Sunday, March 31, 2013


When I was a child Easter mornings were spent at the Methodist Church where my parents sang in the choir. On Easter the choir sang at both the early and the late morning services, so we were there for hours. I remember the banks of Easter lilies and their heavy perfume and the choir, joyfully belting "Christ, the Lord, is risen todaa-ay, Ha-a-allee-luh-hallelu-u-jah!" The church was always full to overflowing and the congregants resplendent in flowery hats and fluffy pastel dresses and my sister, brother, and I, dressed in our own Easter finery, would patiently endure the two long services, waiting for the return home to our baskets filled with jelly beans and cellophane grass and a chocolate rabbit. The eggs we had dyed and decorated were hidden and hunted repeatedly through the afternoon. Once, when I was in college, I spent Easter at my roommate's parents' home in McCall, Idaho, a charming little mountain village. The snow was piled higher than our heads along the winding streets as we made our way to the little Episcopal Church in our pastel suits and wide-brimmed hats. Our first trip to Ecuador coincided with Easter and we saw the celebration from the whole new-to-us perspective of the somber and ancient South American commemoration of Semana Santa and Easter.

I haven't been to church on Easter for many, many years. But I always dye eggs and cut daffodils for the table and I always think of Easter as the promise of spring, even in the years when there is rain or even snow. Today was spring in all its verdant, fragrant, balmy glory. My old friend, Paula, and her family came to our house for an Easter egg hunt. Ray and Norm hid more than 40 eggs outdoors  and her two visiting grandchildren and my two scampered around collecting plastic eggs and real eggs while four parents and four grandparents and Uncle Andy hovered with their cameras clicking. Four sweet and beautiful children, happy parents, sunshine, Easter eggs. Near perfection.

New friends, Will and Sofia

After brunch the kids played in the yard while the adults talked and laughed and drank coffee on the deck and soaked in the miraculous sunshine. It might have been the best Easter ever.

Wednesday, March 27, 2013

First day of spring

 Officially that was last week, but in a practical sense it was today. Sofia spent the afternoon with us (it is Spring Break here) and we stepped outside to talk to Ray, who was weeding and puttering around, and found it so agreeable that we stayed. We walked around the yard looking at flowers and mushrooms, listening to the frogs sing. It is supposed to be nice through the end of the week. We may even be able to have an Easter egg hunt outdoors this year.

Sofia discovered a hopscotch pattern in our paving stones out front.


Sunday, March 24, 2013

Thread again, the thick and the thin of it

A commenter asked what kind of thread I use for the black stitching I did on the red umbrellas piece.

I use Sulky 12 weight cotton thread. It is pretty thick thread for a sewing machine and I need to use a top stitch needle with a large eye for it to work.

I really like the effect I get with it, but it has been temperamental to use. It is both thick and kind of soft and I have had the experience of having it begin to shred as I'm stitching, so that part of a ply is backing up into a wad behind the needle until it finally breaks. I had a spool with not too much left on it and I decided it might be a good candidate to try out the Sharon Schamber trick of soaking the thread with mineral oil before using it. I did not drop the spool into a container of oil as she describes, but put some mineral oil in a small plastic squeeze bottle and squeezed it up and down over the thread all around the spool.  I was really surprised at how quickly the thread absorbed the oil. It was not at all messy, with no oily feel or residue on anything. And I think it helped. The thread really seemed to flow smoothly through the machine and I had no splitting or breakage.

I got hooked on this thread for the bolder stitching kind of like one gets hooked on drugs. When I went to Cleveland for the taping of the Quilting Arts TV segments several years ago I had some sample pieces that I had done that decorative stitching on using my regular black Star brand thread. There were two very nice ladies there from the Sulky company who were doing a segment for the show too. One of them was looking at my samples in the green room and asked what thread I was using. I told her and she said, "we have a thicker thread that you might really like for this. I'll send you some." Sure enough, a couple weeks later a little box with six spools arrived at my front door. And now I am hooked. There you go. Sad story of a tragic addiction.

Now, my report on the cheap thread I bought from Connecting Threads. Remember this?

I used it exclusively (except for the aforementioned black top stitching) in the construction and quilting of the red umbrellas. I love it. It sews just beautifully—no slubs, no shredding, no breaking, no tangling. I did not notice any significant amount of lint. I am still thinking that "lint" argument is specious. I notice far less lint in my machine since I have been using so many recycled fabrics, which have been washed enough times to pretty well eliminate their lint. I know that new fabrics are lint-y—some more than others—and I can't imagine that a delicate strand of thread would contribute anywhere near the lint that cotton fabrics do. The thread conversation continued at this month's SAQA meeting and revolved again around the need to use "good" fancy, expensive thread for the safety of both your machine and your work! I did not protest or disagree. Nobody wants to hear it. I really think there is a kind of person who truly believes that the more you spend on your materials and tools and machine the better your work will be. The luxury of nice "stuff" is always agreeable, but it only goes so far. And besides I think this really reasonable thread is really nice! I think I will buy myself a little red sports car with all the money I am saving on thread.

Thursday, March 21, 2013


The red umbrellas piece is finished! I am calling it "red umbrellas" for now, but I may come up with a different name eventually. Here it is:

I'm not sure of the exact size. My guess is about 22 x 35.

Here are some finish details:

This is the back. It does not have a binding. Instead I faced it with black. I used black for the facing, so that if you see a bit of the facing at the edges as it hangs you see black instead of the backing fabric.

Here is the sleeve on the top back. I made it in two sections, with an opening in the center. It seems that for many of our shows recently a gallery hanging system is used and we have needed to string a wire on the back, as well as a hanging rod in the sleeve. It is all very complicated and a little messy, but we find it helpful to have the hanging rod exposed in the center.

It still needs the rod and wire, as well as a label, but the creative part is finished. I hope you found the process interesting.

Wednesday, March 20, 2013


I finished the hand sewing of the facing and the sleeve on the red umbrellas piece tonight while I watched TV. So, except for a label it is finished. I will photo and post it here in the next day or two.

I have several show/sales coming up and I am torn between exhibiting my three new pieces or showing some unsold older work. I am leaning toward the latter. I am kind of wanting to hold the shirting/architectural work back for now until I have built up more of a body of that work. With that in mind I pulled out some of my older pieces that I like and would feel good about showing and happy to sell! There are two that I made several years ago that are similar and the same size and proportion, but I have come to dislike the proportion. Today I cut both of them down to what I think is a better proportion and re-finished them. Here they are in their newly proportioned personae.

This is what the first one looked like before. The other was the same size. Somehow I got into making a bunch of long, skinny pieces. They held some appeal to me at the time, but as time has gone by I am not so crazy about that orientation. Each is now 20" by 30"—an approximate golden rectangle. I am happier with them.

A few years ago I was making little 2" squares from my scraps. These two pieces are where all those little squares ended up. They were fun to look at again.

Monday, March 18, 2013

Headed toward the finish...

So, the "boring part", ie the quilting of the red umbrellas piece is finished and the end is in sight. After all the quilting was finished I had some details to add. First were the railings on the upstairs balconies, which you may not have even known were supposed to be there.

I used a heavy black thread to stitch the railings on those balconies. I marked the top rail and the places where the little round bumps happen in the spokes of the railing, so they would all line up more or less, then just started stitching, using my free-motion foot with the feed dogs down. Once those were done I headed down below to the chairs and using the same thick black thread, I added the legs and supports to the chairs.

I also added the table bases and the poles and finials for the umbrellas after the quilting was finished.

This afternoon I squared it all up and trimmed the piece. I started adding the facing and the sleeve. The next time you see this it will be finished.

On a different note...

I was really concerned to read that Google Reader is being shut down. It has been my favorite way of keeping up with all the blogs I read. When I discovered their "next" button I knew I had found the perfect tool. It allowed me to read all my blogs, showing only the ones I had not yet read, and with "next" it took me directly to the actual blog, so I was seeing the whole design and all the comments. It was great. Now I am looking for a replacement. Feedly seems to be popular, so I am trying it out. Happily I could import all my blog links from Reader to Feedly with no problem. The interface is nice enough, but it is the kind that does not show the blog design, just the content. It also does not show comments and to leave a comment you have to click through to the blog itself. Little bit annoying. So, if you come across a great reader that allows you to see the blog as it really is, along with the comments, let me know.

Saturday, March 16, 2013

Rogue Gallery opening

The Rogue Gallery is a nice art gallery in Medford, Oregon, which is in Southern Oregon, about 5 hours drive from Portland. It is named for the Rogue River, not for the kind of art they display! Our High Fiber Diet group has tried in the past to get our shows into this gallery without success, but this time around they decided to show our "Elements" show. It seemed like we ought to show up in strength for the opening reception, which was last night, so quite a few of our members and spouses and friends went. It worked well for me. Ray and I lived in Ashland, which is just about 10 miles from Medford for 13 years and have friends and family in the area. We drove down on Friday and spent the night with our friend Muriel, who came to the reception with us.

Some of our members in attendance.

Being brutally honest, I have to say the show has strengths and weaknesses, but it looked awfully good in the gallery! Amazing what expansive white walls and good lighting does for art.

Remember how it looked at the Woodburn Art Center? Pretty good, but not this good.

Here were my four pieces with Gerrie's water piece at the left. Odd spacing, huh?

And my favorite thing was that they served good wine and cheese and in another area were gorgeous chocolate truffles and strawberries. Seemed like they really went to some pains to make it a nice reception.

There was a good crowd and lots of nice comments. One piece (not mine) sold during the reception and that is always good!

It was a quick turnaround. We left after breakfast this morning and headed back toward Portland. Ray wanted to stop at the casino in Canyonville, so while he played a little blackjack I perused the gift shop and bought myself a cold drink which I took out to the car and read a magazine. I really hate casinos and don't like to gamble, but he wasn't there long and more than doubled his money and we were on our way. We were barely back on the road when I got a text from Gerrie. She and her husband had come down as well and were ahead of us on their way back home. She said there was a big accident up ahead and all the traffic was sitting at a standstill. So we decided to stop in Roseburg for lunch, instead of where we had planned on further up the road, near where the accident was. When I was walking into the restaurant I found a $10 bill on the sidewalk. After the casino, we felt like we were on a lucky roll. Ray said my find was better than his win, even though a smaller amount, because I wasn't even trying! 

Incredibly, after lunch, we found that the wreck had still not been cleared and we were delayed by nearly two hours, inching along the highway for miles. We finally passed the scene and it was a pretty horrible accident. You can see what we saw here. Two people very badly injured, but alive. Aggravating, frustrating and sobering. So it was a long trip home.

Thursday, March 14, 2013

STASH visit to the Japanese Garden

Our STASH group went to the Portland Japanese Garden today to see the exhibit of prints by Japanese printmaker, Toko Shinoda, who is 100 years old this year. We all loved the work. While it is not what one thinks of as traditional Japanese printmaking, it has a very Japanese spirit and sensibility. My photos are not great, with reflected light and distortions, but these will give you a sense of it.

Serene. Beautiful.

It was an overcast, but almost balmy day and the view from the Garden's pavillion, of Portland and Mt. Hood, was especially lovely today. The ethereal, snowy mountain seemed to hover over the city.

After viewing the art we wandered through the garden. I have taken so many photos at the Japanese Garden that I'm sure I take the same ones over and over. Such a beautiful place. I decided to focus in on some details today.

We had lunch at Serratto in NW Portland, a restaurant I had never been to. It was beautiful and very, very good and we had a fun, chatty meal and discussed the art and what we'd been up to and had a few laughs. We decided that these occasional "field trips" are pretty great and we need to do more of them. We live in such a wonderful city for it.  I love an art date and lunch out with the STASH ladies!

Wednesday, March 13, 2013

Muddling along

Do you get Leonard Pitts Jr.'s column in your local newspaper? It is always a good read. I wish I could express myself the way he does, because I almost always relate to what he has to say. Here is his latest column and it is exactly, exactly how I feel. I've talked about this before, so I won't go into it, but when will people understand that some of us do our best work alone? First this week I heard about Google's new policy about not allowing anyone to work from home, then I heard Cheryl Sandberg interviewed on NPR this week. She is also on the cover of Time magazine this week. She is the Chief Operating Officer at Facebook and has a new book out urging women to embrace success in business. I like that idea, but on the interview she said something like, "welcome to Facebook. You can see we all work in one big room, with no partitions, no offices. We are committed to teamwork..." I couldn't work there. Luckily I don't have to. I have my little studio where I can work by myself, which is all I have ever wanted.

It has been a pretty busy week so far and I have spent a lot of time not by myself, which is good. After all, I love my friends, I don't hate people, I just need some alone time! I went to Sofia's school today and did the Art lesson on the art of the South Pacific Islands. The kids made masks based on the masks of the tribes of Papua New Guinea. It was my favorite lesson so far. Here is Sofia with her mask, in progress. They all did such a great job and really seemed to like the project.

As I was leaving after cleaning up and packing up I discovered one of the little boys from the class sitting with a volunteer Mom out in the hallway, working, with great concentration, on his mask. "He was having trouble focusing with all the other kids," the Mom explained, "he felt like he could work better alone." Wow! I can so relate.

I did manage to get a little solitary quilting in this afternoon. I thought I'd show this.

My plan was to quilt straight lines, on the diagonal in the pavement area. I am doing free motion quilting and have learned that careful as you may be about quilting pretty straight lines, it is easy, especially with diagonal quilting for the angle to begin to slowly change as you move across the space. So I put these strips of blue masking tape along the area to be quilted to help me keep that angle consistent. I don't necessarily stitch right next to the tape, but it is a visual guide that keeps me headed in the right direction. Here it is with some of the quilting done.

And, by the way, this is one of my favorite quilting textures—diagonal lines quilted across horizontal lines. It is a really simple way to express a horizontal plane with depth.

Monday, March 11, 2013

The cruising stage

Top stitching finished. I have layered the piece and begun quilting. This is the stage that takes awhile and isn't much worth looking at until it is done. I cruise through the quilting. I listen to the radio or music and sit hunched over the sewing machine for hours on end. I learned awhile ago to bring a big, tall glass of ice water with me when I start quilting because I lose track of time and at some point when I am ready to quit I am nearly frozen into position! I don't think that is good for a body. It hurts to stand up and straighten up my neck and back. If I sip on water as I quilt, before long I have to pee and so I get up and at least walk to the bathroom and move around a little every hour or so. I hate having a stiff neck so I'm serious about this.

You can see the layers above. I buy odd sale fabrics for the backs of my quilts. I have never seen the sense in using beautiful fabrics for quilt backs. Instead of batting I use felt in most of my work. I don't want a lot of loft to the middle layer and I find that the felt also makes the work lay nice and flat. I buy the "better" grade of felt at Joanne's. It is either acrylic or something made from recycled water bottles. It works great for me. A lot of people like wool felt. It is more expensive and it will shrink when it gets wet, but it is apparently very nice to work with. I am allergic to wool, so I don't think I would find it so nice.

I baste the layers together with small safety pins. The felt is really good at holding the three layers together, but pinning is still necessary. Others have other basting methods. The pins work fine for me. It is really important to pin the edges and corners well. I have failed to do this and had the back edge fold under without my noticing and then I have a mess where I have quilted the folded edge down to the back. Aaaargh! I hate that and have done it more times than I care to confess to.

I have left some detail work to do for after the quilting is finished. The table and chair legs will be added. The poles and finials for the umbrellas and the railing for the balconies will all be added at the very end.

So, you won't see this for awhile. I will keep working away at it, but I also have a busy week this week, with Columbia FiberArts Guild with Jane Davila on Wednesday, followed later that day by Art Lit at Sofia's school. On Thursday is STASH and Friday we are going down to Ashland for the opening of the High Fiber Diet Show at the Rogue Gallery. We turn around and head back home on Saturday so we can celebrate Sofia's birthday on Sunday. When it rains, it pours...

Sunday, March 10, 2013


By the end of last week I really craved sunshine and finally got it. On Saturday when we had plans to go up to Cathlamet, Washington for the Crab and Oyster feed, Mary Ann, the organizer of this big  outing, suggested that, since the weather was so great, we stop for a hike on our way, so we stopped at the Ridgefield Wildlife Refuge where the sun was shining brightly, the sky was a brilliant blue and we took a good walk through the wetlands and marshes and saw birds and little wildflowers and drank in the sunshine. Then we journeyed on to the cute little Norse Hall for the main event.

For some of us this was our first time and Mary Ann emailed and told us we needed to bring our own implements, condiments and carb crackers. I thought the last was a little odd—aren't all crackers carbs? I guessed that all we were getting were oysters and crab, so maybe a cracker or bread might be good with the seafood. I stuck in a box of crackers. When we arrived we were getting our supplies out of the trunk of our friends' car and I pulled out the box of crackers. My friend looked at me oddly. "Mary Ann said to bring crackers" I said, in explanation.  Paula looked me in the eye and said, "Crab crackers." And suddenly the light came on—crab crackers, not carb crackers! Duh. We laughed about my crackers all afternoon.

Fortunately, I also had a nifty red cracker of the correct kind that I had packed.
Ray, the pragmatist, brought his own favorite crab tool.
We also had our long, pointy forks and our "Can't believe it's not Butter" for dipping and we were set. Then we went inside and met the folks who were old hands at the Crab and Oyster Feed game. They had little candle-fueled butter warmers; and buckets for their shells; and crazy hats; and aprons to protect themselves from all the seawater juiciness of the oysters; and oyster knives; and wooden mallets;  and cocktail sauce and lemons and hot sauce and big tubs of wet wipes. We were clearly minimally equipped amateurs, but we managed to gorge ourselves on seafood and coleslaw and potato salad and beans and that kind of melted-butter-sogged garlic bread that reminds me of my childhood, and beer or wine to wash it all down with. Next year we'll know better and have all the accoutrements. Maybe not the hats...

More on the adventure on Howard's blog, from whom I stole the hat photo.

This was just what I needed after the week I'd had. Yay for sunshine and friends and crab!

Saturday, March 09, 2013

Crabs and Oysters

We went up the road into Washington State and an island in the middle of the Columbia River—twelve of us, for this event—The Chamber Oyster and Crab Feed.

We stopped along the way for a scenic hike at the Ridgefield National Wildlife Refuge.

 Then on to Cathlamet and Puget Island to the Norse Hall. The sky was blue, the air was crisp, the day was perfect and the food was good. Mmmmmmm. So good!

 And then we headed back to Portland with a stop in Vancouver, Washington for ice cream here, at Ice Cream Renaissance.

What a great day!

Friday, March 08, 2013


Sometimes I wonder why I get mixed up with "groups". This week was one in which I once again got into hot water with a group I belong to. The problem, always, is that I have opinions and opinions are not that popular with groups. Groups like to be of a common mind. They like to say, "Hey, here's an idea. Let's all do this!" And they expect everyone to say, "Yay! An idea! Yes, I'll do it!" But some of us say, "Wait up—is this really that good an idea? Did you think about this? Do you think this might happen? Is what you are proposing even ethical, or doable?" Or, as I am tragically prone to say, "This is a bad idea, and here's why..." And then the group gets all up in your face and tells you you are a troublemaker and you have "a bad attitude." And one or two write you private emails ("for your eyes only... please don't share this...blah, blah, blah") and explain in detail how you are just all wet and a mean person and even that "really smart people thought up this idea" and you just need to get on board. It is true—many people do not evolve beyond the seventh grade. This is why people-with-opinions, go off and live in the woods by themselves.

Me, I go to the studio and putter. Today I was working on some projects, including the cafe and listening to the radio. Someone was talking about confronting death as you get older and how one should ask themselves if they are doing what they would do if they knew for certain that they were dying. I know this sounds depressing. It really wasn't. I thought about it and decided yes, I am making art and spending time with my family and friends and, I hope, making memories with my grandchildren. If I knew my days were numbered I would keep doing those things. And I would probably resign from a group or two. Tomorrow we are going, with a bunch of fine, funny and fast friends, to a crab feed. If I knew I was dying, I would eat as much crab as possible every chance I got. With friends.

So, here is where the cafe stands today.

Sewing it all down. This is not the quilting part. I am just sewing all those separate pieces to that interfacing background to make the top.

Now I am top stitching with black thread. I don't have a real logical explanation for this. I just like the way it looks and it gives it all a little definition that I like. It's one of my "things."

Have a nice weekend! The sun is shining in Oregon... I plan to enjoy it while I can.

Thursday, March 07, 2013

Getting perspective

Here's where we are today. I decided to keep the green sky and add some silhouetted buildings to the sky. Umbrellas and tables are coming along. And I fixed that thing that hit me between the eyes last night after I posted yesterday's progress. Can you see what it was? No? Well, it is subtle, but the reason I have to work a little and then look a little, then work a little and then look a little.. And sometimes seeing it on the monitor screen is even more revealing than seeing it in person. It was not about the color of the sky. It was about proportion. Here, I'll explain. Here are yesterday's version and today's side by side.

Yesterday— on the left—it was kind of top-heavy. And too evenly divided into sections. The building's half point was pretty close to the center of the composition. The sky section at the top was just about the same size as the ground section at the bottom. And the building, itself, was bulging at the top. The heaviest part needed to be shifted toward the bottom, otherwise it was all about to topple over. So today—on the right—I made the ground area bigger than the sky. I moved the tables and umbrellas downward, giving the building a little more height and moving its mid point up higher. I also straightened up those sides, so the top of the building is no longer wider than the bottom. And, by the way, the today photo is more accurate color. I used my real camera instead of my phone camera. So far this is still all pinned together. I have yet to take a stitch. Once I get the basics of the chairs in place I will probably start stitching. I started on chairs today. The tables need bases too.

Beautiful day today! I loved the sunshine coming in the skylights in the studio. What a change from yesterday's gray skies and soggy, sloggy rain. The daffodils are starting to bloom.

Wednesday, March 06, 2013

Up on the wall

Today I got the new piece to a point where I could pin it all together and put it up on the wall. This is an important step in getting a feel for how things are going together.

I wanted to give an impression, without much detail, of adjacent buildings. There will be some trimmed off in the final stages. I started with some gray fabrics, thinking I wanted the buildings to be inconspicuous. So dull. It just killed everything. I think I like this brick color better. And the sky. Well, I had an idea that I wanted a green sky. Don't ask me why. Not sure that's really working.

Now that I have the photo in Photoshop I can play with it a  bit. Since the addition of the tables and the umbrellas will make a big difference I roughed them in.

What if I changed the sky color to a warm blue-green?

Something about that sky is not working. It really seems stark. Maybe it needs a suggestion of more buildings and city behind the yellow building. Maybe a more "sky" blue?

Things to think about.

Tuesday, March 05, 2013

Today's progress

My studio time today was intermittent due to other obligations, but I managed to do enough to share here. One of the commenters yesterday wondered how I was actually using the grid and sketch on the interfacing since it was getting covered up. At this point I am just laying the pieces on the top as I create them. They can be moved aside when I need to work on another element. Here, you see that I have flipped up the building pieces in order to see and work on the windows that will go on top.

Now you see that the windows and upper side pillars have been added. Still nothing is attached to the interfacing. The pins are holding the windows to the yellow building fabric.

Now I am moving into the bottom section of the building and I have a decision to make. The arches in the front of the building will extend into the yellow fabric. Do I cut those arches out of the yellow fabric and add fabric behind, or do I cut the arches out of the interior fabric and put them on top? I could do either and probably either would work, but I am kind of particular about layering my fabric in the same order that the parts of the building are actually layered. So I cut the arches out of the yellow fabric and the deep purpley shadowed fabric will go behind the arches.

That's as far as I got today.

The thread that I ordered from Connecting Threads came today.

Isn't it pretty? It will be a real shame if it is crummy thread. I took advantage of a savings you get if you order it in "collections." I tried breaking it and it seemed strong enough. I took a spool out of its plastic wrap and tried a little sewing. My machine seemed to like it fine and it looks good to me.

And, before I sign off here, here's something that blew my mind. One of the commenters on the Threads post said that Sharon Schamber recommends dipping your entire spool of thread in mineral oil, then quickly drying it off to keep the thread from drying out and so it produces less lint. This sounded really crazy to me, but with just enough logic to it to intrigue me. I googled it and found several mentions of Sharon's recommendation. Here is one of them. (This particular "tip" is toward the bottom of the blog post.) Have you heard of this? Have you tried it? I'm going to try it on a spool that is nearly used up! I think dipping sounds really messy. Maybe a little oil in a little squeeze bottle with a fine tip spout? I wonder if this is basically the same idea? I've never used it either.