Category: Uncategorized

Godspeed

I set The Messenger free, again. I packed it in a box and now it is traveling across the United States in the back of a FedEx truck. I’m sharing it’s good karma with the Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum in La Conner, Washington.

“The Messenger” was selected to be part of the museum’s popular 5th Annual “Birds of a Fiber” exhibit. The exhibit runs from January 26 – February 27, 2022.

I’m very honored to have my hawk hang in the beautiful Victorian era museum aviary of filled with art quilt birds. I wish I could travel with it. In a way, a little piece of me is. The Pacific Northwest holds a special place in my heart. Its the first placed I lived after leaving Chicago. I treasure my memories of the beautiful landscapes and the first bald eagle I ever saw. I know a piece of my heart and soul was left behind when I moved back east. It feels good to be sending another part of me back after all these years (even if only temporarily).

Its also been a long time since my artwork has exhibited outside NC. It’s a good feeling. I hope this majestic bird brings good messages and joy to all who see it. Godspeed.

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5th Annual Birds of a Fiber Exhibit
January 26 – February 27, 2022
Pacific Northwest Quilt and Fiber Arts Museum

703 South 2nd Streed
La Conner, WA 98257

What you see in your future

Life moves too fast sometimes. I know the change in years is a human-made event. Year-to year there isn’t a hard-line to cross. Instead, we all just flow from one minute to the next. I like having the timeline reminders. But, I don’t always like counting the numbers and seeing them add up.

To me changing the calendar allows me to reflect on what I’ve accomplished and visualize what’s to be. Last year at this time, I was excited about a few things that I had planned for the year. I knew I wanted to accomplish some things, but I had no idea how covid or anything else would impact those plans.

There definitely were some disappointments for me in 2021. But, in reviewing the year I reflect on the impact these disappointments had on me. In the end, am I OK? Am I safe? Are my family and friends OK? Are they safe? — My resounding answer is YES! We are all OK. Life is good!

Sitting here on the cusp of a new year, I’m looking forward. There are things I know will happen in 2022. Exciting things. Milestone things. Yet, there is also a lot of unknown. I’m ready to say goodbye to 2021. I’m open for some change, but I’m also cautiously optimistic for the future.

The next time I write here it will be 2022. A new calendar year splayed open before us. Full of opportunities. I’m ending this year wishing you find only happiness and good health on your journey. May you also be grateful for the past, find joy in the present, and be excited to see the future. Tell me what you see in your future?

Improve your stitching

Last month I wrote a post about using interfacing when you paint with thread (aka free-motion embroidery). This month I want to share some information about thread tension when doing free-motion sewing. This information is appropriate for thread painting and free-motion quilting.

When I was younger, I remember a sewing machine technician strongly telling me and my dad that we should “never touch the tension dial!” I adhered to that rule and it so intimidated me until I started quilting.

Thread tension is the the point where the thread coming from the spool (top of the machine) has a balanced pull with the thread in the bobbin (bottom of the machine). Think of it as a tug of war between the two (see image). If the top tension is too tight, it will pull up the bobbin thread and you’ll see little pop-ups of that thread on the top of your work.

If the top tension is too loose, it will get pulled to the back of the work by the bobbin thread.

The tension dial on the front of your machine controls the tension of the top thread and is helpful in balancing the tug of war.

  • There’s also a way to adjust the bobbin tension, but most of the time top tension adjustments are all we need. So to keep things simple and easier I’ll only discuss the top tension. If necessary, you can learn more about adjusting the bobbin tension by referring to your sewing machine’s manual.

Tension balance is affected when we sew different materials, think of the difference in thicknesses between quilts, fine fabrics, heavy denim, quilters cotton, etc.  The tension has to be adjusted to accommodate each because the thickness of the layers is different.

When you sew, always do some test stitching with the materials you plan to use. I check when I first start sewing, every time I change the top or bobbin thread (stuff happens), and any time I use different stitches (e.g., straight vs zig-zag). Look at the stitches on the front and the back of the work. Do you see an in-balance in the tug of war?

When sewing machine mechanics service our machines, they adjust the tension to accommodate straight stitching on light weight cotton fabric with the tension dial set mid-way. My tension dial has ten numbers (0-9). In this set-up, the mid point is 5. So the mechanic set my machine to have a good balance on cotton at #5. This is good to know…because if things get wonky, we can go back to the middle setting and start over. Also remember to set your machine back to that setting when you straight sew.

If your sample stitching indicates an adjustment is needed, you can refer to the chart on this page which indicates what you do for each scenario (feel free to right-click on the image and save it to your computer). Make minor adjustments at a time and check your stitching again. Check both front and back of your work because it’s possible to over compensate. Did you solve the issue? If not, make some more adjustments.

It’s not so intimidating when you get comfortable with the concept. When your stitches don’t look their best, you can be confident it setting them right. It’s good to know how your machine works and how to improve your stitching.

 

Just follow your heart

“I wish I were creative like you!”

Have you ever said that? I wonder what makes someone think they’re not creative?  What is creativity anyway? I know, I’m full of questions today, aren’t I? But if you ever said that, I just want you to know I’ve been thinking about you.

There’s a who lot of self-doubt piled into that statement. I know, because I’ve been there. This statement often hangs out with it’s good friend, “I could never be that good.” So, what does it mean to be good enough? When we say these statements, it generally means we crave to have those desired talents. Or maybe, we’re disappointed we don’t.

We are all so very unique. We have different skills and different life experiences. I think about these statements and wonder when a person decides that these are truths. Somewhere in their life, someone shut them down. The aftermath was an internal belief that they should give up trying.

“Why bother? I’ll never be as talented as you.”

Stop for a minute. Is this really true? Offer a little kid a creative project and they’ll usually dive in. Well, sometimes they might rather play their video game, but they never say, “nah…it’s OK I’m not good enough!” Hmmm? Once upon a time, we were that free-spirited child. When did we lose that spirit and willingness to try? No one is born with self-doubt.

Sure, maybe we might be better at some tasks than others. But, as the saying goes, “don’t throw the baby out with the bath water.” If it doesn’t feel right, try something different. There are so many creative things in this world; music, literature, performing arts, visual arts, culinary arts, etc. I say, if you wish to be creative, then be it. How? It’s simply, just follow your heart.

 

 

 

Cross paths along the way

We are celebrating Thanksgiving Day (USA), do you remember last year? We were still in lock down and the first person to get the vaccination wouldn’t receive it for a couple weeks. What a difference a year makes! I write this the day before Thanksgiving and I am scheduled to get my covid booster (3rd shot) this weekend. I’m thankful for that. I’m thankful science works to keep us healthy, because we are now able (for the most part) to travel again. I’m also thankful that I’ve been healthy (knock on wood) these past couple years and my family has been the same. My heart goes out to those who have not been so lucky.

If you have followed me awhile, you know that this time of year I always take time to reflect. I have nothing to complain about. I’ve endured my share of hard knocks, yet here I stand capable of continuing the challenges of life. Giving thanks is a way that I can appreciate what I have and find ways to pay it forward toward those who aren’t as fortunate.

Giving thanks is also my way to appreciate you. I truly thank you for sharing this journey with me.

May our hearts beat strong and kind,
May our journey overflow with magical creativity and joy, and
May we frequently cross paths along the way.
Until I see you again, stay well.


Check out my NEW Redbubble site,
my artwork on a curated selection of merchandise

Bring you peace

As a textile artist, I have plenty of fabric. Even with a closet full, I still find it hard to resist purchasing new yardage when it inspires me. Sometimes I store it away and occasionally pull it out to pet it. If you’re not a fabric person, this may seem odd. I understand, because when I started quilting years ago and purchased yardage I would use it all up before I purchased more for the next project. My friends sort of giggled at my “conservative” approach.

Eventually, I realized that fabric makers have a hold on us. Fabrics usually only have a limited run and then they’re gone … forever. If you purchase a little for a project and decide you need more, you may never find that fabric again. So that’s when my hoarding collecting began.

Sometimes I purchase a fabric just because I like it. Other times, I have a clear vision. That clear vision is what happened with this art quilt, “Seductive Tranquility.” The background is one piece of batik dyed fabric. The horizontal gradient of colors from blue to pink to purple is all one piece of fabric. It reminded me of a sunset and I had to purchase it.

When I made this quilt, I added the mountains, the foreground of grass and the tree. I feel peace when I see this quilt. It reminds me of sitting in a mountain cabin with the building lights behind me and the sun majestically setting in front of me.

Nature can be a very calming and meditative place. But, you have to take time to stop and look. It doesn’t require a big production or hiking adventure. When you see something, like a sunset/sunrise, cloud formations, falling leaves, an acorn in the road, a bird in a tree, whatever …. take a moment and a breathe. Observe, even if for a split second. The tiny respite will bring you peace.

 

Never one way to do anything

Last month in my newzletter, I explained my desire to engage more with my readers who don’t live in my local area. For a variety of reasons, this year has really grounded me to my local community. I exhibited locally this past June and have been focusing on teaching live workshops at a local creative space. My blog posts tends to be more about the mental/emotional aspects of being a creative. I don’t usually show too many how-tos here. I’ve been thinking maybe I should change things up the next few weeks and see how you like some occasional insight into my process.

So … let’s talk thread painting… one of my favorite things to do. The butterfly image is an example of a before and after of thread painting on a fabric known as “quilters cotton”. Quilters cotton is fairly lightweight and flimsy. And if you’ve ever tried to sew on it, you might notice that it starts to draw-up (pull in). You may even notice that the stitches don’t look very neat. So how do you apply such dense stitches onto this fabric without making a mess?

Stabilizers.

By definition a stabilizer is “a thing used to keep something steady or stable.” With lightweight fabrics we need to add something to the fabric to make the material more “stable” and less likely to draw-up. What’s fun is we have lots of options to choose from.

  • Interfacing: This material is attached to the back of fabric (or between 2 layers). Most commonly they are used in clothing construction to stiffen shirt collars or cuffs. There are interfacings that need to be sewn in and others that have a heat reactive (fusible) glue on the back that can be ironed in place. Every thread painter has their own preference. My go-to is Pellon 809 Decor Bond (fusible). It’s fairly stiff material giving me plenty of support and I can easily remove the excess material from the back of my work.
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  • Quilt batting: Think of the thread painting as dense quilting. Fuse or pin the batting to the back of your work and stitch. You may get more draw-up with batting than other products, but it has the bonus of creating a 3-dimensional (trapunto) effect.
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  • Canvas: A dense cloth used for boat sails, tents and painter’s canvases. Needs to be pinned or fused to the back of the fabric and draw-up is very minimal. It’s challenging to remove any excess, so plan to leave it in or add extra to stretch the finished thread painting onto a stretcher bars to make a finished art piece.
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  • Stiff Interfacing: A very dense, thick non-woven polyester material that does not flatten or distort with steam, example Peltex. Used most commonly for crafts, like purses, fabric postcards, etc. Used when you want a really rigid finished project.
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  • Embroidery hoops: Yep! just like the ones hand embroiders use. It’s common to find hoops that are 1/2″ thick in the hobby stores. However, the foot of some machines won’t raise high enough to get the hoop under it. I’ve find 1/4″ thick hoops work with any machine. Hoops that are 12″ wide (diameter) work best for most sewing machines. Note: when you use a hoop for thread painting, you want to the fabric in the hoop to be in contact with the bed of the sewing machine. Look at hooped fabric, one side looks like a drum and the opposite side looks like a tray. When thread painting, the tray side is facing up when we stitch.

I always encourage everyone to experiment. Try new materials and look at your results. Which do you like? There’s never one way to do anything.

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Want to learn more about thread painting?  Take my online on-demand course Paint with Thread to learn how. Learn at your leisure, with unlimited access to the materials.

Find time to create

A lot of things can be life changing events like getting married, having a child, moving to a new state, death of a loved one, change in career, etc. None of them usually happen to a large group of people at the same time. Its possible that a similar event might happen to a few people around you, but not everyone in your community.

This is what’s weird about what happened with the pandemic, everyone in almost the entire world had some form of lock-down in early 2020. The uncertainty of the event affected all of us. The interesting phenomena I see is that so many people have emerged seeking a new direction. Resurgence in creative activities is definitely one these new missions people are gravitating to. ~ Why? ~

Many of us turned to creative projects to get us through lock-down. Hobby, craft, and hardware stores were booming. Cooking became a fun alternative to binge watching. Musicians were writing songs and performing live on Zoom, YouTube, and other social media platforms. Writers were writing. These are all creative outlets. Many of us found indulging in new (or revisiting old) creative skills was a great way to fill time. (Are you one of these people? — Tell me what you did?) Ultimately, we had time to create and we loved it!!!

Now that we’re getting back to old patterns of routine, the question is do we continue? There are good reasons why the answer should be YES!

Did you know that making art is proven in scientific studies to:

      • reduce the stress hormone cortisol
      • reduce symptoms of depression and anxiety
      • and, improve the connections throughout the brain; making us better thinkers.

Bottom line is being creative can make us feel better. My advice is if you’re craving creative time, then by all means, go find time to create!

Understanding of color

I find inspiration walking outside in nature. I don’t even have to be in some remote, exotic location; I could be in my own backyard or a city garden. I’m always finding interesting plants, animals or landscapes that catch my attention. If I find something really inspiring, I’ll take a quick photo. I try not to be too obsessive about picture taking, because I don’t want to distract from the ultimate experience of being in the moment. Being with nature is an opportunity to have all our senses engaged. What do you see? How do you feel? What are you smelling? How does the air around you feel?

Although I try to limit my photo taking, I do love the collection of images that I’m building. When I flip through them, its like being transported back in time; the memories, the senses, my emotions…I’m there, in that place, once again. Having this collection of images is also a great reference for art making.

Recently one of my blog subscribers, Cindy, wrote to tell me about a quilt teacher she once had. This wise instructor told her, “don’t worry about color; look to nature for combinations.” What a fabulous lesson Cindy learned! And it is so true!! My collection of nature photos work as a color reference too.

In my blog post last week, I questioned the purple and orange combinations in one of my felted bowls. Yes, of course it works! That combination occurs in many flowers, like the purple irises that grow in my backyard.

Flipping through my pictures, I find an amazing sunrise over a salt marsh with beautiful combination of neutrals. What a pretty quilt that would make with its rusty browns, greys, blues, a touch of green, and brilliant orange and yellows! Wowza!

Stunning 2-tone combinations can be found in the pink and green samaras (aka, helicopter or whirlybird seeds) of my Japanese maple. And, the chartreuse and brown of redwood trees could be the colors of wonderfully rich masculine/earthy quilt.

For creatives, mindful observation doesn’t just comfort our mind and soul when we’re in it. It can also open inspire us with new ideas and provide an intuitive understanding of color.

 

Observe

How do you look at the world? Do you rush through life in a fast-paced race to the “next thing?” Most of the time, I think we all do.

As a creative person, I frequently stop (or at least move slowly) and observe life around me. When you go for a walk, do you smell the air, feel the temperature, hear the wind, see the small details, and check in with your emotions?

I call this mindful observation and its what inspires me to create. Fortunately, I carry my cellphone with me almost everywhere. I love it’s easy to use camera and I’m always taking pictures of interesting finds. The photos are great references when I make a new art piece.

The little details are important. Maybe the sunset colors inspire a quilt. Or, the visit to the mountains inspire you to create a landscape painting. Or, maybe the smells combined with your emotions inspire a sweet poem or song.

Creative inspiration is everywhere. Stop and look close…do you observe?

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Do you see the tiny red floret in the center of the photo of the “Queen Anne’s lace” flower?  Legend says the plant was named after Queen Anne of England who was a lacemaker. She pricked her finger and a bit of blood landed on her lacework. The red floret represents the blood droplet of Queen Anne.