Sunday, March 29, 2009

Important influences to my life as an artist

I've written about my MaMa before because she was the person in my family who sewed. Not only did she sew, she could make patterns just by looking at a picture of another dress or outfit. One of my earliest memories is of visiting her at Schneiders, the dry goods store where she worked in the little town where both sets of my grandparents lived. At her house, I can remember playing on the floor in the little closet under the eaves while she sewed on her treadle sewing machine. She would give me buttons and scraps to make clothes for my doll. She taught me to thread a needle and she vainly tried to teach me to use a thimble. (I did finally learn when I started quilting.) When MaMa came to Columbus to visit us, we would often make a trip to Penney's to look for fabric. We would also make wonderful day-long trips downtown to Lazarus Department Store. MaMa could shop until everyone else dropped, including my mom and my Aunt Joan. She would take me over to the remnants area at Lazarus and help me pick out some fabric for doll clothes. I can remember loving the hand of all the different fabrics and the riot of color in the big fabric department at Lazarus. MaMa wasn't a quilter, but she taught me to sew and inspired my love of fabrics and for those two things, I will always be grateful.

Saturday, March 28, 2009

Update on BOB Memory Quilt

The top is all pieced. I'm taking it to school for all the kids to sign this week. I used some of my great 1930's reproduction fabric for the back and used one of the tone on tone black prints for the bias binding. The batting is iron-on fleece since it will hang on the wall. That reminds me, I need to make a rod pocket, too.

Now, back to quilting.

Quiet morning of quilting

I had occasion to drive to Chapel Hill this morning and spent a quiet hour and a half quilting at a wonderful shop called That Coffee Place. Two delightful young UNC students chatted with me about quilting and crocheting and I enjoyed a lovely cup of Earl Grey tea whilst getting some quilting done on "Mérida Remix." If you're in the Chapel Hill area, make a visit to this warm and welcoming establishment.

Photo fun @

Sharon B over at Pin Tangle posted the URL for a free photo manipulation site called Upload a photo and have some fun.

Friday, March 27, 2009

Happy birthday, brother Dan

Today is my brother's birthday. This is a photo taken of us in about 1957 right after my parents had been back to Purdue for the weekend. Always a rebel, he hated short pants and refused to wear them. (Check out the poodle skirt and the saddle shoes on me!!) Many happy returns of the day to you, baby bro. As we say in our family: I love you, I miss you, I kiss you.

Thursday, March 26, 2009

Update on BOB Memory piece

As promised, here is a quick update on the Battle of the Books Memory piece. All the signature blocks for the first side are finished and I've put some little borders top and bottom on the t-shirt design. I want to put a single border on each side and will definitely border the signature blocks. Below, all the signature blocks for the first side sewn together. I'm really pleased so far.

The leaf has arrived at its new home

Several weeks ago, I made a leaf for the International Fiber Collaborative's Tree Project. This is the original post. I received an email that it had arrived and a photo is now in place on their web site. Please check it out here by scrolling down a little.

Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Enter and sign in please

My cyber friend robin of simply robin is on vacation this week and several of us are serving as guest bloggers for her. This is my day, so I'm going to send you over to her blog to find out how this foundation pieced signature block fits into my next project.

Sunday, March 22, 2009

Rod pocket for Caylan's piece

I finished my niece Caylan's present today, so I thought I'd take some photos of the rod pocket process. For a full sized quilt, I start with a four inch piece of fabric that's slightly narrower than the quilt width. I used a three inch wide piece for this little wall hanging. I hem both edges and then fold it in half with wrong sides togther and stitch the top one quarter inch from the top. After all the quilting is completed and the edges have been trimmed, I sew the pocket to the top edge at the same time that I'm sewing on the bias binding.

The pocket should be about an inch shorter finished than the quilt. This will give you room to attach and turn the bias binding.

Turn the bias binding to the back and sew it down.

Be careful not to catch the open edges of the pocket when you are sewing down the bias binding.

When you come to the top edge, sew down the bias as usual.

I usually mark the dowel rod a little shorter than the pocket width. This will keep the eyelets from showing on the front.

Three tools you should probably own--a hammer, an awl, and needle nose pliers.

With a hammer, I tap a starting hole in each end of the dowel using the awl. Then I use the needle nose pliers to screw the eyelets into the ends of the dowel.

With the rod in the pocket, pin down the bottom of the pocket and stitch it to the back of the quilt. This will prevent a bulge on the front of the quilt. If you sew down the pocket with no slack, you will get a bulge on the front.

No bulge.

Here's the finished piece--"Skeletons Dancing for Caylan's Birthday."

Saturday, March 21, 2009


It amazes me all the twists and turns that one can take just looking at someone else's blog and following links to favorite blogs of theirs. This morning, I happened upon a glorious site called Button Floozies-- wonderful photos of beautiful buttons of every shape and color, lots of antique buttons, and plenty of creative projects using buttons. It makes me long for a lazy afternoon of strolling through antique stalls in search of button treasure! Please click over and visit. The Button Floozies have inspired me to show you my button collection and some of the things I've done with button embellishment.

My MaMa (my mother's mother) was the seamstress in my family and I've written about her before. She died in 1969 when I had just begun to get interested in sewing. Luckily, my mother had the foresight to save all her sewing things for me including her large button collection. The box above I decorated for my PaPa one Christmas. All the buttons were from MaMa's collection. When PaPa died in 1980, the box was returned to me. It is one of my dearest treasures.

Some of MaMa's buttons were still on the cards and I saved many of them for years. This is one of the last ones left. Note the price!

Since most of the button embellishment I do is based on color, that's how I've chosen to store my buttons.

This is the first button nest I ever made. When I went to the IQA show in Houston in the late '90's, I saw a man's vest that had been embellished with doilies and lace and buttons, so I came home and liberated a vest from Jim's closet that he never wore and made my own.

On that same visit to Houston, I found a really unique vest pattern and made my first crazy pieced vest. Above is the nest of red buttons...

..and this is the green one.

And this is the latest button nest from my fancy pink, black, and white crazy pieced apron. In closing, I will leave you with a fantastic quote from Ringo Starr:
"America: It's like Britain, only with buttons."

Thursday, March 19, 2009


"Thank God for tea! What would the world do without tea! How did it exist? I am glad I was not born before tea." ~Sir Philip Sidney, English statesman (1554-1586)
Me, too! My family and friends know that tea is vitally important to me, especially the first thing in the morning. I'm talking loose English tea brewed in a pot...

with fresh water that's been brought to a boil hard enough to produce a whistle from a proper kettle,...

steeped, then poured into cup or mug (that's a beeker to those of you on the other side of the Atlantic) containing some milk.

I rarely have hot tea in a restaurant because, except for the good people of Boston, it seems no one in America knows how to make tea (or toast, but that's another entire discourse!) A cup of water microwaved with a teabag in it or, worse yet, one of those little metal cream pitcher filled to the top with tepid water with a single teabag in it accompanied by a full cup of tepid water!! Do I ask you to use the coffee grounds again? OK, don't get me started. We tea drinkers can get very passionate about improper tea preparation. George Orwell produced an entire essay on the proper way to make a nice cup of tea.

"Tea is much more than a mere drink in Britain. It is a solace, a mystique, an art, a way of life, almost a religion." ~Cecil Porter of Gemini News Service
I developed a taste for PG Tips tea when I lived in London. Thankfully, it's readily available here in the States now. I do drink herbals and specialty teas from time to time. Dan brought me some wonderful tea from Darjeeling when he was last in India. Caffeine keeps me awake more now that I'm older, so I have to be careful in the late afternoon and evening. One of the sweetest things my husband does for me is to order baskets from The English Tea Store for any occasion requiring a present. In addition to P G Tips regular and decaf, and tea pots, one can also get digestive biscuits and English chocolates. Ordering proper materials is also possible at India Tea Company.

"There are few hours in life more agreeable than the hour dedicated to the ceremony known as afternoon tea." ~Henry James, The Portrait of a Lady
While morning is my primary tea time, I also indulge in afternoon tea from time to time. It's not the "high tea" variation, just tea and maybe toast, or a cucumber sandwich, or a cookie (biscuit to the Brits and Aussies). My family did take me to the O. Henry Hotel for high tea on my birthday last summer and that was lovely.

"Where there's tea, there's hope." ~Arthur W. Pinero
Teaspoons as we know them in America are different from teaspoons in the UK. The last time Jim and I were in London, I bought some to bring home. My favorite teapots come from Whittard of Chelsea and are actually meant for children. My newest one is pictured at the top of the post and was inspired by the nursery rhyme "Polly put the kettle on."

Photo credit:,0.jpg
"Never trust a man who, when left alone in a room with a tea cozy, doesn't try it on." ~Billy Connolly
While Billy's not wearing a tea cozy in the picture above, the quote was a good excuse for putting up his picture. Paul McCartney's song "English Tea" brings this little discussion to a lovely close. Make a cuppa and have a listen.

Wednesday, March 18, 2009

"Putting it together"--My selvage quilt

One of the neatest blogs I've visited lately is called the Selvage blog. The highly creative work of Karen Griska really appeals both to my artistic and frugal sensibilities. She's inspired me to share a piece I did for my last one woman show in Crawfordsville called "Putting it together". It was named after one of my favorite Stephen Sondheim songs from "Sundays in the Park with George." It's about the creative process--"the art of making art" as Sondheim so brilliantly puts it.

I used to wind huge balls of selvage and finally decided to try knitting with it. You can see some of the printing in this detail.

I love the strong textural quality of this piece.

Today is our Multicultural Fair at school. Team India was very excited yesterday afternoon when we were setting up our booth. It should be an extremely fun filled day.

Almost quilted

The dancing skeletons piece is almost quilted. I'd love to be able to finish it today, but that may be too ambitious a goal. I still have to make dal for the Multicultural Fair tomorrow. Here's another view of the quilting.

Now that the time has changed, Dan and I can get our walk in after dinner. We saw a beautiful forsythia bush down the street.

And our neighbor Keith has an absolutely gorgeous weeping cherry tree. I want one for our front yard.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Happy St. Patrick's Day

On this day when everyone is Irish, I wish you a happy and safe St. Patrick's Day and offer some views of my crazy pieced vest made for the day. This was actually the first of these vests that I made. I had done the counted cross-stitch shamrock and was casting around for something to do with it other than doorknob art.

This was my first attempt to use beads and I really like the little bead worms around the meandering chain stitch.

The shibori circles may have made their first appearance in this vest, as well. It also features fabrics other than all cotton because I had scraps left from making my mother-in-law a leprechaun doll.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Thimbleberries Challenge

My favorite local quilt ship, Randy's, is holding a Thimbleberries Challenge and I've decided to participate. Normally, something like this would have passed right by me. While I appreciate the beauty of Thimbleberry fabrics, they are not what I buy. My taste leans much more to the bright, contemporary designs or bright, pure hues. I will backtrack a bit to explain how this strange turn of events occurred.

A few weeks back, I was reading a post by Frieda Oxenham that included a link to Alphastamps. To my delight, I discovered rubber stamps of Brownies at their site. I will admit to a slight rubber stamp addiction and after seeing these little beauties, I succumbed to temptation. I love children's books and especially certain illustrators of children's books. Back in my youth, two Better Homes and Gardens anthologies of children's stories were my favorite books. The first volume included "The Brownies Circus" by Palmer Cox.

After receiving the Brownie stamps, I began to think that it would be fun to do a quilting project involving the Brownies. I'd been thinking about possibly doing some redwork embroidery of the Brownies because the drawings are so simple. Sue Nickels program at the Gate City Quilt Guild had encouraged me to get out all my Ellie Sienkewicz appliqué books for a look. Then, I saw the announcement for the challenge on Randy's website and all these separate threads came together. I began to draw and came up with a design.

The center (a square on point) will feature a redwork-style embroidered figure of one of the Brownies, but in brown floss instead of red. The center will be surrounded by a pieced border and then squared off with four triangles that will include a papercut design. A sawtooth border will separate these from the final wide border that will have the title and a snaking vein around three sides. At this point, I think I will try to do traditional appliqué rather than raw edge machine appliqué with fusing, but that may change. This will definitely be a challenge--unusual, limited fabric and techniques I don't normally use--but I think one needs to stretch from time to time. I'll post my progress on this piece.

What are your thoughts on traditional as opposed to raw-edge fused appliqué, readers?