Monday, December 29, 2008


Last week Santa arrived at my doorstep with a special present, simply wrapped in plastic and bubble wrap. Santa's name was really John, and he was the kind messenger who delivered my new foot pedal to me. Of course I was getting nervous about whether or not he was actually going to make it out of Sea-Tac airport with all of the snow, cancelled flights, etc. After sitting on the plane for 3 hours, waiting for the de-icer, he and his family finally took off, leaving the snowy, ultra white state of Washington (and beyond!) behind, and headed for a warmer destination in Mexico. I'm not sure who was happier, he and his family to be here, or me with my new foot pedal. My projects were stacked high, waiting for binding, quilting, piecing, etc. My hand work has seen its limit for awhile and now I have my sewing station is back in action.
Christmas here was a quiet event and with mild weather, unlike many other areas north of us in the U.S. and Canada. A nice dinner with friends on Christmas eve followed the Mexican tradition of celebrating on the 24th and relaxing on Christmas Day. The local parties on our street went until the wee hours (5am) and we happily stuffed our window wells in our bedroom with classy 2" pink styrofoam that is our new sound barrier! It helped immensely and we'll be using it again on New Years. Parties among the ex-pat community have been abundant and we've had a wonderful share of holiday cheer and good food. Now back to sewing!
I send wishes for a happy, humble, healthy and humorous 2009 to all my family, friends and fellow quilters. We all need lots of laughter these days. And may projects abound!
(The rooster above was an attempt to use a good amount of hand stitching while I waited for my foot pedal. I had to try lots of steaming and stretching and gathering to size the finished product into something that resembled a rectangle. So much for my stitching, but once again there are lessons to be learned. He now resides above my kitchen sink and brings happiness to my home.)

Saturday, December 20, 2008


Every Monday morning, I head out to the local pharmacia and wait for a ride to a community center located on the outskirts of town, about 20 minutes away. The driver's name is Toy and she is a 70-something powerhouse who has been committed for years to a local group of women, Mujeres Trabajadores (Working Women). For me, their group's name is the Sewing Ladies, as sewing is their means of financial support. They meet once a week at the community center, and up until this year, their Monday meeting consisted of some sort of sewing lesson/tip, an English lesson, an Al-Anon meeting (as most have some sort of dependency issue happening in their family), and organizing their one or two selling ventures (at the cruise ship terminal or a local hotel) for the week. I have been involved with them for the past two winters and I have been trying to get them to step out of their comfort zone of placemats and aprons and add a bit more personal expression to their work. This year my friend Bev (their English teacher) and I have returned to find them immersed in personal development classes, with choices of art, cooking, singing, etc. They are loving these opportunities, and when we arrive Monday morning they are busy at the table with their paints and papers at hand. We observe from afar and chat in our simple Spanish with the the one or two stragglers who arrive late or who decide not to partake that day. OR Velma arrives with her new baby girl and we get to hold her for awhile. When the art teacher terminates the class for the day, they scramble with their stacks of donated fabric, plan projects, divvy up the pieces, and sign up on the schedule to sell their wares. Even Toy's Al-Anon meeting has taken a back seat. Perhaps in the new year we will be able to get back on track, but for now we are there as friends and supporters. Every week I am awed by their fortune to have been organized over ten years ago, and now they have evolved into a strong and sustaining network devoted to financial advancement, skill development, spiritual quest and friendship. It's inspiring to watch!

Saturday, December 13, 2008


Our nearby plazuela (Plazuela Machado) is once again the home of a most interesting creative endeavor - sand sculpture. These artists take this once sand castle activity to new heighths with their representations of lovely scenes that capture one's imagination and gives every viewer a sense of awe over the craftsmanship displayed.

This year we are blessed with a nativity scene, complete with rats and chickens and angels and perfectly crafted bales of hay. A week ago, the sand was delivered to a corner of the plazuela by dumptruck, and slowly the artisans sculpted, with spray bottles and delicate scalpels, this lovely scene. We watched the process with wonder and amazement. Now our nightly pass through the social scene of historic Mazatlan always includes a stop to see what new embellishments have been added. And every morning the scene is just as it was left the night before; daily we see grafitti added at every street corner, but this is left untouched.

Last year we were honored with a pirate/buried treasure scene. I think this rat was there too.
And what will next year bring?
It is interesting to think about working with a medium that disappears over time. It seems to me that for these artists it is all about the love of creating. It reminds me of another place I lived that touted a similar "disappearing" medium - the ice sculptures of Fairbanks, Alaska. Here today, gone tomorrow, never to be forgotten, and always viewed with awe and appreciation.

Sunday, December 7, 2008


Recently I was fortunate to be a part of local yoga teacher, Mo Geraghty's retreat "Embracing the Artist Within". It was a call to draw from within, to reach inside to our true selves, to be open to creative experiences, and to look at the strength and power of the written word in the form of journaling in our lives. As a facilitator of a class that taught silk painting to a group and also as a participant in the sessions, I loved the soul-searching and sharing that I experienced and was renewed in my own creative quests.

Yoga, writing, food, the peace of Stone Island, the comraderie of new and old friends, sharing my own creative journey, and a day at the spiritual grounds of Las Labradas were highlights for me.

Dianna, our animal lover, connects to a new friend on stone Island. And the petroglyph below, (one of many) connected us to the universal journey humans have experienced since the beginning of time. Thank you, Mo, for organizing and facilitating this inward journey.

Friday, November 21, 2008


Lo and behold, the foot control on my trusty Bernina 910 went out two nights ago. My machine is now out of commission and as you can imagine, I am not happy.
The first quest was for another pedal that we could just change cords on with the help of our amazing electronics guy, Gilberto. Tom went to the local Singer dealer (the name of his shop is CASA CONTENTA) and bought a new pedal for 250 pesos (about $20). For 30 pesos, Gilberto changed the wires and Tom returned home with my new hope. Wrong! I plugged it in and nothing happened! (We hope Gilberto can replace the original wires and we can get our money back!)
Now my quest went to the internet. I first wrote to my friend Janice in Mount Vernon, WA, who manages the Humane Society Thrift Shop and she takes home every machine that comes in for her husband to refurbish, and along with that activity, she has shelves full of parts. Janice, can you help me?
Next I called the wonderful Bernina repair man, Kevin, at Huckleberry's Fabrics in Comox, B.C. His advice was to get some super glue and secure the broken part. He warned me that a new one would run about $300, and $5 in glue couldn't hurt. Unfortunately, I already knew that my foot pedal needed more than glue.
Then to google dealers etc., and with this I found out that I needed a specific model of foot pedal: 347 or 367. Onto e-bay and I found a dealer selling those for $249! Please Janice, I hope you have one.
Out of the blue, I googled "Bernina dealers in Mexico" and up came a site for the Ajijic (near Guadalajra) Quilt Guild. I wrote to the email address with questions etc. and was happily greeted this morning with a letter from Marianne telling me about 2 contacts in the country. Plus, I have become acquainted with a fellow quilter and now know that there also is a Guild in Mexico City! I also shared with Marianne that my friend Anne from Mazatlan just moved to Ajijic so of course I am planning to visit there AND connect with new quilting friends.
Sometimes problems have the most interesting outcomes!
Now a letter from Janice has arrived and she is in Minnesota, but she will check on her return. Be patient Maria!
In the meantime, I am doing all the other things I love to do that don't require a machine. I just bought a new 3 set DVD from Dharma titled "Learn How to Tie-Dye". I finished the video set last night and found Tom and Martine to be great teachers. I learned new tips for my own dyeing and now know how to make a beautiful mandala. This morning I prepped 4 pieces, soaked them in soda ash and now they are air drying to be dyed in a few days.
I'll dye up some linen napkins this afternoon, and move on to some hand sewing later, but my quest for my Bernina 910 foot pedal continues.
Anyone have a spare one hanging around?

Thursday, November 20, 2008


Our southbound migration is now complete and we have arrived in our winter's nest.
Mazatlan. Beautiful Mazatlan.
The sparkling water greets us with each lap at the shoreline.
The doorways and arches of the resident architecture beckon us to enter.
The swaying palms wave us closer with a rhythm that says "slow down".
Our friends, neighbors and local vendors call out their welcoming words:
"hola", "bienvenidos", "great to see you", "estoy feliz a verte".
The banners and flags announce the pulse of the city: fiesta, dance, love, family, happiness despite adversity, music, food, celebration.
Mazatlan. Beautiful Mazatlan.
We are welcomed by your spirit.
We are welcomed by your beauty.
We are welcomed by your people.Add Image

Saturday, November 15, 2008


My blogging history has rusted over the fall - first up north with intermittent power for my computer, then with transitions and travel, and now with cleaning and organizing for another season here in Mazatlan. My studio is now up and running, thanks to Tom for the fresh paint job, and a bit of elbow grease to wash away a summer's worth of dust and grime. It feels great and I am planning new projects and fun classes. More later on that!
In Mexico, the Day of the Dead (Nov. 2nd) is a special day to remember those who have passed before us. I made the piece above for a "south of the border" theme in my quilt journal group. I love seeing the beautiful tile work here and often times it will change to an oddball color here and there. My stitched and discharged skeletons represent my sister, Ginny, my parents, Mary and Arturo, friends Patty, Larry, and Ernie.

Wednesday, November 5, 2008


On the road...
Blogging and displaying and showing off my wares have not been on my priority list these days…these days of packing and lists and finishing up a pile of projects that I slowly but surely add to my red, wheeling, quilt travel bag. Now, all packed up and on the road, we are hanging out for a few days in Mount Vernon, Washington, before flying off for our winter in Mazatlan. There I have a full winter ahead, of displays and workshops and reconnecting with friends and fellow fabric nuts, and savoring the culture and people I have come to love so much. And of course there’s that language practice, an elementary practice on my part, but nevertheless, a significant part of my Mexican life that certainly does wonders for stretching my brain. Ouch!

For November’s Webwalk, it’s most fitting to highlight some of these projects I’ve been working so hard on this past month. After taking Pamela Allen’s class, I was moved to push my work into more of the compositional realm, and happily finished 2 of the 4 pieces I began at the workshop(below and above).
I am trying to stretch myself to try new free motion patterns, mostly in a closed shape which allows me to use discharging or dyeing within these shapes and patterns. I’ll still use stippling, but I’m trying to keep it as the last option on my list. Beyond Pamela’s inspiration, I have been on a discharge kick by creating totes which you’ll see below. Then to blend the two methods (discharging and composition), I began making fiber spirit masks which are a terrific combination of the skills I have been playing with.
Where am I heading now? My ideas flow toward more compositional work with a Mexican theme, hopes to find a project for my Mexican sewing ladies to embrace beyond their current lines (increasing those options), and being open to all that comes my way…
It’s exciting. Almost as exciting as the emotions I have on this election day in the U.S.. I believe we may be on the brink of mending our colorful quilt of tattered American hopes and dreams. At least I am hopeful.

Monday, October 20, 2008


It wasn't a running race or a cross-bay swimming venture, but a QUILT MARATHON.

Place? Quadra Island Community Center.

Who's involved? Quadra Island Quilters' Guild.

Purpose? To make quilts to be given to young patients at the Vancouver Children's Hospital.

And yes, I was so happy to be able to attend.
For two full days, over 40 quilters and volunteers gathered at the Community Center to participate in this annual event that produces over 40 beautiful quilts for children. Comfy clothes, yummy treats, friendly advice , and of course fun companionship were also a big part of the weekend. The Quadra Guild is an incredibly generous group of talented quilters from all walks of life and with a wide range of sewing interests. There was never a dull moment, and one by one the quilts lined up on the stage. Here are a few of the projects and quilters hard at work.Thanks to the local Fire Dept. for set-up and take down, Linda for a super rosemary chicken dinner, all volunteers, all organizers, all businesses who donated goods and services, and all cooks who brought yummy soups, goodies, etc.
It was a super and productive weekend!

Thursday, October 16, 2008


I had the great fortune to take a workshop from this amazing art quilter, Pamela Allen, a few weekends ago. That's probably the reason I haven't been on my blog lately. I was so inspired by her work, that all I have wanted to do is sew and compose.

Pamela, from Kingston, Ontario, pushed us right into mini fiber art compositions that fell into line with the title of the class: "Still Life Boring?- NOT!"

So here is what I learned/absorbed, etc.: (accompanied by student/Pamela's work)

1. Composition is SO important!

2. Color and value are vital!

3. Don't worry so much about being realistic or including an entire object...our brains know how to fill in the blanks.

4. Embroidery stitches can really accent objects/spaces.

5. The sky is the limit for embellishments.

6. Look for ideas within the fabric.

7. Expand your repetoire of free motion stitches.

8. Make it personal....tell your story!
This was a fabulous workshop that pushed me into new realms. Thank you Pamela!
(Check out her great website!)


This month's theme was "rock and roll", and I struggled with what and how to fit something in an 8.5x11" space. I initially put together a piece showing the old yellow radio I listened to every night as a young girl, perfectly tuned to KJR channel 95 out of Seattle. Then someone told me my radio looked like a camping trailer, so I decided to make a change to something a bit simpler and more straight forward.
Nights in White Satin” by the Moody Blues was THE slow song for dancing during my era of teen-age-hood in Tacoma, Washington. Long, slow, romantic.
I’ve been doing lots of discharge dyeing lately and wanted to see if I could put together a closed shape for discharging within this theme. Simple, yes, but it was a successful challenge for me that I will try again sometime. And of course it was a great way to use up my little blue scraps.
As Barb suggested, it’s like having your name in lights.

Thursday, October 2, 2008


Yesterday the rains arrived to wash away the remnants of summer: petals and leaves finding their way to the ground, robins and hummingbirds no where to be seen, disappearing light more noticeable each day. Did you notice I said "rains"? I'm assuming today's rain is one of many to come. It's just how it is in October, inevitable, as right as rain, a sign of things to come.
This is my month to get in those last "on my mind" projects. The garden is calling to be buttoned up before winter descends. Mexico looms above my consciousness, with reminders that I still have a little time to practice my elementary Spanish. Tom is busy on the sawmill with final cutting and loves to have a helping hand (me!). And my sewing room is scattered with bits and pieces of projects that happen to have quite a strong magnetic pull in my direction. I think a list is in order!

My first display is a piece of cloth measuring 45"x 45". After a play day in the dye studio with my friend Suzie, I wanted to try putting together many of the techniques we tried into one piece. I used only black dye on white cotton and I am quite pleased with the results. Gloomy, dismal, destructive...I already have a few ideas for it.

Next I move into my explorations in discharging, or the removal of color. I initially became interested in the sunburst designs, but then wanted to try some borders. Don't they work beautifully in the design above?

And here I tried a border of dog bones.... the colors worked out so well here.
With all of my thinking about designs and borders, I began to wonder about stitched and discharged overlays....for example, one design of stitching over another design of piecing. Here is a small sampler of two shapes pieced to represent a house, then "overlayed" in stitching with the shapes offset. I added an offset rectangle too which adds another dimension to the piece.
Finally, I was inspired to try a scene from my surroundings. I love the abundance of birds here, and the red-breasted sapsucker (we just call him "woodie") is one of my favorite. Plus he eats the bugs! Tom loves the Spanish translation "pajaro carpintero" perfect! The spiral sun in the corner is discharged, as are the markings on the bright green border. I am pleased with the colors and textures, and don't those buttons at the bottom make a nice addition?

He's still around, working on his bugs. But for us, our migration is right around the corner.

Monday, September 29, 2008


Perhaps my friends are being too polite to tell me I've gone off the deep end on this discharge dyeing, but it certainly has grabbed my attention enough that I'm not listening if they are. The ideas are literally hatching with each new experiment. The latest hitch has been with borders.
My works/projects tend to fall into two camps, the planned and the evolved. I'm trying to push myself into more of the planning, but in all honesty, I'm more of an evolving kind of gal. Flighty? Perhaps. Flexible, yes. (My husband might disagree.) With this, I am trying to push myself into more planned pieces, which are challenging, but happening.

My first border project has been one of those evolving pieces. I dyed up a palette of dark-brights in a guild class I facilitated last month, and with them I needed to do some piecing for the next step - closed figure free motion quilting to later be discharged. I also wanted to include some brights that hadn't been darkened - just a smattering of them. In rainbow order, I sewed 1" strips of the brights, cut them into a trapezoid shape, then surrounded them with the darks. I also included another small amount of the brights around the outside border. Now for the planning of the quilting pattern.

I used one of my platters to get the perfect oval shape which I traced onto freezer paper. I took the outside of this shape (the negative) and positioned it over the trapezoid shape, pressing it to hold it down. I wanted the effect of a sunrise so I then placed a small circle over the top of the trapezoid. Then I began what I've come to call "spoking" as the sewing is much like following the ins and outs of the spokes on a wheel. The long stretches at the bottom were too long for me to keep track of and got a bit wobbly, but I kept on going. Next time I will be sure to use some sort of washable marker that will keep me more on track. After I pulled my papers away, I went ahead and discharged to see what it looked like.

Next I was ready to assemble materials for the borders. This time I used 1/4" masking tape (for painting trim), a circle shape for the outside and a small circle hub. I cut my small "hubs" from masking tape strips placed over a folded piece of parchment paper. This way, after I cut out the small circle shape, I was able to easily peel them off, much like peeling off the backing of a band-aid. (This is now part of my handy dandy bag of tricks.) I didn't use freezer paper for the outside circles this time because I didn't want to iron over the thin masking tape line; instead I used computer paper and pins. I had my materials and was now ready to attach them to the pieced fabric.

First I placed the hubs in each corner and along each line, measuring to make sure they were equally spaced and balanced around the border. Then I carefully placed my 1/4" masking tape in a rectangular shape where I wanted my border to be. This would be the line that joined the sunbursts around the perimeter of the piece. Finally, I pinned a larger circle around each hub. Now I was ready to sew.

Free motion quilting in this manner is to first do the outside, and then the inside (or vice versa if you choose). To get from one burst to the next along the masking tape line, I needed to slice into the large circle and gently fold it back to get my presser foot to the inside. I proceeded with "spoking" until I came to the masking tape again, cut an escape route through the computer paper, and proceeded onto the line and into the next burst. I finished the outside by doubling over the beginning of my stitching, then proceeded to the inside. I stripped away my tape and paper and was ready for the discharging. The results were great, even with the wobbly sun rays on the centerpiece.

My next border attempt was approached a bit differently. (For one thing, it was PLANNED.) This was more about shape than spoking. I saw a great bumper sticker last year that's been mulling around in my brain: "wag more, bark less". Good, huh? I knew these words would find their way to fabric someday. This seemed to be as good an opportunity as any.

I used an earth palette of colors, with both lights and darks. A light circle with a scrappy little dog in the middle was surrounded by the key words, written with the bleach product. Some simple piecing with darks on the outside finished off the cloth. Now for the border preparation.

I wanted to keep with the doggy theme so thought little dog bones around the perimeter would look good. This time I used the thin masking tape to define the border, then added masking tape bones and little circles for the corners. I used the parchment method for making these pieces which worked great.

After placing all the pieces in place, I once again stitched the outside of the border, then the inside. I stripped away the tape and discharged inside the little dog bones. Beautiful colors emerged.

Now I will finish off my two discharged pieces and hopefully display them in my First Friday webwalk, THIS FRIDAY. Yikes, I better get busy!