Wednesday, February 25, 2015

When it rains, it pours

Seems like a lot of things have come together all at the same time. I'm feeling really "out there" this month. Unplanned, but it has made for some nice excitement here.

First, the article and pattern for my little sculptural birds that was first published in 2009 has been republished in a new Quilting Arts publication called "Make It". It is great to see that they are still viable and pleases me that people continue to enjoy them.

Then came a copy of a Dutch Magazine called Quilt & Zo, with an interview, photos of my work, and a little project I designed for them.

This was so fun! I wrote it all in English, of course, but the magazine is written in Dutch. I'm not sure my work has ever been translated into another language before. Ray showed the magazine to Sofia, who began reading it aloud, then stopped and said, " what does this mean? It makes no sense!" I am really impressed by how beautifully this article is put together and just sorry my US friends don't have access to it. If you go to their website ( ) and are using a device with Flash player, you can see more of the magazine by clicking the little cover image.

And finally, but maybe most exciting of all, my first article for the beautiful online magazine Through Our Hands, is in the new issue. I will be writing regularly for this quarterly publication.

This is a real thrill for me. The UK based 'zine is the creation of Laura Kemshall and Annabel Rainbow, two artists I have long admired. I love the beautiful, artful focus of the publication. You can read the entire magazine online, even subscribe for free. So much to love here!

This makes me really happy. Really happy!

Monday, February 23, 2015

You never know...

...when something—the smallest thing even—will trigger an idea, or the solution to a problem. Last week at our High Fiber Diet meeting, one of the members casually mentioned a technique she had learned that involved sewing layers of fabrics together, from the back, then cutting away layers. It was the part about sewing on the backside that triggered an "aha" and I could hardly wait to get home and see if my hunch was right.

You may have seen the small pieces I have been doing where I "draw" by stitching with black thread, like the one in this post. I like doing this, but have been struggling with using the heavier thread that I like. It breaks. It shreds. And it frustrates me. But it suddenly occurred to me that if the nice thread was in the bobbin and did not have to pass through the eye of a needle, it might behave better. It also presented me a way of using a drawing to guide my stitching without having to use pencil on the face of the piece. I drew my design on a piece of very light non-woven interfacing and put it on the back, then stitched.

I like it!

I tried a couple more, experimenting with simplifying and adding another layer of fabric in select areas.


These are tiny—5" x 7" and I think will go in frames with mats.

My Shakespeare quilt is finished. I will photograph it one of these days and post it.


Sunday, February 15, 2015


We moved to Portland in February, 23 years ago. I was thinking about that this morning and remembering how gray and dark it was. We arrived in the rain and the rain didn't quit for the rest of that February. We had brought our cat, Daisy, with us from sunny Ashland and her response to the move was to spend her days sleeping, with her head wedged into the darkest corner of the house. Seasonal affective depression, I figured. It wasn't until June that she perked up and began to make peace with her surroundings. My mood was similar and I was pretty certain that we had made a bad mistake. Things got better and Daisy and I grew to love Portland, but February is usually not Portland's best month. A good month for a southerly vacation.

But look at February 2015. It has been like spring today. Ray and I walked another section of the Fanno Creek Trail this morning. This new section connects our old walk to our new walk and winds through a no-mans-land along the edges of wetlands and an industrial/business park area with busy highway 217 in the background. In the picture above there is an old railroad siding with a couple rusty old cars. Below, the view of Fanno Creek included the Beaverton school bus lot in the distance.

A beautiful day for a walk. At home flowers are starting to bloom. I can't believe spring is here so early. After that first rainy February we spent in Portland we had a massive March snowstorm. I guess that could happen again. Not likely if today is any indication.


Here's the little fabric artwork I hung outside last summer. It is weathering.

Work on my Shakespeare piece continues in the studio. I think I might like the end product when I get there, but I have created a tedious project and the process isn't flowing. It moves slowly and makes me procrastinate. A lot of stops and starts and slow, fiddly stitching. Not humming like I like. This is something to remember. Process is as important as product.

You tread upon my patience.

-- William Shakespeare, "Henry IV"


Sunday, February 08, 2015

The Old Trail

My friend Beth and I walked this trail almost every day for about 6 years, then I moved and we moved our walk to a different trail. Actually, they are both sections of a 15 mile long trail called The Fanno Creek trail. This is the Garden Home section of the trail and in my opinion the more beautiful section. It feels a bit hidden and secret from the outside world, running through the hidden interior of a neighborhood, past backyards, open spaces and the back of the Portland Golf Club. Accessible on foot, back in where the streets have ended. This morning Ray and I, bored with the gym, decided to walk the trail instead. It has been several years since I was there and I wondered what might have changed.

It was as beautiful as I remembered. The trail has been widened in some areas and there are some new benches, one near the site of our protest of the ugly razor wire the golf club had there. Some trees have been removed—recently it appears.

We stopped to admire some interesting fungi...

And to play our old game of dropping pennies from the bridge onto the top of an old piling that sticks up from the creek.

There are some nice new signs about the history and features of the trail.

All was good until I spotted this:

One of the parts of the walk Beth and I loved was past a lovely house, hidden away back along the creek. It had a curved driveway and big trees and a glorious garden, filled with flowers and art. The garden was huge, with the trail following along it for awhile. And it had been right here, where now there was a huge hole in the ground, earth moving machines and piles of construction materials. As we continued around the corner, I saw that the house was gone. We asked a man walking by what was being built and he said, with anger in his voice, it was a water treatment facility. The neighbors had fought it. The people who owned the house and property had been forced to sell to the water district. No one was happy, said the man. Further along there was a sign explaining the project. Progress. Clean water for all. I felt sick.

Below, the old driveway that curved up to the house. Every spring this drive was lined with daffodils.

We contined on to the end, then turned around and walked back. We got our coffee at the Starbucks where Beth and I had spent so much time and money that we figured we owned the chairs. The Starbucks has been remodeled. It is fancy. None of the old baristas are there anymore.

Starbucks then (2007)

Starbucks now

Time marches on, now doesn't it?


Wednesday, January 28, 2015

82 Words

The words are Shakespeare's, not mine, but I am putting them to work in a new fabric work. The theme for the show I am going to submit it to is something inspired by poetry or a quote. The words don't need to be on the work itself, but I decided I wanted them there.

It is, in large part, a remembrance of the thirteen years we spent living in Ashland, Oregon, the home of the Oregon Shakespearean Festival. Not a particularly well-versed scholar of Shakespeare when we arrived in Ashland, I got a job there as the buyer/manager for the Festival gift and book shop, The Tudor Guild. I loved being there, among the cast and crew of this well-oiled machine of a theatre organization. And I learned to love the words of Shakespeare, not from a page of print, but joyously spoken by actors, on a stage, under a starry sky— as Shakespeare himself intended!

I could have (should have?) chosen a shorter quote. There are plenty. But these are the words that I most love in the remembering of that time. The sewing of these letters is slow work. I cut them, arranged them, fused them and now I am stitching down each letter, clipping threads and cleaning up frays at their edges. I know that when I start quilting around them it will be equally slow. This will take time, with no guarantee anyone will even notice all the effort.

Each year, at the end of September in Ashland, the final outdoor performance brings the Shakespeare stage season to a close. At the end of the last performance, one of the actors steps forward and recites this beautiful speech from The Tempest. Then the lights slowly dim and the spirits of that, and all the previous years, are "melted into air, into thin air.." The magic fades until a new season begins.


'Our revels now are ended'

Our revels now are ended. These our actors,

As I foretold you, were all spirits and

Are melted into air, into thin air:

And, like the baseless fabric of this vision,

The cloud-capp'd towers, the gorgeous palaces,

The solemn temples, the great globe itself,

Yea, all which it inherit, shall dissolve

And, like this insubstantial pageant faded,

Leave not a rack behind. We are such stuff

As dreams are made on, and our little life

Is rounded with a sleep.

William Shakespeare

From The Tempest, Act 4 Scene 1


Friday, January 23, 2015

The Zen of Knitting

I am learning to knit, mostly on my own, with a book and a Craftsy class and a multitude of YouTube videos and the help of my friends—so really not so much on my own, just without a conventional class and teacher.

I started with a hotpad, then I found a simple mitten pattern. My friends gave me a hard time about making mittens. "What—mittens ALREADY!" They were very simple mittens and I made many mistakes and they aren't exactly the same size, but I learned from them. Then I made a scarf, which, it seems, is an appropriate project for a beginner.

My theory of learning a new hand skill is that you make something that interests you, not something dumb and boring; make plenty of mistakes, which you learn to analyze and not make again, and just put in a lot of time. Oh, and don't use materials that are too precious. You don't want to end up guilty about messing up $100 worth of beautiful yarn. That defeats you. Not a good start on something intended to make you happy, ultimately. So, back I went to the cheap yarn store with discount coupon in hand and got stuff to make myself a hat.

It turned out not bad. See that band around the bottom? I had to pull that out and start over three times and it still has a few problems. ( Don't look too closely at the right edge...) but I learned about decreasing, and my stitches are getting more uniform and I am getting the feel for the rhythm of the whole thing. And I will actually wear the hat.

Now I may have bitten off more than I can chew. I am making a sweater.

I bought (cheap of course) a big cone of cotton yarn on EBay because I simply cannot wear a wool sweater. Allergic, I guess. They just itch unmercifully. My friend Gale told me that cotton knits tend to stretch and combining the cotton with a thin acrylic yarn would mitigate that, so I found a deep purple acrylic to knit with it. I really like the mottled effect the combination creates.

I started knitting the neckband first and it looked just awful. I started over three times and finally got the hang of the ribbing and it looked pretty great until I got to the end of the neckband and discovered I had knitted a Möbius strip, despite being careful, I thought, not to twist it. Ray got a good laugh out of that. I pulled it all out and started over, yet again.

Möbius strip

I keep reading about the benefits of knitting. One article called it a form of meditation, and I get that. When I am working in those stretches of repetition, the rhythm and mindfulness puts me into that very satisfying mind space of "flow". Another article talked about how learning a new skill, later in life, keeps one's brain healthy and agile. As it stands, my knitting takes me from "flow" to frustration and anxiety in equal measure.

I am making a lot of mistakes with this sweater. I cannot seem to keep the stitch counts consistent. The front and back should be the same. The two sleeves should be the same (duh!). I have a feeling that simply adding or subtracting a stitch isn't really the correct way to address inconsistencies, but I can't seem to identify where and when the problems are occurring. Oy. This may turn out to be a clown sweater. But now that I know what is happening I will be more alert to finding out why. Offer suggestions if you have them. Meanwhile, I am moving forward, determined to put in my 10,000 hours and become a knitter. Serenity and flow await.




Monday, January 19, 2015

Studio Time

It is January in western Oregon and we are deep into rain these days. The kind that people in other parts of the world think of when they think of Oregon. I get tired of wet feet, but mostly I find the rain oddly comforting. It makes me want hot tea and and a fire in the fireplace and/or a day in the studio, with the sound of rain pattering away on the skylights.

I am working on this piece that will be covered with words, and I am rather painstakingly cutting out letters. Lots of letters. I printed the letters very faintly on white fabric prepared with a fusible on the back.

This has, and will, take hours.

I woke up in the middle of the night, the other night, and was thinking about those letters. They will be fused onto the background fabric, but then they will need to be sewn as well. "Why?" you ask. Two reasons. First, I don't trust fusing alone to keep things permanently attached, especially small pieces like those letters. And second, and more importantly, I think fused work that isn't stitched looks cheesy. Sorry, it just does. But in the dark of the night I lay there wondering if the stitching of those letters would distort them, or destroy the crisp, graphic look I am going for. So I made a little sample to see how I might stitch them, then how quilting around them would affect them.

I am satisfied now that this can work— and won't send me up the wall in the process.

As I sat and cut letters the past couple of days, I drank tea and listened to Podcasts. Ray gave me a nifty little Bluetooth speaker for Christmas. I have it in the studio, synced to my phone and the sound is wonderful. I am more than halfway through "Serial," the NPR podcast, associated with "This American Life." It is addictive — so well done. Isn't technology grand? An embarrassment of riches at our fingertips. I know my grandchildren will grow up taking it all for granted, but I am regularly stupefied by the access to a world of information and entertainment and connection that is now an integral part of our lives. Wow. Just wow.

So, time for me to head on out to the studio. More letters to cut, and I wonder if I will ever know for sure if Adnan was the one who killed Hae...*

*Serial! If you know, don't tell me!