Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Holidays Bring Wonderful Surprises!

I received a wonderful holiday gift this week. It was an email with photos taken at a quilt show earlier this year. I had the pleasure of teaching two workshops for the Greater Ann Arbor Quilting Guild this past spring. Some of the finished pieces were shown in a special display at their semi-annual quilt show.

One of the workshops was Bead Candy Quilts. They are those small, eye catching, colorful, embellished, post card sized quilts that make great gifts or a way to brighten up an office or fun space around the house.

It was a great group of ladies. Each one brought mountains of bits of lace, appliqués, fabric, beads, trims, feathers and shiny stuff. As you can imagine, with twenty ladies all from different backgrounds, experiences and taste in fabrics, there was no duplication of fabrics or embellishments. What made is so much fun was seeing the variety of items they brought, and watching them offer suggestions and work together to create some really wonderful little quilts.

When I teach this class, I not only teach a variety of techniques, but also show samples, and offer suggestions to jump start everyone's creativity. I know that sometimes it's hard to get started. One of the reasons this workshop is so successful, is that anyone can take a handful of leftover bits of cool stuff that have traditionally been too small to use in a quilt, and make a wonderful small piece that can be finished in one sitting. WOW! What a sense of accomplishment!

Well, I understood ahead of time that this guild was full of very creative quilters and it was true. Just take a look at a few of the finished Bead Candy Quilts they made. It’s never too late. Go through your beads, bangles and bits of fabric and see what you come up with. Be creative. Go wild. There are no rules. Feel free to send me an email of the finished quilt.
I love surprises at the holidays! Be open to giving and receiving all that the holidays have to offer and most of all. . . . . create!

Have a wonderful holiday season!

Saturday, November 15, 2008

What I did on my summer vacation

My husband Charles and I often travel to southern Utah. We love to take the “blue line” roads whenever possible. We found a good one that goes through the community of Antimony (named after the metal discovered there in 1880). The highway is little traveled, scenic and ends just outside Bryce Canyon National Park. Nights were spent in state parks like Kodachrome Basin, arguably the best State Park facility anywhere.

We headed south on the Cottonwood Canyon dirt road, in the Grand Staircase-Escalante National Monument. Large signs indicated that high clearance and 4-wheel drive were required. They were right. The road is on a lot of clay, but fortunately it hadn’t rained recently and none was forecasted. However, no grading or maintenance had been performed in a long time leaving it almost impassable. We spent four hours navigating the road, mostly in 4-wheel drive. We learned later that park rangers were telling travelers that the road was impassable and closed.

A primary destination of our journey was White Pocket and South Coyote Buttes, a permit area in the Paria Canyon-Vermilion Cliffs Wilderness on the Utah Arizona border. Access is through miles of deep sand road, so we reserved a guide service with special vehicles. White Pocket is a relatively unknown and unique spot on the Paria Plateau. I expected ridicule for bringing my pink umbrella. Turns out, our guide Susan used an umbrella and brought extras for others.

The Slot Canyons in this area are particularly beautiful, with red and gold sandstone colors. Then we signed up with Slot Canyon Hummer Adventures for a three hour tour to visit Secret Canyon, a section of Waterholes Canyon on the Navajo Res. I want a Hummer. 'Them' things go straight up.

Our last stop was at Moise, Montana, North of Missoula, location of the 20,000 acre National Bison Range. We took the 19 mile Red Sleep Mountain Drive twice, once in the afternoon and once at 7AM the next morning. It was great viewing and picture taking of bison, antelope, black bear, white tail deer and elk. All in natural habitat but used to vehicles on the road. Elk were bugling and fighting in the morning. It was a great way to finish our trip.

Then we had a short 8 hour drive home!

Sunday, July 27, 2008

Recharge your creative juices

I don’t know about you, but I often feel the need to recharge my creative juices. You may be inspired by a walk in nature, or writing ideas for the first 20 minutes of your day - before eating breakfast or talking to anyone. Listening to music or books on tape might also be inspirational.

Creativity has been attributed to everything from divine intervention to chance. Some say it is a trait we are born with; others say it can be taught. I think creativity is letting new ideas into your conscious brain.

For me, new ideas usually stem from new experiences. These experiences often come from travel. It can happen in far away places or as close as your hometown.

Recently I went to one of my favorite haunts; Rhinestone Rosie’s. The shop, owned by Rosalie Bryzelak Sayyah, is located in Seattle’s upper Queen Anne neighborhood. Rosie and her daughter Lucia, have on display thousands of pins, earrings, bracelet’s, dress clips, barrettes and tiaras. Rosie specializes in the repair and restoration of pre 1950, costume jewelry.

This may sound odd, but remember, I do love all things sparkly. A long look through the cases filled with different shapes and colors of jewelry sets my mind to wandering. Letting my eyes wander the cases and allowing thoughts to flow, recharges me. New ideas flood my brain. Then I can't wait to get into my studio and create something new and magical. Check out her store. You will be inspired for sure!

If you feel like you are in a creative rut, try going to the nearest costume jewelry store or park, go on an architectural tour or to an art gallery. Inspiration is everywhere. You just need to be open to the possibilities. Try it some time and see if it works for you.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Pacific Northwest Quiltfest, August 8 – 10, 2008

I am thrilled to have been selected as a finalist in the 8th biennial Pacific Northwest Quiltfest, August 8 – 10, 2008, at the Washington State Convention & Trade Center, Seattle, Washington.

The piece titled 'City in Green' will compete with 290 quilts and wearable art entries from the five northwestern United States and the four western provinces of Canada. Over $40,000 dollars in cash and major prizes, including top of the line sewing machines, will be awarded to winners in eleven categories.

The Association of Pacific Northwest Quilters, APNQ,
a non-profit organization,, was founded in 1992 to encourage and reward quiltmakers of the geographical Pacific Northwest region by producing this popular regional event every two years. “We are extremely pleased with the very high standard of the quilts being created throughout our region in both traditional and innovative designs,” says Sharyn Cole, APNQ president. She adds, “Of the 587 entries juried, 291 were selected. The eighth Quiltfest will be an outstanding exhibition of the finest quilts being created in our region.”

The Pacific Northwest Quiltfest is open to the public from 10:00 am to 6:00 pm Friday and Saturday, and 10:00 am to 5:00 pm on Sunday. Admission is $10. For information contact the office of APNQ at (425) 558-1983 or visit the website at

About APNQ Traveling Exhibits

Since 1998 APNQ has developed a traveling quilt exhibit in conjunction with its biennial Quiltfest. Members representing the geographic diversity of APNQ are invited to submit a quilt interpreting the selected theme. Quilts debut at one Quiltfest, spend the next two years traveling the country being exhibited, and are auctioned off during the next Quiltfest Gala. APNQ's traveling exhibits serve as both fundraisers for the organization and a realization of our mission--to promote the art of quiltmaking in our region and beyond. Since their inception in 1996, these inspired collections have traveled the country and, through the generosity of the quiltmakers who donated their works, have earned more than $135,000 at auction. Past or currently traveling exhibits have been featured in scripted slide shows which are available for group rental; upcoming exhibits are currently being scheduled for venues and will debut at the upcoming Quiltfest.

Monday, July 21, 2008

Why not try something new?

Stenciling was popular on Crazy Quilts. Using today’s modern products, you can make you own painted quilts. Paint is easy, fast, and so much fun. If you don’t intend to ever dry clean your quilt, try oil paint sticks (Shiva brand is my favorite). Easy to use, paint sticks are shaped like over-sized crayons and have about the same consistency. Amazingly, they can replicate the look of air brushing without your having to invest in or bother with special equipment. Paint sticks applied to silk or cotton are simple and permanent and leave a very soft hand. Simply remove the self-healing protective coating of paint from the flat end of your paint stick with an X-acto knife. For the sake of convenience, I suggest you use a favorite purchased stencil. Use masking tape to hold it in place and Post-It Notes to protect any areas you don’t want to color. Rub your paint stick with a stencil brush then dab the brush onto a paper towel to remove any excess paint. A light touch works best, and you can always add another layer or two. Using firm, short strokes, apply the paint in one direction. Start at the outer edges and work inward. When you are satisfied, pull off your stencil.

It’s a simple truth – beads are a blast! A quilt is a two-dimensional work of art. Add beads, buttons, or sew-on jewels and you launch it straight into the realm of three-dimensional pizzazz. There are any number of ways to use beads on your Crazy Quilt or garment. You can accent special stitches or highlight specific features, such as flowers, figures, baskets, or stars. A few single beads could add dew drops to a leaf, a string of them will quickly draw the eye to any particular part of a design that you want to emphasize.
One of the joys of embellishing with beads is that there is no real need to plan your designs ahead of time. You can start by choosing beads of a particular type or color, or even with a random sample of mixed beads, then design as you go! Make beading decisions one at a time as your work develops. Start by threading a needle with a single strand of Nymo thread, about 25” long, and placing a quilter’s knot at the end. Start about ½” away from the first bead location an“pop”the knot between the layers of the quilt or quilted garment. Come up at the point where the first bead will be placed. Put the point of the needle into the
bead and push it onto the needle with the tip of your finger. The stitch you make needs to be just as long as the diameter of the bead – any longer and the thread will show; any shorter, the bead won’t lay flat. Take a second stitch through every third or fourth bead – if the thread should ever break, two or three beads will come off, but not the whole group. As an extra precaution, run the thread through bigger, heavier beads three or four times. Keep going until you come to the end of your thread and end as you would for a line of hand quilting. If you allow yourself to make one design decision at a time, beading projects are easy to return to after a lapse of time, so interruptions (and don’t we all have them!) won’t be problem.

Want something more subtle? Through the ages, ribbons have been a source of delight. Luxurious, colorful, sensuous ribbons raise our spirits and make our hearts beat just a tiny bit faster. Nothing signals treasures within like a prettily wrapped package and the fancier the ribbon, the greater the anticipation of delightful surprise! Take any Crazy Quilt or other project up a notch or two by incorporating ribbons in dozens of ways – couching, ruching, flowers, stems and leaves, bows – the list goes on and on! Perhaps not quite as obviously festive as ribbon but still providing us with a multitude of opportunities for creative expression, there is an abundance of other trims available. I challenge you to think about rickrack, bias tape, cord, fringe, doilies and lace without feeling your creative urges spring to life! Old handkerchiefs or special fabrics, such as lamé, ultrasuede or embossed velvet are other materials that can add that special something to any project. The possibilities are so limitless that they boggle the mind.
We may not all have the same quantity of free time that our affluent foremothers enjoyed, but by working smart and utilizing all the great new products on the market these days, we can make Crazy Quilts and embellished garments that will ‘wow!’ any audience!

Thursday, July 10, 2008

Crazy Quilting Today

Did you know that Crazy Quilts and heavily embellished garments were once a mark of affluence? Women used them to declare – ever so subtly – that they had time for elaborate hand sewing while their domestic staff toiled over the household chores. Few of us live the lifestyle of the ‘landed gentry’ these days, but what we do have is a wealth of time-saving products and techniques available to us. There are many clever ways to accomplish wonderful embellishments with the investment of very small amounts of time!

Embellishment includes everything from complex beading to sewing with basic thread. In Crazy Quilting, the philosophy is this: if it shows, highlight it! In today’s busy world, we have to grab sewing time whenever it presents itself, so be prepared at a moment’s notice to have something to sew. Red work is usually my favorite, but I don’t limit myself to basic red work. I’ll embroider tea towels, pillow cases and make quilt blocks, stitching with floss, pearl cotton, and, my favorite, thick thread made for the sewing machine. Any time you manage to have fabric in your hand, relish the moment and let your creativity flow!

When embellishing with thread, which includes everything from embroidering to quilting, use pretty much anything that appeals to you. Crazy Quilting is definitely the time to show off your thread collection! You can really add your own special touch to any project by putting a decorative stitch over the seams, couching over one or more cords or ribbons and adding beads or buttons for texture. Or make duplicate rows of stitching, highlight them with an entirely different stitch or use thread to work a specific design onto your fabric.