Saturday, December 29, 2012


Ahhh, to be back home again, in my “hood”, mi barrio. Every Mexican city has a Centro Historico, an old town, and ours is most special. It’s a place I’m proud to call home.

Our Centro, like others across Mexico, boasts a beautiful cathedral, a lively open air market, a bustling commercial district, government offices, a lovely plaza (in our case, a few lovely plazas), and many mobile carts for a wide variety of good eats from ice cream to tacos.

Mazatlan’s Centro also has a picturesque waterfront area. Our local beach is called Olas Altas (high waves), but the coastline extends out and around from this little beach to spark one’s imagination for a lifetime. We have viewpoints that attract the local lovers on weekends, a lighthouse path that beckons exercise enthusiasts on a daily basis, and a wide malecon (waterfront sidewalk area) for walkers, bicyclists, skateboarders, roller bladers, dog walkers, and sunset watchers.

Plazuela Machado, two blocks from our home, boasts the Angela Peralta Theater which brings in world class entertainment on a regular basis. Next to the theater is the art school for music, dance, visual arts. Around the perimeter of the Machado are wonderful restaurants, and within this peaceful plaza are benches for resting, for chatting, for watching the world go by. It’s our nightly walk, evening entertainment, a place to greet and socialize with neighbors, or listen to some amazing music. Other local plazas within Centro have their own unique charm: Plaza Liones sits next to the local Mexican library, Plaza Republica is adjacent to the cathedral, and Plaza Zaragosa is home to the Thursday night dance invitational and Saturday’s organic market.

The streets of our Centro Historico boast some magnificent old buildings, many restored as comfortable homes, bed and breakfasts, inviting restaurants, or interesting shops. It’s a walking town, a picturesque town, a friendly town, and again, a place I’m proud to call home.

Friday, December 14, 2012


After our final night in the United States, we awakened early for our morning border crossing in Nogales, Arizona. The previous night found us enjoying a recommended Mexican meal in this small border town, and doing last minute shopping for groceries that are hard to find in Mazatlan. The motel manager suggested we use the truck crossing which opened at 6am, so we followed his direction. We were first in line and waited in the early morning darkness as border guards, both U.S. and Mexican, arrived for their shift change. They waved us by at the first gate which put us on the road to the immigration office that all visitors must stop at in 21 kilometers.  Still dark upon arrival at this checkpoint, we were happy to be the only ones there. It was as if the officials were more than helpful to us, just to stave off their boredom. We presented our passports, filled out papers, registered our car, and paid the necessary money for all of the above. Oh, and don’t forget the copies. I had to wake the man in the copy booth to make duplicates of all of our documents. I thought the tiny room was empty until I saw the glow of the electric heater; with a little tap on the window he got up off of his mat on the floor and graciously attended to me.

By this time the sun was up and we were able to take in the surroundings. There is nothing particularly visually outstanding about this northern part of the state of Sonora, but this bright blue welcoming sign was enough to make us feel right at home.
Feliz viaje! Happy travels!

We were so happy to be in Mexico, heading towards our destination of Mazatlan.  As with anything, it’s only natural to focus on the positives of something, someone, or someplace you haven’t seen for a while…and then reality hits. In this case, it was the huge amounts of trash along the side of highway 15. It’s such a distinct difference from the roadsides which for the most part are quite clean in the U.S. Our years of litter consciousness has instilled in all Americans (and Canadians) to take care of their garbage. And don’t forget the hefty fines for offenders. We have been well trained. But to me it seems that this concept is still in progress in Mexico. Not only are there copious amounts of trash on the roadsides, but it’s dirty and dusty trash! There are signs like this to encourage travelers, but sadly I think much of the problem is due not just from the vehicles, but from the local residents. And let’s not forget that the presence or absence of garbage cans does a lot to change this issue.  As with anything, education makes a big difference, and we see many young Mexicans who are keenly aware of environmental issues, but some of the older generation still fall into their default mode of throwing their trash on the street.
In Mazatlan we have street sweepers, which are both a help and a hindrance. These low paid workers make their daily rounds keeping our streets clean, but sometimes I wonder if the locals feel they can toss their candy wrappers, etc. because someone will be by to sweep it up.
As they say here in Mexico “poco a poco” – little by little. That’s how change happens… at least that’s how it seems in the case of garbage awareness.
We pass through two Mexican states on our drive down Highway 15: Sonora and Sinaloa. This highway passes through some large towns (Hermosillo, Los Mochis, Culiacan, and others) and the link between these towns is either via a free road (libre) or the toll road (cuota). The cuotas are clean, fast, and relatively free of distractions like speed bumps, civilization, etc. (except for gas stations), and fast. The prices range from 30 to 100 pesos for each section ($2-$8 US) and collectively we pay somewhere around $80 US for the entire trip to Mazatlan. When you pay at the toll booth, you receive a little receipt that reportedly insures you for any damage you may encounter on that stretch of the road. Needless to say, we always use the cuotas.
All the along the cuotas, there are telephone booths for emergency calls. I didn’t really pay much attention to these until we were about two hours north of Mazatlan, in the state of Sinaloa. Every kilometer there not only was a telephone station but also this trio of cans, which was such a pleasant surprise after the reality of Mexico’s garbage issue confronted me yesterday. In my view, this is fantastic progress.
You also occasionally see the green government trucks that travel along the route to help stranded vehicles (known as "green angels”). We used them once about five years ago. We were driving north on a hot April day and got a flat tire. We changed it, continued driving another 30 minutes when another went flat. It wasn’t long before the green angel came to our rescue, drove me to the closest town where I bought two new tires (at an inflated price, of course) and returned me to Tom and our vehicle. Soon we were on the road again.


Sunday, December 9, 2012


We've been back in Mazatlan for almost 2 weeks now, and I have been busy with house cleaning, reaquainting myself with friends and neighbors, and finishing my journal pieces I began during our drive south. I produced at least one per day (minus the machine finishing and binding) and it was a great way to pass the time. I also became more aware of the landscape and signs along the way. I enjoyed it so much that I am continuing these little pieces... we'll see where that takes me.

Our Thanksgiving Day departure was well planned. We’d be up early, do our final bit of packing and put our little mobile home to rest for the winter. Two and half hours down the road a delicious meal was waiting for us at Mark and Michelle’s house (Tom’s niece). We’d also be breaking bread (and turkey, ham, stuffing, desserts, etc., etc., etc.,) with his sister Cathy and other family and friends.
Our car was about as packed as our tummies would be later on in the day. Spike-dog had her little nest of blankets in the back, and I had my provisions surrounding me in the passenger seat: my purse with essentials, water, a few small snacks, and my sewing basket, so carefully prepared for the next five days.

The weather was cooperative. Not only were the roads dry but the sky was clear, and provided a brilliant backdrop to massive Mt. Shasta, which guided us down I-5.
At one o’clock we pulled into Redding and joined our family for a lovely afternoon with an OUTDOOR Thanksgiving feast.  There is no Gratitude Avenue there, but in my mind it’s the journey I take every day…grateful for the freedom to travel, to have wonderful family and friends, and good health to boot.
The Hispanic population is large along this path of I-5 that we were driving on our way to Mexico, but the last thing I expected to see this day was a major billboard along the side of the road near Sacramento that shouted out to me “Vive Hoy”. It somehow was a pre-greeting to our winter home in Mazatlan. How fitting this message (live today!) was to us as we journeyed south: notice the changing landscape, take pleasure in each other’s company, pause along the way to stretch and refresh.
We were happy to be traveling back to Mexico, where “vive hoy” seems to be more of the norm, rather than the underlying feelings of stress and pressure and fear of "whatever" north of the border.
Vive hoy!
A long day of driving brought us down I-5, then east to Bakersfield and on to the town of Mojave before dark set in. We were in the land of a barren landscape except for the abundance of wind machines along the hillsides and horizon line. We overnighted at pet-friendly Motel 6 and were up before dawn to get an early start for the next leg of our journey. We hoped to get as far as Tucson, or better yet Nogales, before sunset.
As the sun rose that day, we found ourselves on the Pearblossom Highway located within the Antelope Valley of California. This was another long, lonesome stretch within a stark desert setting, but one small patch of yucca trees caught my attention with their balls of spikey greenery growing out of the branches. The name of the highway evoked more than spikey orbs, and I was wondering where I might find delicate pearblossoms in a place like this. They never appeared, and the yuccas also disappeared into the quiet of the desert landscape as it leads into Arizona.
Soon to come: Part 3 - South of the border!

Wednesday, November 21, 2012


Tomorrow we hit the road for our annual trek (this year by car) to our winter home in Mexico. We’ll arrive in about a week after passing through northern California, Nevada, and Arizona before hitting the border. In another fifteen hours in our little, overloaded car, we’ll arrive in Mazatlan.

My husband does most of the driving so I’m left to twiddle my thumbs and witness the scenes and scenery that we pass. Since I don’t “twiddle” very well, I’ve been thinking about what I can do to fill the time.

 Journal quilting, of course!

 Last week a bird on a road sign caught my attention, so I am going to TRY!!!! to put together a daily “bird on a sign” to document the journey. I’ve prepared a dozen background “sandwiches”, gathered a bag of scraps, and assembled all the necessary threads and needles in my sewing basket.  If I can just get a sign shape and bird on each cloth, then I can finish with stitching and bleaching when I land. My fingers are crossed with hopes that I can pull this off. After all, I call myself a “gypsy quilter” so I figure it’s about time to put my money where my mouth is.

My first piece reflects our transition home here in Jacksonville, Oregon. It’s within a beautiful landscape within the Rogue River valley, dotted with pear orchards and vineyards, and gorgeous colors this time of the year. I tried to choose colors that reflect the autumn scene.

Stay tuned to see the outcome of this little project.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

DARK LIGHT, 1,2,3!

Here is a great crossover dye recipe that Cynthia showed us. I love the results and will be trying more of these. Thanks to Christine for writing down these directions.

(pagoda red with moss green)

2 Color Gradation with 5 Jars

Set out five empty jars labeled left to right: DARK LIGHT 1 2 3
Put a piece of wet fabric in each jar.

Color #1
If using fat quarters, use 1 tablespoon of a single dye concentrate in a yogurt cup filled with water for medium color. Adjust amount for lighter or darker results. 

Pour half of the first dye mixture into a second yogurt cup.  Pour the second yogurt cup into the "DARK" jar.

Refill the original remaining half filled yogurt cup with water. 

Pour half of this more diluted mixture into the second yogurt cup.  Pour the second yogurt cup into jar 1.

Refill the original remaining half-filled yogurt cup with water. 

Pour half of this more diluted mixture into the second yogurt cup.  Pour the second yogurt cup into jar 2.

Refill the original remaining half-filled yogurt cup with water.

Pour half of this even more diluted mixture into the 2nd yogurt cup. Pour the second yogurt cup into jar 3. 

Pour the remaining diluted mixture (1/2 c.) in the first yogurt cup into the "LIGHT" jar.
(chinese red with better black)
Color #2
Put 1 tablespoon (or the amount you have chosen for the desired intensity of color) of the next color of dye concentrate into a yogurt cup and fill with water.  Reverse the process above:

Pour half of the dye into a second yogurt cup.  Pour the second yogurt cup of dye into the "DARK" jar.
Refill the first yogurt cup with water.  Pour half into the second yogurt cup.  Pour the second yogurt cup into jar 3.

Refill the first yogurt cup with water.  Pour half into the second yogurt cup.  Pour the second yogurt cup into jar 2.

Refill the first yogurt cup with water.  Pour half into the second yogurt cup.  Pour the second yogurt cup into jar 1.

Pour the remaining diluted mixture (1/2 c) in the first yogurt cup into the "LIGHT" jar. 
Add a half cup of soda ash to each jar. Stir or shake. Await the beautiful results!

Sunday, November 11, 2012


Earlier this summer I tried my hand at ice dyeing. My friend Pam was the one who mentioned it to me, so I looked it up and saw a brief description, which included using soda ashed fabric, ice, with powdered dye sprinkled on top. I decided to try something different and actually make ice out of liquid dye and also out of soda ash and put them together with soda ashed fabric in different combinations to see what effects could be achieved. Here is the link to see these results:;postID=1044262122563520983

Recently I've seen a few amazing samples of ice dyes in which the powdered dye method was used so I decided to try this. In both cases I dyed meter sized pieces rather than fat quarters. For my brown-toned piece, I mixed powdered dye (deep orange and black, with pinches of chinese red, lemon yellow and navy) into a tiny jar, stirred up these granules and then proceeded to sprinkle over the ice cubes which covered the fabric.

In the green toned piece(which turned out more bluish), I sprinkled the powder separately; first lemon yellow, then a touch of golden yellow, on to turquoise, cerulean, navy, and finally black.

Lovely aren't they? Tomorrow I will visit fellow dyers and ask for some critiquing and also input on their experiences with ice dyes. More to follow...
UPDATE: After a gro9up discussion, we decided a few more variables needed to be checked out: 1)rate of melt (I left mine outside in the cold and there was still a lot of ice left in the morning), or 2)using shaved ice rather than cubes.
Some of the dyes have more color granules that split out. Cynthia has a set of samples where she sprinkled different powders on wet fabric and you can see the ones with more colors. Turquoise, lemon yellow and fuschia are pure colors so won't display a variety of color. Blacks will. This is certainly something to try with my powders...

Tuesday, October 23, 2012


Another Monday session at Cynthia's produced these beautiful overdyes. I once again prepped and packed them into the pint canning jars and headed over to Ashland for a fun afternoon of dyeing.
I used lots of binder clips, coins, and some hair rollers today.
And I just finished the initial ladder stitching on a collage produced at Christine's class on Sunday.


Wednesday, October 17, 2012


I am so happy to be taken into the fold of local dyers here in the Rogue Valley. My good friend Christine, master dyer herself (and enthusiastic), invites me along on her Monday sessions with Cynthia and Lene, two other keen dyers. I'm always learning form one or all of them.
Last Monday I wasn't sure what to do, how to get started, etc., so I grabbed my fabric, a case of canning jars and headed to Cynthia's house. There I proceeded to cut my cotton into fat quarters and fold them into perfect little flag folds, just as my fellow Quadra quilter, Ellen, taught me to do. I popped each one in a jar, added the dye and soda ash, then tightened the lids for transportation home in my car. That night I rinsed and washed and ironed them all. Here are some of the lovely results.

Wednesday, October 3, 2012


One of the difficult things about my nomadic lifestyle is remembering and keeping track of what is where, how I left something (perhaps 8 months prior!), if I contacted or paid someone, etc..  I am not a diligent note keeper, and if I were, it would be such a hefty collection of scribbles that I then would have to organize that! My notes do consist of what I need in my dye studio and for my sewing stash (very important), what’s needed in my pantry, and a wish list. We just returned to Oregon and the note I left on the refrigerator that said “clean before plugging in” was ignored by my husband before I could catch it, and now I’ll have to write a BIGGER note (maybe with some bright tape involved) for when we return in April. Such is the life of this gypsy quilter!

Three weeks ago I was tucking away my Refuge Cove garden for the winter. I covered everything with cardboard (to hopefully keep out the mass of invasive weeds that tend to overtake it) except for one small patch for my garlic. I love fresh garlic! Some years I plant little bulbs from my last year’s crop, or pick up something from the Cortes Island Food Co-op. But this year I found I had a variety and I KNEW I’d never remember what was what, so this predicament became a perfect opportunity for a journal quilt. Yes, I know, little stakes would work too, but this sounded more fun and was perfect for the “mapping” theme.

So here you have it, my garlic map. I really learned a lot about placement in this piece. Some of my attempts worked and some didn’t, but I’m relatively happy with it and after all, I was working hard to finish it before we left (which I did except for the buttons…they kept me busy on my three ferry rides on the way home).

I can’t wait to see my garlic patch next year!

Saturday, September 29, 2012


It's time to leave gypsy life is now highlighted with lists and boxes and piles and last minute projects. We're soon to leave and wind our way down I-5 toward our Oregon home.

Above is my summer challenge entry for the Quadra guild...the components were pieces I stamped and dyed at our summer retreat. I hand-quilted the flower while my bobbin case was being repaired in Comox, and once it arrived, I machine quilted the dragonflies.

This pillow was a surprise gift for Diana, one of our Refuge Cove residents. This is her cabin, tucked back in the notch at the head of the creek leading to the lake.

Here's a surprise gift for Bonnie, from her husband. I know she likes neutral, earthy colors, so I put together this raven scene.

And this surprise was a must-do, as I am soon to visit cousin Kristine who LOVES birds and blue and all things happy. I'll be staying at her house in Seattle for a few days enroute to Oregon. I hope she likes this!

Tuesday, September 18, 2012


On a crystal clear September evening, my husband and I were sitting at our favorite perch on our front deck, overlooking the peace and beauty of Refuge Cove. It had been a stunning day, clear and sunny, and the twilight hours were just as lovely. The sky had a particular brightness against the horizon and the simple silhouette of the trees added to the scene. I looked up to the night sky and noticed the Big Dipper located perfectly in the notch created by the trees. It was a quilt journal moment! (The theme I was pairing it with in mind was "All That Sparkles".)

I knew that my black dye would leave a cast of color as it climbed up a piece of fabric, so I set to doing that. I half-filled a cylinder with black dye and soda ash, then set a loosely rolled piece of fabric into it and watched the color climb up and eventually leave a margin of light turquoise. From there it was working with blacks: creating the horizon, using “Steam a Seam Light” as a fusible for the trees, adding the binding. A wiggly, feathery stitch along the branches added texture to the trees. For the stars, I disassembled an old, never-worn piece of jewelry which happened to have the perfect blue crystal beads.

I love the stark simplicity of this piece. It will forever remind me of the many lovely nights, sitting on the deck with Tom, appreciating life.

Monday, September 17, 2012


After our retreat, I was on a roll: my studio was all set up, the dyes were made, and I was excited to try my hand at more screening. PLUS, the days were beautiful and warm, perfect for drying the screens (like the one above), and for hanging the fabric on the line.

Cathy was keenly interested too. She joined me for two or three days, as we eached produced a meter a day. In the piece above, she tried to create a mountain scene, and I think she succeeded.

After the initial screening dried, a top color was added. In our case we just smeared a thickened dye on with a credit card.

My favorite objects for creating the screen design were heavy cotton string, coins, and poker chips. Cedar boughs, lace, fishnet, and plastic mesh also created interesting textures.
Now I am the owner of eleven beautiful meters of screened fabric, with a winter of time to use it!

Friday, August 31, 2012


What a weekend! Dawn, Terry, Ellen and I had three FULL days of fabric dyeing and creating. It was amazing!

My three friends (connected through Quadra's Quilt Guild and Cyber Fibre's quilt journal group) boated over to Refuge on Saturday morning, hauled their gear up the hill and got right to work. Each found their spot in my makeshift studio (once woodshed) and began producing amazing pieces of dyed and designed fabrics.

Here's a list of what we did:
deconstructive screening

stamp making and stamping

flag fold dyeing
moon dyes
snowflake/star folds

shibori/bottle wraps

cheese cloth prints
fish net prints
found object prints
wheat paste prints
crossover dyeing

stitched shibori prints
filter wraps

discharging with decolorant and bleach product
thickened dye painting
credit card smears
Shiva paint stick rubbings

PLUS, we shared great meals, stories and ideas. What a great weekend! AND I have over 5 meters of beautiful fabric to create with! Thanks friends for such a good time together. Can't wait until next year!

Wednesday, August 22, 2012


Earlier this month we had visitors Christine, Rick, Kathe and Mike come to Refuge Cove to enjoy some time with us. What a treat!

And, we gals made some time for some creative fun. The remnants of our pond liner (thick, heavy duty rubber) became the medium for creating stamps. Add cedar blocks, scissors and waterproof glue, along with some imagination, and we were good to go.

These are wonderful little stamps. The rubber lays down well and the glue secures all edges. Get them wet with thickened dye, then wash them, and they are good as new.

Last week I made up some print paste with some OLD purple dye and proceeded to fill up some fabric. Yesterday I added some background color.

This stamp is made from a styrofoam meat tray that was just waiting for a design. I used a pen to scratch it out.

Thanks Christine and Kathe for a great time together! I'll be making some more of these stamps soon!

Tuesday, August 7, 2012


Fellow Cyber Fibre member, Barb, provided us with the theme of "shadow and light" to represent in one or more of our 2012 journal quilts.
I cringed when I heard the theme, as I instantly felt pressure to be artistic.But I figured out how to get out of this one easy.

Many hand-dyes appear to have shadow and light elements going on in them, particularly when using the "parfait" method (color #1 then soda ash, color#2 then soda ash, etc.) In this case, I froze my dyes and soda ash into ice cubes and let them melt together, producing some interesting effects.
I picked out 2 of the 12+ that I produced last month (see earlier blogpost). I liked the light elements going through them, along with the darkened areas as contrast. I prepared them into  a quilted sandwich and told myself I would get back to them after my summer company left.

First stage of summer company left Sunday and I couldn't wait to sit down and sew. This was especially so because I ran into Terry on Sunday on Quadra then later that night received her journal quilt :Finding Perfection in the Imperdection"...I was super inspired and excited to sit down Monday for 2-3 hours and just play with free motion on these. I started with the brighter one first, then proceeded to the muted one. There's so much to consider...not just the pattern, but the thread color and its contrast or blending with the background. I tried not to overhink this, but rather I just had fun with it.
Shown here are befores and afters.

Friday, July 27, 2012


It continues to be a summer of birds for me. Here are some new additions to my flock. All hand-dyed, hand-pieced, free-motion quilted...lovely, yes?