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Not a quilter…

The days have been very cold…and windy.

Not really to our liking, at all.

There has been a lot of indoor time, looking outside, listening to wind chimes…

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Playing inside in boxes…

And desperate faces at the window…

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Not much to write home about.

Seeing how there wasn’t a lot going on, I took the opportunity to start another new project because, you know, I need another new project.

While reading Handstories (I went all the way back to 2011 and have been reading through) I was taken by Hazel’s Uncertainty quilt. For the quilt top she simply sewed together strips of fabric that she had around and then hand stitched over them. She also dipped it partially into her indigo vat, changing many of the existing colors to a blue/green shade. The dipping certainly unified the piece by casting the same blue hue over them all. She left a little bit at the bottom to show what the fabrics used to look like.

Since beginning my own blog a few months ago a big goal of mine has been to reduce my fabric stash. Working on small pieces isn’t really a way to use things up quickly, and I had a whole box of quilting fabric from my days of visiting my late friend, Judi, at her quaint little shop tucked away in the hills of rural Kansas. Ok, it wasn’t exactly in the hills, but it was located in a very small town on a slight incline with hills around it. It’s actually a very beautiful part of the state, one of my favorites.

Judi used to live in Dexter when she was younger, and her mom and sister were still living there when she returned from Seattle. Judi was a storyteller, an avid quilter and spinner, and her husband liked to weave. They installed a smallish Mortan building on the empty lot behind their house and there set up Creek Water Wool Works. They had a couple of huge weaving looms, shelves of weaving thread, at least one spinning wheel and spinning supplies, bolts of quilting fabric, and a variety of top-of-the-line sewing notions. They also sold specialty items from time to time, like two-cup ceramic tea pots (I used mine so much the spout end fell off) and antique Czech glass beads.

I used to stop by Judi’s shop, unannounced, and usually in the middle or the end of a rough work week when I just needed to get away from everyone and everything. As a reporter, I could always use the excuse I was looking for stories. Judi often had some for me and I wrote up quite a few ideas from news tips she shared, starting with the opening of her shop in 2002. To open a business in Dexter was news, indeed.

Judi was easy to be friends with. She loved to talk and I loved to listen, although she was a very good sounding board when I needed one. I was into crazy quilting then, not sane quilting, and I told Judi that.

I’m not a quilter.

But that didn’t stop me from buying oodles of yards of beautiful quilting fabrics (especially ones from her clearance bin) or stop her from selling them to me. I always figured I would use them for something, but certainly not traditional quilting. I think Judi always secretly hoped I would launch myself into the art. She always enthusiastically shared her pieces and her love of hand quilting with me. I tried hand quilting once and ended up giving the quilt away, I hated it so much. Once, Judi frowned at me when I told her I’d used some of the quilting fabric to make curtains.

Judi was the only real friend I ever had here as an adult, aside from H, of course. When she died in 2010 I was heartbroken.

But I still had loads of her fabric.

So, the other night, after a day of not doing much of anything and feeling fairly unmotivated, I went up to the sewing room and began machine stitching together yards of quilting fabric. I chose the fabrics I thought looked best together, not in a matching sort of way, but I left out some of the brighter ones like the pieces covered with butterflies and frogs.

For a long time I had thought about turning some embroidery pieces – kept with the quilting fabrics – I got from Judi into a quilt. I found those, too, and they were different than I remembered. Prairie girls, but with rounder bonnets and many more French knots than I had recalled. I blushed again when I remembered how I had cajoled her into giving them to me. She had them in kits, cute little colorful bags each holding a square piece of muslin with the template on it, a lovely color of embroidery floss, and a needle. These were kits for kids, but I fell in love with them. She graciously let me have them, and I went home and stitched them all up. They’ve been in the quilting fabric box ever since.

I didn’t get a photo of the prairie girls, but I did take one of the new quilt top. I am still amazed I had enough pieces (more than enough) to make a king size top.

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Judi would really not approve.

Judi would hate the haphazard nature of this quilt. She would probably frown at the lack of imagination that has gone into creating it. But, Judi would never say anything disparaging about it. She would find something to like.

That’s how she was.

I managed to get a fair amount of stitching done to it yesterday. I’m simply using a running stitch to tack down the seams using pearl (or is it perle?) – it’s perle – cotton thread. The perle cotton does away with the need to separate strands of thread, which is a necessary process of using six strand floss.

Judi would probably say something nice about the stitching, how even it was, or the use of color.

When I showed Judi my first sample size cq effort, the first thing she complimented me on was how I had used the same fabric to match 3 of the 4 corners.

That had been an accident.

She went on to gush about the beauty of it. She was such a wonderful woman.

Of course, more than anything, Judi was a big supporter of women making real quilts for use on real beds. She wanted so see things used. She liked to stitch on fabric before washing it and then, when it was done, throw it in the washer on hot and then in the dryer on the hottest setting. The end result was something puckered, slightly faded, and ever so slightly worn that looked like a real quilt being used on a real bed, and not something hanging up as a display in a window.

I felt close enough to Judi that I thought she might have left me something as a memento when she died. It seems foolish that I ever thought of such a thing. But now I’m grown up enough to realize she probably meant more to me than I ever did to her, and that is fine. She was loved by many.

And, I know now, I have the prairie girls and the fabric they will be stitched to, which all came from Judi. And, every time I look at the prairie girls and these beautiful fabrics I will think of her.

On the day Judi posted the photo below online, someone complimented her on how happy she looked. She was very sick then, maybe a year away from death, but her response was just so her.

“You know, I really believe happiness is a choice.

I love to spin and I was having such fun that day:)”

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I’m naming my haphazard quilt in memory of Judi and my time with her. If nothing else, this quilt and its name would probably make her smile.

The Creek Water Quilt.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Another one…

I feel I have to write another blog entry since I have things I need to catch up on after not having a computer for several days. I need to get these thoughts and photos out of the queue so new things can come…

As I have mentioned, I go out barefoot most days to check the garden. I have realized this time, this practice, is a communication with the earth. I know all about grounding and have for years now, but after getting past some foot phobias (now THAT’s a story!) I have become braver about venturing out barefoot. I know, logically, I am exchanging positive ions (inflammation/bad mojo, etc…) for the earth’s healing negative ions, but there is a relationship, a conversation I have with the earth through my feet when I walk on the ground barefoot. It is a sensory experience, one without words or thoughts, but in the space between words and thoughts. I pick up on moisture levels, ground temperature, vegetation, and probably other things not consciously considered. I FEEL. I walk around my plantings, observe volunteers, monitor growth, all the while my feet talk with the earth. I always feel so much better after, and find myself wanting to go out several times a day just to have the experience.

I picked a lot of the pecans barefoot at the park. Funny story, I actually stepped in dog poo, but didn’t realize it until I was a bit downwind and could smell it.

Did I just step in dog poo?

I looked back and saw it. I remembered registering soft and cool. Lucky for me, the poo was nearly dried and my feet bottoms already had a fine protective layer of dirt, so none of it stuck. It cracks me up to think about it. One of the hazards of walking barefoot: you might step in poo.

I shot more photos while I was out.

I don’t know what these little berries are, but they are very endearing. I believe the blossoms were white this spring.

My marigolds are again blooming profusely. I will be able to harvest a 3rd batch of flowers before the first frost. I’d better get on that. The marigolds on one side are completely entwined with the tomatoes. On the other side, morning glories have come up through the branches. I pulled most of them, but allowed one to remain.

 

I discovered what was sprouting up in the courtyard…lemon basil. I’m actually thrilled because I am going to cure some herbs in salt.

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I am still enjoying the zinnias, too.

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On the topic of fabric, I mentioned in my last post my goal about creating. Really, a huge part of my goal is to use up the fabrics, threads, laces, yarns, etc… I have accumulated over time. I have fabric from when I worked at a fabric store well over 20 years ago! I want to turn these materials into creations and send them out into the world, to be enjoyed by someone. I want to reduce the amount of materials I have, get things moving. When your cup is already full, there’s no room for something new.

Proudly, last week I set up my craft room. I have lived in this house for 2 years, will likely move again soon, and had not committed to using it. It is a luxury to have so much space. There are only two of us in this big house. You can see how many materials and supplies I have…although this is just one corner.

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It is nice to have a dedicated place to stitch, by a window, where I do get some sunlight streaming in.

I have made progress on the SunMoonStars – inspired work.

I find I have worked a bit too dark in places and need to do more to lighten things up.

Here is a work co-inspired by Jude Hill and Grace. Still very much a work in progress. This is my looser piece.

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It has some nice elements, but I have not begun embroidering yet.

Here’s the first effort after finding Spirit Cloth. Not yet finished, either. (Color: Walnut dye and violet Rit on old manpants.)

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Last night I got out yarn. It felt good to be crocheting again. Playing with color schemes, strange moons and square-ish shapes.

I read on another blog about how the writer felt she worked in such a literal way. I have felt the same about myself, (have even been told that: “You are SO literal…) hence, the attempt at loose work. I know my work will never be tidy and perfect, and I like that and am embracing the idea of my own imperfection. My own way of working looser may just be to not worry about perfection and embrace the un-square corners and loose threads. I will keep trying.

 

 

 

The Spider and Her Web…

Yesterday I completed the Spider and Her Web.

I had to force myself to sit down and put the wire through the legs, stitch them on. It wasn’t too difficult a task, but I had been putting it off. I’m so happy to have this completed in time to enjoy it for Halloween.

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I want to find some purple lights to put around the perimeter. Maybe I will get out and do that today.

Here she is this morning.

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Isn’t she FABULOUS?! I believe my first blog post contains the link to making the crocheted spider. I didn’t make it exactly as instructed, mine’s a bit bigger…and designed to look like our native Jumping spiders, which I love. The doily is crocheted from an old pattern book I have, probably from the 80s. I used the center bit until I ran out of white, and then basically made up my own pattern for the purple perimeter. H really loves it, which makes me happy. I love it, too.

Also yesterday I took loads of flower photos. Even though the gardens are fading in the cooler weather, they are still fabulous. I will enjoy them to the last. Look at that STAR.

 

I just love THIS flower, here, and have been watching it the past few days. I adore how it turns up its head to the light, and how the light shines through it.

 

I would love to be able to stitch this and do it justice. I will have to try.

And this ageing orange zinnia…so gorgeous…

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The rain drops on this fading glory…

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And little Olive, so quiet and observant. She is a joy to have with us. The little stray, scared, hungry, wild and alone…now has a family.

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She is becoming such a beauty.

I got on a silk square kick this weekend. Cut and stitched and stitched some more. Silk thread on silk. I was totally absorbed for hours. This morning I looked in the basket and realized I had SO many. I counted. 76!!! How did I DO that?

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Today, yesterday…

It’s cold today. The coldest day in MONTHS. 46 degrees.

I had to scrounge around for something warm to put on, something wool, because almost everything is upstairs having been packed away for summer. Now it’s time to get everything out. I wasn’t ready for that.

The auracania wool poncho I was looking for wasn’t in my closet as I thought it was, so I grabbed an acrylic one, one that’s for in between weather, like now, but not quite warm enough…because I was going outside barefoot. I needed something WARM. So, I remembered my favorite, baby soft, llama twisted cowl, which stayed below hanging in my bedroom because I love it so and wanted to see it all summer, even though I couldn’t wear it. So, this is what I looked like when I went outside today to check the plants.

This purple over an old, favorite, pinkish llbean top, an old jcpenny blue-flowered knit dress…and bare feet.

Going outside with bare feet, I have realized of late, has been the best part of my summer. Feeling that contact with the grass and the earth, oh I love it. Maybe that partially explains my relaxed features these days. That and, thankfully, not having to go to a job. What a luxury. This has been a good year. And, my relaxed face, I haven’t taken a photo of my face in a long time…I hardly recognize myself, and I also find I like my face more even though it’s older and fatter than maybe I would like. But, I am learning to like my face and who I am now more than ever.

Many faces of ME. I know I look like the crazy cat lady to the neighbors. But, don’t get me started on the neighbors.

I have many many photos of things to show, things I’ve done yesterday and today and am still doing. When I went out to check the garden, gardens, as things are very spread out, I wasn’t surprised to see there wasn’t any veg to pick. We have had low sun days with rain and cold, so no okra. A few tomatoes are turning, but not ready yet. Many are still green. Things got started late because of all the spring rain. This area has so much rain, I love it. Except for the mosquitoes. We are well over the normal rates for rain here. When I look at Windthread’s photos of the New Mexico desert, I know it would be VERY hard for me to live in a place like that. We are only  a state away, but such a different climate. I would miss rain and green.

Anyway, I have continued to dye and stitch. Yesterday I made progress on the Perfect, Unperfect 9 patch. It is no longer Unperfect, it is just lovely as I watch it transform and Become.

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So, this is the SUN, inspired by Jude Hill’s SUNMOONSTARS stitchalong. And here is the kantha, or running stitch, as I began it yesterday morning. Kantha is a bit more than running stitch in that it involves stitching through more than one layer of cloth. Here is the kantha finished.

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I found the kantha gave the piece a more celestial look. And there is the moon, and the stars, above. Sun. Moon. Stars. It’s all there.

This piece is about Holding Onto Summer. I wrote that to an old friend on FB. She was talking about winter produce, squash, etc…seasonal changes, etc… I told her “I am still holding onto summer.” It helped that it was a week full of 90 degree days, in September. But the more I enjoy gardening and grounding, the more I dread the death of summer and the coming cold. Even in October, I am still holding onto summer. I have enjoyed this summer so much. This is what I’m trying to show here, in my own way, both limited and skilled.

One of the many joys of my summer was the flowers I grew: zinnias, morning glories, mammoth sunflowers, marigolds, Japanese sweet pea, cosmos…they were all so, so glorious. So, I put some on the 9 patch. I didn’t know if I could represent them well, but I am very, very happy with the results.

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I like these so much.

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I’ve been learning new names for old stitches used in new ways:

kantha=running stitch

wrap stitch=satin stitch

invisible stitch=hem stitch

The first time I saw hem stitch I was about 8 years old, around the time I learned to embroider. My very religious aunt was sitting on the old hard couch in her father, my grandfather’s house, and sewing up the hem of a skirt. Christianity had made her rigid and close-minded. I never felt warmth from her, ever. But, I sat transfixed as I watched her make the tiniest nicks in the cloth and long stitches on the back. When she turned the right side over to show me I couldn’t see any thread at all, just the tiniest of dimples in the cloth. She didn’t offer to teach me how to do it, but I never forgot. I learned by observing.

Jude uses the hem, or invisible, stitch to glue down fabric onto fabric, and it works amazingly well.

Since there were no vegetables to pick, I harvested these instead.

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A big bowl of beauty. This is my 3rd marigold harvest which I will use for yellow dye. Each time I pick these I am aware of the gift of them and make a point of thanking the Spirit of the Marigolds for their bounty. These are the only type of marigolds I really like, with these dark gold, yellow and red-orange blossoms. I had no idea they would turn into huge bushes. There is a house close to downtown whose front yard is covered in them. The neighbor who gave me the four tiny starts he ripped up from the ground pulled his a couple months ago. I found them discarded in the trash on a walk up the alley to pilfer a few grape leaves from a neighbor’s fence. He’s a gardner, and I love that about him because he shares the same point of view about gardening as I do and loves growing things, but his editing of these beauties from his own growing space surprised and shocked me. I won’t rip mine out until it frosts and they are dead.

Every time I pluck the blossoms from my marigold bushes and see the piles of flowers begin to collect in the bowl it reminds me of the flowers used in India for their festivals. So much beautiful bounty.

Last night as I pondered the day’s work on my denim 9 patch I looked again at the blank square at the top and thought of many things to put there. Flowers? A praying mantis? Crows? Whatever goes there has to belong with the stars and the sun. Then, I realized, it is the Wind. The Wind belongs there. Maybe today I will stitch it.

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Something new (to me)…

I have written a thousand posts since my last. It feels like that. I’ve had so many words in my head, but was not able to write them down. So now, I’m here.

The past week is a blur of little sleep, one day of a lot of sleep (13 hours), back to little sleep…I’m not sure why this is. So hard for me to sleep lately, even when I try. I’m getting frustrated because then, during the day, I can’t focus on what I want to do. Everything is dull and fuzzy.

We were warned of a huge impending storm yesterday. Gloom and doom. I spent 3 hours taking down summer things, plants, tarps, umbrella, etc…and putting them in safe places, the garage, the shed. H had to cancel a big outdoor party at work. Baseball size hail, they said. 75 mph winds, they said.

We got a brief rain shower.

Meteorologists are full of sh*t.

Some people DID get hail and winds, but that was much farther south. I’m not disappointed we didn’t get slammed. I’m just tired of weather hype.

This is a big reason why tornado season is a spectator sport here. No one believes the weatherman until they see funnel clouds on the horizon for themselves. And, who wants to be cooped up in the cellar when you could be out there watching the action?

Anyway, this isn’t at all what I had imagined talking about. We had a computer death, so lots of things are LOST. Don’t know if I’ll get them back. The new computer is SLOW. I think this is the third computer crash this year, way too many, so I’m feeling frustrated over this, too. Having to start over.

I avoided computer work for several days and decided to try my hand at something new (to me.) Dyeing.

I’ve always avoided dyeing if I could. I’ve dabbled, but only just. This time I jumped in with both feet. Most things turned out pretty well, especially since they were mainly experimental. But then there were THESE.

Is this shibori? I don’t know. I’m going to call it Clothespinori. Wooden clothespins made this happen. I feel like I’ve finally found something I can DO. At least in the dyeing arena. And I know this is probably old hat to many people, but it’s NEW to me. And I love seeing the patterns that emerge when I unfold the cloth. I never know what it’s going to look like.

So far I’ve dyed about 25 good size pieces, all done on plain broadcloth and a bit of quilting fabric. I’ve had these fabrics for years, just sitting in a box. I’m really happy to be giving them new life. And they are so much more beautiful in person. The camera does not do the colors and patterns justice.

Before I sat down to write I was thinking more about this process of creating. I have many needle art skills under my belt: embroidery, needle tatting, sewing, beadwork, crazy quilting, crochet…I have a lot of experience. And now I’m learning more about quilting and dyeing. And I’m trying to get better at drawing. How do I tie it all together and come up with something that is uniquely mine? This is so hard for me. In the past, creating has largely been about looking at something outside and bringing it in. But, what is on the inside?

I have some memories I want to share on this topic of art and creating, but not now. Sometime later.

What I was thinking was this…creating is about finding the Beauty within. Then expressing it outwardly.

Maybe right now the beauty I’m finding within is in these simple dyed cloths. Maybe I will learn, over time, to express through thread and cloth what beauty is inside me.

I was having a very rough day when I started dyeing. These pieces began from trial and error. I really know next to nothing about dyeing or what anyone else is doing. It’s on my list of to-learns. But, I looked at those wooden clothespins and thought I bet those would create a great resist. And they did.

I listened to Chris Stapleton a lot while I worked. I like his music and, after a while, the dark blah I was feeling started to lift a bit. I really like this song.

Earlier, when I was out gathering flower seeds so they wouldn’t get blown away I saw HER.

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She looked at me when I said hello.

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She was up there in the tangle of morning glory and Japanese sweet pea vines.

I think this is how I feel a lot, surrounded by a tangle of threads and fabrics, wondering where to begin, how do I find myself in this?

In the meantime, I will continue to dye what works…

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…and work on my inner and outer vision…

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Both Feet on the Ground

This blog has been really fun to start, even if no one else is reading it.

Today I played with fabric…and flowers. A beautiful, cool day, the first really cool day in months it feels like. Such a nice break from the heat. The final break. Fall has begun. Still warm enough for mosquitos, though.

I’ve been trying my hand at dyeing. I used up the walnut and marigold dyes I made the other day. Tested them on some fabric, ribbon, crocheted doodads. There were some successes.

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It doesn’t look like much, but I really love this one. A heart-shaped doily I got from the local thrift store. It took the dye well. Not a great photo. I also like the piece underneath. It’s a soft yellow tablecloth, also from the thrift store. I dimmed it a bit with the walnut dye, then brushed it with some leftover violet Rit dye, also from the other day. I need to rinse it and see if that pink comes out.

I’m more interested in the Earth than the stars, these days. And the sun. Every day when I go check the garden, the first thing I do is kick off my shoes, if I’m wearing any. I’ve gardened barefoot all summer. Shoes were too hot. But, more than that, I needed to feel the earth. Every time I went out with shoes on I missed her. Once or twice I kicked off my shoes when I already had them on outside, and then made my rounds through the cucumbers, tomatoes, okra and flowers barefoot. My feet know the sharp places to miss.

This was today’s harvest. It made me happy. I wasn’t prepared to check at that moment, so I had to bundle everything up using my shirt. So many tomatoes had turned red. And, they are delicious.

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Even though the flowers are fading, there is still so much beauty. This little pair surprised me today. I had forgotten wandering jew (Tradescantias) can bloom.

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It was a nice surprise.

The morning glories have been some of the most interesting flowers to photograph this summer. They have so many stages of being, in just a single day. I captures this one, loving the stripes that swirl on the back. How often do you really notice the back of a morning glory? These seemed to be in suspended animation with the cool, rainy, overcast day.

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Of all the photos I took today, this one is my favorite:

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The ruined, and the new.

Without the Earth – and Sun – this would not be possible.

Beginning…

I’m beginning a new sort of work, working with thread and cloth. Yesterday I even did a bit of dyeing. I do like the results.

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I used black walnut and marigold teas. The violet is a rit dye which I brushed on. I had already started stitching when I remembered to take a photo. This is the dyed version of the nine patch block I made the other day. The fabric used is brushed or twill cotton from old pants.

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The stitching process has been fun. Technically, I’m working with fabrics that are really too thick, but for now I’m trying to use up what I have. In the next few days I’ll go to the local thrift store and try to get some softer, thinner fabrics. But this was just to begin.

I’m thinking Rit dye, used the way I have here, might be the way to go for me. I don’t know if it’s permanent in the way I have used it or not. I need to rinse my test pieces and see what happens. I don’t plan on washing this, anyway. I’d like to learn more about dyeing fabrics.

The fabric I’ve used for appliques is too thick, as well. I don’t like working with this heavy quilting fabric, but, again, I was using what I had at hand. This fabric used in this way certainly lends a raised look to the project.

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I did have fun with this piece. I didn’t care for the moon/circle I stitched in the middle block, so I covered it with some gauze I dyed in the same colors. I love the effect. It’s like an autumn sun.

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The theme of this piece is Leaves.

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I’m sure there is a story in it somewhere.