Wednesday, December 30, 2009

Back from the Holidays

I haven't been hiding, but I got a lovely surprise Christmas Eve- my brother flew in from Reno to spend Christmas with us. He left today, and I wanted to spend every possible minute with him. We went to a camera shop in my ongoing photography education, visited an art exhibit in Orem, and just had fun catching up.

I do have some pictures to post, and I have actually gotten some work done- some quilting, some Christmas goodies I will be sending off to my two sons. But that will have to wait until this weekend. I hope your holidays were full of family, fun, and good cheer, and that the New Year brings good to all- including lots of good creativity!

Sunday, December 20, 2009

Shannon's Busy in the Studio???!!!!

I spent most of yesterday and part of Friday night helping Shannon make some simple tree ornaments for her co-workers. She saw some she liked in the new issue of Quilting Arts Gifts, we changed them a bit, and off she went. Bentlee also got into the action, making a bird to go on her dad's Yankee tree.

Shannon picked fabric from my stash,

cut out the pieces with the templates she made from poster board,

fused the fabric to Timtex, and finished the edges with satin stitch.

Bentlee also learned how to satin stitch--

After decorating the trees and giving the birds button eyes, she put on hanging loops with pearl cotton.

And here are some finished ornaments!!

If it looks like I've gone a bit overboard with documenting this- getting Shannon interested in what I do in my studio has been a bit of an uphill battle. Here's evidence that there may yet be hope!

Sunday, December 13, 2009

Sunday evening--

I'm waiting for the pork roast to finish cooking, it's been in since 8 am and smelling wonderful. Here's hoping I can duplicate what Sean did for his birthday while I was in Florida. He's the best cook with meat I know.

I think I have made every screwup you can make while sewing this weekend. It took me a day and a half to finally get the facing on my 12 by 12 piece. I sewed it on the wrong side once, almost did it a second time; I found out that corner triangles have to be cut on the bias so the straight of grain is diagonal across the square- otherwise, it just stretches out of shape, quickly!! I can't remember the last time I did so much un-sewing.

But I got a lot of stuff organized. Instead of this. . .

I now have this!

That simple unit from Ikea more than doubled my storage space. I got stuff off the floor, using those cool fabric containers that cost all of $5. I cleaned out a lot of magazines to Freecycle. I've figured out about the only ones worth hanging on to are Quilting Arts and Machine Quilting Unlimited. I can't believe the difference that made. I also got stuff off the floor in my fabric closet just with a couple of hooks on the wall.

I found out my 12 by 12 piece isn't due until New Year's Eve, so I'm going back to some of the words I missed. Frog jumped out at me- here's what I have so far.

Doesn't look very froggy, does it? It will when I'm done, I've got to wait a couple of days for the Shiva paintstik to cure.

One more week, then two short weeks of work. I may even take some time off. Hope your week is a good one.

Saturday, December 12, 2009

I'd rather be hiding out in the studio. . .

because it's been COLD all week, and it's starting to snow again- as if we haven't had enough already for early December. If I knew all this was going to magically go away on 2 January, I could live with it- but the likelihood is that we'll be dealing with cold and wet and snow well into March.

Here's the current view of our street, looking east towards the mountains-

Yeah, the mountains you can't see because of the low clouds full of snow!

I have actually been spending time in the studio. I've been cleaning and reorganizing, and got my first (to me), anyway, 12 by 12 piece done. I think the reveal on those is next week. And, I pulled out the very first quilt I made and looked it over.

My son Ian called this week, asking if we had any homemade Christmas ornaments I'd be willing to part with. I did, actually, and then remembered a box of his stuff at the top of our coat closet. I pulled it down, and there was the quilt. Wow.

It's a Margaret Miller Sizzling Strips quilt- one I had great fun rotary cutting the strips for at Primary Children's hospital in Salt Lake when Shannon was there with leukemia. It was great therapy for me. I still love the design and the colors, black and red remain a combination I use- check out our living room!

What struck me was the dearth of quilting! I took this one to a quilt shop when they had just gotten a longarm and were starting to quilt for their customers. At that point in time, it was all about the pattern and colors in a quilt for me- the quilting was just there to hold the layers together. As I recall, the shop was so new at this, they didn't even charge me for the work they did. It's quilted in an overall clamshell pattern, not that close.

What a difference fourteen years can make! Now I'm thinking about the quilting when I'm designing and constructing the top. Even my not-so-closely quilted pieces, like Out of the Blue, have more quilting than this one!

But this will still look good on a wall, so I'm sewing a sleeve on it before I send it off to Ian in Chicago. I hope he still likes it!

And here's hoping you are staying warm and cozy, and having a relaxing and creative weekend.

Sunday, December 06, 2009

Winter's Here

so we put up the Christmas tree last night. This year, it's more out of the way of traffic next to the fireplace. Here's Bentlee and Jaden striking a holiday pose for Santa! (Yes, one of these years I will get the red drapes for the door done--)

I also got some work done on a challenge piece for one of the online groups I recently joined- the 12 by 12 Project. Can't show you the whole thing, since the reveal is later this month- but here's a teaser.

I'm pretty happy with how it is turning out. Just a little more embellishment, face it, and we're good.

I'm also looking around at my studio and trying to figure ways to make it more functional and inspirational. I feel the stirrings of a definite clean, de-clutter and reorganize coming on! (Couldn't have anything to do with the new issue of Studios, could it?)

Hope your weekend has been inspirational and restful!

Monday, November 30, 2009

A Gift in the Mail

I am feeling better today- and something in the mailbox was a real boost! Nellie sent me an 8 X 10 piece made from the leftovers of her wonderful Prairie Performance that was installed in a hospital in Illinois last week. It is wonderful!

Nellie does amazing art with fabric and bits of thread, ribbon, you name it. She calls it ortwork- and it's done with snips and bits that most of us would throw out. I love it, and I am thrilled to have a piece of her work in my home. Thank you, thank you, Nellie!

Sunday, November 29, 2009


about describes the way I've felt since Thursday evening. I did manage to get the kitchen cleaned up after our feast, but we were in bed before 9- that's how lousy I felt. And I've spent the better part of the last two days just laying around- since leaving home has not been an option even if I felt like it, for reasons I won't go into.

So I have no pictures, nothing interesting. My bead stash is reorganized to take up less space since my nifty carousel broke- I'm just going with cheap, small ziploc baggies and a container of some sort. At least that was a low energy activity I could do from the recliner while watching endless episodes of Law and Order! I have also played with the design of a small piece for group I recently joined, modeled on the 12 X 12 group that has done such interesting work for the past two years. It's due the end of December- so I won't be posting any pics of that until they all go up. If you're interested, the blog for the group is here.

To top off the weekend, the U lost to BYU in overtime. What a way to start the holiday season. It can only get better from here!

Thursday, November 26, 2009

Happy Thanksgiving!

I'm counting my blessings today- health, home, family (even though most of them are distant), a new, beautiful granddaughter- we truly are blessed to have such abundance in this country. I learned this first-hand when I spent a year in Africa with the Peace Corps in my early twenties.

The cooking began yesterday. I made an apple-cranberry pie, Shannon made yeast rolls. The topping for the green bean casserole is done, and I'm cooking the beans as I type. DJ and Bentlee are making peanut butter pies- definitely not my cup of tea, but some in the family love them. I'll stick with pumpkin and apple, thank you very much.

If I remember, I'll get a photo of the bounty. In the meantime, may your Thanksgiving be full of family, friends, and a sense of gratitude.

Saturday, November 21, 2009


I have been working on the small study piece of the lily- and I am glad that I did not start with the big quilt. I got the small one sewn to the stabilizer, and started doing some threadwork on it this morning. I am not happy with the results!!

I've not done a lot of realistic quilts- in fact, I can only think of one small one, the batik sunflower. On this one, the large lily is driving me crazy. How do you portray soft, like a flower, with the hard edges that sewing produces? Aaaargh!!!

So I will put this one in the back of my mind, to think about and see if I can figure this out to my satisfaction. In the meantime, I am going to work on a couple of 12 X 12 pieces for a group I just joined. The first one is definitely abstract- the second, sort of. But it is also something that hard edged threadwork will enhance, not detract from.

And maybe I just need to stick to what seems to come more natural. More food for thought!

Sunday, November 15, 2009

Study One

I got to work on the first small study to try out the effect of piecing or otherwise breaking up the negative space behind the lilies. Here's my progress so far- the background is pieced, with 2" strips and the joins between the strips offset. I've selected my greens, and pinned it all up on the wall to see how it works.

I like how the greens I chose work together. The large white lily will get some paint this afternoon- this time, I think I will see how Setacolors look. As for the background, I will have to live with it a bit. I know these oranges are a little different than the yard I dyed, so that could be affecting my feelings about it.

So, what do you think?

Friday, November 13, 2009

WAQ Friday

We had our small quilt group meeting today, minus only Jalaine. Suzanne did a hands-on tutorial of quilt construction Katie PM's way. I have her books, but it was helpful to see it done.
And, I got a lot of feedback on the lily quilt. I took the patterns I've done and the background. Most of the feedback was about the large amount of negative space and what was I going to do with it. My idea of a cool quilting design didn't have much traction- and I haven't figured out what that would be anyway.

There was some talk of cropping, which I am reluctant to do because it would change the lovely lines that drew me to the picture in the first place. Then we talked about piecing the background, and how it could be done without detracting from the lily.

If I were better at PSE, I'd figure out a way to try it out on the computer. But I'm not, so I'm thinking of making smaller 12 X 12 quilts to try out the idea. To that end, I cropped out two sections of the original photo.

Trying out these ideas in a small format makes more sense than trying, and possibly screwing up, the larger quilt. And, I'll be able to try out the construction method in a more manageable size. Nice projects for the holidays, I think.

We also talked about the beads I'd planned to use. In the large size, the quantity of beads would weigh a lot- so I will probably end up with lots of French knots and some beads. At least the quilt will hand straight!

I have some minor house cleaning to get done tomorrow, and the laundry. Then we'll start playing with the small size.

Wednesday, November 11, 2009

More Lily

I have the day off- it's not yet noon, and I've made more progress on the lily quilt. I got the background dyed to my satisfaction. It two times with the dyes, but it was worth it. Then I had to decide- the front,

or the back

I don’t know how much shows in the photos, but there is enough difference in person to make choosing the front an easy decision. I like how it mimics the subtle light patterns in the photo. It also has some nice texture which make the piece interesting without overwhelming the flower and leaf elements.

I also added fabrics to the green stash I'll choose the leaves from.

Then I turned my attention to the central white lily. Except, it isn’t really white. A close examination shows that it is really white with plenty of pale green. I found some white fabric that I liked- I honestly think it is leftover drapery lining! I traced the shape of the lily on to it, then pulled out my Tsukineko inks. I’ve had these for over four years, and never quite got the knack of using them. Sidney in my small art group is a master with them, and she suggested using them with aloe vera gel to help blend them. So I got some of that, too.

It took four coats, but I think it was worth it. I started with a very pale shade of yellow, then a pale shade of yellow green. I overlaid that with two coats of white, which is the only color that is somewhat opaque. It gave me the effect I wanted. I think when it is thread painted it will look even better

I am really liking the size of this quilt. There will be very few tiny, fiddly pieces, yet it is small enough to quilt on the Juki. I think the only part that will really stress me out is that orange background, I'm already trying to figure out how to quilt that.

Don't know if I will do much more today. We have WAQ on Friday, and I hoping for some input and past experiences on the best way to construct this.

I'll also take this opportunity to thank all those veterans who have served this country so selflessly. Both of my parents were WWII veterans, and I grew up with stories of what it meant to them. (A side note, the service was also how they met!) If you are reading this and a vet or an active service member- I thank you for your dedication to this country and what it means.

Saturday, November 07, 2009

Working on the Lily

Progress continues on the Colombian Lily, which is what I'm calling it until I come up with a better name. Yesterday I got the pattern traced onto a lightweight stabilizer- it's kind of obscuring the paper pattern here. You can also see the two color copies I have- one of Marly's actual photo, the other after I played with it in PSE. They are more for value guidance than anything else at this point.

And, I raided my stash for green fabric- not a hard task, since green is one of my faviorite colors. I don't know if this is what I'll end up with, but here's what I have so far.

I swear the hardest part of fall for me is getting my body and mind used to the idea that dark does not mean it is bedtime. So even though part of me was saying it was time to quit, I went down to the studio to dye the orange-red background. i printed it with thickened dye and a large sponge, hoping to get texture somewhat similar to stucco. We'll see tomorrow if I was successful!

It's now batching, wrapped in plastic and under the heat lamps.

Assuming the dyeing all goes well, maybe I can get the freezer paper patterns traced tomorrow. We'll see- it's also time to get rid of the gray roots.

Sunday, November 01, 2009

Working from a Pattern. . .

is not something I've done a lot of. When I look back, most of my quilts have been design-as-you-go. So this quilt will be a bit of a new experience for me.

I did a line drawing of the photo, then had it enlarged at Kinko's. The $7 it cost was well worth it, my working pattern is now 36' wide, and a little longer than that. Here it is on my design wall. On the right, you can see my partially colored original drawing. That was the best way I could come up with to make sense of the leaves.

I have already cruised through my stash, and should have enough variety of greens for the leaves. No surprise, since green is one of my favorite colors. The background will be specially dyed, since I don't have anything large enough that would work. I've gone through my book of color samples, and think I know the recipe I'll use to start. And, I think I will dye paint this- I want a different kind of texture than I get with low water immersion.

I'm not going to fuse this- I'll use construction something like Vikki Pignatelli or Katie PM use. Good thing I'm not working under any deadlines!

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Home to the Cold

Shannon and I got home very late Tuesday night, welcomed by cold, wind, and the threat of snow. Joy- but at least the roads were clear for the hour drive home.

I've survived two days a work, house cleaning, and unpacking. Today I'm making a dinner Sean made while I was there, beef short ribs. I love recipes that take care of themselves like this one that cooks all day in the oven at a low temperature. Nice for helping to warm up the house, too!

And, I'm starting work on a quilt, since I have no projects underway. Marly had a couple of photos from her last trip to Colombia that I really liked. So I'm starting on this one today--

There is so much going on here that I love- the play of the green against the scarlet wall, the lines of the skinny stems, the diagonal line formed by the leaves and flower. This isn't Marly's original photo, it's what it looks like after I played with it in Elements. I think it will be fun to do, and it's ideally suited to using hand dyes!

Tuesday, October 27, 2009

St. Pete, Part 2

The Sunken Gardens was a wonderland, a cool oasis in the midst of St. Pete. My comment about how nice it would be in the summer was met with an immediate reply- NO PLACE is cool in Florida in July!

There is a wedding lawn- and expanse surrounded by trees and colorful foliage.

In addition to the flamingoes, we also saw a variety of tropical birds.

I loved these plants against the rough concrete wall, the play of light and shadow.

And, there was fruit in addition to flowers.

Even the view upwards was inspiring!

We took several breaks on our walk to feed and soothe the baby. She finally settled down and slept in her stroller. Here's a picture that shows the problems I had with color. Sean is wearing a black shirt, but you'd never know it here!

This large flower was on a wall, with what looked like ivy.

After we'd walked every path in the gardens, we drove here--

We each got to sample three fruit wines. I tried raspberry, a blend they call Category 5 after the hurricane rating system, and and orange-coffee mix. They were all delicious! Shannon said the cranberry was really good, and would be wonderful with Thanksgiving dinner. Unfortunately, I live in one of the five states that does not allow wine to be shipped there. Drat!

Finally, we went to Clearwater and had a late lunch/early dinner at a beachfront seafood restaurant. I learned how delicious grouper can be- I had it Cajun style. Afterwards, Shannon and I walked along the beach while she collected some shells. It's hard for a Rocky Mountain resident to believe that it is almost November!!

A perfect ending to a wonderful day.

Monday, October 26, 2009

St. Petersburg and the Sunken Gardens

Yesterday we visited a couple of attractions in St. Pete, close to Sean's home here in Tampa. First we hit the Sunken Gardens, a large green oasis in town. I loved it, and ended up taking over 50 pictures. The colors and textures were amazing, and for someone who has spent most of her life in the desert, the quantity and size of the plant life here is amazing.

These leaves called out to me right after we entered the garden. The green color was intense to the point of looking almost fake.

There was strong contrast between shady areas and sunlit areas, which was challenging to photograph. Don't know that I ever figured it out completely. Love this bamboo!

While there weren't a lot of flowers, I did find some intensely colored specimens. I don't think I've seen bottle brush since I left southern California.

There were also fascinating textures- check out this bark and roots!

And what would Florida be without pink flamingoes?

Taking pictures of people turned out to be a real challenge, I just wasn't sure how to handle the light. But here's Shannon--

More tomorrow, we don't have to leave for the airport until 2 pm or so.

Friday, October 23, 2009

More Michelle

My last week in Florida- sigh! The weather has been practically perfect,in the high seventies or eighties, low humidity. This is definitely the time of year to visit here!

Shannon has gotten to know her new niece, who obviously feels very comfortable with her auntie.

Even in the short time I've been here,I can see changes. She barely fits into newborn clothes anymore. She is alert for longer periods of time, and is doing better at sleeping at night and being awake during the day. Not perfect mind you, just better.

I love watching her with her daddy. He is really good with her, I've no doubt he will be a wonderful father.

They were gifted with a swing by a friend whose child has outgrown it. It really does seem to help her calm down at times, and will be a godsend when the parents are on their own.

This is one of the best pictures I've gotten of her yet, looking over her mother's shoulder. Look at those gorgeous eyes!

This weekend will be the only 'touristy' time we have here. Yesterday was Sean's birthday,today is Sean and Marly's anniversary, and tomorrow they are having a crowd of friends over to celebrate and see the baby. Sunday were are going to the Sunken Garden in St. Petersburg, and some winery where they make wine out of citrus and other fruits- everything but grapes, from what I am told. Hopefully I will get some good pictures.

Tuesday Shannon and I fly home to snow, and Wednesday I am back at work. Where did all the time go??

Monday, October 19, 2009

A Family of Foodies

Shannon arrives here tomorrow, and will stay a week- we both leave on Tuesday the 27th, although on different airlines via different routes.

This will be interesting, all of my children are excellent chefs (or foodies, as we call them)- and we will be making a feast to celebrate Sean's birthday this weekend. Me, I just plan to sit back and enjoy all the goodies.

Last night Sean made a dish I'd never had, and he'd not made before- beef short ribs. I have never been a fan of ribs, too much work and mess, too much fat and gristle, too little reward. However, what we ate last night showed me its is possible to make ribs cooked to my liking. Sean started the ribs late in the morning; after browning the meat and some vegetables, they were doused with broth and wine, and left in the oven all day to bake.

Sean also made a mushroom risotto, and I made a salad. Here he is, nursing the rice to creamy tenderness--

He reduced all the yummy juices some, then served the ribs in all their glory- falling off the bone tender, most of the fat baked away. It was delicious!

We had lots of the juices left over, so I made a beef barley soup this afternoon that was also excellent. Can't wait to see what the rest of the week brings, with my two foodies in the kitchen!