Posts Tagged ‘crafts’

Where I’m From, Where I’m Going

November 6, 2013

In an attempt to wrench myself away from the rest of my Halloween fabric, I decided to make one more project and then reassess the sewing room. Since I can make tote bags in my sleep, that’s the project I chose.


The side with the crows

The side with the ravens


This is a very simple bag – no pockets, no zippers, no embellishments – just an enjoyment of fabric.


The side with the bats

The side with the bats


The reassessment took a bit more effort. While I was stacking up fabric for future consideration, I noticed some of the inspiration objects I have in the room.


My grandparents creations

My grandparents’ creations


This vase and the plastic flowers were made by my grandparents, Fred and Luba Rezansoff. They were multi-talented people who sang (click here to see the album of Russian songs they made with close friends), served their community, gardened and made art.


That desire to make beautiful things filtered through the generations. My mother made a flower arrangement from one of the miniature pitchers that my grandfather carved.


From my grandfather to my mother to me

From my grandfather to my mother to me


It’s kind of thrilling to think about the genetic contribution to who I am as an artist (instead of obsessing about the genetic contribution to my expanding waistline). That’s where I’m from. The question before me is where am I going?


Once again, family came up with the answer. My brother mentioned that Karen Nyberg, now on the International Space Station, put out a call for star blocks. Click here for a link to the NASA website or here for information on the star block challenge.


I met another quilting astronaut on the set of Simply Quilts. Jan Davis doesn’t mention quilting in her official NASA biography, but she appeared on a show in 2000 and demonstrated hand applique. She designed a pattern based on the NASA astronaut pin that was available free on the Simply Quilts website.


(Shameless self promotion – I was also a guest on Simply Quilts. Alex Anderson‘s producers wanted to do a show on quilting in non-traditional venues. Alex and I are both members of Amador Valley Quilters, so she knew about the prison project and asked if I would mind her passing my contact information to the producers. Mind? Mind?!! I couldn’t say yes fast enough. Taping the show was a joy, and then to be allowed to watch the taping of Jan Davis and meet her afterwards – one of the best days in my life.)


Davis flew on three space shuttle missions. Like Nyberg, she also brought fabric into space. While I’m sad that this connection between quilting and NASA isn’t (yet) in the official history, at least Nyberg’s art is being recognized.


I don’t know if Davis or Nyberg or even my grandfather identify themselves as artists, but I do. Making something beautiful is as much a gift to the community as it is to the artist/crafter/hobbyist/human being expressing joy or pain or amazement at life itself. And yes, I’m including art that challenges or disturbs in the category of “something beautiful” because there can be a beauty about truthful emotion that transcends any ugliness in the piece.


My first impressions of Northern California in 1983 were not those of beauty. My husband and I were driving down I-5 in mid-summer, the last leg on our move from Boston. Every mile we drove south, more green disappeared from the landscape. By the time we hit Redding I accused him of taking me to Mars. This quilt is based on that memory. With a little bit of luck and a lot of perseverance, I hope to find some beauty in there.


To Mars, via California

To Mars, via California



A Working Vacation

October 17, 2012

My mom arrived for her annual visit. She said she would love to help with my projects. Bwa-ha-ha. I gave her a day to rest from her flight and put her to work.

Actually, she had less than a day. She brought some knitted hats for the kids and offered to make more if they wished. My daughter asked for one in purple, I had a coupon for the craft store, and you can guess the rest of the story.

Lily knitting

When Mom takes a break from knitting, I have her sorting squares for quilt kits. While she is doing that, I work on one of the baby quilts for my great-nephews:

Mom mentioned that she is making refrigerator magnets for gifts and asked if I had any decorative boxes. I showed her this:

It’s a smidgen too small for her needs, so once she finishes the hat we’ll make fabric boxes – which just happens to be another project I’ve been working on. I won’t be selfish. She can take the ones she likes home with her.

And just in case she gets bored, there’s always something to do in the garden.

Trevor the gargoyle guarding the sage

The Year So Far

September 5, 2012

In case you forgot, my year starts with Labor Day. The year so far is three days old, so don’t laugh at my prideful happy dance. After weeks of accomplishing basically nothing, I managed to get something done. I don’t even mind that what I finished wasn’t on my to-do list.

Making something from this was on my to-do list.

Fabric from Africa

This is the fabric from the latest Challenge project. We’re to make something lovely from it, which will go to an auction to raise money for Alliance for Smiles (and thank you, Shari Wentz, for coming up with the idea).

I’ve been wanting to make fabric vases ever since I received some of Lori Vogel’s treasures when she moved:

There are some great ideas in Linda Johansen‘s book Fast, Fun & Easy Fabric Vases, and I was ready to do my usual leap feet-first into a project. Then I noticed a scrap of pre-quilted fabric and some left-over piping.

“Self,” I said, “the technique for these vases requires an awful lot of satin stitching. Why don’t you practice on something else before you cut into the fabric you can’t replace?”

I started by making a cuff and inserting piping, and I’m glad I did. My long absence from sewing did not improve my skills, and trying to get the cuff and piping straight was more interesting than you might imagine.

Once I relearned straight stitching, I started satin stitching the seams:

My original plan was to make a round base and sew the top to that. I decided that would be more fun than I wanted right then, so I used the quilter’s go-to technique for making a tote bottom.

The vase-cum-lidless box stands on its own, although I suspect I will need to insert a base (or maybe a soup can) if I want to stand pencils or tools or even silk flowers in it. But that is a project for another day.

The Bad Fairy of Good Intentions

June 29, 2011

Another week, another demonstration that no good deed – or good idea – goes unpunished. Since my daughter had asked for pillows for her apartment, I picked at the edges of the piles and made projects from two UFOs.

Now I had a little extra room, which always encourages me to dig a little deeper in the pile(s). The latest Challenge Group project is a color assignment, so I pulled out fabrics that matched:

I stared at the fabrics; hints of the perfect design danced in my head. Then I remembered that the project did not have to be a quilt, and I had always wanted to try my hand at making a fabric book. The more cautious angels of my nature whispered start small, and I listened. Rather than make the entire book myself, I would cover a notebook first and see how that went.

The notebook project progressed as well as you might expect from a prototype:

Although there are things I will do differently when and if I cover another notebook, I’m pleased with the result. But here’s the thing – I still have a pile of fabrics! And embellishments! And new ideas that are demanding attention! I keep reminding myself that clutter is the sign of creativity, but there are days when I wonder if there is such a thing as too much creativity.

Project Challenge

June 22, 2011

Happy solstice! Yes, it was yesterday, but I like holidays. I’ll celebrate anything, including the anniversaries of obscure natural disasters and made-up food holidays (by the way, today is chocolate ├ęclair day – enjoy). Still, solstice marks the beginning of the end for the light. The days will be getting shorter, and before you can remember the order of the reindeer it’s Christmas again.

Which is why, as I was scanning the sewing room, my eyes fell on the bin containing the ghosts of Christmas presents past.

I buy presents, props and fabric on speculation. You never know when something that whispers “take me home, take me home” will become the emergency gift, the perfect centerpiece, or the beginning of an award-winning quilt.

When you have an entire sewing room full of these treasures-in-waiting, however, some of them fall off the radar. That’s what happened with most of the stuff in the bin. And, of course, there are always more treasures begging to come home –

– to say nothing of the scraps of all those scrumptious Christmas fabrics we buy year after year after year:

So, this year, I decided to use the summer solstice to make plans for the winter solstice. Specifically, I need to come up with projects that I will actually complete to use up most of the stuff in the bin and the tote bag. The only caveat is that I must avoid ornaments. I’ve made so many for the kids already they could open their own shop, and since they are still in the moving-apartments-every-year phase, that means the inventory is in my garage. No, these projects have to be ones that will walk out the front door on their own. Here’s a prop to get you started:

Suggestions, anyone?

The Finishing Spree

January 12, 2011

I had a deadline this week – make a tote bag for a gift. The kit I bought could be used for two totes if I altered the instructions slightly, so I did. I made my deadline, and decided to finish up the second tote for me:

Finishing something gave me such a rush of endorphins I decided to pull out some of the UFOs that were within an hour of being done and see how far I could get. First on the list was the GPS bag. My son reminded me that we make our own reality, and if I used the “getting lost” fabric that’s what would happen. My daughter said the balloons wouldn’t work either, so I used fish:

I don’t have pet fish, and I’m a vegetarian so I don’t go fishing, but I really like fish fabric. I don’t even know what kind of fish these are (trout?), but they’re pretty and they’re on their way to someplace wonderful.

Next were two chenille bags. Why chenille? My friend Ann Anastasio and I wrote a novel about quilters saving the world from space invaders called Death By Chenille. I thought it would be fun to carry copies of the book in chenille totes. They languished on my shelf for quite some time, which is actually fine because the book has languished, too (we’re still looking for an agent).

The first bag languished because I tried to make a fancier pocket than usual, and it didn’t quite work. It needed some sort of clasp to make it useful. Without realizing, I had bought the perfect clasp months ago, so on it went:

The second bag languished because it needed a pocket and after the disaster with the previous pocket I was stumped. Today, I just sewed on the first thing that came to hand and called it good.

The pocket still needs something – a button maybe – but for the most part the bag is finished. If my son is correct, and we do to some extent create our own reality, perhaps this will be End of the UFO Year, or at least Beginning of the End of the UFO Year.

Pageant of the Lists

December 9, 2010

My niece Stephanie Mondrut started a Facebook thread about lists. Specifically, she asked if anyone else had one a mile long. I got to thinking about lists, and holidays, and holiday lists, and it seems to me we’re missing a great opportunity here. We need to create a new observance – the pageant of the lists.

I envision creating elaborate garments from old grocery lists, and hats bizarre enough for the Ascot races from school supply lists. And don’t even get me started on the entire pageant set I could build from the lists I need to make this time of year – week-long lists of things I must accomplish this very day (closer to Christmas these lists also include the hour by which things must be accomplished – it’s very sad).

In the meantime, I’m going to remind myself that – for the moment – I am keeping up with the lists. The Challenge group met yesterday, and I was able to show a nearly completed project.

The assignment dealt with dreams. Some of my dreams make interesting sci fi stories, but none of them would translate to quilts easily, so I let my fabric guide me instead. I showed you the beginning earlier (Cleaning for Mom). I thought of the Australian indigenous people’s dreamtime, and also of the movie Inception, with layers of dreams. The panels represent those concepts.

The first layer

The layers revealed

I still need to bind and embellish the quilt – and find a good name for it – but it was finished enough to show the group, and that’s good enough for me.

Another task that I could cross off was bringing out some of the Christmas decorations. My husband already decorated the tree, so that kind of inspired me to put decorating higher up on the list. Then I went to the craft store and found some LED branches, and I was really inspired. (It also helped that I needed to get the craft store supplies off the cutting table so I could finish the Christmas ornaments so that I can have a clear space to wrap presents.)

The Russian side of my brain reminds me that there are still more than two weeks to go before Christmas, and that the rest of my obligations don’t disappear during the holiday, so I’d best not get too proud. The irony gods hate pride – this I know from experience. Therefore, I will continue to tend to my colonies of lists, and hope all of you have a happy (and organized) holiday season!