Category: Fiber Art

Wave “hi” when you see me!

Back in early April I spent a couple days in Cleveland to film 4 segments of Quilting Arts TV. I’ve never been filmed for TV… well unless you count that one time I was interviewed before an art exhibit and was super nervous or that other time I was on Bozo’s Circus. Filming QATV was a completely new and exciting adventure.

Before we filmed, I took a couple months to prep the materials so that everything I demonstrated made sense and put in hours of practicing/rehearsing at home so I could feel confident when I spoke. Before I knew it I was in Cleveland on this world-wind trip to film 4 different segments for 4 different episodes.

I’ve been asked how long did it take to film? Each segment of the show runs about 12 minutes and it took just about that much time to film. Unless, something unusual happened, the segment was filmed in one-take. None of this “CUT! Let’s do that again!” coming from the director.  If there was a need to stop, we re-Prepping Cheesecloth samplesgrouped and started back where we left off. Now you know that what you see is what we did pretty-much in real time. So the actual filming of all 4 segments only took about 1/2 a day on stage. [note: If you ever meet me in person, feel free to ask me about the 1-time we stopped filming and the other time I really flubbed, but we kept filming.]

April seems so long ago and I’ve been anxiously waiting to see the new season. I’m in the first episode (2401) and I’ve heard from people around the country who’ve already seen it. This week it is finally being aired on PBS UNC-TV Chapel Hill, NC channel 4. If you get UNC-TV Chapel Hill, the season opener will be tomorrow: Thursday, August 15, 2019 at 4pm. If you don’t get UNC-TV Chapel Hill, you’ll have to check your channel guide. All PBS stations independently carry and broadcast the show, so times will vary across the country.

During episode 2401 you’ll see how I create and use painted cheesecloth in my naturescape art quilts. You’ll also see me on episode 2408 and 2412. The 4th segment I filmed will air next season. If you watch any of them, don’t forget to wave “hi” when you see me!


See me on Quilting Arts TV Season 2400 (episodes 2401, 2408 & 2412).
Check your local PBS station for dates and times —
or program your DVR —
or purchase the series as a digital download


The “Sól” in you

This month I’m working on class prep. Creating new art is, sadly, low on my priority list. But, this gives me an opportunity to reminisce a little. It’s always good to look back every once in awhile so you can appreciate how far you’ve come.

I made this sunflower quilt, “Sól” about 7 years ago. When I see it, I feel like it was just last year. Time moves quickly.

The piece was made as a challenge. Photographs were collected from the local photo club and local artists selected one to re-create using their own inspiration. By design, “Sól” turned out very similar to the photo. The biggest exception is that I used textiles to create my 3-dimensional image.

This was a fun piece to create. The sepals (green parts) were fuzzy on the photo and I wanted to recreate a similar effect. I decided to use green felted wool and added some fuzzy white roving (wool) using needle felting. The petals of the sunflower where stitched on fabric, cut out and then sprayed with a fabric stiffener product. I let them dry so they would stay wrinkly (and a bit stiff) when I sewed them to the background.

I am still very happy with this final rendition. This piece is now in the private collection of a friend. He saw it during the show and had to have it. I’m honored to have participated in this challenge and to know the piece is cherished in my friend’s home. Some of my best art has been created by challenges like this. Have you ever participated in an art challenge? They can bring out the “Sól” in you!

See my artwork:
Sacred Threads
July 11-28, 2019
Artist Experience weekend: July 18-22, 2019
Floris United Methodist Church
13600 Frying Pan Road
Herndon, VA 20171

Doesn’t hurt to try

Boro stitching

Do you ever wonder what’s the point in trying?

Recently I had a conversation with someone who mentioned that she was exploring so many things that it felt like she had an attention deficit disorder. I wondered if there is anything really wrong with being attracted to new ideas and creative outlets. Do you have to stick with just one? What if you try something and you don’t like it? Is it a failure if you don’t want to continue with a project?

From a young age, I was exposed to all sorts of creative outlets. I loved the diversity of it all. Crochet, needlepoint and counted cross-stitch were big things in my life when I was a child. Loved them all! Then forget all that when I found knitting in my 20’s….my passion! Then in my 40’s, there was quilting…the traditional (piecing fabric blocks) kind. Oh boy! I was hooked…until I wasn’t. Seriously, I really hated it and ran away from it all. I was too much of a perfectionist. Those matchy-matchy seams drove me Cr@Zy!

So, then I moved on to mixed-media and started exploring polymer clay, stamp carving, surface design, paper mache, collage, needle felting, weaving, Was I going insane? No. Eventually all this creative play brought me to where I am today. I have things I started and will never finish. I frequently donate my unloved supplies to school art supply drives or charity-based thrift shops.

But hey…I’m still trying new things…I always will! Why? because I love the thrill of trying! And as an art quilter, every so often those old skills come in handy. I love having this overflowing toolbox of resources!

Currently I’m exploring boro stitching, which is a Japanese method of hand-stitching used to mend fabrics. I’ve always hated my hand stitching, but I’m allowing myself to embrace my imperfection. It’s such a meditative process to mindlessly run stitches through cloth. The finished results are so intriguing.

In trying new things, you’re figuring out what works for you (sometimes it will and sometimes it won’t). It’s OK, if you decide you don’t like to do something, then just let it go. If you hate it, toss it in the trash and donate the supplies to a friend or charity. Just remember, it doesn’t hurt to try.

Where this leads

I recently became aware of on a newly formed organization called The Society For Embroidered Work (S.E.W.). “The aim of S.E.W is to promote and support artists who have an element of stitching in their artworks, hand or machine and traditional or contemporary forms of embroidery.” This organization is focused on raising the perception of stitched art away from being viewed merely as a craft. If you look at the work of their members, you’ll see the why this mission is so important. While grandmother’s embroidered hankies and table runners were beautiful and crafted with great skill, the innovative use of thread in today’s art world is at a much different level … take a look:

Last week they made a call for new artist members. Since my work entails a great deal of free-motion machine embroidery, I took the opportunity to submit some examples of my work, along with an artist statement, and waited to hear their juror’s selections. Knowing the caliber of artists in their association, I was overflowing with humble pride to receive their confirmation email this week.

This is a new organization which holds great promise. By carrying member status, it is another way to encourage traditional craft techniques to be accepted into the fine art category. I’m proud to be part of this distinguished group and look forward to seeing where this leads.

Textiles artists like me

I am proud to be an active member of SAQA (Studio Art Quilt Associates). Quilts and quilters are usually viewed as “crafters.” When you say you’re a quilter, people immediately think of an older woman they know who “used to quilt.” Usually, this person is their grandmother.

I think part of the reason I struggled with calling myself an artist for so long was because of this stigma. When I initially started exploring art quilting, I realized this was something different. The medium (fabric) is generally what “grandma” used, but the application is really different. Envelopes are often pushed.

Th perception that “textile artist = crafter” is changing because of SAQA. They are huge proponents for recognizing textile art as fine art. They advocate that quilts, and other textile works, be showcased in museums and art galleries, not just quilt shows.

I feel empowered being associated with this International organization. I’ve attended three SAQA conferences and I’m currently a Regional Representative. A huge part of my energy comes from the members. They are caring and supportive. If you need to know anything about the professional journey, they are there to answer your questions.

A major part of SAQAs funding for exhibits and advocacy comes from their annual benefit auction which starts Sept 14 ). Members were asked to make 12″ x 12″ quilts and donate them to the auction. Each week a different set of quilts is offered and the bids are reduced daily over the course of 7 days, or until someone accepts the current bid price.

Its fun to participate. There are some amazing pieces, with some created by top names in the industry. I’m happy to be participating for the 4th time. I’m in section #2, so look for the monarch butterfly wing or any of the other fabulous quilts (available for bidding September 24 – 30). Its a great opportunity to get a fabulous piece of art while supporting an organization dedicated to supporting textiles artists like me.



As Nature Speaks, a dialog with an art quilter
Featuring the artwork of Nanette S. Zeller
Oct 11- Nov 24, 2018
Page-Walker Arts & History Center, Cary, NC
For more information click here: As Nature Speaks

Artist Talk: Saturday, Oct 13, 2018 – 10:30-11:30 more info
Artist Reception: Friday, October 26 – 6-8pm more info

Fabric and thread

This week, I’m working on a process to demonstrate thread sketching. Thread sketching is just like making a sketch with pencil and paper. Sketches are pretty quick and often made of simple lines. Instead of paper and pencil, I’m using a sewing machine and thread to sketch.

I want my example to be reproducible, so I need to start with an image. For this example, I decided to use  a peacock feather as inspiration. I initially drew the design on paper (right) and I probably could have just made copies, but it looks a little sloppy from all my erasing and redrawing. To clean things up, I scanned the drawing into my computer and re-drew it using Adobe Illustrator (left). The line drawings I can make in Illustrator are known as vector graphics. I like working with vector graphics because they can easily be re-sized and changed without effecting the quality of the image itself. If I tried to enlarge the scan, the image would get more blurry the larger I made it. With vector graphics, I can enlarge or shrink the image as much as I want and have the same quality for all projects. I can also tweak the image to change how it looks.  It definitely is a bit time consuming, but since I plan to reuse the image for several projects, I feel it’s worth my time in the long run.

Stay tuned, because next time you see this it will be rendered in fabric and thread.


Laugh with life whenever possible

I believe we learn lessons about life from situations we’re placed in. We can also learn alot by watching how others handle situations. I’ve been learning a lot the past few weeks as I witness 2 friends battle cancer. They are both amazing women, creative and funny. They make me laugh; I love that about them. Because of their sense of human and strong character, they are both facing their diagnosis with positive and determined ways. They are powerful to watch.

Shortly after receiving her diagnosis, one of my friends made a promise to her husband to clear out her stash before she dies. She didn’t want to leave him with this burden. She held to her promise and organized her things, then invited people to come “adopt” her craft supplies. “Take all that you want and use it,” she told us with a big smile. It gave her great joy to see her things go to people who would love and appreciate what she had. I don’t know that I would be so organized and determined after receiving such news.

I surely don’t need more fabric, but I did go “adobpt” a few things and brought home a mascot. This funky hedgehog is truly special to me. It will remind me of the strong character, grace and humor of my friend. It will also remind me to love what I do, give graciously, and laugh with life whenever possible.



SEE MY QUILT “Soar” at the 
Sacred Threads Exhibition
July 7, 2017 – July 23, 2017
Floris United Methodist Church, Herndon, VA

Save the Bees

I’ve mentioned before that my artistic voice is nature inspired-art which frequently carries an environmental message. Last week I completed a new piece which definitely fits this concept. A few weeks ago I read an article which reported that in early October (2016) seven bee species in Hawaii had been listed as endangered by the US Fish and Wildlife Service.

Thishoneybee-outline topic concerns me…a lot! Back in September, millions of bees were killed in an attempt to control the mosquito population (and spread of the Zika virus). For many years, there’s been concern about the survival of bees. We need these pollinator species in order to grown food. Yeah…the demise of bees concerns me.

So in response to the USFWS news, I created a new art piece entitled “Bee-Taken.” I thought you might find it interesting to read how I created it.

I start by using Adobe Illustrator to create illustrations or line drawings of my imagery. Once I have the drawings, I can resize them to fit my requirements for the finished piece. What’s great about this process is I’m building a library of illustrations which I can reuse for future projects.

bees_howtoduoWhen I’m making my art quilt, I use the line drawing as a template to cut out the fabric pieces. In this case, I decided to make the bee out of wool felt. Using a light box or window, I traced the pattern elements (body, head, legs, etc) onto freezer paper. Then, I ironed the freezer paper to the right side of the wool and cut out the parts following the lines on the freezer paper template.

Once I had all the wool body parts, I laid out my design on my background fabric. Then, I stitched around the pieces to hold them in place. After all the body parts were secured, I began thread painting. Using wild zig-zag stitching in coordinating thread colors, I created the fuzzy feel of the bee. I used a similar technique to apply tulle (commonly found in wedding veils and tutus) onto the bee to create the transparent wings. Fabric is very 2-dimensional and I really don’t like using it by itself, so I strive to create texture and 3-d effects. The photos shows the difference of before and after thread painting.

This piece accurately represents my vision. When you look at it, you don’t see a shouting statement and I don’t want there to be. However, I frequently do want there to be underlying statement in my art. In this case it says, “Save the Bees.”


Join me for:

Paper, Canvas, Cloth
November 4 – December 17, 2016
Campbell House Galleries, Southern Pines, NC
featuring the work of
Sharon Ferguson, Marilyn Vendemia, & Nanette S. Zeller


Live the Dream

Vintage BlocksIn December, I was given a pile of old quilt blocks which were reportedly created by my mother’s mother (my Grandma). I showed them to a friend who has studied old quilts and vintage fabrics. She told me that a majority of the fabrics are from the turn of the 20th century (early 1900’s). She pointed out that some of the black-patterned fabrics (seen in the pinwheel block pictured) where probably “mourning” fabrics used to make clothes after a loved one died.

The other week, I took some time to gently wash the blocks removing decades of crud that accumulates. I’m concerned about the blocks because the fabrics may be dry-rot. I’m going to try to work with them anyway. Hopefully, I’ll be able to assemble them into a usable sized quilt.

What amazes me about these blocks is the resourcefulness of the maker. A lot of them use re-purposed “shirting” fabrics, but look closely. These small blocks (4″ to 6″) are made of smaller Vintage 9-patchunits. Many of these small units are pieced together with even smaller scraps to achieve the size necessary for assembly.

I know during (and after) the depression my family was quite poor, Vintage 9-patchdoing the best they could to survive unemployment. I wonder if my grandmother in her creative desire was trying to use the blocks to memorialize her family in a quilt. Did the mourning fabrics belong to her mother, who lost her husband when my grandma was so young? Where the shirtings from her father or other male relatives? I’ll never know, but it is obvious she did her best to avoid wasting the precious sampling of fabrics.

While investigating these blocks, I Frugalwonder about my wastefulness and the wastefulness of this entire generation I’m living in. I make dog beds from scraps of fabric and clothing which are twice as big as the entire blocks my ancestors made. I can’t be bothered with hanging on to tiny little scraps. It almost annoys me to think about it. I’m grateful that I don’t have to worry about it. I have access and the financial means to purchase the yardage I need.

Thinking of these blocks and the woman who created them gives me a better understanding of who I am. I have a creative streak that runs through many generations. Understanding how difficult their lives were, gives me compassion for my family members. I am spoiled. Yet, I am a product of their hardships. Therefore, I must honor them and all they gave. I must be strong and live the dream for them.


Thinking of a Word

NSZ_threadpainting_sampleWow, the year has sure started with a blast of cold air. Cold weather always motivates me. I tend to have more energy to get things accomplished. This past year I started running again. When its hot out, my legs feel like they’re filled with wet cement. When its cool, it almost feels like they’re filled with feathers. Cooler weather just makes me want to move. It could also mean that I don’t want to sit still long enough to get cold.

The cool weather motivation also carries over into my creative life. I spent the last 2 weeks sorting through my studio putting things back in order from a month of creative chaos. I know the room needs some more TLC, plenty of purging is on the agenda for this year. Its time to say good-bye to by-products of all those creative trysts I’ve had over the years. For the time being, things are in working order and its time to start creating again.

With the new year, I don’t do resolutions. I have enough to-do lists that I don’t want to add to that (e.g., 3 art quilt deadlines before March 1). For several years now, I’ve heard about people choosing a focus word for the new year instead of making resolutions. This concept intrigues me. I would like a word that could guide me this year, but I can’t think of one.

I’m curious. Have you ever tried using a yearly focus word? Do you have one for this year? If so, what is it and how did you choose it?

Well, until next time, I’ll be here trying to stay warm, creating and thinking of a word.