Posted in quilting

Finished Object Friday

It was with great satisfaction that I sewed my last stitch into “Under the Sea” quilt. Today is the big reveal. Since many of you have already seen the completed blocks, instead I will share the inspirations for my quilt’s design.

It all started with sea turtles. I painted the first one last April, on Earth Day. Ultimately, the sea turtle became the centerpiece of this project.

One thing I learned about these amazing animals is that they roam broadly over the ocean. Yet they always return to the place of their birth to start the next generation. It’s a hazardous journey across that beach. Many newly hatched turtles fall prey to other creatures. Even once they are afloat, life is precariously

As I spent time drawing various sea creatures, I realized that I would probably never see a healthy coral reef. Humans have done a poor job of conserving the world’s oceans. According to the National Geographic Society, a mere 7 percent of the sea has any official protection – and these are mostly weak rules, with multiple exceptions. Only 2.5 percent of the ocean is highly protected from human exploitation.

Most disturbing to me is the effect of global warming on the ocean. As more and more carbon dioxide is absorbed by the water, the ocean get more and more acidic. Following that process to its natural conclusion implies a great die-off of species. The acid water will dissolve the calcium in the reefs until they can no longer sustain life.

So my process of making “Under the Sea” turned into a love story about all the creatures living under the threat of extinction.

…….. and a plea to those who have the power to act on their behalf. If we do nothing, what we have left of the ocean may not be enough to sustain our own species.

Because there is always hope, I will leave you with this: The Pristine Seas project launched by National Geographic Society in 2008 has helped create 22 marine reserves across the world’s oceans. New research indicates that as a result of rigorous protection, fisheries adjacent to these no-take zones experienced a rebuilding of stock – almost doubling the catch.

Fish blocks pieced by flip and stitch. Turtles stencil painted, free motion quilted.

It is possible to keep our coral reefs and continue to feed ourselves and our children.

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 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.

Posted in painting, quilting

Scrappy Sunset

I am having issues with realism. It’s not what you’re thinking. This isn’t about reality. I have a firm grip on my personal reality, and also on the wider reality of life in the dysfunctional 21st century. No, it’s about trying to portray realistic images in my artwork. My dissatisfaction began to grow as I learned to paint with watercolor. All the instruction I have received so far focuses on rendering what I see in the real world. Specifically, I’m taught, how to paint in a manner that emulates three dimensions of shapes in the real world. It’s not going well. And now my dissatisfaction with painting has spilled over into my work with fiber, leading to a muted feeling about all my work.

When I began to experiment with fiber, I was inspired by the work of Gustav Klimt. Klimt began his training in applied arts. This influence shows in his paintings,which are filled with decorative surfaces. It’s the opposite direction of realism. He takes the human form and renders it as a surface, with delicate textural coloration. The rest of his canvas is bursting with a riot of color and pattern.

It is time for me to return to my first impulse about fiber art and make an abstract work. I’ve chosen a sunset as my subject. This photograph is one I took about a year ago during one of our trips to Wisconsin. My intention is to boil the sunset down to its essential lines and colors, sew strips to a backing fabric and then apply decorative stitches. I’ll use hand-painted scraps of cloth leftover from other projects.

I started out by making a rendering in crayon, placing an emphasis on the angular lines.

After working out the number of strips I will need, I scaled up the image to size, which will be 18 by 12. Next I assembled the fabrics.

I realized that I will need to paint a few more pieces to have enough grayish purple for all the clouds in the scene. So I found a few white and gray scraps that will be painted.

I also made a pattern in full size on butcher paper. I don’t have a photo of it for you, and it has already been cut up. As I made the pattern, I winnowed down the detail even further to get to the essential lines of the sunset. I am using muslin as a backing fabric. Work will proceed from the most complex strip (the sun) outward, first down and then up. After a few hours, I had the lower half assembled.

After getting to this stage, I felt a palpable sense of relief.

Tomorrow I will finish painting the fabric and assemble the rest of the piece.

Posted in painting

Fun with Paint

Over the week-end, I played with paint – both fabric and watercolor types. It was a relaxing way to spend the days. Let me tell you about the fabric experiments.

I have an idea to create a small quilt with an underwater theme. There will be schools of little fish moving about in multiple directions. I already have some lovely orange striped and some batik fabrics for the fishes bodies. What I need is an interesting blue background that looks like ocean. So I got out the Jacquard Dye-Na-Flow paint.

I started with plain white fabric and painted a series of bands in shades of blue and blue-green. Not content to stop there, I grabbed the rock salt and applied it liberally.

This was a little bit of overkill. It’s very pretty, but now the fabric looks like blue seltzer water. Since this look is too busy for my original purpose, I will set it aside for another use. Next I overpainted a couple of printed fabrics that had white backgrounds. The first piece was pretty straightforward – a marble veining on white.

This could be a background

And finally I selected a print that had a white background. It looked like this:

After painting with azure blue it now it looks like this!:

I love it. Notice how the chartreuse green blobs jump into prominence. They resemble tiny fish. And the dark pink blobs remind me of coral clumps. All the paler colors have faded into the background. This is something I’m excited to work with.

Posted in knitting, sewing, weaving

Back Home

Yesterday we arrived home after spending a week in Wisconsin. The trip was undertaken to help our daughter and her family prepare for a move. It was a weird and wonderful trip. With constant changes implemented by the authorities in the states we traveled through, we never knew what to expect from day to day. Thankfully, many businesses on the interstate highways remained open to provide for the necessities of travelers. All the staff we encountered along the way were both kind and helpful.

The trip was a success. While we stayed with the kids, daughter and son-in-law found and put an offer in on a suitable house in Madison. That’s a big hurdle accomplished.

I discovered a new travel craft – weaving on the little 8 by 10 artists’ canvas loom. All the materials fit into an average size project bag, and the motions of the fiber artist do not ever distract the driver. You see in the photo above my attempt to create an S-curve out of two colors of yarn.

I received two items from daughter that will inspire future fiber objects:

The Vogue Knitting book is a delightful compilation of the best of the Vogue Knitting magazine, from the 1980s through to 2011. Lots of inspiration is here. I have my eye on a couple of patterns found within. Of most value to me are the charts of various lace stitches.

This little book is called omiyage, by Kumiko Sudo. It was purchased by my mom, who passed it to daughter, who gave it to me. The Japanese have a thousand-year-old practice of making and giving small gifts. Back then there were strict rules and a great deal of formality surrounding this ritual. The author re-interprets omiyage for modern times, using fabrics both traditional and modern. As she is a quilter, she pulls fabrics from her stash of quilting cotton, and incorporates bits of silk and wool as well. I plan to try making some Good Luck dolls.

Traditionally these dolls were the focal point for a festival called Girl’s Day. I think they would be wonderful made from some of my hand-painted fabrics. Because they are small, making one should be a fun, inexpensive and quick project.

Well, I am keen to resume my making. The Just Trees mini quilt is still unfinished and I would like to get that weaving off the loom soon.

Until next time, keeping making and be well.

Posted in hand embroidery, painting, quilting

Daily Fiber for One Year

Two Daisy Squared

Yes, friends, today marks one year since I started experimenting in the fiber arts and posting the results of my efforts. This mini quilt is my most recent object. It’s quite a fitting testimony to my adventures, because it showcases so many of the techniques that I have learned along the way. I have used fabric paint to tint the daisies, then mixed some of my hand painted fabrics with a few solids and prints to fashion the blocks. The whole thing was ditch stitched. I then hand quilted on top of the blocks with embroidery floss. Lastly, I painted enough fabric to border the whole piece. The completed work is sewn over a 16 inch square of artist canvas.

Let’s take a brief look back on how I got here.

Painting fabric with Dye-Na-Flow acrylic paint. Sun print using marbles and rice.

My enthusiasm for hand painting fabric actually started when I took a class on how to do this and then taught a class last spring. It was a big hit with all ages. I continue to experiment and now use this craft as a vital source of uniquely colored fabric.

Embroidered prayer flag.

As a girl, I embroidered my share of humdrum tea towels and pillowcase hems. But today – embroidery artists have moved this craft to new heights. I could never be that good. Or could I? I began to practice some basic stitches and decided that embroidery has a place in my work. For this project, I appliqued, embroidered and wrote with fabric markers to make five prayer flags. Here you see the Earth flag.

My first log cabin mini quilt, using hand-painted fabric

Quilting. Whoa. My mother is the most expert quilter that I know. She generously gave me her Bernina sewing machine. It seemed inevitable that I dip my toe into the venerable art of machine quilting. Any fiber artist worthy of the title needs to have some skill in putting together a quilt. And while I never expect to cover any beds with my quilts, I do see it as a robust art well suited for expressing my ideas.

Improv Mini Quilt with curved piecing.

So by mid July, I was experimenting with improvisational mini quilts. These small gems are fun to do and can be completed in a day. In this one, I have combined applique, machine quilting and embroidery. If the machine stitching looks a little bunched up, it’s because I had not found my machine’s walking foot yet. It’s now in active use.

That about sums up my thoughts on a year of fiber objects. When I began this blog, I expected to use the site simply as a personal diary. My goal was to record my work and my thoughts about the work. But then nearly 100 readers found my site. I have such gratitude to those who choose to read and to comment on my humble posts. Your interaction with me has enriched me and my craft in many ways. I thank you for your time and caring attention.

Posted in quilting

Arch Leftovers

After a nice long break and trip to visit family, I’m ready to get sewing again. It’s time for another mini quilt. This small gems can be framed and hung as art, or turned into pillows, journal covers or other accessories. I plan to use many of the hand-painted fabrics leftover from making the Gateway Arch quilt. I have so many scraps!

This fiber object starts with four small daisies.

I like this fabric because it has the appearance of a watercolor sketch. I’m going to use these squares as the focal points for some monochromatic log cabin blocks. First I tinted the background with my color choices. Then I gathered matching fabrics in a wide range of values.

What a beautiful picture, with several hand-painted fabrics included!

Starting with the daisy square, I sewed on strips, working from light to dark. It was a relaxing afternoon, listening to the radio, cutting, sewing and pressing. After a few hours I had these four log cabins done. They are roughly seven inches square.

Sometimes you need to turn your fabrics to the wrong side, especially if you find the tonal value needed. Here are the back sides of two of the squares, showing reversed fabrics.

And here are the four log cabins arranged in a pleasing fashion.

In my next blog, I will carry on with joining the squares, making the quilt sandwich and quilting the resulting block. See you then!

Posted in quilting

Gateway Arch: Nine Views

A culmination of six months spent thinking about and working on it, here is the Gateway Arch quilt. I finishing sewing on the binding while watching the Super Bowl (Yay KC Chiefs!) I feel an odd combination of elation, satisfaction and relief. The finished object is largely what I had envisioned.


The colors are wonderful. The curving shapes are a good representation of the real arch. I’m happy with the embroidery.


The construction flaws bother me a little more that I had expected them to, especially the waviness of the right border. How did that happen?


The arch shapes were made from hand-painted fabric cut apart into shapes that mirrored the arch’s steel panels and then fused to a solid background. This piece was then cut into the sixteen square background block on the left edge and appliqued on the right edge before being top-stitched in matching thread. Shading was painted on with acrylic paints after the block was finished.


I had a lot of fun with free motion quilting. I chose patterns to emulate aspects of the landscape or city-scape. I did a lot of experimenting with thread colors, either matching or contrasting with the background colors as the spirit moved me. Eventually I hand painted some thread to get the colors I needed. The idea for the fireworks came from my memory of a July 4th trip when my family stopped in St. Louis for dinner.


This project was a real stretch from the perspective of skills required. Thanks go to for all the quilting tutorials I accessed. I learned a lot about painting on fabric, matching points, sewing curved shapes and putting the whole thing together. I also learned about the limitations of my current tools and studio space.


What’s next? I have a few ideas. But first I’ll be taking a short break from quilting to focus on painting, knitting and teaching.

Posted in colorwork, hand embroidery

Application of Painted Thread

Last week I wrote about painting heavy weight DMC thread with fabric paint. Just now, I finished embroidering my quilt with the thread. Before I do a “reveal” of the finished quilt (it isn’t quite sewn together yet) I want to show how I used the thread.

Essentially, I created little scenes that tell a story of looking up at the Gateway Arch.

The moon and the stars.
Falling Star
Jet airplane and flock of birds over downtown
Fireworks over the Mississippi river on July 4th.

I had no real difficulty embroidering with the threads. They do not appear to be bleeding color at all. I wish I could say the same for the quilt fabric, some of the paint rubbed off on my quilting gloves.

The important thing right now is that the End Is In Sight! A little assembly and sewing on the binding and it will be done.