Saturday, September 28, 2013

Sarah Ann Smith has a new video workshop!

Sarah Ann Smith is one of those online friends that I have never met in person, but I feel like I know her! We have interacted online together for so many years that I have literally watched her children grow up. Along the way I have also watched her work develop and her considerable skills become not just good, but awesome! She is one of those people who can take a process and break it down into steps and examine each step to see what works and what doesn't and how it can be done better. She wrote an excellent book on machine quilting and can tell you anything you need to know about threads and how to make your sewing machine work magic. She really is a great resource for all of us. So I was pretty pleased when she asked me to review her new Quilting Arts Workshop video, Art Quilt Design from Photo to Threadwork.

 Boy, is this workshop comprehensive! Sarah has structured it to take you, in a very logical fashion,  from planning to execution to the finishing touches that make a work like this sing. And she doesn't skimp on the information. You get to see all her tricks and tips. Even though I often work from photos and use many of the same techniques Sarah uses, I learned some great tips from this video. The tip about using a hairdryer to keep wet watercolor pencil marks from wicking into the surrounding fabric was worth the price alone!

The workshop is available as a DVD or a digital download. I got the download, which is so slick! Talk about instant gratification. Order or download it here Or check out Sarah's sales page.

Sarah and Quilting Arts are doing something really nice. They are making some free copies available for some of us to give away on our blogs! So here is a chance to win a free DVD or download. (people in the US can choose, if outside the US you will get the download version) Just leave me a comment and tell me you want your name in my drawing—be sure to leave a good email address—and I will randomly draw a winner on October 2. That's next Wednesday. If you don't win it here, you will have other opportunities by going to the following blogs on the designated days. Good luck! I know you will love owning this DVD.

October 1:          Gloria Hansen
October 3:          Diane Perin Hock
October 5:          Sarah Ann Smith 

Friday, September 27, 2013


I spent the day working hard in the studio, but it was not so much the creative kind of work as the "need to get some stuff taken care of" kind of work. A week from now I am going to participate in a show/sale at a Presbyterian church near here called "Celebrate the Gifts Arts Festival."  One of the organizers came to my open studio last year and contacted me about applying to be juried in and I did, and I was. It sounded like a nice affair and I heard good reviews. It has turned out to be a lot of work, so I hope it is worthwhile.

First I had to come up with something to display my work on, and I showed you the screens I found.
Those are now ready to go and I have got hooks and stuff to hang the pieces with and all that. I had also indicated that I would like a 6' table provided by the church. Then I read the fine print and discovered that they would provide the table, but I had to bring something to cover it to the floor. Hmmm. I considered paper or a sheet or a drop cloth, which all sounded ugly, so I spent a good part of the afternoon wrestling about 5 yards of white fabric to make a skirt that will go around the table. I have a large, dark red tablecloth that will go on the top over the skirt. It is hard to iron something this big, but I did and rolled it around a pool noodle to keep it from creasing and wrinkling. I still need to iron the big old tablecloth.

I also started a box of all the bits and bobs and tape and scissors and such that I will need to throw this show together. I will be adding to it over the next week.

I am also pulling out the work I will hang. It's still being decided, but I am definitely taking all these small pieces.

The ones wrapped in white paper have been framed. The unframed pieces still need to be wrapped in cellophane. Everything needs to be inventoried and priced. Is this making you tired yet? It sure made me tired. Then I thought about Lisa Call displaying her work in Baltimore and reading her blog as she built panels and all the parts of a booth and packed and shipped it all from Denver to Baltimore, along with all her work and then set up her booth and then took it all down again and shipped it all back. All—by—herself. By comparison this is pretty easy, I guess. I sure I hope I sell some things.

Tonight I relaxed in front of the TV and worked on another little piece. My daughter brought me a baggie of little flat rocks from the beach awhile back and I love how they look on this.

I think I will prepare backgrounds and take my box of beads and rocks and washers and threads with me next weekend and work on some of these little guys while I am sitting with my work at the show. If you are in the Portland area I hope you will come and see me. I will post the info about the where and when later in the week.

Wednesday, September 25, 2013

Fall comes

Yesterday I knew summer was over. I put on warm socks and long pants, leaving shorts and sandals behind, probably for this year. Sigh. The rain has started. Right now the sun is shining and there is blue sky, but there are clouds around the edges. Yesterday the rain came down in torrents and washed summer away. The garden is still wet and drippy from yesterday. The bathroom door is sticking because of the additional moisture in the air. The creek is high. Summer is over.

There's a little frog in there—can you see him?

I went to the studio yesterday, with an umbrella, and turned on the heat to help dispel the damp and turned on the lights to dispel the gray and I puttered the afternoon away with some non-art sewing.

I bought a length of hand-woven fabric, years ago, at the market in Otavalo, in Ecuador. "Es algodon??" I asked, in my terrible Spanish. "Is it cotton?"  "Si, algodon" was the answer. But it isn't. I don't know what kind of fabric it is. Maybe some cotton and something else. I washed it when I got home and it crinkled up strangely and raveled like mad, producing huge wads of colored thread in the dryer. I burned one of those thread wads and it produced black, hard balls of melted something. I folded it and put it away where it has remained for probably 8 years. Yesterday I made myself a long shirt from the fabric.

Then I made two soft flannel reversible caps for my sister, who is undergoing chemotherapy and will lose her beautiful hair. We—she and I—have always been a bit vain about our hair. It is thick and coarse and began to turn white so many years ago we can't remember. It attracts attention. It is our family crest, inherited from our father and grandfather and shared by our brother, and cousins and children and oddly, it feels extremely representative of who we are and where we come from. Hair. Silly, isn't it? She will lose her hair—temporarily. These caps will keep her head warm in the coming rainy, damp months until the hair comes back. They are very soft and remind me of baby caps, except I made them extra large because, along with the "Howard hair," we all have big heads.

Rainy days are good days for hunkering down and getting things done. And getting things done feels better than worrying about things I can't control. Like hair.

Sunday, September 22, 2013

Public Transportation

On Thursday and Friday I went across Portland to the Expo Center to the Quilt Expo event and both days I took MAX, the local light rail system that connects most parts of Portland and extends out into Washington County, where I live. The Expo Center is 20 miles from where I live, through heavy traffic and once there the parking is expensive. For $2 round trip, I can take a MAX train instead; not have to drive, see the city from a different perspective and take photos out the window!

I caught the train in Beaverton and rode into the city, getting off to change trains in the center of downtown Portland at Pioneer Courthouse Square. Here comes my train that will take me to the Expo Center. Clang! Clang!

One of the things I always notice when I ride MAX is that so many of the passengers are people who would live much different lives without this kind of public transportation. There are always people with disabilities on the trains. On Friday I saw 3 people in wheelchairs board and leave the train with relative ease. There was a blind man in my car on Thursday. I am sure there are people with disabilities that are not as visible that use the system as well. Elderly people, poor people, students, young teenagers and those of us who just didn't want to drive that day. Interesting that nearly everyone finds their seat and then pulls out their phone and sometimes earphones. Not unusual to see somebody tapping their foot or nodding their head to the rhythm of their private music—some of it coming from earphones and some apparently emanating from mystery sources!

The city is beautiful, especially when you look up. That's something you can't do when you're driving, or even walking along the sidewalk. Pioneer Courthouse Square is especially beautiful—that big, open space surrounded by lovely old buildings. That's where the blue-haired lady sells her sumptuous bouquets.

The Expo Center is the end of the line. When you get there you are almost to the Columbia River where you cross into Washington state, but first you have to cross the Willamette, the river that divides Portland.

Once across the river we are headed into relatively unfamiliar territory for me. North Portland was falling into decay when we came here 20 years ago. These days a lot good is happening there, but I seldom find myself in that part of the city and it feels like discovering a whole new place. These are the newer MAX stops out north and each has its own distinctive, artistic touches.

Elegant iron work on the railings. Thorny rosebushes, I think, near the Rose Garden Arena.

This is my favorite—wonderful mosaic-ed pillars designed by extraordinary Portland fiber artist Adrienne Cruz.

I tried to take a photo of a shop in a rather shabby industrial area that looks extremely interesting. I was jostled just as I shot and this is what I got.

 What in the world is "entombed wood?" And how does it become the beautiful furniture sitting in the doorway on the right? Fortunately I noticed the web address above the door for where I learned that entombed wood is wood that has been buried in the earth or has been underwater. Someday I think I need to get off the train and see this for myself.

Curiosities abound.

The Kenton neighborhood figure of Paul Bunyan. Does it look like he has his boots on the wrong feet?

I suppose I would tire of the trip if I rode MAX a lot, but for me it is something of an adventure. There were photos I would like to have taken, like the beautiful Somali woman, sleeping in her seat in her somber long black dress with the lovely beaded designs on the sleeves. It seemed wrong to take her picture as she slept, tempted though I was. I was poised and ready to get a shot of the big, bronze goose near the Goose Hollow station when a train going the other direction sped past between me and the goose. Too bad. He's a beauty, but someone got a photo and here it is. I also planned to take a photo of my cute little Miliken Way station in Beaverton at the end of this small journey, but by then my feet hurt and I had to pee, so I forgot the photo and hurried on home...

Friday, September 20, 2013

Twelve by Twelve exhibit in Portland

I have spent part of each of the past two days at the Portland Expo Center where the Twelve by Twelve project's set of 12 x 20 quilts were on exhibit. Gerrie and I, as the Portland members were the designated representatives of the group and we hung out with the quilts and answered questions and visited with people. The quilts looked wonderful—always such a revelation to see them all together. The whole is definitely more than the sum of the parts. Our quilts were the first thing people saw as they came in the main entrance.

 This is how they looked on Tuesday when we hung them, before the place was filled with people.

Today there were hoards. I took this photo of Gerrie demonstrating how people were looking at Kristin LaFlamme's pixilated portrait with their phones to see the face come together at the smaller size. Pretty cool effect.

You might remember we had our Theme and Colorplay series at the Expo last year and that Gerrie and I got up and out to the Expo at 5:30 in the morning to be interviewed by a somewhat goofy TV guy. We didn't have to do that this year, but there was a very nice feature on one of the local stations highlighting our exhibit. You can see it here.

This is the first time the 20 by 12 quilts (done last year in 2012—get it??) have been seen all together, and possibly the only showing of this phase of our project. We were so lucky to see them hanging as a group. It really thrilled me and made me realize, once again, what an extraordinary collaboration this has been. It seems the members are all very busy now with their own projects and there isn't a lot of interest in another collaborative challenge, but we remain friends and colleagues at a very deep level. There are threads (!) of shared experience that will always connect us. To my Twelve by Twelve sisters—I wish you could all see them hanging together and hear the comments. You were all here in spirit these past two days. I truly wish you had all been here in the flesh. Your work was so enjoyed, so admired, and so inspirational to the people who saw it. Once again, we did well!

Monday, September 16, 2013

Collaged house

Today I am participating in the Blog Hop for the Sketchbook Challenge! This month's theme is Houses and Hideaways. I hope you have been following along! Each of the artists has created something special for this Blog Hop. If you go there today you will see a small fabric house that I created several years ago, as well as this paper house that is a new project. Find it here.

I had a lot of fun making this collaged paper house and wanted to share the process with you. I took photos as I worked, so I could post a little tutorial here.

I created a paper pattern to work from. Using the pattern pieces I roughly cut all pieces from heavy cardstock, a little larger than the final pattern size (leave a margin of about 1/2 inch all the way around). Then I started arranging images torn from magazine pages on the pieces. I had gone through magazines and torn out images that made me think of houses and landscape and architectural details.

Once I had selected all the photo bits, I used diluted white tacky glue and started gluing them down. I brushed a layer of the diluted glue onto the cardstock base, then positioned the first piece, then brushed a little glue over the top of each piece as I lay them down, slightly overlapping and filling in blank spots. A final coat of the glue over the top of all the bits sealed it all down and it dried to a nice glossy finish. I let everything dry well.

Once it was dry, I trimmed each piece to the exact dimensions of the pattern piece. Depending on how stiff your base paper is, the pieces might have curled as they dried. Carefully roll them in the opposite direction to straighten them. If they persist in curling you can glue a heavier stock to the inside surfaces and let them dry under a heavy book. You want them as flat as possible.

At this point I added a door and some windows I cut from black paper.

The next step was to cut several 1" wide strips of heavy paper. Use a ruler and bone folder or table knife to score a line, lengthwise down the center of each strip, so you can fold a nice straight, crisp corner in the strip. These will be cut to length and used to attach the pieces of the house together at the corners.

Start with the walls of the house and glue a paper strip in each corner to attach all the walls to each other.

Add strips to the tops of the walls to attach the roof.

Attach dormer(s) in the same way.

You can add a bottom piece if you like or leave the bottom open. Once the house is put together you can continue to add embellishments. I thought I would add more, but I liked it as it was once I saw it all together!



 If you would like a copy of my basic pattern for this house as a pdf. file, just email me.

Saturday, September 14, 2013

End of the week

It was a week of many meetings, but today there were no meetings. It was a good day, starting with a walk up on Cooper Mountain with Ray. It was a little misty and overcast and perfect for a short hike.

Hints of fall, but not much color yet.

It is spider season.

The frames I ordered arrived today, so I spent the afternoon in the studio getting the small pieces ready to show. Some are framed, some will just get wrapped in cellophane. More frames coming.

And, remember that piece I was going to cut the bottom half off of? I did it today. Drew a nice straight chalk line and cut it off.

Yesterday was STASH day and I took my new work to show. It is so nice to have friends who will tell you what you want to hear! They all declared it quite wonderful. They are my friends and I take their praise with a grain of salt and ton of gratitude. Sometimes you just need the validation more than truthful critique. Thanks! So, see—I'm not such an anti-social after all. It was a wonderful day and amazing lunch served by amazing Suzy. Got through all the meetings this week and I am a better person for it. See me smiling?

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

Holding onto the center

I seem to be struggling more and more, lately, with how my time is spent and what is valuable to me. I know I am one of those people who values my time alone. Two years ago we built my studio and it is my favorite place to be. Still, it is also important to be with friends and to contribute to this small community of fabric artists that has developed here. But finding the right balance is challenging. Even people I love wear me out with their talk, talk, talk and demands and contrariness and judgement. Sometimes I just want to stay home. Be alone. This month the balance is off—too many meetings and all that jazz. And I'll bet you have already figured out that when I push myself out there it is usually totally worth the effort. What a contradiction.

Jane Dunnewold was the speaker at Columbia Fiber Arts Guild this morning. A beautiful talk and accompanying photos. She talked to me. And oddly enough, everyone else seemed to think she was talking to them! "Find your center," she said. "Hang onto it."  Listen to yourself. Find your own way. Teach yourself. Do your work. There is joy in making. It was what I needed to hear today. It was really good that I went.

It was 8 years ago today that I wrote my first blog post. I have written more than 1500 posts in those 8 years.  I am still amazed that anyone reads this. Even if no one read it I would write. It has become so important to me. But the fact that you do read and even comment makes it more than just my own feeble thoughts. It makes it a conversation and I am so much richer for that connection. Thank you.

Saturday, September 07, 2013

Yeah, I feel better...

and just a little ashamed of my whine yesterday. I was feeling crummy, but no reason to inflict it on everyone else. Nevertheless, thanks for the sympathy. I was all out of ginger tea and bourbon, so had to pass on the recommendations, but I have filed them away for the future...

Today was a new day and much better. I gotta lotta stuff to do in the next few weeks, so it was back to the grindstone.

First of all I have to elaborate on something I mentioned yesterday. Car upholstery. My 10-year-old Subaru Forrester is still a great little car, but apparently my bony butt has taken its toll on the driver's side seat. Look at this. Sad, no? It cracked and then bits peeled off.

It has been this way for awhile and I despaired of a good solution. I made a cushion to put over it, but that was not a great solution. The cushion doesn't stay in place and is more trouble than it is worth. I got online and looked for covers. Not inspiring. I looked online for something to patch it or repair it and found a kit that had gotten pretty good reviews. It has been sitting on my desk for about a year and yesterday I finally decided it would be a good day to use it and let the car sit overnight to cure. The kit consisted of little containers of goo in different colors. You mix them to match your vinyl upholstery as closely as possible, then fill the damaged area with the goo. The kit includes little paper sheets with embossed leather-ish textures. You lay one of those over the wet goo and heat set it, by moving a hot tool over it. I used my little Clover iron, which worked perfectly. When you pull up the paper the texture has impressed itself into the repair. Mixing the color to match was the hard part. I thought it was a perfect match, but you know how paint and such never dries the same color as it was wet? Yeah, that was a problem. But it is definitely an improvement. It actually looks like a better match in person, than it does in the photo. It feels pretty strong and firmly stuck in place. Time will tell.

I had another handy person task to attack, so today seemed like the time to take it on. I am participating in an art show and sale next month and I need to provide my own display fixtures. I have been stewing on this all summer and making little sketches of folding screens or panels I might build and basically just procrastinating what seemed like something hard. Then—I ran down to the local ReStore, where they sell salvaged and donated building supplies, to look for a few vinyl floor tiles for a project Ray was working on at our rental house. I found just what he needed, and I was about to check out, when I spotted two 3-panel folding screens. Huzzah! I could see possibilities and the price was right.

Both looked like this:

Kind of faux shoji screens. What isn't apparent in the photo is that some of the panels had tears in the papery fabric and some of those little thin wood strips were broken. So I started taking the fabric and strips out of the top panels, leaving the the bottom panels that were in better shape. I am cutting foam board to insert in the openings for now. It looks OK, I think.

I think this will work to hang my work on for this sale. If these work out OK, and I think I will do more of these kinds of shows,  I will replace all the panels with some cloth covered panels that I can stick pins and tacks into. They fold completely flat and fit into the Subaru with inches to spare.

And while laying around watching TV yesterday I finished another little piece using some of my patina-ed copper washers and copper beads. 

 This one is 4" x 5", more or less. I have made a whole bunch of these little thingies and I am mounting them on mat boards and fabric covered board and I ordered some frames for them. I am hoping these will be some reasonably priced work to sell at the upcoming shows.

Thursday, September 05, 2013

Fix Something

This has been a crummy week. I have this awful cold. It's a cold. It isn't permanent or life-threatening. It is just crummy. You know how that is. It is one of those particularly gross colds that makes my voice all raspy and underwater-y and my head hurt and it is grossly liquid, with uncontrollable attacks of snot and watering eyes and...well, you know. And so this hugely inconvenient, but not life-threatening cold is just making everything else seem worse. I have people I love who are dealing with stuff way worse than my cold and it is really getting me down. My favorite group is having a scheduling conflict that just seems insurmountable (it's not), my house is a mess and I have no energy for cleaning, I am trying to get work done for upcoming shows and the studio is a disaster area, I am unable to figure out a technical issue for an upcoming presentation, and, and, and.... 

I know everyone has weeks like this and much worse. I like to think I have developed the small measure of wisdom over the years to recognize that everything seems worse when you are sick. And I think I have finally figured out that it all comes down to control. How can I do all the things I need to do and provide the support my loved ones need and keep a positive attitude if I can't even control my own mucous membranes? A woman who coughs until she pees herself has definitely lost control of things. That's it, isn't it?

And so I stand back and watch myself with a combination of amusement and pity, as I exercise what control I can muster. I do this to convince myself that I still have some power. I get a haircut. See—that helped, didn't it? I dig out the repair kit I bought online more than a year ago and finally repair the split and peeling upholstery in my car. Looks so much better! I make a followup Dr. appointment that is months overdue. I update the calendar on my phone with all my upcoming meetings and appointments. I get a prescription refilled.  Now I feel a little more in control. But I need a nap—and a shower. Control is an illusion, I know, but while I can't fix the big things, it really does help to fix a few of the small things.

Sunday, September 01, 2013

Meta quilt

I have been making quilts using fabrics recycled from mens' shirts. Now I am making a quilt about a quilt and a man's shirt.

This post was made using a photo taken using my phone, sent to my email and saved onto the Kindle. A bit roundabout, but I would love to be able to blog on the road this way.


I am trying to post to my blog, using my Kindle Fire. Yay! I think it worked.