Monthly Archives: December 2015

The Year of Slowing Down

2015 was to be the year I put more thought into each piece I made. I hoped this would translate into fewer but better pieces. What did I mean by better? Work that was more thought out, more polished, appealing from a distance and close up, and reflective of my experimentation with different media.

I certainly achieved fewer pieces.

Other changes I can discern:

I’ve stopped buying a lot of printed fabric, but have collected more hand dyed looks. This means my local quilt shops haven’t seen my face. One jelly roll (the first I ever bought) of Caryl Bryer Fallert Radiant gradation fabric has seen me through at least two projects.

Color Slide

I’ve stepped up my thread purchases, especially for hand sewing. I now own at least 30 different colors of perle cotton.

I’ve tried to refrain from just sewing fabric scraps together. Some spontaneous sewing still crept in, but I rationalized it as a base for free motion quilting practice.


I’ve done more hand stitching (I hesitate to call it quilting) on pieces.

Arcs edges finished

I’ve made peace (sort of) with free motion quilting. I’m never going to turn out gorgeously intricately quilted work, but I can do enough FMQ to fake it. Just don’t ask me to FMQ something big.

I’ve begun to back away from quilt show rules for how I finish work that’s meant to be hung. I still finish working quilts for durability.

Yellow Jacket detail

I’ve gotten over the modern quilting movement. There are some practitioners who I admire greatly, but lately modern quilting seems to be more about commodification – patterns and fabrics, etc. – with a loss of focus. Modern traditionalism, anyone?

I’ve learned to let ideas gestate, often for months. Slabs of fabric I may use in a winter landscape quilt lived on my design wall for over a month. The design is drawn, but I’m now reconsidering whether I want to go a lot more abstract.

IMG_6721I’ve entered shows that aren’t quilt shows but are art focused. One of my pieces was accepted for a SAQA Concrete and Grasslands traveling exhibit. Two others are in a local fiber and pottery show. I’ve also entered a traditional quilt show where the judges liked my work more than the viewing public did. Judy Niemeyer ruled in popular opinion.

I’ve explored tissue paper fabric. Yes, spray inks and dyes are something else to spend money on. Luckily, you can over spray colors on the paper so you don’t need more than 6 or 7 little spray bottles.

MackJoannaAllFallDownFinalOn the social side of quilting, I now participate in two small art quilt groups and one traditional guild, and I’ve joined SAQA, a national art quilt organization. I think the modern quilt group I belong to is dead. We haven’t met for some months.  Some friends got together for a fabric fun retreat in June and enjoyed it so much we’re repeating it next June. Akron experimental quilters will try to get a small group together in 2016 to try new techniques and learn from each other.

I don’t know if I’ll make specific quilting related resolutions for 2016. After all, I’m still working on the ones for 2015. So, in 2016 I’ll repeat paragraph one as needed.



Filed under Commentary

Santa Drove A U-Haul

After a couple has been together for many years it can be hard to find a gift that is exactly what the other wants, gift cards aside. Of course, trips are lovely, as are unique services. Last year my husband gave me a first class plane ticket home from California. I guess he wanted to give me a incentive to return to Ohio.

This year I decided to spare him the agony of finding a holiday gift for me. I told him I wanted a design wall. I’ve been using the flannel side of a vinyl tablecloth. It’s worked fine but the flannel is quite thin in areas and I wanted to be able to stick pins in my design wall without sticking pins in the drywall.

A quick explanation of how insulation board can be a design wall cleared up his blank expression. We checked the 4 by 8 foot insulation board options at the big box DIY store websites and found the thickness I wanted – 2 inches.

Buying the board was the easy part. The hard part was to get it to our house. Neither of our vehicles is large enough to carry it safely. My husband ruled out tying it to the roof. The stores wanted $70 for home delivery. Luckily we could rent a van (those ubiquitous white ones) for $20+ day from a postal services store about a mile from our house.

I swanned off to an art quilt group meeting and my husband did the renting and transporting. When I came home the board was in my studio in all its pink glory. We got to work with duck tape and gray fleece to cover the board. I had taken advantage of a big sale on cheap fleece and bought yards of it in anticipation of just such a need.


My gorgeous board is now covered with a winter landscape in progress. I just love sticking pins in it.



Filed under Commentary

The Week of Mindless Sewing

Some of Christmas week has been dedicated to cookie making and sewing strips of scrap fabric together. My self imposed deadline for using up scraps is fast approaching (December 31!) so I’m going for quantity and power sewing. Thanks to Mary and Patch I decided to make a string quilt to use up much some of my hoard. Maryline’s quilt is a lovely color graded piece, while mine will smack more of I had it so I used it.

Luckily, many of my scraps were already sorted by color, though they had to be cut into strips. The rest of the scraps I’m using were already cut into strips but not sorted by color.  I listened to a radio show on Frank Sinatra’s 100th birthday as I sorted my colors.


I tore out pages from an old phone book as my block foundations. Two cuts with a rotary cutter (using an old blade) gave me 8 inch squares. Phone book paper tears out easily, plus I can feel virtuous for reusing the books.

A run through my scraps revealed that I have the least amount of green scraps. This doesn’t surprise me as until recently I haven’t used much green. I do have lots of blue. I am short on lights and pastels as well. My guess is I’ll have 14 to 16 light/pastel blocks and 36-40 medium to dark blocks. There will also be some wild card blocks.

Originally I had hoped to get 80 7.5 inch blocks out of my scraps for a 60 by 75 inch quilt before any borders. My goal was to use up scraps that were already close to the strip sizes I need. I may have to rethink that plan unless I want to cut up my larger scraps. That would make even more scraps. By my latest calculation I’ll be lucky to eke out 60 blocks from what I’ve cut up.

BlockTwinsHere are the twins created by my sewing so far. I need to add pastels to the mix.


Filed under In Process

Bring On The Heat

Recently I wrote about quilt challenges. No sooner was that published than I was given yet another challenge for January by an art quilt group – something that screams “hot.” I thought about creating a quilt with a hot guy or hot food, but decided on an easier route.

That same group had done a make someone else’s quilt swap, where we brought stuff to put on each others starter squares. We had about 10 minutes with each person’s square to add something to it.  The squares made their way around the room and returned to their owners in often unrecognizable form. We had the most fun with a blank cloth doll that acquired all the accoutrements of a stripper, plus tattoos.

Mine began with textured sprayed on orange, aqua, and blue paint.


It was returned to me with an orange flower, a metal wheel trimmed with beads, hand stitching, and lots of buttons.

Since orange is a hot color I decided to work more flowers into my square and convert the metal wheel to a sun. I learned it’s tricky to free motion quilt around buttons. All too often my sewing machine foot would get hung up on them. I hope “Orange Blossom Special” will be hot enough.

Orange Blossom Special

Orange Blossom detail 3


Filed under Completed Projects

A Surprise Art Exhibit

Early in December I got a call from a friend about putting my work in an upcoming clay and fiber art exhibit in need of entries. And could I bring my pieces that day before 6 p.m. It was then about 3:30 in the afternoon.

One thing I have plenty of is quilts. One thing I have little of is quilts with hanging sleeves. I tend to sew them in for exhibits or for gifts, long after the quilts are made. So, I found two small quilts with hanging sleeves already on them and took them in for the Summit Artspace Thread & Mud exhibit by Artists of Rubber City.

The exhibit actually looks much nicer than I expected, with that short notice. I suspect it simply wasn’t well publicized. Certainly I hadn’t heard about it, even though I’m on the Artspace’s mailing list.

ThreadandMudShow1Here are my entries: (At The) Feet of Klee (center) and The Big Bang (right.) The latter is well lit so all the metallic threads I used glitter. Unfortunately, it’s not a photogenic quilt. Susan McClory’s Primary Waves is on the left.

Here are some other pieces in the show.

ThreadandMudShow5Slant by Jessica PinskyThreadandMudShow4Untitled #1 and #2 by Jamie SuvakThreadandMudShow63—2–1– by Susan McCloryThreadandMudShow7An Embroidery of Wishful Thinking by Shirley Ende-Saxe

I wanted to have more showings of my work this year, which is why I said why not when this show came along. If I had had more time I would have chosen different quilts, which should be a lesson to me. Always sew a hanging sleeve on your work when it’s done.


Filed under Art quilts, Quilt Shows

A Farewell To Autumn

After I made leaves out of organza I wanted to use them in the pieces I devised for my online Mixing Up Media course. This is how series come about.

Two pieces are done – the painted over tissue paper one I’ve shown before

MackJoannaAllFallDownFinaland Ruined Choir Lofts, my attempt to work with painted interfacing, tissue paper, organza, and mylar. The mylar wasn’t part of the course, but I had some and wanted to try distressing it with heat. I also used it to make more leaves.

MackJoannaChoirLofts2I found out that mylar doesn’t take paint well and, like carmelizing sugar, the line between satisfyingly browned and burned is very fine. I spent more time than I should have trying to tone down the shine.

The bottom layer is painted tissue fused to muslin and backing fabric. It’s coated with matte gel medium. The resulting “fabric” is actually fairly tough and sews fine. You just can’t rip out stitching without the needle holes showing.

The top layer is painted and stamped interfacing under silk organza colored with bleeding tissue paper. They’re free motion quilted to craft felt. I sewed that layer to the bottom and then added branches and leaves. The outer edges are colored with a brown marker and couched with a variegated thin yarn.

The instructor suggested I add more partial leaves coming in from the edges in different colors, like aqua; and a thicker yarn around the edges.  She said what I’ve done is a bit safe and encouraged me to get edgier. We’ll see how I feel after a few months have passed.

I know that two items do not make a series, so I have other nascent pieces based on stencils of bare trees. For now, I’ve tucked them away to make room for my winter landscape. More on that in the future, sometime after December 21.




Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Techniques

Scrooge’s Holiday Decor

Even though Scrooge lives at my house (Scrooge, c’est moi) I succumb to a bit of holiday cheer in the form of seasonal quilts.  I made them, so I might as well get some use out of them. Please note that my holiday quilts have no angels, snowmen, snowflakes, ornaments, or Santas on them. They are piecing exercises that happen to be made in green and red fabric.

The first one, a table runner, used up the leftover half square triangles I made in a class on pressing.


Here are the rest of the half square triangles. My points have never been so perfect since.


The second one was my first experiment back in 2011 with less than symmetrical log cabin type piecing. I won a gift certificate to a local quilt shop and happened to go shopping when the holiday fabric was in stock. I liked the holly leaves.

XmasBoxesAside from My Brain On Xmas, which I meant as irony, I haven’t gone near a holiday theme since.

My Brain On XmasIt says something that I gave away over half my Christmas stuff to a thrift store last year. I did keep the beautiful and sentimental ornaments, but I feel so much better with all that stuff out of the house.

And don’t get me started on Christmas sweaters. I’ve never owned one, though as a girl I had a red felt poodle skirt decorated with sequin trimmed reindeer. I found out sweaters are now being made deliberately ugly. Yes, hipness is now involved. Tipsy Elves promises ugly and tacky sweaters. My Ugly Christmas Sweater features sweaters with the likeness of Donald Trump and other presidential candidates.  Yet other sites offer vintage ugly Christmas sweaters. I find it bizarre that people are willing to pay good money for ugly drek, but I realize that applies to products far beyond sweaters.

Well, I feel better now that some of my pent up Scrooge-ness has been let out.  I am still very much in favor of Christmas cookies, though.


Filed under Commentary, Snark

Rising to Challenges

In an earlier post I talked about a challenge quilt I made for an art quilt group. Now that we’ve shown each other our challenge quilts I can show you the whole piece – all 12.5 by 15.5 inches of it. Its title has changed to “Disappearing Diamonds” due to a senior moment when I was making the label. Diamonds may be forever in those ads, but on my quilts they don’t have the same staying power.

Dissolving Diamonds

As I tucked this sketch away in a drawer I looked at some of the other small quilts I’ve made for various challenges. Quilters seem to like challenges, whether the theme be color, size, fabric, or subject. My latest challenge piece was based on thread, but I’ve covered other common themes as well.

Three to one ratio:


Candy wrapper:

Dandy Candy

Paint chip color names with your initials:




Make Do finished2I think there’s been others I’ve forgotten about. I know there’s one I would burn if I weren’t afraid it would create a health hazard.


Filed under Completed Projects, Inspiration

A Lost UFO Found

To finish off my 2015 finishes I’ve wrapped up a small paper pieced quilt I began at least five years ago at a workshop led by Shirley Stutz. I suspect her name will mean little to quilters outside Ohio as Shirley has no website or blog, and lives in rural Ohio. She’s of a certain age, and has stopped traveling. If you’re a fan of lone star quilts you may know her book, “Easy & Elegant Lone Star Quilts.”

However, Shirley’s approach to quilting is not exactly traditional. She wades into the drafting part of quilting with gusto and has innovative ways to use fabric. A past post I wrote about her shows some of her work.  Here’s more of her work shown at a 2005 meeting of the Ohio Longarm Quilters.  Note that Shirley can turn out contemporary and traditional quilts, and loves those little details.





But, back to that workshop on Shirley’s Wonder Star. With the help of freezer paper, Pattern Ease, an add a quarter inch ruler, and an iron; I completed my star wedges at the workshop. At home I used PaintStiks to add gold, bronze, and brown circles to my outer pink border, sewed the wedges together, tried and failed to figure out how to finish my star, put it in a drawer, and forgot about it.

Other UFOs and WIPs were piled on top of it. Some of those have been finished, but I never got to the bottom of the drawer until a month ago. With a guilty start, I realized I had been committing the sin of UFO rationalization – out of sight, out of mind. This little project had never been entered on my to-be-completed list.

I jumped on this excuse to procrastinate other, newer, projects. Rather than cut fabric up to turn the hexagon into a square or rectangle, I appliqued the hexagon onto the marbled background fabric, and then cut out the background fabric from behind it to lessen bulk. After I quilted it with a walking foot I couched gold metallic yarn around the hexagon’s edges. I’m sure this solution wouldn’t have occurred to me back then, but I suspect Shirley would have approved of it.

Shirleys Star

Shirley's Star detail




Filed under Completed Projects