Sunday, November 1, 2009

November 1st already?

How did it get to be November already?  Where did August, September and October go?

Guess I'd better put away my summer clothes and bring out long sleeves and fleece vests.   But there are projects to be finished, and my time would be better spent on those!

Status of my Penguin quilt:  I'm almost finished quilting all the bellies/torso areas of the penguins.  I work in blocks of time determined by my sewing machine's filled bobbins . . . FMQ'ing until I've used up two bobbins of thread.  Then I rewind two more and take a break.  I'm being pretty brave, using the same white cotton in the bobbin as in the top thread, which means my quilting really shows up on the royal blue backing of this quilt.

Also, while warming up for free-motion quilting and checking my tension,  I found a new FM (free-motion) design developing, and I really like it.  I'm not saying that I developed it; just that it came to me naturally and I'd never seen it before:

Doesn't it make nice texture?  As my friend Dean noted, "it looks like feathers."  He's not a quilter, so he was not referring to the traditional feather quilting design.  Instead, it put him in mind of a feathery, downy surface.

So now I'm wondering -- are penguins birds or mammals?  If the former, do they have feathers?  Or if the latter, do they have hair or fur?  Time to google this!

. . . and from Wikipedia    ( :
Penguins (order Sphenisciformes, family Spheniscidae) are a group of aquatic, flightless birds living almost exclusively in the southern hemisphere, especially in Antarctica. Highly adapted for life in the water, penguins have countershaded dark and white plumage, and their wings have become flippers. Most penguins feed on krill, fish, squid, and other forms of sealife caught while swimming underwater. They spend about half of their life on land and half in the oceans.

The key word from that Wikipedia entry is plumage.

Here's what the online Free Dictionary says about plumage  (  :
plum·age  (plmj)
1. The covering of feathers on a bird.
2. Feathers used ornamentally.
3. Elaborate dress; finery.

CONCLUSION:  Unless my penguins are dressing in Vera Wang gowns for the next Hollywood awards show, I'd say they're sporting FEATHERS  and are large, handsome birds that can't fly.  Never mind that the feathers of real penguins lie flat and mine are curly, at last this quilt is getting finished!

Sunday, October 25, 2009

Penguins on My Mind

There's been one obstacle holding me back from creating new art quilts, and it's this group (flock?) of penguins.   They've been on my mind for five or six months now, and they even travel with me sometimes, as they have this weekend.  I'm at my cabin, The Naughty Pine, in Camp Sherman, OR for a couple of solitary days, with the sole purpose of quilting, binding, and finishing a quilt that I'll soon be teaching from the pattern Standing Room Only, by Carol Morrissey of OCarol Designs. (

I've also made three of her other designs, Poinsettia, Poppy, and Pansy, and taught them as well.

Here's a photo of Carol's finished Standing Room Only quilt.

I finally started free-motion quilting it yesterday.  Even though it measures 51" x 71,"  it wasn't hard to maneuver in my sewing machine. 

However, I did have one scary moment when I realized I hadn't marked each penguin's belly/torso, so my quilting of each torso blended right into quilting the background.  Both are white fabric, quilted with white thread.

Carol showed this separation by long, horizontal quilting lines in each belly/torso, and more rounded free-motion shapes in the background.  

So what could I do at this point?  (Did I mention that I'm already late with this project?  It was due at the shop by July 28th, nearly three months ago!) 
My options:
1.  Quilt the outline of the torso with an off-white or light grey thread while continuing to quilt all the white fabric areas
2.  Same as above, and after quilting, lightly paint each torso with a pearlescent fabric paint.
3. Rip out all quilting done so far in the torso areas and redo with long parallel lines as Carol did.
4. Put the project away for another year.

"Alex, I'll take #2, please."

I also forgot to add feet to the penguin in the far right, the small adolescent guy.   I'll leave that area unquilted until I'm back home and can cut out two more feet from orange fabric.  Or maybe I should make a quick trip to the Stitchin' Post in Sisters for a bit o'orange fabric and more white thread . . . just in case I run out.

Or would that trip, like this post, just be another form of procrastination?

It's going to be a long night of sewing.  Good thing I decided to stay until tomorrow!

Thursday, September 24, 2009

Inspiration is where you find it

Well, hello there!

What's with this shark?  Actually, it's just a little teaser that I'll talk about later.  I just realized that I never mentioned my Del. vacation and any art inspiration I soaked up while there.  Because I've already decided on today's topic, I'll save the shark story for next time.  No worries -- none of us was bitten; we didn't even see a shark, though we did find ourselves stranded on an island near the end of our trip.  There was a storm at sea, a strong nor'easter blowin', and an unusually high tide.

Check back in a few days for those, and more stories!

Q:  Can one find art inspiration by going to a baseball game?
A:  Of course!  You just have to keep your eyes open.  Inspiration is everywhere.

I had the unexpected honor of being invited to a Mariners game last Sat. night with my son, Max (20).  Well, I wasn't exactly his first choice . . . she couldn't go because she was called in to work at the last minute.  But he could've invited a friend, or even his dad, but he chose me, so I went.  They lost to the Yankees by an embarrassing amount that I can't remember, nor do I want to.

I did get to see that very cute Alex Rodriguez, who was booed throughout the game by his former Seattle fans.  (He sold out for big bucks and went to Texas several years ago and is now with the Yankees.)  I asked Max why Alex no longer had a cute butt (he's used to his mom's weird questions), and his answer was that Alex's now-flat butt is his natural one.  The one I formerly admired was acquired by his use of steroids.  After hearing that, I was no longer the sole Seattle fan cheering for A-Rod.

What's the link here to art quilts?

On the drive to Seattle, along I-5 near Tacoma, I noticed the concrete retaining walls along the freeway.  They weren't the solid blank ones you'd see around here, but were stamped with interesting designs.  Possible quilt designs.  I whipped out my handy digital camera and snapped a shot to refer to later.

I wonder who had the creative idea to include a design on these walls?

Chris, a member of the Fiberexplorations group, has been challenging herself to take 20 photos a day.  She said she's enjoying it on many levels and has noticed that she's paying much more attention to details now.  Like the drawing student, she's learning to SEE as an artist SEES.  Life is full of details; we just have to train ourselves to slow down and pay attention to them.  Practice, practice, practice.

One thing at a time.  Pay attention.  Be mindful.  "Multi-tasking" is NOT a worthy goal for me to cultivate.  Mindfulness is.  Take time to SEE.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009

Making handmade paper

I'm a member of the Portland-area "Multi-Media Cats," a chapter of MEOW (Machine Embroiderers of OR and WA).  Where most chapters work on free-motion machine embroidery, our group can be found elbow-deep in paper pulp, hand-marbling paper/fabric, rusting fabric, or playing with polymer clay.  In the next two months, we'll be "Felting using Potato Paper and Lutradur"  (Oct.) and "Stamp Design and Carving" in Nov..  Not much machine embroidery going on there!

At our Sep. 21st meeting, the project was handmade paper.  I've made some in the past, but this time our leader, Beth, taught me more than I'd ever known.  She even has a professional pulp beater set up outside her "studio," which is a converted 5th-wheel travel trailer.  (A reasonable solution when one has run out of space in the house!) 

Expecting a crowd, Beth had set up large tubs of different pulps:
Abaca (banana)
Cat-tail fluff
Cat-tail stems & leaves
New Zealand flax

But only 2 members showed up, so the three of us made paper all day.  With the leftover pulp, Beth continued "pulling sheets" alone the following day, ending up with an unbelievable 290 sheets of paper!  I, on the other hand, pulled 14 sheets.

This is a sampling of the basic papers I made (still curled after drying).

Then there are the more interesting pieces, like this laminated sheet of paper.  "Laminated" means that one sheet was placed on top of another.  Sandwiched between them were three thin cords of thread, so they'd meld together into one sheet as they dried.  It was also accidentally embossed.  Under one sheet of paper, I'd placed a twice-coiled "pull-chain" (is that the term??) so it would emboss that page, but when my "stack" was placed in the presser, the chain embossed several sheets on top of the intended one!  BONUS!  Just as in art quilting, sometimes our accidents turn into wonderful surprises.

And finally, this sheet where I'd added "inclusions," such as dried Queen Anne's Lace and other dried grasses and flower petals.  (Also accidentally embossed!)  I'll have to think of a way to incorporate some of this paper into my art quilts.

My neighbor has some iris leaves that I can have.  Years ago, I cookedsome down to make paper pulp, and fortunately did in in warm weather, when the doors and windows could be open.  It does not smell very nice, but does produce strong paper, due to its long fibers.

Again I realize that I could never narrow down my creative pursuits to one subject when there are so many that appeal to me!  So I play and experiment and continue to learn.  The more I know, the more options I have -- to add to my art quilts or to pursue further.  It's the experimenting that yields the most excitement!

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

The Last Week of Summer

How do you feel when summer comes to an end?  For me, it's always predictable:

DISMAYED when sunsets arrive earlier and sunrise comes later.  (I want it to be light outside when I creep downstairs for my 5:30 a.m. trip to the bathroom, thrilled with the anticipation of another bright & sunny summer day!)
EXCITED about settling in for another year of learning and personal growth.  (A carry-over emotional response from school years.)  I always think, "THIS is the year I'll finally get organized . . .

We had our monthly Fiberexplorations meeting here Mon. night.  Not everyone finished this month's 9"x12" quilt project, but each person brought something to show that they'd been working on.  The group is getting better and better as each person begins to feel more comfortable with the format, each other, and in getting a better idea of what area of art quilting they'd most like to explore. 

We're more than halfway through the book we've been using ("The Art Quilt Workbook") and I've asked everyone to think of possibilities for the next book to study.  Last night I browsed through my own quilt library and pulled about 8 books to consider.  I think we need one more book arranged in "lessons" as our current book is.  On the other hand, simply studying the universal principles of design and applying that to our projects would be beneficial too.  We'll see!

My three Art & Soul classes (Portland) are coming up fast;  here's what I'm taking: 

Wed, 9/30:  "Tree Book" with Dan Essig  (note the tree growing out of the book!)

Thurs., 10/1:  "Charm School" (working with PMC silver clay to make charms)

Mon, 10/5:  "Watercolor Journeys: Inspiration from Travel" with Jacqueline Newbold (from Bend)   -- more pen & ink drawing, then watercoloring, ala' Jane Lafazio!

What a way to jumpstart a creative Fall!

Sunday, August 30, 2009

Fabric Postcard Raises $100 for Charity

Whoa!  I'm still new at blogging, so I see that I need to revert to the font I used in my first post, as last night's post looks so harsh once it was published.
And if you're reading this in progressive date order, you'll see a lonely link left languishing  (lots of alliteration!) at the end of yesterday's post.  I couldn't figure out how to delete it, so it's become today's topic.

At this year's Sisters (OR) Outdoor Quilt Show (ALWAYS the 2nd Sat. of July), a call went out for donations of fabric postcards.    

From those received, about 70 postcards were chosen for a silent auction, with all proceeds going to Wendy's Wish, a foundation that helps Central Ore. cancer patients.  The High Desert Gallery, in Sisters, donated the materials and labor for custom matting and framing the chosen postcards.  Wow!  I feel even better now about patronizing their gallery; what a contribution!

Yesterday I received a hand-written thank-you note from the foundation; it said my postcard raised $100 for Wendy's Wish!  Can you believe that?  $100 for a 4" x 6" piece of fabric art!!!  I'm glad it went to a good cause.

Here's the link to see the postcards that were chosen for the silent auction.  (Mine's in row 13, #4; also shown above.)

Okay, I promise this will be my last bit about Jackson Browne.  Check out this photo I found on Flickr (don't know who the guy is), but the statue is none other than J.B., and the location is Winslow, Arizona:

Do you know what song this relates to?  This is so easy!  (Even THAT's a hint!)  Did you know this landmark even existed?  The sign's pretty funny, too.  

Today's one of my last chances to work on the penguin quilt -- the shop sample that was due in July to "advertise" a class I'm teaching this Fall at Greenbaum's Quilted Forest in Salem.  

On Sept. 2, my daughter and I are off to Delaware for 10 days to visit family and friends and, I hope, catch some late-season beach time.  After Labor Day, the crowds will be gone, and the beaches are at their absolute best.  I can already anticipate the moods and feelings they'll evoke, and how it will feel to be there:  serene, meditative, renewing, reaffirming, expansive . . . and overall, uplifting and filled with the sense of creative possibilities.  I plan to come home with many of those creative possibilities outlined in my design journal on sandy, watercolored pages.

The forecast calls for JOY and sandy toes.

Saturday, August 29, 2009

Jackson Browne + Art Quilts

Jackson Browne is one of my favorite singer-songwriters. I've been listening to his music since the early '70's ("Doctor My Eyes") and have seen him in concert 3-4 times. Most recently was his concert last Sat. evening, Aug. 22 at the Maryhill Winery in Wash. ( overlooking the Columbia River Gorge.

I'd won two tickets from my favorite radio station in Portland, KINK FM 101.9 ( -- if you're out of their listening area, you can still listen to their "live stream"!). So last Sat., I drove to our cabin in Camp Sherman (2 hrs away), singing all the way, then jumped into my friend's (and next-door neighbor) Dean's car, and he drove us another 3-1/2 hrs north through beautiful, rugged canyon and high desert country to the "mighty Columbia" (talking & singing all the way.)

The winery was just over the river, and we spread our blanket on the terraced grass, looking down on the stage and behind it, the rugged hills of the Gorge. It was a beautiful evening for an outdoor concert, warm and clear, with a sunset that painted the hills gold. After sundown, the HUGE windmills blinked red in unison, like little candles on the hillsides. (Actually, they're caution lights to prevent planes from flying into the windmill farms!)

The music was hugely satisfying, with a nice blend of his earliest songs up to more current ones ( 2008's Time the Conqueror CD). He included all-time favorites like "Rock Me on the Water," "The Pretender," "Running on Empty," "Barricades of Heaven," "Too Many Angels," and for the 2nd encore, "The Load Out/Stay." My only disappointment (and it was significant), was that he didn't perform "Sky Blue & Black." I LOVE that song, even though it's sad.

Maryhill is in the middle of nowhere (also noted by Jackson, who quipped "None of you live around here, do you?"), so the very few motels within a 1-hr radius were full, reserved by SMART concert-goers who didn't want to drive 100 miles back to Portland that night. I directed Dean ("I don't eat snacks") to a gas station/mini-mart where we stocked up on road food: Peanut M&M's, Good & Plenty, Boston baked beans, licorice, etc. We also shared a tiny can of 5-hr Energy Blast (no caffeine, mostly B vitamins, said the clerk), which did keep us awake for the drive without giving us the jitters. (Of course, we talked & sang the whole way back to Camp Sherman.)

So, anyway, what's the link between Jackson Browne and art quilts? Well, after the concert, I spent two hours googling info on him and his music, and found that he's been in a relationship for over 10 years with Dianna Cohen, an L.A.-based artist. ( Her medium? Plastic bags. Oh, and thread. She hand-sews the bags into flowing compositions (hence the link to art quilts) and shows her work internationally. Verrrrry interesting!

Wednesday, August 5, 2009

First Day! August 5, 2009

While encouraging my friend Laura to start a blog while she's in Mexico, I thought I should first see how difficult it might be.

I've toyed with the idea of starting a blog for a long time, but didn't want to add another obligation to my already-overloaded list of personal expectations. But today I realized I don't have to keep up a blog to meet anyone else's expectations -- after all, my readership right this minute is zero! I can play around with blogging just for myself. To make it more interesting, I can use
Fiberexplorations as the blog's topic.

Fiberexplorations? I'm so glad you asked . . .

In May 2009, after a year's worth of thinking and procrastinating about it, I finally started up an art quilt/mixed media group. Six people attended the first meeting (including myself) of the
Fiberexplorations group. We've had 1-2 new members each month. For our 4th meeting, coming up on Mon., Aug 10th, I'm expecting our membership to be at 11. How exciting! I think we'll have to cut it off at 12 because my living room won't accommodate any more than that.

And with that introduction, I'll now stop and publish my first post. After all, I do have a business to run! New Leaf Pattern Distributors is my wholesale quilt pattern distributorship, purchased 3+ years ago. I have about 170 designers whose patterns I market and sell to quilt shops in the US and Canada. (Sorry, I don't sell retail!)

No time to include photos with this first post, though I did link my photos on Flickr to this page. If you click on it, you can see many of my photos, quilt-related and not.

I'll finish this up and email Laura to tell her how easy this was, and encourage her to start blogging about her trip to Mexico!