Tuesday, September 29, 2015

Time, Toilet Paper and Tomato Soup


We made a quick trip to Boise at the end of last week, mainly for Ray's 50th High School reunion, but we also spent time with relatives, I went to a quilt show, saw all that is new in Boise since we lived there and revisited what we loved, and still remains, of the city we remember. A sentimental journey in lots of ways.

The quilt show was put on by the Boise Basin Quilters guild and two of my favorite young, quilt artists, Lisa Flowers Ross and Kathleen Probst, were the featured artists. I walked the show enjoying the exquisite traditional quilts, as well as some bright contemporary quilts, and most of all, Lisa and Kathleen's bold, clear abstract art quilts. Each, in her own way, has explored the possibilities of simple forms, complex color and transparency, creating exciting work that really elevated the show. I was drinking in all that, plus the richness of tradition and craftsmanship in the rest of the show, then I saw something that stopped me short. In a vendor's booth a quilt and the pattern to make it, consisting of four quilt blocks, each depicting a slightly different view of a roll of toilet paper. I was dumbfounded, and I snapped a picture with my phone.

Walking to my car I kept thinking about why that quilt had so shocked me, and I posted the photo and my reaction to Facebook. Comments started rolling in. Some just didn't like the idea of making "art" from kits or patterns. Some expressed a distaste for the subject matter. One commenter defended it as "fun" and wondered why art had to be serious and a couple seemed to think I was attacking someone's personal expression in a rude or condescending way coming from someone who should be supportive of a fellow artist, while others dismissed it as "not art."

Only my friend Jeri seemed to understand that it was really time that I was reacting to. Events of recent years have made me acutely aware of how precious time is, and I have, more and more, pondered how one uses the limited time each of us is given. I have come to abhor busy work and mindless time-wasting. I hope I don't sound morbid or overly earnest. I want to relax and be entertained and have fun (though I still fail to understand why a toilet paper quilt is fun) as much as anyone, but I know full well what goes into making any quilt. When I expend my resources, including money, skill, emotional investment and time, I want it to be meaningful, and I could not, hard as I tried, coax any real meaning from that little quilt. My reaction turned to a little sadness that there are people who so little value their own time on earth and the skills they have worked to achieve.

I have been accused of overthinking in the past and this might be what I'm doing here. Things like school reunions and nostalgic weekends in an old home town will do that. I know I probably should not be concerned with how anyone other than I, myself, chooses to spend their time and energies and usually I'm not, and really this time I'm not so much concerned or disapproving as I am simply confounded.

And the tomato soup?

Several commenters mentioned Andy Warhol and his soup cans as somehow similar to the toilet paper quilt. One said, "how is this different from Warhol's soup can?..." Poor Andy. He has come to represent, for many, art that is so simple-minded that if a can of soup is art than anything can be. I rather love those soup cans myself, and find a lot of sly meaning to be found there. How many people know that he did not paint just one big tomato soup can? The original exhibit was 32 separate Campbell's soup paintings—one each of the 32 varieties Campbell's made. They were exhibited all together, side by side around a room in a galley—iconic in their style of presentation. Initially 3 were sold, but the gallery owner quickly realized that they were a set—complete only as a whole—and bought the 3 back. They have continued to be exhibited only as a group since. How does one view them? Icons of popular culture? A comment on the power of advertising? Beauty in the everyday object? When asked, Warhol said he chose soup because he liked soup and had eaten it for lunch every day for 20 years. So, now do you maybe see parallels in art and nourishment? Warhol went on to make many more variations on the soup can—large, very grand cans; soup cans as a repeating pattern; cans with the colors changed. A roomful of these pieces becomes a dizzying contemplation on the very nature of the manmade image, which can become entirely divorced from its original meaning. What has that image now come to represent? Simple nourishment? capitalism? the Pop Art movement? or something else? I'm probably overthinking again, but I think comparing Andy Warhol and the toilet paper quilt is a stretch. I don't think I'm buying it.

Thanks for reading all this. If you've hung in here you probably want to see that TP quilt that got me so agitated. I decided not to publish my photo without permission from the maker, but here is a link to the original pattern:


Draw your own conclusions.


Monday, September 21, 2015


I've been busy. Not so much in the studio, but I am feeling that small pressure to get things done while the weather is good. We have been painting our house's exterior all summer, and by "we" I really mean Ray has been painting and I have made a couple of half-hearted efforts to help. Early in the process I was painting the trim. Then one day I fell, backward, off a lower step of the ladder, not a great distance, but into a very poke-y bush, that scraped the heck across my back and trapped me in its branches. It took some flailing to escape and the whole experience pretty much soured me on the painting project—for awhile. Then a few weeks ago I began to see how good it was looking and I took on the front door and railings, which did not require a ladder. I really wanted to see this project finished before the rain begins.

When we moved in the house was yellow with white trim—not a bad color scheme—but with all the trees and all the green, I always felt it needed to be darker and more earthy. Now it feels like it nestles more comfortably into its surroundings.

Here's my paint inspector, making sure I do it right.


Here is its former yellow self.

I even made a small quilt at one time.

There is only a little painting left to do in the back, so I think we'll make our good weather window. We are also having some landscape work done out back. Today the guys started laying pavers, a much needed improvement.

I don't think the projects ever come to an end with an old house.

When I have made it to the studio recently it has been for some experimenting. Something about painting those railings on the porch made me want to paint on fabric I think. Paint is seductive.



Tuesday, September 15, 2015

Kinda crafty

Have you seen the light shades people are making from old crocheted doilies? I know, it sounds kind of dreadful, but some of the photos are pretty enchanting. A Google image search will turn up lots of examples.


I wanted one! I had a few old doilies, and then I scored a whole cookie tin full at an estate sale.


I also had a bottle of this stuff, purchased on speculation many years ago.

So, a year or more ago I got myself a big balloon and decided to give it a try. The first thing I found was that it was all but impossible to get the doilies to cling to the balloon, unless they were just dripping with the stiffening goo, which then squashed the ballon and distorted the round shape. Then, when I finally got the doilies on and they were drying, apparently in the middle of the night the balloon popped and by the next morning what I had was a caved-in sphere, resembling the shape of a rotted pumpkin and hardened into permanence with bits of balloon fragments imbedded into it. I threw it away in disgust and shelved the idea.

THEN a couple weeks ago my son-in-law was preparing to toss out an IKEA light shade that had become scorched and discolored and I was attracted to its nice shape and brought it home for another go at the doily shade plan.


I noted that it could serve as a mold and then slip, easily, out of the hardened doily shell. I hung it from the shelf over my studio sink and started applying soaked doilies.



Alas, the doilies immediately started sliding right off, but I was able to add a few pins and finally got full coverage. Another hand would have been handy, but clothes pins worked to keep things together until I could pin. I left it to dry overnight.

Next morning I discovered two problems. First, while most of my pins are rustproof, there were several rogues who rusted big old rust-stains onto the lace. And the second problem was that while the stiffening agent stiffened them nicely, it did not glue those doilies to each other as I had hoped, so it wasn't going to hang together.

This required large amounts of Elmers glue, carefully poked between layers and clamped with clothes pins and another night to dry. Once the glue was dry, the old shade did actually slip, fairly easily, out of the shell and I finally had something to work with. I touched up the rust stains with some white paint, rigged a little wire frame for the inside to hold it to the hanging light and, voila!, I was in business!

It is hanging in the studio, upstairs, in my reading corner and I kind of love it.



I probably need to get a bigger, round lightbulb, but it is, at least, functional. I still don't know how all those beautiful round shades were made, and anyone who tells you that this goes together easily is lying. But, really, isn't it pretty?


Friday, September 11, 2015

Ten Years

So here we are, ten years later. This was me 10 years ago. I wonder what happened to that shirt. I really liked it. And I was still wearing contact lenses back then. Otherwise, not too many changes.


This is where I sat, in my wonderful old house on Illinois Street, the night I decided to create a blog. The house is different and I have gone through a couple new computers since then. iPads hadn't yet been invented and tonight I'm using my iPad to write this post.

I have been looking back and reading old posts this week and marveling at all that has happened in ten years, and amazed and grateful and just confounded by the friends and opportunities and wonderful moments that have come to me through this blog in the past ten years. Honestly, I expected nothing. What I got has been huge. Awhile back a friend was going back and forth about starting a blog. She said to me, "your blog is great and all, but has it really proven to be an asset to your art career?" And my answer was that it has been everything that brought me an art career at this stage in my life. And so it goes...

Of all my yearly musings on my blog anniversary, this is the one I liked best. Written on the seventh anniversary:


Tuesday, September 11, 2012


Seven years ago tonight I sat at my computer, wondered how you set up a blog and followed some links down a rabbit hole. I came out the other end as the new owner of a blog called And Sew it Goes, which I have to explain is a name arrived at through desperation. Every other name that popped into my head had been taken, including my own name. I remembered that in the early days of the internet when I joined my first quilting listserve I used to add that line to my posts. The internet seemed so anonymous and I was having trouble keeping people straight on the list. The tagline seemed like it might be something memorable to distinguish me from the faceless multitude. I now regret using the cute "sew" in the line. "And so it goes..." says better what I intended, but of course that was the line associated with Linda Ellerbee the wonderful journalist. Also a heartbreaking Billy Joel song and a refrain in the Kurt Vonnegut book, Slaughterhouse Five. But there it is. And now, seven years later, I am still And Sew it Goes.

I had no idea what this blog would become for me. It is, first and foremost, a journal of my past seven years. The only journal I have ever kept. It didn't occur to me that it would engender a community of friends and open up opportunities never anticipated. I can't imagine coming to a place where I have nothing more to write about. I know it is probably the height of self-absorption in some peoples' eyes, but it is something that I now love so much that it doesn't matter to me.They say that life happens in seven year cycles. They say that every one of our cells is replaced in the space of seven years. So, the new me wonders what the next seven years will bring. You know where you can find me.And so it goes...

Thursday, September 10, 2015

When the words come out right...

Continuing with reposts of some of my favorite posts from the past ten years of blogging, I have been looking back and reading through a lot of old posts. Writing has become kind of a passion for me, but it isn't always easy. Sometimes I really struggle for something to even write about, or I write something, read it and see immediately that I completely missed the mark. Occasionally something comes out that feels like exactly what I wanted to say, and I am rewarded with wonderful, thoughtful responses from readers who add their own thoughts to what I always hope is a discussion, not just me talking. Here is one such post.

Saturday, April 13, 2013

Selling my work

I sold a piece of my work yesterday. An old friend contacted me last week and said he would like to buy a piece of my work. He looked at the pieces posted in the tabbed pages at the top of this blog and chose one he liked and arranged to come out to the studio to pick it up. He brought his friend, an artist, to see the studio and it was a lovely interchange. At one point he asked, "When you sell a piece, do you miss it, or are you just happy to have the money?" I laughed a little at the question and answered that I am happy to have the money.  Which is true, but not really the entire answer to his question.

I actually love selling my work. The saddest thing in my studio is the stack of unsold work upstairs in the storage space. Selling a piece of artwork is the most affirming thing I know. Better than having it published, better than getting into a big show. It means someone else has connected to it in a way that means they will pay for it and make it part of their life and surroundings. That is hugely, HUGELY gratifying. And selling something that is a personal favorite of mine, is the best. I don't have as much anxiety about whether the new owner will really like it or whether I have sold him something with serious flaws that he will recognize down the road.

And the other part—will I miss the piece of artwork? Oddly, not really. For one thing, I photograph everything I do and make sure I have good photos. I can always go back to them if I need an image or want to show a sampling of what I have done to someone. But more than that, by the time I finish something it has given me all that I needed from it. Sometimes what I needed was a big, tangled messy challenge. Sometimes it is discovery. Sometimes it is finding out what does not work. It always provides the problem-solving part of the design, the pleasure and sensual joy of choosing the fabrics and seeing how they play together, the solitary, contemplative parts of pinning up pieces and choosing the best combinations and beginning to see the piece coming together. There is a wonderful smell of hot fabric, being ironed. There is the hypnotic hum of the sewing machine. There is a process of talking to oneself. "Damn, I should have used a fabric with more contrast here. No, this is probably OK.... No it isn't OK. Damn." Then resignation and the task of picking out stitches and replacing the bad with better. And you know you made the right decision, even if you did have to pick out those tight little stitches. That's a good feeling. And then it is finished and I sit and look—for a long time. Sometimes what I thought was finished really isn't and back it goes to the table for something more—or less. Then I am happy, and the work is ready for someone else to enjoy in a different way.

And the money, the other other part. That's a sticky part for a lot of artists. I know some people who just can't bring themselves to ask for money for their work. And some, who maybe are too focused on  the money, making "sale-able" a priority that overrides their other aspirations for their work. For me it is a largely unemotional issue. Making art, while it is good and satisfying work, is still work and I have a belief that most work should be paid. That is not to say I would never give a gift of my work or donate it to something I believe in. But giving art as a gift is a different experience than selling it. When it is sold you know the person receiving it sees value in the work and has chosen, for themselves, something they truly desire. And that money is something I always translate, in my mind, into more materials, more freedom to work at art instead of something else, and a greater ability to continue to do what I so love doing. Or, when things are really good, I can use that money to buy a piece of art from another artist. I would much rather have someone else's artwork on my walls than my own. Really, that is the best.


Having my friend come out to the studio was a good excuse to clean it up, after some weeks of heavy-duty art-making. It looked good enough that I took some new photos and replaced some of the ones in the "my studio" tab above. Now that I have been working there for a couple of years it looks more like a real working studio than my earlier photos of pristine tables and storage bins. I hope you will enjoy seeing where I work.

If you'd like to read some of the wonderful comments that added so much to this post, you can read the original post here.

Tuesday, September 08, 2015

Another favorite

This was a post I enjoyed writing and I enjoy going back to read again. It has been 7 years since I wrote it and I wouldn't change it at all.

The followup post is worth reading as well, I think. There were people who responded about their own childhoods, which made me stop and think about my own and where it came from. You can read it here.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

I am from

This little exercise comes from a poem by George Ella Lyons; by way of Fragments from Floyd, where there is a template; by way of Kirsty at Two Lime Leaves and others. Whew. A long way to get here, but a good exercise. I recommend it and would love to see what others come up with.

I am from The Saturday Evening Post, from Grapenuts and the Postwar Baby Boom.

I am from Maplewood Street, Elm trees, sagebrush, the Portneuf River, hot, dry summers and bitter cold winters.

I am from the desert, the mountains, the sky. I am from the sound of trains in the night.

I am from singing in the car and laughing til we peed our pants, from Grandpa Ern ("you be Frank and I'll be Ernest") and Shelton earlobes and Howard hair.

I am from handmade is better than store bought.
From "never tolerate intolerance" and "life is grand if you don't weaken."
I am from the little Methodist church and the Carnegie Library and the Woolworth and the Okay Market.

I'm from a homestead in Colorado, a farm in Montana, the foot of the mountains in Idaho, from baked potatoes and cheese enchiladas.

From Jimmy who saw Betty for the first time and said, "There's the girl I'm going to marry" and Betty who thought she "might die" if she didn't marry him; and black and white TV and a succession of Ford Station wagons.

I am from Dad's darkroom and family photos and silver dollars. From fresh trout and starry nights, the smell of woodsmoke and wool blankets; the love of books and babies and card games and road trips and a good story.

I am from love that was demonstrated daily but never talked about. I am from family

Monday, September 07, 2015

Now that I have shown you some of the viewers' favorite posts from the past, I want to remind you of some of my favorite posts. This post, from 2010 remains one of my favorites because I look back at the day I was writing about and remember it as a day I want to remember forever and this post does that for me. It was the final post of several about our trip to my childhood home in Idaho, and a visit with my brother and his family. We had been at the cabin my parents built, which my brother now owns, in a part of Idaho that will always be special to me. It was a perfectly, gorgeous, sparkling Fall day as we made our way from the cabin out along the Snake River and I was seeing both the present and the past in the glory of the scenery. I loved the photos I took that day.

Saturday, October 30, 2010

Idaho—the last installment

I have saved the most scenic for the last and I plan to get all tour guide-y on you, so you are warned.

Quaking Aspen
Boy, do I love these trees. They so remind me of being at the cabin and in the mountains of Idaho.
Through the mountains you see huge groves of aspen. You can see one of these groves, that has lost it's leaves in this photo, across the lake. They are beautiful in every season. In the summer their quivering, silvery leaves seem to shimmer and in the fall they turn that amazing brilliant yellow. In winter they are ghostly and graceful like this grove that we saw driving along the river. 
Did you know that aspen groves grow from a single system of underground roots? All the trees in a grove, growing from that root system are genetically identical and the grove is referred to as a clone. Scientists consider a clone grove of aspens as a single living organism and there is a very large clone in Utah that may be the single largest living organism on earth. You can observe that clone groves, because all the trees are genetically identical, will lose their leaves all at once and not necessarily on the same time schedule as neighboring clones. Makes me wonder if the foreground tree in my photo is not a part of the clone. (Individual trees will also grow from seeds.) I miss the aspens. They don't grow much below 5000 feet, so we don't have them in the part of Oregon where I live, but they are the most common tree in North America.

South Fork of the Snake River
Just to give you a little context, here is a map of the area where the cabin is.

The cabin is on the west side of the Palisades Reservoir, in the vicinity of the lettering on the map that says "Bear Creek Rd.". Jackson Hole and the Grand Tetons are a bit east and north of the righthand side of the map. The Palisades Dam is on the South Fork of the Snake River, and we drove back to Pocatello by way of the Snake River Rd. where all of these photos were taken.

The yellow trees along the river are cottonwoods.

Looking east toward Wyoming.


Great fishing along this river. There were fishermen out in their boats the day we were there.

Here in Oregon many of my friends say they long for the ocean and find peace and calm along the beaches and dunes. Me, I find myself longing for the mountains and the aspen and the pine and each time I visit it is like having my battery charged. I guess it is part of who I am.

Ernest Hemingway was one of Idaho's most famous citizens. He died and is buried near Sun Valley. The epitaph on his memorial are his own words, written for a friend.
Best of all he loved the fall
The leaves yellow on the cottonwoods
Leaves floating on the trout streams
And above the hills
The high blue windless skies
Now he will be a part of them forever
 It was that kind of day.

Sunday, September 06, 2015

Another favorite older post

Yesterday I re-shared the post, that over the past 10 years of blogging has been the most viewed. The second most viewed was the tutorial I put together for using the Liquid Thread fusing product that I continue to use for assembling my work. If you really want to see that again you can find it here. Close behind in the number 3 spot is a post from 2012 showing my completed quilt called "Fire".  It is one of several posts of quilts where I said, "I thought this was finished, but then I decided it wasn't and this is what I did." I guess that is my frequent pattern.

It was one of four for a show called "Elements" and before the show even opened Fire had sold to a member of my High Fiber Diet group. It seemed to strike a cord with people and has been pinned many, many times on Pinterest sites.  I get frequent emails inquiring whether it is still for sale, or even more frequently, if I sell a pattern for making it. So I will clear that up right here and now—no, I don't sell a pattern. Never have, never will.  Couldn't begin to create directions for how this thing was made even if I wanted to. But, thanks for asking!

Friday, April 06, 2012


Finished the campfire piece today. Actually, I thought I had it finished yesterday. It looked like this:

I don't know if you can see what I changed. The bottom foreground wasn't quite working for me. Those rocks around the fire looked too tight and somehow unnatural. And the ground itself wasn't "grounding." I added a couple more rocks and some deep shadow, which seem like an improvement to me. And then I added more sparks. Seemed like it needed those.

This piece will be submitted for our next High Fiber Diet show, "The Elements." If I can get them done in time, I hope to complete all four elements to submit. I started with "fire" because it seemed the most challenging, but now I am having a hard time coming up with any ideas for earth, air and water!

The size of this is 15" x 35". I kind of wish I had made it larger.

Saturday, September 05, 2015

Looking back over the past 10 years

Next Friday will mark 10 years that I have been writing this blog. No one is more surprised than I, that I have kept at it for this long. It has been a very satisfying journey for me. Not every post has been a gem, but in nearly 1800 posts over the past 10 years I think a few stand out as favorites, either of mine or of those of you who have been reading. I decided to look back through the stats and pick out a few to share this week.

I was really, really surprised to learn which post, from all of them has been the most viewed and shared. It is one from 2009 about summer TV and doodling. Almost 20,000 people have viewed this post. I would never have picked this as a winner in a million years! Here it is again.

Monday, July 06, 2009

So you think you can doodle

My guilty summer pleasure is the TV show, "So You Think You Can Dance". It really is about the only thing worth watching on TV this summer, though I am catching "True Blood" on HBO and saw the first episode of "Hung" which looks promising, if a bit risque! I like the dance show because these kids really can dance! It is always entertaining and sometimes quite thrilling. The judges are good, say intelligent things, don't bicker among themselves; the choreography is interesting and creative and the choreographers talk about what they are doing, which I find fascinating.

While I watch, I doodle. I put my pen down during the actual dancing, but doodle while I listen to the talky part. I am continuing the doodle style I showed awhile back. Here are the latest.

I find I am now seeing patterns to doodle everywhere I go. Even peapods in the garden.
This one (above) is not a favorite. I think the center turned out looking like a little quilt with a ruffle around it—or molars around it.

Ray dubbed this one a "Martian fruit".
There is something really quite satisfying about working in black and white. I saw the Escher exhibit at the Portland Art Museum this month, and Escher's prints are really wonderful and graphic. A lot of the detail really reminded me of my doodles. And the rediscovery of my old prints has gotten me thinking a lot about the simple and not so simple process of working with only one color. I think the universe might be trying to tell me something.

Tuesday, September 01, 2015

Take a photo

Want to know what's going on with your artwork? Take a photo and look at the photo. I don't know why this works, but it does. Sometimes there is something not quite right, big as life, right in front of you and you don't see it until you take a photo. Seriously.

Do you see a difference between these two pictures?


When I posted pictures of the stitching I did yesterday something hit me. The first picture was what I was seeing and it was dead. Something was not right. The lines of stitching were too regular and static. I went back today and added enough additional lines of stitching to break up that regularity and, for me, it changed the whole feeling. Now I am stitching with more awareness of creating a more syncopated, organic rhythm in the stitching. I'm glad I saw that when I did.

I put in a long afternoon of quilting on this piece today. Tomorrow I'm helping Sofia with a sewing project, so I won't be stitching on my piece for another day or more, but I see the end in sight.





I have finally reached the point when I can begin stitching on this piece. Getting the top together was challenging and fun, but the top, alone, is a flimsy, lifeless thing, in need of texture and substance. Now the real work begins. I layer and pin baste, getting it ready to go under the needle. My machine is readied—cleaned, oiled and fitted with a sharp new needle.


A man, looking at my work one time, asked about the "special" machine I must use for quilting a piece. He speculated that it was some computer-driven wonder that one programs to "do all the work for you." I think he envisioned placing the layered fabric under the needle, pushing a button and walking away, leaving the machine to do its magic. Not even close. I use a heavy-duty, strictly mechanical (not digital) machine for quilting. It does nothing but straight stitch. It has an extra wide opening to accommodate the bulky fabric layers I push through it and it allows me to drop the feed dogs—those saw-toothy runners that ordinarily push the fabric in a forward motion. When the feed dogs are dropped and I use a free-motion foot, I can, with my non-computerized hands, guide the fabric forward, backward, side-to-side to create the paths and patterns the stitching takes. It is a bit like drawing by moving the paper under a stationary pencil.

The stitching is slow and laborious. Hard on one's back and shoulders, but, at the same time, meditative and rhythmic. I don't plan or mark the patterns I stitch ahead, so it become an ongoing improvisation, a conversation between the fabric and me about what the composition needs. It feels a little reckless and iffy to just make it up as I go, but also totally absorbing and the sense of time falls away. And when I finally stop, stretch my stiffened back and stand back from the work, I see that it is coming to life. That's what the stitching does.


I have many hours of this ahead of me.