Category: Uncategorized

Into an inspiration

This past weekend I needed background fabric for a project I am working on. I had a yard of muslin that I previously dyed with mottled pinks, purples and greens. It was a bit too pastel and muted for what I wanted, but I realized I had a bottle of orange RIT dye (available in grocery stores). So, I decided to dye the fabric.

I needed 1.5 gallons of water for the vat, which is more than I needed for the yardage. I decided instead of wasting the dye, I would add some vintage lace and trims to the vat. I know that some may consider it sacrilegious to alter vintage fabrics. I pondered it for awhile and decided that it would be OK. I know I would never do anything with the off-white lace and trim. However, if it was something colorful I would find some way to use it.

The photo illustrates the before and after results. I was most excited about the trim with the little flowers. I didn’t know what fibers this was made with. The flowers are individually stitched to tulle and tulle is usually synthetic. And, synthetics don’t usually hold dyes very well. I was taking a gamble and was surprised to find the tulle and flowers held the dye. This experiment worked positively. I’m now confident to do more with this material, because I know it will hold color. Also, the little flowers remind me of pansies or dogwood flowers (which, in my area of the work, are about to burst into spring).

This was fun. Do you take time for creative play time and experimentation? Creative play often involves doing something that you’re not 100% sure what is going to happen. This could have been a big flop of an idea, but it turned into an inspiration.


Collected treasures

I’m a collector of things. Some of my collectables are colorful and pretty. Other’s are dirty and rusty. I can’t really explain it, if I’m drawn to something, it usually has to come home with me. Some things have a special memory and I just can’t throw them away. Sometimes they are just too pretty to part with. And, other times I’m certain I could use the item in another project. I guess I have a fear that in the future I might miss that “thing” I threw out. Oh, believe me, I’ve thrown out (or donated) things that I wished I had kept.

I frequently try to use up stuff like leftover fabrics, threads, and yarn. But I’m slow. It takes me years to knit a sweater. I’ve also held on to fabrics for a long time thinking…someday I’ll use it. Some of the fabric I own once belonged to my mother and even my grandmothers. I don’t think I’m a hoarder; my house isn’t busting at the seams. So I think I have a healthy collecting habit, but what do I do with all of it?

One thing I like doing is using my precious scraps in slow stitch projects. Pictured is one of my favorites. I used embroidery thread and random stitch patterns to attach little scraps of fabrics to denim. When it was finished I inserted a scrap of dyed wool, stitched it together and now it is a handy little needle keeper. I love the colors. It is a treat to look at the fabrics and remember where they came from.

Although I “try” to be in the moment when I place the scraps, I’ve noticed how difficult this is. Notice there is a lot of symmetry happening in this pin keeper; squares and repeating placement of shapes. Nothing wrong about that, just interesting to notice. I like this piece a lot and that probably says something about how I seek balance. Do you collect? Do you have creative ways you use your collected treasures?

Something new

The last few weeks I’ve been juggling a lot of different tasks. Some of it I call the “first of the year” tasks, like annual doctors appointments, home maintenance contractors, and the beloved tax preparation. I’ve also been teaching some “live” programs and rooting around some of my stash preparing for upcoming art exhibits this year. During all of this I stumbled across several pieces of art that I made years ago. Some of these pieces I was happy to see again. Some I was surprised I had a different attitude about them.

It is interesting to find these treasures. There were several which, at the time of their creation, I was not very pleased with. For example this tree (pictured). I remember making it for a group challenge/art swap. When I created it, I returned to some of my old paint and textile collage techniques. There is a lot of different fibers layered there (note: click on the image to see a larger view). After the collage work, I thread painted the tree.

I look at it now through different eyes. My mindset isn’t cluttered with the deadlines in which I created it. I see things that I could probably address differently, but nothing in this piece screams “don’t show it to anyone.” Yet, that was my mindset at the time I created it. So what’s different, today? The piece didn’t change. Was it me that changed? I doubt that I changed “that” much.

I’ve decided what’s different, is time…

When we make art we are usually very close to it, physically. We see the micro details that most other people would never see. We’re close to it on an emotional level too. There are reasons we make something when we do. Maybe we’re making it for a class, a gift, an experiment, or even an exhibit. These events add pressure to what we’re doing.

Other times their are no reasons why we’re making, we’re just do it because we want to. During these play-filled times, there may be things going on in our personal lives that may be carrying energy to our work. Maybe you’ve just moved into a new house, looking forward to a vacation, or concerned about the health of a loved one. All these events can alter our mindset (for good or bad) and affect our thoughts on what we’re creating. I can see this clearly in the tree. I’m in a different place. I’m no longer concerned at what other people might think about it. I see it for what it is with a less judgmental eye.

My takeaway message is when we’re working on something and it just isn’t becoming what we expect … walk away from it! Give it time! Better yet, give yourself time! Maybe we need a few hours, a few weeks, or even a few years. Our mind just needs a reset, so we can look at it again with a fresh vision. If your attitude doesn’t change about the piece, it is OK to work on it some more, or maybe start over from scratch, or sometimes its best to destroy it so you can move on to something new.


Almost nothing

Ah spring, the time of year when you can swing through all 4 seasons in seven days. Time is flying by. Before we know it, we’ll be in the heat of the summer. I’m not looking forward to that. The in-between seasons are my favorite. Not too cold and not too warm; just like Goldilocks likes her porridge.

I’m ready for the increased sunlight, but not looking forward to the heat of summer. So I’m trying to stay in the moment and enjoy the current season. I started working on a new project that uses the scraps of fusible fabrics I’ve been saving.  If you’ve ever worked with fabric scraps, you know the mess it makes. To keep grounded, I’m going to try to focus on one moment at a time. That’s all we can ever really hope for isn’t it? . . Staying grounded.

As I get ready to switch gears to my next task at hand today, I leave you with this quote from Marc Chagall
If I create from the heart, nearly everything works;
if from the head, almost nothing.”

The verdict is still out

I have a number of lectures coming up in the next several weeks (Learn more about my lectures & workshops) . So, this week I’m editing the PowerPoint slide shows which I use for lectures. I always like to review them and update the content and include some of my current works. I find it creative work, but there is a lot of screen time.

When I’m doing a lot of computer work or taking road trips, I like to have handwork projects to work on. These stitchings are often referred to as “slow” or “mindful” stitching. I like the random nature of my process with these projects.

I’ve decided the pictured example is complete. When I started it a couple years ago, it was a kit with some matching hand-dyed threads, ribbons, buttons and fabric called “Painters Threads” by House of Textile Arts (formerly Tentakulum). I started with a background piece of matching hand-dyed Cherrywood fabrics and, as I had time, I randomly laid out the fabric patches and added stitched patterns.

Next step is to make something with it. Right? If I fold it in half horizontally and add a zipper, I could make it into a small zippered pouch. I’m tempted to do that, but I really love looking at it. The colors make me happy. The texture of the stitches and materials are interesting to look at.

It is just an experiment or you could even call it play; something I can do when I don’t really want to think about what I’m doing. But, an issue I have with creating like this is I want to make something out of the completed design. I think there’s a mindset engraved in my brain that everything created must be for a reason. I recall moments in my life where I showed off something like this that I made. Something I was proud of, but really didn’t have a purpose. I can recall people asking, “What are you going to do with it?” Uh?… I don’t know.

I’m having an inner dialog, call it an argument, that this piece must have function. But I counter myself with the question, “Must I do anything with it? Can’t it just be.” The verdict is still out …


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Today I am admitting that I’ve been in a creative slump. This past month I’ve been trying to process what’s going on. I’ve always loved creating, but I’ve been struggling.

Why? Where did my energy go? Where is time going?

I’ve been contemplating: “Have I lost my mojo?” What I’ve realized is that there has been been A LOT going on! Reflecting on the year, I’ve had some wonderful times and some times that set me back.

What I’ve realized is we have to focus on what’s in front of us. Sometimes we use our creativity to heal. And, other times we need to heal before we can focus on our creativity.

What I’ve realized is I’m evolving. I have ideas in my head that are peculating. I’ve been avoiding … yes, call it what it is: “procrastinating.” I’ve felt guilty, but I also had to attend to what is in front of me. Priorities. Promises. Life circumstances. Things both in and out of my control.

I’ve been contemplating and listening to podcasts like “Creative Peptalk” and “Art Juice.” They helped me realize I’m not alone. We all go through it. In one of these podcasts the question came up: “what do you do when your procrastinate?” Is this somewhere you want to be? Is it somewhere you should be? Is it somewhere you should put more focus?

It is good to reflect and process our thoughts and feelings. Some of us just need more time with it than others. If you ever feel this way, I want to encourage you to let all the guilt go.
Wherever you are … hold space.
Wherever you are … You are enough!

Too late

My birthday is so close to the new year that and recently I realized I don’t mentally start the new year until it has passed. Another completed rotation around the sun. I wasn’t ready to accept this year’s number. Its getting higher than I ever thought. But, I decided that I agreed with the old saying, “you’re only as old as you feel.” The number may want to taunt my brain…but my body says “you go girl!”

We can become our own worst enemies when it comes to thinking about our aging. We could limit our potential because we think that’s what we’re suppose to do; we’re suppose to slow down. But, why not accept new challenges? Why not learn new things? Are we ever too old to start something new?

Last year I wanted to learn something new and decided not too because it would take too long. A year later, I’m thinking if I had started it last year, I would be done now. How many years have to pass before we say… Now is the time!

I believe there’s always room to start new things. We just need to make space and time for them. We’re not born with an expiration date stamped on our back, so we have to proceed as if there will be a tomorrow (better yet… that there will be many tomorrows). So dream a little…what do you want to do? What would you like to create? How do we want to live. Don’t let your age get in the way. Make a plan and get started. Its never too late.

Meant to be

What’s meant for you will sometimes feel scary, risky, and new.
Easy and calm doesn’t always mean you are going the right way.~ Young Pueblo

Last week I saw an opportunity and applied for something where the deadline was just days away and I didn’t have a lot of time to prepare. I do that alot … prepare. Sometimes I put too much time into preparing and often miss opportunities by (for lack of better work) … procrastinating. I don’t know what will come out of this, but then again…I never do. I frequently take the risk and throw the dart at the bullseye. Sometimes it hits center, sometimes not.

As a creator, we have to do that sometimes. It could be as simple as spending hours creating a gift for someone and not knowing if the recipient will appreciate it. Or, it can be more humbling as entering your art into a juried exhibit and waiting for an acceptance/rejection letter. Sometimes we have to take the risk and just go for it. That’s what perseverance is all about. Taking risks… again and again.

When you take a risk, what do you really have to lose? We may lose some pride or feel disappointment, but it really hasn’t changed who we are. If you’re a creator and don’t take chances, what’s holding you back? Are you making things for the kudos or are you making things because you love making them? No matter what, it is always safer to stay away from the edge. But, does that make life boring?

I frequently catch myself in the safe zone. Its comfortable there. Being there keeps my anxiety down. It is easy, smooth sailing. But, “easy” doesn’t give me as much gratification. I can do easy. When I push myself, even if it is just a little, I open myself to dreaming and learning new things I’m opening my energy to greater confidence. I say to myself, like:
If I can do this and succeed, it will give me great pride.
If I do this and succeed, I will move up a level with my skills.

I don’t like feeling stagnant, so I try to take risks. Maybe I don’t do it as often at I’d like, but I like to try things out of my comfort level. In doing so, I can only hope that what is scary, risky and new is what is meant to be.




Get Started

“Baby” went for a visit to the spa. She is a Handiquilter Sweet16 machine that I purchased about 5 years ago with assistance from a grant awarded to me through the NC Arts Council. Baby is a reliable friend, especially when I’m working on larger quilts. She was needing the spa time, because I’ll be doing some heavy production work over the next few months and this girl needed to be at her best game. (note: Handiquilter recommends servicing the Sweet 16 every 5 years)

Did you know that using different threads could change how the stitches are made? When I’m doing free-motion quilting, I like to do some warm-up drills to check the tension of the threads I’m using. Checking the tension on a scribble quilt is a good way to avoid finding out about issues when you’re working on the real project. (I’m sure you can guess how I know…) After getting Baby back from the spa, I did some stitching on the practice quilt to check that she didn’t get out of sorts during her road trip.

I call these quilts my “scribble” quilts. They are made with a layer of quilt batting between two layers of white muslin. I started this particular scribble quilt in a class I took when I was learning to machine quilt. I was kind of saving the sample to remember what I learned long ago. But then a few years ago, I started using it for my scribble practice. The memories of the class are still there along with a hodge-podge of my other stitching attempts.

My test run proves Baby is ready and so am I. As I was moving through the first few weeks of this year, I realized that flipping the calendar makes me more reflective than productive. It takes me time to work out a plan for the year. Now I’m at the point that I’ve done some warm-up drills and it is time to get started.

Either way its OK

Last post I bragged about my regular weekly habit of writing a blog post. Already this year, I seem to have fallen behind. I’m learning is OK not fret these things. Sometimes life directs the circumstances and you have to go with the flow. More often then not, our expectations of ourselves are more important to us then the people we know.

Many times I fretted about letting someone down and their response was “that’s ok, not big deal.” In similar situations, I’ve offered the same response to others. Why are we so hard on ourselves? I may get behind on things, but I don’t think there ever will be a time that I’m caught up. Its important to accept that.

As I’ve been straightening up things in my studio, I found many projects that were put aside. Some were things I had already started and some were things I just wanted to do so I felt more organized. In my last post, I showed you the decorative trim I was working with. This is something I’ve had for at least 2 years…sitting in a box as a “to do.” Finding it again, I could have moved it out of my way or I could have tackled it. I decided to sift through it to find what I wanted to keep and donate what I didn’t.

Another project I had was organizing my embroidery floss. Before I started quilting, I use to do a lot of counted cross stitch. I no longer have the patience for this type of sewing, but I don’t want to get rid of the floss. I frequently find uses for it. A few years ago, I started winding the loose hanks of floss onto wooden clothespins. I feel it is a much better way to store the thread, because it doesn’t get all tangled and knotted. After winding all the loose threads, I realized that I had a bunch of floss on flat plastic bobbins. It bothered me that I had two different methods of storage so I opted to re-wind it all on the clothespins.

Does it really matter how I store it? No. Its my choice. Would it matter to anyone if I left it as it was? No. However, my expectations were to have it all stored the same. Every time I re-discovered them, I told myself to finish the job … but not today. Sometimes it matters enough to take care of it and sometimes no one else will really care…. either way its OK.

PS… all the floss is now on clothespins!