Wednesday, December 29, 2010

A candid look

Who works here? It's terrible, isn't it?!

That's a view of my work table. Just push things aside and I'd have a teeny tiny working space. Or pile the stuff elsewhere and I'd have more room. I'm sure you're much much neater.

Yes, the studio has been screaming for an overhaul. It has reached a tipping point 'cuz I can't find things.

So no more! By the new year I will have it cleaned up and re-organized. So I can get back to quilting again.

And start a mess anew.

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Happy holidaze

Lots of good cheer
to all far and dear.
May your stockings be stuffed
with more than enough
to give you a kick start for the new year!

Friday, November 5, 2010


I made these crib bumpers for my co-worker.

I finished sewing together the front panels Monday night. Another night to get it all done, I'd thought. Delusional me. I stayed up beyond David Letterman Tuesday night. And Wednesday night. Last night I had to finish them - today is her lst work day before maternity leave.

Just in time. Her baby boy is due on Nov 17th.

Tuesday, October 12, 2010

Restructuring report

All right! All right! For friends chomping at the bit, here's my lowdown on the second workshop week at the Crow Timber Barn – Strip Piecing & Restructuring with Nancy Crow. I'll report about the first week in True Colors with Carol Soderlund later.

It was great having familiar faces there, including three from my guild - EBHQ - as well as meeting new ones. Everyone was focused and produced terrific pieces. I can't show you their work but here are mine.

Out of many many strip-pieced fabrics, we produced three compositions. What? You only see two?

I am not showing you my third and final composition. It was a disaster. I was constipated - not bodily, but creatively. And Nancy absolutely agreed. I don't know what happen or why. Let's just say my approach did not produce the desired results. I will begin that final one anew.

I am very pleased with the first two compositions. And miracles do happen - I finished them on time! They came together easily. Even Nancy was surprised! She revealed that my so very s-l-o-w deliberation in the very first workshop - Best of Strip Piecing 1 & 2 -gave her fits! Ooh! Sorry about that Nancy! That was only two years ago, yet seems ages.

Despite the labor intensiveness of strip piecing, I like this way of working. But there's no way I could do a quilt top a
week like Nancy's recommends. Maybe one each month. Or so (yes, I'm hedging).

Addendum: see Robert Genn's, The Painter's Keyspost about choking. Did he read my mind? To prevent creative constipation, I will sing as I work. You may suffer a little dissonance, but better that than a visual cacophony.

Tuesday, September 21, 2010

Planned absence

Work is crazy. The last few weeks of a construction project usually is. Lots of coordination with the contractor and subs, vendors, suppliers, fabricators as well as the operations department. Lots of details. Lots of decisions. Lots of "gee, did I remember to . . . " A little nerve-wracking as we head toward inspections and deadlines. The eventual goal: doors open for that first customer.

But Saturday I head to the Crow Barn in Ohio once again for two weeks of workshops. I didn't plan it this way. The project should've been done long before this. 

But, boy, am I glad I'm going.

Thursday, September 16, 2010

Color choices

Color Improvisations - the catalog - arrived. Simply beautiful both inside and out.

Which color cover would you choose: yellow, orange, violet, blue or green? I picked violet. It's not as saturated or as magenta as it'd looked online. It's a beautiful soft purple. Compare it to my my deep purple sheets in the photo.
Though it's usually shown with the round logo in the top right corner, doesn't come that way. Instead, you get a sheet of nine stickers. DIY. Which one would you choose for the purple cover?

Sorry, I'm not giving you peeks inside. You can see some of the works online at exhibition website or from the artists' websites or blogs. The catalog has more. Photos are terrific and include detail shots. Next best thing to being there. I especially love the little snapshots of the artist at work in her studio, development sketches or works in progress.

Enticed? How to get your very own copy: (1) Lisa Call, one of the artists in the exhibition, has a limited number; (2) SAQA or (3) if you deal in Euros or speak German, the exhibition website.

I stayed up beyond my bedtime being inspired. Worth every minute.

Monday, September 13, 2010

Do do do do do do do do do did

A challenge from my quilt minigroup: interpret wings in an 18"x18" quilt.

I could do this – have a few months.
I could do this – it won't be very big.
I could do this – use prints from my stash.
I could do this – try something new.
I could do this – a free motion quilting opportunity.

I found an origami-like crane pattern. I've never paper pieced, but how hard can this be? I could do this! After much trial and error – and tedium – I made six 6x9 blocks. Place them in a simple 2x3 grid? yech! Arrange it more improvisationally? I could do this! More trial and error and it is ready for quilting.

I came up with a my own filler design. Yes, I could do this! No way could I have done it a few months ago. Thanks again Leah Day - see also this previous post.
Finish the quilt in time? I could do this!

First one I've ever free motion machine quilted. With my very own fmq design to boot! I did it!

Friday, September 10, 2010

Caught up with Leah Day

If only in one respect.

For various reasons I stopped making fmq sample patterns in April. Recently I started up again for more practice before tackling an actual project.
fmq foot w/ shank only 

I was making samples when my free motion quilting foot broke - fell apart! It seemed loose a few days ago but I couldn't see anything wrong. Then a plastic chunk fell off the right side. Oh, oh. But still usable so I kept going. Then last night the whole plastic piece fell off, leaving only the metal shank. OH, OH.

sewing machine sisters
I hauled out my 37 y.o. Bernina 830 (the original mechanical one not the new fangled one). No needle down, no needle threader, limited stitch length & width, limited stitches. But I love that machine! It was just been serviced and a couple of motor brushes replaced. Unlike the Janome – it purrs. Hmm, maybe the Janome needs service as well as a new fmq foot. 

Struggled with the different control foot and the toughest filler designs, which I had avoided until now, but I plowed onward. Finally, after midnight, milestone achieved! I have made samples of all of Leah's beginner free-motion filler designs to date!
fmq samples

Many thanks to Leah Day of 365 Days of Free Motion Filler Designs! Without her encouragement and hints, her filler designs and videos, I would have quit long ago. Though I am still no master, I am ready to free motion quilt a project – a first! At only 18x18 it is a good place to start.

Tuesday, September 7, 2010

Nearly losing it

A month ago, I'd placed an order with the stipulation for delivery by the start of the workshop. Didn't hear anything, so I e-mailed customer service. Delivery is scheduled for September 8.

Despite the three-day weekend respite, my brain is addled. I made the improbable leap to October 8th – after the workshop ends. Oh no! Too late!

I jumped on the phone but got the answering machine. Started leaving a message, but then I realized my mistake.

Oops. Never mind.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

On the verge

Life is spinning out of control when I got a check and can't recall depositing it. Nor can I find it. Oh-oh.

Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Over the rainbow

A local tv station use to televise Wizard of Oz annually. Always on a Sunday because I'd always missed a section due to the family dinner hour. That movie started me on a reading adventure through every Oz book at the library.

The local jazz station (publicly supported  & you can listen over the web) recently played Somewhere over the Rainbow - though sung by Eva Cassidy, not Judy Garland. Nevertheless it stirred up an old memory once again.

I am on the roof of my parent's house to hang laundry on the clotheslines. It's a beautiful San Francisco mid morning with sunshine and a mild breeze. But I am very sad and long for a happier place. I wish for ruby slippers . . . to click three times . . . to be elsewhere.

I don't remember why I was so unhappy but my childhood was not the best. I've had this vision many times. And the same emotions with it. Everytime I hear this song. Such is its power.

Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Possible madness

I was just there in May. But in less than two months I'd be off to the Crow Barn once again. I'm taking a dip in the dyeing waters with True Colors with Carol Soderlund followed by a week of Strip Piecing & Restructuring with Nancy Crow.

Last time there I got a very clear message: make pieces between workshops and concentrate on tops rather than finished quilts. So I'd started here with a black and white study. Then I got off on a tangent. 

First circle was shown here. Yes! a circle is piece-able with only straight lines. (Don't listen to naysayers calling it a multi-sided figure.) The struggle with bulky seams around a second smaller circle showed I needed a little more method for this madness. 

I draw the circles with a compass and then locate equidistant points for the tangents. Points too close together mean struggles with bulky seams. Points too far apart call the naysayers out of the woodwork.

With a little math, I pieced two more circles, one smaller, one larger.

Ooh boy, possibilities!

Friday, July 30, 2010

S*** happens

S*** happens. It's one thing when s*** happens to your worst enemy. It's another when s*** happens to good people.

If you've been to the Crow Timber Barn, you'd know Margaret Wolf, the chef, not only feeds us so very well with her wonderful meals but also delights us with her good humor and supportive spirit.

Last May I met her husband, Dale, when he joined us for a few days. This is one couple I'd say has no better half. They're both terrific.

Margaret and Dale were recently in Germany where she has a wonderful piece in the Color Improvisations exhibit. She's the one in the graphic b+w dress in this photo. More about the multifaceted Margaret on her website.

Upon their return they received bad news. Read more about their son's accident and ordeal here. Just breaks my heart. Please send lots of good wishes their way. Nathan died on 8/4/2010. You can send your condolences here.

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Inspirational Color Improvisations exhibit

Color Improvisations is an exhibition that opened on July 11, 2010 in Stuttgart, Germany. 50 large quilts from 26 artists.

Nancy Crow had invited artists to submit pieced tops which had to be new and large – minimum 6 feet in both directions. Upon approval, the artist finished these tops – all the while keeping these works under wraps. I awaited the unveiling with high anticipation.

Twenty four of the artists, as well as Nancy Crow and co-curator Ginie Curtze, were at the opening reception. The excitement is palpable in the photos. Oh, to have been there to bask in that creative atmosphere!

Here are links to postings from a few of the exhibition artists:

Lisa Call posted her two works, but was unable to attend the opening.

Kathy Loomis was the first artist at the opening to report. You can see her two magnificient contributions and a link to her photos.

Bonnie Bucknam posted her three beautiful painterly pieces.

Terry Jarrard-Dimond posted most recently. Not only can you see her two fantastic pieces, she also provided great photos of other artists' works and their statements too. ***7/27/10 update*** Terry added photos of her three pieces and describes her process in another post.

What an inspirational work! Congratulations and kudos to all! These works will contribute immensely toward perceiving quilts as an art medium.

There is a catalog available through eBay.

Two prayers: may I have a chance to see this exhibition and may it travel in the United States.

Friday, July 16, 2010

Hole-lee, mole-lee!

There I was in the middle of my b+w study when an idea took hold. I was off and running with options and variations before cutting any fabric before taking a stitch. It's all I can do to keep the idea in check and stay focused. Do you have that problem?

I love skinny lines. Kathy Loomis' Art with a Needle posted about an art date with skinny lines. I also want to make circles or curvilinear lines. Together they resulted in a sketch of a circle made only with straight lines.

The sketch looked familiar - where have I see that before? I was channeling Andy Goldsworthy!  Here is his work for comparison against my pieced piece on the right. Maybe I was subconsciously influenced. Or maybe it sprang from my love of math, particularly geometry.

Tuesday, July 6, 2010

Going for the goal / goad!

Such a delusional belief that over a three-day weekend I can get a lot done. I visited SFMoMA, worked in the garden for about 12 hours, did three loads of laundry, and went to the gym twice. Among other stuff. But I did not wash the car, bake a cake, clean house or reduce my pile of paperwork. Unless ironing fabric counts, I did no work on my art either. Ahh, so much for ambitions.

Here's what I've been working on. Only one more seam for my black and white study then I can square it off. Except for one spot nagging for a redo.

How little – only this one thing - I've done since returning from the Crow Barn in May. I need goals as a gauge. But I also need goals to goad me into action! You know I love 'em, so here they are.

One small to medium project each month until I go back to the Barn in the fall. That means four projects total (including the one above) to work improvisationally, experimentally and artistically. That's realistic. Then I have the more ambitious goals: one additional project each month. Lest you think I'm crazy, I'm playing loose-ee goose-ee with these. They could be anything – even following a pattern! As long as it involves fabric and sewing, it counts!

Lately, I haven't been posted frequently. That will be the case for the next few months. But stay tuned! I'll be back when I have something to share. Until then, à la Captain Picard, make it sew!

Thursday, June 10, 2010

All in my head

Do I look different to you? Have you notice? Did I cut my hair? Lose some weight? Botox wrinkles away?

None of these. Let me help you. It's all in my head(ing) which used to say ambitions of a beginner or beginnings of an ambitious quilt artist. I still quilt. I still think of myself as a beginner. I'm still ambitious. I'm still an artist. My new subheading subtlely reflects my clearer focus and resolve.

"It is necessary . . . to go beyond . . . to create something so unique – personal yet universal – that it takes viewers beyond their own understanding, perhaps even out of their comfort-zone, and shows them the world in a new way. Only then . . . does an artist cross the line . . . to fine art."

Rose Fredrick was referring to specifically to illustration, but she could just as well be talking about any other craft or medium - or about quilting. I intend to eventually cross that line and create art.

Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Tip for a tipping thread stand

I've stitched many miles with machine piecing. I've used Aurifil Cotton Mako' 50 but it's not as readily available here. Spools of Superior Masterpiece were satisfactory so I gave their cones a whirl. Their spools hold 600 yards but the cones hold 3000 yards. A lot of thread. Aurifil's spools hold about half that.

Only trouble is, my Janome 6600 didn't like it. Even with its own thread stand. The upper thread kept breaking. Especially if I sewed fast. Especially when crossing seams. Switched needles. Still broke. Adjusted tension. Still broke. I turned the upper tension lower and lower. Broke less but the upper and lower were out of balance. What to do?

This happened just before leaving for workshops at the Barn. What better place to ask for advice than from other piecers? I brought the cones along on the chance I may be able to use them after all.

The advice? Use a thread stand. At least get the one from Joann's – it'd be better than nothing. So I got the Dritz stand. It's all lightweight plastic even the upright arm. I used it only when winding bobbins with me assisting so the arm rod doesn't fall out. Get what you pay for! Superior Threads sells a nice heavy duty weighted thread stand. But I wouldn't want to pack that lead weight.

During the unpacking back home I spied a screw in the base where the rod goes in. Aha! Loosened it and pushed the rod in further. Tightened it and it kept the rod from falling out. The tip: use this set screw. 
Now the stand is set high behind the machine. Now my machine is happy. I am happy. And my thread tension is back up and in balance. Ta-daa! Happy ending!

Tuesday, June 8, 2010

Two humbling weeks at the Barn

The first week was Sets & Variables I & II. It was really really tough. Since some of the students had already taken a Sets & Variables workshop elsewhere, Nancy notched up the challenge. She even warned us not to hyperventilate before giving us the big exercise. Ha! We were all along for the rough ride and hanging on for dear life! The result of all that hyperventilation top right. 

The second week, Sets & Variables III, seemed easier. Had we found our groove? Or were the exercises easier? Then Wednesday afternoon we got the final BIG assignment. How to even begin to approach this? Total brain freeze. Such a humbling experience.

I started putting things on the wall and recovered some how somewhat. (Not) sleeping on it helped. At 2am I was eager to get working again! By Friday afternoon I had nearly the entire composition pinned on the wall. Pinned not sewn, my dears. At least I had a good idea of where it's going before packing it up. My 4'x8' final project bottom right.

Friday, May 28, 2010

Recovery from two tough weeks

It is one week after finishing two weeks of workshops with Nancy Crow - Sets & Variables I & II and Sets & Variables III – and I'm still in recovery mode.

My focus the past year was in making that quilt sandwiches and stitching those quilting lines. Though I can pat myself on the back and say, yes! to bringing a few quilt tops to their ready-to-hang state, these skills did not help me in the workshops.

The month before I'd struggled with finishing the ribbon quilt. How many times did I sew together something only look at it, blanch, then begin anew? So I left for the workshop feeling like I'd forgotten how to create. And I did.

I was unprepared. Despite slogging through those weeks, I got a lot out of them. I'll post more about the workshops later.

I've now spent in total five weeks in four of Nancy's workshops. I am still in awe of the woman – she's amazing and inspirational. Words alone cannot convey how fabulous a teacher she is. She teaches more than piecing, more than quilting, more than art. Much more.

I have a list of things to work on. I have exercises and ideas to develop. Projects to finish. I have direction and aspirations. I am now much more clearly focused. I intend to sustain this feeling this drive until I return to the Barn once again.

Wednesday, May 5, 2010


We regret to inform you that your quilt Neutra House was not selected to be shown in the Tactile Architecture 2010 exhibit. We received many entries, all of them extraordinary. The jurors had to make many difficult decisions. Thirty-three quilts were ultimately selected for this exhibit.

Thank you very much for allowing us to consider your work. We greatly appreciate your willingness to share it with us.

Neutra House is not going to Houston for International Quilt Festival 2010.

Monday, May 3, 2010

Sticking with the program

It was my very last weekend before Ohio and workshops at the Crow Barn. I've shipped three boxes jammed with fabric. I've completed the top of the ribbon quilt. I've made more motifs.

The weekend was full of temptations. An errand brought me close to my favorite haunt - East Bay Depot for Creative Reuse - great finds but not so good use of time. Nearby was an even greater temptation: fried chicken sandwich from Bakesale Betty's. More so because it was early enough to avoid the usual half hour or more queue. Great eat but not so good for the weight's line. A narrow escape.

This week it's bed by 9 and rise and shine at 5. Moving into Ohio time. Saturday I'll be on that early morning plane to two terrific intensive weeks.

Friday, April 30, 2010

Conspiracy theory

Wouldn't you know it. Happened the last two time and it is happening again.

Life would be quiet and smooth for months. Then everything breaks loose the month before and especially the last two weeks before I'm off to a workshop. All demands ramp up.

It's a conspiracy I tell you.

Wednesday, April 28, 2010

At the guild's Monday general meeting, they announced 2780 people attended the EBHQ's biannual show, Voices in Cloth, held three weekends ago. That averages more than 200 persons each hour! Wow! Good show! Thank you, my buddies, for coming. 

Great quilts! I will post some of my favs from the show. Start with this delectable eye candy.

Joan Samuelson stitches a face every morning. She put together 49 for this arresting assemblage.

Take a closer look. Terrific fine motor control. So expressive and impressive.

See more of Joan's terrific faces on RoseGardenQuilts.

Friday, April 23, 2010

Two weeks - yaa-owwl!

Okay, I've decided: I'm not finishing the ribbon quilt. So there! My rationale: quilted means more weight and less space in my suitcase. So doesn't this make sense?!
For the next two weeks, I'll have time to work on more motifs. To pack up fabric & supplies for shipping. To take up again with fmq practice. To clean up the studio. To take care of personal business. To relax a bit.

Then earlier to bed and earlier to rise. Shifting from California to Ohio, I want to be a fully awake workshop participant.

Wednesday, April 21, 2010

Orange in a different light

I finished the orange section last night. Not without a few missteps of course. After all, what would life be without them?
The bottom strip of black and fuschia isn't attached yet. But the section is taller than I thought it'd be. It's not attached to the rest of the ribbon quilt yet either. Opportunities for adjustments await.

The whole ribbon quilt  will be more than three feet wide and could be six feet tall or so but the proportions seem off. My design wall won't allow a long view so I must find someplace to hang it all. Tonight it's going to my quilt therapy group for a different light and multiple eyes.

Tuesday, April 20, 2010

Old tricks

Three weeks ago, I dared to think I could finish the ribbon quilt before the workshop in Ohio.

One week ago, I dared to think I could finish the top in a few more days so I could get some space and helping hands to pin baste it.

Today I haven't totally given up on this quilt, but I have missed the latter goal and have serious doubts about the former one.

Intending to accomplish more, I set up mini-goals each night – i.e. sew strip A to piece B x 6 times. A couple of nights later I'd look and really see what I've made. Ugh! So I've spent the last three weeks piecing and un-piecing. Repeatedly. If I had enough fabric to cut more or had bought more, I wouldn't need to un-pieced for reuse.

What I've learned so far:
• there's no point in rushing just to get it done (didn't I say this before?);
• adding to an existing project may be harder than starting from scratch when working improvisationally;
• to make visual decisions, I must really look and see (didn't I say this before too?);
• to minimize un-piecing, take it one piece through all steps first rather than all pieces one step at a time;
• to minimize un-piecing, look and see after each step (and this before?);
• to get in the right frame of mind after one project, take a little break (not a month) before the next.

My Quilt Therapy Group, is meeting tomorrow night. Dare I think I could show them the ribbon quilt with this orange section added?

This old dog, same old tricks.

Cave habit

Most nights I'm in the studio which occupies part of the basement rec room – a dark wood paneled low ceiling room that could use a thousand watts of light.  The ritual of descending the stairs each night, turning on a few lights and the tv (my timekeeper) prepares me for creative focus.

The room looks out into the garden if I would bother to open the shades and pull aside the drapes. But I don't at night when I can't see out much. On weekends I can and I do. Then working in the studio can be problematic because I am distracted by beautiful weather and the lure of the garden.

So though the weekend promises many more studio hours, I go into my creative cave at night. That's my creative habit.

Monday, April 19, 2010

Where did it go?

It's gone! Deserted me! Aiyah! Such a struggle now. Multiple do-overs. Where did it go?
I want it back! So I can do what needs to be done. So I can move on. Where did it go?

I had it a year ago. I want that mojo back. That strip-piecing mojo. That narrow strip-piecing mojo. That mojo that enable me to do these:

What will it take? Is it a problem with the thread? the needle? the tension? the pressure foot? the speed? What is keeping that mojo away?

I plead with you for help. Help me get back my mojo. All you have to do is sing Looking for My Mojo (to the tune of Going to a Go-Go – Na-a-h, nah, N-A-A-H, nah, N-a-a-h, nah).

Thank you very much.

Friday, April 16, 2010

Back two, forward three

The first attempt to finish my ribbon quilt was disastrous. I threw pieces together in a hurry. Didn't look. Unstitching became the name of the game. I'd forgotten the maxim: make visual decisions visually.

I had to step back and take another approach. Satisfactory results come from listening to my instincts and taking time to play, to look and then be critical. No point in rushing through the process if the finished product is not acceptable.

After another week I'm quite comfortable with the new section. This photo shows it with some colors I've auditioned. There are a few more decisions to make. Back into the studio tonight.  

Maybe I'll meet my goal to get it to the guild drop-in tomorrow. Maybe not. I'm not going to push it just to get it done. I've learned my lesson – until next time anyway.

Monday, April 12, 2010

Can do!

The past weekend was lost to the EBHQ's quilt show. Saturday's dinner didn't happen until 10pm whereas Sunday I was in bed by 9pm. A great event but whew!

Only three weekends remaining! Yikes! Then I'm off to the Ohio for another two weeks with Nancy Crow. Feeling momentarily ambitious, here's my plan for the ribbon quilt, fmq and workshop homework.

Finish the quilt top for sandwiching on Saturday at the guild drop-in. That'd give me three weeks to quilt it. I already have an idea about that. Squeeze in more fmq practice sessions to give it a go. Sets and variables motifs will just fit in wherever and whenever.

Yes, I can!

Saturday, April 10, 2010

EBHQ's Voices in Cloth

East Bay Heritage Quilters did it again! Another fabulous show! Don't miss it if you're in the area. It continues on Sunday from 10am to 4pm at the Oakland Convention Center, 10th and Broadway.

Thursday, April 8, 2010

Thinking and seeing

Sometimes what I get is not what I want.

I've taken up the ribbon quilt top where I'd left off last spring. I've extended ribbon tails and pieced more ribbon together for the bottom.

The concept seemed good at the time but it just didn't work out visually. A case of too much thinking and not enough seeing. This pattern is too regular and the coloring too lightweight. Doesn't balance nor anchor the rest of it. Why didn't I see this before?

So it won't be finished tomorrow. But I now have a better visual idea about finishing it. I threw other ribbons on the design wall to see if they'd stick. Back to the cutting mat.

Tuesday, April 6, 2010

Simple beauty

The prestigious Pritzker Prize for 2010 went to SANAA architects - Kazuyo Sejima and Ryue Nishizawa - of Tokyo. They've designed buildings all over the world with two in the United States: the New Museum of Contempory Art in New York City and the Glass Pavilion for the Museum of Art in Toledo, Ohio. Christopher Hawthorne, the LA Times architecture critic, writes about them winning the award here. In an earlier review on August 23, 2006 he praised the pavilion. From that review:
". . . Minimalist architecture deserving of the name pares itself down not in the pursuit of style points but in an effort to frame the relationship between solid and void, nature and culture, and color and its absence -- and to explore how the eye sees and the mind understands those differences."
How about applying this poetic definition to quilts? Minimalist quilts.

Wednesday, March 31, 2010

The house that Mad Elena built

The architect Richard Neutra was was instrumental in introducing the International Style of Le Corbusier and Mies van der Rohe to the United States. A 1947 Time Magazine article named him second only to Frank Lloyd Wright in making an architectural mark on the United States. In 1949 he was featured on the cover of Time Magazine (read the cover story to find out why it's captioned Architect Richard Neutra, What will the Neighbors Think?). His renown residence - Lovell House - perches on a steep hill in Los Angeles and epitomizes his geometric and linear forms.

Neutra House is my homage to him and attempts to emulate his architectural lines. It is 35w x 38h and will hang in EBHQ's biannual show on April 10th and 11th - Voices in Cloth where I will be a white glove hostess at the show each morning from 10am to noon. If you're there, come and say hello.

Monday, March 29, 2010

Turning green

I am envious of artists with multiple design walls in a large studio. Look at Judy Martin's! Oooh! I covet such a gallery!

I have two design walls: main one 7x7 and another 5x5 that's a bit removed and used like a bulletin board. In the middle of attaching the sleeve to Neutra House, I want to take photos. Before I forget. Before it's too late. I must roll up the ribbon quilt out of the way first.

Hmm. This reminds me of another reason why I don't work concurrently on multiple projects. Not enough wall space. Well, not the entire story. True confession: I am a studio slob. My studio overflows with stuff; all horizontal surfaces covered. I am quite content as long as I have enough space to keep working and enough floor space to maneuver.

I was once obsessive about housekeeping. Somewhere along the line I picked up some of my ex's non-existent housekeeping habits. Now I am just as bad particularly with my own space.

Every so often, I do major clean up. But it's not enough. A total redesign and reorganization is what I really need. What's that story about a cobbler whose own children have no shoes?

Friday, March 26, 2010


Since I'm about finished with a quilt, now is a good time to follow Kathy Loomis' advice. I assessed both Straight Talk and Neutra House. I won't bore you with details of my assessments. You must run through those questions for yourself. Since I am so much more a beginner than Kath, I added a few questions for myself.

One to the first part of her questions: What did I learn?

Here are three things I learned from Neutra House. (1) Even for straight stitches with a walking foot, gloves helped with handling the weight and bulk of a larger quilt. (2) Quilting was stressful with a deadline. This may get easier with experience, but the quilting loomed as such a large unknown for awhile. (3) I don't have the patience to hide all the start and stop ends even with a self-threading needle. Oh, hang the quilt police!

To her second section, two more: for my next quilt, What can I improve? and What can I try?

Next time my facings will net 1.5" wide which means I'll cut them 4" wide and use a .5" seam. The wider facing will provide a better hand hold for understitching. The .5" seam allows for grading and reducing bulk. And next time I will free motion quilt even straight lines to avoid starts and stops, confidence willing!

From doing this exercise I saw a relationship from the former to the latter. Approaches carry over from one to the other. And will likely carry forth to the next and evolve from there. I'm not working in a series. But this is a series of learning experiences.

Thursday, March 25, 2010

9-day countdown

The guild depends on volunteers to put together their biannual Voices in Cloth. Members with a quilt in the show must volunteer 4 hours for the show.

Two years ago no quilt but I volunteered anyway as a white glove hostess. I touched the quilts, flipped over to backs, answered questions as best I could and got a chance to really look at every quilt. Despite the tired legs, a great experience. This year I will white glove again both mornings from 10am to noon.

Neutra House is not finished, but I'm not worried. Quilting is done; facing is 99% complete; sleeve is ready to be added;  finally attach the show label and it'd be ready. All small stuff I can finish in a couple of hours.

With my design wall free, I've put up the strip-pieced ribbon quilt. Do I dare think I can finish it before heading back the Crow Barn on May 8th? And develop motifs for the Sets & Variables workshops too?

Turning to leave my studio last night, my eyes caught the quilt and I was captivated by its colors. Magic moments like these keep me going.

Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Taxing time

Too bad skipping this is not an option. Two weeks ago, as soon as some necessary paperwork came in, I imposed a deadline by making an appointment with my accountant. Thanks to some prior cleanup of paperwork piles, I managed to pull together all documentation and numbers for the tax returns over the weekend. Then spent last night massaging them into my accountant's forms. In less than an hour this morning, he hashed out the numbers into returns and e-filed. Thank goodness it's done. Back to quilting.

Monday, March 22, 2010

Thank you, but no

Last night I returned a call from an EBHQ member. My first thought was duty assignment for Voices in Cloth the guild show in April. But that wasn't it. She wanted to know if I would run for the member-at-large position on the board.

I am extremely grateful to EBHQ for the workshops, books and show opportunities. Further thanks goes to them for my monthly get together with my Quilt Therapy group. In return I volunteer at the library before each monthly meeting and co-curated the last two local shows. Much as I would like to be more active, time is a luxury. I declined.

As Kathy Loomis advises, I must make more quilts to develop my own voice. To step up my quilt productivity, I must not stray off on tangents. To stay focused, I must eschew workshops and other activity that does not add to my knowledge base. I shall pursue art with near single-mindedness. I can do it. I just can't do it all.

Friday, March 19, 2010

Done with perfectionism

"It seems to me most artists have a mild version of the condition (perfectionism)." Robert Genn's Twice Weekly Letters today is about The Plight of Perfectionists. Yes, guilty as charged!
"An overly demanding, displeased parent, sibling or spouse, even from the distant past, is a common source. Guilt, fear and common garden-variety stubbornness play their part." Wouldn't you know it; my sisters – more so than brothers – exhibit similar symptoms. Thanks to Mom.
"While counselling may be necessary, vigorous introspection is often a good course." I vigorously chant a mantra "Done is better than perfect." (Scott Allen).

Tuesday, March 16, 2010

Resisting seduction

A few years ago my goal was to sample as many techniques as I could. Each month I checked the maximum three books out of the quilt guild library. I joined the Quilt Art list and followed many links. I signed up for nearly every guild workshop and a few more at festivals and local quilt shops. I ran over to quilt shows, exhibits and festivals - anywhere within decent driving distance. Just soaked it up for awhile: looked, read, learned and dabbled. Two things I didn't do: read quilt magazines and joined quilt challenges. Well, not quite - I did join one challenge but never did anything.

Kathy Loomis says all these activities can get you off on a tangent, eat up your time, and lead you astray from finding your voice and making good work. Best to stick with one course she says.

After my first Nancy Crow workshop in fall 2008, my goal was to piece improvisationally and abstractly. Other methods held less interest. I no longer compulsively followed the Quilt Art list and their links. I signed up for workshops only  if they hold promise of better design, better process, or better techniques. I now find few relevant books in the guild library.

I do go to quilt shows because I want to support them and there's always something to learn about how others handle colors, design, fabrics and threads. I do look at blogs because they are a substitute for seeing art in person. I am especially thankful for blogs about artistic process, struggle and development.

Time limitations, compulsiveness, perfectionism, and procrastination all work against me. So I am sticking with one thing and resisting seductions. I want to hearing my own voice.

Monday, March 15, 2010

18-day countdown

A crystal clear, but cold and windy Saturday kept me indoors quilting Neutra House. Only one foray out to the gym. I didn't go out on a gorgeous Sunday either 'cept to pullweeds for a little break and some fresh air. On a quilting roll, I didn't stop until midnight.

Quilting is done! Quilt is squared up! Tonight: facings.

Thursday, March 11, 2010

UFOs to finish

Cynthia Wenslow commented in response to Kathy Loomis' post: Something else to think about, Elena... do you really need to finish *all* your UFOs? Perhaps you learned what you needed to with however much you accomplished on them and can just let them go as part of your learning process. Not everything needs to be "finished" to be valid. Good question and good points, Cynthia.

Some of my older ufos have value. Sentimental, like my very first quilt top or like the one from my very first Nancy Crow workshop. Then there is the one I want to free motion quilt for the first time. I want to finish these. They'd ingrain the quilting sandwich process and provide more experience with effects of quilt lines.

These three are foremost in my mind, so I'll make a list of steps for each like Kathy suggested (after I finish Neutra House for the guild show). The other ufos can wait. Because they were more of a struggle to begin with and promise more of a struggle to finish. Or because they are of an approach I do not wish to pursue further. Part of my learning process, like you say Cynthia. So they may wait a long time.

Wednesday, March 10, 2010

23 day countdown

Here's what it looked like last night:

My Janome must have picked up my vibes. The walking foot would forget how to walk. The foot guide unreliable. The stitches uneven.

With the stitch-in-the-ditch walking foot and a 90/14 quilting needle I stitched close to the seam lines on both sides to get a heavier line. Would be easier with a twin needle, but the only ones I have are 80/12. I'd offset the needle position and used the foot guide along the seam line. Every once it in awhile, the needle would thunk! as it went through multiple layers. Grrr! Terrible stitches. On one side the stitches would hide under the fold of the seam. On the other side, the stitches would stray. Unsew! Restitched with adjustments to the needle position. Grrr! Unsewed again! The first few lines were unsewed almost as often as they were sewn.

Another tack needed. The guide on the stitch-in-the-ditch foot interfered with my sightlines. Switching to the open toe walking foot and a 90/14 microtex helped. Still didn't like bulky seams, but the second pass was often better. Here's a closeup:

 Once I started stitching, I started making adjustments. The white thread contrasted nicely with the black but not enough with the teal, especially when running right next to it. I stitched all over then went back and stitched more.

It's not there yet. It's not ready for facings yet. More stitches yet to come.

Kathy Loomis responds

I've started following Kathy Loomis' blog Art with a Needle. When she posted about finding your voice, I left this comment Three years at this now and I am finishing my second quilt. Any tips about getting more prolific while still hanging on to my other job? She gave thought to my question and responded in two following posts here and here.

Wasn't my intention to sidetrack her or to have her focus only on my struggles. Perhaps other artists have the same struggles. Perhaps she feels it's all relevant to finding your voice. Whatever the reasons, I am extremely grateful for her suggestions. Thank you for your generosity, Kathy!

Monday, March 8, 2010

It's back!

Straight Talk came back from Hampton, Virginia where it was on display at the Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival XXI. This year's competition theme was Cheers! – how has your quilting come of age? As my first finished quilt, it signifies a new phase of my quilting life.

I also marked it for the Amateur Entry category: Amateur entries are defined as entries created by persons who have never taught quilting for a fee, published books on the subject of quilting, made money from their quilting through selling, designing or stitching, or won prize monies at a quilt competition. All true.

The judges, Bobbie Bergquist and Christine Porter, wrote: We agree you are a quilter! An interesting & unique original design. We encourage you to continue quilting & entering competitions.

Hurrah! They were too kind!

Wednesday, March 3, 2010

30-day countdown

The pressure is on. I entered Neutra House in EBHQ's quilt show, Voices in Cloth, happening April 10th and 11th. That means turning in the quilt on April 3. I have 30 days to finish it. Trying to avoid coming down to the very last minute.

This quilt will roughly measure 3'x3'. So it’s not huge - only about 15"x36" bigger than the first. But that extra size has made a difference. More surface to cover. More weight to push around.

To figure out the white quilting lines, I first drew onto tracing paper covering the quilt. I was too close or it was too big. Couldn't see the whole thing.

My art instructors were right: start with a thumbnail sketch. Then not too much time spent if it doesn't work out. I am sketching again with a 4"x4" photo.

My goal for the week: make a satisfactory sketch and sew those white lines. Then facing, sleeve and label left. The end seems so close. Musn't think that. I do tend to procrastinate. Then rush to finish it in time. Uh, uh! Not this time! I want to finish with time to spare.

Tuesday, March 2, 2010

Talking quilt

My quilt for EBHQ's biannual show, Voices in Cloth, has proceeded in jerks and stops. The top was on my design wall for a month before I reworked it. Then another month as I wondered how to quilt it. I posted about it here and here and here. Still undecided about that, I went ahead and sandwiched and basted it. Then it spoke to me.

From it's inception, it had a landscape orientation. I've turned it and looked again. Nope, landscape. But with the basting stitches, it spoke loud and clear: turn me! Even my quilt group heard it. Now it has a portrait orientation. Here it is on the right with only basting stitches.

The same thing happened with my first quilt, Straight Talk. I am amazed by the power of stitch lines.

Now it looks like a modernist building. An abstracted façade of with walls, overhangs, recesses and reveals. So along that theme I've added a 2x4 grid in brown then a 4x8 grid in teal. I do like my quilt lines to show but both grids are subtle. Well, they are background. Here it is on the left with brown and teal quilting lines. 

Next will be a heavy white thread that would stand out. The white reflects the exterior color common to modernist buildings. To pay homage to Richard Neutra (pronounced NOI-tra), a California Modernist architect, I am researching his buildings to cull design elements and sketch the quilt lines.

It's an architectural tradition to name a building after the client. Well, he can't be anyone's client anymore. Nevertheless I've named this quilt Neutra House.

Monday, March 1, 2010

Out with the old, in with the new

In November I wasn't doing too badly with my goals for the year. Well, now I'm way behind, and no way I could catch up, so I've abandoned them. But I'm not slacking off. I have new goals and still go into my studio for at least an hour a day if not two.

My first priority is tax returns. It's not a goal but a nasty (at least to me) necessity. Much as I'd like to fast forward through this period, it's always slow going, I don't even do it myself. I take it to an accountant. I hate it. Don't know why. Just do.

My primary goal is to finish a quilt for the local guild show, Voices in Cloth,  Once that's accomplished, then I will play with motifs for the Sets & Variables workshops and make more free motion quilting samples. All this before May. Even finish another quilt perhaps.

So say goodbye to the old goals and hello to the new.

Wednesday, February 24, 2010

The queen

Sue Nickels is the queen of stippling and feathers. Her quilts are gape-mouth knockouts with lots beautifully detailed quilting. She deserves every single award. 

I just finished her two-day EBHQ workshop on machine quilting. She was a fabulous instructor - organized, clear, concise and very patient and upbeat with everyone. Though she claims to be a non-techie, she used a microphone, camera and projector. Hurrah for Sue for embracing technology and enabling her students to see and hear her demonstrations

Despite having no interest in traditional quilting, I learned much even though my free motion quilting did not show any marked improvement.  Practice, patience and preserverence was her pep talk cry. No one becomes an award winning free motion quilter overnight. See - there's hope!

Friday, February 19, 2010

Amish quilts

Recently I ventured to the de Young Museum in San Francisco with three fellow Quilt Therapists for Amish Abstractions: Quilts from the Collection of Faith and Stephen Brown. Two of them had seen it before – one went to the symposium and the other had caught a docent tour. So I got the benefit of their commentary. Though a non-traditional quilter, I found much to admire.

The lighting was dim. To discern details, our noses were barely two inches away. Until the museum guard advised us to keep further back.

As expected, lots of traditional patterns. I finally get Tumbling Blocks. Usually blocks are stacked, but in one quilt they really look like they're about to tumble down. Many were very effective variations of traditional patterns.  And wonderful unnamed patterns. Here's one of my favorites. Gee, even the Amish had their rebels.

Colors showed up fantastically which may be attributable to the use of wool in some. Still, even when the quilt was cotton, color choices were terrific. The darker and duller colors were great foil for the brighter ones. As a border, they gave breathing space for the lively centers. And they gave weight to the composition. Besides black, variations of purple seemed to predominate.

No prints used at all. So different from all the named designer prints that prevail today. Just terrific colors, designs and compositions.

Tuesday, February 2, 2010

Toot toot!

It  has been accepted!

Straight Talk is going to Mancuso's Mid-Atlantic Quilt Festival XXI as part of the judged and juried quilt competition, Cheers!

Look for entry no. 3702 3072 if you're there.

Monday, February 1, 2010

Addition to the family

I've started another blog Virginia Says. You can also get to it through my profile.

In fall 2008 after my first Nancy Crow workshop, Strip Piecing & Restructuring, my friend, Karen, and I leisurely drove through Amish country in Ohio. At an antique mall she caught me guffawing over a book, The Intimate Affairs of a Good Girl by Anonymous, published by Goodwin in 1936. Who wrote this stuff?!

Entertainment doesn't get much cheaper than five dollars but it's free for you 'cuz I'm sharing. Though not the whole thing verbatim. Only the best.

Laugh or cry.

Friday, January 29, 2010

Free motion quilting

Learning how to free motion quilt is like learning how to write cursive.

Back in the old pre-CAD days, my instructors advised students to use architectural printing exclusively. So for many years that's what I did. Only my signature in cursive. Printing was good. Later architectural printing wasn't so important anymore and I wanted to get back to the flow of cursive writing.

Granted, my handwriting has always been a scrawl. Even when I printed for personal use, I couldn't make out my own words if enough time passed. It's that bad. I eventually recaptured the motor skills to scrawl again. Now I am in a similar situation with free motion quilting.

Earlier this month I started making samples of free motion quilting patterns from 365 Days of Free Motion Quilting Designs. I picked and chose among the beginner patterns for the easiest ones. Or so they seem. Stitching forward and backward was easy. Stitching side to side not so much. Lines wouldn't curve and points weren't made. Stitches had a mind of their own. Out of control. Spastic. My samples barely resembled hers.

Now three weeks and 21 samples later.More consistent stitch lengths. More obedient lines. Fewer spasms.

Thanks really go to Leah Day. Without her videos, patterns, and easy-difficult classifications I would not have gotten this far. Check out her blog.

When I can write half-inch high readable words, my free motion quilting will have arrived.

Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Kick start

It's the last week in January and I hadn't made any progress on my quilt for upcoming local guild show. Stymied by the machine quilting. Do it like Straight Talk? That would be safe. Been there. Done that. Nah! I don't want to repeat myself. Try something new. But what? No clue. So I've done nothing. Hadn't even re-worked the top like I previously posted here.

I was so stuck on later that I couldn't begin. So last night I gave myself a kick in the behind. Just focus on one step at a time. Just start. I made a cut. A leap. It was easy after that. Switch, shift, add, turn. Progress.

Boldness has genius, power and magic. Engage, and the mind grows heated. Begin, and the work will be completed. - Johann Wolfgang von Goethe