Wednesday, April 29, 2009


I just noticed this photo in my files. I forgot to post it last week. It's a nut (hickory?) pretending to be an owl. Seen in the grass at Bailly Homestead.

Also, this most recent weekend we visited the East Chicago century plant once again. It's grown--at least a foot--but still no sign of it blooming. It's become our weekly pilgrimage.

Pieces of Friendship are off...

I made arrangements to drop off my Pieces of Friendship at the Chesterton Art Center on Saturday, where Pat will be teaching. (Then I'm going to meet a couple of good friends at an Indian restaurant for lunch--woo-hoo! I am so excited!)

It was still dim and rainy this morning but I was able to take photos of the final version of piece 5 and the back of one of the pieces, with the label sewn on. Rapunzel's braid doesn't make much difference in the photo but it does seem to me to make a bigger difference in the actual piece. It took me a while to figure out how to do it and I'm glad I did.

I learned when I talked to Pat that the instructions for the pieces of friendship swap that I had printed out were the original version and had changed a bit. The deadline is now June 1 not May 1, but I have them done and am happy, so I'm going to drop them off and move on to other things.

I just got the latest (and, sadly, last) issue of Fiber&Stitch and the first article is felt beads that are really cool. And I have a big bag of felt out...

I found the NANI State Day Project last night, just where I thought it was (amazing). But it's counted and I just can't do much of that on weeknights. So I think I'll stay in "felt land" for a while longer, at least during the week.

Pieces of Friendship

I worked diligently and have completed the six pieces I wanted to create. Here they are, along with some labels I created for the back. Last night I stitched on the labels and added Rapunzel's hair coming out of the tower (hence no posting last night) . I'll get a photo of the Rapunzel block before I send them all off to Pat Winter for the Pieces of Friendship exchange--it was raining this morning and too dark for pix.

Number 4 is wool, pieced like a traditional crazy quilt but without seams. I used felted wool fabrics and wool felt. I stitched each piece to a felt base with tacking stitches and then added a line of herringbone wherever two patches meet. I overlayed this with meandering feather stitch, leaf stitches, and beads, all in greens to make a leafy bower for the bird on the brad. Yes, it's a scrapbooking brad but it's cloth covered (looks like ribbon). A couple of glass leaves and seed-bead flowers finished it off. Fibers used were silk floss, overdyed Medici wool, and perle cotton. The beads were unknown leftovers in a baggie from a kit.

This piece incorporates my original idea, that mostly went by the wayside. I purchased some pink fairytale toile that I planned to color and use as the center for my pieces. Most of the motifs, however, were too large. This is Rapunzel's Tower and it just fit. I laid the cotton fabric on a felt underpiece (I used a thick dark gray felt for all of my center "interfacing's" on all of the pieces) and then put the felt pieces over the top. I used pink perle #8 to tack each piece in place, covering the edges of the muslin. I had a hard time finding a harmonious seam treatment and ended up stitching coral stitch over each seam using gray perle. I used the same gray perle to buttonhole the outer edge.

My last piece was, again, an early idea. Last year at the EGA's GLR seminar (this year's is going on now), I found a small baggie of inspiration. It has some turquoise crystals, some silks, yellow metallic, a baggie of mixed beads, silk ribbons. I don't remember the designer but she had specifically created these baggies to inspire (wouldn't that be fun?)

I added a few more odds and ends (silk threads) and then pretty much set it aside. I found it as I began this project and decided to do a piece with it. Here's my jumble of threads, ribbons, beads and the beginning of my piece. Spring is bursting forth here and I wanted to capture that. The dark blue-green wool seemed to set off the thread and ribbon colors. The pink blob in the center is the center of my focus flower.

I like layering in my pieces. I began this one with a meandering stem stitch line creating a heart in each corner. You can't see it in the final design but I know it's there.

I've added a chain stitch outline, stems and leaves using two different variegated greens and begun adding layers of flowers. The pink wool blob has been satin stitched over with red silk for my flower center. Each chain in the chain-stitch outline gets a stem and each stem gets a flower (many also get leaves). The threads are all silk and the flowers are lazy daisy, cast on stitch, bullion stitch, oyster stitch, and sometimes straight stitch. I've begun adding colonial knot flower centers and accents using the yellow metallic thread.

And here's the finished piece. I couched loops of ribbon for the petals (that's one long piece of variegated ribbon). Then I added piles of beads around the center, further anchoring the petals.

This was really fun to do and experiment with and it went quite quickly because of that.

My last photo is a shot of the ribbons I made as tags. I used a letter printer that looks like on of those old office date stamps only bigger with dye ink on ribbon. I put some Fray-Check on the cut edges and let it all dry for 24 hours.

I need to work on my EGA chapter's Indiana State Day project next, but I can't seem to find it right now. I'm sure it's nearby. The thing is, right now I'm really into playing with wool and felt and not quite feeling like buckling down to counted thread. I know once I get going on it, I'll quickly get into the swing of things and have fun. It's a gorgeous design.

Tuesday, April 28, 2009

Buckminster Fuller

I just noticed today that there's an ongoing exhibit about R. Buckminster Fuller at Chicago's Museum of Contemporary Art. I'm quite excited and making plans to get there. I read everything he wrote when I was a student and Steve and I attended a talk by him in the mid 70s.

If I had any sense as an 18-year-old, I'd have gotten myself down to Southern Illinois University where he taught and figured out a way to study with him.

If you're in the Chicago area, it looks like it would be worth a trip. Some of the events and talks are past but more are coming.

Thursday, April 23, 2009

Quilt Fest #2

Shopping. The quilt festival is where I'd like to have a shopping cart and 10 minutes to fill it with everything I can. (There used to be a TV contest show like that--people would run through the grocery store grabbing food as fast as they could and then at the end someone would win what they grabbed--I'm probably showing my age here.)

The thing for me is--I see things at the quilt show that I just don't see elsewhere. Some, never (like Hobbs batting and Japanese crepe fabric) and some will turn up after a long wait. I'm sure these Clover rose-making templates will be in Jo-Ann's some day, but it will be months. I tried making a few roses with them--using some of my pink Easter-egg dye fabric. I watch for Clover's newest at the show. (These templates are fun, a little more fiddly than the yo-yo and pom-pom ones but once I had it figured out it worked pretty well.)

I always buy a sample set of Hobbs's Batting. For $7 you get 10 (ten) 24" square pieces of their various battings, cotton, wool, silk, black, bonded--perfect for framing, ornaments and other small projects (like my Japanese paper pieced flower project). I especially like the wool batting for filling pincushions. One set would probably last me two years but I can't pass it up and generally get it every year. (no photo, plain batting just isn't photogenic)

These are some of the Japanese fabrics I got. The one on the left (behind) is a variety of cottons. The two on the right are rayon crepe. I've been hunting for crepe fabrics for a while now and they had them. (Maeda Importing)

The Sun Felt booth left me drooling! We found it just before lunch and decided not to shop until after we ate. Yummy cakes, candies, cookies and chocolates--so realistic! And all felt.

I got a book, two kits for cake boxes, and felt for a strawberry cream cake. This is just too cool! The site is in Japanese but the pictures are worth it. I opened it through Babelfish for a "translation," here.

The kits come with precut felt and cardboard, floss, trims and even stuffing to make and decorate the cakes.

My other favorite find was Barbara Willis's booth. I got two patterns from her and got to check out her new book (well worth it--I can't wait!)

It's become rather a tradition for me to find a new (to me) doll designer and buy a pattern or kit. So far, I haven't actually made any of them them. I think partly it's getting my courage up to go in a new direction (doll making) and partly the sewing machine thing and partly the too many WIPs already thing. (that's my excuse today, tomorrow there will be a new one most likely.)

No, I did not take the same picture twice--take a look at the smaller green pattern--this is a really cool Two Sided doll. I'm really excited by this one. I think this doll would be perfect for those ribbons I just received--the ones that say "Elizabethan" to me.

Pat Winter mentions this mermaid book pattern---she was the first person I thought of when I saw it. The mermaid book comes with all of the images used in it, ready to scan and print.

I got some other odds and ends. Some trims and a mermaid charm from Barbara Willis. The paper piecing hexagons I mentioned previously, some sale goodies from the quilting arts booth, a package of metal for embossing and stitching (like Judy Coates Perez), a new transfer medium.

While I came home with bags, the main thing I bring home with me each year is the excitement and energy from the show. It's just awesome to be in this huge room, crammed to the gills with all of these people who create wonderful things.

Wednesday, April 22, 2009

not just stitching

Just to prove I don't just sit and stitch, here's a photo I took Saturday at Bailly near the Indiana Dunes. While we know the Bailly homestead and the area was occupied and farmed for years, we always attribute the garden flowers (iris, hyacinths, Narcissus) to Mrs. Bailey. So these are Mrs. Bailly's Hyacinths. We also saw many, many of our favorite spring beauties, some early violets, trout lilies, trilliums about to bloom, and a white flower. The trout lilies' coloration was very subtle and beautiful. May apples are coming up, too.

The color gradations of the grape hyacinths were just wonderful and, of course, the photo doesn't capture it. It does capture the memory of it for me.

We also changed the oil on my car Saturday (I use "we" quite loosely there--I help haul stuff to and from the garage and then sit and kibitz) and we stopped the the Century Plant which still hasn't bloomed. It's become a weekly pilgrimage. It was cloudy all day and the rains began in the early evening.

On Sunday it rained all day. We visited my sister and her husband and my brother and his wife came up. It's really cool. We have our own show and tell. I love seeing what everyone is doing. And it's great to get feedback on ongoing projects (like my Japanese paper pieced quilt in the works).
It's been raining since Sunday--Monday night snow was predicted but I haven't seen any. One evening I went through a pile of books. Found some things to discard or recycle (yay!). I found my wildflower field guide (which is why I began on this pile) and learned the white flower I saw Saturday was bloodroot (I thought it was that or hepatica, but I wasn't sure). I haven't picked up a needle since Sunday. Maybe tomorrow night.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

International Quilt Festival

As usual, the quilt festival was wonderful this year. I went on Friday with Marge and we met my sister there. It was very crowded, which was nice to see in light of the economy. The quilts in the shows were awe inspiring and we spent a lot of time looking at some going "how did they do that?". The displays have done a lot to educate my eye and mind over the years. I always learn something new. (Missed it? Click on the ruby slippers here to check it out!)

As usual, we shopped. And as usual, I came home with a load of goodies that had not much to do with quilting at all. This show and market are definitely not just for quilters. (just a sample: beading, kumihimo, felting, sari yarn, crochet, painting, stamping, felt embroidery, ribbon's endless--they even had Cham-Wow!)

I did a bunch of shopping and had a great time, but I'm going to focus now on what I did. The image at the top is two ATCs made in a class I took at the end of the day. The ATC on the left is mine, the one on the right is one I traded for. The class was part of Make-It-U sponsored by Quilting Arts Magazine. The class was Bristle ATCs and was taught by Belinda Spiwak.

I think these classes are the best for inspiration. I've gotten to try all sorts of things I never would have on my own. (Last year I did fabric painting and made a mixed media beaded pin.)

We used a wide variety of materials in our ATCs--paints, distress stamp pads, regular stamp pads and stamps, and a variety of papers, pens, and goodies. I came away with some new experiences, two ATCs, and a little baggie with leftover papers, fibers and a new gel pen. We laughed and had a really fun time as we worked to beat the clock (we had an hour to learn all of these new things and make two ATCs!). Well worth the $10 price tag.

I find that the show is a huge energy and inspiration boost. There are so many creative and wonderful things to see. I got the t-shirt above in the Maeda Importing booth. I also got some lovely Japanese fabrics there. The T had the sashiko design lightly printed and came with a skein of sashiko yarn (a matte cotton about the size of perle 5). After going all day, I came home Friday night and had the shirt about 2/3 done by bedtime. (Years ago I did a lot of sashiko, but it's a no brainer--running stitch. See this tutorial at the Purl Bee.) I finished it up Saturday morning (and wore it to show off to my sister on Sunday!)

Another goody I got was a freebie (love freebies!) at Paper Pieces. It was a little kit to try paper piecing--to make a flower like in a Grandmother's Flower Garden Quilt. It came with paper pieces and fabric. We didn't look at them there (but I did get some really tiny hexagons to try and piece a really tiny quilt). When I got home and began piecing, the fabric I got looked Japanese-ish to me (the blue diamond pattern for the center and the "Japanese coins" for the petals). So I pieced up my flower. (I like paper piecing, it's quick and very portable.) I pressed it and removed the paper then I was going hmmmm and still inspired, so I pulled out my Japanese fabric.

I decided I liked the flower on this piece and so I appliqued it on. Now I'm going hmmmm again, but I'm back into the work week and all that entails. I did bring it by my sister's so we could all consider it. It needs something. I have decided I'm going to quilt it and I think that's the next step. I laid a few different handy laces on it and liked one of them so it will likely get a stripe of lace. But I'm still auditioning the next step.

Saturday night I went "awk!" when I realized the deadline for Pat Winter's Pieces of Friendship exchange is coming up fast. I only have 3-1/2 pieces done. So I set all the goodies from the quilt show aside and worked some on my last piece. I need to get the beads out and add some.

Saturday, April 18, 2009

Finally something to show...

Sun has come back to Chicago--at least for a day or two. So, while the sun was out I took a couple of photos. This is what I did last weekend. I learned how to make this pendant at this month's EGA Chapter meeting (NeedleArtisans of Northwest Indiana). It was taught by Mel and Debbie. Mel had found these large, plastic bicone beads for us to practice on--mine is turquoise above. Once we did that, we had the techniques needed to make the pendants.

I'd been puzzling over the model of this pendant for a few months, since the programs were announced. Once we got the pattern and Mel showed us what to do, I had this lovely "aha!" moment where it all clicked into place. (to find a local EGA chapter near you go to

The pattern is 3-D Dazzle and is from Funky Hannah's Beads and Art and it's available online at their site along with a whole slew of other cool patterns. Go check it out!

I've also been knitting away on my birdies for Cooper's Flock. Read about this project here. I have these three birdies done and one more about 2/3 of the way along. (they're all the same size but the photo angle really has them looking quite different!)

I had a brother who died a few days after his birth, so this project feels really good to do. There wasn't much I could do when I was five, but now I hope to spread some cheer to other babies and their families. More in previous posts here, here, and here.

Thursday, April 16, 2009

Next Giveaway

This time it's a book. This book has long been a major reference in my library and I recently received another copy, so I'm going to pass it on. Don't be turned off by the rather funky 70s cover. This is a treasure. It is Needlelace and Needleweaving by Jill Nordfors Clark and it will keep you busy for ages with all of the ideas and inspiration.

If you'd like this book, please leave a comment for this post. Please be sure to include a way for me to get in touch with you (i.e., your e-mail address). I'll generate the random number for the winner on May 4.

Wednesday, April 15, 2009

Quiet Days

It's been dark and cloudy and still windy and chill here and my mood has kind of followed. I'm struggling to think spring. It shouldn't be this hard--flowers are beginning to bloom everywhere. The front of our building has a mass of bright red tulips--and one lone daffodil.

You'd think these lovely ribbons sent to me last week by Lula would help--and they do. I took a "group shot" of them last week but this weekend decided to explore them a bit closer. The first image really brightens my mood. The one here, with the green, gold and velvet, immediately made me think Elizabethan dress.

I don't yet have specific ideas for the others. It'll come. They're just lovely.

We went back to East Chicago to see the Century Plant. It still hasn't bloomed. Poor thing is probably frozen! I didn't take another picture, we went in the late afternoon and the light wasn't good.

I do have things to show and I've been busy but the light's been bad and I haven't been able to get good pictures (I've been beading and sparklies and camera flash don't always work well together).

Last weekend I went to a memorial service for my friend Pat. She'd been battling heart problems for about a year. Pat was one of my mentors when I joined the Homewood Embroiderer's Guild--she was always practical and plain spoken and made sense. She also was very funny and had a ready laugh. Most important to me was that Pat taught me to tat.

My Grandmother tatted. She and her sister would sit and tat and talk, fingers flying. I have tatted trim they made, wound on cards.

My Mom tried and tried but never "got" it. My Grandmother tried to teach me when I was about 10. Let's just say neither of us had the patience (my Grandmother was a doer but not a teacher, much to my Mom's frustration). I'd tried off and on but never could get it until Pat took me (and several others) in hand and with great patience and humor led us so that we all "got" it.

Now, I'm not good at it, but that's my fault for lack of practice. But, for me, it was magic to be able to follow in my Grandmother and Aunt Addie's footsteps even a little bit.

Pat will be missed.

Tax Day Giveaway Winner

The Winner of the April Giveaway for A is for Acorn is comment #15, Jennifer. Congratulations to Jennifer and thank you very much to all who stopped by and entered.

Monday, April 13, 2009

Happy Easter, a bit late

We had a lovely, quiet Easter. I hope you did, too. I stayed home and stitched and did weekend chores (minimal) and made an Easter pizza.

I tried coloring some muslin I had handy in the Easter egg dye. The dip and tie dyed cloth pieces came out beautiful until I rinsed them to remove the vinegar. The blues and greens were all fugitive. The tie-dye below was originally bright blue and purple. I think the pink could grow on me, though. (muslin folded and wrapped with twisty-ties and rubber bands before dipping into leftover Paas Easter egg dyes)
My dyeing was very, very casual. I'm pretty sure (but not positive) that the muslin was washed. I probably should have pressed them with a hot iron before rinsing but I couldn't stand the vinegar smell from the dyes. Much more interesting was the rag I've been using when I painted or stenciled in my journal. When I was pressing my pink muslin, I gave this one a press, too. I think I'll retire it to use as a background for something and start a new "paint rag" for the journal. (acrylic paints, stencil paints, medium and gesso on muslin)

Saturday, April 11, 2009

Mail Call

This week I've gotten some of the most delightful mail! First, I received a huge package of ribbons from Lula of Woolydream with lovely card with a fan on it. This photo does not capture the variety and abundance of the ribbons (and this is the second of two packages of ribbons she has sent this month! I forgot to get photos of the first.) Most of the ribbons are wire edged. Some have lovely crinkling and texture. My favorite is hiding in this picture--it's cream velvet with a diamond pattern stitched in thin gold thread. Many of the ribbons had me thinking Elizabethan costume.

The first batch of ribbons she sent went right into my journal pile--I want to use them to add texture and cloth to the journal pages. These have me a bit overwhelmed and I'm not sure what I will do with them. Right now I'm in the fondling stage.

The very next day I got a lovely box from Jenny. In addition to this box of treasures she included some oatcakes, dried apple pieces and, to me, the most incredible thing. In photographs it just looked like a I need to rethink it and get a better photo. She send me the second of a pair of linen pillowcases. The pillowcases come from her mother. The first came at Christmas.

I understand that linen bed linens are not uncommon in Europe, but here in America I've never seen them. Tablecloths, yes, but not pillowcases or sheets. I have seen them listed in high-end catalogs but not in real life (most likely because I don't shop in high-end stores), but not even at some of the posh antique shows I've been to. It's always cotton for the bed.

The cases are old, probably early 20th Century. And they look brand new. So, now when I say I'm changing the bed linens, it will be true!

The fabric piece from the box of goodies is fascinating. It is a lovely, soft twill weave with a calico print. (I've only seen these prints on plain-woven cotton.) The note says it was used for doll's house furnishings.

The package included some lovely laces. The top piece is very fine crochet-I think it's half of a collar. This charming button was in the bottom of the box (take a close look at it--it's really cool) along with the knitting row counter. The button is pressed metal.

As I explored the box, I found more treasures. These little crochet flowers were stuffed inside of the ball of thread. There are many more than shown here (they were really packed in there!) I love the blue sewing thread. I didn't photograph them but there were several pieces of fabric marking chalk. I say chalk because that is what I'm familiar with in this size and shape for marking fabric--these pieces, however, are more waxy than chalky.

Tucked in the box were several sets of "wartime packaging" snaps and some eyes but no hooks. There was also a small bundle.

The bundle was wrapped in a piece of an iron-on transfer design. A mass of threads were wrapped inside, along with a threaded needle (which held it all together). Most of the threads had been opened and cut to stitching lengths.

As I untangled the threads and laid them straight, I had visions of a lady finishing up a large design on a table cloth using her favorite soft greens, peaches and blues. It wasn't a large table cloth, but one for the breakfast table for her and her husband. She set aside the threads with two of the motifs from the table cloth to use on napkins.

But perhaps I'm wrong. There was a small scrap of silk fabric with the bundle. Perhaps she'd stitched herself a new chemise using these feminine colors. (or one of the new combinations!) And she planned to stitch these last two motifs onto the sides of a nightcap? the toes of slippers? onto dainty handkerchiefs for her trousseau? Dreams of an embroiderer.

Friday, April 10, 2009

More catching up

Last weekend we visited the Century Plant in East Chicago, Indiana, again. It was supposed to bloom the first week of April. I think it was probably the cold, nasty weather and snow that kept it from doing so (ya' think??). It has grown, at least a foot, and if you look closely you can see the tip is starting to open up. I wouldn't be surprised if we see a bloom this weekend. The weather has been a bit more moderate this week (at least there's not been any more snow).

I focused this weekend on my puzzle pieces for Pat Winter's Pieces of Friendship swap. I now have three done and have a fourth underway.

I showed this first piece before, here. Pat suggested that since I felt it still needed something, perhaps a charm would do the trick. I added a small bee charm and I do like it.

This second piece is more traditional crazy quilting, still using wool felt for the fabrics. I had fun stitching this one and another charm added a finishing touch. I stitched it to focus on the lovely little button I'd found in my stash.

This last piece is my favorite. The photograph makes the ground fabric a bit more green than it should be. It's more of a dull tarnished gold color.

In playing with these small pieces, I'm experimenting with colors. The dull gold is stitched edged with dark gray and stitched with a variegated green, a fine, dark metallic, a multicolored thread for the French knots, edged in turquoise and hot pink and topped with bright ribbon flowers. I like the layering effect on this piece. It has a dragonfly charm. (my husband liked this one so much, I set the thread mix aside and am going to make him one of his own, using a heart shape)

The red piece above is really more brick tones and I paired that color with lime, turquoise and taupe. Sounds odd, but I think it works.

I'm trying to move out of my comfort zone and pair colors I wouldn't normally and make it work. I have a theory that any two hues will work together as long as you get the right tint or tone or proportions or a linking color. I'm enjoying experimenting.

The piece I'm working on now is a pieced background of greenish wools with varying tints of blue in them. I'm planning some small beaded flowers for it but haven't gotten the rest sorted yet.

This size piece is perfect for play and experimentation. The odd shape makes it a challenge and keeps it interesting. I'm really happy that Pat came up with this idea and the swap.

Catching Up

This has been a busy week and I'm finally getting some time to catch up. Last weekend we went to the Spring Antique Show at Arlington Park Race Track north of the city. It was a wonderful show, very high end--things I never normally see.

We went this time because a good friend of ours is opening a new business and this was the debut. Antiques of Choice had a lovely display of antiques, with a focus on Oriental pieces. He had a couple of textiles, a small prayer rug and a lovely Victorian era chenille embroidery panel. If you're into nice antiques, please swing by the website and take a look.

Back in the 70s we used to go to this show with my husband's family. The show was high-end and we got quite an education in antiques at each show. Then the racetrack burned down and stayed closed for many years and, as far as I know, there was no show.

The racetrack was rebuilt a while ago and while we've visited for a day of racing, we were out of the habit of going to the antique show, which was revived. While the show is smaller than in the past, the very high quality and unique antique merchandise are still at the forefront. I found some amazing needlework tools to drool over. There was everything from simple thimbles to elaborate chatelaines. I'm still sighing over a Victorian era tambour set with an ivory handle and different sized tambour hooks that screwed in to it, all in a lovely sectioned container. I really like nanny pins (small brooches, usually with goldstone decoration, that hold needle and thread for immediate repair of clothing) and found several, including one with an unusual design. There were figurative needlecases, tape measures, bodkins, thread winders. I saw a large group of Tartanware sewing accessories. I had a very good time, especially when I found a dealer who just loved her pieces and was pleased to show them off, even knowing I wouldn't be purchasing anything. We had a lovely visit!

The fall show will be October 16-18.

Tuesday, April 7, 2009

less pouting, more stitching

Here's my finished felted flower from our day out at Esther's Place. I got a pin back on it and it's ready to go.

My husband has not yet given up on my sewing machine. He's thinking if parts cannot be found, or if they're old and brittle, maybe he and a friend can fabricate them in metal. He's never been one to give up on a good friend.

It'll be a while before anything is known. First, I have to pick up the machine from my sister's (she generously agreed to pick it up from the shop). Then, I have heard about a nearby repair guy who might be willing to fix it and we want to see what he says. Hopefully they guys can work with him and he can clean and lube things and point out the bits that need replacing and/or fixing.

I've been working hard on my puzzle pieces for Pat Winter's Pieces of Friendship swap. Pat suggested adding a charm and I think she's right. They just need a bit of pop and that should do it.

Friday, April 3, 2009


I've been pouting off and on most of the week. On Tuesday I got the news that my beloved sewing machine is not fixable. I had hoped it was just the gunk that this model is prone to getting upon sitting...and mine's been sitting for way too long.

I finally realized I needed it where I could use it so I got it out, only to discover it only would stitch backwards. I got it to go forward finally, but it would only go forward then, no back and no zig-zag.

I haven't really sewn in years and I'm kind of surprised to realize how much of my sense of who I am is tied up in this machine. At one time I made all of my clothing, most gifts, and some art on my Viking. I tried quilting, free motion, embroidery, and all sorts of other fun things on this machine. I made my sister's wedding dress on it and her daughter's christening dress.

The first year I had it I made bib aprons for most of the family--a unisex style that I made and decorated for each person. I still use mine (it was a brushed denim). I made red flannel shirts for our dads one Christmas and I made my brother-in-law a very complex fishing vest with a multitude of pockets.

Before this I had an incredible White (sold by Sears) that my mom had gotten during WWII when she was newly wed. That one went from me to my sister and then to her church in the late 70s. I wonder if it's still going. I sewed my entire first work wardrobe on it after getting out of college. All Stretch-n-Sew knits, including a swimsuit, on this straight-stitch-only machine.

I've been cruising the web and polling friends about their sewing machines. I've received a lot of very helpful feedback and a very generous offer of a machine to use. Thank you to everyone. I'm still trying to orient myself and I think I'm doing a bit of grieving. Which also really surprises me because I don't see myself as someone attached to machines. But I think this was more than a machine--it was a tool and in many ways an extension of my hands. (Rereading this post to edit it, I realized that I've been very attached to both of my sewing machines, I just had never realized it!)

I also looked for online references to my Viking 6460 and found a number of people are still using and loving this machine (including my sister, who has the next year's model). So, here's to the wonderful sewing machine, my Viking 6460.

Now I'm going to spend some time thinking about what do I want to do with a sewing machine, what features might I need or want. No more lurking in corners.

We're great Buffy the Vampire Slayer fans and my very favorite episode is the Buffy, The Musical, "Once More with Feeling." The song, "Where Do We Go from Here," had been haunting me this whole winter. It's a question I've been asking myself a lot and perhaps it's telling me that I need to reinvent myself.

Thursday, April 2, 2009

Puzzling it out

For a while now I've been struggling with making puzzle pieces for Pat Winter's Pieces of Friendship swap. I got some fabric with paper dolls to use as a central image. blah. I colored in some toile with fabric crayons. feh. I tried some simple crazy quilting with fabrics I have. ho-hum.

Then last week, on our visit to Esther's Place, I found a large bin full of hand-dyed, felted wool fabric pieces (and bought way more than I could afford).

My first piece is an experiment in working with these materials. I pieced the wools and did seam treatments and then needlefelted a flower.

I often use a copier or the camera when a piece is developing, to help me "see." I'm not sure if it's the flattened plane or the different media, but I can often see things in a photo that I don't on the actual piece.

This wip photo clearly shows the large empty areas on the left that just stand out too much and detract from the flower. That solid green corner just pulls your eye away from it.

You can see in the final version at the top of the page that I used some simple embroidered swirls to break up these areas. Now the focus is back on the flower. At least, that's how it seems to me.

Photocopying can be even more helpful because it drops out the color. I almost always copy a design in progress, just to see where the lights and darks are and how things flow.

I think I'm on the right track. Pat Winter blogged several times recently about having a hard time with red as the main color. I think that influenced me to select a wool plaid in red and bittersweet as my focal fabric for my second puzzle piece. I have the background pieced and now trying to figure out where to go next.

I have a scrap of a silk print that has a bittersweet background with grayish-turquoise flowers on it, so I think I may try to incorporate that color. My initial inclination is to do something autumn with those background colors--perhaps a fall leaf or pine needles but I'd like to push a bit out of my comfort zone with this.

I also cut a solid fabric puzzle piece from a nicely mottled wool in a butternut color. I think it will be a stunning background if I can figure out what to put on it.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

March winner/April giveaway

The random number generator picked 3 today so Laurie in Maine won the blackwork book. Congratulations, Laurie!

New addition! Lelia over on Stitches of Life has very kindly sent me a chart put out by Hillside Samplings for an acorn design to replace the missing button. This one-page sheet also includes a lovely pine tree and pine cone (I believe to replace buttons in other patterns). I've printed this out and will send it along with the rest of the materials to the winner.

Also, I will mail this giveaway anywhere, so don't hesitate to enter if you're outside of the U.S. Please do make sure to include contact information.

Here is the giveaway for April. "A is for Acorn" from Hillside samplings. The package will contain the slightly bent chart, Sampler Threads from the Gentle Art (the three specified in the pattern), and linen. I could not find the acorn button (I don't think I ever had it).

Please comment on this post to be entered. I will draw the winner on Tax Day, April 15. Please remember to include your e-mail address or a link to a blog profile that includes a link to your e-mail so I can contact you. Thanks!