Saturday, December 13, 2008

Life in the Slow Lane

Things are ok--and considering the past 8 months, that's saying something pretty good. I'm feeling pretty sick today, but I'm too bored to hang out in bed for long stretches at a time.

I had a little more energy this last week, and I've actually started working on projects, even if only for a few minutes here and a few there. I drug out an old convergence quilt background that I made a year or so ago and appliqued a flower onto it, machine free-motion quilted it, and bound it. As soon as I get the sleeve sewn on and get the piece hung, I'll take a picture and post it here.

I can't imagine how I used to do all this--work full-time, work like crazy on projects, take pictures of everything, and keep up with the blog. I must have been exhausted half (all?) of the time!

Thursday, November 27, 2008

Happy Thanksgiving

everyone! I have a lot to be thankful for: I'm alive, I've seen a lot of improvement in my health, I have a wonderful, loving, and supportive family who has helped me through this illness, and a partner who has sacrificed more than anyone should have to in order to take care of me.

I have a physical therapist who is helping me build up my strength and stamina. And, I have a specialist in Houston who has taken on my case and is working to try to resolve the pain issues. Plus, it's been a couple of months since I had to spend extended time in a hospital--I'm especially thankful for that!

My wonderful friend, Hilde, keeps in contact with me and always lifts my spirits (not to mention the fact that she has taken over my projects at work and is, I'm sure, doing an excellent job managing them). I'm also thankful for the kindness my "virtual" friends have shown here and and through emails. Your supportive comments mean a lot to me.

I hope everyone has a wonderful Thanksgiving!

Thursday, August 14, 2008

Time Marches On

How very strange that, for all practical purposes, my life went on hiatus on May 20 and hasn't yet returned.

May 20 was the morning I woke up with excruciating pancreatic pain, and every day since has involved hospitals, doctors, surgeries, pain, pain medications, nausea, digestive problems, and/or depression. My surgeon says this is one of the worst cases of pancreatitis he's ever seen (especially in someone my age--47!), but I haven't lost hope completely, yet; I think he still has a few tricks up his sleeve.

In the meantime, all the things I love and that bring me joy have been taken away: working on arts and crafts, food, going out with friends and family, laughter.

I try not to complain too much--I was never very tolerant of people complaining about their health. You can bet that has changed. I was a "fixer"--don't feel well? Take an aspirin. Tired? Take a walk. Coming down with something? Take vitamins. I know now that some things can't just be "fixed" because you want them to be--otherwise, you can bet I would have been cured of all this mess months ago.

I've always believed that things happen for a reason, but I'm having a hard time seeing the reasoning here. Maybe it's too early to understand why, out of the blue, my body would attack me and hold me hostage. In the meantime, I spend my days swimming in dark grottoes in my own little world, looking for some clarity--or at the very least, some peace.

Friday, June 13, 2008

Crashed & Burned

Well, I felt like I was pushing things a little too hard, and apparently I was. On 5/20, I was taken to the emergency room with the worst abdominal pain of my life. I apparently have an acute pancreatic infection. I'm still in the hospital, and my entire life has slowed to a strange crawl of sleep, pain-killers, and lab tests. I may get to go home next week, but the doctors say it will be weeks before I've healed.

Thursday, May 15, 2008

Paddling Furiously

Wow, what a crazy week. My job has been a nightmare--one thing after another after another after another . . .

On top of that, my daughter is graduating from the University of Texas tomorrow (Hook 'em Horns, Amanda! We're very proud of you!), so I've been cleaning and turning my sewing space back into a dining room (temporarily, anyway), which meant finding space in my craft room for the sewing machines, the fabric, the rotary mats and cutters, thread, and all that other stuff that manages to swell to fill up a space (it's all safely stashed away, and everything will be fine as long as no one opens the craft room door).

I was able to take a few minutes tonight to dye a couple of silk scarves. The first one is nui shibori that I hand-stitched zig-zags into; the second I tied into knots, hung up, and poured the dye so that it ran down the scarf. If you look closely, you can see the dreaded "speckles" of red on this piece, which really frustrates me because I mixed well, used urea, strained, and practically inspected the red dye under a microscope before using it.

Not much play time today (or this week, for that matter), but it might be enough to get me through to the weekend . . .

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

Back to Basics

I've been so busy creating fabric for quilts that I haven't made an actual quilt in a very long time. I think that's one reason I took Ellen Lindner's Instant Art Quilt class; I tend to be much more structured and disciplined when taking an online class.

So, here are the results. Can you believe this quilt came from this piece of fabric?

I love being able to use the fabric I've dyed in an actual quilt!

Saturday, May 3, 2008

Through a Different Lens

My sweetie called me yesterday evening to let me know she was on her way home. I was a little crabby because I had been working on an art quilt, and I couldn't get it the way I wanted it.

Now, she's always telling me that I'm too hard on myself, which I know is true. My expectations are too high for just about everyone, but for no one more than myself.

This time, though, she said, in that very gentle but straightforward way she has, "I really admire you because you jump into the deep end and always take on the hardest projects and the most challenging techniques. But then you beat yourself up because you're not immediately an expert. Some people have been doing these things for years, but you expect yourself to be perfect right away."

That stuck with me and I mulled over it for a while, and I realized that she's right. I'm proud of the fact that I love a good challenge and feel like I can learn anything, no matter how difficult it seems. But I'm not so good with being patient or gentle with myself during that process.

How blessed I am to have someone in my world who treats me with care and reminds me to do the same thing. Thanks, sugar.

Thursday, May 1, 2008

The New Crop is In!

Some of you may remember the wildlife sagas from last year, and especially the baby birds that were born and raised in our bbq smoker. This year, a bird couple started building a nest on a top shelf in our garage, and I kept trying to wave them out. I even tried scaring them off by leaving the radio on in the garage, but apparently they LIKE country music.

We knew the babies had hatched when we started seeing Mom & Dad flying in and out with bits of worms and bugs rather than twigs and grass, and sure enough we could hear the little guys cheeping like mad whenever a parent approached. We knew from last year's experience that it doesn't take long until the babies are big enough to leave the nest (a couple of weeks at most), so I thought something was up this morning when I saw Daddy bird (he's much more aggressive and less afraid than Mama) acting strangely. He would fly into the garage, land on something, look around quickly, and chirp. Then he would move a few feet, look around again, and chirp some more. I turned off the ceiling fan so the little ones wouldn't whack themselves on the way down.

A little while ago, I went outside and heard baby-cheeping close to the garage door. Sure enough, there's a little one sitting just outside the garage, looking around. I went to grab the camera, but when I got close he flew away to the neighbor's yard. It must have tired him out because I slowly approached him, and he let me get pretty close and just sat blinking at me.

This is the only baby I've seen so far, although I'm sure there were at least two and probably three of them. I'll miss their cheeping, but I'll be happy to get rid of the bird's nest--the garage is smelling a little too much like wildlife for me :-)

Here's the crazy thing--I'm so busy making journals that I don't have time to journal. I don't know, maybe that's ok? After all, a lot of the reason I journal is as a motivator to create, or as a way to work out ideas, or as a way to get things out of my head and down on paper. So maybe I'm just skipping that step and going right to the creating part . . .

Anyway, here's another journal. The cover is based on a recent article in Quilting Arts magazine--a technique with acrylics, alcohol, and pearlex powders that I've been wanting to try. Once I painted the piece, I realized it was the perfect size for a screw-post journal, so I painted a back piece, then filled it with a mix of watercolor paper, cardstock, and a few colored/scrapbook pieces of paper.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Faster Than A Speeding Bullet . . .

No, it's not Superman, it's my life whizzing by . . .

This is a journal I made from the last lesson--Lesson 5--in Sue's class. It just amazes me how quickly these classes go; it seems like they just get started, and suddenly 5 or 6 weeks have zipped by. I'm going to miss this class a lot--it was a great group of people and really fun projects.

Btw, those are fabric beads on the twine that I made a long time ago just for fun, and now I finally get to use them in a project. Hooray!

Sunday, April 27, 2008

Full Plates

The house is filled with the aroma of the corned beef and cabbage that my sweetie has been cooking all afternoon, so it's difficult to write without analogies of food popping into my head. In particular, I'm struck by how--as is typical for me--my artistic plate is full of yummy, satisfying projects. Here are some of the things I've been working on since my last post:

I'm taking Ellen Lindner's online class, Instant Art Quilts. We begin with a high-contrast fabric and chop it up and arrange the pieces. The pic on the left is the fabric I dyed for the class; the pic on the left is the arrangement, which awaits next week's lesson on accents. This was so quick and easy, and so much fun, that I've dyed more fabric and started another "instant art quilt."

I'm also taking another of Marjie McWilliams classes at Quilt U: Shibori Dyeing. Last week we worked on "Arashi" dyeing, which apparently means "storm" in Japanese. and here are the results. The pic to the left is dyed silk velvet, and on the right is habotai.

This week we're working on "Suji" dyeing, which is all about pleating and folding. The results are below. The first piece is cotton, the second is a chiffon scarf, and the third is a piece of silk that I had previously stamped with thickened blue dye. Today, I folded it and overdyed it with a light red and a deep yellow.

Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Are We Having Fun Yet?

So, I've been lurking on the Complex Cloth Yahoo group for quite some time now, and I was happy when a newbie asked about doing a round robin. Since I knew there was at least one other newbie in the group, I happily jumped in and signed up, too. This would be fun, right?

As soon as the fabric came in the mail, I started to panic. It was lovely, and I just knew I was going to screw it up. For days, I stopped and stared at it every time I walked past my craft room. What should I do with it? Overdye it? Discharge it? I was adding the first layer of embellishment, so I didn't really consider paint or Shiva paintsticks.

Should I try a potato dextrin resist? I had been wanting to experiment with this, so I tried it out on my own fabric first. I really like the way it looked, but I was worried that 1) I didn't have enough dextrin to cover an entire yard; 2) the dye wouldn't show up well in the end; or 3) I would screw it up.

Then I decided to overdye it. What color? Yellow would make lots of greens out of the blues. Red would turn the whole thing purples, and sometimes I can get some ugly purples. Another shade of blue might not do much; and, what if I screwed it up?

Then I decided that I would put a resist on the fabric and paint dye onto it. Same color questions. More thinking, more panicking about screwing it up.

Finally, I decided that I would use bleach and a stamp to discharge it. But was this enough? Did that count as a complete layer, or would I need to discharge it and then, say, overdye it? I looked at past round robin photos and, sure enough, some people had simply discharged for their layer.

Ok, now that I knew what I was going to do, I wanted to practice on my own fabric first (come on everyone, say it with me: "So that I didn't screw it up . . . ") . I've mostly discharged with Softscrub with Bleach, but I wanted a thorough bleaching effect, so I mixed bleach and water 1/2 & 1/2, poured some on a paper towel on a plate, dipped my stamp in, and stamped away. It worked fabulously. I laid out the yard of RR fabric, dipped my stamp in, and immediately dribbled bleach on the fabric. The first stamp had too much bleach on it, so the print blobbed out.

I was, of course, panicking fully by now, but it was too late to call the plan off. I continued to stamp, washed the fabric, and quickly mailed it off to the next person on the list.

I'm a wreck. I THINK this is supposed to be fun, so I'm wondering when that part kicks in . . .

Friday, April 11, 2008

Another Journal

Here's the latest journal I've completed for Sue's class.

It's actually a sketchbook, complete with pockets for pencils and other cool stuff and drawing paper.

The first page is a piece of cardstock that I printed from some scans I made a while back. I had carved a sunflower stamp and printed the image with acrylics, then painted over that with watercolors. I scan or copy just about everything I do these days because I've discovered I can reuse this stuff forever. Then I used drawing paper for the other pages, and finished with a piece of fairly lightweight cardboard to give it some stability for drawing.

I'm almost finished with the next journal. I ran across some silk I had quilted a while back and it was perfect for a journal cover. I LOVE this class because it's fun, but also because I'm using up some of the fabric, papers, embellishments, etc. that have been languishing in my craft room for forever.

Wednesday, April 9, 2008

Almost Caught Up!

I finally finished taking pics of the fabric and posting them all to my Etsy site. Whew, I'm tired! And I can smell the computer sizzling . . .

I'm also almost finished with two more journals from Sue's class--just a final touch or two to add on this one:

And some embellishments (pockets, tags, etc.) on the leaf journal.

Of course, being "caught up" only means I can check one or two things off the to-do list; now to tackle the other 30 or 40 items on the list . . .

Monday, April 7, 2008

You Know Something's Wrong . . .

when you're more tired at the end of a weekend than when the weekend started. Aren't we supposed to rest and recuperate on the weekends? Oh well, onward and upward . . .

I'll be taking another online class beginning at the end of April--Instant Art Quilts--with Ellen Lindner. I decided to take this class because I have some beautiful hand-dyes and I think they would be perfect in quilts like this.

Other people are apparently thinking the same thing, because some of the class members were looking for hand-dyes with high value-contrast. I hadn't taken pictures of mine, so I decided to do that and post them for sale on my Etsy site.

I thought I would just whip through this, get the postings & pics up, and move on to all the other things I had to do. WRONG! This actually took 1/2 a day. it doesn't help that my computer is 4 years old and slow as a snail. Anway, it's done, for now, at least until the next marathon photo and posting session :-) I'm posting a couple of the pics here; you can see more on Etsy, if you're interested.

Wednesday, April 2, 2008

Like Sand Through the Hourglass . . .

Remember that old lead-in to Days of Our Lives (is it still the same? or has it been updated?) where the sand is slipping steadily away through the hourglass . . . Where did March go? For that matter, where did the first 1/4 of 2008 go???

As usual I have more projects than time. I'm still taking online classes; the most recent is Sue Bleiweiss's Journal Making for the Fiber Artist. I've been making journals for a while; in fact, in some ways this entire textile journey started with journal-making, so it's fun to come full circle. But taking a class is great because I learn some new techniques, gain confidence, can share my work with others, and feel like I'm on a deadline (typically, the only way I can actually get things done!).

I love that journal-making incorporates so many of the materials I've been learning about and working with the last year: fabric, paper, paints, tags, yarns. In fact, before it's over I may be able to figure out how to use a lot of the "stuff" that's been piling up in my craft room.

Thursday, March 20, 2008

Silk and Dyes and Paints, Oh My!

First, it's become clear that when time is in short supply, the blog moves to the bottom of the priority list. I've been way too busy playing with silk to write about it. Yes, fondling and stroking it, but first dyeing and painting it. I'm taking another class with Marjie McWilliams at Quilt U -- Silk Dyeing, of course -- and, as usual, I'm consumed. The problem is that I can't stand to DO anything with the dyed silk because I'm afraid I'll mess it up. I don't want to cut into it (or tear into it, which is better, apparently, for silk) or stitch on it, so I just look at it a lot and, yes, fondle it.

I also tried silk painting this week. I've been reading about silk painting for a while and wanted to give it a try, but it sounds so intimidating. All that "gutta" and "dry cleaning" and "steaming" was enough to send me fleeing in the other direction.

But, I've also had some DynaFlow paints for a long time and didn't really like them for cotton since they're so thin. I read that you could use these to paint on silk; now, I just needed a resist. I have a bottle of Inkodye resist that I ordered for some reason a long time ago, and that I've used successfully on cotton, so I thought I would give it a try.

I put it in a little squeeze bottle, pinned my dry silk to a frame, and "drew" the resist on. After it was dry, I painted the DynaFlow in the spaces, waited for it to dry, heat set it with an iron (which was kind of scary because I didn't know what the iron would do to the resist), then rinsed out the resist. It worked!

Ok, so the painting is no masterpiece, and there are obvious watermarks on the background, since it was impossible to paint that large an area wet-into-wet. I think next time I'll spritz the background with a little water before painting it in. But I'm very, very happy that I can paint on silk without having to buy anything else!

Friday, March 14, 2008

Note to Self

Things have been a little crazy, and last weekend I had a mini-mini-breakdown. I was surrounded by messes--my craft room was a disaster, my sewing area in the dining room was a disaster, my workspace in the garage was a disaster. I felt completely overwhelmed and briefly considered giving up crafting and taking up housekeeping instead (that's the breakdown part).

I sat down and spent a little time journaling about how I could get myself together, and of course, all the obvious solutions presented themselves: stop buying so much stuff, sell some of the stuff I'll never use, and get organized. But what I kept coming back to was the fact that most of the messes seem to come about because I'm always so rushed, running from one project to the next, tossing stuff around, and generally working in chaos. And the solutions to these problems, once I thought about it, seemed so incredibly obvious:




That whole rushing thing is not particularly enjoyable, and why else do I make time to do all this if not to enjoy it? It's not like I have commission deadlines to meet, or a show to get ready for--at least not most of the time, and those are special circumstances that would deserve a little consideration. And, I realized that the process of crafting encompasses the entire lifecycle, from getting out my materials, to creating, to cleaning up after myself.

I've been doing much better with my philosophy in place. I still have heated moments of inspiration where I find myself tossing piles of fabric around to find that one perfect hand-dyed shade, or moments of exhaustion where I'm just too tired to put those fabric pens back right away. But altogether, I'm enjoying the process--the entire process--much more now.

Saturday, March 1, 2008


Ok, so I've seen this tagging thing on blogs here and there, but didn't really know what the "rules" were until I was actually tagged by Beth.

So, here are the rules:
1. When tagged place the name of the person and URL on your blog
2. Post the rules on your blog
3. Write 7 things about yourself
4. Name 7 of your favorite weblogs
5. Send an email letting those bloggers know they have been tagged!

Am I breaking Rule #5 if I tag people via their blogs instead of emailing them? At any rate, I'm tagging Marjie, Sandy, Angie, Ruth, Eve, and . . . well, I've run out of time for now, so that will have to do. I've tagged them because I love dropping in on their blogs and seeing what wonderful new things they've created. Check out other great blogs from the list on the right side of this page!

7 things about me:

1) I don't like my food to mingle and converse on my plate. Some of my worst memories are of school lunches on the days when we had pizza and corn, and the corn juice ran under the pizza and got it all soggy. My dinner "plate" is more often a series of bowls with each food happy in its own, separate little world.
2) I used to practice my "famous artist's signature" over and over in high school, but never took an art class because I thought you had to be able to draw before you could take one.
3) Instead, I raised pigs in "Ag" (agriculture classes) and was freshman President of the FFA (Future Farmers of America). Obviously, since I didn't grow up to be a farmer, this experience had little "real-world" application, but I can tell you that pigs are very smart and very sweet, and that a gallon of water weighs 8 lbs.
4) I hate to cook (and I'm not very good at it), but I love to bake (and I'm pretty good at it).
5) In college, I majored in Accounting, Computer Programming, Radio, Television, and Film, Communications, and Astronomy (in succession, not all at the same time) before finally settling on English (American literature, not spelling and grammar). Once I switched to English, they couldn't get rid of me--I stayed for my Master's Degree, then my Ph.D., but didn't finish writing my dissertation.
6) I can't focus on anything long enough to get really good at it (see above). Ok, maybe that's not true, since I did stick with English in grad school; oh wait, I didn't finish my dissertation because I kept jumping around and changing topics & focus.
7) If I don't have my coffee AND do something creative every day (preferably at the same time), I get very, very cranky.

Painting the Town

I haven't had a lot of time to work on anything, but one of the things I love about blogging is that I can see how little bits of work accumulate into finished (or nearly finished!) projects. Here are a couple of projects I've been working on for my Fabric Painting class at Quilt U. I started with the piece on the left as a simple exercise in drawing a pattern on fabric, then I painted it. I decided to add more lilies to the piece and more detail, and ended up with the piece on the right. I'm still working on adding more detail and fixing some of the strange things about it.

The next piece I worked on was a bird that I drew in pencil onto the fabric. I added a background wash and, for some weird reason, decided it was a good idea to add water around my main image. My brain must have been working backwards, because water will continue to seep into and spread on the fabric until it's dry, so of course the background paint was pulled onto the bird.

I let it dry and then base-coated the bird and the branch with white, then let that dry.

Finally, I painted in the bird and the branch. Not too bad, I think, considering that I have no painting training or skills!

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Wasting Time

I ran across a link to another of those Internet quizzes. Most of the time I can resist them, but this was to determine what type of punctuation mark you are. Now, as someone who spent 7 years doing post-graduate work in English, I couldn't pass this one up. Here are the results:

You Are a Comma

You are open minded and extremely optimistic.

You enjoy almost all facets of life. You can find the good in almost anything.

You keep yourself busy with tons of friends, activities, and interests.

You find it hard to turn down an opportunity, even if you are pressed for time.

Your friends find you fascinating, charming, and easy to talk to.

(But with so many competing interests, you friends do feel like you hardly have time for them.)

You excel in: Inspiring people

You get along best with: The Question Mark

What Punctuation Mark Are You?

The really fascinating thing about this is that it seems to be so accurate; at least, this is how I see myself (and my friends DO complain that I hardly have time for them). I'm not sure how this personality type equates to a comma, but I guess someone thought it was relevant.

I Felt . . .

exhilarated, exhausted, and thoroughly drenched at the end of my full-day wet-felting workshop with Jilly Gully from Outback Fibers. I took an online felting class at Joggles a while back and was pretty disappointed with my samples, so I decided that felting is probably better learned in a live class. Sure enough, I found out that I had been laying the wool roving on too thickly, using the wrong kind of "netting," and that the quality of materials makes a huge difference in the outcome.

Jill had plenty of other tips to help improve my felting, and she has the most beautiful wool and silk roving, dyed silk hankies, and something called Felbi prefelt which is wonderful to work with.

I was off yesterday and so played some more. I used my old, cheap wool from Jo Ann Fabrics for the first piece I felted (no pic here), and it was a big disappointment--the fibers just didn't seem to felt well, and the piece was thicker than I had hoped for. For the next two pieces (below), I used the wool & silk from Outback, and created both pieces on a Felbi prefelt base. They felted like a dream, and I think the pieces came out very nicely. I'm anxious to do something with them; I want to try stitching on a piece to see how that feels and works.