Friday, October 23, 2020

Return to Goose Rocks Beach

This is my colleague, MJ, in a photo taken a few years ago. We crossed paths in the office and I told her I loved the colors she was wearing and asked if I could take her picture. She said as long as I didn't include her face it was OK. 

This photo was the inspiration for the quilt, Goose Rocks Beach.


Ann helped me with the title by suggesting the Maine seacoast, and indeed, Goose Rocks Beach is a real place in Maine. The quilting design is called "Undertow." Anyway, I have now chosen and prepared the binding for this quilt.

This one doesn't have a home yet, but it is nagging to go to a particular person.

Thursday, October 22, 2020

Fantastic Voyage


I've got the binding all sewn onto the 58 Carats quilt, now I just have to hand sew it down. I got it all ready the other night and then I saw Millie letting me know in no uncertain terms that SHE ruled the roost. She didn't care if this was an "Art" Quilt, she was going to fur it up.  

Um no.

I like the fabric I'm using for the binding. For the most part it blends in with the dark navy background, but there is just enough color to make it interesting.

But that's not what I wanted to write about. 

You all know of my love of blue painter's tape and how it is useful for so many things. I keep a roll in my kitchen to label the plastic bins I put in the fridge. HUMMUS, CHICKEN STOCK, VEG STOCK, COCONUT MILK, BBQ SAUCE, PESTO, etc. etc. 

Well. The kitchen wastebasket is big and plastic and the last time I emptied it I noticed the bottom had a big crack in it. It's not a huge deal as I use the big plastic bags that can stretch and stretch and are pierce resistant. But I was at the big box hardware store last week and I decided to get a new one, since I was out and about. (A rare thing nowadays, as you all know.)

So I've replaced it, and now I have to throw the bad one out. I'm thinking that if I just put it out at the curb the trash guys are going to empty the stuff in their truck and then dump it back on my lawn. So the other night when I was putting the trash and recycling to the curb, I decided I should make a sign for the cracked wastebasket. I grabbed a couple of pieces of paper and wrote, "TAKE ME, I'M BROKEN" and grabbed the blue painter's tape and went outside and did all my stuff. The trash and recycle bins live under my carport, so I put the tape on the hood of the car while I got everything ready. I taped the signs to the wastebasket and put all the stuff out at the curb.

Yesterday morning, I looked outside and sure enough, it had worked. The guys had taken my cracked wastebasket away.

Once a week because of work I have to drive into the center of town to bring stuff to the Post Office. I did that yesterday afternoon. It's about a five mile ride to the PO through a winding road that follows the river and then winds through town. On the way home I stopped at the mail house and picked up my mail, then drove back home. As I am gathering up my things I happen to look out the windshield and I see something funny on the hood of my car.


Sunday, October 18, 2020

This, That, and The Other

 I haven't been in the studio for a week. I'm just kinda worn out, but I'm 99% sure I'm not the only one.

I've done some de-cluttering though, so I feel better about that. I got rid of at least a dozen cookbooks and a few pots and pans I had been storing in my shed for the last six years. If I haven't needed it in six years, I don't need it, so I brought the cookbooks and pots to Goodwill. Five years of cooking magazines are now sitting in the recycling bins outside. I started to go through them and then thought better of it. So now the cookbook bookcase is neat and organized and I don't feel stressed every time I look at it. I had put a lot of that stuff on the two ottomans I use as a coffee table, and now that is clear also. I also brought out the humidifier.

I voted, and brought my ballot to the clerk at my town hall. That was probably the most important thing I did all week.

I've been reading too. I read the new Louise Penny, All the Devils are Here, and the 9th Inspector Bruno, Fatal Pursuit. I've decided to move right into the 10th, The Templar's Last Secret.

Millie finally gave up napping on the Goose Rocks Beach quilt, and has rediscovered her heated cat cup. I was able to use my ChomChom pet hair remover to remove ALL the cat hair she had covered it with. The quilt is now ready for getting bound, you know, when I get around to it. By the way, all the five star reviews for that pet hair remover are well founded.

I've also worked out in the yard, trimming the perennials and pulling up the annuals, and putting all THAT stuff out for recycling. I've also put the snowscraper and snow brush in the car. I had to bring the car in for its six-month checkup, which seemed really silly considering it has less than 2300 miles on it, but it was a nice chance to get the heck out of the house on a sunny day and see our beautiful New England autumn foliage on the ride to the dealership.

I had to go to the office last week to pick up some supplies and was able to check out the new rug and cubicles, which are starting to be installed. No word yet on when we will be called back to the office. I am quite on the fence about it. Part of me wants it as a way to feel more normal, but a bigger part of me is more than just a little bit wary.

I think most of us have realized Thanksgiving will be unlike the ones we have shared in years past. I won't be cooking for the family, and I won't be traveling. I think we'll have a Zoom dinner. I will plan a small dinner for one, but I haven't decided if it will be turkey yet. Even a small chicken is too much for me.

The asterisk tutorial is still being edited and I am still working on adding the binding to the 58 Carats quilt.

That's the update! Take care of yourselves, stay safe, and VOTE!

Tuesday, October 13, 2020

Not On The Edge


This is an asterisk I made, but did not use in the final Asterisk quilt. I'm sure it will find a home somewhere.

I am finished my preliminary version of the Asterisk tutorial. Now it is in the hands of my crack team of proofreaders. I'll piss and moan when I receive their comments, and then I will very likely implement every single one of them. My tutes are good, but with their suggestions they get so much better. 

 Last week Gail asked if I had considered placing an asterisk along the very edge of the quilt, to suggest that it was really flying away. It's one of those things that SOUNDS like it would work, but it's actually an example of bad design. 

Why? Because you should never have an area of high contrast along the edge of your quilt (or picture.) Why not? Because it will attract the viewer's eye and lead it right OUT of the quilt or the picture. You do NOT want that. Good design grabs the viewer's eye and leads it around to what the Artist wants it to see. (YES, that IS being sneakily manipulative, but not as bad as say, - advertising - or - propaganda.

Sunday, October 11, 2020

Finishing up Fifty-Eight Carats


You remember this. It's my Fifty-Eight Carats quilt. (Fifty-Eight or 58, I can't remember.) Now that the Asterisk flower flimsy is done, I am finishing up this one.

I used the leftover backing fabric to make the hanging sleeve.

I finally found a use for these binding clips.

This is the binding. 

I have a lot of hand sewing in my future over the next few days.

Friday, October 9, 2020

The Gardens of Our Imaginations


This is it. The Garden of Our Imaginations is a flimsy and it measures 66" x 78". There are 61 asterisk flowers, about 80 different flower fabrics and 26 different WOWs. This is the quilt on the design wall.

This is the quilt from the back.

This is from the front with the light shining through so you can all see just how I put it together. Can you find the three set-in squares? They are all the same fabric.

From the front again, with even light so you can see all the different WOWs.

I have to decide if I want to add a couple of inches of white all around. I think I do. And it will fix that notched area over on the right side just below the blue bird.

I'm pleased that it really is so neat on the back and the thing hangs so straight and is so flat. Neither of those is an accident. I work hard at that stuff. It's the way I was taught to sew when I was 10. I've always said that if you know how to make (sew) clothes, then making a quilt will be a cinch because you know how fabric behaves and you have mad sewing skills. If you have never sewn anything, learning how to put a quilt together will be harder. 

After I straightened it, and trimmed it, I stay stitched all around the edges. It locks the edge, stabilizes any bias edges and prevents and seams on the edges from coming apart.

Now I will go back and finish writing the Asterisk tutorial, and this quilt will be shown in it. HOWEVER... there will NOT be specific instructions on how to make this quilt. They will NOT be included in the tutorial, and I'm aware I'm going to have to put a disclaimer in the description of the tute that instructions for this quilt are NOT included. I can say with 100% certainty that I will NEVER write instructions for it. 

Yes, it looks easy. Well, that's an artist's job. To make it LOOK effortless and simple. It takes a lot of skill and knowledge to make that happen, to make it look like it flew out of the ends of your fingers.

Or like the wind blew the flowers away. 


Thursday, October 8, 2020

It's a Onesie!


Pin, pin, pin, pin, pin. And YES, when I sew big pieces like this together my pins are one inch apart.

Also known as "quilt wrangling."

The infamous "set in square." Honestly, if you do these the right way they are a piece of cake. Unfortunately it took me three tries before I figured it out remembered how to do it.

This is the wrong side. Notice two things. 1. It is neat. My threads are trimmed and my seams are pressed neatly. 2. This sucker lies FLAT with no bubbles or wrinkles. Ask me how I do this. (Oh wait, it's in the letters tutorial.)

This is a closer-up view of part of the back. Remember you can click, then click the photos again to enlarge them for more detail.

I have to trim the quilt, and then photograph it properly. I'll show it off tomorrow.

Wednesday, October 7, 2020

Almost, But Not Quite


It is getting a lot closer to being a flimsy.

This is what is on the design wall.

A few days ago I realized I had made the big panel above the bird on the right wrong. I had put the asterisks too close together. That meant that the placement of some of the others didn't seem right. I toyed with adding an additional asterisk in the upper right, but even though I added it to the plan (above), it will not be in the final quilt. I decided to raise the panel above the birds and do some minor tinkering.

I will add a WOW fabric strip above the bird, and then I can sew the set-in square (above, it's the wavy fabric) that will join the right side panels together. I have to figure out the sequence of what to sew to what to do that, and then I can add the extra fabric to the top and sew in the last asterisk.

Then the flimsy will be done.

You know, "all I have to do..."

Sunday, October 4, 2020

Almost There...


This is the last big complex panel.

Everything that is colored is a panel, and the elements in each panel are sewn together, but not all the panels are sewn to each other. This is the best way to show you where I am, but because the quilt is mostly white, and my design wall is mostly white, it's hard to see what's what.

You're welcome to give it a go!

Now, even though this is close to being all sewn together, don't expect to see the finished flimsy quite yet. I've been staying up too late each night working on it. I'm tired, I need a break but I let a lot of the household tasks slide, and it's time to pay the piper.


PS, Ruth Ann W., I owe you a response to your letter, and I promise you'll get one, but it might be a few more days.

Saturday, October 3, 2020

So Far, So Good


The three big sections have been sewn together. So about half the quilt is complete. I worked on the left sections yesterday, the bird and the area above the bird. Next up is the complicated six-asterisk section in the middle.

Thursday, October 1, 2020

Adapt, Improvise, Overcome


All of these (formerly six sections) are now sewn together into one big panel. The two blues got spread apart (directly above the .com in the photo above), and I made some other changes. (Hey, nothing is "set" until I hand it off to the longarm quilter.) You can really see how I've sewn the components together.

This is three big sections. The one I showed you above, the bottom two horizontal-ish rows of asterisks are sewn together, and the panel to the right with the pink asterisks and the bird. I rearranged a couple of things on those bottom two rows and they did not sew together as I had planned. Oh well. Adapt, Improvise, Overcome.

I really had to do it. As I worked my way sewing other sections I kept having to find my photos and locate my position (the disadvantage of NOT having a color printer.) And since the sections were not sewn together, everything changed as soon as I touched something, so I decided I had to figure out if they looked the way I wanted them to, and then put them in the final places. 

 Since each asterisk's position is in relation to the others around it, it would be easier if I just "nailed them down" so to speak, before I moved on any further. This meant taking a good hard look at what was happening on my design wall, completely separate from what was on my "plan." Since I what I was interested in was happening on the design wall, I had to focus on THAT. There were asterisks that were too close together and seemed to create a logjam. There were a few that were too perfectly lined up, and some of them were now too "low" and left "holes" in the spaces of  asterisks above them.

I'm always interested in both artistic and scientific approaches to "creativity" and have read a lot about it. What I know, both from my reading and my own work, is that the piece you are creating will change as you work. And if you do NOT respond to those changes, and modify your direction and approach, your final piece will NOT be as good as if you followed your original plan. 

You've all heard me say it before, I start with half a plan, or less, and let it evolve and develop as I go. That doesn't bother me in the least, but it freaks some people out big time. I tell all my students and I say it whenever I give a lecture, "There gets to be a point where the quilt will tell you what it wants. And you better listen. What the quilt wants, the quilt should get." That is nothing more than the quilt, as you are making it, showing you that there are other possibilities.

There's one other tricky thing. Every decision you make, every piece of fabric you set down, every shape, every color, every print will inform and limit every successive decision you make. In other words, every decision you make points you toward something, and the farther along you get, the more specific the something becomes. You are, in effect, quilting yourself into a corner. The corner is not a place of no escape. It is the logical conclusion, the logical representation, of every idea in the quilt.

If you have followed that path, and responded appropriately, then the quilt, (or artwork) will look "perfect." Not perfect as in technically perfect, not perfect as in uniformly loved, but the perfect in that the idea is complete and doesn't need anything else. If viewers look at it and get it, then it's perfect. If they look at it and think, "I don't understand ...." then it doesn't "work." If you have to explain it, then it doesn't work. If you have to tell somebody what they're looking at, then it doesn't work. It can be technically perfect and still not work. Never confuse the two.

I know what I want with this quilt. I want the feeling, the look, of asterisk flowers lifting up and floating away in the breeze, like blowing a dandelion. If I do it right, every single person who looks at it will FEEL that lightness, that airy-ness, that JOY...


Tuesday, September 29, 2020

A Man, a Plan, a Canal... Panama

On the design wall.

Translated into fabric. I -try- to get the edges on the straight of the grain, but sometimes I just get tired.

Four panels trimmed. The yellow and green are sewn together. The two green asterisks should have been farther apart, but they are OK. The overall "feeling" of how they float together is more important than following my guide to a "T."

What I have sewn into panels is colored on my guide.

What it all looks like on the design wall. There is one thing I don't like and will change later.

*Gail, that seam you saw on the edge of that panel is there because I tend to leave these bigger than I need them. It allows me a bit more flexibility when I start sewing them together. It's always better to have too much fabric than too little. (Ask me how I know this.) I will do the final trimming down to size when I start sewing them all together.

*Mickey, I live alone. If the house is clean, the dishes are done, the bills are paid and Millie is fed, the litter box is clean and the laundry is done, then I head into the studio and sew. Working in the studio is what I love to do best, so you seeing me "work fast" is really me using all the available time I have to do what I love.

* "A man..." is a pangram palindrome (Thanks, abelian. I really did know that but it slipped my mind). It reads the same backwards and forwards. It also loosely describes my process, and so I thought it was a fitting title to today's post.


Monday, September 28, 2020



I hate having edges of my blocks or panels on the bias, so when I have to add fabric to these blocks, I really try to make sure my edges are on the straight of the grain. So complicated, and fussy though this is, I added this bit of fabric so the bottom edge is on the straight of the grain.

On this block, all four sides are on the straight of the grain.

This is what I have so far. This is not easy. This is Hard.

This is the purplish block in my drawing above. Putting these five together took more than six hours, and I ripped seams apart more than once. It is NOT exactly what is shown in my sketch above, but it's close enough, and still conveys the feeling I wanted to convey, so it's OK.

Annie, in her comment yesterday, wanted to look at "a tutorial on how you do [it.]"

When you have completely internalized how to do a task, you do it without thinking. So to ask me to explain this I really do have to stop and think. Remember I went to Art School and I know how to draw. I can literally draw anything I want and have it look real. Knowing how to draw not only means learning to see, but it means learning how to measure with your eyes. I don't translate what I see in things like inches, but I can translate the shapes I see on my design wall (or in my sketch above) and reproduce them in the fabric in front of me. What I am really reproducing here is the "negative space," or the shape of the spaces between the things (asterisks). 

In the sketch above, what's colored is what I have sewn together. See the tall thin green shape up there?

Using that part of the design, this is what the end result looks like. I had to add something to the bottom of the bottom asterisk, so I did that. Then I had to figure out the position of the top asterisk, and add fabric to the sides of that. Then I had to figure out the angle of the top asterisk, which is slightly tilted. Then I had to figure out how much space there was between the two. Then I sewed them together. Then I had to add space at the top. I trimmed down the extra space (making sure I left a seam allowance all the way around).

That is "all" there is to it. And yes, I am well aware this is well beyond the skill of even the most advanced quilter. But you must remember I have been drawing and measuring with my eyes, for over 50 years. So while this is certainly hard, and tricky, and complicated, and frustrating, for me it is not intimidating.

My friend Julie said once that "You persist with an idea well beyond the time when most of us would have run screaming from the room." I'm persistent too. I have set myself up with this challenge, and I will solve it.

Now IF I have done it right, then each finished panel will look like the appropriate section in my sketch above. There are 22 sections in the quilt. If I sew each of them as accurately as I can, then my finished quilt will so closely resemble my original layout that nobody will know the difference, and the feeling of asterisks floating away on the wind will be achieved.

Sunday, September 27, 2020



It was a gorgeous day on Saturday, so I drove up to my favorite quilt shop, Quilted Threads, and bought some WOW fabrics for my Asterisk quilt.

I have sewn together all the colored areas in the drawing above. I haven't sewn them to each other yet.

This is the section in yellow from the illustration above. Even for me, this is very slow going.