Saturday, December 29, 2012

Now Hanging in our Dojo

We have a new design element in our dojo. The area under the clock in the photo above houses some old fire hose from back when our building was an active post office. We have hidden the area with some simple curtains for years.

We now have an 'aikido appropriate' covering for the area. Thanks to the talents of Shawn Birmingham who took a wonderful photo last winter of one of our members rolling out of a throw; and Julie Brandon of Red Dog Enterprises who scanned the photo onto cotton for me, I was able to create a custom curtain for the area - a great way to start the New Year!

Friday, December 28, 2012

Work In Progress

This piece is teaching me as I proceed. The quilting is about 1/3 completed  (lower half). It is definitely a process of meditation and listening.

What is it? It began as a photo of an old tree. I will keep you posted as it transforms.

Monday, December 24, 2012

Christmas Eve Journey

A year ago, I was on the National Georgraphic Explorer voyaging in Antarctica. On Christmas Eve, we traveled down an icy bay and sent out two zodiacs to pick up two volunteers and transport them to Port Lockroy for Christmas dinner. The volunteers had been repairing huts used by scientists studying in Antarctica.

My art quilt, Journey, captures the zodiacs journeying through an icy channel to pick up the volunteers. It was an amazing way to spend a Christmas and last night I hung Journey in our dining room to remind us of how fortunate we were to have the experience.

Happy Holidays to All

and Wishes for a Peaceful New Year.

Sunday, December 23, 2012

A Little Bit of Quiet

While last minute frenzy is a popular theme in the US media these days, our small household is enjoying a well earned oasis of peace. Our children are grown and holiday packages were shipped in mid-December. This might be our last holiday at home for a bit as a grandchild will arrive in the New Year and that might draw us out west for the 2013 holiday season. But, for now, we are home together and using the time to relax and catch up on miscellaneous tasks.

For me, that involves fabric and sewing. I have a number of projects in process. Here is a glimpse at one.
For over a year, I have wanted a new lap quilt for our family room. I almost got one made earlier this year but then I decided it needed to go to our new grand-daughter's room.

While going through my fabric stash for another project, a few fabrics jumped out at me and I just had to make something from them. I remembered a pattern I had made several years ago that might work. Requirements were that it be fast and easy :) and that I had enough of the three colors to make the quilt.

The pattern is called Turquoise Diamond and is from Southwest Decoratives and dates from 1997. You can still get the pattern online from them. I know that I got it at one of my favorite quilt stores in Sedona, AZ - Quilter's Store Sedona.

It is a really easy pattern to piece - all strips. You don't actually need as much fabric as the pattern states and I tend to cut the pieces in groups, rather than all at once, so I don't get too confused.

This is the second time I have made the pattern and I have yet to use the suggested color pattern. It is actually easy to adapt - I believe the last time I used different colors for the center area that for the rest of the quilt.

The pattern comes in two sizes - bed size and what they call 'wall hanging' size. That is actually the size I use for a lap quilt.

If life stays calm for the next few days, I expect to finish this up and be enjoying it as I welcome in the New Year!

Friday, December 14, 2012

Beauty in the Most Unexpected Places

A view like this from a lanai on the west coast of Maui is definitely not unexpected. In fact, it is one of the reasons we keep returning to this beautiful island.

However, on my most recent trip, I brought along a copy of Michael J. Totten's Where the West Ends. Michael is a journalist who, in his spare time, travels to some fairly unusual places that are off the beaten path for most tourists --- like Iraq.

He and a friend traveled to Northern Iraq during the recent Iraqi war. To understand why and learn more about his experiences, you will have to get his book. All I will say is that the first story in the book is about his 24 hour trip to Iraq and it was intriguing enough to hold me attention through a bit of turbulence on a recent trip to the Isle of Maui. :)

Michael and friend visited the city of Duhok which is in Kurdish Iraq. In recounting his adventures, he describes Duhok as follows:

Duhok is unlike even the other Kurdish cities in Iraq, not to mention the Arab cities, in that it's colorful. Even from a distance the city has a pleasing aesthetic character thanks to the reds, blues, green, yellows, and oranges of the buildings and houses. ...........If you squint hard enough at it from a hilltop, it looks a little like Italy.
So, Michael had me hooked. All my images of Iraq related to the battle torn southern areas which have been ravaged by violence in recent years. Pleasing aesthetic? Italy? I was fascinated and wanted a photo or two. I googled 'Duhok images' and there was the proof. You definitely could see the color that Michael referred to.
 But what surprised me even more were some of the other images of the general area that I found:

Amazingly beautiful, aren't they? A good lesson for me in remembering not to quickly judge any area of this globe!

Thursday, December 6, 2012

A Great Case for Sewing Tools

At a recent RAFA (Rochester Area Fiber Artists) meeting, one of our members, Margaret Reek, shared instructions for creating a handy case for toting around sewing essentials. I have always wished I had such a case, but, of course, I only think about it as I am packing up for a sewing class somewhere.

Using Margaret's instructions, I took the time a few weeks ago to finally create my own case.

 I kept my design fairly simple and was able to use up some of my stash. Margaret chose to make hers much more colorful and varied the fabric for the various pockets.
You can see the attention to detail that Margaret put into planning the case. The upper row is a zipper compartment made with vinyl. It is subdivided to fit four conventional needle cases and the vinyl allows for easy viewing. The pockets in the middle can be varied in size for items that you usually carry along to a class. I just followed Margaret's directions and found her choices totally functional. The bottom third is supposed to have a pocket for a business card - I didn't do that piece. Eventually, I could fuse in my name and website.

If you have questions on the case, or are interested in the directions, you are welcome to contact Margaret at

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Monday, November 26, 2012

Handy porfolio from Bernina

Earlier in November I took a class at the Bobbin Case in Brighton, NY with owner Linda Fellows. The project was a well designed portfolio designed by Bernina to provide some practice with their Circle Attachment Tool. When Linda showed us the portfolio she had made, I immediately marked my calendar to take her class.

Bernina does provide instructions for assembly but I usually have trouble following their directions. I did find a copy of the instructions that are downloadable on a site (not Bernina's, I have trouble navigating their site too!). You can download a copy from this page if you scroll down to the 'Folio Project.'

I was extremely grateful to make my first portfolio with Linda as she had already problem solved some of the pitfalls and really made it easy to practically complete the project in one class - an amazing accomplishment for me!

Here is my finished portfolio:

I had some hand-dyed fabric from Ricky Tims  that I had purchased at his seminar in Rochester last year. I used that as my base for the front as well as the inside and the binding.

The black velcro isn't exactly attractive, but it was all I had easy access to when I was trying to complete the project.  In retrospect, I could have placed it lower on the design. Since the folio is closed most of the time, it is not a major issue for me.

In reality, it was a fairly simple project and I hope to make a second in the near future. I would highly recommend Linda's classes if you ever happen to have the opportunity.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

Home for the Holiday

I have spent the past two weeks traveling and catching up from traveling. Today is Thanksgiving in the U.S. and I am happy to be home for the day.

 This happy fellow greeted me on my run earlier today. Some talented artist has carved him out of a basswood tree stump. He joins me in wishing everyone a wonderful day.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Friday, November 2, 2012

Practice, Practice, Practice

 Twice a week, Robert Glenn's Twice-Weekly Letter arrives in my email in-box. I confess, in times of stress and deadlines,  I unwisely sometimes just delete it. Mostly though I peruse it and mentally thank Mr. Glenn for his thought provoking ideas.

This week's second letter was no exception. He sketches out a brief history of two artists - one highly educated,very serious about his art but not very prolific, his income not derived from his art; the other is less educated, highly prolific, and very successful in terms of gallery representation and income flow from her art.

Then he offers the following story from  David Bayles and Ted Orland's Art and Fear:
The ceramics teacher announced on opening day that he was dividing the class into two groups. All those on the left side of the studio, he said, would be graded solely on the quantity of the work they produced, all those on the right solely on its quality. His procedure was simple: On the final day of class he would bring in his bathroom scales and weigh the work in the "quantity" group: fifty pounds of pots rated an "A", forty pounds a "B" and so on. Those being graded on "quality," however, needed to produce only one pot--albeit a perfect one--to get an "A". Well, came grading time and a curious fact emerged: the works of the highest quality were all produced by the group being graded for quantity. It seems that while the "quantity" group was busy turning out piles of work--and learning from their mistakes--the "quality" group had sat theorizing about perfection, and in the end had little more to show for their efforts than grandiose theories and a pile of dead clay.
 I have noticed in my own work that early on I hesitated and often had a lengthy debate with myself of options for a particular art quilt as I was creating it. At some point, I realized that I would probably progress faster if I stopped debating and just quilted. Interestingly but not surprisingly, the quality of my work increased significantly the more art quilts I made.

This is not to say that an appreciation of design and formal art study is unnecessary. If anything, the more I quilt, the more I appreciate and read material on design. It simply speaks to the simple truth that practice and doing is essential to growth. This is true in most disciplines. I have been teaching the art of aikido for over 20 years. I can demonstrate for students an effective way to execute a technique but the only way they will be able to do it is by practice, practice, practice.

Guess it is time to stop writing and get back to the sewing machine!


Monday, October 29, 2012

A Sense of Completion

When I returned home earlier this month, I found myself, not surprisingly, surrounded by many unfinished projects. While making steady progress on my current major art quilt, other smaller but equally important undertakings were piling up on my cutting tables, leaving no space, of course, for cutting! So, October morphed into a month of finishing things up. I won't bore you with the list of non-fiber projects that got accomplished. But, here are a few that were fiber related:

  • Pillow from the past. Thirty or more years ago, my Aunt Mary C asked if I wanted to complete an embroidery project she had brought back from a Scandinavian trip. I accepted the gift, completed what was the front of a pillow and there it sat, unfinished, all these years. I uncovered it while working on a family history this summer and laid it on my cutting table. I am happy to report that the pillow is now in our family room, completed and bringing back many pleasant memories.
  • Sometime earlier this spring/summer I played with a quilt top based upon a table runner I brought back from India. I intended it for our home and that, unfortunately, equated to putting it on a back burner. So, this past week I mentally repurposed the quilt top into a quilt for our grand-child who will be arriving in the spring. It is now completed and ready to ship. Funny how that works.

    I used wool batting again for the quilt which makes it quite light and easy to manouevre on my Bernina. I decided to simply quilt in the ditch and was delighted that this created a nice pattern in the center of the pieced back. 
  • Daughter is busy getting a room ready for their new little daughter whom they are in the process of adopting. She asked for a valence for the room. Mom, of course, say 'yes.' Fortunately, I found the perfect fabric last Friday and miraculously whipped together a valence over the weekend.
  • And, finally, there is that illustrious little bear that I just had to knit for the new grand-daughter. The bear turned into quite a project and just had to have a crocheted sweater....
Not a bad list! There were also the stocking gifts I wrote about last week. I am looking back on the month of October with a smile ---- and two cutting tables whose surfaces I can see --- bet I can fix that situation in the next few weeks. :)

Monday, October 22, 2012

Quick Christmas Stocking Ideas

A friend asked for some help with creating Christmas stockings for some young people in our community. It felt like something tangible that I could contribute too despite my hectic schedule. Here are a few of the small bags and purses that I have started putting together.
Don't they look great? They were all quite easy to make. Most used a simple pattern that I adapted from a small lined purse I had made in a Bernina Club meeting a year or two ago.

I started with a cardboard template and then cut a cover and a lining fabric, allowing for 1/4 inch seam allowances.
For some of the little purses, I used some upholstery samples that had been left on the 'Freebie' table at our last quilt guild meeting. I found the fabric made a sturdy purse that did not need any additional facing.
All that was needed was to sew right sides together around most of the form and then turn it inside out. I could then fold up the 'bottom' as I wished and stitch the sides of the purse. In some cases, I stitch all the way around to outline the top flap, in others I didn't. How simple is that!

For some of the other purses, I put assorted threads, ribbons on top of the cover fabric, covered them with netting and stitched over the entire arrangement to anchor it down. I then trimmed as needed around the piece, and continued as above to construct the actual purse.  I did find that I had to include a piece of facing along with the lining in this design purse to give it a little body.

There are as many variations as your imagination allows with this approach - in the basic size, design, embellishment.  I am amazed at how functional I find the little purses - I carry one in my purse all the time with a headset, etc.

Saturday, October 13, 2012

Intriguing talk

Many different emails seem to find their way to my inbox. Sometimes the number is so overwhelming that I delete items almost indiscriminately. Last week an email from the Metropolitan Museum of Art caught my eye and simply refused to be deleted. My week was hectic, as usual, but that email held its ground. Finally, I had a few moments on Saturday morning to open it and give it some attention. I clicked and it led me to about a 15 minute talk by Thomas Campbell, the director of the museum. It is worth a listen.

A couple of threads in the talk particularly intrigued me:
  • He speaks about tapestries and the role they played in their time and their value now. Hmmm - interesting to apply to the realm of art quilts - as chronicles of our times and how they will be viewed in the future.
  • Mr. Campbell talks about the role of the curator and intention behind exhibits. Exciting thoughts to entertain as we design our own shows.
 I would be curious about your thoughts as you listen. 

Tuesday, October 9, 2012

Inspirational Trip

I spent a few fun-filled days in the Seattle area last week. Much thanks to my cousin, Kate, for hosting me and sharing in my adventures.

We attended the LaConner Quilt Fest where my quilt, Illuminated Albizia, was being shown. Met some wonderful quilters and got inspired by the many entries. The building that houses the museum is wonderful and worth a trip in and of itself.
La Conner Quilt and Textile Museum
The Quilt Fest is always held in the beginning of October. If you can, mark your calendars to attend next year. LaConner is a friendly small town that seems to cater to artists. There are wonderful shops to check out, in addition to the quilt exhibits. We stayed at a B&B right in the town that was filled with mementos of past owners. Believe it or not, there was a wedding gown in the corner of one of the bedrooms!

My cousin and I also traveled over to Bellevue to visit the art museum on the last day of an exhibit of quilts by African American women that Corinne Riley has collected over the years. One of my favorites was a mandala quilt. It dates from the 1940's and was found in Georgia.
There was a stunning three-dimensional art work on the first floor of the exhibit by Cameron Anne Mason of Snohomish, WA that absolutely fascinated me. Silks, cottons, rayon and velvet were used in creating the form.
Soft Coral
Detail view of Soft Coral
 I won't tell you how many photos I took on the trip. Here are two from a farmers' market we visited in the University District of Seattle.

 We also went for a late afternoon short hike in the foothills east of Bellevue. The lighting made everything feel slightly unreal.
Needless to say, I came home energized and inspired!

Monday, October 1, 2012

Appreciating Detail

Our local fiber arts group, RAFA, has just completed a show at the William's Gallery here in Rochester, NY. It was a beautiful show - I am always impressed by the depth of skill of our members.

About a week ago, I revisited the exhibit for a second time with a couple of members. It was a quiet time of day and we had the gallery to ourselves. It gave me the opportunity to really study some of the pieces. Here are two that I took particular delight in photographing. Hope you enjoy too.

The first is The Gem Tree by Maria Rankin.
 Maria uses the convergence method of piecing of Ricky Tims to create the background. I love the highlights in the upper left corner and can almost imagine sunlit mountains and blue sky. She then overlays a very special tree that is covered with gems. The thread painting is absolutely wonderful!

The second quilt, Sentinel, is by one of my favorite local quilters, Val Schultz.
Val is known for her exquisite quilting. As you look through the detail photos of this quilt, appreciate the multitude of designs that she creates and blends together in this piece.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

Progress Report on Mylar Experiment

A few weeks ago, I wrote about an experiment in using a mylar pattern in my latest art work. I am finding it quite a useful addition to my process for my fused applique art quilts.

After creating a pattern on the mylar based on an enlarged photo, I began tracing pattern pieces from the mylar onto freezer paper and then cutting out appropriate fabrics fused with MistyFuse.
I then used the mylar as an overlay on some muslin and began laying out the pieces.
In one area of the art piece, I used a reverse applique process before setting in the fabrics. The mylar pattern was quite helpful in marking the places to cut the fabric.
 Slowly the muslin is being covered with fabric. Here you can see the piece with the mylar overlay.

Finally, there is enough fabric set in that I am only using the mylar to cut pieces and no longer need to pin it to my design board to place fabric.
I still have a lot of detail work to fuse but it is exciting to see the landscape taking shape.

Monday, September 17, 2012

House Quilt Project Update

With the help of my daughter, Jaye, I finally constructed my contribution to the House Quilt Project that I had written about earlier this summer.

The art quilt will be hung in a home of a wounded service member that has been helped by Furnishing Hope whose mission "is to improve the living space for people in crisis one room at a time; to provide a home-like environment for kids and families in stressful situations. It is our goal, whatever the situation, to ensure the children in these homes are the benefactors of our transactions." The House Quilt Project provides art quilts to Furnishing Hope.

Jaye and I had a wonderful time designing our little house during my recent visit to her home. We used her growing stash of fabrics. My cousin, Kate, was also visiting and got into the design act as well.

The House Quilt Project is always looking for donations. To learn more about the requirements for submitting an art quilt, please go here.  The criteria are simple and you feel great after you complete one!

Friday, September 14, 2012

Awesome Mitered Facing Tutorial

Our monthly FAFA (Rochester Area Fiber Artists) meeting was yesterday and I brought in a piece I am working on for some suggestions on binding it. In reality, I haven't been making art quilts for that many years and this was the first time that I absolutely wanted no border showing on my piece.

I received many helpful suggestions from members including Julie Brandon of Red-Dog Enterprises who had printed the base fabric for me. One person suggested that I check out the website Blue Moon River for a tutorial on a mitered facing binding. I recognized the name and checked it out. It is the website of Sue Brubaker Knapp, a well known quilter. She did have a number of free tutorials including one for facing a quilt with a mitered binding.

It was excellent!!! I was able to download a pdf with clear instructions and excellent photographs. I had already done a number of mitered bindings on quilts but never a mitered facing. I also had never bound a silk piece before. With Sue's instructions, I was able to easily create an excellent finished edge for my art work.

I have yet to baste down the back but here are some photos of a finished corner - the true test of mitered facing!

Front view
Back View, not yet sewn down
You can download Sue's instructions here. She has a number of other free tutorials on the page.

Now, on to beading the front of my quilt! When finished, it will be called Ice Flow and will be part of my growing series on Antarctica.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

SAQA Auction is on!

If you haven't yet, please do check out the SAQA Auction. Now in it's third day, there are still many quilts available. Each is unique and beautifully handcrafted.

To view the auction, just go to the SAQA Auction page.

Monday, September 10, 2012

New Techniques/Old Projects

September has been full of travel, weddings, and family visits. Gradually time has opened up for a return to my artwork. A number of projects are in the are tidbits from two:

The oldest of UFOs
Our daughter has been visiting the past week and we have been going through old family memorabilia. This needlepoint was buried in a container with other miscellaneous photos and such.

It was a pillow top kit that an aunt had bought in Scandinavia on a trip long, long ago. She gave it to me in the 1970's to do for her and I completed it and returned with a note. It never got made into a pillow and was returned to me upon her passing back in the 1980's.

Needless to say, it is now on my 'To Do' list for September.

Mylar Experiment
I am still processing the mountain of information that I was exposed to at the June Ricky Timm's event here in Rochester.  The use of mylar in design work came up a number of times in the seminar and I have since seen it mentioned in a number of other blogs, articles, etc on art quilts.

I am currently working on another quilt in my Antarctic series and have decided to play with incorporating a mylar outline of my pattern into my process. What I have done is place a piece of mylar over a black/white photo blown up to my desired size of quilt and traced on the mylar the breakdown of the photo into fabric pieces as well as a tentative color scheme - capturing gradations for various colors I intend to use. The mylar will serve as my pattern for cutting and placing fabric. Will let you know how it goes as I work with this piece in the next month. I am excited at the possibility.

Monday, September 3, 2012

SAQA Auction approaching!

Once again the SAQA Auction is almost upon us. The auction is the largest yearly fundraiser for SAQA and I have contributed a quilt for the past three years.

The online Auction begins a week from today on Monday September 10.  Link to the Auction details.  In addition, a selection of the quilts will auctioned at the IQF in Houston in November.

There are always several hundred quilts, all 12 inch square, to choose from. SAQA has some of the most amazing artists so be sure to browse early and pick a few favorites to bid on.

I decided to have a bit of fun with my entry for this year. I call it "I spy."

It is up to the viewer to decide what our friend might be looking out upon.