What inspires you? Most often, I am inspired by other textile artists. And often, their work is a springboard for something I want to try in quilting. If you think that’s wrong, here is a quote I keep in my studio:

Copy the designs of others without shame, and keep going, until you find that the things you are doing are completely original and have nothing to do with anything but what your feel inside. MAXWELL GILLINGHAM-RYAN.

Here are some of the latest artists that have inspired me. But first, I have to share a quote from Mary Fons. She succinctly says something that I have firmly believed for a long time.

 If I wanted to make perfect objects, I wouldn’t use fabric.

Does anybody remember Colorforms from their childhood? Re-stickable forms–I LOVED those things. Can you believe they have an original re-make available?  Anyway, I saw this artist’s work, and just liked the idea of putting simple shapes together–it seemed like a good canvas for embroidery stitches or kantha work, so I made a small piece to experiment with. I don’t know that the name for her work was inspired by the child’s toy, but I liked the idea of that.

Somehow I ran across this weaver’s work, and I am smitten! So smitten that I want to go and take tapestry weaving classes from her! Alas, I have too many other textile areas I am working in, and I have not figured out how to increase the number of hours in the day. I am sure some of her designs will inspire my next quilting experiment.

Here is a wonderful free e-magazine to inspire you. Linda and Laura Kemshell do wonderful and inspiring work, and put together this wonderful magazine that I find most inspirational. Check out page 55–yours truly responded to their call for reader’s work. This same piece is in SAQA’s Northern California Inspirations II exhibit, and it is now being shown in the Olive Hyde Gallery in Fremont, CA. On Saturday, October 29, they are going to have artist talks, which I will be participating in–that will be something new for me.

I am also inspired by words. I finished my “Dust if you Must” sampler, and it is awaiting quilting, which brings up another topic.


That other topic being….THE JUKI. Cue ominous music. Last Wednesday, the alarm went off again. (It went off when I first got the machine, and I just kept futzing with it and it stopped.) There is nothing in the user manual or anywhere online about an alarm on this machine. After fooling around with the machine for an entire morning, I finally called the dealer that I had bought it from. I won’t mention their name yet, but I am NOT HAPPY with their lack of help. They are in Southern California, and I am in Northern Ca. But I still expected better help via phone. ANYWAY, after checking google ONE MORE TIME, I realized that although Meissner’s does not sell Juki long arms, they are a certified repair center. I AM VERY RELIEVED. I am not happy that I am having this problem with a machine that I purchased nine months ago. I will be sure to update you on how this problem is resolved. So for now, quilting has come to a screeching halt. I have plenty of handwork to do on my Hallelujah quilt, so I continue to stitch away at that. Here is something I am doing in the smaller circles. I do like this design very much!


And I will end this post for now. Have an inspiration-filled week! And spend a little time on your art every day. You will be surprised at what you can accomplish.

A Colorful Interlude

You all know I need a little color in my life, right? After working so long on Hallelujah, I allowed myself some colorful play. Mostly meaningless, but fun-to-me projects. Remember this saying that I said I wanted to embroider? Well, one night, I just got a piece of cloth and a blue disappearing ink pen, and went for it.


Here’s my version. Can you see where I personalized it? Its not finished yet, but getting there. Had to share!


Embroider and a needle, instead of paint and a paintbrush.


I recently ran across a new blog, and on the first time I visited, she was doing a giveaway. I was really impressed with one of her paintings, and said that if I won, that was the one I would choose. If you can believe it, I won that giveaway! And so I decided that I would embroider a version of that painting.


A pen instead of a pencil, and I fashioned it after a special fountain pen that my dad had given me.


I was going to make a regular cake instead of the cupcake, but it was just too cute. I left it as-is.


And of course I had to add flowers to the seed stems.


Here’s my design wall. I have been working occasionally on Noah, and then I need to take it off the frame and look at it for a while to see if I’m still on track. The two big blocks are just the start of that Genesis quilt I want to do. And the other blocks were what I let myself play around with on Friday.


I just like making these cross-cut blocks. These are a lot bigger than the last set I did. I wonder if that means I’m on my way to making another big quilt??


Last weekend I went down to Quilting in the Garden. I was pretty excited to see my quilt (#74) hanging at the front display right at the entrance to the show!


And here is another of my quilts (the cross) hanging on one of the magnificent old oaks.


It was really fun to go to this show, and to see my quilts hanging. Its probably not the best venue for my quilts, because they are small, and you can’t really see the details–they are hung pretty high. But what’s not to enjoy about walking around a beautiful nursery and looking at quilts at the same time?

Working without a Net

Working on this Hallelujah quilt has been challenging, to say the least. I had an idea, but that idea included a lot of things I had never done before. And I guess I’ve been more nervous about this particular quilt because I very badly want it to turn out good. Changing my vision along the way has created more uncertainty. And to be fair, I do tend to drag my feet when faced with learning something new.

I think I showed you this before–just fitting the 10 panels together into a finished top was a challenge. It looked a little empty, and I had the thought to add more circles.


But I thought that might look silly, so it sat untended on the design wall for a few days. One day I told myself, just go out and try a few circles. That’s all you have to do.

And surprise, surprise, I liked it. So I set about cutting a myriad of circles out of various fabrics, and pinning them to the top to decide where to place them.


Once the circles were zig zagged in place, it was finally time to make the quilt sandwich. Oh, but first I had to make the back. Of course, I did not have one piece big enough for the back, so I used four different light colored fabrics and pieced together the back.

NOW it was time to make the sandwich. Another thing that caused me great concern. I usually rely on steam to put my quilt sandwiches together. That would not work with this slippery top and the wool batting. Oh, when I took the wool out of the bag, it was very wrinkled. Somewhere in the recesses of my memory there was something about putting it in the dryer for a few minutes. Google to the rescue–I put it in the dryer with a damp washcloth for less than 10 minutes–perfection!

So. I decided I would just pin the daylights out of this top. But shortly into that process, I became concerned about moving it and trying to machine baste it. Since the layers weren’t steamed together, I did not have faith that there wouldn’t be slippage in that process.

So I decided I needed to hand baste it. Here is how it looked to me. An ENDLESS sea of pins, waiting for the slow and painful process of hand basting.


My finger was getting a beating. I remembered I had these little thingies, and they came in very handy. I tried to be patient and basted it in a 4-5 inch grid.


Making progress.


And after three days, it was basted. I checked the back, and amazingly, there were no pleats. So I folded it up and put it on the quilting table. More decisions awaited me.


what they said, a quilt series


Finally! All the quilts were finished, excess thread dye was removed, and I spent yesterday measuring, photographing and cataloguing the eighteen small quilts in the “what they said” series. My goal was to allow the words to be preeminent in each quilt. Who said the words was also important for the context. I tried to think about what each person was thinking and feeling and to convey that in the way the wording was embroidered.


The quilting was secondary. Some of the quilts have little hints at the setting behind the speech.


All of the quilts have a single block from one of my self-retreats, and Kona Snow fabric is the setting.


I was going to create a slide show of them, but after fooling around with that for a while, I realized that I could put them on a gallery page on my website so that they could easily be viewed as an entire group. You can view all the quilts in the galleries on my website. Enjoy!



This ‘n’ That

First of all, a big THANK YOU to the people who suggested using Vicky Welsh‘s method of dye stain removal. It worked!!! That will be my go-to method in the future. Hopefully I won’t have to use it too often.

I finished another almost-completed quilt. I had stopped because I wanted to somehow be able to do “cobblestone street” quilting in the white sections and I didn’t know what to do. Then, I started making these brick patterns on some of the “what they said” quilts, and I knew that was what I wanted to do. This is actually a verse in the Bible–in Jeremiah 6–but in The Message paraphrase. I really like it.


A question about the Juki came up. It is a long arm sit down Juki. I got it in February. And there was a learning curve, which I hated. But now that I’ve gotten more comfortable with it, I love it. It seems to work right every time I start it up. I still keep a little sandwich nearby to try out the stitches, especially after I change the bobbin. I wrote about the learning curve on the Juki here and here.

And speaking of learning curves…This Hallelujah Chorus quilt just about did me in this week! I knew it was going to be difficult to work with. Each panel was made into a sandwich for the embroidery. When I was all done, I cut out the excess batting and backing, so now each piece was partly floppy silky fabric and partly heavy quilt sandwich. I had planned to cut each down to a specific size. I had kept fairly good notes on my plan. Then I changed my plan. Why not make them all 36 inches instead of 32? Oh, except one of them I had cut to less than ‘width of fabric.’ And then, something went haywire with my math brain. 34 + 12 = 46, NOT 44. Egad. Anyway, it took several days, and a couple of breaks to calm me down, but I got it put together into a quilt top. And now I have to figure out what else I am going to add to it. Either more embroidered circles or some very nice quilting.


Adding to my angst (maybe that’s what happened to my math brain) was thinking about how I was going to make the quilt sandwich. I usually use all cotton fabric and batting and rely on steam to do a great deal of the work. And I knew that would not work with this silky fabric and the wool batting that I was planning to use. So I googled “making a quilt sandwich with wool and silk” and of course, there was an answer. The author used misty fuse and fused the entire top, and then strips of fusible to adhere the backing. So I tried this. And I found, once again, that I DO NOT LIKE FUSIBLE. That’s just my own preference.

Here’s the sample I made with the fused top.


Then I made a sandwich with no fusible at all. I pinned fairly closely, and then took it to the machine to machine baste it. BTW, I LOVE the basting stitch on the Juki. It is very stable and does not distort your sandwich. So then I did as I usually do, and just removed the basting stitches from the small area I was quilting on. I don’t know if anyone else can tell the difference, but I think the quilting is prettier and softer without the fusible.


And then, to reward myself for my hard work, I allowed myself to make a quilt sandwich with some fun “homespun” cotton fabric to embroider this saying, which I love. Because I really hate dusting🙂 Thanks to Kris for sharing this. I’ve had it on my computer desktop for a long time.


Busy Busy

I have been busy busy busy. Finishing and quilting and embroidering and starting. Here’s what part of the studio really looks like.


I actually finished all eighteen of the “what they said” series. I will do a slide show for you soon. But I have a question. Five of them had some of the hand-dyed threads on them, and the thread colors ran. I put Shout on them, and then I ran them through the washer with a “color catcher.” Some of the offending color came out, but not all of it. Do any of you have any other ideas? Have you tried applying color-safe bleach with a Q-tip to the dye stains?

Anyway, I am very happy to have completed them. My plan is to mount them on cradled wood panels. So that part is not done. I will order some this week, to make sure my idea will work, and then I will order the rest of them.

That left the Juki free. And so I got out two almost-finished quilts. I placed the lettering on one, and then, because I had used a “brick” design on some of the ‘what they said’ quilts, that was exactly what I had been wanting to do for the quilt nearest the Juki. The verse on there refers to a crossroads. I finished quilting that today. Only needs to have a binding on it. and a sleeve😦

By the way, I love the Juki more than ever. I love how very accurate  each stitch is. It is easy for me to exactly stitch over a line of stitching to get to the next area I need to work on.

You can see some of the panels for the Hallelujah Chorus quilt perched over there on the chair. I have almost finished the panels and the four large embroidered circles, and so this week I should be able to put the panels together into a quilt top. And then I will have to decide what the next step is. More embroidery, or machine quilting. Any which way, I am very excited to get to this next stage of the project.

I entered four quilts in Quilting in the Garden, and they were accepted. This is such a nice event, and of course, I LOVE the nursery where it is held. I am planning to take my mom to it this year, and thought it would be fun for her to see some of my quilts hanging.

And then, about that “thinkie” project. I spent a little time on it. I traced the photo on my 1/4 inch graph paper, and then went to the copy store and enlarged it 400%, which made it a 10 inch finished block. Then I spent some time drawing a pattern for it.


And made one block.


I don’t like it. I can see that the embroidery makes a tremendous difference in the appearance of the block, and choice of fabrics also is important. Anyway, I might try again, using some of my reproduction fabrics. I also drew a different design, and I am interested in trying that also…

I made the pattern because Kris had suggested that it might be a fun group project. I don’t think that’s gonna happen, but if any of you are interested in the pattern, you can email me (, and I will be glad to email you a copy of it.

So that’s about it for now. I started working on the rug of Noah again, and I occasionally knit or work on my Kantha blanket, just to get a little color in my life. I have more ideas for some fun color-work blocks, but they are still in the thinkie stage today🙂

Sometimes the Thinkie Part is the Best Part


Once again I have noticed this quilt block that I saved on my desktop.

I am mesmerized by it. From a quilt made in the 1870’s. I think it would be so fun to make with my zig zag technique. To say nothing of the massive amount of embroidery on it! I don’t want to do that kind of embroidery, but it is definitely a big part of the design concept and the success of the overall design.

I want to go directly to the studio and start cutting out fabric. I even have a collection of fabric that I think would be fabulous for it.

Plus, look! Every block on the entire quilt is using different fabrics and colors. You know how I like that.


But I am in the midst of quite a few projects right now. Some of them are very near completion, and I just have avoided the final bit of work needed to finish them.

And, I don’t even want to say it out loud, but the studio needs a massive cleaning out before I mess it up with yet another project.

All this sometimes makes me frustrated. But then I remind myself that part of the fun of a new project is the time spent thinking and refining a plan. Adding this and that, taking away something that doesn’t work as well.

So for now, I will keep this project in the thinkie stage, and remember to enjoy that🙂

My Favorite Quilt


I usually rotate the quilts I use on my bed, but since putting this one on early in the spring, I haven’t wanted to change it out. I love so much about it. And I’ve been musing over the traditional/planned/accurately cut nature of it compared to how I’ve chosen to work in the past few years.

You can see that although its scrappy, it did have a basic color plan–blue and pink with some brown, green, and purple thrown in. Its mostly 1800s reproduction fabrics, which I still love, but I also threw in some of my favorite more modern prints which were in the same color ways.


I used some of my most favorite “repeater” fabrics–those fabrics that I just couldn’t resist buying a bit more of when I found it in a shop. (That turquoisy blue serpentine print is my most-often purchased repeater fabric. There’s just something about it that fascinates me.)


I saw the pattern in a magazine, but then I realized that the pattern was much smaller than I had thought. So I figured out how to turn a 4″ finished square into a 6 inch finished square. That made for some funny measurements, but I made little “kits” of pre-cut pieces, and that made it a little easier.

And I especially love that pink border that I was able to include. I still remember where I first saw that fabric–at Greenbaum’s in Salem, Oregon. It was on a tiny pincushion sample and they didn’t have any more of the fabric. Probably more than a year later I found a bit of it somewhere, and have used it in several of my quilts. Its just so perfect, don’t you agree? In fact, I realized after the fact, that the color of my bedroom walls, which I worked with the paint lady to custom mix, was this same perfect color of coral-pink.


I also love the little patterns that I used to quilt it, and that I kept at it, even though it got so tedious and boring.


I like that I continued on and made the border as the original pattern showed, even though I was so very done with this quilt by the time I got all the little squares for the middle done. I like this pattern that I figured out for the border triangles.


Since I sleep alone in a double bed (well, with two little doggies who hog two-thirds of the bed) I like to use a quilt that just hangs over the edge about six inches. This quilt is just the perfect size for me.

I think about whether I will make another quilt like this. I think what helps me is pre-cutting the pieces into those little kits. I put each particular size into little zip lock baggies. And then I chose the pieces in the color combos that I wanted for each block as I went along. I’ve found that I don’t like strip piecing. It actually depresses me. So even though it might be slower, I find it infinitely more satisfying to finish one little block at a time.


Time Away

I just returned from a week-long trip to the little town of La Veta, Colorado! My BF decided that she wanted to take an intensive workshop with Judith Baker Montano, and I said, “want some company?” I have done “self-retreats” before, and find it very profitable to spend concentrated time working on projects at a location other than my studio. Plus, Colorado? That sounded fun!

All the other times I’ve done this, I traveled by car, so I could bring all the supplies I wanted. This time we would be flying, and so I had to carefully choose what I would bring. My friend Ricky Tims also lives in La Veta, and he very graciously loaned us two of his sewing machines! So all I needed was to pare down the raw materials I would bring. I ended up bringing my bags of Cherrywood fabrics, a quilt blanket “blank” for embroidering on, and then cut out 8 squares of hand-dyes for a new quilt idea I wanted to try starting on. I also brought some muslin and batting “just in case.” And of course, a big supply of perle cotton thread, scissors, rotary cutter, pins, etc. LOL, both Robin and I forgot machine sewing thread! Fortunately, Ricky had some nice thread for sale in his studio🙂

We found a great place to rent, with plenty of room to spread out all our quilting supplies. In between visits and “touristing” I managed to get quite a few bits and pieces done.

I admire piecers who work with small bits so very much. One of my current favorites is Maria Shell–check out her work in this blog post! So the first thing I wanted to do was to do some piecing with my bags of Cherrywood fabric. I also had a scrap of Ricky Tims’ multi-color fabric, and I decided that I would cut the center squares out of that, and then use the cherrywood bits to make some abstract log cabin blocks. Nothing was cut straight, but as I finished each piece, I squared it up to 4 1/2 inches. At the end I made three 6 1/2 inch blocks.


Now, although I admire the work of others who work with small bits, this is about my limit. I get bored. So I will sit and think, and eventually these pieces will work their way into one or more projects. I did this a couple of years ago, and I used all those little blocks to make the “what they said” series, as well as several other pieces.

Next, that big blank canvas for embroidering on. I also admire the work of Judy Martin, Penny Berens, and others who work on daily “scratchings.” Once again, I don’t think I really want to spend the time doing this EVERY DAY. But I love the idea of it. So that was in my mind when I took this big (for me) blank  quilt sandwich to embroider on.


The first day I took it out and stared at that big empty space, it started to rain. Evidently, this is “monsoon season” in Colorado, and the afternoon rains are very welcome. They don’t last long, and they cool things down nicely. So I embroidered that.


Ricky and Justin took Robin and I out to their property (45 minutes from town!) and on the way there was an old church, the last remaining building of what had once been a small town.


I was fascinated by it, and took several pictures of it. I decided that I wanted to try embroidering it.


You can see with both of these that I started by cutting out simple shapes and using blanket stitch to embroider them to the blank. Hand dyes work very well for this–practically no raveling at all. I really enjoyed the “grass” stitching. Very quick and simple. I hope to do more of this.

So these embroideries were a little departure from most of my work–more representational than abstract. I enjoyed doing them, and I wonder what it will lead to. Right now I think I will keep this blank as a true travel project, and will take it with me on my travels, and add a bit to it with each new location.

The last day I got out those squares of hand-dyes that I had carefully packed. I spent a lot of time staring at my journal, making notes and thinking, and finally started two of the squares. They are for a quilt of Genesis. My brother suggested it, and I think it will be a very interesting project. Of course, some of the blocks will be on creation, but there are other interesting stories in Genesis that I am challenged to try to represent in cloth.

And now home, and I reverted right back to working on my Hallelujah Chorus quilt. I have three word panels done, and one and a half circle panels. I am motivated to work consistently on this quilt. Not only is it enjoyable to work on, I would like to finish it by November for several different display possibilities.


Ya Gotta Keep Trying

I keep saying this to myself, as well as to others. I tried ONE MORE TIME to dye some deep colors on cotton. By the way, I am using “premium bleached muslin,” most probably from Joann’s. I am using Procion MX dyes from ProChem. And this time I followed (mostly) the instruction sheet from ProChem on “low immersion” dyeing. I wrote down three dye formulas for deep blue, deep forest green, and dark barn red. The red is not barn red, but the other two were almost exactly what I was looking for.


I am going to see how much I like using the fabrics I have dyed. Because the rinsing required is incredible. It is much more rinsing than anyone’s instructions I have heard or read. I think they know if they tell you how much you are going to have to rinse, it will scare you off.

Nevertheless, it makes me very happy that I was actually able to dye what I set out to dye.