Saturday, January 31, 2009


I FINALLY got this sent out to Quilting Arts magazine for their 2010 calendar contest. At least I hope it's going out. Its traveling via a friend of a a friend who is flying back to Walla Walla, Washington, tomorrow and promises me it will be sent out by U.S. Postal Service. Due date is March 6, 2010. It should make it, I hope, I hope.

This project was met by one little problem after the next. That's where the FINALLY comes from.

The theme of the contest is "fresh picked", celebrating the bounty of gardens and growth. I was inspired after reading Animal, Vegetable, Miracle by Barbara Kingsolver and decided to portray on fabric an image promoting the support of local growers.

After taking Pamela Allen's class in early October, I began using my fabric for more compositional work, and also incorporated more hand stitching. I think it was finished, but without the border, by the end of October. I added it to my suitcase of fabric (not to be confused with my suitcase of clothing and personal items) and brought it to Mexico for finishing.

Once settled in my Mazatlan studio, I found a good purple in my stash and set out to complete the border. Two inches before the final stitching and my foot pedal blows up! That was another month of waiting ... sometime around Christmas I was able to call it finished.

I knew I needed to send in 3 photos so I carefully photographed iy with good lighting, meticulously cropped it by computer, transferred the images to my USB chip (I can't remember the correct name for this wonderful little tool) and set off for the photo store 3 blocks away.

Lo and behold, their cropping is totally different than my cropping and I had to retake the pictures. Then, just before sending off the perfect set of pictures, I decide to re-read the entry rules and realize the photos need to be 8"x10"....damn! Off to the the Kodak store again for bigger prints. (I have a lot of history with not reading directions CAREFULLY!)

And while I was at it, I stopped at the papeleria (stationary, etc.) and bought the perfect size (tamano carta) of envelope (sobre) for my entry. (I love those built-in Spanish lessons1)

From experience, I know that Mexican postal service is very slow, so I asked Tom to stop by the private postal office (similar to Mail Boxes Etc.) to see what they could offer. He returned, sobre in hand, and said they only accept letter sized envelopes for their service from the states (they have a truck that takes mail once a week up to Arizona). Otherwise, my option was Mexican post and they said 3 or 4 weeks...5,6,7,8.....who knows.

So the friend of a friend option is what I chose. I kissed it before handing it over, wishing it well on its journey, visualizing my farmer's market scene on the COVER of the calendar.

I just love the HEART on his tie-dyed shirt!

Tuesday, January 20, 2009


A trip to the fabric store always holds a new adventure or discovery. The four that I know of in Mazatlan are all located within 2 blocks of each other, and are about a half mile from my house. I am a frequent visitor, usually on a quest for thread, but always on the lookout for new and interesting things.
The thread here is horrible, at the price of about 30 cents a spool, and leaves piles of fluff and lint in the workings of my machine. It didn't take me long to find the Guterman rack, and that now is my thread of choice, at about 50 cents a spool.
Fabric is typically of poor quality, but I always look anyway to see what's available. There are lots of poly options and the cotton is stiff and thin. I use a local linen for making sets of hand-dyed napkins, but the quality varies, and now seems to be hard to find. The linen price ranges from $1.50 to $3.50 per meter (60" wide).
A local seamstress I know says Mazatlan is the city of "no hay"....which is Spanish for "it's not there" or "there isn't any". She says the best option for finding what you want is to leave... Guadalajara or Mexico City, or better yet, traveling to the states will provide you with good options for supplies. Yes, my suitcases are usually packed to the brim with white cotton, Warm and Natural batting, my dyes, and a few miscellaneous notions. For everything else, I take on the challenge of finding it in the land of "no hay".
The whole system in these stores leaves me amazed. First of all, there are two sections - the fabric and the notions. To buy buttons or zippers or any of the other thousands of things in the notions department, you go the counter (which can be jam-packed with women) and wait for a sales person to take your order. If buttons are your desire, you would select them from a book and then the sales girl would carefully count them out for you. The same goes for safety pins. There is very little packaging (which I personally like), but gone are the days of having the freedom to browse through racks of options, picking them up, contemplating, thinking about how this item will work in your next project, etc.. When you go to the notions desk, you know what you want, put in your order, and move on, especially if you are a struggling Spanish speaker like myself. The sales person then meticulously writes up your order, tallies it up (twice!) and sends you off with your bill to pay for it at the "caja" (the cash box) while she takes your items to the pick-up window. Once you have paid, you then present your receipt at another station for your purchases. If you want fabric, a young man or woman will cut your piece and follow the same procedure where you pay first, then pick it up. All of this requires a multitude of personnel, but hey, this is Mexico and there certainly are a lot of people who need work.
There is one of the four fabrics store that holds a special treat. When I meet a fellow fiber lover, I always tell them to take the opportunity to search out this store and head upstairs to the second floor. There, lining the walls, are the best of the best fabrics that are used in the fabulous dresses seen at weddings, quinceneras, and at the upcoming Carnaval festival (mardi gras). The other stores have similar fabrics but definitely not of the same quality, and certainly not of the same price. Some of these fabrics are up to $50 per meter which is quite noteable here.

I have been going to the Guadalajara area on my annual women's trip, so have experienced the fabric stores there. I like to buy a good quality manta (cotton/muslin type) I discovered there and it comes in a variety of solid colors. I also like to pick up a 25 meter bundle of a gauze/cheesecloth type fabric that I have dyed and used as an overhead shadecloth.
Next month, I head to Oaxaca City, where I'll be searching out the fabric options there. It is the land of textiles and weaving and incredible handwork. I am dreaming of the land of "HAY" (in contrast to my current land of "no hay") and hope to be filling my suitcases with new textile treasures.

Thursday, January 8, 2009


I'm a birder.
Up until this moment, I only considered myself a "spotter" as in one who spots objects in the sky with wings, or even as simply as a warm body on bird trips. But I believe I now can honestly say I'm a birder. I have a book, binoculars, and lately I've been getting up very early to catch the morning bird show. And I identified a juvenile ibis! I'm not sure whether it was male or female but the juvenile identification made me feel like I was really something!
It reminds me of when I timidly would call myself a fiber artist. After so many years of introducing myself as a teacher, I not only had to drop one script but take on a new one. It takes awhile for new identities to take hold, at least for me. So just to give myself a little practice, I'll try it again...I'm a birder!
Mazatlan has now participated in two Audubon Bird Counts. In the first one held a year ago, I joined in with some visiting birder friends and thoroughly enjoyed myself. There were 22 of us, and collectively we spotted 105 species. Our group traveled along a local estuary and was led by John Audubon himself- at least it seemed like it. In this year's count (two weeks ago), I signed up without any friends prompting me, still felt like a "spotter" ("there's a yellow bird"), and was one of 16 who spotted 92 species. I loved it! And just last Sunday, my friend, Val and I traveled to the estuary again for another stint. It was then and there I discovered my friend, the juvenile ibis.
Mazatlan is also beginning to develop its eco-tourism and birding is one strong side of this. An offshoot of this is the organization of the first Mazatlan Bird Festival to be held next weekend. There is a full venue of bird events, starring, along with other local birds, the tufted jay. There are workshops and field trips and art exhibits and conferences. I am happy to see this focus on more of the natural side of Mazatlan, rather than the Jimmy Buffetized version of my winter homeland. For more info on the Bird Festival, go to My new interest in birds has also extended to my fiber work. This summer I did a piece featuring a pajaro carpintero (red-headed sapsucker or woodpecker) and thoroughly enjoyed this new subject matter. Now I've continued on with more birds...a meadowlark, a heron....the possibilities are endless! But I'm seriouosly thinking of the blue footed booby for a future's those brilliant blue feet I find so intriguing!

Saturday, January 3, 2009


I am so excited to be traveling to Oaxaca next month. Oaxaca is fiber-central and alive with dyers, weavers and the like...a virtual fiber feast. It also is bursting with other traditional arts and crafts of Mexico which I know will be the source of much inspiration.

Once a year I make a "women's trip" to a Mexican destination. The past few years, we have gone to the Guadalajara area for shopping, exploration, and good fun, but this year a few of us had Oaxaca on the brain. Airfare was amazingly cheap so a date was set and word went out among the ranks. We future travelers are now up to about nine and all are doing a little bit of research to share with the group so we can make the most of our time there.

I love to visit Nancy Crow's website to see what new pieces she has up her sleeve, what's going on at her barn, and trips she has planned (fantasy land for me!). I remembered seeing a Oaxaca trip advertised so I clicked to see what her trip included. In the accompanying photos, there was a wonderful shot of a local market scene, with the foreground devoted to the colorful signs of fruit for sale. I instantly knew I wanted to reproduce that simple shot (minus the stands in the background). Black fabric and some medium-value colors skew-cut for signs were where I stitched in the names of local fruits we have here in Mazatlan. My signature bleaching pulled out the color in the words, buttons added and the whole piece trimmed. Simple and fun! With all the time in the world, I would find myself at the quilter's vegie stand, meat market, taco stand, ice cream stand, cheese mart, etc.

For now, more research is on my list and dreaming of new inspirations.


Terry sent out the theme for December's Quilt Journal project back in mid- November. "In Grandmother's Kitchen" seemed like a wonderful way to reminisce about holidays past, loved ones, etc.

Today I finished my "Grama's Kitchen" piece which was one of the many projects on my list as I awaited my new foot pedal from the states. I loved the theme Terry suggested but the reality of it was that not many visions of interest popped into my head. Of course it could be an imaginary granny from times past with soups simmering away on the woodstove, etc., but my grandparents were older and had simple but relatively modern (uninteresting???) kitchens. BUT, one thing that kept coming back to me was the can of Bird's Custard in our cupboard that I always questioned why it was there but never used. It had such a distinctive label and always caught my attention as a young girl. That can must have been there for years!, with my mother's intentions to make Nanaimo Bars, but never having to because they were my Grama Gertrude's Christmas specialty. Every Christmas we looked forward to those fantastic treats and to this day they remain one of my favorites. So I got the can from the internet, printed it out and attached it to the center of my design. I followed that with a bit of foil to highlight the can. Then I sewed in the letters that I next discharged with my bleach pen. I finished up with some fill-in freemotion. Now I wanted to wash out the bleach product so did a quick soak to get it out of the fabric, and lo and behold I sadly discovered that some of the color from the custard can also washed out. There are always lessons to learn, aren't there? Next time (on pieces where I use bleach), I will think carefully about the sequence and what needs to be protected from washing. Oh well. While I was at it, I put together a cover for my journal pieces which are now consolidated into a real book with temporary rings of zip-ties. I'll look for those metal rings at our local papeleria. A future to-do item is to print out brief stories of each journal piece and print out on fabric that I will attach to the back of each. I love the stories that go along with our creations...each and every piece and person has an interesting message to convey.