Bring on the “New”!

You’ve probably heard the expression the goes something like this:

“Get rid of the old to make way for the new!”

Well that is just what I’ve been doing for the past several weeks.  (Actually, I think those weeks have turned into a couple of months, but I was determined to get the job done completely.)  In that time, I made myself open every box, bin, bag and basket in this workroom and go through it all and really think about whether it was something I needed to keep.  And, if it was, then it needed to be stored in an organized fashion so I could find things when I  needed them.

Supplies like buttons, beads and threads were organized by type and color.

It makes me so happy to see all these threads organized by color!

It makes me so happy to see all these threads organized by color!

My fabrics were divided by color, type, solids versus prints and placed into labeled bins. I vow to keep it that way, but I do have several unlabeled drawers and bins of unorganized scraps perfect for some improv piecing.

It's easy to see that green is my favorite color judging by the number of green fabrics I have in my stash.

It’s easy to see that green is my favorite color judging by the number of green fabrics I have in my stash.

A vow to keep everything it its labeled place.  At least I have good intentions on doing that!

A vow to keep everything it its labeled place. At least I have good intentions on doing that.

And my library of books…amazing that once you look at them you discover treasures you had long forgotten about as well as a few dated oldies but goodies that make you laugh.  And then there are the duplicate copies of titles (I know it is time to purge when I start buying something I already owe!)

I love my textile and art books!

I love my textile and art books!

So now I have a pile of supplies to sell or donate and my studio is all neat and tidy.

Clean and organized studio.  Let's hope I can keep it that way.

Clean and organized studio. Let’s hope I can keep it that way.

Bring on the “new”.  I am ready to go.

Strip-Piecing and Restructuring with Nancy Crow

Nancy Crow has been an influential force in the history of art quilting, and I have long been an admirer of her work.  For many years I dreamt about having the chance to study with her.  Last week that dream became a reality as I attended her Strip-Piecing and Restructuring art retreat at the Crow Timber Frame Barn in Baltimore, Ohio.

Crow Timber Frame Barn

Crow Timber Frame Barn


What a week it was!  From the start, this retreat was so much more than sewing and quilting and creating art from fabric.  It was at times exciting, nerve-wracking, fun, frustrating, emotional, physically and mentally exhausting, joyous, soul-searching and so much more.

The class is comprised of a series of design and composition exercises, each one to teach and challenge us as individual and as artists.  Nancy asked us all to be sponges, to be flexible, and to not bring to the table any expectations or agendas.  So it was with that mindset that I jumped in to learn as much as I could about myself and the work I would create.

Each day we were given timed exercises with a specific focus and expected results.  It was up to each of us to energetically interpret these challenges without over thinking.  The pace was fast and furious.  The first challenge required me to think of my rotary cutter as a drawing tool.  All week we would be cutting fabric strips freehand – without benefit of a ruler for measure or guidance.  This meant that I had to learn how to cut towards myself (something I always thought I shouldn’t do for safety reasons!).  It wasn’t long before I got the hang of it, and while at the beginning of the week my lines were uneven and raggedy, by the end of the week I was able to cut the strips in the widths I wanted and I loved the expression that freehand cutting lent to the lines.

We moved onto creating strip-pieced fabrics – lots and lots of them.  By working through the exercises, I learned about the importance of line and shape, color value and relationships, neutrals, the dull or glowing quality of a color and effect of brights on colors/values.

Our first composition was to create a configuration of irregular squares and rectangles cut up from all those strip-pieced fabrics we had just sewn together.  This required a great deal of arranging and rearranging of the parts on our design walls.  Then we had to figure out how to sew it all together and fill in the connecting spaces.  I kept reminding myself to not over think…just make it work until I was happy with the composition.  (Yes, I kept hearing Tim Gunn saying his famous Project Runway advice!)

Strip Piecing & Restructuring - Composition 1

Strip Piecing & Restructuring – Composition 1

After our first composition, we were challenged to create more strip-pieced fabrics, interpreting “recipes” in our own way.  There were over 3 dozen options Nancy wanted us to try.  I just kept cutting and sewing as fast as I could.  I felt like I was doing factory work!  My hands and wrists ached from all the repetitive motion but being someone used to deadlines, I forged ahead.  At one point, for no obvious reason, my machine needle simply broke, without hitting a pin, etc.  I think it just wore out from all the speed sewing.

With dozens of strip-pieced fabrics, ready or not, it was time to learn more about restructuring and re-combining those fabrics to create exciting units.  And then it was onto composition #2…a large new composition comprised of restructured units.  Nancy pushed each of us to juxtapose intensely busy units against ones that were more quiet or spare or subdued.  This exercise was so much harder than I had expected it to be.  Looking back on my first composition and on the fabrics I had strip-pieced, I realized that I have a habit of working only in middle color values.  I really had to push myself to use contrasts to make the work more daring and not my same old – same old comfortable approach.

I struggled and started and restarted many times, but in the end, it came together and I was OK with the results.  I gave my composition the working title of “Stuck in the Middle” because that is how I felt most of the time I was working on it – stuck in the middle of the exercise and stuck in middle value colors that lacked contrast and excitement.

Strip-Piecing & Restructuring - Composition 2

Strip-Piecing & Restructuring – Composition 2

Nancy is a great teacher, and like many great teachers, she forces you to learn by leading you to a path of self discovery.  She cannot provide you with all the answers to your questions.  That is something each one of us, as artists, needs to address for ourselves.  The path is scary and while I have just begun my journey, I am excited about the road ahead.

As a friend who has studied with Nancy noted on my Facebook page, this workshop would be a game changer.  So true!  Thank you, Nancy, for leading the way.  Thank you to all my class mates who inspired me with their work, encouragement and friendship.  And a big thank you to Margaret Wolf who prepared the most delicious meals and snacks to keep us all nourished, body and soul, during the week.  The Crow Timber Frame Barn is an inspiring environment well suited to personal discovery.  I highly recommend you go to one of their retreats, whether you study with Nancy of any of the incredibly talented artists who come there to teach.  It is a very special place.

Nancy Crow & Me

Nancy Crow & Me

Sprinkling Before Ironing……Who Remembers Doing That?

Who remembers having to sprinkle clothes before you could iron them?  Perhaps you are so young that you have no idea what that means.  At the risk of sounding as old as dirt, sprinkling was something my mom did every week on ironing day (Yes, she did have specific chores assigned to specific days each week.) Being a kid at the time, her asking me to do any chore was usually followed with a heavy sigh and some excuse about homework, not feeling well, etc.  However, sprinkling was one thing I kinda liked doing.  What’s not to like?  Give a kid a squeeze bottle full of water and tell her to sprinkle the water onto the wrinkled clothes, then roll them up into a ball and put them into a bag.  Much more exciting than dusting or drying dishes.

I recently found myself remembering the days of sprinkling.  Over the past several weeks, I’ve been preparing for a Nancy Crow Strip-Piecing and Restructuring workshop that I’ll be taking next week.  I am so excited!  I have always wanted to study with Nancy and was thrilled when I found out I could get into this class.  The supply list includes lots and lots of one yard cuts of solid fabrics – a full range of values in all colors.  And…she asks that the fabrics be washed and dried to take care of any shrinkage.  Really??  OK.  Being the obedient student that I am, I have have spent hours washing and drying more than 100 one yard lengths of fabric.

Washed, dried and wrinkled.

Washed, dried and wrinkled.

Now, when 100% cotton quilting weight fabric comes out of the dryer, it is a wrinkled mess.  It’s interesting that some fabrics are worse than others, but none the less, it is all wrinkled and must be ironed.  And despite my now having a deluxe steam iron that wasn’t available 50 years ago, I found that the fabrics just didn’t press out nice and smooth.  So it was time to sprinkle.  I started out using an empty spray bottle, but it wasn’t long before I realized that this was going to be time consuming and a bit hard on my trigger finger.  And then the bottle just stopped spraying.  Wondering what to use for the task, I remember that I had brought the “sprinker” bottle from my mom’s house and tucked it away with some other miscellaneous “antiques”.

Mom's trusty yellow plastic "sprinkler".

Mom’s trusty yellow plastic “sprinkler”.  Love that it looks like a giant wooden clothes pin.

So I filled up my little yellow “sprinkler” and I felt like I was 6 again.  Best part was that it was so easy to use.  The bottle is still soft and the water comes out easily.  Much better than my modern spray bottle.

Sprinkled fabric rolled up and ready to sit in a plastic bag for a few hours.  Back in the day, the rolls might have been put into the refrigerator to keep the fabric from becoming mildewed and smelly.

Sprinkled fabric rolled up and ready to sit in a plastic bag for a few hours. Back in the day, the rolls might have been put into the refrigerator to keep the fabric from becoming mildewed and smelly.

And after letting the fabrics sit for a few hours, ironing was so much easier.  Good bye wrinkled fabric.

Pressed and smooth.

Pressed and smooth.

Now I am ready to go to my workshop – all washed, dried and ironed.IMG_1413

You can find “sprinkler” bottles on ebay and there are images and articles online about the antiquated sport of “sprinkling”.   I just think it is very cool that something so simple that I grabbed from my mom’s house turned out to be so helpful, and using it brought back a flood of memories.  I think my mom would have gotten quite a kick out of the fact I was sprinkling again.  But I still do not like to dust or dry dishes.

Going to QuiltCon

I am so excited about going to QuiltCon in Austin.  I signed up so long ago and can’t believe it’s just around the corner.  Texas….here I come.

In anticipation of meeting everyone, the Modern Quilt Guild has invited all attendees to a Linky party and suggested we post five things about ourselves that people might not know about us.  So here goes:

1. I have an irrational fear of birds, especially pigeons.  Is that weird?  Are there lots of birds in Austin?

2. I won the “Crisco” award in middle school for best home economics student.  My dad called me his “Crisco Kid”.  Guess I’ve always like to cook and sew.

3. I do not really like to drive.  I live in the country and the grocery store is 7 miles away, so I have to drive a lot.  But I am a city girl at heart.  Give me a train or a plane or a bus and a project to sew or knit, and I’m a happy camper.

4. I owe 7 machines that sew (some better than others) – including one that my husband noticed uses no thread.  That’s my needle felting machine – kinda like the story of the Emperor’s New Clothes….you do know you are sewing without any thread, right?

5. I’ve never called myself a “quilter”.  I’ve only made one bed size quilt, and that was many years ago when we were first married.  Looking back at it, I guess it does looks a bit “modern”.  It certainly was improvisational.  I sewed together all types of dress making fabrics and then learned that combining loosely woven fabrics with more firmly woven fabrics will not hold up well to repeated washing.  That quilt bit the dust in very little time. FirstQuilt1972After that, I turned my interest in sewing to wearables and other non-quilt projects. I used to love wearing this skirt.  Made this long one and a short version too. Check out those fabric prints from the 1970’s..PatchworkSkirt1972My love of sewing led me to a career in design and crafts, so I have made a few quilts for my clients.  But mostly they are small wall pieces, such as this Kaffe Fassett ribbon and fabric quilt I designed for Renaissance Ribbons.
QuiltinGardenI do love combining fabrics and colors and piecing them together, especially in an improvisational way.  But I have a lot to learn about quilting, and I know that I will improve my skills and get lots of inspiration while I am at QuiltCon.

Looking forward to meeting everyone!


Invitation to a “Precut Patchwork Party”

I am so excited!  My new book for Creative Publishing International is now available – Precut Patchwork Party.  It takes awhile to edit and publish a book so it’s always such a thrill to see all the projects I’ve designed finally come together.

Precut Patchwork Party CoverI am a big fan of precut fabrics.  All those strips, squares and fat quarters, in yummy colors and prints, packaged like little gifts, are hard to resist.  I often pick them up with absolutely no idea of how I will use them.  They are just too pretty not to take them home.

There are lots of patterns available for making quilts with precut fabrics.  But I wanted to explore other things you could make with them so this book features all sort of projects…everything but quilts.

I designed a group or home decor projects – pillows, placemats, tablecloth, tea cozy, even a headboard and a lampshade.  HomeDecAnd I also designed a variety of accessories, wearables and gift projects – bags and totes, child’s dress and skirt, baby gifts, aprons and more.

AccessoriesWearablesGiftsI’ve included lots of basic information and tips, as well as my favorite sewing techniques, such as fabric rick rack and pom-pom trim.

BasicsThe beauty of working with bundles of precut fabrics is that they are coordinated by color or theme or designer collection and all the fabrics work well with each.  Mix and match as you like.  You really can’t go wrong.  And sewing with precuts is really easy – lots of straight sewing.  All the projects in my book utilize the standard sizes of precuts so you can get started right away with very little time spent cutting fabric (not everyone’s favorite part of any sewing project).

The projects in this book are perfect for a new sewist as well as someone who has been sewing for awhile.  They all are constructed with very basic sewing techniques.  Anyone who makes quilts and wants to do something new with their stash of precuts will find inspiration.  So next time you can’t resist buying those beautiful bundles at the quilt store, know that there is a lot you can make with them, other than your beautiful quilts.

Consider this post to be an invitation to the party!  No need to RSVP.  Just check out Precut Patchwork Party on Amazon, grab some precut fabrics and have fun.  Make something for yourself or your home or a gift.

NY Gift Show Trend Report

A day out of the workroom on Monday, walking the NY Gift Show, was just what I needed to get my creative juices going. So happy I live just a train ride away from the city and can make it a day excursion.  Whenever I can get to one of the gift shows, I look for trends I can translate into upcoming projects.  The fabulous online marketplace, One Kings Lane, along with Pantone, made that very easy for me.  Here are the trends they displayed so beautifully at the show.

American Vintage – nostalgia, classic motifs, denim, patchwork (yea!), numbers, flags with distressed finishes, salvaged materials, schoolroom style.  Colors – blues, green and grey including Pantone colors Amazon, Bright White, Mars Red, Micro Chip, Oil Yellow, Peppercorn, Stonewash, Turkish Sea and Vintage Indigo.

French Moderne Way – elegant French design, blending rich materials and exotic elements.  Colors – muted neutrals, traditional dark blues and reds including Pantone Almost Mauve, Crown Blue, Gray Morn, Parisian Night, Rose Taupe, Silver, Sparrow, Tibetan Red and White Swan.

The Marrakesh Express – ethnic looks from North Africa, aged color story, set against distressed finishes.  Colors – richly aged patina metal surfaces, including Pantone colors Antique Moss, Cloudburst, Deep Mahogany, Fir Green, Mecca Orange, Moostruck, Morel, Red Dahlia, Rooibos Tea, and Stormy Weather. The Linen Revival – a dry hand, with rough linens that look hand-loomed, two-color tweeds, animal prints such as zebra and alligator wovens.  Colors – reaching beyond light neutrals, including Pantone Arabian Spice, Caramel Cafe, Deep Well, Hemp, Orange Peppers, Papyrus, Seal Brown and Toasted Coconut.

Graphic Modern – grounded by strong print statements with “pop”, often rendered in just one or two colors.  Colors – jewel-toned colors, including Pantone colors Bosphorus, Cayenne, Evening Blue, Gloxinia, Green Sheen, Jazzy, Sodalite Blue, Tender Shoots and Wild Aster.

So there’s a sneak peak into the trends you’ll be seeing in the stores in the upcoming months.