in the picture, but there is an outer border of muslin. I haven't decided the next row yet, maybe some applique. 

21" x 21" so far. 

In other sewing studio news I mended another vintage block and made it into a pillow for a cousin who wistfully asked at the last family reunion, "What do I have to do to gt a quilt? Have a baby or get cancer?" Certainly not! 

This vintage block was cut out of an old quilt that used a wool blanket as the batting. Before the advent of nice cotton, synthetic, bamboo, or wool batting old blankets were not unusual for filler. Modern batting became available in the 1950's first as polyester, then more natural fibers in the last few decades.

 I picked out the center circle which was shredded, something that happens to old fabric either from dye or fiber breakdown. I replaced it with vintage fabric from the 30's, turned upside down to make the color look right. For those of you too young to know, the girl is playing with a hoop and stick.

Hand appliqued and then quilted to match the stitches of the block. 
The center circle balances out with the other sweet fabrics.

Cute vintage fabric from the 30's or 40's. 

The back of the pillow. I like to use a zipper so the pillow cover is snug. 
And, lastly, I scoffed at panel quilts which are quite popular around these parts. I decided to make a duvet cover with panel fabric that I received for Christmas, to cover our down comforter. We encourage our pets to get on the bed, so a nice quilt is out of the question in the winter. After I put this duvet cover together I understood the popularity of panel quilts, they go together FAST. My spouse likes this duvet cover a lot, and it fits in with the theme of living in the back country. Black bears do live near us.

Panels will camouflage the pet hair. 
In the warmer months when we don't need a down comforter, we do use quilts.... and I am working on a new one that I will reveal later. The pets don't sleep with us when it is warmer, and after all, quilts are my thing. Don't worry that I am a quilter who doesn't even use one. You can never have too many quilts.

Thursday, January 10, 2019

Just Like Your Eyeballs

This quilt started a few years ago as a tea towel challenge that my notorious sister Pam invited me to join. I bought the center of this wild quilt as a vintage (50's) tea towel almost exactly 6 years ago, from an Etsy vendor that is no longer in business. The challenge was presented by Victoria Findlay Wolfe, who had just come up with the concept "15 minutes of play."

Cool as a Cucumber.

I had a new Dresden Plate template and used it to make plates with pickle and random other themes. I like the strings of hot peppers, the olives, and the other wonderful fabrics from my collection. The centers of each dresden plate were left over from another wonderful quilt that had a humongous number of Kaffe appliqued circles.

Kaffe is the perfect blender fabric!

The next addition was two mason jars of pickles. I chose a quilt style called ticker-tape, which uses little scraps and looks simple but is very time consuming in it's fussiness. The good part is, it is not really fussy in the way detailed hand sewing can be, it just takes a long time to make one jar of pickles. It was fun digging through scraps to find the right pieces. Pam was with me when this part happened, and some of my favorite memories are of petting fabric together.

Silver lame' jar rings and sheer gauze mason jars.

At this point the adorable and quirky quilt top went into time out for several years. During this time I worked hard on improving my character in regards to the defect of procrastination. I did this not by finishing my UFOs. Oh no. I did it by joining groups and starting a whole bunch of other projects. I was in Stash Bee for 2 years and made many quilt blocks to trade. From this connection I got my cowboy and purple cow blocks, and the wonky churn dash blocks. Both of those quilts have been finished and displayed on this blog and at quilt shows,

I continued to write my daily pages (ala The Artist's Way.) I picked and chose which assignments I did. I skipped days often preferring to stare at Facebook instead. The more I wrote, the more benefit I got.  It began to pay off and I became more faithful to the practice of writing first then goofing off. I am doing the assignments in order, as a 12 week practice. Like doing the AA steps, a refresher helps a lot.

In the winter I also use the time to sit in front of my Ott lite for my daily dose of full spectrum light waves. It treats my winter SAD, helps me sleep better, and just feels good. When I learned that our third eye, the pineal gland, that produces melatonin, has rods and cones just like our eyeballs I was so happy. Of course it works! Better than taking melatonin at bedtime.

I decided to add a liberated border to my wild quilt. I had triangles saved from a Christmas project with quick cut hexagons similar to this pattern, I knew they would be useful someday. The colors were what I focused on, not the images. That is my own secret to fabric choice: the color, not the print. And, with lovely synchronicity, I used up almost every one of my triangles.

Even Chinese New Year fabrics!
I appliqued some little vines and hearts in the corners to carry the cucumber vine image out to the edge. Now I am quilting this fine piece. I basted it and did some machine quilting, and it also really begs for hand quilting. I am quilting on the tea towel images by hand. I also added a few wool felt leaves and embroidered the veins. Those leaves were oak leaves from a little freebie, that got trimmed to become pointy cucumber leaves.

Hand echo quilting around each item and along the edge.

This quilt is 46" x 52" such a nice wall hanging size. Finishing my UFOs is a recurring New Year's Resolution. This year for sure! What are your resolutions?

Friday, January 4, 2019

Snail Mail

Snail Mail sounds harmless. Going Postal less harmless but kind of general. Photos of personal stuff private to some, less so to those of us who are not modest by nature. It is hard to decide how to warn viewers of some NSFW material to follow. So, I'll start with a finish that is sweet, grandmotherly, old timey, hand quilted and hand pieced and a long time in completing.

Vintage Stars
My mouth is puckered as I state, "this quilt is a testimonial of the amount of time I have spent sitting on my butt." I quilted it with a Baptist Fan pattern to compliment the 30's and 40's fabrics. A friend gave me the quilt top, found in an antique store in California. The back and binding are bleached muslin. Now it will be part of my collection for a future trunk show.

And now for the NSFW topic. A famous quilter, molli sparkles, has a pattern that I bought on Craftsy titled "Don't Be a Dick." I have a special friend who collects erotic and other gay art. He is an admirer of my work, which means a lot to me. I don't appeal to everyone and that is fine. But he needs a Dick quilt and one is on it's way to him. It is wandering around in postal twilight zone,  being tracked but giving meaning to the term, Snail Mail.

Don't Be a Dick, 24" x 28"

Circumcised, with velvet

Uncircumcised with velvet

My label with a tiny thimble. Beach rocks on the back, some of my favorite pussy willow binding. 
Batik and velvet dicks, who doesn't like that? Quilted with metallic hologram Sulky thread. I felt very happy making this art. The gift is a 'just because' gift. If not everyone likes my work, then bonus to those who do like it.