At the end of my Sisters trip, I pieced this together. I simply wanted a background of my hand-dyed fabric to embroider on. I wanted to see how it was to stitch through. (My hand-dyes so far are muslin and Robert Kaufman’s Kona PFD fabric.) I just intended to do some straight line stitching on it. Then it just seemed like it needed some circles. Some of the circles are stitched straight on the fabric, while others have a solid appliqué background. BTW, my hand-dyes are LOVELY to stitch through. Not hard to figure out, since both of those fabrics are not tightly woven.


Since this was a quilt that I started while traveling, and continued to work on at home and in my travels, this seemed like the perfect verse. I used variegated thread for the lettering. I should probably stop doing that…


I do love my little circles. I guess you could tell that by the amount of pictures I take of them :)


For these circles, I made a rule that I could only use the running stitch (of course the appliquéd edges are blanket stitch.)



I put a question mark after “Finished?” in the title, because I think this little piece might need a bit more quilting in the background.

Here is one more look at a quilt I think I already shared with you. It is bound now, and it really is finished.



I am trying to finish up some “almost done” quilts. So I can start new ones without the guilt LOL. Anyway, I worked steadily on the little tree from my recent retreat, and it is completed. I was looking for a verse with the word “tree” in it (for a different quilt) and I came upon this Proverb, which I thought was just perfect for this little quilt. I added back some smaller red dots, and it looked just right to me.







Except for sewing the five background pieces together by machine, this little piece is all hand-sewn. The kantha embroidery and blanket stitch edging are done just through the top and batting, while the quilting lines were done through all three layers.


Tacked the yoyo’s down.


And added some “seed pods” to the little red circles.

Anatomy of a Quilting Retreat

Amidst all of the construction of the past few months, I have been able to work here and there in the studio. Not in an organized fashion so much, or as consistently as I would like, but enough to keep the creative juices alive. So when it came time for the sheetrock installation, and that involved my toilet being removed for a few days, I decided to take a little spiritual/creative retreat. Oh, what a good idea that was! I was only here for about half an hour after the sheet rock work started–kind of like being at the dentists–eeeek!

I thought I’d share the evolution of my “creativity” on the retreat. BTW, I went to a great little place in Lake Tahoe that I have gone to before–3 Peaks Resort. I had rented a regular room, but as I heard the customer in front of me discussing a “suite,” I asked how much it would be to upgrade to a suite. It was $30/night. I did think about it for a bit, but decided that for $150 total, it would be well worth it to be able to spread out a bit, and to have a kitchen for my food.


I took a lot of stuff with me. I had one collection of fabrics that I had put together at the end of my Sisters trip.


I gathered another pile of interesting prints and solids in darker colors. I had my zip lock baggies of Cherrywood scraps (LOVE these.) And I brought what I thought would be good background/neutral fabrics. Oh, and a couple of squares of wool that I had nabbed at PIQF, and of course a case of my beloved perle cotton thread. And a couple of journals, my sewing machine, and of course some magazines and books for inspiration.


DAY ONE: I had some general ideas of what I wanted to do. I started out with this checkerboard. I thought if the strips were cut unevenly, they might look sort of woven.


Ick. That was so dismal that I almost went into that spiral “what made you think you were an artist? You’ll never be able to create anything worthwhile. etc.” You all know the drill.

That afternoon I regrouped. I put together the original set of fabrics, and decided to make a strip set of them, to use in creating SOMETHING. I have found that cutting into the fabric is key to moving forward. So I will generally cut strips and/or pieces out of the fabrics that I want to use. I don’t know the end use, and that may lead to some waste, but at least I start moving forward. And that was enough work for one day.


DAY TWO: I cut some bigger pieces of those “neutral background fabrics” and started inserting the strips I had cut from the strip set fabric. The kitchen floor worked pretty well as a design wall :)


In the afternoon, I decided to put together a little composition so I would have something to embroider on in the evenings. I also wanted to use that square of wool that I had brought with me. I remembered a “kantha tree” I had sketched in one of my journals from a photo of an actual Indian kantha quilt. (The “border” there is just the backing that I fold over to the front to keep the edges neat while I am hand stitching.


DAY THREE: I decided I wanted to work with some of the other fabrics I had brought, so I cut various sized strips and made square-in-a-square blocks with crosses inserted two ways. Very fun. But tedious.


Back to the kantha tree. I thought it needed a little more color.


Eek. TOO MANY red dots. Took them off right after snapping this photo.

Playing with the squares on my “design wall”:


DAY FOUR: I had tired of making the little squares. But I had a lot of strips still left. Just did some big log cabin style squares to use up the strips. I actually like these big squares very much.




DAY FIVE: Back to the original composition. I wasn’t that happy with it. So I tried adding some “borders” to it (greatly improved,) and then, surprise! I cut out and added some circles to it. I didn’t have my zig zag machine with me, so that was as far as this piece was going to go on this trip.


In the afternoon, I went out for my usual cup of coffee, and Hey! Is that a bead store I see over there?? I indulged myself with a few types of beads, and then bought one spool of beading thread and a pack of those little blanket thingies that make beading so easy. Usually, buying the beads is as far as I go :( So I made myself get them out and start adding some to my little kantha tree.


Hey, this beading actually goes faster than my hand-stitching! Who knew?


BTW, I sew those circles on raw-edge with no fusible. The perle cotton keeps the edges nicely in place.


DAY SIX: I had seen an article in a magazine about adding circles and cross-cutting the fabric. Kinda like what I’ve already done with my crosses, but taking it a step further. I didn’t follow the instructions in the magazine, and I didn’t get the same results as they had shown. But it was pretty fun. And might be something I keep in my arsenal. This piece, as well as the big log cabin blocks, and the little square-in-square blocks are all from the same group of fabrics. So they might end up in the same composition, or they might be used for all different quilts. I’m considering them “parts department” a la Freddy and Gwenny.


Ooh, and in my little box of sewing supplies, I found a few yo yo’s that I had made on my Sister’s trip. I auditioned them on the Kantha tree quilt.


Thus ended my little retreat. It was a very beneficial trip. It seems that someone who lives alone would not have to leave home to have a quilting retreat. But (aside from the construction) there are always distractions and responsibilities at home. It is good to get away and have no other responsibilities than being creative!


The Little Trees

Making trees on quilts is not a new idea. Making these kinds of trees on quilts is not a new idea. Maybe appliquéing them with the zig zag stitch is a new idea? Probably not. Whatever, I had great great fun creating these little quilts on my Sisters quilting retreat with BF Robin.


Brought them home, and of course, none of them were exactly square, or exactly the same size. Because that’s how I work. I like working that way, and there’s nothing wrong with it. However, USUALLY at some point, you do want to square a quilt up. In this case, after measuring all of them, I decided that I would make all of them 17 inches square. I had kept all the leftover scraps from that project in one place. I KNOW, how organized of me! Anyway, I looked at each, and decided on how I would like to frame each one. I do love how they came out. Each is different, but they are all slightly related, as I drew from the same group of fabrics as I worked on them, and then as I framed them.


Next, the quilting!

Almost Done

Another Psalm quilt almost finished. Can you spot the problem in this photo?


Yes, it is 24″ across the top and only 23″ across the bottom. I do this to myself far too frequently. I don’t start out with a perfectly squared up piece of fabric (that part is okay.) But then I do this extensive embroidery ALL THE WAY TO THE EDGE  (that part is not okay.) Because then I hate to cut that embroidery off, so I fudge when I am squaring up the quilt and end up with a trapezoid. Sigh. I will be squaring it up later today, and putting a binding on tomorrow (binding is such heinous work, it is not suitable for Sunday.)

I am very happy with how this quilt turned out. I don’t usually have the words picked out when I start a quilt composition. As this one progressed, and the birds became more of a focal point, I came upon this Psalm (92) about singing and praise. It seemed perfect for this quilt, and the phrases I wanted to include fit perfectly in the blank spaces I had left for the writing.

Some close-ups:


Adding the french knots in the circles is something a little new.



I got a couple of good days in the studio last week. I’ll share another project soon!

Simple Sewing

Along with my “simplified life,” I am finding that I can pretty easily do some simple sewing. So far, no major works of art have come forth during this construction/renovation work. But I’ve managed two baby quilts and a new pillow cover!

Both of the baby quilts started with a baby/kid print. I just chose some solids that would coordinate and put them together.






The pillow cover is for the “European pillow” that I prefer for sleeping. Regular pillowcases don’t fit, so I had made a quilted cover for it a while ago. I was tired of that one, so I used another cute print (one of those darn fabrics I can’t resist buying and then don’t know what to do with them when I get them home.) This one was even more simple. Just kept the print as is and did some very simple quilting on it. Very nice to sleep on, I must say!


It feels good to finish some projects, even if they are simple. In the meantime, I do spend every evening doing some hand stitching on my more serious work. I’ll share those when they are finished!

A Quilty Vacation

I wrote all about my trip to Sisters here. Suffice it to say, I had two whole weeks in Sisters, and the main activity was quilting! I arrived on a Friday and set up shop on the dining room table of the house I had rented. That gave me a couple of days to fool around before the Rosalie Dace workshop started. I had brought a LOT of fabric with me, both for the workshop, and for use outside of the workshop. So I picked out a few colors and pieces that I wanted to play with–mostly blues and greens, and put together some little pieced blocks. Then I played around with putting them on a background. I left a lot of space on this one on purpose–so I can add some words, probably for the “What They Said” series. (that edging is just the backing pulled around to the front of the sandwich to keep the edges clean.)


I had leftover pieces, and I liked that backing fabric, so I made another little composition just for fun. Got some blank space on this one for words too :)


And then it was time for the workshop to start. This was a workshop taught by Rosalie Dace about the influence of Kandinsky in the world of art, and how that could be used/interpreted in quilting. Rosalie is such a talented artist, and she is also an excellent teacher. If you ever have a chance to take any of her workshops, I would really encourage you to do that. This workshop was held at the Stitchin’ Post quilt shop, and I highly recommend it as an excellent place to take a workshop! Plenty of workspace and wall space for each student, comfortable chairs, good lighting, and an excellent lunch was served each day. Plus, you get a coupon for 15% off of any purchase made during that week!

It was interesting to hear the various reasons that people had signed up for the class. Many of the people said “I don’t like Kandinsky, but I wanted to take a class with Rosalie.” That was sort of how I felt. But as the class went along, I found that there was a lot to learn from studying Kandinsky. Rosalie spent time every day discussing various interesting aspects of his work.

Remember this little piece? In the evenings, after the workshop, I would go home and relax and stitch on this little piece. I thought about how maybe my work has been influenced by Kandinsky after all–the curved lines, the straight intersecting lines, and of course the circles. The influence came second hand, though, since I had never looked at a Kandinsky painting before signing up for this workshop.







Back to the workshop. Our first assignment was to draw a bunch of geometric designs using some of the things that Kandinsky used in his work. Okay, that was fun.


Then we were to choose one of those, and interpret it in cloth. I think I chose this simple one  because I thought it would be fun to add my stitching to.


Rosalie came along, and said, now try it with a different background.


Ahhh, much better. You can see I added a few other little embellishments.

Next, we were to draw just some circle designs. LOL, nothing new for me. But I tried to challenge myself to do something different with the circles.


In the afternoon, I stared at these four drawings, trying to decide what to do. Rosalie came by, and I pointed to the one with the most circles, and said, I like that one, but SO MANY circles to cut out. And her reply was “What else are you going to do this afternoon?” That was actually a good learning point for me.

So here’s the little circle composition I did. You can see its not an exact copy of the drawing, but its the same feel. (BTW, these little compositions are only about 10-12″ square.)


And then the next morning (I think) we finished up one of the little compositions. I really like this little piece.


One thing I learned from my table-mate was to use the zig-zag satin stitch to make these narrowing lines. Very cool, I think. You just set your machine to satin stitch (zig zag set on the narrowest width) and then start at one size of stitch, and keep decreasing it gradually as you stitch along (like–5.0, 4.5, 4.0, etc.)


One morning, Rosalie did a slide show that included several of Kandinsky’s works. I saw one that piqued my interest enough that I drew a quick sketch in my journal. It was of overlapping rectangles. I thought that might create an interesting background to put other shapes on. I liked that idea well enough that I decided that would be the composition I would choose to work on for the remainder of the workshop.

I chose one of my hand-dyed pieces that I liked the most, and then pulled out a bunch of browns for the rectangles. Here is the beginning of my piece.


And this next picture is as far as I got by the final day of the workshop. One thought I had about creating in a workshop–you are working in a pressure cooker. I usually only work on “art” pieces when I am alone. When I get stuck, I stop and think about it for a day or two. You don’t have that luxury in a workshop. So, while I like this piece enough to finish it, I don’t have any illusions about it being a great piece.


The last day of the workshop, my BF came to town. We were going to have our own private mini-quilting retreat!

I took a break from the workshop project, and started sewing the leftover blue and green strips from the beginning of my trip into nine patches. Then I didn’t quite know what to do.




I remembered some little trees in the quilt store that had caught my eye. I started playing around with putting those on top of the nine patches. Ooh, how fun! So fun, that I made one for each season! I thought I would put these together into one quilt, but my friend suggested making each one into its own small quilt. I think they might work really nicely in my new kitchen, or in the dining room!


After my friend left, I got the workshop quilt back out and tried to add a bit to it. I put in quite a few quilting lines, and then played around with adding the black lines on top. I added the three vertical lines and was pretty happy. My friend suggested something needed to be done at the bottom, so I am auditioning the horizontal lines. They are not sewn down yet.


And so my excellent adventure in Sisters, Oregon came to an end. I came home to a HOUSE UNDER CONSTRUCTION. I have found that it is very difficult for me to settle down to the serious work of creating when all this other stuff is swirling through my mind. So I have been working on hand stitching a previous project in the evenings. That is progressing very nicely, and I will share that in a future post.

Colorful Sunday!

The summer of dying continues! I am leaving in a few days for a workshop with Rosalie Dace. I love her work, and she is an excellent teacher. I took one one-day class with her several years ago, and I actually retained quite a bit of what I learned from her. That is the sign of a good teacher. Anyway, hand-dyed fabrics are listed on the supply list for this class, so I decided to try to get one more dye session in before I leave. I cut 16 yard and half-yard pieces of the Kona PFD and muslin fabrics, and had four unsuccessful pieces from the last dye day that I wanted to try over-dying. I planned to prep them and dye half on Saturday and half on Sunday. After dying half of the pieces on Saturday, I realized that if I dyed all of them  that day, I could rinse all of them on Sunday and be done with the project. That was definitely a good plan!

Here is what I came up with.


This is the most unique piece–it was dyed in a ziplock baggie! I put some green dye in the bottom of the bag, and put part of the fabric in the bag. then I scrunched a bit more fabric in the bag and added a second color, and then added the rest of the fabric and added a third color. Honestly, I don’t even remember what colors I was adding. It looks like more colors than I actually added!


And this is my favorite piece from this session. It was done in the glad ware container. One color was placed in the container, and half the fabric was put in. Then I scrunched the rest of the fabric into the container, and dumped a second color on top. It is prettier in person than in this picture.


My takeaway from this dye session is that I don’t really need repeatable formulas, like I had when I was dying fiber for resale. But I would like to know what each basic dye actually looks like, so I will be more informed when I combine dyes. The fabric does not even look close to the same color when it is wet as compared to when it is rinsed and dried. I have a hard time remembering what I actually did/what dyes I used. So later I will do some controlled experiments.

And speaking of rinsing. That is driving me nuts. There shouldn’t be that much dye to rinse out. So I need to do some more experiments with applying a bit more heat or using a bit less dye. Its tiring to do that much rinsing, and then still worry that more will rinse out later.

But overall, it is quite thrilling to be dying my own fabric. My own colors, each piece unique to me. I don’t know why I waited so long to try!


Exciting News!

I was actually cleaning up my demo samples here.

I just received word that my episode of The Quilt Show will air on December 8! I am so excited that it is airing so soon (rather than waiting until sometime next year.) Plus, is there a better way to celebrate turning 60? SIXTY? When did that happen? Anyway, if any of you are members of TQS, you will be able to see it that day. For everyone else, I will be given a secret password to pass onto you, and you will be able to see it a week later, starting December 15.


A Do-Over


Remember this quilt that I started way back when? And then I got the top put together here? I mentioned in that post that I was considering adding perle cotton embroidery to the ovals. And sure enough, I did do that.


I thoroughly enjoyed just adding my simple random embroidery to those pieces.


But after I had finished six of them, I still didn’t like the way it looked. I tried again, using only the running stitch, and connecting the ovals. Nope, I didn’t like that either.


So I took all that embroidery out. And then I tried to figure out what I was going to do with this quilt. It was on the wall when I took out some little oval pieces to play with on a different quilt top. When I do my zig zag appliqué, I often cut the back out carefully and keep those pieces for a future project. So these were the leftover pieces from this particular quilt. And I thought, Hey…..

So I tried putting these ovals on top of the other ovals. And I liked it!


Since the quilt sandwich had already been made and partially quilted, these motifs were zigzagged through all three layers of the quilt. I finished it with some “scribble circle” quilting.


P.S. I realize that those pieces are not “ovals.” But I don’t know what to call them. My BF says it looks like a Fleur de Lis now. I think that name will stick!