Sunday, May 30, 2010


At the end of March I was asked to make a retirement gift for the head Bosswoman in my office. The theme we decided on was Beginnings, a publication we put out every year that is chock full of writing by adult students within Ohio's ABLE program. It is my most favorite thing my office does and it really has become a grand celebration. Our head Bosswoman speaks every year at the conference about the importance of the day and how proud she is of the work the authors put into it. I finally was able to attend this year's conference and spent the entire day all teary-eyed. The authors show up with friends, family and their teachers and are presented with certificates and bound copies of that year's publication of selected authors and artists. It's a really incredible event.

I didn't hesitate on accepting the challenge of the gift although I was nervous because I am always harsh on my own work and worried that it wouldn't be good enough. I had an idea immediately and set to work sketching it up. The design became more gridded than I had first imagined. I wanted to use the book covers and the freeform idea I originally had would have overwhelmed the covers. I wanted those to shine. But I also needed something more than just the cover.

When I think I the publication I think of growth. Many of the authors submit writings over the course of years. With each acceptance the student learns and grows. You can see that in their writing. I decided on a simplistic flower that would add color but not detract too much from the publication covers that would be layered on top. And I wanted to use blue because that is the "office color". And I would have to use batiks and hand-dyed fabric because they are the fabrics I love the most.

The boy and I headed to the fabric shop on an errand day and he helped me choose the green of the leaves and the blue for the border and binding. The covers I created by using the photocopy transfer technique I learned in school. I had originally decided to use those iron-on things but past experience taught me that they just would not do. I'd done the technique in the past using black and white photocopies but never color. When I tested color I found it was much more intense and durable than those iron-on transfers.

There were hours upon hours of applique and thread sketching involved. Upwards of 60 hours. I spent a total of 81.5 hours on the quilt and about 60 of those were just on those applique bits. The back of the quilt is just white with two quilt labels, one with the office logo and "with love from the staff" and the other with the reason for the quilt and my name/location/year. And I braved running out of time and hand-stitched the binding onto the back instead of machine-stitching it like I was considering.

I wish I'd have hung the quilt better for the photo. The boy is still learning how to photograph quilts. He's more of a nature photographer so he's having to learn new techniques to get decent inside shots of quilts. So here it is... my big project that I spent about 6 weeks on. It really isn't as crooked as it appears in the photo. If I ever get around to it I will crop down some of the cover pieces because there is so much work done to each that doesn't really show up in the photo as a whole.

Beginnings quilt

I learned sooooooooo much making this quilt. It was my first attempt at whole cloth with applique (the center white piece is whole cloth anyway). This makes gift #5 that I have made for coworkers. Two baby quilts, two retirement gifts and one going-away gift. I seriously love my coworkers. The joke is that no one ever really leaves the office and it is true. People just can't say goodbye entirely and still help out in some way with various projects we have going on. I'm very fortunate in the job I have. It really is like a second family there. And I really miss being in the same office with them since I work from home in another state.

Thursday, May 27, 2010

I have a new purse!

Tuesday I started my Suesse Sac and I was so excited yesterday to finish it I raced right upstairs after work. The colors are so damned cheery and the print is fun! The butterflies really grew on me as I sewed. I'm still glad the butterfly print was put on the interior though, it would have been a bit too much with the blocks.

I did a bad thing by forgetting to adjust my needle position when I started sewing the bag sides together. I had a huge seam allowance on it which I really couldn't easily rip out and start over due to the heavy duty iron-on interfacing I'd added to the inside fabric. The stuff really does give the bag more form but it is difficult to work with. I broke a total of 7 needles on this purse. 7! The seams on the blocks added to the interfacing made certain areas really rough to get a needle through. I had to sew slowly and if the needle hit a hard spot, I moved the fabric forward in tiny increments until I got past it. I've never broken so many needles on one project before. Usually it is because I hit a pin but not this time!

So, without further ado, photos!

Front of Suesse Sac

This is the front of the purse. I added a loop and button closure to keep my goodies more secure. I wish I'd thought ahead a bit in this and been able to sew the end of the loop between the fabric sides when I was putting it together. The loop is stitched to the inside of the purse and just looks a bit lumpy.

Back of Suesse Sac

The back of the purse. Really nothing more to say about that!

Interior of Suesse Sac

The interior of the purse. I added a split pocket to the one side and then a larger single pocket to the back. I am hoping the pocket is as level as I think it is. It's difficult to tell because the bag bottom is not flat. I was tempted to cut it even but then I decided I liked the curve it has.

Things I would do different if I make another? I would try a lightweight interfacing or quilt batting. With quilt batting I could do some thread sketching which I am very fond of. I'd also think of closure types before starting. I'd like to see a zipper inside or maybe one of those magnet closures. Velcro works but sometimes the sound is really, really loud and embarrassing. I'd also make the straps wider. They were 2" and I wavered between making them 3" but I thought that would be too wide. I shouldn't have second guessed myself. I would also do a different pocket system, maybe an internal one between the interior and exterior fabric so all I need to do is make a slit in the interior fabric.

I am happy with the size since I expanded it in the pattern. The bag is 9" deep, 15" wide at the bottom, 12" wide at the top of the bag and hangs 22" from the top of the strap to the bottom of the bag. It's a good size for me. My quilted Kindle bag fits in there nicely and isn't overly bulky. The tutorial was easy to follow and I really like the final product. I cannot wait to use my new purse!

Wednesday, May 26, 2010

Suesse Sac

I am a fan of StumbleUpon and the other day I stumbled upon an article talking about summer purses. I'm not into purses as I once was (I was a big fan of tin lunchbox purses for years) but my Timbuk2 Metro Daypack is a bit heavy for summertime even though I adore it to pieces. I needed something lighter and less bulky. So I Googled patterns and found the Suesse Sac Tutorial. It looked very cute and easy to sew so I decided to give it a go.

I went through all my fabric and decided to use a print instead of my stash of batiks I am saving for art quilts. I found the following and wondered what possessed me to buy it. I am not really into butterflies or the 1970's flower design on the fabric on the far left. I can only guess it was the colors because I love the colors.

Suesse Sac fabric

Monday, May 24, 2010

The Process Pledge

 The Process Pledge

I found The Process Pledge linked from another quilting blog I read. The concept intrigues me because it is pretty much what I want to do with this blog. I started this as a way to get thoughts and ideas down, to make them concrete. I've never been good at keeping a handwritten journal. I just can't write as long as I can type. And being able to post photos and links so easily on an online blog is perfect.

To quote r0ssie, "The goal of the process pledge is to create a new sensibility in quilting blogs where we don’t just show finishes or occasionally confess about our moments of indecision, but chat openly and often about our works in progress, our inspirations, and our moments of decision."

I like that. My ideas change depending on my mood and blogging about the process would be an interesting experiment. The progress from an idea to a sketch... to fabric purchasing and cutting... block sewing and layout... it's organic. Definitely not static.

The questions posted are engaging...
  • Do you have any new sketches to show?
  • Is this design inspired by a past quilt or someone else's quilt you saw (link, please)?
  • Does the color palette come from somewhere specific?
  • Are you trying to evoke a specific feeling?
  • Is this quilt intended for a specific person?  How did that inform your choices?
  • Are you following a pattern, emulating a block you saw somewhere, using a liberated process, or totally winging it?
  • What are you hating about this quilt at this stage?  What do you love?
  • Did you push yourself to try something new?
  • In working on the quilt, are you getting ideas about what you might want to try next?  What?  Did you sketch it?
 I am always sketching ideas with too many notes alongside them. Some quilts are inspired by what I've seen quilt artists (and yes, they are artists no matter what) create and others are inspired by paintings, photographs or clothing or shadows... the world is inspiration! For me color and feeling go hand in hand. The quilts I've gifted are always designed around the receiver. I want the quilt to be treasured by them. Sometimes this may mean I do something I am not particularly fond of but I stay interested because I enjoy seeing the look of happiness when the quilt is given.

Lately I have been pushing myself to try new techniques and work outside my comfort zone. I'm not good at sticking to a plan and sometimes my ideas don't transfer to fabric as well as I would hope. I've come to look forward to those serendipitous moments and let the process determine the outcome. It allows me to be free with the whole creative process. And most times the end result is better than the original idea.

And since I still have not uploaded photos of the retirement quilt and haven't taken photos of my thread sketching test or  my art quilt prototypes I am going to sign off and decide what to create next! Betsy got a cleaning this afternoon after the 81.5 hours it took to make the retirement quilt so she will be ready to get on with a new project!

Sunday, May 23, 2010

Two weeks passed...

Over two weeks have gone by since I posted last. Since then I have finished the retirement gift, driven to Ohio for a fabulous work conference where the gift quilt was given, saw my 11 year old nephew play baseball for the first time, played catch with my nephew for the first time, run in the Cleveland Half Marathon where I got a new personal best, got to work in my office with all my amazing coworkers, went to see Metric with my 14 year old niece, saw an old friend again after not seeing her for 5-6 years and driven back home where I still have not unpacked everything.

It's been a busy couple of weeks. I have photos of the gift quilt to post once I upload those on Flickr. I am always so harsh on my own work an always point out the flaws but this time I am really trying not to do that. The quilt did turn out well (although a bit narrower than I had planned) and I am pleased with the finished piece. I believe the recipient is also happy with it. Unfortunately I am terribly insecure when it comes to giving things I have made so I begin to doubt myself seconds after being told it is lovely.

Beginnings 4

This is an unfinished applique bit on the quilt. The book cover is not as horribly crooked as it looks in the photo, I just did not take a good picture. There are 13 flower and book covers on the quilt which I will hopefully post some time in the next week.

Friday, May 07, 2010


I have this notebook I take with me when I go to the  Art Institute of Chicago. They recently opened a Modern Wing that is simply stunning. It is a modern Prairie style building that is so bright and clean and open. I prefer modern art over the "Masters". For me, the work by the Masters is more about a story while modern art is more about the feelings and emotions of the artist. The viewer gets to decide for herself what the work means.

At the AIC there is this painting by Barnett Newman which catches my eye every time. It is Untitled 3 and is 56' tall and 3" wide. It juts out from the wall in a 5" frame. It's reddish and silvery grey, very simple. But striking because of the dimensions. I see the painting and want to make a quilt.

There are so many paintings in the Modern Wing that inspire me to make quilts. I have pages upon pages of notes for research. Yesterday I was stalled on the gift quilt since I am waiting on one final photocopy to transfer onto the quilt label. I broke out my idea notebook and decided to research my favorite painting. And I found the following painting...

Barnett Newman - First Station 1958

This is Barnett Newman's Station of the Cross - First Station painting from 1958.  If you are not a fan of modern art this may just look silly. I mean, it looks like someone threw down a strip of masking tape and sloshed some black paint around it, then removed it for a clean line. Modern art is like that. I see some of it and wonder how it ever made its way into an art museum. There is this painting at the Cleveland Museum of Art that always drove me batty. It is huge! And the canvas is painted black with a black gridwork that you can barely make out and the whole thing is surrounded with a black frame. It is hanging in a museum, why? But someone saw something in it just the same as me seeing something in this painting by Barnett Newman.

I spent 4 hours yesterday sketching quilt ideas after seeing this painting. I have pages and pages of sketches complete with technique and color ideas. And then I browsed my Quilt National books so I could see if my ideas were on par with what gets accepted. Some of the quilts are so detailed and intense and others are so simple and intense. Some are stitched and beaded until you can barely see the fabric and others are simply a showcase for the fabric.

This is the year. This is the year I finally woman up and submit something to a juried show. While I hope what I do will get accepted my main goal is to just submit one art quilt. It doesn't sound so lofty a goal when it's typed out but I am pretty insecure when it comes to things like that. I get almost sick to my stomach when I give things away as gifts, sending something to be judged by my peers? Are they even my peers if I've never tried getting into a show? Egads!

Sunday, May 02, 2010

Quilt dreams

Last night was horrible. My dog George had something caught in his throat (we're thinking a bit of Nylabone he is currently destroying) and woke up coughing about every half hour or so. This happens every so often so it isn't anything to worry about, it's like having a hair caught in your throat (a dog hair in my experience... no more smooching pups!). I woke a little before 1am because I was hot and soon after George started his coughing. I counted down the clock chimes until  just before 5am when I finally fell asleep. In between 1am and 5am we had many bouts of coughing dog, some animal in the alley being tortured, a skunk spraying and a very loud and very scary thunderstorm. I just could not get back to sleep!

So while I laid in bed begging for the sleep monster to revisit me all I could do was think about sewing. I kept wishing I could just get up and start sewing. Except my workroom is right next to the bedroom so the boy would be able to hear as I chugged away on Betsy. I have this amazing fabric I bought a while back and have been itching to cut into.


The fishies, shells and bubbles are Timeless Treasures by Luli Sanchez and the circle prints are Wheels by My Mind's Eye. All were purchased from Hawthorne Threads. I was browsing there one afternoon and just fell in love with those goldfish. And unfortunately I had absolutely nothing in my stash that would go with it so I had to order some coordinating prints. That brown circle print? It's one of the very few browns I have in my stash. In fact, it is only one of two brown prints I have in my stash. The other brown is a circle/dot print I bought because it matched some other fabric I had.

Browns are my weakness. I don't wear brown, I don't decorate my home in browns and I don't sew with browns. I consider the browns in my stash a challenge. I want to be able to incorporate all colors when I sew because I may need that brown somewhere. And with that goldfish fabric, I needed a brown to balance out the blues and oranges.

Last night all I could do was imagine different patterns for this fabric. I think I want to do circles to keep with the theme. And anyway, I am really enjoying working with circles! Circles in a block amuse me. they just look so snazzy. And I imagined that fabric in some pretty interesting ways last night. I just wish I had been able to get going with it!