Wednesday, October 31, 2012


Ray's greenhouse, which sits near the road always looks a little spooky in the evening when the light is on inside, so Ray thought it needed some Halloween decor. I found a bat pattern and Sofia, Ray and I cut our bats several days ago. I think he has higher aspirations for next year—spiders and black cats and such. It really is the perfect canvas for spooky silhouette art, don't you think?

It finally feels like fall with the rain and cooler temps. The leaves are finally turning.

I love the contrast of that frosty blue-green moss that covers the tree branches, against the gold of the leaves.

Above is our burning bush. It is a major disappointment to me. I envisioned a burning bush like this one.  Ours is more like a blushing bush. Just sort of pinkish.

I was quite eager to get to the studio this morning and get more done on the stripey piece. Overnight I decided the first thing I would do would be to replace the very bright orange piece that really stood out when I saw it on my monitor last night. When I looked at again I changed my mind. It really isn't as hot as it looks in the photos. Something about a photo, especially a cell phone photo that really makes certain colors show up nearly neon. Here is a better version, taken with my good camera, but still a little hotter than real life. Weird.

Another closeup. Someone wanted to see how I am stitching it all down.

I am almost ready to start quilting. That will change it even more.

Hope you all had a fun Halloween. We did not get a single trick or treater. We never do, but I know if I don't buy candy that will be the year they all show up. So now we have a bowl of peanut butter cups to eat. Even my grandchildren were too pooped to trick or treat. Marco was home sick all day today and Sofia partied at school and after school care so hard that she fell asleep in the car on the way home.

Tuesday, October 30, 2012

I cut it

The fabric. All that shirt fabric that I have been fileting and dyeing and fondling and folding.

For the past two days I have been cutting and sticking (with a glue stick) my stripes onto an interfacing background in preparation for sewing it all together. Surprise. I am not fusing this. I am turning edges and going all out to be experimental and new (to me).

Progress so far.  Hold off on suggestions, please. I am working my way through this and there is still a bunch of stuff to go on here—windows and such, and I see some problematic areas that I need to address. That's why I used a glue stick. I can easily pull it off and replace it with something else before I get to stitching it all down. The sky is stitched. I had to see if my idea of how to stitch it was going to work. This is a fairly small piece and I am seeing that bigger pieces would be great to work on in this way. Lots of pretty teeny pieces in this. But this piece is a tryout.

Some of my goals in trying something different are:
  • to simplify
  • to loosen up
  • to try colors that are not strictly natural, but chosen for aesthetic reasons
  • to choose a subject that is personal and explore it
This is not for a show or to satisfy a theme or a size. It is just for me. I'm kind of excited.

Miles to go.

Sunday, October 28, 2012

Remember this?

This was the canvas that our STASH group painted in July when we met at Gerrie's. As you can see it was quite thoroughly painted! When it was dry Gerrie cut it into 6 equal pieces. At our next meeting we each randomly picked one of the pieces and our challenge has been to make something using our piece. My piece was the lower right hand corner as you see the canvas above. It looked like this:

It had possibilities, but lacked a certain cohesiveness. OK, let's be honest. It was pretty gross. However, our rules allowed that we could add more paint, so I did. Then I made a large tote bag and incorporated it into the bag as a big side pocket/decorative panel on one side.

I started by painting most of the white bits of canvas that showed through yellow which helped to unify it. Then I obliterated that disturbing mouth-like image in the lower left. Taking a cue from the existing white dots down the right side, I added more white paint to the sun-like area.

I seem to find myself carrying rolled up quilts to meetings and such on a regular basis and I needed a taller tote bag than I had. So that was my inspiration for the size and shape. I made it from a heavy nylon fabric and used nylon webbing for the handles that wrap under the bag and secure the edges of the pocket. When I got it finished it was pretty floppy and shapeless, so I am in the process of adding a lining with batting fused to it, which I can already see gives it more shape and body. And that canvas panel? To my great surprise, I love it!

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Saturday at home

It has been a rainy, rainy day today and really a perfectly lovely day. A day at home, after a long week of busy-ness and lots to do and places to go. It felt good to be at home. I love being with my grandchildren and with my friends, and then I really love my quiet time at home.

We started out the day with housework. Ray put the music on and we got busy for a couple hours taking care of the spaces that have been neglected for the past couple of weeks. Floors and bathrooms were high on the priority list. I vacuumed crumbs out of the sofa and dusted and tossed out papers and receipts and old magazines and gathered up all the shoes I have left all over the house (yes, I do that. It's a bad habit.) and stowed them in the closet. Ray cleaned the floors and vacuumed all the pine needles up. I wish I could figure out how to keep from tracking them in, but it seems to be impossible. It is a family tradition, going way back—Saturday morning music and housework. We call it the blitz.

Then I went to the studio.

At last I started making a plan for using some of my shirting fabrics that I have been fiddling with. I pulled lights, darks and mediums. I drew up my plan. I can't wait to start cutting fabric.

Outside the rain came down and pattered against the skylights. By late afternoon it was getting dark and I headed back to the house to start dinner. It was a soup day, without a doubt.

Tortellini, kale, Italian sausage soup. Mmmmmm. A glass of wine. Of course. Crusty, seedy bread.

After such a busy, full week, I spent today exactly where I really wanted to be. Home.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

Monday, October 22, 2012

Best foot forward

Here I am ready for the second day of the Washington Country Open Studios. The studio is very spiffy and we have refreshments and everything! Look at me—lipstick and a clean white shirt. But that is just the window dressing. The real thing about opening your studio up to the public is making the most of the chance to put your work out there and tell the world what you are all about. And man, am I bad at that! OK, maybe not terrible, but it sure doesn't come naturally. Still, at the end of the day I was thinking about specific questions and specific conversations and what great exchanges happened amidst the brownies and the schmoozing. Well worth doing this, despite the physical and mental energy that goes into it. It always surprises me how incredibly exhausting something like this is—not the physical cleaning and arranging, but the person to person part. I am still dragging today. I am so grateful to all of you who came and added so much to the conversation and to all the energy, and all the people I met for the first time and especially to my friend Jeri, who brought her exquisitely beautiful and obsessive work to grace my studio and kept me company and made everybody laugh!

Today I spent the afternoon cleaning up and met the woman who won the piece of art I gave away in our drawing. She seemed so pleased to have won something.

I felt like I needed to do a little cutting and sewing just to let it all settle, so I put together a little flag to replace the Open Studio sign on the new sign holder.

 I used what I had on hand—some waterproof nylon flag material and letters cut from quilting cottons and appliqued. I painted the cotton with acrylic gel medium to waterproof it. I wanted something bright and fluttery and so intentionally made it not that easy to read. Maybe I will make several flags and change them out from time to time. It's getting a little junky out there! The purple tub was something I brought out at the last minute for wet umbrellas. It needs to go back to the garage.

All that planning and preparation and now we are done for another year. Now I can get some real work done.

Friday, October 19, 2012

Gray days, good walks

Cool, gray days are good for walks. Bracing. Not too cold, but brisk enough to get you moving. October's hues against a gray sky are soft and earthy. Misty, sweet. We walked on Cooper Mountain today. Into the woods and out to the meadow where the tall, dry grass whipped in the wind. Rain coming on.

Thursday, October 18, 2012

Getting ready

Thank goodness for the Open Studio Tour! It has been a needed incentive to clean and organize the studio. The tour will be this Saturday and Sunday. It is supposed to rain both days. I don't much like that idea, but it is October, after all. I'm glad I have a little covered porch on the studio where people can leave drippy umbrellas.

I got a little sign holder that I mounted to the front of the studio for the Open Studio sign. It looks good!

I think I need to make a flag of some kind to hang there for the rest of the year.

These are the brochure/catalogs for the tour. They list all the artists with directions to their studios.  I was really surprised to see that my quilt is on the back cover. The catalog is beautifully done. We have a terrific graphic designer named Joyce Gabriel who is one of the artists and has volunteered her time in producing the signs and catalogs. Very high class, in my opinion.

I have been getting some pieces ready to have for sale.

And making sure the whole place, including the upstairs area looks its best!

I finally even finished the second T-shirt pillow for the other chair.

If you are in the Portland area I hope you will come! It's free. You can find directions and map at the web site. Pick up a guide at my studio and visit as many artists as you like. My friend, Jeri Flom will be sharing my studio. She is bringing her famous spicy brownies, so there's yet another reason to come out!

Monday, October 15, 2012

The week that was

It hasn't rained here for a couple of months. Not a drop. It has been weird. Very un-Oregon type weather. But Friday morning the drought ended right in the middle of our walk. We knew it was coming, thus the umbrellas. Those are my walking buddies, Beth and Paula. After more than 30 years here, I must finally be a true Oregonian. The rain was so great! It smelled divine. It felt wonderful. Not that we haven't enjoyed a nice long, dry fall, but the time had come. The last of our very small tomato crop came indoors to ripen (or rot) on the counter by the window.

I love how that big tomato looks almost exactly like a small version of my ceramic pumpkin.

Last weekend I had a yen for good tacos, so I cooked a pork shoulder in the crock pot all day and went off to my favorite Mexican market for fresh tortillas, only to learn that the place has changed hands and they are not making tortillas anymore. I bought a big bag of leathery grocery store tortillas and whined on Facebook about my disappointment. Sandy Donabed kindly pointed out that they sell tortilla presses on It arrived yesterday. Amazon is the best. Can't wait to try it out.

This weekly roundup of Grant news is a little random, but bear with me. Next up—Juniper berry soda.

I grew up in a land of juniper trees, loaded with juniper berries and love the smell and love the taste of juniper berry tea which we used to brew in Girl Scouts. I don't, however, like gin, which is made from juniper berries too. When I spotted this fancy schmancy soda at our fancy schmancy grocery store I could not resist. It was somewhat disappointing. Not very sweet, but too sweet to be totally not sweet (if you know what I mean) and, for me, not junipery enough. Maybe it needed a shot of gin! Sure is pretty though, don't you think?

And finally, my friend Kathy called and said she was coming by with a piece of fabric I needed for my collection of stripes. Well yeah!

 Then Ray and I went to see "The Perks of Being a Wallflower." It was great—really beautiful and touching.

Small pleasures and surprises all week, even including our misbegotten date last night. Can't ask for much more than that. And now it is officially Monday and we start all over again.

Sunday, October 14, 2012

A Night on the Town

"Hey," Ray said, about a week ago, "my friend Jim's band is having a CD Release Party next Saturday night. I think we oughta go." Sounded like fun. We'd get there about an hour early, have dinner, then listen to the band, support Jim and come home with their new CD. Jim's a nice guy and the music is good. You can hear a little of it and learn about the band here. It isn't their fault that this evening turned out to be a fiasco.

The party was being held at a club, The Blue Monk, on SE Belmont Street in Portland. It's a great old neighborhood that has become recently hip, and on a Saturday night it was hoppin'. No place to park, except to drive into the adjacent residential neighborhood and walk a few blocks, which we did. The bars were packed and the sidewalks were full of young folks. It was a scene. The Blue Monk is a small club, with a bar and tables on the main floor and a smaller bar, tables and stage in the basement, which is where the release party was being held. We thought we had gotten there plenty early, but the place was packed and there was not a table to be had, and very little standing room. We still had more than an hour until the band was scheduled to start, so we went upstairs to get a little dinner.

It took quite awhile to even get a waiter to the table, though the upstairs area wasn't crowded, but we finally each ordered the ravioli special and Ray also ordered a salad. We still had plenty of time. We enjoyed our drinks while we waited. People around us were being served. It smelled great. It looked promising. After 45 minutes we were getting restless and the waiter came by and said because of the party downstairs they were pretty busy, but our food would be out soon. So we waited. And waited. When an hour and a half had gone by we decided we were leaving. Just as we were preparing to get up, the waiter arrived. He was sweating and nervous. I could tell he was dreading a confrontation. He apologized and said he'd like to comp us another drink and our food would be right out!  By now my head was pounding and I was starving. The drinks came and we waited some more.

Have you ever been in this situation? It is almost 9:30 at night. You are starving. Your second drink is going down like acid. You are angry and your head is pounding. What you want to do is leave. No wait—what you really want to do is eat. But no, there's no food in sight. You just want to get out of there. But then you still have the problem of getting something to eat, and dammit! you came to hear Jim's band.  You want to yell at the waiter, but you know it really isn't his fault. Apparently there is one guy cooking tonight. One. Then, before you can really decide, though you've been seething for more than an hour and a half, suddenly—finally— two plates of lukewarm ravioli show up at the table, accompanied by more apologies and excuses, and you cram that sh*t in as fast as you can make a fork spin. You all but lick the plate, while waving for the waiter to bring the bill. He brings—a salad. Yes, salad. At the end of the meal. "Would you like to take the salad to go?" "NO!!" "OK, sorry, again..."

Will this never end??

It did end. We finally got the bill (with salad and drinks subtracted from the total, thank you) and hurried downstairs to see if we could catch a little of Jim's band. We got down there, wriggled our way into the throng and heard the last 30 seconds of their last song. "THANKS EVERYBODY!! THANKS FOR COMING OUT TONIGHT!!" and they picked up their instruments and left the stage to wild applause.

We were a little glum as we walked through the dark residential streets toward our car. We remarked on what a balmy, pleasant evening it was, and then what a weird adventure our first CD Release Party had been. It had sounded like such a cool thing to do! By the time we got to the car we were laughing and my headache was beginning to subside. A totally grim and maddening dining experience and then we pretty much missed the party, and we vowed never again to set foot in the Blue Monk, but, hey, we're OK. And we got a CD.

Thursday, October 11, 2012

Today's fabrics

This is better than dyeing Easter eggs.

We went to a fancy dinner tonight and guess what I was looking at. Men's shirts. At one point I leaned over and whispered to Ray, "I want that man's shirt." and I subtly nodded my head toward an elegant pale green and tan striped shirt. Ray looked quite surprised and puzzled, then he got it. "Oh yeah," he said. "The shirt. Nice. Want me to make him an offer?"  Nah. That would be rude. And possibly misunderstood.

Tuesday, October 09, 2012


One of the things I have noticed about a lot of quilt (and other) art, is that many pieces could be improved with some judicious cropping. I have been sorting through small pieces and preparing some to display at the Open Studio event that happens in a couple of weeks. When I showed that less than wonderful piece of the Santa Barbara Mission tower awhile back I speculated on some possible crops to improve it. Today I went for a pretty radical one and I think it improved it greatly.

I also had a small study I had done for the Nasturtium piece.

I think this crop improved it.

It is always disheartening to cut big hunks of fabric and stitching off your work, but it usually makes it better. Same with photographs. I wish I could better anticipate those things. Better planning. Better sketches.

Today's over dyes.

Oh yum. I'd like about four more of those red and white stripe shirts.

Sunday, October 07, 2012

Deep, dark dye

I am continuing to over dye some of the woven stripe fabrics, preparing a nice stash for something—when I figure out what.These are some darks I dyed today. I think they turned out pretty great. I was going for a dark taupe and they are kind of a purplish gray, but I quite like the color. I am not a precise dye mixer. Along the top are the fabrics as they looked before the dye. The two dark stripes on the right are both from the same navy and white stripe you see above. After dyeing the first pieces, I threw another piece of the stripe in the pot and pulled it back out pretty quickly for a lighter shade. The one at the bottom was a small piece of an icky tannish fabric and I dyed all I had, so there is no original left to compare it to. The two darkest pieces above were left in the dye the longest.

Now I am going to tell you something shocking. I over dyed these pieces and the ones I did the other day with Rit dye. Regular old Rit from the grocery store. Yes, I know. This is not cool. All first class fabric artists use only Procion MX  dyes.  If I were dyeing yards and yards or going for deep and brilliant colors that is what I would use. But I am dyeing little pieces and just changing the colors to get some variety and value selection. Procion dyes are a huge hassle, requiring face mask and soda ash and dye powder getting all over the place and a big wet area. I know of what I speak. Years ago I made batiks, using only Procion dyes. I am over that. No more big old buckets of dye for me. Rit is easy. And it works pretty well. I use the liquid, so there is no toxic powder in the air.

I dyed what I did the other day in the laundry sink in the studio, but I knew to get deeper color with Rit I needed to get it hotter. I went out to the Thrift store today and bought a great little stainless steel pot and cooked up my dye bath in it. I heated the water, added the dye, salt and fabric and stirred while it simmered for about 10 minutes. Worked great.

BTW, I have never believed that Rit is not as colorfast as better dyes. My mom was the queen of Rit dye. She dyed our bedspreads and curtains and socks and even towels when they got a little sad looking and brightened them right up. The color lasted as long as the stuff did. She dyed a white dress shirt of my Dad's hot pink for some kind of costume party getup. I wore the oversized hot pink shirt with my jeans for years after.

Wednesday, October 03, 2012

Stripety stripes

Here are the thrift store shirt pieces all washed and ready for my stash. This basket includes my striped shirt and one of Ray's that has an ink stain on the pocket and I did not have the heart to throw away. Now I know why. Lotta nice fabric here, and yes, some are not stripes, but plaids, which qualify in my mind as "stripe-ish."  Stripes going in two directions. It was a limited palette. I decided some pieces needed to be over-dyed to round out the selection.

Here are a few of the over-dyes added in.

Isn't that yellow pretty? It used to be the pale peachy piece in the upper right corner of the basket above. The pinkish piece went into the same yellow dye bath and came out the nice clear orange. Over-dying is magical. You can see a tiny corner of a purple stripe, that was originally a gray stripe. It is my favorite transformation.

All the buttons harvested from those shirts.

I ironed and folded every piece and then added them to my tub of woven plaids and stripes. I have been saving those for years. I now have a nice stash of stripey stuff to work with. I may need to do a little more over-dying. I see I lack enough deep darks.

I appreciate all the comments and suggestions. You have convinced me to take a small break. I need to clean the studio for the Open Studios in a couple of weeks. I need to work on the painted canvas challenge for the STASH group.  I need to pack up the Twelve by Twelve theme quilts and send to their owners.  I need to draw. So I will let the stripey fabric simmer and age a bit. I will dream about it and take it off the shelf often to admire it, then when I am ready I will start cutting into it. Or I will have gotten a different idea!

Tuesday, October 02, 2012

What is my problem?

I am adrift. I am uninspired and without direction. That bell tower that I made last week just does not work or make me happy or give me ideas or beg to be fixed. Eh. It is going in a closet for awhile. Maybe forever. So, what did it tell me, if anything? It told me that "loosening up" is not easy. In the end I was obsessing over perspective and fussily coloring my plain fabrics to give them more oomph. Not at all what I planned.

A couple of commenters mentioned my facility with patterned fabrics and that it was a strength. Well, maybe, but see, the thing is, I am suffering from just seeing too much of the same thing happening in my studio. It has gotten stale for me. I need a change that is me, but a different me.

Oh Lord, I just reread that and I have become Whiney Blogger. I hate Whiney Blogger, but hang with me here. I am working through something.

The other morning I was ironing a blouse to wear to a lecture by a famous art quilter. I was in my tiny utility room, ironing away and pondering my state of dissatisfaction and malaise. I looked up at the clothes waiting to be ironed (there is always a waiting line at my house) and an old striped shirt of mine caught my eye.

I have always liked that stripe. Well, I like all stripes if you want to know the truth. And I began to wonder what I would do with a bunch of stripes. And I remembered my very favorite quilt that I saw at the Houston quilt show. This one, by Gabrielle Paquin.

There was something so fresh and crisp about this. It has stuck with me. Not that I want to make butterfly quilts from stripes, but.........stripes? Woven pattern, as opposed to printed?

The famous quilt artist lecture? I won't tell you who it was. It made me so tired. She is deep into technique. Holy moly. She spreads yards of silk on snowbanks and sprays caustic chemicals all over it and she processes things with rusty bits and more chemicals and then she makes a lot of stuff that seems to be all about the techniques, and all look pretty much alike including some tortured hanging methods, which vary a bit from piece to piece. Way too tricky and technical and ultimately only interesting from a "how she did it" angle. So exactly opposite of what I am striving for. I was literally falling asleep and had to keep pinching myself, but our STASH group, who attended it together, went for a divine lunch after, at a beautiful spot and we cackled and had a grand time.

The next day I went to a thrift store, where you paw through piles of stuff that you pay for by the pound and brought home two bags of striped and stripe-ish shirts. I have been fileting and boning them (you know—cutting out the good parts) for the past three days. More to follow. Maybe.