Road Trip Quilt

August 21, 2019

I finished another abandoned quilt top. I remember collecting the Route 66 fabric, getting to the ombre border, and losing focus. The fabrics are fun, but not exactly what I need hanging on my wall.

Since the repeats on the fabrics vary, my units are not a standard size. I enjoyed playing with sashing options, but realized after the fact the quilt center would need acres of borders to be a useful bed quilt. The good news is I’m far enough away from acquiring the fabrics that I’m happy to let it go. With a green flange and one final asymmetrical border, the top fits the size requirement set by the guild’s donation quilt committee for a child’s quilt. With any luck, I’ll get to the quilting part in the next month.

Another plus – I’m using this dinosaur skeleton fabric for the backing. I bought it for a gift quilt, but the intended recipient is way past dinosaurs. Time to let another child enjoy it.

Luck and wisdom!

A Blessing Granted

August 19, 2019

Your wishes for the good health of Maya’s plant were granted. The little palm is going home happy and healthy, much to my relief. I am so relieved, in fact, that I think I ought to write a story from the plant’s point of view about its experience. If you would like to write a story from that prompt, feel free – and please share!

Luck and wisdom!

Overcoming Avoidance – Part Two, Quilting

August 14, 2019

My Progressive Project this time was to choose a Row by Row pattern from a large collection. In the interests of training myself to overcome avoidance, I chose the pattern I liked the least. It involved sewing triangles on the bias. I have a hard enough time with strips cut on the straight of grain, so I generally run screaming into the night when bias triangles are requested. However, there were cute fish to applique over wonky centers, so I gave it a go. I didn’t have spray starch, but I did have sizing. I spritzed the squares before I cut them, and handled the fabric as little as possible. The quilting goddesses were with me, because the centers are good enough for the fish to swim naturally, rather than lined up lip to tail. They still cover most of that seam intersection, but I know it wasn’t a necessity to place them there!

Luck and wisdom!

Overcoming Avoidance – Part One, Writing

August 12, 2019

I need a patron saint for procrastinators. My gargoyle of “get going, girl!” hasn’t been doing the job. Oh, I’m getting some things done (note that this blog is posted), but I’m not getting enough done. Perhaps I can’t really call my problem procrastination. If I had an idea where my characters were taking me I’d be writing those scenes, and if I had decided where I wanted to take them I’d have finished the book. There’s a great scene in an episode of Babylon Five where Zathrus says, “Cannot say. Knowing, would say. Do not know, so cannot say.” That pretty much sums up my writing these days. I’m open to suggestions for overcoming avoidance. In the meantime, I will meditate on journeys and hope my characters speak up about the ones they want to take.

Luck and wisdom!

Painting on Silk – An Experiment

August 7, 2019

Betty Busby teaches how to paint on silk with any kind of acrylic paint. As long as it is liquidy enough, the results are fabulous. The experiments I’ve made with scarf-weight silks have all been great fun. Here is one I did recently. The blue and pinky-purple paints were very watery; the green paint was thick, almost straight from the bottle.

This week I experimented with raw silk. I like the heft, and the effect I get with applique or embroidery. Here is the first piece, my own study in (nearly) scarlet.

My last experiment was both painted and dyed. I spotted the silk with yellow dye first, then scrunched it and poured on the remaining red paint. When that was nearly dry, I add some spots of pink. As with the green in the first piece, I added very little water to the pink paint.

I think all of these experiments will eventually end up as a base for embroidery, probably landscapes. If you have a few squares of silk and some leftover acrylic paint, make your own experiments. Be sure to send pictures – I would love to see the results!

Luck and wisdom!

A Sense of Place

August 5, 2019


I write fiction, therefore I must create a sense of place for my readers. This is harder than it sounds, especially since my own sense of place is tenuous at best. I moved around a lot in my youth, and came to accept “home” as wherever I happened to be at the moment. Usually I leave most of the setting to the reader’s imagination. The few descriptions I include are more for my benefit, to keep clear in my own mind where my characters are. Then I picked up St. Petersburg by Solomon Volkov, and recognized the depth of my failing. From the very first page, Volkov throws the reader into the heart of the city – then the kidney, then the spleen, then that weird little place in the elbow that kicks up a ruckus whenever the weather changes. Volkov cites diarists and novelists to show how the city molded perception.

I realized that I had been ignoring the effect of my location on my own perception, and my writing. Yes, St. Petersburg is in a harsh environment and I live in lovely California; yes, St. Petersburg has seen war and revolution while my own town has been an oasis of safety; yes, St. Petersburg has been peopled with oversize egos and extraordinary will while I am surrounded by – well, let’s not go there. The point is, where your characters live influences who they are. I don’t have to describe every river in the valley if I understand how living near water has shaped the worldview of my protagonist, or living between two highways has molded my villain. I still may not ground my stories in a specific place as well as my readers might like, but my goal from now on will be to create an understanding of what being here as opposed to there means to my characters.

Luck and wisdom!

Thread Speculation

July 31, 2019

I’ve always admitted that I buy fabric on speculation – not a set amount for a specific project, but as much as seems reasonable because I like it. Turns out I’ve bought thread on the same principle.

Oh, yes, some of my collection is  the last bit of projects past. Some thread I inherited. But all those red and green threads? Yeah, chances are I thought they were pretty and would use them someday. Well, someday is now.

I’ve decided on three strategies to use my thread collection:

  1. When machine-quilting scrap quilts, I will change my top thread to match large sections of colors. I did this with a modified log cabin that had big strips of various blues. Rather than buying one color that sorta-kinda-maybe went with all the fabrics, I changed the thread for swaths of dark, medium, and light blues. It didn’t take much time, especially since I was doing random squiggles and only had to pick up where one thread left off. I know quilters have been doing this for years, but I guess I’m a slow learner.
  2. I will fill bobbins with half- to three-quarter-full spools of thread. The quilt police will never know that my dark patches are sewn with navy blue and forest green (and a bunch of other colors) rather than charcoal or black. Most of my fabrics run to mediums anyway, so a white or ecru thread has more of a chance of showing through than a rose pink.
  3. I will start bringing threads I know I will never use to various quilt meetings and offering them to any taker. Who knows, there might be a quilter out there who only needs a tiny bit of the exact thread I’m trying to unload.

Luck and wisdom!

Volunteer Your Way To Better Jacket Copy

July 29, 2019


Nathan Bransford wrote a helpful blog about writing good jacket copy. The first step – knowing your selling points – seems obvious, but getting to that understanding is painful. Trying to sell my own work is one of the hardest things I’ve ever done. Even after I’ve finished paring down all the wonderful things I want to share with readers to a few bullet points, I’m still never certain my promotional material is appealing.

Bransford suggests using social media ads to test your jacket material. This is great if you’re made of money, but I am not. I am, however, one who volunteers. My work for the quilt guild this year includes writing the newsletter articles for our speakers and their workshops. “Self,” I said, “you’ve just created your own personal, private training program for self-promotion.” I’ve got ten speakers who – like me – have varying degrees of skill in advertising themselves and their work. I have a limited word count for newsletter articles, so I often have to edit the biography, lecture topic, and workshop description to fit the space. Since the guild members are also the target audience for The Chenille series, the feedback I get on my articles will be ideally suited to help me craft my own ad copy.

Consider volunteering to work with Program or Publicity for the guild, club, or non-profit that matches your target audience. As you see what entices the members to come to the lecture or sign up for the workshop, consider how you can use your new skills to promote yourself.


Luck and wisdom!

Squirrel Buttons

July 24, 2019

The birdhouse block with squirrel buttons

I found another orphan block that will make a wonderful display block for the Amador Valley Quilters collection. I suspect I intended the block to be the center of a baby quilt for a friend who loved squirrels, but since her baby is now in graduate school I’m giving myself permission to abandon that quilt.

The block was a perfect summer project. Even without high humidity, holding a quilt on one’s lap for binding and embellishing when the temperature is hovering around 100 isn’t as much fun as it sounds. I also got to use a card of squirrel buttons that I’ve been moving from one to pile to another for several years, and that makes me very happy.

Now for a glass of iced tea, which I will sip in the coolest corner of the house.

Luck and wisdom!

What Is Supposed To Be

July 22, 2019

Today is Monday, so I am supposed to post a writing blog. I paused for a good five minutes after I wrote that line, and still nothing popped into my little brain. Instead, I’m posting a picture of my shrimp plant.

The shrimp plant is supposed to put out these lovely pinky-red bracts with white flowers that droop over and look like swimming shrimp when the breeze blows. I’ve got the bracts and the flowers, but danged little drooping. The bracts are shooting up like spear tips. That’s okay, but not what I was expecting; not what is supposed to be.

To which the universe replies, “Oh, adjust already!”

The plant is still lovely, and healthy, and I like it. What more do I really want? Well, to have more of my novel written, but that may not happen today. Today, I will appreciate my shrimp plant.

Luck and wisdom!