Monday, December 28, 2009

Time to Complete Those WIPs

Time, that is, in two senses of the word: I have this week off and therefore have a little extra play-time, and it’s time to get this stuff off the sewing table/design wall and finish it.

So, after a very lovely and busy Christmas, I’ve started with the easiest WIP. This one just needed a hanger on the back and a signature to be finished:


This is a silk & wool piece, created using a technique from one of my favorite books, Stitching to Dye in Quilt Art by C. June Barnes. After stitching, dyeing, and shrinking the piece, I added the washers and beads, then sewed the piece to a painted canvas. I’m displaying it in our den, but it’s a fairly small piece on a huge wall, so of course I need to make at least one more to hang with it.

And, I’ve caught up with my 6x6” weekly journal squares; these are for the month of December (with the exception of this week, which I’ll complete by the end of the week).

This marks the crocheted Christmas afghan I was working on the beginning of the month:


This one is influenced by work, and the boring, repetitive tasks I had to spend too much time on. Overlaid on that, though, is a little Christmas spirit:


This one is a compilation of the fabrics I used to make the kids & grandkids Christmas stockings; I thought it represented the holiday lunches, open houses, shopping, and other Christmas preparations very well:


And, here are the Christmas stockings, the last of which I finished at 5 pm on Christmas eve:


Finally, here is my 6x6” weekly journal square for the week of Christmas. I free-motion quilted the names of family members who were at Christmas dinner and helped to make it a lovely day:


And now, back to work on those WIPs. Or I could start the next silk and wool piece . . . hmmm, I think I hear that silk calling my name . . .

Saturday, December 19, 2009

Fabric Embellishing: Book Review

Somehow we managed, this afternoon, to squeeze in a trip to the bookstore after a holiday lunch with colleagues (the company paid; I should have gotten the salmon, but that’s a different story) and before attending a holiday open house tonight, then meeting friends for our annual Christmas dinner out.

I had been looking forward all afternoon to a hot, creamy latte and a new quilting magazine. You know, just a little treat to help with all the holiday stress and anxiety. Once at the bookstore, I picked out my quilting magazine, ordered my coffee, and caved in to irresistible temptation of a red velvet cupcake in the display case.

All of that was lovely, but then I REALLY got a treat. While checking out the craft & quilting books, I ran across one I hadn’t seen before. Fabric Embellishing: the Basics & Beyond: More Than 50 Techniques With Step-by-step Photos (what is it with gargantuan titles these days?) by Ruth Chandler, Liz Kettle, Heather Thomas, and Lauren Vlcek is a fun, fun book. It’s pretty much what it sounds like: a compilation of techniques for manipulating, joining, and decorating fabric and other things we’re pretending are fabric these days: Tyvek, Lutradur, paper, etc.

I’m familiar with quite a few of these techniques: beading, printing images on fabric, and using materials such as Angelina fibers, for example. In fact, I think it’s safe to say that I’ve been around the block a time or two when it comes to embellishing fabric. So I was surprised to find some techniques in this book I had never even heard of. Even those techniques and materials I’m familiar with are used in ways I hadn’t thought about. The step-by-step instructions are excellent, and the book includes tons of photos, both to accompany the directions and to show off the finished techniques in all their lusciousness. Works by the artists that incorporate the various techniques are shown throughout the book in “gallery” photos, as well, to illustrate ways to combine the techniques to create art quilts.

Fabric Embellishing: the Basics & Beyond: More Than 50 Techniques With Step-by-step Photos is not a book that I really needed. It’s probably not even a book that I should have bought when I was supposed to be shopping for others’ gifts. But this book sure does make me happy. I love both the techniques and the photos of them, and I’m inspired to jump in and start working through all of the techniques—even the ones I’m familiar with!

The authors suggest that you make a journal quilt for each of the techniques, then bind them together in book format. They’ve included instructions for doing that, as well.

Once my year of creating weekly 6x6 quilted journal squares is up in February, I may create a new challenge for myself to work through this book and practice every technique in it. There’s certainly plenty of material in Fabric Embellishing to keep me busy for a while!

Thursday, December 17, 2009

Quilts and Clay Part 2

Sorry for the delay in posting this review. My only excuse is that my brain was so overloaded yesterday by my day job that it temporarily short-circuited. (Oh ok, and that the finale of So You Think You Can Dance was on last night).

Anyway, Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Together at Last: Incorporating Craft Materials and Found Objects in Clay Figures, by Christi Friesen is a fun and useful addition to your library if you like polymer clay. Or even if you don’t. I should start by saying that I successfully avoided polymer clay for years. I smugly fast-forwarded through all the polymer clay segments on my recorded craft shows; let my eyes slide right past the polymer clay books at the book store; and refused to even discuss it with my friends. Like PMC silver clay, metalworking of any kind (including the kind that requires big, scary torches), and raisins, I just didn’t have time for it in my life.

Deep down, though, I secretly lusted after polymer clay (as I do PMC silver clay and torches, but probably not raisins), so when my partner breezily announced one day that she had an “idea” in her head that had to be accomplished in polymer clay, I was relieved and a little giddy. I ran to the car, drove her to Michael’s, and proceeded to fill up a big basket with all things polymer-related. We bought clay in every color imaginable, and any tool that we could get our hands on, including a pasta machine for rolling the stuff out. Apparently my brain was paying attention enough to pick up on—and store indefinitely—a lot of that fast-forwarded information from the craft shows, which is a good lesson and a warning not to ever record and then fast-forward through horror movies or political speeches.

My partner, who is a casual but brilliant artisan (she seems to have no interest in art, but occasionally breezes in, throws together a magnificent stained glass window or intricate geometric drawing or mouth-watering piece of jewelry, then goes right back to reading novels about vampires) finished her polymer clay project and used all of about 2 blocks of clay. Which leaves me, of course, with drawers full of clay and a pasta roller just waiting to taunt me whenever I enter my craft room.

SO. All this is to say that I am a novice and somewhat reluctant polymer clay user. Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Together at Last: Incorporating Craft Materials and Found Objects in Clay Figures may be responsible for making me a little more enthusiastic, though. The book strikes a nice balance, I think, between offering introductory information about polymer clay and projects that can be as simple or as complex as you want them to be. The “mixed media” part of the title might make you think that Friesen offers a lot of new and innovative ways to incorporate all that OTHER stuff in my craft room into polymer clay, and while I can’t vouch for how new or innovative the ideas are, her incorporation of other mediums lends a real depth and layers of detail to her polymer clay pieces. Friesen incorporates materials like fibers, paper, metal, glass, paint, and found objects into her projects (and mica powders! I have mica powders!). She never loses focus on the primary element, though—the polymer clay.

The two things I like best about this book are Friesen’s fun and casual writing style (though her occasional use of explanation points can be a little distracting! But she just seems so excited about polymer clay! So you know her enthusiasm is somewhat contagious!). Despite her casual style, though, her step-by-step project instructions are thorough and well-written, and I didn’t have any trouble walking in my imagination through each of the projects.

Which leads me to my second favorite thing about the book: the projects. Her style is fun and somewhat whimsical, so the chapter called “Oh, Grow Up!” includes pieces like thistle pins (complete with prickles and spiky “hair” from a chip brush) and leaf and flower designs. Friesen’s liberal use of beads, paint and powders helps push polymer clay beyond the basics in projects such as her imaginative and almost life-like “Aztec heads,” her whimsical gecko and sea turtle sculptures, and her “ammonite fossil pin”. Even better, Friesen sparks my imagination, and I can envision lots of variations on her ideas to make my little polymer clay pieces my own.

If you’re at all interested in polymer clay (or if you’re finally willing to admit there’s a little polymer clay figure in you fighting to get out), Christi Friesen's Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Together at Last might be just what you need to get the clay out of the drawers and into the pasta machine.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Quilts and Clay: Book Reviews

I stopped by the library the other day to pick up a couple of novels, and I was thrilled to see some unfamiliar craft books on the New Non-Fiction shelves. It turns out that neither of these books are exactly “new” (they were both published in 2008), but just new to my library, I guess.

The first one really got my heart pounding: Hand-Dyed Quilts by Marquetta Bell-Johnson. What could be better than combining two of my favorite things, quilting and hand-dyed fabrics? Plus, the author sounded familiar, and as I flipped through the book, I realized that I had seen her on an old episode of the tv show, That’s Clever! (or maybe it was Crafters Coast to Coast, the show’s earlier incarnation). In fact, I was so excited when I originally saw Marquetta’s episode that I immediately created some “hand-dyed” fabric based on her instructions. Here are the results:


Now, one reason I was excited was because, at the time, I knew nothing about dyeing fabrics, and I had no dyeing supplies. Bell-Johnson doesn’t use traditional fabric dye, however; instead, she uses airbrush paints (which I happened to have on hand), so technically her fabric is not dyed, it’s painted. However, Belle-Johnson claims in her book that airbrush paint, while an acrylic, migrates through the fabric and bonds with the fibers, which might explain why she classifies this technique as dyeing rather than painting.

At any rate, Hand-Dyed Quilts is an extension of the basic techniques the author demonstrated in that television episode. She takes us through the process of coloring the fabric, and most of her patterning is accomplished through various fabric-folding techniques, which are detailed in this book and include nice illustrations of luscious patterned fabric created through lots of color and folding variations.

Bell-Johnson’s book also includes basic quilting information, but this section of the book is disappointing, to say the least. It’s not clear who the intended audience is here. For example, hand-quilting instructions include this information:

1. Begin your stitches by backstitching and burying the thread tail between the layers of the quilt on the back side . . .

2. Sew, using the running stitch and following your chosen design . . .

Now, if I’m new to hand quilting, I’m not sure I’ll know what a backstitch is, how to bury thread tails, or how to complete a running stitch. I’m probably asking, “what is my ‘chosen design’ and how do I get it onto the fabric?” On the other hand, if I already know how to do these things, I’m probably familiar with hand quilting and so don’t need this section at all.

The last section of the book is a compilation of simple quilting projects, none of which really caught my attention or inspired me to create. However, I can imagine that new or fairly inexperienced quilters might find them useful for learning basic piecing and for completing simple projects using the fabric they’ve colored.

For me, this book was, overall, disappointing. I think the detailed information on folding and coloring fabric makes Hand-Dyed Quilts worth owning if you’re interested in that type of thing, particularly since the cost of it is fairly reasonable on Amazon (and especially if you get a used copy). On the other hand, there’s probably not much even in the fabric-folding section that can’t be found in a book on shibori.

Tomorrow’s review: Polymer Clay and Mixed Media Together at Last: Incorporating Craft Materials and Found Objects in Clay Figures, by Christi Friesen. Despite the ridiculously long title, you’ll want to stick around for this one if you’re interested in polymer clay.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

Out with the Old?

I'm trying out new blog templates. I don't know, what do you think? I go back and forth between the "stretch" templates--a nice wide alley for text, but do we really want text all the way across a wide screen?--and regular templates, which seem a little squished in the middle.

I'm still working on/contemplating it, so don't be surprised if you see my "look" change several times over the next few days.

Wednesday, December 9, 2009

Scrappy Ornaments Tutorial

The other night, I was lying in bed and thinking about how to make a detachable fabric Christmas tree ornament that I could stick onto the front of greeting cards for family and friends. The next day, Pokey Bolton sent a link to a tutorial for making fabric trees to the quiltart list:

I was inspired to follow through with making my ornaments, so I’ve created my own tutorial here. These tree ornaments are made with four layers: backing fabric, acrylic felt, scraps of fabric, and tulle. In addition, I used a couple of layers of Misty Fuse, although any fusible web would work. Here are the steps:

1. Attach fusible web to one side of the acrylic felt (felt will melt, so make sure your iron is just hot enough to fuse the web onto the felt, and don’t the iron in one place for too long).

2. Attach fusible web to the wrong side of the backing fabric.

3. Lay the backing fabric right side down/fusible side up, then lay the felt, fusible side up, over that. Begin laying fabric scraps over the felt.


4. Apply a layer of fusible web over the scrap fabric, then lay a sheer fabric over the web and fuse.


Note: You should now have the following layers, from the bottom up: backing fabric, batting or acrylic felt, scrap fabric, and sheer fabric. It’s not necessary to include a layer of fusible web between each of these, but I do if I’m using a light brand, such as MistyFuse, just to keep everything from slipping.

5. Create your tree template. I drew 1/2 of a tree freehand on a piece of paper, folded the paper vertically, and cut both sides of the tree at the same time.


6. Trace the tree template onto your fabric sandwich. There are several ways to do this. I applied iron-on tear-away stabilizer to the backing fabric and traced the tree onto the stabilizer (I could have traced the tree directly onto the backing fabric, but mine was dark and I would have had a hard time seeing the tracing lines. I could have also traced the tree onto the front, but it’s hard to mark sheer fabric). Trace as many trees as will fit onto your fabric.

Alternatively, you could trace the trees onto freezer paper, cut them out, and iron them onto the fabric.

7. With the backing fabric facing UP (assuming you've ironed tear-away stabilizer to the back), stitch a single line of stitching around each traced tree shape. Make sure the bobbin thread will show up on the front of the fabric.

8. Tear or cut away the stabilizer.


9. Turn the fabric over so that it is now right-side up. Set your machine to a zig-zag or wide decorative stitch, and stitch over all your tree lines.


10. Cut the trees out close to the stitching line. You may either leave the edges raw, or zig-zag stitch around them again.

11. If you want to, punch a hole in the top of the tree and add a piece of ribbon for a hanger; or, decorate the top (or the whole tree!) with beads, buttons, charms, etc.


I’m going to add a hanger, and then use some temporary double-sided tape to attach mine to Christmas cards, which I’m sending out to my family. Soon. Any day now. Really.

Enjoy your tree-making!

Wednesday, December 2, 2009

Art Knows No Holiday, and Weekly Square #40

Thanksgiving morning I was cutting up some celery, and I noticed how lovely the root was after I had chopped the stalks from it. I couldn’t help myself; I stopped making the stuffing immediately, grabbed some fabric and some paint, and started stamping:

celery stamped fabric

Here’s a close up of one of the celery “roses”:

celery stamped fabric closeup

I also had some really nice fibrous-paper, disposable washcloths I had brought home the hospital. I had previously painted a couple of those, so I grabbed them and stamped them as well. These are hard to photograph; because of the texture of the paper, the paint comes out very luminous:

celery stamped paper1

celery stamped paper2

Finally, here is last week’s 6x6” weekly square. Influences: Thanksgiving (what else?): “My cup(s) runneth over.”


Monday, November 23, 2009

Odds and Ends

Playing catch-up, both with projects and blogging . . .

The shelves are repaired and refilled!


Notice the absence of books . . . those are now stored closer to the floor so that they next time they hurl themselves down they won’t have as far to fall.

Here’s some fabric I dyed last week using the “color parfait” method from Ann Johnston’s Color by Accident (can you believe all these pieces were dyed in the same bucket at the same time?):


And two new weekly 6x6” journal squares; the first one is for the week of Oct. 25-31. This was the week before I went back to work, and so this square reflects anxiety and a lot of other complex emotions I was feeling at the time, as well as feeling a little frantic to get my projects wrapped up while I still had time:


The next journal square is from last week, and is influenced by my efforts to find balance and peace of mind, stay calm and unruffled, and develop a routine, as well as to work mindfully and carefully (i.e., with care):


I finished adding the border to my latest quilt top tonight, and I started cleaning off my worktable in preparation for the next project. I ran across a stack of WIPs, so I’m going to try to work on some of those—and finish a crocheted Christmas afghan I’m working—before starting anything else.

Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! I’ll be making my usual sweet potatoes, along with cornbread dressing, mashed potatoes, and a marbled butterscotch bundt cake, then hauling it all over to my daughter’s house. It probably would have made more sense for her just to bring the turkey here, but she was excited about having us come to her place, so there you are.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Shout Outs

I have to give some “Internet love” to two very special people: my awesome friend Marfa Stewart, who captured my holiday aspirations and realities perfectly in this blog post; and

Ruth over at Permutations in Fiber, who sent me the most amazing blog-giveaway-package ever. To celebrate her 200th blog post, she gave away a package of “wooly goodies,” and I won! Yesterday I stopped at the mailbox and was surprised to find a package; I had completely forgotten about winning, and I couldn’t remember ordering anything. I was shocked when I opened the box; Ruth had packed it full of beautiful wool, fibers, dyed and rusted cheesecloth, silk threads, cocoons, and rods, along with handmade cards, an ATC, and a felted and beaded wool pin!

Here are some pics:





Thank you, Ruth, you definitely made my day!

So, wonderful and faithful blog readers, please share the love with my friends Marfa and Ruth by visiting their blogs and letting them know how much they’re appreciated!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Weekly Journal Squares & A Quilt Top

A couple of new 6x6" weekly journal squares; the first is a catch-up from the week we were in Florida for vacation. I created a fish appliqué from hand-dyed fabric and metallic and rayon threads, then sewed it onto a background of commercial fabric enhanced with Dynaflow paints and FMQed with circles:


Next is this week’s journal square. Influences: trying to achieve balance between work and home activities, and my aspiration to remain calm and Zen-like regardless of what my back-to-work experience entailed; beautiful sunny and cool days, and that sense that this might be the final breath of fall before winter sets in (sure enough, the weather has now turned gray and overcast, and we have a cold front coming in); and most importantly, reconnecting with my long-time friend Karla, who years ago introduced me to ceramics (the cup-like vase is in honor of you, Karla!):


The flower is white-on-white fabric painted with Tsukineko inks and appliquéd onto the background; the vase is appliquéd over that. I added some free-motion zigzag stitching around the flower, to create the stem, and around the vase, then some FM straight-stitching on the vase. Then I used some fabric markers to add some varied colors to the vase.

I thought I was caught up with the weekly journal squares, but when I was looking at my log I realized I missed one a couple of weeks ago. I still have my notes from that week, so I'll have to catch up as soon as I have a chance.

The craft room “rebuilding” is going slowly; my formerly-clean worktable is now a wreck, since I had to have a place for most of what was on the shelves (except for the books, which I moved permanently to the bookcases in the living room):


My sweetie did a great job of removing the shelf brackets, repairing the sheet rock, and adding new texture:



and then painting (how awesome is it that we still had the original paint for this room, and that it was still GOOD after 8 years?):


Fortunately, my sewing room is still intact, so I’ve almost finished another quilt top. Once I add the borders, this one will be queen-sized, and will go on our bed:


I’m having a hard time getting the colors correct in the pics of this quilt top, so I’m including pics of the Amy Butler fabric I used:



Whew. I guess that’s enough blogging for now, especially since I justified sitting at the computer all this time by catching up on this week’s episode of “Wait Wait . . . Don’t Tell Me!” Now that it’s over, I’m off to find something else to do before my weekend is completely gone.

Thursday, November 12, 2009


Hawthorne Threads is giving away a Firenze Bag Kit by Patricia Bravo, and a fat-quarter set to 2nd & 3rd place winners. Click here to enter, but do it before Nov. 15!


Wednesday, November 11, 2009


Remember a couple of months ago when I spent 3 days cleaning and organizing my craft room? It’s been a real pleasure being able to walk in and work whenever the mood struck, without having to clean up first. So this morning I got up extra early, intending to paint some fabric.

As a reminder, here’s a pic I took a couple of months ago:


See those two shelves above my work table? Here they are this morning:


Wait, where are they? OH! There they are! On the freaking floor!


When I walked in and saw this, the first thing my befuddled brain thought was, “I’ve been robbed!” Then I realized that, as valuable as all my “stuff” is, that’s probably not what happened.

Earthquake? I wondered; but no, it’s pretty rare to experience one of those here in Central Texas. I guess that the wall anchors just finally gave out after 5 years of holding up tons of books, equipment, and supplies.


Once I started digging through the mess, I realized that, fortunately, there were very few casualties; a plastic container holding my markers:


and the latch on a case:


And some debris (vermiculite from a crock pot that was sitting on the top shelf):


But all in all, it could have been much worse.

Needless to say, I didn’t get any fabric painted.

Tuesday, November 3, 2009

Weekly Journal Squares

Life is ok. I’m a little stressed with starting work again, but so far things are slow and I’m spending my time getting caught up on what’s happened during the last year and a half.

At home, I’m catching up on my weekly 6x6” journal squares. The first two were in process and just needed to be wrapped up; the final one is a reflection of this week’s feelings.

Weekly Journal Square #33 (October 4-10). Influences: shopping with mom for clothes for my vacation. The crazy-quilt class I’m taking. Feeling good, having more energy and less pain, but feeling too anxious and distracted to sleep well.


Weekly Journal Square #35 (October 18-24). Influences: Back from vacation. Everything is disorganized and the house is a mess. I want to create but I'm too tired. I'm happy that I made it through a week of vacation and still feel ok; it almost restores my faith that I will feel completely healthy one day.


Weekly Journal Square #37 (this week). Influences: Back to work after 17 months. Comfort in the ordered days, but anxiety and fear underneath. I’m determined to stay serene and calm, though.


I need to backtrack and create week 34’s square, when I was on vacation; it will feature parrotfish, which I’m now enamored with. I also need to finish last week’s square, and then I’ll be all caught up again.

I particularly appreciate these squares now that I’m back at work and my time will be much more limited, since they ensure that I create at least ONE thing every week!

Wednesday, October 28, 2009

Full-Speed Ahead

The last several weeks have been quite challenging. First there was the week-long trip to Florida. Then, the realization that I only had two weeks left before I have to return to work (now down to less than a week—yikes!) from an 18-month medical leave (talk about scary; it’s like starting a new job!).

I have SO many projects I want to finish/start/work on before my time will once again be sucked up by my job. Plus, I’m still not completely recovered physically, so I’m trying to make sure I’m eating, resting, sleeping, and not pushing myself too hard (and with limited time and too many projects in the queue, that is REALLY difficult to do).

At any rate, I can check one item off the to-do list: this is my latest submission for the Fast Friday Fabric Challenge. I call it “After the Storm”:


You can read more about it on the Fast Friday blog.

Ok, now on to breakfast and another project . . . those minutes are ticking away!

Sunday, October 25, 2009


Pumpkin Patch Primitives Quilt Shoppe is having a great giveaway--27 (YES! 27!) fat quarters of fabric. In order to enter, you have to both leave a comment and post a notice on your blog. Here's the notice on my blog, and now I'm off to leave my comment for my chance to win. Good luck to you if you enter, and if you don't, cross your fingers for me to win!

Wednesday, October 21, 2009

Performance Art

By now, most of us have seen those videos of people making what I guess is called "sand art." This is one of the most amazing ones I've seen, though.

Sunday, October 18, 2009

Vacation! Woo Hoo!

I've been on vacation for the first time in 3 years, and has it ever been fun! We've been in West Palm Beach, Florida, and the weather was unseasonably warm--90s during the day. The weather turned cool yesterday (high in the 70s), so I guess the timing is perfect, since we’re flying home today.

We got in some beach time, some pool time, and some snorkeling. Plus, we visited Butterfly World, where we saw lots of gorgeous butterflies, flowers, and birds.

It's going to take a while to sort through and edit all my photos, but I have a few to post now. These are butterflies and moths from Butterfly World:








And some plants & a waterfall:




And a cute little guy who was hanging out at Sailfish Marina:


I took a waterproof camera snorkeling, but unfortunately, the water was murky and I don’t know whether the pics can be photoshopped. After we took a break for a lunch then went back to snorkeling, the water had cleared up and we saw some beautiful parrotfish, trumpet fish, and lots of other lovely sea creatures. Of course, I had used up all my film :-(

After a full week of sleeping late, lazing by the ocean, and mingling with nature, I’m not looking forward to the routines of home, but I sure do miss my pups and my bed!