Archive for the ‘Quilting’ Category

Filters Wide Open

August 15, 2018

I was listening to an NPR show explaining how we evolved from the primates who tended to be jumpier when hearing rustling in the leaves. This is important to understand, that we are the offspring of the ones who wondered if that was a predator rather than the ones who thought it was just the wind. Our genetic heritage to evaluate sensory input on many levels, including through the “how could this possibly end” filter, promotes survival but can also lead to a form of paralysis if one’s filters are running at full throttle. I started thinking about wide open filters in relation to my art, and wondered if I couldn’t use this information to help overcome the fear of starting something new.

Two years ago, I bought this kit in Maryland. It is part of the 2016 Row By Row promotion. I also bought a couple of Row By Row kits from my local quilt shops, because I thought they would go together well. Then I put the kits in a bag, and let them marinate because I was nervous about making the heron from the Maryland kit. Until I heard the story on NPR, I thought I was just a fraidy-cat. Now I know my “what could possibly go wrong” filters were in overdrive. I could imagine all the ways I could destroy that heron, ruin the quilt, bring about the collapse of the entire quilting industry, and end Western civilization as we know it. “Self,” I said, “it is time to ignore those potential futures and see what actually happens.”

The heron came out okay after all. So did the rest of the row.

Luck and wisdom!

Read Carefully!

August 8, 2018

You know one should read directions carefully. You think you have. Guess again.

The Progressive Party project I’m working on this month will end up being a full-size quilt. I read the instructions and saw “make a floral block.” So I did.

The Batchelor’s Button block

The next day, before I finished the last seams of the block, I read the instructions again. This time I noticed that we’re supposed to attach our floral blocks as shown in the diagram. Where was that line the first time I read through it? Okay, it was in the same place and I didn’t notice. Lucky for me, I started the project early and had plenty of time to make the fill-in blocks that go with my floral unit. Also lucky for me, I chose a block that goes into a unit that someone else had started.

My unit, finished and ready to go

The good news is the person after me won’t be shaking her head at my inability to read a simple set of instructions.

Luck and wisdom!

Rage Against the Portrait

August 6, 2018

Being a writer isn’t all about putting words on paper. Artists of any kind also have to be marketers, and that usually means selecting one’s public image. I really hate choosing portraits. The problem isn’t that they don’t look like me – the problem is they do (and yes, I rage against my mirror as much as I rage against my portraits).

At least I’m smiling

This month has been particularly taxing. I’ve been lucky enough to be interviewed by a local newsletter about Tri-Valley Writers, but that meant finding a picture for the article. I’m also taking on the role of president of Tri-Valley Writers, and that means finding a different picture for our newsletter. Then I noticed that my WordPress photo is woefully out of date, as is my photo on the Tri-Valley Writers website. I’m tempted to put in a picture of something else, but that’s not what a sensible author who actually wants to sell some books would do.

Or is it?

The first medal I ever won got its own quilt

By the way, here’s where you can find my latest book, The Chenille Ultimatum, written with Ann Anastasio.

Flowers for Fall or Flamingos

August 1, 2018

I needed to make a technique demonstration for the Block of the Month, and didn’t have any of the fabric that we used for the kits, so I decided to use my scraps. I found a collection of fall colors, but then realized I had to make four iterations of the square flower to show how to manage a half-finished seam. I didn’t have enough scraps, but I was already looking forward to seeing how the fall fabrics would play together. I made the block anyway, and will finish it for a Display Block.

A flower for fall

As I was searching for a backing, I noticed a plastic bag filled with flamingo fabric. I am a sucker for novelty fabric. I never know what to do with it, but I buy it anyway. “Self,” I said, “make your four blocks from this novelty fabric, then use the rest of the fabric in the bag to finish it off for a Community Quilt. Some kid is bound to like the flamingos.”

A flower for flamingos

Don’t you just love it when a simple task turns into a relatively simple project that will clear out your stash and benefit someone else?

Luck and wisdom!

Surprise Blocks

July 25, 2018

Once again, the Unfinished Quilt challenge has shown me my innermost soul. It is cluttered and completely random – my innermost soul, that is, not the challenge. I found these blocks in a bag that was supposed to contain fabric for a wheelchair lap quilt.

The purse collection – don’t ask me why

Why would I think these paper-pieced blocks would work well for a lap quilt, something that would need to be washed often in very hot water? Why would I think they would go well with an orange plaid flannel back, which is the other fabric I found in the bag?

Fortunately, I found some forest fabric in green, yellow, and orange that will go very well with the backing. It will certainly be more appropriate for a lap quilt that will probably be used by more than one person (the project will eventually go to a nursing home). It may have taken me years to finish this quilt, but sometimes it pays to procrastinate.

Luck and wisdom!

Chiura Obata and My Fabric Stash

July 18, 2018

I have no problem choosing a book by its cover, such as Chiura Obata: An American Modern by ShiPu Wang. The cover is a watercolor of the Grand Canyon. It spoke to me because I have fabric in my stash that matches those colors and textures.

Art doesn’t have to match my fabric collection to intrigue me, but it certainly helps. Here is another watercolor that I adore.

This piece cries out to be translated into beads and embroidery.

Obata was born in Japan in 1885 and moved to California as a young man. He died in Berkeley in 1975, having lived through two world wars and the Japanese internment in this country. Neither his fame as a graphic artist nor his teaching position in Berkeley spared Obata from three years imprisonment in a camp in Utah. He set up art classes while in the camp, continuing to produce drawings and paintings despite the injustice of his circumstances. His art is poignant, soothing, and – when you know his story – incredibly optimistic. He is just the role model I could use when life becomes overwhelming.

Luck and wisdom!

Design Dilemma

July 11, 2018

As much as I love to quilt, I’m not great at coming up with quilting designs. I’ve got stacks of books, templates, and examples, but they don’t always answer the question, “What does this quilt need?”

What to do with the white space beyond the blue border?

This quilt has been sitting in a stack for years because I don’t know what I want to do with all that white space. Also, I don’t know how I want to mark it since (A) I hate marking and (B) I don’t want to discover I’ve made a mistake and have to try to erase whatever marks I’ve made. It’s real easy to push the quilt to the back of the closet when I have not only a design dilemma but a technical dilemma.

A Styrofoam cup makes a great canvas

One of my friends suggested I grab a pencil and let a quilt design flow from my fingers with a doodle. As the above photo demonstrates, I doodle on everything. Doodling is not the problem – choosing is the problem. So, I’m opening the floor to you. Any suggestions?

Luck and wisdom!

Overkill – It’s Genetic

July 4, 2018

My grandmother used to say it was nothing for one woman to cook for fifty people. Trouble was, she cooked for fifty even when she was serving five, and her food was so delicious we five would eat as if we were fifty (and starving). I guess I learned the overkill lesson a little too well, because I took along three projects when I demonstrated quilting at the county fair last week, and only worked on one.

I call it Forest Floor – Abstract

At least I finished the embellishment part of the project at the fair. I will use a facing rather than a binding for this abstract forest floor. I didn’t get a chance to start the piece I intend to turn into an impressionist landscape until later in the week.


As I suspected, the paint on this fabric is really stiff. I started beading the sections that look like flower beds with the idea of embroidering leaves and vines later. The leaves and vines might have to be sketched in with a permanent marker. I am beading and stipling through the fabric and a layer of batting.

I will probably finish the piece with a Laura Wasilowski technique, demonstrated in this tutorial. She is as wonderful a teacher of fiber art as my grandmother was a teacher of cooking. I hope you are also fortunate enough to be able to learn from the best.

Luck and wisdom!

Demonstration Projects – Beginning

June 27, 2018

I volunteered to demonstrate quilting techniques at the county fair, which means coming up with projects. There are 1001 projects waiting for attention in my sewing room, and I had the hardest time choosing. In the end, I decided to go with what I could reach.

A few beaded flowers, and I’ve got myself a landscape

This piece of fabric is the last one I “printed” from a tray of acrylic paint. I gently pressed the fabric into the tray and let it absorb the paint, then moved it to other areas to get the last blobs. Viewing the piece from this angle, it looks like an impressionistic landscape. I plan to demonstrate beading techniques to enhance that effect.

Think trees

While searching for a background for a Challenge Group assignment, I found this commercial print. It will work perfectly for my idea of an abstract landscape (specifically a forest floor). Beads, embroidery floss, and sequins are in its future.

Whether these experiments work or not, at least I’ll have something to show today. If the crowd is particularly creative, they may give me better ideas.

Luck and wisdom!

Scraps Be Gone

June 20, 2018

My plan to use scraps for my tea towel quilt is working. I pulled out all the odd blue remnants, cut them into 1 1/2” or 2 1/2” strips, and started sewing.

The great thing about a scrap quilt is the more fabric you use, the less you notice the disparities. Country calicoes and ethnic prints? Cool. Formal versus funky stripes? No problem. Blues that don’t always play nice together? The flow keeps them from fighting.

I decided I would try the same technique with the backing. My flannel collection is getting thin, but I bet I can piece together something interesting from this stack.

This will be a couch quilt, something to huddle under on a cold winter day (yes, we get one or two of them in California). It might also be a conversation starter, although I’m well aware that when someone asks, “How did you come up with the idea?” they’re really asking, “Mercy, what were you thinking!” Doesn’t matter – my scrap pile is smaller, and I’m getting my projects finished.

Luck and wisdom!