Friday, December 19, 2014


working on this book still, following the path of yoko saito's taupe colour theory but adding in a dash of me here and there

a painted card purchased in oregon last summer has the perfect colour mix

part of it on the cover, the leftover parts inside

her theory is based on creating the perfect mix of grey-toned and beige-toned fabrics
creating a colour wheel, complete with light and dark accents

because her quilted items always incorporate embroidery I'm looking for ways to bring that element into the mix
after all, it's what drew me to her work in the first place

each colour group has a shape
this one is squares and rectangles - it's my way to make them regular, hers is to make them irregular
i kind of like the randomness of that

it's stretching me

pulling me in new directions
trying hard to be imprecise 
it's a lot harder than one might think!

i've been doing this piecing by hand and it has reawakened a desire for "slow" quilting in me, where i piece by hand, cutting with scissors, nothing perfect, no matching, letting it come together as it will... a slowing down

and then there's hand-quilting...

what i'm liking most of all is taking the time to play with my fabric, play with colours and play with shapes... I guess what i'm saying is, i think i've found a new playground...

Wednesday, December 10, 2014

making magic

fabric and thread is a magical combination for me; thread joins fabric shapes to create something wonderful, but real magic happens when the thread lies on top...

when i first started on this circle bag i wasn't so sure about it - the picture in the book is lovely indeed but my few bare appliqued circles, all in light beigey-greys - well, it was a little barren

so i began with embroidering just one, and then another, and the more i did, the better it looked


the texture of the stitch, and the texture created by the slight distortion of the fabric beneath it

 keen to see how each fabric would change, i embroidered until the wee hours the other night...

and see those faint blue lines?

those will be darts

there goes the "no darts" rule...

i'll let you know how that works out

 after the circles comes hand-quilting

hand-quilted circles around each applique, then lines swirling off into the spare emptiness of the upper section

 still more circles need to be added but like i said, i couldn't wait to begin the embroidery
i kept telling myself i needed to see how they would look in order to balance out the colours... yeah right - i wanted to get to the magical part...

this bag is a sample for a new class of mine

  based on yoko saito's style of japanese quilting

exploring taupe colour arrangements
discovering shape
adding embroidery

i've been working in these colours for years, and much as i thought i knew them, there is so much still to learn

her taupe theory book breaks it down, building a taupe colour wheel, balancing the greys and the beiges, intermingling them, adding accents

 the first one i'm tackling is one she calls "nut-tart"
rich greens and browns, fawn, grey and pink

 the diagram for the blocks is a log cabin but her samples are actually courthouse steps

i chose to make mine the same
freely cut, adding angles where they wouldn't normally be, creating an orderly haphazard look - that was a challenge for me!

deciding to extend her ideas with my own, working with squares and rectangles together and separately

it never ceases to amaze me how different fabrics look when cut into tiny pieces

playing now with the nine-patch

a stack of fabric squares
"grown-up building blocks"

 in her book, ms. saito stresses you cannot truly understand a colour unless you think of it also in terms of scent, taste, texture, hearing
i'd never thought of it that way before, at least not in terms of fabric and quilting

i love it though

it's a wonderful, eye-opening, magic-making way of looking at colour

and i am spell-bound

Friday, December 5, 2014

since then...

words of change - since then... signifying something is different
sometimes the something different is big, sometimes, it's small and simple

since this picture was taken i have made a concerted effort to make better circles

funny thing to perfect, perhaps, but that's how it goes sometimes...

sometimes one just can't help one's self  

{i read 'gift from the sea" by anne morrow lindbergh this past summer and she often wrote in that context of "one" - i liked it so thought i'd try it... nowadays it's "you" more often than not - i don't know why that is but it's a thing i've noticed - "one" was how it used it be, since then, it's "you"}

i digress though... 

i'm making a bag with appliqued and embroidered circles in lovely pale neutral colours - a design from yoko saito's taupe colour theory book

my first circles were awful so i set about to improve them

google and you-tube are my fond allies when in need of instruction, especially late at night, when the thought strikes

search and you can find, watch, and you can learn

my first mistake had been making my running stitches too big - big stitches equal funny little
almost-points on the circles; small running stitches equal smooth curves

so, regardless of the size of the circle, many tiny running stitches is rule #1

rule # 2 is to "paint" starch on the gathered side and then press with a hot iron

rule #3 - do not remove the card circle until the fabric is completely cool

if one removes it too soon, one's circle edge will pop out causing said circle to resemble a bottle cap

no matter how hard one tries, it is impossible to get that edge to tuck under and stay there

and so i cut and gathered and painted and pressed

circles of many sizes of many fabrics

scorched fingers, crisp folds, smoothly rounded, over and over again
it was almost hypnotic

that was a week ago... since then, i have made fifty or more perfectly round circles - i am addicted

an early effort - embroidery helping to offset the irregular edge?

 since then i've found heat-resistant pre-cut mylar circle templates in a dozen or more sizes

i did say addicted, right?

Tuesday, November 25, 2014


 a few years back, for my annual sale, i wanted to make the invitations extra-special
something that would give people a taste of what they could expect to find

that year i made little embroidered stars and attached them to tags that i coffee-stained and stamped, tied on with pretty bows in the palest shades of icy blue

 i embroidered "wish" on the back and called them "wishing-stars"

as i worked on them i thought about some of the things people might wish on a star for...

it wasn't long before i decided i would like to make them for people, people who read my blog, people that might have a wish they needed to make

the response was fabulous - i think i made about twenty... the recipients thought i gave them a special treat, but really, the treat was mine
time stitching is always wonderful
 reflective stitching is an even greater gift
each little heart i made caused me to ponder the recipient's word, why they might have chosen it, what that same word might mean for me, whether it might come true for them, what it meant in the world, and on and on...

it was a wonderful thing

and in addition to stars, i also love to make hearts

the little fabric-knot heart that graced the front of a book i made

 the heart that became a pocket-holder of dreams

 monthly word hearts

 a paper, lace and silk heart

and last year, tiny wool hearts with vintage buttons and scraps of lace

i have several of these, and still more i want to make

so i think it's time for word-hearts...

 if you would like a word-heart, with your very own special word embroidered on the back,
leave a comment telling me your word, and what colour you'd like your heart to be

pale neutrals, soft pastels, bright purples or aquas, rich red or burnished brown

lace or no lace

just say the word

Sunday, November 23, 2014

personal rules...

 when it comes to all things creative I have a few personal rules that have kept me in good stead over the years...

i only make things that are flat

i don't make things that need facings

i don't make anything that requires a rolled hem

although I have been known to have a glass of wine whilst machine quilting, i never do when cutting out a quilt... nor when buying fabric

and darts are out of the question

i've just added another no-no to the list

 karen's latest class "doodle, gather, create" intrigued me from the day she announced it
i loved doodling in high school
and i certainly like to gather bits and pieces of this and that

first task was to choose an inspiration fabric - the one above is mine

pale beige with blue branches, random smaller white ones thrown in for good measure

i set to work the other evening, dithering over pen choice... black too harsh, my usual dark brown colour of choice too dark as well

i finally found a nice lighter brown one and began doodling on heavy watercolour paper
it wasn't long before i became completely absorbed and progressed well, delighting in the design that emerged - smaller branches, the curve slightly exaggerated... similar, yet different

i was three-quarters of the way finished when, after holding it up at a slightly different angle than before, i realized to my dismay my light brown pen was red!


new rule - no more choosing pen colours at night

i couldn't bring myself to toss it and start over and so here it is, in all it's glory

after the drawing was completed i started in on the next part
isolation and definition

 getting side-tracked along the way with other circular ideas

putting this here and that there to see what other ideas take hold

embroidering on mulberry paper
slowly and oh, so carefully!

loving how they look, together and apart

thrilled with this paper-work

i have a notebook beside me where i am busily jotting down the ideas as they flow
karen said there would more inspiration in this work we produce than hours in the day, that it would inform future work and be an amazing reference to look back on
i am already seeing that and i've really just got started on this piece

 pen-work becomes stitch-craft

 i've finally decided what comes next with this and hope to get at it soon

in the meanwhile, i'm just shuffling all this paper around and about, entertaining myself in the most delightful way!

Friday, November 14, 2014

how do you choose?

choosing what to work on, what to create, what to teach...

some days with so much choice in front of me i would be mrs. dithers herself, tapping my fingers, looking at this fabric, that lace, thinking on it, over and over again

at times i would walk out of my sewing room and pick up a book instead

lately i read about warren buffet's method for creating focus and thought it might just work for me, for what i do

simply put, you list twenty-five things
things to make
things to do
whatever things you like...

when the list is complete, you choose five,
and those five are all you do until all five are done

thinking this would not only sharpen my focus, but also prevent me from adding more to my pile of things not finished, i decided to give it the old college try

my list ranged from projects years old to those yet to be
some for gifts, some large, some small, quilting, needlework, lace-making, painting, sketching - no limits

choosing five from that list wasn't quite as easy as i thought
wanting to have variety, with nothing terribly complicated or daunting for the first go-round, i chose those that had been haunting me for while but were near and dear to my heart

it took me almost three weeks to get them all done, and by the end of the last one my thoughts were turning to the next list of twenty-five
paring that second list down took even more thought than the first time 'round - i knew the limitations of it now, but also the benefits, and my choices became more conscious

"if i can only work on five, what matters most?"

the simplicity of this method is that i am always choosing from a smaller pool, and with that narrowed field of possibility has come a greater focus

in the narrowing, comes an expansion

i like that

and i like that these wool and flannel pillows for store samples are now finally done!

love the combination of wool and flannel

charming rural scenes

embroidered details



 there was a great satisfaction in writing the date completed by each item on list of five

and great excitement at beginning the process all over again