Posted in quilting

Gorgeous and Productive Day

Today’s weather was quite remarkable, for August. Upon rising, the air was 66 degrees and winds were calm. It stayed so cool all day long that the A/C didn’t even turn on until early evening. I enjoyed the backyard for an hour or so and did a modest amount of gardening. It was almost 11 before I resumed work on my current project.

Appliqueing the turtle was really fun. After some fiddling about with the shapes and color choices, my center medallion looks like this:

Combination of batiks and hand-painted fabrics.

More dimension and texture will be added when I stitch it. I painted the turtle’s head Very Slowly, using Jacquard Textile paint mixed with floating medium. I rather like the primitive-like quality resulting from the bright colors and blocky shapes. This piece is roughly 20″ by 14 and 1/2″. To make it into a square, I made a strip with my baby turtle stenciled blocks and added it at the top.

I like what I see so far. But now, the hard part. I will need to build a quilt around it. I’m thinking about log cabin blocks, mostly because I purchased a package of pre-cut 2 and 1/2 inch strips. Here they are:

These are all so pretty. And a nice range of tones.

You can see also see a few fishy blocks that I made months ago using the stitch n flip technique. These could become log cabin centers……..or I could group them into a block of their own. That would make a school of fish.

Okay, quilting bloggers, this is an invitation to weigh in on this design. Any thoughts?

Posted in painting, quilting

Hello Turtle – Under the Sea Project

I have a bag full of fabric, sketches and some small quilt blocks that have been languishing in my closet for too long. The time has come to start working in earnest on this quilt. The tipping point came when I decided to organize the blocks around a medallion center. I chose this photograph as the feature image.

After making a sketch,

……. yesterday I grabbed my last piece of white fabric and painted it a sea green color with Dye-na-flow paint. I used a “mask’ and some stones on top of the fabric while it dried in the sun to reserve a turtle-like shape.

Now I can select some fabrics to applique on top of the base fabric. Here is a selection that will be used to make the sea turtle.

Oranges for the shell, blacks for the flippers and shadow areas. The white is for the head.

Once I get the shapes cut and fused to the base fabric, I will hand paint any needed details.

This is a short post. I’m keen to keep my momentum going. More details will be revealed soon.

Posted in painting, quilting

A little of this, a little of that

It’s been almost two weeks since I posted last. My days have been full, if not busy, but nothing to write home about. At least I can catch you up on projects in progress.

Improvisational Quilt.

As you see in the photo, the quilt is under the needle. I have been whacking away at the quilting for days and days. This is the biggest piece of cloth that I have attempted to quilt with my lil’ old Bernina.

I’m doing a parallel- straight line pattern, mostly because this type of quilting doesn’t require much manipulation of the quilt. I start at a long section and keep sewing parallel lines until I get tired or run out of bobbin thread. My goal is simply to finish. Pretty lines and straight lines are both out of the question at this point. Optimistically, I’m going for quirky charm. My daughter loves that aesthetic.

Watercolor Painting

My water color painting results have been less than satisfying. When I crashed and burned at applying the background wash to the bird of paradise painting, it got tossed. I then resolved to start back at the beginning. To this end, I checked out a “teach yourself” watercolor instruction book from the library and began working through the techniques one each day. Today’s lesson was line and wash. I chose to paint from a photograph I took of a pond on our local walking trail.

Willow trees hanging over the water

Here is my painting.

I enjoyed working on this one and am happy with it. The only thing I want to add is darker paint on the the group of leaves at the right edge, giving the painting more contrast of values.

The garden has been getting much of my attention. But starting today, heat is intensifying. So I will likely shift my attention back to indoor activities.

Posted in quilting

Rock the Block Quilt top Pieced

After a few days of fast sewing and meticulous pressing, my improvised Cunningham quilt top is done. Corner matching, as expected, was a bit of a pain. Promise that you won’t look very closely at them! Truthfully, I needed the practice, so all is good.

I am happy with the warm and energetic feeling that the quilt design suggests.

It has been fun to make it up as I go along. I’ve decided not to add any borders, but I still need to choose backing fabric and make a binding strip.

Posted in quilting

Improvisational Quilting with Joe

I came to learn quilting almost as an afterthought. As I started to get ideas for making fiber objects, I became aware that I lacked the skills I needed to realize them. Thus started my quilting education. There are some things about quilting I like – choosing fabrics, developing my design, adding surface details and actually doing the quilting. The things I dislike are cutting many identical pieces of fabric, squaring up blocks and especially matching corners.

So naturally I am drawn to improvisational piecing. Joe Cunningham (aka Joe the Quilter) and his process were a revelation to me. He offers the promise of freedom. Freedom from all the dull parts of quilting, which leaves more time for fun. The quilt featured at the top of my post is one of his. His website can be found here:

Joe Cunningham has been a professional quilter since 1979. His philosophy is unique. He doesn’t use patterns. He designs out of his head, adjusting things as he goes along. He has no specific end in mind. He explains that as the quilt approaches the finish, he finds out what it will look like. He practices randomness, chance and serendipity. To this end, his method relies on chance from the first cut.

As an example, the class I took with Joe featured a quilt called “Rock the Block.” Here is how to make it:

Step 1: Choose three fabrics. Include one big print. The other two can be prints that don’t necessarily go with the big print. Also choose a solid color that you will cut into narrow strips, which Joe called “sticks.”

Step 2. Cut out a square. It doesn’t need to be perfect, but does need to be bigger than 7 inches.

Step 3. Cut off a corner.

Step 4: Cut out a triangle from one of the other fabrics. Sew it to the square at the cut edge.

Step 5: Cut through the square, across both pieces of fabric.

Step 6: Sew in a stick.

Step 7: Press seams open and trim the block with a 6 and 1/2 inch square ruler.

Repeat steps 2 through 7 until you have enough blocks for the size quilt you want to make. Use all the different combinations of your three fabrics. Your blocks might look like these.

Or they may look entirely un-like these!

Now the fun begins. Lay out your blocks in rows. Move them around, arranging the blocks until they look “pleasing to you.” Lacking a design wall, I laid mine on the floor.

This arrangement is pleasing to me.

So far, this has been painless. Nay, it has been truly pleasurable. I plan to add more yellow blocks around all sides. Some of them will have patterned fabric crumbs and a few “sticks” sewn into them. Some may not.

While I acknowledge there will be corners to sew, I plan to adopt a laisser-faire attitude about the matching part. If this sort of design process is intriguing to you, I suggest you check out Joe the Quilter’s website to see more of his quilts.

Posted in hand embroidery, painting, quilting

Return to Lake Montgomery

It’s been a while since I shared the turtle in the pond fiber object. As a reminder, it was inspired by a photo taken by Bill on a recent camping trip at Lake Montgomery.

I loved the light, the colors and the texture of this image. I knew right away that I want to create my own version in fabric.

Here is a recap of how I processed this inspiration. First of all, I used fabric paint and the Shibori technique to render the background on cotton fabric.

The piece is about 15 by 20 inches.

After the paint dried, I added another layer to render some shadows. Next I painted the two halves of the turtle onto white fabric…….

……………..… and appliqued them to the background using fusable interfacing.

This is how things stood while I pondered what other elements would enhance the image.

I decided on a few damselflies. More images by Bill were consulted. I picked three beauties, hand embroidered the bodies with floss and machine stitched the wings.

You can see the water plants I added in the foreground using applique and paint.

I sewed on a black border and then paused. This week I finally got around to quilting. My intent was to make the stitch lines look like pond ripples.

How did I do? Are they watery enough?

It took a lot of pondering and a dose of courage to add the turtle’s reflection. The only real option was to hand paint it using opaque Setacolor. So I did.

And here is the finished project.

Springtime at Lake Montgomery
Detail of reflection

This fiber object is now a wonderful reminder of a very special camping trip.

Posted in quilting

Thread Art Mounted on Canvas

Here’s the Thread Art Baby with border and binding complete, mounted on an 18 by 18 artist canvas. It turns out that the finished dimension was Not a perfect 18 by 18 square. The damask napkin alone was shorter by one inch than it was wide. I chose not to square up the piece. So I had to fill in some color on the canvas.

I’m still happy with this one, and glad that it is now on my studio wall.

Posted in colorwork, quilting

Thread Art Baby Portrait F.O.

This is a qualified finish. I still need to quilt the border and bind the edges. But the creative work is essentially done. I chose to use echo lines to quilt the background. The work went swiftly and smoothly.

The cotton damask fabric is a joy to work with. I had the benefit of a fresh needle in my machine, thanks to the delivery of my on-line order from

Following the example of Lola Jenkins, I used Prismacolor pencils to color the image. I had never tried this medium on fabric before. But by working slowly and carefully, I managed okay, rendering shadow and highlights modestly. Here she is as of today.

Here is a close-up of the subject.

I noticed that a damask vine landed smack in the middle of her onesie. I didn’t plan that placement, but serendipity happens. So I chose to leave it unpainted and embroidered a running stitch around it.

At 18 inches square, this piece is a good size for framing or mounting on artist canvas. Perhaps the arts supply store will open soon and I can buy what I need. In the meantime, she will be tacked up on one of my foamboard panels, allowing me to admire her on a regular basis.

Posted in quilting

Days of Fine Dining – Damask

How many of you remember a time when fine dining took place on a table set something like this? Okay, don’t answer that. I’d like us all to maintain our youthful appearances. I do remember that time – perhaps 30 or so years ago. Back then I went to the extent of buying crystal glassware. But the silverplate and the damask linens were given to me by the generation ahead of me. Every once in a while I get out the silver. The pale pink damask napkins you see in the photo were a gift from my mother-in-law. I’ve never found a use for them that fits my current lifestyle. They have been in the back of the linen closet, unused, for almost twenty years.

But that ended this week, thanks to Lola Jenkins and Thread Art. While stashing away some other fabric, one of the napkins fell out onto the floor. Timing is everything! It came to me that I could sew a portrait on this pale pink piece of fabric.

The subject I have in mind is my grand-daughter, from this photo taken at four weeks.


I decided to overlay this image onto one of a daylily. How about this one?

In the thread art process, the photographs are manipulated to size, and then the contour lines of the image parts are marked up. Here is the baby photo after marking.

I enlarged the flower until the baby could settle comfortably into the center of it. Oops, the baby is missing a foot. I manipulated one of the daylily petals to cover the place where the foot should be. After more fiddling, I came up with this.

Bill thinks this looks like an Anne Geddes photograph. I don’t care.

Now to transfer the lines to the fabric. This proved a little trickier than I expected. I first tried the chalky transfer paper used in traditional embroidery transfers. The lines were way too faint and uneven. Then I found, in the deep recesses of my sewing cabinet, an Aunt Martha’s transfer pencil. Using this tool, you mark up the back side of the image, lay the marked side against the fabric and press with a hot iron.

You get bright pink marks that ARE PERMANENT. But I am living by Lola’s slogan today – and Going For It! I will be covering all the pink lines with black thread.

For the best results, the quilt sandwich should include interfacing fused to the quilt top. I did that and then I cut the batting and backing, pin basted and started quilting.

Here she is at close of business yesterday ……………………

…………….And here is the image with all the contour lines stitched.

So far, making this fiber object has been challenging and fun! I’m so happy to have found a use for the damask napkins.

The next steps are to quilt the background and then add color to the subject. Lola Jenkins uses colored pencil. I will start with that medium, but I may experiment also with some fabric markers. After all, it’s time to go for it.

Posted in hand embroidery, quilting

Sunday Walk, Sunday Work

Yesterday was cool, but sunny. We went walking on our favorite trail, the Pathfinder. On sections of the path which are not shaded by trees, there were wide swaths of blooming flowers, predominantly white clover. Clover is not a native plant here, but still highly valued by the local denizens of the air – bees, butterflies and dragonflies. Bill got some great photos of these fliers with his high-tech telephoto lens. I confined my efforts at photography to things that hold still – especially the flowers. I also snapped photos of the pond, focusing on the willow branches which overhang the water. My goal is to incorporate additional elements into my turtle fiber object.

Upon returning home, I set to work. I have been fussing for the past three days over how to add pond insects to the turtle FO. I first tried making appliques on a scrap of fabric with the intention of fusing them to the background. That technique didn’t seem to work well. It didn’t give me the transparency I wanted for the wings and it didn’t give a life-like look.

But then I stumbled upon Lola Jenkins, a self-taught fiber artist who specializes in thread painting.

This bold, fearless quilter takes a black sharpie marker to her quilt, creating permanent stitch lines. She then stitches over these lines with black thread. In her Craftsy class, she likes to say, “If you are like me, go for it!”

So I did. Not with a marker, but a pencil. I drew the insects, then free motion quilted all of the pencil lines. Here are the inspiration photos (taken by Bill) and the resulting free motion quilted images.

I used embroidery floss to fill in the bodies

Now my lovely turtle has a few companions. I’m happy with today’s additions and feel more confident about starting the next step – background quilting.