Thursday, July 31, 2008

Dealing with Distractions

I went into this week knowing it would be full of diversions that would make putting in my studio time a trick. Today was my first uninterrupted day so I've been putting in some serious time to make up for the short days so far. I've had to divert from what I originally planned for the week, but that's not a bad thing. At this point, it all needs doing, and no one thing has more importance or priority time wise than another. In fact, my decision to alter my goals for the week was partly determined by my old friend, sequence of events. The project I thought 2 weeks ago I'd be ready to tackle is still buried under bits and pieces of another that I didn't get as far on as hoped.

So after thinking it over and studying the mess still on my worktable (which IS improving, by the way), I decided to go ahead with preparing two more sections of the azalea mosaic for applique. I've finished enough of the green squares to add the two pieces at the top and am back to basting. The squares that I marked on the back still show well, but I can see evidence that the lines are fading in places, so it's a good thing to stop appliqueing and get the rest of the fabric in place.

Every time I pick this piece up, I'm reminded how much I enjoy, and on a certain level, need handwork in my life. It rarely feels like work at all, nearly always calms me, even when I don't realize I'm in need of calming, and provides visible evidence of progress made. Plus I can take it outside with me so I can enjoy as much of lovely summer weather as possible.

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Lesson Learned

Yesterday I picked up my quilts from ArtWalk and was disappointed, although not entirely surprised, that nothing had sold. So I was a bit bummed all day. And a little angry at myself. In spite of the fact that my quilts never were in direct sunlight, those windows giving me such great exposure to the public also exposed the quilts to day after day of strong daylight - stronger daylight than I ever expose my quilts to at home. One piece sustained enough fading of one of the commercial fabrics to change the impact of the piece. Unless I can darken it up with paint, it is essentially ruined. I knew better and even voiced my concerns, but I let myself trust the sponsors who assured me my art would not be damaged there. I also ignored my better judgment about treating them with some kind of UV protection before hanging them. I have a product on hand I've been meaning to test but just haven't gotten around to it. Well, I'm going to get around to it now - closing that barn door after the horse has bolted.

It 's a good thing I had my recreational piece on the docket to finish yesterday, someplace to focus my energies and to distract my black thoughts. It must have been the long hard winter...I'm SO into bright tropical colors right now! Here's a little corner showing the finished border and some of the decorative stitching I used on the fused applique. It's soon off to brighten someone else's day!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Is it art?

Another battle that wages is what makes something art. Does there have to be intent on the part of the maker? Two recent newspaper items got me thinking about this again. The first is a very tongue in cheek description of a not quite 2 year old child's rendition of her Aunt Bev: "Clare, a...Spokane modern art stylist, employed bold brush strokes to produce an abstract expressionist portrait..."

The other was an article on how to decorating on a budget, primarily with second hand goods. But one of the tips was to fill your walls with your kids' drawings, nicely framed and passing as abstract art. I actually know someone who did this, and frankly, if she had not told me they were the carefree splashes of a toddler let loose with paints and brush, I'd been none the wiser.

Is her son, or your Clare above, budding artists? Perhaps. Is what they are producing right now art? I'm inclined to say no. But then again, I've made what I consider art from happy accidents I had little to do with, except to recognize a good thing when I see it.

What do you think?

Friday, July 25, 2008

What's In a Name?

There's an ongoing debate about what terminology to use to describe what it is people like me produce. I've heard all sides of the argument for and against the term "art quilt," including the fear that mentioning the word "quilt" immediately throws you into the "craft" category (thus the need to tack "art" to it), and the sense that since other mediums, like oil painting and sculpture, don't automatically add "art" to what they do, neither should we (thus are we being pretentious here?). I myself use the term "textile art" now to avoid that nearly universal connection the word "quilt" has to something on the bed, something you cuddle up with, but also because I started playing with things that technically were not quilts although related to them or to textiles in general. It seemed a good idea to have a more all inclusive term in case my playing with paint or beading or embroidery produced stand alone pieces definitely not quilts. Yet, no sooner does the term "textile art" pass my lips than I find myself following up with the explanation, "primarily art quilts." I just can't seem to totally throw off the term. After all, most of my work really is done in the form of a quilt.

During the course of my reading lately, I keep running across the term "art glass." No, this is not new to me - I've been aware of this term forever. But it was only today that I made the connection that here was an art medium like quilts that needed to add the clarification of "art" to distinguish it from utilitarian wares. In this Wikipedia entry, there's a definition of Glass Art so plain and simple: "...the use of glass as an artistic medium." The same logic can be applied to quilt art: the use of quilting as an artistic medium. For me, that ends the argument. If it's good enough for the glass people, it's good enough for me.

Thursday, July 24, 2008

Just For Fun

I've been working on a purely recreational project this week. It is part of my new plan of clearing my work table. I'm just diving into whatever project is sitting on top of the pile, or refusing to put fabric away until I use it as intended. In this case, I'm using up leftovers from the tote bag I made. I started with a cute idea from a magazine, scaled it down and am now adding my own border since I wasn't crazy about the border in the original.

This is a fun border to build and is made up of 3-1/2 x 1-1/2 inch rectangles. It's great for tops with a lot of colors in them; you can use scraps from the top and also add like-minded fabrics from your stash. I don't worry about how things resolve on the corners, or even if the string of rectangles come out even on the ends. There's enough visually going on that it doesn't make much difference. I generally start by arranging a few rows of rectangles to get a feel for distribution, then start sewing them into border strips, and then to the quilt top. Any overhang gets trimmed off before the next side or row goes on.

I think this one will have three rounds. In the picture, the yellow on the right is the quilt top and I've sewn the first border onto the left side. The rest of the fabric is being auditioned.

For a look at another quilt using this border, see this post.

Tuesday, July 22, 2008

Pottery Barn Wisdom

Style Tip: Mixing neutral tones with white gives you the creative license to mix big patterns and soft textures.

The style tip and the picture of the Andover Cabinet don't go together, but appeared in the same recent Pottery Barn Catalog. I wondered if I could apply that logic to any of my quilt designing, then ran across the cabinet and fell in love with all that rusty texture. I see fabric, not painted wood.

Monday, July 21, 2008


"Creativity and high quality, that's our way to survive."

Today not a fun one. Relegated to sewing on labels and filling out documentation files - necessary evils. The up side to it is that fabric got put away, bits and pieces filed or tossed and more of the surface of my work table is starting to appear. Still, I caught myself looking longingly at my silk tie project...

And so, I direct your attention to an interesting article in this month's Smithsonian Magazine about the silk industry in Italy, "Silken Treasure." Look for the link in the sidebar to the right for some great photos of the area from the article. Enjoy.

Sunday, July 20, 2008

Thought for the day...

"If you limit your choices only to what seems possible or reasonable, you disconnect yourself from what you truly want, and all that is left is a compromise."

Robert Fritz

Saturday, July 19, 2008


A few days ago my niece commented on a huge moon rising over New York City which is her landscape. The next day I happened to capture this picture of the moon rising over the mountain which is my landscape. It really was this orange, until it got a little further up in the sky. It's fascinating to think we can share the same moon although thousands of miles apart. I just get to see it a little later than she. And now she's over the is good!

Friday, July 18, 2008


Here's the other piece I finished this week, based on a challenge from Margaret to make a quilt based on my choice of Chinese poem. It is approximately 22w by 19h. I've decided to call it "Voices" and it is inspired by this translation:

Deer Park Hermitage
Through the deep woods, the slanting sunlight
Casts motley patterns on the jade green mosses.
No glimpse of man in this lonely mountain.
Yet faint voices drift on the air.

Click on any picture to see the details better in larger versions.

Thursday, July 17, 2008

TIFC for March Done!

Time to get out your back issues of Quilters Newsletter. I tried the "magic miters" lesson by Ursula Riegel found in the May 2008 issue and it worked really well. This method adds a mitered border while simultaneously finishing the edge of the quilt. I thought my tree trunks would be a good one to try it on.

But first I had to fuse on strips of Decor Bond on three sides of the quilt. Since I changed my mind about where I wanted the border to fall and needed to extend not only the quilting but the stabilizing beyond the top, this was a quick fix quickly quilted up. Once that was done, I squared up the top making sure that once the border was in place, it would cover the white Decor Bond as planned.

I didn't want a single border, but two so I sewed strip sets and cut them to the proper lengths - the exact measurement of the quilt side plus 3/4" (and yes, I didn't trust the directions and tried a paper sample to be sure the 3/4" was correct). Then I cut the miter using a combination of the 45 degree angle on my cutting mat and a triangle ruler.

Next, the border ends are sewn together. A dot 1/4" from either side of the inside edge of the border marks where to start sewing (backstitching). You also see here my trick of using a pad of sticky notes butted next to the presser foot to ensure accurate 1/4" seams.

Once the border is sewn together, the seams are pressed open and the inside edge pressed under 1/4" (which is why the stitching in the seam doesn't run all the way to the raw edge).

Now it is ready to be pinned right side to the back of the quilt. If you've measured and cut and sewn precisely, this will be a perfect match. Here it is sewn all the way around, ready for turning. Well, almost. The corners need to be trimmed to remove bulk, and I also graded the seam, cutting away half the width of the quilt top because of the stiffness of the Decor Bond. I was amazed at how easily the corners poked out, and it turned to the front with the help of a hot iron.

Usula's directions call for stitching close to the edge of the border, but I also stitched in the ditch between my first and second border. I often use a buttonhole foot to guide along the edge of the seam.

When I switched to the outer edge, I changed to a hemming foot which has one side higher than the other: the high side rides on the "hem" while the low side butts up against it. Moving the position of the needle to the left, I could then make an even line of stitching.

I did notice, though, that there was some shifting of the fabric, creating a ripple which I had to ease back the other direction. Perhaps a walking foot would be a better way to go. Actually, if the top had not been bonded to the Decor Bond, I probably would have stitched that down by hand.

Here's the final result. Actually, it's not quite as uneven around the edges as this picture appears. I took this quickly before giving it another blocking. But that is one hazard of this method. Precision is everything and especially with the double border, any wobble shows. Still, I liked this method a lot.

A few things I question, though. I think you'd have to be careful about choosing the border fabric, being aware of the possibility of shadowing through from the fabric and quilting of the top underneath. I also question how wide of a border you could get away with.

I'm sure by now you've forgotten what the key concept for March was that got me going on this quilt in the first place. It was noticing the little things, the small details in life. In my case, it was noticing a peachy undertone to the tree trunks I thought were off-white and brown. And in the process of working through this, I added many other small details. Oddly enough, I don't know what to call it. Usually in the course of making a quilt, if I didn't start with a name, one comes to me, but not on this one. Any suggestions?

Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Size & Orientation

I'm not quite ready to show what I worked on today, so instead I thought I'd revisit an observation I made in this post about how the dimensions of a piece of art can effect its impact. The picture above is another one of my "point and shoot on the fly" pictures snapped while driving through the Palouse. There was no framing of the shot and it is in its original digital ratio.

Here's the same picture cropped in a more radical landscape orientation.

And here it is again, cropped in a rather radical portrait orientation.

Were I to render this scene, I would be tempted to use the portrait orientation to accentuate the upthrust of the tall barn. Yet when I was cropping, it seemed more logical to go with the landscape that would stretch out the area surrounding the barn, playing into more of a feeling of isolation. I also liked the inclusion of the two slightly slanted fence posts. Which way would you go and why?

made this comment: "Apart from where there are specific challenge limitations ( eg 12 x 12 inch square for Journal quilt), 9/10 of my quilts and paintings are 'portrait 'orientation.I'm just coming to realize that I find myself unconsciously looking for inspiration that will fit that format rather than working out what's the best format for a scene."

I think one may be predisposed to feel more comfortable with one orientation over another. The first year I did journal quilts, I purposely chose to do them in landscape because so much of what I was thinking about could easily be rendered in that orientation. But every now and then, there'd be an idea that simply didn't work in that format. The next year I did them, I opted for portrait, and again, found there were times that conforming to that orientation for some designs was a challenge.

In my normal designing, I don't usually start with a size or orientation. I start with a concept and see where it goes. I've designed several quilts in portrait orientation only to discover upon completion they looked better in landscape, like "Something Bold." Just when I think landscape is my preferred orientation, I find myself working portrait, as in "Wisconsin Memories." Can you see that one done any other way?

So I think I subconsciously favor landscape orientation, yet recognize that is not the only way I can work. I guess I don't want to be put in a box, and neither do my quilt designs.

What about you?

Tuesday, July 15, 2008

Best Laid Plans...

I was hoping to keep my momentum this week with the daily 3 to 4 hours of studio work, but once you let the world back in, you have to be prepared for its demands I guess. I had double the distractions today: a dog still trying to shake the effects of being sedated for x-rays yesterday and a computer monitor that had to be replaced. It chose to go into permanent sleep mode about the same time as the dog returned from the vet to her own sleep mode.

When I finally convinced her to get up and out this morning, she soon crashed on the lawn while I puttered a bit in the garden. I couldn't blame her. The breeze under the shade of a tree was so pleasant that I jettisoned plans to work inside and grabbed my applique for an hour or so. But eventually I had to sally forth for a new monitor. Hate to spend the money, but I was trying to look on the bright side. When I got my new computer 4 years ago, I opted for a 15" flat screen monitor - huge compared to the 12 incher I'd been using. But I soon saw the limitations, but couldn't justify replacing it purely because of size.

I ended up with an HP 19" wide liquid crystal monitor with high ratings for color clarity and contrast. Oh, my...they're not kidding when they call this a "bright view panel." It is so crisp and brilliant that it almost hurts my eyes! And the picture is the same regardless of the angle I'm viewing it at. That wasn't true of my old monitor.

I've taken a look at my blog and can't believe how much better the pictures on it look now. It is as if I've been working in a hole, seeing through a glass darkly. And I love the bigger, wider size. Yikes! Can you tell I'm excited???

Sunday, July 13, 2008

End of the Trial

Today is the last day of my 2 week self-imposed trial period of concentrated studio effort. (see this post) Tomorrow I have to let the world back in again, but the new goal will be to not let it take over, to strike a better balance between the daily responsibilities and distractions and the creative time.

Yesterday was not my best day in the office. Still feeling rebellious, still not wanting to work on the two pieces which I wanted to complete during this time period, making myself do it anyway. No joy in the quilting I did, ending the session ripping out more stitches it seemed than I put in because I wasn't happy with the thread colors I kept trying. But I pushed through until all the quilting was done on the TIFC tree trunks piece. The quilting wasn't difficult. In fact, it was much like what I did on the Chinese Poem piece - following the outlines of the leaves printed on the background fabric. So why did it bug me so? I decided it might be because quilting around the leaves was predictable, possibly even trite - two words on my list of things to avoid. I didn't have the energy, or perhaps the love for this piece to think of anything different or interesting.

So yesterday I felt very deprived, especially since it was so nice outside, and I didn't get to spend a great deal of quality time in it. Today I rectified that. I rediscovered my back deck, cool and shady and secluded in the morning. Still in my jammies, I headed out there with my second cup of coffee and my azalea mosaic applique. This felt like a treat, not work at all. Yeah!!! When I finally came in 2-1/2 hours later, I was mentally ready to face squaring up and binding my Chinese Poem quilt. It now awaits hand sewing that binding on the back. For good measure, I made the sleeve for it too.

This has definitely been a productive 2 weeks, even though my original plans about what I would be working on and complete changed a bit. I spent more time on the azalia project than I anaticipated, and only got one of the two applique versions started, but I feel good about that time and excited about getting a new series off the ground. I hadn't planned to work on the tie project, but again, I'm glad I did and it worked as a reward and a needed break after the less pleasant work had been faced. As for those two pieces that had me intimidated, they are much farther along than they would have been I'm sure, and I've re-established the resolve and work habits necessary to see them through to completion, sooner rather than later.

Friday, July 11, 2008

Brief Respite

Make it your ambition to lead a quiet life, to mind your own business and to work with your hands. ~ 1 Thessalonians 4:11

I have an inspirational calendar in my kitchen that starts off each week with scripture from the Bible. This week it was the above quotation which amused me no end since this is exactly what I had planned for the week. In the course of doing this, I passed up an invitation to a Mary Kay make-over (not so difficult) and lunch with ladies from the church (a little more difficult). These are the sorts of outside distractions that I've succumbed to too easily and let derail my good studio work intentions.

It's been difficult to keep up my enthusiasm for the studio the last few days. The old, "I don't want to work, I want to goof off" attitude was setting in, perhaps because the work I had to do was not my favorite. Or because I was having to make uncomfortable decisions about it. At any rate, I could feel the rebellion building, and it boiled over today. I needed to go out shopping anyway, and I used that as an excuse to get out of finishing the quilting on the TIFC and/or the binding on the Chinese Poem Challenge.

I'm not being too hard on myself about it, though. After all, I've put in at least 4 hours every day since last Saturday. I guess a break was in order, and there's still Saturday and Sunday to get them finished up. I couldn't let the whole day go without some work, even with permission. This afternoon I sat outside appliqueing on the azalea mosaic. I am determined to make the most of my two week self-imposed isolation to "do the work." I'm really pleased at how this has gone and hoping that I am truly getting back into the creative habit.

Thursday, July 10, 2008


I didn't get this totally quilted today, still working on stitching around the leaves in the background fabric print. However, I am so pleased with the effect of the black thread in the quilting on the trunks. I finally achieved some of the definition I was going for with the thread painting. For reference, see a "before" photo below (click on either for a larger view):

Wednesday, July 09, 2008

Hate It When This Happens...

Was pretty low on energy today, for no discernible reason. If I had a hammock, I probably would have spent the entire day napping in it. Instead, I got part of my studio time in by basting my March TIFC for quilting. As soon as I laid it down on that black batting, I realized my border fabric (just peeking out along the left of the quilt or see here in this closeup) was not the best choice after all, that a black border would make all the difference in making this piece shine. Oh bother... At least the border is to be added after the quilting so I still have time to consider this change of plans. How could I have not considered black?

Tuesday, July 08, 2008

First Round of Quilting Done

As anticipated, I finished quilting my Chinese Poem Challenge today, starting with the remaining and still tedious outlining of leaves and faces with the invisible thread. Then I had some fun quilting in "brush" with black Polyneon thread.

I tried this carefree no mark design on a journal quilt to fill in around and between some birch trunks and really liked the way it worked. Here I made it a little less like skinny trees and more like underbrush (or at least tried to). I let it wind around the painted faces.

And so this is ready to block and bind, as soon as I clear a space on my work table. I'll probably layer and baste my tree trunks first, though, so I can get on with the second round of quilting.

And again as a little treat at the end of my workday, I needlepunched some more freezer paper patterns so that when time permits, I can paper piece more arcs for my tie project. This is a good system I've hit upon to keep me working at the harder or less desirable chores without feeling totally denied of a few personal pleasures. I guess it's breaking that all or nothing mentality with which I approach almost everything.

Monday, July 07, 2008

Quilting Around the Letters

Ok, I admit I cheated and spent just a a bit of time on my tie project today. But it was just a reward for putting in time machine quilting on my Chinese Poem quilt. I was surprised that the quilting was so tedious. I didn't have much of a plan when I sat down, and settled on quilting around the leaves in the batik with invisible thread. I was a little concerned about quilting over the poem I'd inked, but the invisible thread did not obscure it like a colored thread would have. (Click on picture for larger view.)

I'd only intended to quilt that way between the trees and along the bottom. I thought I had other plans for the sides and top, but now I'm not so sure. It just seemed natural to continue quilting around the leaves and the painted faces. I should be able to finish up tomorrow, and we'll see what I decided about adding some black accents.

Sunday, July 06, 2008

Continuing the Good Vibrations

Thank you for the kind comments on yesterday's post - they mean a lot to me. Since it's still the weekend, I found myself extending my time of warm feelings and memories into today. It seemed very appropriate to work a little more on my "guys ties" project.

I disassembled the rest of the ties, then washed and ironed them. Here's my new assortment of silks to work with. I'm showing right and wrong sides of some of them because either could be used. That red on top bled and bled and bled some more. But it finally slowed down enough to call it good. No color transferred to the towel protecting my ironing board when I pressed it.

And here are the beginnings of some pairings. It will be hard to put this aside tomorrow, but I think I need to start the machine quilting I had on the list of things to accomplish in this two week period. I'll leave everything out as a carrot to motivate me to work work work on that quilting this week so I can return to my New York Beauties.

Saturday, July 05, 2008

Working With the Past

It's been 8 years today since I lost my husband, and I always spend this less than wonderful anniversary working on something that makes me feel close to him in some way. Today, I dug out the box of leftovers from making memory pillows for my in-laws using his and his dad's ties. I used the New York Beauty block and mixed tie silk with my hand-dyes, very random pairings based on what was on hand. They came out like this:
I cut more pieces and made more arcs than I'd need because I knew I'd be making a version for myself. That was back in 2004 and I didn't realize it would be so long before I opened that box again. It took me about 45 minutes to sort through what was in there, figure out what I had been doing and where to start up again. This is the second UFO I've recently had to spend so much time reconstructing my original intent. It's much better to not let these things languish for so long. I discovered many sets of precut hand-dyes for the background portion of the arc as well as cut and marked inner and outer units. But not a lot of tie fabric.

Here's what I eventually got done today. I needlepunched additional freezer paper patterns for paper piecing the arcs. I eked enough pieces out of the remaining tie fabric for three more arcs and got them pieced. Then I got out another stack of my husband's ties and disassembled 3 of them. In the above picture the leftover arcs from the original project are on the left, the ones I pieced today are on the right.
I have been fusing lightweight knit interfacing to the back of the tie silks to stabilize them and control fraying. So this new batch of tie parts will need a quick wash and iron and application of interfacing before I can proceed with the piecing. I don't have a size in mind for the finished quilt, but it will probably take at least 16 of these blocks. I have a ways to go, but that's ok. Working with his ties brings back nice memories.
But in truth, I don't think of him much wearing a shirt and tie. This is how I really remember him. Some of my fondest memories involved our biking adventures including trips to the races. Besides sharing those good times with me, I also remember the way he supported me in my quilting, gave me his opinion when I wasn't sure which way to go, kicked me into action when I got complacent or whiny. To be honest, I'm still a bit lost without him. I have to kick myself into gear these days and I'm just not as good at it as he was. Thinking about him with this impending anniversary coming up was a lot of what spurred my current decision to spend these two weeks shutting out distractions so I could make some serious progress in the studio. These two weeks are for you, fella. Here's to a great guy taken too soon.

Friday, July 04, 2008

Independence Day

It's a holiday here in the U.S., us celebrating our freedoms. I took a holiday too from the studio and dived into my own attempt at freedom. The dog still had lingering skunk perfume about her, so got a soaking in hydrogen peroxide and baking soda followed by a good shampoo which worked remarkably well. It also did a number on her black hair which now looks quite a bit lighter around her head and front legs. Some people spend good money at a salon for such highlights!

I remembered too that "freedom" is my resolution word for the year. I'd kind of forgotten about it and have let myself get pretty bogged down recently. When I remembered it again, I realized it was just what I needed to get me going, that promise of personal freedom if I just get down to it on these things I want or have to do. So along with tackling the dog, I re-potted two plants that have been sickly ever since the move and begging me to give them some attention. I gave my garden a good watering. I vacuumed and changed the sheets and did some laundry. I draped my blanket and quilt from the bed over the fence to air. I tossed some flowers that were well past their prime. I fixed a macaroni salad for dinner. I washed a sink full of dishes. I was a downright flurry of activity!

Maybe this doesn't sound like freedom to you, but now that all this is done, I will have no distractions tomorrow, no niggling guilt about what I should be doing, nothing to keep me from enjoying a day in the studio. Freedom is not a gift or a given. Freedom always has to be earned, whether by a country or by an individual. May you find the freedom you desire this day.

Thursday, July 03, 2008


Ah yes, my stubby little Labrador who can hardly hobble off the porch these days managed to corner a skunk in the back yard last night. Sigh... Luckily, I had some odor remover left over from last year when she did this, but she really got sprayed good. Neither one of us got much sleep last night, and I continue to douse her, wash bedding and take evasive action outside where I think the rascal is hiding out. Still, I was determined to get my studio time in today and I did.

As promised, here's a picture showing a bit of the play of light my hand-dyes will give this mosaic. I finished basting the green section, then pinned and basted the purple section. But honestly, even I am tiring of basting!

And so I got out my applique needle and YLI Heirloom wt silk thread and stitched a couple of squares late this afternoon. The thread really isn't as dark as it looks in the picture, and blends very nicely. I think I will continue with the appliqueing until I tire of that, then back to more laying on of fabric and basting my squares. Yes, this is going to take some time to complete. So don't be surprised if I start on the second rendition soon - and it will be fused applique!

Wednesday, July 02, 2008

Basting Fool

With darkness and the night, doubts return. But in the light of morning, they flee. It's amazing the effect these azalea colors are having on me, on my outlook, how sure they made me feel when I walked into the studio this morning. They are cheering me and making me so eager to work with them. I'm trying to think of the last time colors alone had this effect on me, especially in a project.

First order of business today, though, was to work with the green. There wasn't much of the hand-dye I pulled to match the leaves - I'll use it on round two - and nothing else in my hand-dyes or batiks is like it. However, I found this wonderful piece hiding in my "regular" stash, something that came in an applique scrapbag purchase from Keepsake Quilting. There was just the right amount to pin and start basting into place. Yes, I am becoming a basting fanatic. It demands so little of me, can be done inside or out, solves the logistical problems. Click on the picture for a bigger view to see those basting stitches outlining my mosaic "tiles."

I was hoping I could pin the azalea fabrics in place too, but the overlap creates a problem - must do this sequentially. It didn't stop me from laying out the fabric though, to test the balance, see if any of the mottling needs to be strategically placed. Oh, my - something really exciting is happening here. This is the most basic rendition of my idea, and as I had hoped, my "wholecloth" method is allowing the fabric to do the work. With any luck, I'll have an example to show you tomorrow.

Tuesday, July 01, 2008


"The irregularity of those little pieces is quite necessary...for if this work is laid up in regular squares the charm is immediately lost." ~ Squire J. Vickers regarding tile work used to spell out station names in the NY Subway System, 1919

Today was a bit harder...decisions to be made, some second guessing of the method I've chosen, doubts arising about the concept as a whole...but I persevered and got my azalea mosaic idea off the ground.

I ran across the above quotation in a book about the New York Subway system, and it hit a nerve. In order to test layout and colors, I often do a quick mock-up in my Electric Quilt program. I don't spend a lot of time making it a perfect rendition or messing with fabrics. Since my sketch was colored in long before I came up with the azalea palette, and I wanted to get an idea of overall size, instead of color in another sketch, I went the EQ route.

Rather than use a variety of sizes and shapes of squares, I just pretended I was making a block quilt with sashing. Very static, very boring, and had I not run across that quotation, I might have let this mock-up guide what happened in fabric. I tend to do things in a very regimented way anyway. So glad Mr. Vickers showed up to remind me to be charming.

Still, I had to map out my rows so the design didn't go rambling all over the place. On this first piece, I want to use the same basting method for needleturn applique as I used on my exchange blocks sashings. I finger pressed some guidelines into my background fabric as a starting point, and started freehand drawing squares approximately 1-1/2" onto the wrong side with a Nonce white marking pencil. Once the green area was marked, I outlined it with large basting stitches in color-coded thread. You can just see the red thread delineating the area that will be tangerine.

Click on this picture and you should be able to make out red basting and yellow basting. These will help me when I am ready to place the applique fabrics.

I got all the squares marked, and I tried to be irregular about it. It's a funny quirk though that when you want to be uneven, you draw amazingly even lines. I had to work at making some of them quite different. I liked the looks of the markings on the reverse, and when I flipped it over and laid out the appropriate color of fabric in the various quadrants, my doubts from earlier in the day disappeared.