Friday, August 30, 2013

Stick a fork in it

It's done.

Can you see a difference? I can. From this to what you see above. I think it is better. It is, at least, more to my liking. I really think my perspective on this one is shot, so I will just submit it and hope for the best.

Wednesday, August 28, 2013


Thanks for all the  interest and suggestions for changing my big, ole quilt. You guys need to get together and agree on things before you post these comments, though! Some of you said "change the sky" some said don't. Some liked the added details—some not. These comments are always so interesting to me. The most helpful ones are simply comments about what you see. It is interesting that Sandy's comment about the arched windows needing something to break them up and Kat's comment about the building in the lower right were both things that I was also bothered by. Nice to have a reality check on those two items.

A couple of people suggested painting the sky. Oh, if only something that easy would make me like it better. Sorry. I think painting one section would really be incongruous and this just does not want to be a painted quilt. I am using all my over dyed shirting fabrics in this and it needs to be consistent about that part.

So—in case you are still interested—here's what I did today, and I will try to tell you why. Keep in mind I made this up as I went along.

Nothing was going to make me happy with that pale yellow strip of sky. I wanted to like it. I tried. Up close it is a nice yellow and white woven stripe. Back up a couple of feet and it is a wimpy, bland pale yellow that has no energy in it at all. It not only lacks its own energy it seems to kill the whole piece, in my opinion. It had to go, and don't think I didn't think about painting it, but knew that was not going to be an acceptable solution. So I started by picking out all the quilting. I knew if I just put a new piece over the pale yellow and quilted over the old quilting it would make it very stiff in that area and probably distort the whole strip. So I spent much of yesterday and some of today picking all the stitching out. You can see that it poofed up, once the quilting was gone.

I carefully basted the new fabric over the old, knowing that the poofiness had to be there so that quilting would draw it up to equal all the quilted areas around it.

I basted with light blue thread so I could easily see the basting to remove later. I started quilting down the center area of the strip and worked my way out toward the edges, stopping just inside those edges. Side note: the basting was a problem. I kept snagging my quilting foot on the big basting stitches. In the future I will make the basting stitches smaller. Or better yet, not ever do this again!

By the way, I cut the strip about a half inch wider on each side than it needed to be just to be safe. Who knew what might happen once I started quilting? Once I got the majority of the piece quilted, I trimmed the edges to line up with the adjoining edges and fused them down, then stitched the edges down. It all worked out quite nicely.

I filled in the quilting pattern up to the stitched edges and I am very pleased with the result. I think it looks like it was always there. The quilting drew it in and flattened it out to conform with the rest of the quilt.

This was the hard part and I am quite happy with it. Tomorrow I will assess what else I want to do with it.

Sunday, August 25, 2013

The new big piece and the big, old problem piece

I've had a busy week with meetings and spending time with grandchildren and family and I finally got in some solid studio time today. I am making great progress on a new big quilt. I was finally at the point today to quilt it. The new machine is a gem for lots of quilting. It is fast. Quilting is mindless work so I had time to think about the last big piece I did that was less than satisfying...

So, I think I showed parts of this, but not all. This is my second try at a quilt for the SAQA show. It needed to be big. After cutting the first piece down to a better composition and making it too small to work for the show, I tried again, this time simpler. This is what I came up with.
I almost like it. It hung on my design wall for several weeks and then I decided to put it away for awhile. I took it out today and I think I could finally identify what things are not what they need to be. The sky. I like the yellow sky, but that lightest section is too much of a contrast and not warm enough, I think. I fiddled in Photoshop and this seems better to me. Warmer.

And maybe just a weeeee bit more detail.

Now, if I actually make these changes it won't be that easy, so I am going to think about this  for a few days. Offer suggestions if you like, but don't expect me to necessarily take them!—especially if you tell me to do things I don't do, like layering sheers over it all or stitching it with metallic threads! Remember—less is more, less is more, less is more...

Sunday, August 18, 2013

In the studio today

I am glad, on days like today, that I decided to have a ceiling fan put into the studio. The only problem is that in the mornings the sun shines through the skylights above the fan and the rotating fan causes a strobe-like effect. You can see it on the white walls. Very annoying. I keep thinking I am going to have a seizure! By afternoon the sun has moved and the flickering stops.

Here is an in-progress peek at the big piece I am working on. Yes, those triangle blocks will be pieced.

Two new little beady pieces. The top one has a couple of dangling threads with beads at the ends.

For these little pieces, I prepare the backgrounds in the studio, using mostly ends and scraps of fabrics, with a piece of batting on the back. Then I take them to the house to work on in the evening. Here are three little backgrounds made today.

I don't yet know what will go on them. I will try out combinations of beads and threads and see what I come up with. I have a plastic box that I have outfitted with a variety of beads and threads and other supplies that I am keeping in the house to work on these. I enjoy having some handwork and these have been a lot more fun than sewing bindings and sleeves on quilts.

Friday, August 16, 2013

And there is more

Two new, very small little beaded pieces. Each is about 4" square, mounted on 6" square black mat board.

These are my favorites to date. The smallest, the simplest, the fewest beads. The edges are frayed and unfinished. I really do want to make about a thousand of these! Do you think anyone would buy them?

I am also working on another big piece and it is going surprisingly well. Maybe I can do big after all. I can't show it to you for awhile.

The universe seems to be providing materials for my little handwork projects. These were all found in the parking lot where Beth, Paula and I meet to walk. Not found together and not on the same day . I wasn't even looking for them. Now I am looking and finding nothing.

They have all been repeatedly run over by cars and trucks and are nicely distressed. I suppose they all fell off cars. I wonder what that one with the tiny hole in it is. Keep an eye out. There is good stuff out there. Send it to me if you don't want it!

Tuesday, August 13, 2013

You know this is all an experiment—right?

Back to those little beaded thingies. Most of you seemed to agree that cutting a couple of them into smaller pieces was a good idea. A couple of you didn't. Del thought the purple/blue one no longer had room to "breathe." I can see that. What bothered me more about all of them was what happened to the corners when I put the facings on them. Those little rounded corners and whoop-y edges are not really too noticeable on a big piece, but really ugly on the little ones. See what I mean?

I would prefer squarer corners and straighter edges. so I picked out the stitching and,as long as I had it all undone, I added back some "breathing" room that isn't as busy and distracting as the original pieced strips.

A teeny little, unobtrusive binding made the edges and corners more to my liking. It is mounted on a piece of gray mat board on top of black.

This green piece needed some editing and better corners too.

This one has a blanket-stitched edge. I am working on some really tiny ones right now with an unfinished edge. I think all are an improvement over the facing.

It is all an experiment. Even if I ruin a few in the process I will figure out what works best eventually, I think. Tonight I beaded my way through "So You Think You Can Dance." The piece looked awful, so I cut all the beads off and will start over with it tomorrow.

Here was a cool, successful experiment. Last week I bought a little string of copper-plated beads in McMinnville, hoping I could treat them so they would not be so bright and maybe even acquire a little verdigris patina. I took about half and spread them out on a saucer with a little white vinegar and left them overnight. Voila! Excellent patina. The originals are on the left and the patinated ones loose on the right.


I like them so much better. Half the fun is the experiment. Remember—my word for this year is "Discover."

Sunday, August 11, 2013

From the past...

Off I went, last Wednesday, to Oregon City to a memorial service. Bertie was my Dad's cousin and perhaps the last of that generation of his family. She died at age 96 last month. Though I hadn't seen her in years the news brought back memories of family reunions at the beach where she lived with her second husband, George. Bertie was the organizer, the hostess, the greeter, the hugger of babies, the introducer of cousins—once, twice, thrice-removed; and the happy hostess presiding over each gathering like the mother of us all. Everyone adored her. But then, as cousins, especially the twice and thrice-removed do, we lost touch, had families, moved apart and focused on immediate family. Our parents grew old and one by one they passed on and family reunions were a thing of the past. So, no—I hadn't seen Bertie in years. And though I knew I wouldn't recognize anyone there, nor would they know me, I felt I needed to go to the service.

Why? I asked myself why I was going as I drove to Oregon City. And again, sitting quite alone in the chapel, I wondered why I had felt so compelled to be there. But I knew it was because of Dad. He would have done the same. He loved Bertie. They had been children together in Montana. And too, I remembered when he died there were people I didn't know who came to his funeral and found my siblings and me afterward to say that they came because my Dad had been kind to them at some time. Because he meant something and this would be their last chance to acknowledge that. And that was why I was there.

After the service I made my way through the crowd to introduce myself to Bertie's son and daughters, who I knew would only remember me after I told them who I was, and tell them how fondly I remembered their mother and how I knew what a good life she had led and how much she would be missed by them. A small thing, but I could see that I had been right to come. One daughter urged me to join them at the reception after and especially to take a look at Bertie's scrapbooks they had brought along. And that is where I found the second reason I had come. Old photos. Very old photos in a book that had actually been Bertie's mother's album. Bertie's mother was the sister of my grandfather. Their parents were my great-grandparents and it follows that their grandparents were my great-great grandparents and there they were in the album. Identified only as Grandpa and Grandmother Jones. The photo was taken in 1866 and I was seeing their faces for the first time.

It took me a moment to understand who these people were and then another to catch my breath. I nearly grabbed the sleeve of the man standing next to me to tell him "these are my GREAT-GREAT GRANDPARENTS!" Such was my excitement. Instead I coolly took out my phone and took the best photo of the old photo that I could get. I saw many old photos, some duplicates of those handed down to my brother, sister and me. Included was a photo of my grandfather that I had never seen before.

I knew my grandfather, but only as an old man who puttered in his garden and told funny stories. Here he is, pipe in mouth, gun on his hip, young and handsome and strong—look at those arms! How strange, in a way, to find my family here among virtual strangers, and to know that my family was their family.

And now there is more. Not the same, but somehow related.

Yesterday I got a message through Facebook from a woman I don't know. I suspect she found me through mutual friends. She wrote to say "As of late, I've been working at changing my focus from the problematic people I've the good, kind, and gentle folks who FAR outnumber the bad eggs." She went on to tell me a story about serving with my Dad on the Pocatello Airport Commission many years ago and discovering that her father was an employee of my Dad and that he and Dad had a great friendship, besides their working relationship. She told of Dad's kindness when her father died and spoke of his intelligence and kindness and gentlemanly demeanor. She closed by saying "Some people make a bigger mark in your life than others...and because of their personal integrity, and positive life force, it doesn't take a lot of exposure. Just felt like sharing with you...we all like to hear good things now and again."  

Yes, we do. Especially about the people we love. Her message was a gift that I couldn't have imagined. And I couldn't help but hope that I had given the same small gift from a stranger to Bertie's family that this woman gave me. A reminder that a kind word has force and power. We shouldn't be so stingy with those kind words. 

It has been an enlightening week.

Thursday, August 08, 2013


I am still beading and stitching on little bits. I know several of you said you liked this one despite my feeling that it had too much going on.

Will it surprise you when I tell you I cut it up? Yes, I did. It is now two smaller pieces and I think the embroidery and beading, which I think is what you liked, is well-served by what I did. Here are the two new and smaller bits.

I also thought this one could be improved by a little surgery.

The result:

I like having more focus on the stitching and beads. Each will be mounted on a piece of black mat board for framing.

The STASH group took a field trip today to McMinnville, Oregon. We parked on Third street and started at one end at Boersma's fabrics and moved down the street to the Currents Gallery then to the Jack of All Beads bead shop. Ha! I laughed when I found that their web site has been "under construction" since 2008—not too surprising. It was a little chaotic, a little disorganized, but boy, did they have beads! From the bead shop we continued down Third Street to Bistro Maison for lunch. Beautiful French restaurant. We ate in the garden and it was incredible. Gerrie took this photo across the table, of Reva and Suzy, which really captured the spirit of the day. I came home quite relaxed and happy, with a few new treasures. Beads and a yard of a dark taupe solid that I have need of. McMinnville treated us well.

Monday, August 05, 2013

50 years ago

Fifty years ago this summer I embarked upon a great adventure—at least for a 17 year old girl from Idaho. As a Girl Scout, I was chosen to represent the state of Idaho at the Girl Scout All-States Encampment in Conowingo, Maryland. There would be 50 girls in attendance—one from each of the 50 states. We were all coming by train to Washington D.C. where we would tour the Capitol for two days and then depart to the camp in Maryland for two weeks. I had never been east of the Rocky Mountains and had never traveled without my parents.

The trip was planned months in advance with the plan that the representatives from Washington and Oregon would travel together from Portland to Pocatello. The girl from Montana came to Pocatello and we joined the other two and traveled together to Chicago. The Montana girl had an aunt and uncle in Chicago who met us and we spent two days in Chicago touring the city. Then we traveled on to Washington D.C. where we met up with the rest of the All-States campers. We spent two days in Washington D.C. touring the capitol, seeing the sights and meeting our Senators and Congressmen.

Here is the photo taken with Idaho Senator Len Jordan. I am next to Len Jordan. Next to me is Pat from Washington, then JoAnn from Oregon and Carolyn from Montana.

 Senator Jordan was very gracious and had the photo taken, but I was more excited to meet Senator Mike Mansfield from Montana. He was much more well-known and was famously opposed to the Viet Nam War. I liked him a lot.

And then we boarded a bus to Maryland and the camp. There we shared projects and ideas from our local Girl Scout programs and spent the two weeks engaged in public service projects, the main one being creating a curriculum for a camp for underprivileged girls from the Washington D.C. and Baltimore areas. The first week for planning, the second week we had actual campers and tried out all our ideas and plans. We were so serious about this project and were assured that the programs we created would become a part of the ongoing camp programs. We worked so hard and we tried so hard to create something good and meaningful.

We were each there on our own. No one came with ready made friends. We bonded quickly and talked late into the nights and after two weeks we felt closer than I ever believed we could be. Many of the details of those two weeks are lost, but I vividly remember the last night when we sent paper boats with lighted candles out onto the lake in the darkness and swore that we would take back to our communities all of the good things we had learned and shared, like those flickering candles starting from the same dock and spreading their light across the lake. We would be candles. We would be lights.

The day we departed from the train station in Washington D.C. was chaos. The train station was filled with people, mostly black, in great hoards and they seemed to be in large groups that were traveling together. They were dressed in suits and ties and women in hats and gloves and they were happy and boisterous and seemed very excited. I asked the porter on the train if something was happening and he said all those people were coming in for the "big march". "Dr. King gonna be here" he added. We had been isolated from any news for the previous two weeks, so knew nothing of the planned March on Washington. It was hours later that I realized that "Dr. King" was Martin Luther King. Of course he was! And so, as history was being made behind me, I was on a westbound train with my head and my heart reeling from the experience of my young life.

To this day I am grateful for that experience. It was the first time in my life that I felt independent and capable of being on my own. I saw a bigger world than I had ever known. I learned that people can come together and accomplish good things. I learned that 50 girls from 50 places would carry a connection to each other for the rest of our lives. In a box in our attic there is a scrapbook of mementos and photos of that trip. I wasn't up for a visit to the attic today, but the little pin at the top of the page is something I keep in a frame on the wall. Today, on NPR I heard remembrances of the March on Washington and bits of Dr. King's famous "I have a dream..." speech. I missed it in real time, but I always remember it in connection with my great adventure. We were trains passing in the night. It was a time of such hope and aspiration and sincere, maybe naive, belief in a better society. Not all those hopes have been realized, but I still believe. And I feel lucky to have been a Girl Scout, and to have been chosen to represent my state and to have lived in such times.

Sunday, August 04, 2013

Like potato chips...

You can't stop with just one. These are small, but intense. Most in the 8" - 10" range.

Hand stitching, little beach rock, beads.

Hand stitching, metal beads. There might be too much going on here.

Machine stitching, ivory donut bead, bone beads.

Hand stitching, bone beads, metal beads, glass beads.

Hand stitching, metal washers rusted and patina-ed, glass beads

Machine stitching, bleached fabrics, brass washer, glass beads.

I am loving the process here. I like that they are getting simpler as I go along. I kept trying to add more beads to the last one, but it kept saying "stop" already.

Saturday, August 03, 2013

Bringing it in a little closer

I have spent the past two months working on big pieces. Big for me. Each about 10 square feet. I know that wouldn't seem large for many of you, but when I am in that range I lose perspective and what I want to see doesn't really work at that scale. It is frustrating for me. I am finished with the latest monster and for the past week all I have wanted to work on is something I can easily hold in my hands.

I am struggling with this block that I seem to have about large work. Or maybe it just isn't my thing. Maybe my ideas and my vision are small.  I do love the detail—the focused-in view—the isolated element.

And so for the past week I have been carrying around little bits of fabric and I have been hand-stitching (machine too) and—god-of-all-that-is-restrained-and-harmonious-please-forgive-me—I have been sewing beads and such on cloth. What is going on? I have been vocal about my dislike of "beads and crap" on quilts for a long time, yet for some reason I keep buying beads. I have a lot of them. I just knew that someday I might want them. Really, what bothers me most about most of the embellished work I see is "glitz"—I'm not a glitz person. My bead collection is relatively earthy and does not twinkle or sparkle much. And I hate when I see really bad work that has been embellished as, perhaps, a distraction from the basic lack of good design. And I hate when I see really good work that has been ruined by unnecessary beads and crap. That doesn't leave a wide space in my narrow mind for beaded and embellished art. But I seem to be wedging a small opening in there and finding some contentment in stitching and beading. It might not amount to anything. Maybe it's just therapy. Bead therapy. So be it.