Monthly Archives: February 2016

Heading Home

My February master class project awaits just a few touches to be done. The skater needs to be sewn down and a facing added to the edges. It’s to illustrate the month’s theme of movement.

FEB JMM FinalHeading Home will finish at 23.5 by 25 inches. I made it by adding Wonder Under to batting and fusing scraps of fabric over that. About half the scraps are hand painted fabric. For the trees at the top I tinted the base fabric with Setacolor transparent paint, and layered bits of colored organza between the base and white silk organza. The skater is an enlarged version of my original drawing from a photo, with highlights added in oil pastels. The shadow is black netting. So glad I’m using all those techniques I’ve picked up over the years.

None of the scrap edges are finished as I wanted them rough to simulate ice on a lake. It was hard for me to leave those edges jagged; I’ve spent too much time learning to finish edges.

The instructor commented that the shadow on my blocked out piece was off. (We send in photos of sketches, the blocked out piece, and the final.) I adjusted the angle and puddled it more and she seemed to like the new arrangement. She suggested I don’t crop the piece as the extra space opened it up. Her overall comment was, “very nice…great colors great mood to it…..a beaut of a little piece!” Couldn’t resist some self-aggrandizement.

If you had told me I would make a quilt that featured a hockey player I would have laughed in your face. Yet here it is.



Filed under Art quilts, Completed Projects, Techniques

Just Because It’s Natural Doesn’t Mean It’s Better

One of my groups planned a discussion on vegetable dyeing so I went to my kitchen cupboards for raw materials. I settled on tea and turmeric. The internet sources I consulted assured me these would be easy vegetable dyes to use and the photos showed results with discernible color. I considered using rosemary until I realized I would need a hillside’s worth of the plant.

Those same internet sources also had contradictory instructions for using vegetables in dyeing. Despite breezy posts about dyeing a wedding outfit with turmeric, I found specific instructions as to amounts and timing were thin on the ground. Some sources scrupulously show their methods and results but I lacked the raw materials to replicate them.

I found most instructions were for dyeing wool and I had cotton fabric. I gather it’s much harder to get good color from vegetable dyes on cotton. There was no one recommended way to pretreat my cloth. Some instructions called for vinegar or lemon juice; others called for a mordant such as alum. I ended up using alum with the turmeric but I might have done better to use the acid. I used nothing extra for the tea dyeing as I thought the tannin in the tea would be enough.

I decided on a recipe based on the weight of the fabric to be dyed and brewed up my tea and turmeric in water. For the tea I used black tea that had been in my cupboard for at least 10 years. The recipe called for so many ounces of turmeric per quarts of water. After I had my dye pot bubbling away I realized I should have measured the turmeric by weight, not volume. Oops.

The results? The tea left a faint tinge of color on my fabrics, but nothing the least bit attractive. Think dingy laundry. The turmeric resulted in a bold yellow, but I should have stirred my pot more as the color came out blotchy.

FabricsBeforeDyeingHere’s my original fabric. The turquoise jagged lines were made with alcohol inks. Some of the other fabrics were printed.

TurmericCookingHere’s the turmeric simmering in my thrift store stainless steel pot.

TurmericFabricDryingMy fabrics after many, many rinses and washes. Note the alcohol inks are still as intense as they were before dyeing. The Kona white cotton (on the right) took color the best.

Would I do this again? Probably not, at least not with cotton. I used a lot of water with the turmeric and I’m not confident how long the color will last. One source hinted at the fugitive quality of the bright color. And I don’t want to harbor any fugitives in my quilts.


Filed under dyeing

Fun While It Lasted

With QuiltCon West underway in California it seems a good time to declare that I am over modern quilting, as defined by current modern quilt practitioners. Back in 2012 I had high hopes for a bolder, less pretty, more personally defined approach to quilting. I read and was inspired by many of the blogs that sprouted daily, and joined a local modern quilt guild. I made several quilts in the spirit of modern quilting.

Now, four years later, I say goodbye to all that. My local modern guild limped along on life support for two years, and finally vanished without even a whimper. Many of the blogs I enjoyed have ceased publication or have devolved into advertisements for fabric collections, patterns, and other items for sale. I gather it’s called branding, which I always associate with cattle ranching. Certainly there are outstanding exceptions, but many modern quilting books either lack substance or recycle “traditional” quilt book topics like half square triangles with new fabrics. Modern quilters jump from one “must have” fabric line/pattern to another. The owls, the deer, sheesh! What happened to the originality? I see a lot of “me too.” And the workshop lineup at QuiltCon West features a lot of traditional topics – hand applique anyone?

It may be that I’m holding modern quilters to higher standards than I do traditional quilters. Yeah, probably. I just had such hopes for self-determination – design your own quilts, make them with less expensive solid fabrics/vintage sheets/whatever, learn to sew and FMQ in a month. Then, the marketing juggernaut struck. And who wouldn’t be tempted by the chance to make money from your hobby? BTW, I’d be interested to learn of quilters who support themselves on modern quilting.

I do treasure what I’ve gained from the moderns. The bold, off kilter designs were a shot in the arm. The exuberance of new quilters who had no idea something might be hard was a spur. The sheer thrill newbie quilters got from their first efforts reminded me how fun quilting can be. You can see from the winning quilts at QuiltCon West that plenty of great quilts are being made; not all has been drowned out by marketing. I still think, though, the definition of modern quilting remains as slippery as ever.

Here’s some of my modern quilts that were most directly inspired by the modern quilting movement. One, Breezeblocks, is even very close to the original in Quilting Modern. I still treasure that book.

Curves Ahead 2Curves Ahead (based on Pinterest pin)

Spring@60MPHSpring @ 60 MPH (layout by Timna Tarr)

Where did all the hexies goWhere Did All The Hexies Go? (from my head)

107 pyramids107 Pyramids (based on a drawing by Weeks Ringle and Bill Kerr)

boxed-trianglesBoxed Triangles (from scraps)

Color SlideColor Slide (my own invention)

Impact 2Impact (concept from Terry Aske)

tipsy_lampshadesTipsy Lampshades (concept from Quilting Modern)

WPMWPM (layout based on Esch House Quilts design)

Breezeblocks_quiltedBreezeblocks (based on Quilting Modern)


Filed under Commentary, Modern Quilting, Snark

A Post of Ten Words

I love my string quilt top backlit by the sun.



Filed under Commentary, Completed Projects

Topsy Toes The Finish Line

On February 11 Topsy entered the completed column, and restored my confidence that I could actually finish a quilt. She flaunts bold, cheerful colors that are restorative at this time of year. And she’s unbound. Do I feel transgressive or what?

Topsy done

Her curves indeed show off better on the horizontal, as many of you suggested. The actual machine quilting through all layers is simple curved lines in two colors of 30 weight cotton thread. The edges of the charcoal gray felt are stitched down with 50 weight cotton thread in a jeans stitch (mode 2, stitch number 20 on my Janome.) She measures 26.5 inches by 34 inches.

Topsy detail1

Topsy detail2Yes, Topsy is definitely all female.


Filed under Completed Projects

February Master Class

Movement is the class theme for the month. I’ve submitted three sketches and am undecided which to make up.

I saw boys practicing ice hockey at a nearby pond. My vision here is a sunset scene with the winter sun just behind the left hand background scrim of trees.  The player is silhouetted in dark purple and the ice is scratched up with blade marks. He’s heading home after a scrimmage. I might paint cloth to get the ice surface effect I want. The vertical line to the right is where I added more paper and would not be part of the piece. I am thinking the horizon line might be better slanted the other way to echo the V formed by the hockey stick and its shadow.

FEB JMM sketch1 resized

Elizabeth really liked hockey boy, and suggested just fading out the background rather than defining it.

Nothing like skid marks on the road at night to get your attention. (And was I surprised at some of the results when I googled images for that term.) I would use bright yellow and orangey reds to signal danger. I might add some cracks in the paving. The splotches represent colors in a dark fabric I would use for this piece. I envision this piece as simple but bold.

FEB JMM sketch2 resizedElizabeth was OK with this design. She suggested I add a car rear bumper at the bottom to add a different perspective and drop the green near the top.

In Z I was going for an abstract jaggedy effect. The incoming thin triangles would be at least partially transparent. I would use a much bolder palette than the one here, and I would use a vividly contrasting color for the white stripes. Think Lancaster County Amish quilts.

FEB JMM sketch3 resized
Elizabeth thought this design lacked oomph and suggested putting it horizontal and altering the width of the stripes so the middle one would be widest, and the rest narrowed in a progression.

The hockey player intrigues me, but I don’t know if I can get that one done in a month. There are many unknowns as to techniques to get the effects I want. It will require lots of experimentation. I like skid marks because I love curvy lines and I could use it for a quilt challenge. Finally, Z plays to my love of color combos that vibrate though I’d need to work out a construction plan before I began.

Stay tuned.




Filed under Art quilts, In Process

Slow Going

For the first time in years I don’t have a finish to show for January. Even the leaf from my master class is still unfinished as I’m dithering about how to finish the edges. I haven’t stopped sewing and quilting but I have expanded some projects in progress.

In order of inception, I have Winter Fields, Torii Traces, and Topsy underway. It’s hard to say which is closest to being finished as Torii and Topsy already have lots of hand stitching.

I’m still piecing Winter Fields, which is on the large side for me at 50 inches wide. I drew up the templates for it in early 2015 at the same time I made a smaller quilt of the same marsh outside Annapolis Royal in Nova Scotia.

Tidal_marshMy grand plan was to show the area in each season. Autumn is done and winter will be, eventually. I may run out of steam before I get to the rest of the year.

WinterFieldsInProgressI’ve sewn  about half the pieces to a foundation made of curtain liner material. The rest are clinging to my design wall. I’m using Vikki Pignatelli’s technique of folding down and sewing the edges that show. Any fabric edges that will be covered by other pieces are left raw.  Construction has to begin at the back (or top) and work down (or forward) to the bottom. The process is straightforward, but it’s easy to mix up all those long skinny pieces. Yes, I numbered them, but I keep seeing better possibilities.

Torii was my hand work in Florida. I thought it was close to done until I decided the piece needed a stronger bottom. I’ve chosen the fabric but I now have to construct and embroider it. Right now the quilt is in three pieces. Each will have a false back. Then I’ll join the pieces along the long horizontal seams.

ToriiBlueBottomThat leaves Topsy. I’ve sewn it to charcoal felt and hand stitched along the curves. I’ll sew it onto a slightly larger piece of red felt and machine quilt it. And it will have no binding and be done!

TopsyInProgressI’m debating whether to hang it horizontally or vertically. The consensus of my art quilt group was to go horizontal. I need to make up my mind before I trim the red felt. All opinions are welcome.



Filed under In Process

Behind My Studio Door…

hangs my original design wall, a flannel backed plastic tablecloth. Right next to it is my new design wall, the fleece covered insulation board I received for Christmas. I hadn’t considered how often I’m in this room until my husband said to me during our recent vacation, “I don’t think you realize how much time you spend in there.” All I know is it’s my happy place where I spend a lot of time staring at the walls. On occasion my husband pops in and says, “studying things again, eh?”

My modestly sized studio is 12 by 14 feet. It holds a work table on bed risers, a bookcase, my fold out sewing cabinet with drawers and lots of surface area, a chair and a stool, two cabinets that hold fabric and other raw materials, an ironing board, a plastic tub, a round basket filled with batting, a plastic trolley for fat quarters, and loads of other boxed raw materials such as ribbons, yarns, paints, stamps, brushes and markers. The closet is filled with fabric. It’s getting a bit crowded.




If I could bring myself to throw out items like the big roll of craft paper or the bag of poly stuffing I would have more room. But somehow the day always comes when I find I need that stuff. I cut templates from the craft paper and improvise pillow forms with the stuffing and batting.

It would help if I rearranged items, but then I wouldn’t remember where I put stuff. My brain doesn’t deal with updates as well as Microsoft Windows does. It always reverts to an earlier version.

If I could wave a fairy wand there’s some aspects I’d change. First, and top priority, would be the lighting. I have two Ott lamps – one floor, one table. I move them around as best I can given the location of electric outlets. The ceiling fixture is the usual feeble bedroom kind. I thought of replacing the bulbs with higher wattage ones, but the fixture warns not to use bulbs higher than 60 watts. So, I want skylights for lots of natural light and wall lighting.

Then, I want an ironing table. Ironing boards are made for pressing shirts, not fabric yardage or 72 inch wide quilted tops. I’d also add a heavy duty steam iron with the  gravity feed. I use one for theatrical costume work and I’m sold on it. Forget those Rowentas and Olisos.

gravity feed ironMoving on to storage, I’d like built in open shelving for my fabrics with adjustable blinds or curtains to protect them from light and dust. And, as long as the builders are in, I’d have them plumb and install a utility sink and drainboard for wet work.

After reading this wish list over, I believe it would be easier just to build a new house with my perfect studio than to retrofit my current room. In the meantime I’ll strive to emulate my favorite artist, Paul Klee.




Filed under Commentary

Occasional Wednesday Salon

The February 3 New York Times features an article about the African American Quilt Guild of Oakland (California). According to the article, this group is one of a dozen or so in our country dedicated to the quilting tradition in black culture.

The guild put together an exhibit of members’ quilts that feature locales in Oakland. According to member Marion Coleman, the guild decided to design “narrative quilts that would convey in cloth the personality, history and social complexity of their home ground.” Over 100 quilts will be shown at Oakland City Hall, libraries, schools, and other local venues. I note the guild got outside funding for this project. Good for them.

Based on the quilts shown in the NYT slide show, varied styles are used. Here’s Marion Coleman’s Firestorm, inspired by recent wildfires.

Coleman Firestorm



Filed under Quilt Shows

The Year Long Class

In 2015 I went to a 5 day workshop at Empty Spools in Monterey, California. In 2016 I signed up for Elizabeth Barton‘s year long online master class. It is a design class; knowledge of techniques that work for you is assumed. Each month the students get an assignment, and have three items to produce: a sketch or plan, a quilt layout, and a final quilt. We get to see everyone’s work and Elizabeth’s comments.

Our January assignment was value, and we were to submit three black and white sketches, then a blocked out quilt, and finally a completed quilt. We could use a color other than black, such as blue or brown, but all the fabrics had to be in that color family.

Based on Elizabeth’s recommendation, I went with the following sketch. It’s based on a photo taken outside the Dairy Barn in Athens, Ohio, by my friend Judy.


JAN JMM Sketch 3I blocked my quilt out as:

JAN JMM Blocked QuiltElizabeth’s comments were that the leaf on the right needed more shading and that I needed to make sure the two leaves weren’t the same size. The space ratio needed to be more one third/two third to focus attention on the dominant leaf.

I revised to those ends, and tried to add still more shading with my quilting. From the back this piece looks like I covered almost every inch with thread.

JAN JMM FinalI’m not thrilled with the end product. It feels more like an exercise than a work of passion. It may be the still life type subject matter. However, my purpose was to learn more about design and how to realize my intentions. This may bring me to a word for the year – focus. As in, I need to create work with more of it and focus more while creating the work.

Oh, Elizabeth said it was elegant and showed “a great grasp of values.” She also said “You don’t need to have Great Big World Shattering Messages each time. Showing Beauty is enough.” Well, I’m good with that.

I’ll let you know what the coming months bring with this class. I know others have taken it, but don’t know how they felt at the end.


Filed under Art quilts, Commentary, In Process