Author: Nanette

These Days

The quilt in this photo is nearly 23 years old. Its a tiny thing (12″ square) and it is one of the first quilt blocks I ever made. I made it sometime after 9/11 (September 11, 2001). That’s when the US had the attacks on the Twin Towers (NY) and the Pentagon (DC) and the plane crash in Shanksville (PA).

Shortly after these tragedies, I stumbled onto a “call” to make these patriotic heart blocks to send to a group that would assemble them into quilts and distribute them. I don’t remember details of who was collecting the blocks or who would receive the finished quilts. But, like most American’s that year, I was really moved by these tragic events. I was all in with the yellow ribbons and “bless our troops” bumper stickers. There was a feeling of unification that we were all in this together.

I also was a very new quilter. This striped heart block was the my first ever like this. I was so proud of what I did, so I made an extra block to keep for myself. This quilt hung on the wall for many years, as a reminder of all these memories. (That, and I loved this bear fabric so much, especially with the random tabby cat wearing sunglasses tucked into the design with all the teddy bears.) That year I learned about the cathartic qualities of quilt making. I sewed many, many quilts that year.

I’m sharing this today because this week in America we are celebrating “Independence Day” (July 4th). A day of cookouts, fireworks, friends and family. The holiday was established to remember and honor our freedoms in the United States, both as a country and individually as citizens. The good ‘ole USA.

When I was growing up, every year for “the 4th” my dad would proudly fly the American flag on our front porch. On either side of it, he hung an Irish and a Polish flag to represent our immigrant ancestry. Today I’m wondering, if he was still alive, what would he think about the way things are going these days.

Need creative time

I’ve had a creative past few weeks. Last week, I submitted artwork to a open call exhibit and completed 2 pieces for another upcoming exhibit. This week I’m working on a commission for a family member. I’m also working on another art quilt that I want to submit to a call for entry that closes next month. Then there’s also the hexagon quilt that I’ve been working on, which I’ve decided needs to be submitted to another call for entry with a January deadline.

I’ve been my comparing my mindset to last year, when I was working on a number of different pieces for a joint exhibit at the local Arts Council. Last year, I didn’t feel half as motivated as I feel now. Part of my current surge in productivity is that I have several open call exhibits that are holding my interest. With the various deadlines, I can space out my weekly priorities.

I function better when I focus on one project at a time. Yet, there needs to be a balance between my household, computer and art making work. I’ve learned each of these tasks need different brain energy. It is not easy for me to switch from one task to another. Focused time is important to me.

I need to advocate for myself and remind myself of the priorities. No one else is going to tell me, “go lock yourself in your room and create.” However, the dogs, in their cute way, tell me they need to be walked. And, the bank reminds me that the bills need to be paid. My dear husband reminds me that its dinner time. And, the dust accumulating on the shelf reminds me its time to tidy up.

Sometimes, we have to remind our ourselves that we need creative time.

Time to get stitching

This past week, I tackled my fabric hoarding collection. I sorted through all my fabric stash to refine what I’m keeping. It was an attempt to answer the big question: “What do I really need to do my art?” At times I wish I used paint instead of fabric. With paint, if I needed a blue color, I could easily mix the correct hue. With fabric, I realize I have a lot of blues, but some read more turquoise and another may look more violet. I’m stuck with the color choices I have in my collection.

If I lived near a fabric store, I could pop in and see if they have a closer color representative. Unfortunately, I don’t live near a fabric store. When I am near one, there’s this desire to collect more…because…“What if I need this color someday?”

Things were getting a bit out of control, so I decided it was time to let go. My fabrics are stored in flat plastic storage totes that I can stack in the closet. I try to keep the fabric in one layer with similar colors together (operative word here is “try.”). [Pictured is my quilter’s cottons in blue/red, brown/grey, and some of my novelty prints.] I also have several totes containing my batik collections. Looks all neat and tidy, doesn’t it? If only I took a picture while I sorted through everything, piece-by-piece. There was fabric everywhere. I made sure everything that went back into the tote was positioned “somewhat” neatly. Now I can easily see what is in the tote.

During the process, I filled a huge paper grocery bag full of fabrics I no longer “treasured.” It was a bit easier letting go of the yardage knowing that I would donate the fabric to the local schools for their art classes. It was still difficult letting some of it go, especially the novelty prints. So many of these fabrics carry memories for me. For example, the bright yellow print with the blue birds, belonged to a dear friend who past away 2 years ago. I couldn’t give that one away…but I have no idea what I’m going to use it for. For my art, I mostly use batiks and solid quilter’s cottons. Novelty prints need to be used for something else. Hmmm?

Some of the fabric went into the bag, then got pulled from the bag, then went in again. Eventually I forgot what was in the bag and decided NOT to double-check my decisions. It is time to let it go!

Now that I finished this task, I feel lighter in my creative processes. I don’t have to think about digging through the mess to find what I need. I’ll be able to take off the tote lids and easily see my choices. Are you able to let go when you feel you have too much?  For me, right now, I’m ready to start something new. I have at least 4 calls for entry on my to-do list this year. Things feel lighter and it is time to get stitching.


Learn how to use your photos to make original fabric applique ~ NanetteSewZ OnDemand Class

Seen it in the wild

I went on a short road trip this weekend and spent some time at the zoo. I have a love/hate relationships with zoos. I love having the opportunity to see wild animals close up. If you’re like me and create nature art, they are great places to find artistic inspiration. For example this Sandhills Crane (see photo) doesn’t breed, winter or migrate where I live. If I drove 5 hours inland, I “might” be able to see one as it migrated between locations. However, a short visit to the zoo gave me an opportunity to see and photograph one close up.

As someone who went to school to earn a Masters degree in Wildlife Biology, I appreciate zoos for their opportunity to study animal populations. Many zoos, like the Smithsonian in Washington DC, offer captive breeding programs to help re-establish wild populations. Humans have created so much habitat loss in this world, that it is important for biologists to study and learn how to re-populate areas with native plant and animal species. I totally understand and appreciate all the education and conservation benefits of a zoo.

Yet, I feel a deep sadness when I see this photo and remember all the great species I saw contained in their human-made enclosures. I anthropomorphize my human emotions when I look at their faces. What are they thinking with all these human faces staring back at them? This photo of the crane was the best one I was able to take this weekend. If I render this photo into fabric, I’ll carry these emotions with me, but I’d rather have seen it in the wild.

Isolated and quiet

In the early years of the Internet, blogs were big thing. If you wanted to get seen, or more specifically heard, you developed a blog and shared your stories. There were a lot of people who became well-known communicating this way to their followers. Then, came Facebook and Instagram. Now, TickTock and who knows what else. Its a challenge to keep up. But with all the options, it is important to find the space that you feel most comfortable.

Right now, I feel most comfortable on Instagram. I love it mostly because of its original intent of sharing images. I’m following and being inspired by people I would never have found without Instagram. But, I’m hearing from so many, that it doesn’t hold its glimmer anymore.

Recently, on Instagram, one of the artists I follow asked if people still kept blogs. I shared that I did. Its not so “cool” anymore, but I continue because I like to write (always have). I also hope my dear readers (yes, I mean you!), find a glimmer of commonality in what I share. I hope…at least occasionally…you say to yourself, “yep, that’s how I feel too!” I hear back from some of you, so I know I’m at least a little successful with my plan of public journaling.

When it comes to the “Socials,” I find I still like Instagram the best (shameless plug warning: @nanette_sewz ). I love checking in on what everyone is creating. But I know both Instagram and Facebook, control what I see based on what “they” think I want to see or more importantly … how much revenue they can make off their sponsored ads. I’m definitely feeling a little disheartened.

There are other platforms coming available for us creatives. However, I built this place from scratch many years ago. I self-host the site and I am solely responsible for all the content and how I advertise. For that, I’m truly appreciative for you being here while I follow my muse. But, I’m curious what you think of all this technology and social media? Where is your go-to to place to find connections with people online? Is it all too much or do you seek more?

While you ponder those questions, I’ll share this week’s photo. It is a quilt I finished quilting a few days ago; simply an egret walking slowly through a marsh. It kind of reminds me of how I feel trying to stay connected with people online. There are alot of voices talking and vying for my attention. However, even with all that clamor, it sometimes feels very isolated and quiet.


Learn how to “Paint with Thread” — NanetteSewZ OnDemand Class

Seasons for everything in life

It is summer in North Carolina. The sun rises early and sets late. The temperatures are in the mid-to-upper 80s and their is humidity (ugh!). I’m feeling fortunate, that we don’t live in a part of the country that has all the cicadas. I’m seeing pictures from friends and family and thankful that it is quiet here. Here we just have birds chatting up a storm, with their newly hatched fledges. Its music to my ears.

The weather is on the cool side in the mornings, so I get my walk in early. Midday its too warm for me, so I’m catching up on my inside projects. Right now, I’m working on this quilt of an egret in a marsh (see photo). I’m also trying to catch up on editing my instructional videos (New class coming soon!).

This year, there have been a number of things that kept me occupied and challenged for time in my studio. I’m happy that the summer is offering me extra opportunities to work on my art. It feels good to make progress. If you’re feeling challenged to work on your art, remember to hang in there because there are seasons for everything in life.




Up the color

I wish I could have captured a photo of the moon Wednesday morning as we drove to the gym. It looked huge hanging in the sky in this beautiful shade of red-orange. It won’t be full until Thursday morning and should be visible for a few days. [If you read this in time, maybe you’ll see it too!]

This week I was listening to a podcast about making YouTube videos and the guest casually said that when he looks at things his attention goes to counting what he sees (Example: 2 cars each with 4 wheels).  I found this fascinating and started asking myself what do I focus on. My immediate answer was color. The orange moon! The grey cat and the women with the blond hair wearing a green dress. And, is the color of the water in the ocean blue or green?

Another thing that grabs my attention is the fauna and flora. Bees, birds, dogs and cats catch my attention. I notice their color, too; like the great blue heron, that doesn’t look blue…but sure is great!

I wonder if I should be paying more attention to what grabs my attention. I use a lot of flora and fauna in my art, but I’ve not really pushed the envelope on the colors. I am most attracted to vibrant colors with stark contrasts, but my work tends to be more muted … safe. Just wondering if maybe its time to up the color!




Attention every day

My biggest take-away from the 100-day stitch challenge I completed last month was that 15-minutes is a very doable time to work on something and see progress. Everyone, including myself, is stretched with commitments. Sometimes they are self-imposed. Other times, they are obligations where someone else is expecting our time. With so many these things pulling at us, it is hard to add “just one more!” But, it is also frustrating to crave creative time and not have it. It may feel like a frivolous indulgence that doesn’t require priority in our schedule. So we put it off to another day when we have time.

I frequently have thoughts of projects I started. Especially those which I seriously want to complete, but keep putting off for another day. I get an overwhelming feeling that weighs heavy on me. When I think about the projects I want to work on, I feel stress and disappointment.

I don’t believe caring for our mental well-being is frivolous. So I’ve been thinking about these projects wondering how to get them done and letting go of the one’s that I’ve truly lost interest in. The 15-minute sessions in the stitch challenge seems like an answer to me. So, I’ve set priority on a project I’ve been working on for at least 10 years.

Its a hand-stitched hexagon quilt. I had the idea when I visited Ellis Island in New York City many years ago. I was taken by the 3″-wide hexagon marble tiles covering the floor. I was also feeling the spirit of my grandmother who walked on those very floors in the early 1920’s. After seeing the floors, I decided I would make a tribute to her … and .. it is still not done.

Late last year, I pulled out this project from its hiding place and starting working on it again. I’ve made some progess, but again, its been slow going. At this stage in the process, I’m hand-quilting the layers together big-stitch-style. I’ve decided I will finish this quilt this year. But, first, I need to get the quilting done. I’ve decided there’s no better way to accomplish this, then to give it 15-minutes of attention every day.


Calling your attention

Ann Wood’s 100 day Stitchbook Challenge is over and here are the last 4 pages. I had some doubt that I would complete 100 consecutive days of stitching. I think by posting to Instagram and here, I felt accountable to you. For me, feeling accountable to someone other than myself always seems to add just a bit more nudge to get something done, because of the fear of publicly failing.

There was only 1 day of the 100 where I “almost” didn’t make the commitment. I had a full day of visiting family I hadn’t seen in years. I was curling into bed late that evening and suddenly remembered. I got out of bed…stitched for 15 minutes and was able to sleep peacefully that night.

As I completed the stitched pages, I followed Ann Wood’s pattern to assemble the pages into a book. I posted a YouTube video of the completed book. As I flipped the pages during the video, a lovely cardinal had some commentary (Be sure to listen with the volume up). To me, at least, he sounded quite happy with the results.

When I finished the book, I decided I needed to keep the momentum going. I’m planning to apply this practice to some other projects that have been waiting for me for so very long. Fifteen minutes is a doable amount of time to do handwork. I wonder if you have any projects that are nudging you to complete. Is there anything you could commit to working on for 15 minutes a day? I bet there is something in your creative space that’s been calling for your attention.

See how this goes

There has been a lot going on for me the past few months. The stitch challenge kept my creative self challenged, but now it is time to work on some bigger projects. I’m trying to figure out which to start next. I have a bunch of video editing that needs to get finished, too. Although the editing has its own level of creativity to it, it doesn’t completely satisfy my persona that loves working with textiles.

Through the challenge, I realized that I need something that I can work on in really small doses. Sitting and working on one project for several hours straight does not fit into my lifestyle right now. There always seems to be something that competes with my time. (I’m sure you can relate.)

Earlier this year, I created some printed panels to work on during times like these. These are just what I need right now. I’ve always found it is helpful to have multiple projects going at one time. This way I can switch into something that fits my mood (or time) for that time frame I have available.

My plan is over the next couple weeks, to take breaks from editing to work on the panels. We’ll see how this goes.