Wednesday, March 30, 2011

The Storage Space Blues

I recently installed a behind-the-door storage rack to hold stabilizers and other oddball things that end up rolling around my studio... and that experience led me to creating this little Quilter's  Fable for you (based on one of my favorite children's book, If You Give a Moose a Muffin by Laura Joffe Numeroff:

If you give a quilter a studio, she's going to want to create storage space.

And to create storage space, she'll want to go to The Container Store.

At the Container Store, she'll buy some Elfa storage equipment.

 To assemble the new storage equipment, she'll need to get out the power tools.

 When she gets out the power tools, she'll assemble all of the storage equipment and be delighted with her new space.

 Once she has more storage space, she's going to want to buy more fabric and supplies to put in it.

Once she has more fabric and supplies, she'll discover that the storage space is full.

And when she discovers that the storage space is full,

She's going to want a bigger studio.

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Red and White and Art all Over

To anyone who has ever doubted that traditional quilts are art:  look at these photographs from the "Infinite Variety" exhibit of red and white quilts at the American Folk Art Museum in NYC.  (Oh, how I wish I could see this in person!) The exhibit is on display through March 30, 2011.

The museum is encouraging all who attend to photograph the exhibit and post their photos on, so you can enjoy a full-screen slideshow by going here.

Sunday, March 27, 2011


I'm a big fan of DVD workshops.  I can't always get to where a great teacher is teaching, and I can't always adjust my schedule to take a one or two day class.  But with a DVD workshop, I can put on my PJs and plunk myself in front of the TV or computer, and get a great lesson.  I can watch it in parts if I want, and I can keep it on while I'm trying the technique being shown.  Here's one of my absolute favorites:  "Mastering Machine Stitching" by Susan Brubaker Knapp.

Maybe you remember Susan's wonderful 4-part "Thread Sketching 101" series of articles in Quilting Arts magazine (issues # 43, 44, 45, 46 from 2010).  Remember Susan's amazing thread-sketched picture of yarn?!  You could practically feel the fuzzy texture.   And her peacock feather? Astonishing.   I was mesmerized by the detail Susan can create with thread on fabric -- so I was excited to see this DVD.  When I watched it the first time, I was impressed by Susan's clear instructions and her comfort demonstrating what she does on camera.  It really felt like the DVD gave me the chance to be in the room with Susan, watching while she walked through how she does what she does.  She really made me feel like I could do it, too.

But I'm raving it about the DVD now because it's only now that I've given myself the chance try a thread-sketching project.  For the 12x12 challenge (to be revealed on April 12 -- stay tuned!) I decided to thread sketch an image from a photograph I took.  I fired up the DVD again, and I've been working with Susan's instructions to guide me along the way.  It may not be up to Susan's level, but gosh, I've been having a great time with it.  And it's looking better than I could have imagined.  So even though I can't show you the result yet, I can tell you that I'm loving the thread sketching and Susan's DVD has really helped me do it.

It's accidental that I've written this, just when there's a discussion taking place on the QuiltArt list questioning the value of this sort of material for "serious" quilt artists.  But I think it's a mistake to discount the importance of learning new techniques and trying new ways of working with our media.  Even the most sophisticated and innovative of artists had to learn how to use the tools of their trade sometime, in some way.  I'm the first to admit that I'm not making anything that anyone would call "serious art" (whatever that is) but I love trying new techniques and expanding my fiber art tool box.  So I think it's great that the folks at Quilting Arts and Interweave Press make learning new techniques so accessible and affordable.

I've seen several of the DVD workshops that Quilting Arts/Interweave sells, and I love having them in my library of resources.  But this one is GREAT, and if you're at all interested in improving your skills with thread painting, I'd say this DVD is a must.

Saturday, March 26, 2011

Feel free to look around...

You all know that I read a lot of books.  And since I like to talk about books, I decided to put my talk about reading and general books reviews together in one place -- sort of like they're now on their very own book shelf!  See that tab right above this post?  Click on "Books and Reading" and it'll take you to my ramblings about whatever it is I've been reading.

By the way, I've decided to keep my quilt and art-related book reviews here, where I've always mixed them in.  So feel free to go exploring on my new pages!  (They are actually separate blogs, so if you want to, you can subscribe to them and be notified when those specific pages are updated.)

Friday, March 25, 2011

Blog Love: Painted Threads Projects

 I read a lot of blogs, and there are so many that I enjoy.  But some stay at the top of my "must read" list because of how they inspire me and amuse me and keep me excited to see what will be there next.  I thought I'd start share some of my favorites with you -- maybe they'll join your favorites, too.  So welcome to the first installment of  "Blog Love!"

I've long drooled over admired the amazing art quilts of Judy Coates Perez.  Her painted quilts, always beautifully quilted, just sing with color and joy and gorgeous detail.  Her collaged quilts combine tones and images so gracefully, and incorporate patterns and textures and different fibers in creative ways.  In fact, Judy is the reason I now have a small bowl of soggy tea bags in various stages of drying on my kitchen window sill.  Her use of stained tea bag papers has inspired me to try incorporating them in my collage and altered book play.

But, in addition to her regular blog which makes for fun and inspirational reading, what I really love is Judy's Painted Threads Projects blog.  Judy  uses that blog to feature tutorials on all sorts of fun projects, from felted soap bars, to metal work projects, to carving rubber stamps, and more.  She also includes great series of posts showing in detail how her amazing quilted pieces were created.  The only downside to reading this blog regularly?  It makes me want to do all of these different projects and try all of these techniques! (See tea bags, above.)

You just have to love someone who shares her process and techniques so generously.  You can also spend an hour hearing Judy tell her own creative story, thanks to Lesley Riley's interview with her on Art and Soul Radio.  Lesley's podcast is always inspirational, but her interview with Judy has been one of my favorites.

So go take a look -- feel the blog love! 

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Comfort Quilts for Japan

Quilters Newsletter Magazine and the Japanese publisher of Patchwork Tsushin are collecting comfort quilts for those impacted by the devastating earthquake and tsunami in Japan.  Those of us in the US can send quilts to Quilters Newsletter, which will them forward them to Japan for distribution by the folks at Patchwork Tsushin.  Quilters who live outside of the US and want to contribute can email Dana Jones, the editor of QN, to receive instructions on how to send quilts directly to Patchwork Tsushin.

Here’s how you can be part of this important worldwide response:
•    Send quilts of any size from baby to adult to:

Dana Jones
Quilters Newsletter
741 Corporate Circle, Suite A
Golden, CO 80401

•    Mark your box: “Quilts for Japan.”
•    Send quilts as soon as possible and no later than April 30, 2011.
•    Enclose your name, address, phone number, and email address with the quilts.

Quilt, Christened

Willow is usually first to find a new quilt and take a nap on it.  And she's done it again.

Sunday, March 20, 2011

Give me Celebrity Rehab any day

There is one thing about the whole "let's watch Charlie Sheen fall apart on TV" thing that is reassuring and pleasing me. (One thing.  The rest is sad and troubling and just icky.)

It's that I can't bear to watch it. 

And why is that a good thing, you ask?  It's because I have an embarrassing fondness for reality tv.  It's like my own little late night, junk food substitute.  So I tune in to see what appalling things the Real Housewives are up to, I watch Bethenny cope with a new marriage and motherhood and a growing business, and (thank you, Karen) I watch Joan and Melissa figure out how to live together in LA without killing each other.  I regularly tell Roger that, as a psychologist, he needs to watch Celebrity Rehab, because it explains addiction in a way I've never understood before.  That show is horrifying and painful and sad to watch sometimes, but  there's compassion and education and genuine hope grounding that show. (He's not buying that, by the way, and declines my offers to watch it with him.)  I actually don't feel guilty about my love for Project Runway and Top Chef and Work of Art -- those involve watching the creative process in action, and they're just plain fun.  But the other stuff?  It's not exactly life-enriching.

I know.  I don't admit this to many people.  (So you'll keep my little secret, right?)  I just find it entertaining in a mindless sort of way.

I actually do have some standards.  I can't take the mean, conspiratorial competitiveness of Survivor.  I can't take the glorified a-holeness of Dr. House.  (A lot of folks love this show, I know, but it just twists my stomach up in knots to hear how House talks to others.  I used to work with a guy like that, and I think I'm still traumatized.)  And just so you know, my favorite tv tends to be of the PBS and BBC variety.  I'm nothing if not wide-ranging in my viewing tastes.

But I can't stand to watch Charlie Sheen coming unglued on screen.  And turning away from that is a good thing.

Saturday, March 19, 2011

Drum roll, please...

I am in the process of redecorating my bloggy home here.  I started out to add an image to my banner, and one thing led to another... So it's really more like I got tired of my little one bedroom fixer-upper, and I found myself in the middle of a construction project to add rooms and new stories and all!  (And a gazebo!  Don't you think one NEEDS a gazebo?)

I'm not sure when the whole thing will be ready for the open house.  But it could happen soon (html goddesses permitting).  So when you over for a visit, don't be surprised if it looks a bit, dare I say, LOVLIER.

I'm gonna go apply some paint to the gazebo now.

Thursday, March 17, 2011

And the winner is...

Happy St. Patrick's Day, everyone! 

Today's lucky winner of the Charmed Circles pattern is....


Send me your address via email and the Charmed Circles will be on its way to you! 

(And Happy Birthday!  How did the Random Number Generator KNOW?!)

For everyone else who would like to make this pattern, you can purchase your very own here!

Monday, March 14, 2011

Surprise! It's That Quilt again! Win the Pattern!

Hey!  I like this again!  See, what'd I tell you about the blocking?  Between adding more quilting and blocking this, it's all flat and pretty. 

Leave a comment here if you'd like the chance to have me send you the pattern and I'll pick a random winner on Thursday, March 17!

UPDATE:  The pattern has been given away.  If you want to make this, the pattern is Charmed Circles by A Graceful Stitch, and you can get your very own here!

Sunday, March 13, 2011

Adventures in Embroidery, continued

Here's a shot of my first attempt at embroidering a quilt label.  I get a ridiculous thrill from watching the machine sew all by itself.

Just a bit later --  here's how it turned out:

My first embroidered label!

Saturday, March 12, 2011

Amazing what a little quilting will fix...

Remember this?  I've been quilting today.  And if I ever doubted that having an even amount of quilting on a quilt makes a difference, I sure don't now.

After I quilted in those leafy centers, I had a big bubbly, ripply mess.  I was hoping that blocking would fix it, but I knew that what this really needed was more machine quilting to make the density even.

So, today I put Pandora Radio on (have you tried it?  You plug in a few of your favorite artists and then it plays a personalized assortment of songs and artists like the ones you've picked.  It's GREAT) and I buzzed along.

It's finally all quilted.  So I just need to finish sewing on the binding and block it and it'll be DONE!

Check back for a blog giveaway -- I'm giving away this lovely Charmed Circles quilt pattern (because having done this once, I'm never gonna do this again.  :-)

Friday, March 11, 2011

Feeling Mod

My "Flight Path" quilt is featured today on the "Modern Day Quilts" blog.  I'm honored -- thanks, Heather!

If you've not seen the blog, go take a look -- there are some delightfully fresh and original quilts there.

Thursday, March 10, 2011

Why am I doing this, again?

Some time ago (a year ago, maybe?) I started this "Charmed Circles" quilt.  I'm not even sure why.  Well, really, I do know... my friend Nancy made it and showed it at retreat and I really loved the modern wedding-ringish thing, and I wanted to make something in the aqua/brown palette.  So I ordered the pattern and away I went.  I had a bit of a struggle with the machine quilting concepts, so I thought I'd share my process with you.

I spent one quilt retreat piecing it all together (which, with all those curved seams and corners meeting up, wasn't QUITE as simple as I thought it'd be, but it wasn't bad).  And I had this plan for how to quilt it.

(Ignore the rumply part. I am.  :-)  )  I had some great fabric for the back.  I stitched around all of the arcs.  I thought I'd leave the seed shapes plain (or maybe stitch the strips within them) and then, for the in between pointy-squares, I planned to do a loose sort of stitching, from the back, to follow the pattern of the back fabric.  Wonderful thought, yes?  But it looked dreadful.  Tight and too much quilting and just messy.  I concluded that after sewing four of those squares.  So I ripped and ripped.  Ugh.

And then it sat while I pondered what to do.  Finally, I spent a quiet half hour at Starbucks one afternoon between errands, and I doodled possibilities.  I'm not big on marking quilts and following lines, so I knew I wanted something I could free-motion and have fun with.

I wasn't kidding when I said I doodled.  And I doodled some more.

I started liking the leaf shape.  And to make it a little clearer, I put some clear vinyl down on top of the actual quilt top, and used a dry-erase marker to test out possibilities:

And then I decided to go for it:

I can hardly wait until I'm done with this thing. (And, oh goodie, bias binding and scalloped edges are what are still to come!) I know I will like it again some day but for now I'm just tired of the darn thing! 

By the way, at present it's sort of rumply but I have confidence that blocking it will even it all out.  Really, it's amazing what blocking will fix.  Trust me.

Only 7 more squares to quilt...

Tuesday, March 08, 2011

Random Ringing

I've been trying to cut down on the time I spend at the computer each morning -- I enjoy reading blogs and poking around so much that I can lose a whole lot of time that way! And as we know, there are so many interesting people doing so many cool things!

But, in an effort to get moving and productive a bit earlier, I now have my morning coffee or tea while I check emails first thing, and then I satisfy my "discover new blog fun" urge by allow a few pokes at the "Random" button on the Artful Quilters blog ring to see where that takes me. The ring has 125 art quilters on it right now, so there is a lot of activity and inspiration right at the click of a button!

Here's some of the fun I've discovered:

Colleen is playing with color and making lively small quilts

Carol is making charming bird quilts

Linda is learning to use Adobe Illustrator and making wonderful small quilts with her illustrations

Kathy has made some wonderful small quilts with charming hand stitched embellishments

Candy is dyeing up a storm and making me want to dye fabric, too

So go ahead, go over there and hit the "Random" button -- what fun will you discover?

Sunday, March 06, 2011


I've mentioned here that my teenaged daughter, Miss C, has had her own difficult experiences with bullying at school. I should not have been surprised -- but I was -- when she showed me the latest computer animation she was working on. Digital animation is her passion, and she has taught herself to do incredible stop-motion animations, using imagery from a game she likes and using a variety of software including Photoshop. I love seeing her explore her creative passion and how she continues to learn new techniques and try different things. But most of all, I'm so impressed at how she's use her creative expression to tackle subject matter that is so personal and has been so difficult for her.

So, to Taylor Swift's song "Mean,", here's her newest animation:

Saturday, March 05, 2011

Putting the Wonder back in One Block Wonder quilts

Remember those "One Block Wonder" quilts that were sparked by Maxine Rosenthal's book of the same name?  It was quite the fad for a while there (yep, I made two -- one finished, one still to be quilted).

But just in case you're thinking they are sort of boring and passe?  Check THESE out, by Bruce Seeds.  They're beautiful and he's done some stunning original things with this idea.

Thursday, March 03, 2011

The Value of Blogging

Over on our Twelve by Twelve blog, we are hosting a 12-day celebration of the release of our book, and inviting folks to answer questions for a chance to win a copy of the book.  My question yesterday invited our friends to talk about how they used the internet and social media technology in their creative life.

As a blogger, I should not be surprised that almost everyone mentioned blogging.  Reading blogs for inspiration and ideas and techniques and tutorials was a common factor -- and quite a number of folks mentioned that it had inspired them to start their own blogs.

Those of us who started blogging before it was in the mainstream have had a lot of puzzled looks and inquiries:  "Why do you blog?"  "What do you write about?"  And, I must admit, there are times when I wonder myself why I'm doing it.  After all, there's an aspect of narcissism in writing about one's life and thoughts and creative pursuits, and assuming that someone would want to read it.

But for anyone who has ever wondered about the value of blogging, the way blogging inspires and connects people with similar interests is sure apparent in the way our Twelve by Twelve friends answered that one question.  It's a pretty amazing endorsement of how putting yourself out there -- whether through blogging, or commenting on others' blogs, or just reading and absorbing -- fuels a lot of creativity.

Tuesday, March 01, 2011

Flight Path

We are revealing another set of challenge quilts over on the Twelve by Twelve blog.  Our challenge this round was to use a color palette of brown, blue, and sage green.  My response, titled "Flight Path," is here -- I had great fun making this small map and I've described the details of how I did it over at the Twelve by Twelve blog.

Go check it out -- as always, the different interpretations and the creativity of my fellow Twelves are very exciting to see!