Thursday, September 24, 2009


Yes, here it is, that time of the year again. The temps are dropping, daylight disappearing, and that little niggly feeling inside that time has come to think about heading south. We are 9 days away from departing and I am circling and spinning through my world, finishing projects, sorting though my stuff, dividing my world into here and there boxes, and making lists: to-dos, to-buys, to-write, to-finish, etc., etc. It's a multi-tasking whirlwind.
This morning I was sorting through my sewing stash, prepping for a last minute class I'm taking this weekend on Quadra with Pippa Moore. Into the tub goes my fabric, thread, pins, needles, scissors, rotary cutter, ruler, etc., etc. Being in my multi-tasking frame of mind, I thought I would also sort through my thread, choose what to take with me to Mazatlan and what to leave behind. (My thread option in Maz is limited to the small size Guterman - approx. $.50 each.) I pulled out all my large-spooled neutrals, and then noticed how many GREENS I had. For some reason, I rarely use them and decided to sort them into a container of their own. From there I reeled into a quick green-design of spools before moving on.... lovely, I think.
Our travels will take us from here to Cortes, then to Cumberland for the annual Hands Across the Water event for all area guild members, then Sydney for a few days before crossing the border. A meandering path through the states will take us to Texas to visit good friends Bob and Gisela where a lot of catching up and laughing will take place. Then Mazatlan bound. first class will be a part of the Embracing the Artist Within Workshop where I'll teach silk painting with a color focus. And from there, the winter will unravel into more fiber activities with friends and newcomers, exciting projects, classes, adventures, maybe a retreat or two, cooking classes.....hmmmmm, I am getting excited for that other life I lead.

But in the meantime, I have more thread to sort.

Monday, September 14, 2009


I love trying new dye techniques and it seems like I was presented with many this summer. I can't say that I took any classes to add new ideas to my repertoire, but I did happen to be in the right place at the right time WITH THE RIGHT PEOPLE. I know talented, creative people when I see them, and if I sense any connection with fiber, I glom right on and start asking questions or discussing a focal point of interest.
A few years back, Christine showed me the most beautiful turtle that she had carved onto a piece of "easy cut", a material similar to a linoleum block but much easier to use. Graciously she allowed me to use it to make an image on fabric that I later put into a piece I titled "despacio" or "slow down". I knew I would try the easy-cut someday. Last spring, I purchased eight 4x6 inch blocks and began cutting simple geometric shapes to make fabric for one of my journal quilt pieces. The day came when Cathy came up from her boat and the time felt right for both of us to have some printing fun. The results were fantastic and I readily put them together for my August journal assignment.

The next new technique came out of my own swirling thoughts. It's such a dilema when ones hair starts to go gray. Intervene or let it go? My mood swings to and fro on this one, and recently I started wondering about a major intervention after the last few years of the au natural look. For some reason, I began thinking about the foil wraps I've seen during color treatments at the salon, and from there moved right on in to my dye studio to try it out. Of course, my hair had nothing to do with this process....but just had to get the cotton and the foil sheets out to see what would happen. I have some 10" filters, taken from the guts of old water filters that I now typically wrap fabric on, secure tightly with rubber bands, place in a tall cylinder, and then start pouring dye down through the middle of the filter. I love the wild results. But now I was about to use foil instead of the rubber bands, and I also tightened the foil around the bottom of the filter to hopefully hold the liquid in the cylinder.
I have to admit that I used REALLY OLD dye for this. And not just really old, but dye that had sat out in my studio in the recent heat wave temps in the 90's. I ALWAYS am so disappointed when I do this, but there's that frugal side of me that hates to waste anything. Maybe someday I'll learn. BUT, I do think the process has merit and I will be trying it again.
Another new technique, one that I need to explore much more, is using shaving cream with my dye. Christine explained how to do it over the phone, and that was enough to set me off and running. I mixed the shaving foam with three different colors and squirted them in a spiral design on a piece of cotton. The result was less than pleasing. A little later that afternoon, local teens Meghan and Matt brought over some dyeables, and among their cotton was a khaki green canvas hat that Meg's dad wanted us to try out. This is what we did with the hat.Although I don't have a picture of the finished result, notice how the dye kept its shape on the canvas and remained on the surface without melting into the fabric and blending with the other colors. I think there's lots of potential for more exploration here.
Okay, on to other techniques. At last month's guild meeting, Laurie Ann brought a collection of hand dyes she had fun with this summer. She sewed a square of cotton into a sleeve that would tightly fit over a large-diameter pvc pipe. Then she bunched it all up togther on the pipe, and secured it at the top and bottom. This tightly pleated sleeve of cotton was now taking up about 2" of space on the pipe, and into the dye bath it went. (I WISH I had taken photos of her amazing work.) So back at home, I set to trying it myself, but using a wine bottle instead of the pipe. ( I tend to have many more wine bottles around my house for some unknown reason, and I'm always looking for multiple uses.) The results were fabulous and I WILL be trying more of this. I'll have to figure out how to create larger pieces. Thank you Laurie Ann for your great inspiration.

Then that creative wizard, Cathy, applied ink to the salmon she caught and printed it onto an old sheet. That's will be on my list for next year!

Last but not least, Tom brought up an old canner from under our house (storage area) that we inherited from the past owners. I was in need of a kettle for heating water, and what should I find at the bottom of the canner, but those round spacers to keep the jars off the bottom. Two of them....just perfect for sandwiching fabric between and pouring dye over. What would be the result?

Did I mention what I found at the local free store on Cortes yesterday? I just couldn't pass these up!

Saturday, September 12, 2009


Terry and Ellen, co-winners from last year's challenge, presented our guild members with a small piece of very domestic, kitcheny fabric showing a myriad of baking tools. Then came the theme: "well behaved women seldom make history". Hmmmm...this one would require some thought (as they all do!).

So with two months to ponder on how to meld the fabric and the theme into something meaningful for myself, I eventually wound my way into honoring my mother's great pie crust recipe. After all, she was well-behaved, never made history, but did make a damn good apple pie, of which family members still talk about.

I knew the exact wall where I would hang this piece so took my measurements and worked out my plan from there. I chose fabrics that blended with the focus piece and also the light colored fir of my cabinets. I remember needing to have a hand-sewing project (must have been a travel day or a craft shop sales day with time on my hands) so I fussy-cut the small baking tools and hand pieced them with a gingery-colored hand dye. I stamped out the title with foam stamps and thickened black dye, but needed to hand letter the actual recipe, as keeping it within a relatively small space was important. I put the pieces all together in somewhat of a "temple" look, then added the small white buttons as a finishing touch.

This is one of my very favorite pieces! Its a wonderful testimony to my mom and it gets me making pies (pumpkin for me) on a more frequent basis. It also may start the discussion or debate on "best pie crust recipe", or "crisco or tenderflake?".

Friday, September 11, 2009


The theme for last year's summer challenge was something in the "green" realm which also seemed to be a popular theme in quilting magazines. The main criteria was to use recycled fabrics and fibers within the challenge piece. Janet (the previous year's winner) presented the information and spirally-green and not-so-great fabric (of course!) to all interested participants at the June meeting.

I had been saving "chip bags" for awhile and had quite a good collection of them. I had seen some totes and purses made from them and thought that SOMEDAY (the famous Someday!) I would try making one too. I particularly liked the fact that I had chip bags from both Mexico and Canada which gave me three languages.

I love symmetry, and mandalas always attract my attention with their beauty, simplicity and symmetry. So I started cutting them up for some design work. I found them tedious to work with, so ended up carefully ironing on a fusible to the back, which helped in placing them and sewing them down. I realized that once a mistake is made with sewing, its hard to undo as the needle holes/perforations are left behind. Anyway, allof this fussiness took much of my interest in chip bags away, but I persisted and managed to complete the mandala.
For further embellishment, I cut out red aluminum circles from coke cans, hammered in two holes to make them buttons, and sewed them to the outside of the mandala. That was enough. Then the binding and I was finished. For a finale, all my saved chip bags went into the trash.
On the day of our first fall meeting, all challenges anonymously went onto the wall and we placed our votes. Norma, the winner, had a delightful flower display, with 6 different varieties and their botanical names. For example, one flower was made totally of the selvages showing the little circles of color from different fabrics and she titled it "selvagia veriganis" or something of the like. Clever and well done Norma!
My mandala sits in a box. I'll have to find a fitting place to hang it! Perhaps near my recycling area....

Wednesday, September 9, 2009


Even though I'm a part-timer in my quilt guild (Quadra Quilters), I cherish those monthly meetings and get-togethers with the other 40+ talented, energetic and warm-hearted women in the guild. When we break for summer, we are always left with the choice of participating in the "summer challenge." The winner from the previous year has the privilege of choosing a theme and a very ugly piece of cotton to divvy out among participants, and then she challenges other members to put their creative summer talents to work. In September, pieces are anonymously hung and we each get one vote. The winner's prize? be in charge on next year's challenge.

I love this. I think I'm a competition junkie at heart. In June, Norma presented us with a teal-y piece of cotton with the theme of "the enchanted universe" and told us to have at it. I cringed at both the fabric and the theme....neither struck a cord with me. I hung the fabric on the wall and looked at it for 2 months while ideas drifted in and out.

A week before our September meeting, I realized my thinking time had come to an end and I had to get moving. The three best ideas swirling around in my head had to do with 1)my backyard pond, 2)the quote "if my heart were a garden, what would I plant?", and 3)trying to recapture the magic I experienced during a nighttime kayak trip with a group of women friends. The latter became my choice and I set to work.
The ugly teal-y fabric became both the land and the water by using the reverse side. I then called upon the remnants of the palette I produced at the Cortes class. That earthy yellow worked so well and even pulled out a bit of the similar color found in the dark teal piece. I had very little left to make kayaks but did find enough in pink, blue, rust and purple. Not the greatest colors, BUT because they are from one palette, worked so well together. After sewing them to the background and my batting, I proceeded to free motion the kayak seats into the "kayak flowers", along with the paddle leaves and paddle rays of the sun. I filled in the rest with my favorite spiraling, and then was ready to discharge the seats and paddles to accentuate them. This time I used Soft Scrub with bleach in my little metal tipped bottle. It discharged the color, I then washed out the bleach, let it dry, and added the binding and the sleeve. For the final details, I chose some sweet buttons to add as flower centers, etc.. I completed the piece the day before the meeting. Phew!
Happily, might I add, I won this year's competition! There were 7 entries and they were all amazing, as they usually are! My prize was a fantastic book titled "Skinny Quilts and Tablerunners from Today's Top Designers" (thank you Norma!) and the privilege of planning next year's summer challenge. I've already got some ideas.
While I'm at it, I might as well display my other 3 challenge pieces from past years....but that's for tomorrow.

Friday, September 4, 2009


I love palettes of color - seeing the offspring of those simple primaries of red, yellow and blue, and then putting them together into one project so all those colors just magically connect and work together. I always am promoting this idea, but actually taking the time to do it is another know, the "so many ideas, so little time" thing. But lately I have wound my way into palette work, and satisfying it has been.
A few years back, I came up with a straight and square Mexican-ish shirt design that uses fat quarters and is oh so comfortable to wear. I got back to some shirt sewing this summer, this time putting pockets in the sides. My first was using palette pieces, and those to follow featured some of my unique hand dyes that I wanted to highlight on the pockets, the yoke, etc. Which gets the most compliments? Yes, the prototype palette shirt, and I believe its because of those simple and soothing colors that just belong together like a family of colors. The pockets are too short and the shirt a bit baggy, but I get many positive comments when I wear it.
Then I had a lovely palette of colors from my recent class on Cortes Island and I decided to divide them up into warms and cools and work with them separately. The results are below - two totes that are making their way over to the Craft Cooperative to be placed with my other goods for sale. Of course I had to incorporate bleaching/discharging (this time using Soft Scrub with bleach) which adds a great dimensionality to the whole.
For me, the warm palette works much better than the cool as the residual yellows fall in place with the background. Once again, another piece of information to put in the experiential file cabinet. Happy dyeing, happy sewing!